Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Thursday (2/19) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with some bigger sets at top spots, with clean conditions but with a little underlying warble. Rideable but nothing special. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high on the sets and textured with a bit of intermixed warble. In Southern California up north surf was chest high and glassy and lined up and looking very fun though a bit on the soft side. Down south waves were chest to head high with some texture on it but lined up and well rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was starting to get early signs of new dateline swell with rare sets 1 ft overhead and really lined up and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was flat and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Sideband swell from a small gale that was north of Hawaii last weekend was still hitting Southern CA but fading out in North CA. Also swell from a broader gale that tracked from Japan to the dateline Sun-Wed (1/18) with 26-28 ft seas was sting to show in the Islands. That gale was fading while easing east from the dateline Thursday (2/19) with 25 ft seas, and expected to be gone by Friday AM (2/20). More swell likely for the Islands with lesser energy for the mainland. Beyond a small weather system is forecast pushing from Japan Fri-Sat (2/21) with 28 ft seas, fading on the dateline then rebuilding there slightly on Mon (2/23) with a tiny area of 26 ft seas targeting Hawaii. Nothing else to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/19) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan and building to 190 kts over the dateline then falling slightly into a weak trough northwest of Hawaii before .cgiitting north of Hawaii, with the northern branch attempting to push north up into North Canada but not reaching there in one piece. There was some support for gale development in the trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to push east reaching a point north of Hawaii on Sat (2/21) with winds fading to 170 kts over the dateline but less in the apex of the trough, still offering some support for gale development. The trough is to start pinching off late Saturday and be gone by Sun AM (2/22) while a new weak trough tries to organize while pushing east through the West Pacific. Winds to only be 140 kt in it's apex offering minimal support for gale development. Beyond 72 hrs that trough to reach the dateline on Mon (2/23) but with only 120 kts kt winds feeding it with the .cgiit point in the east holding at 150W. Limited support for gale development is possible. But another .cgiit is to be developing off Japan with 50% of the wind energy starting to track northeast into the northern branch of the .cgiit bound for the Bering Sea while the remnants of the trough stall on the dateline late Tues (2/24) and pinching off. A very fractured jetstream flow is expected beyond with the .cgiit off Japan stealing wind energy and redirecting it up into the Bering Sea offering little support for gale development over the greater North Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/19) residual swell from a gale previously north of Hawaii was hitting the Southern CA Coast but is expected to be gone by Friday (2/20). Swell from a gale that tracked east from Japan was arriving in Hawaii (See Japan gale below).
Over the next 72 hours yet another small gale was start developing off Japan on Thurs (2/19) with 40-45 kt northwest winds projected over a small area in the evening and 25 ft seas building at 32N 151E aimed east-southeast. Winds to hold at 40 kts Fri AM (2/20) over a tiny area with 28 ft seas at 30N 159E (291 degs HI). Winds to be fading from 35-40 kts in the evening with 27 ft seas at 30N 166E (292 degs HI). Fetch is to collapse Sat AM (2/21) with seas fading from 24 ft at 33N 170E (298 degs HI). 30 kt west fetch is to continue in the evening with seas 20 ft at 31N 175E targeting Hawaii (295 degs). Residual 30 kt west fetch to barely hang on Sun AM (2/22) with 20 ft seas at 28N 174E targeting the Islands (292 degs). Small swell possible for the Islands if all goes as forecast.
A reasonably broad fetch developed streaming off Japan starting Sat (2/14) with winds 35 kts getting a little traction later with seas 22 ft at 37N 152E. By Sun AM (2/15) 40 kt northwest winds were taking hold just off North Japan with 25 ft seas developing near 35N 152E (300 degs HI). Winds faded to 35 kts in the evening over a broad area aimed southeast with seas 27 ft at 33N 155E (296 degs HI). 35 kt west winds continued Mon AM (2/16) with a decent sized area of 26 ft seas at 31N 157E targeting primarily Hawaii (293 degs). Winds pushed east in the evening fading in coverage from 35 kts with seas 26 ft at 30N 162E (292 degs HI). Fetch was rebuilding some Tues AM (2/17) at 40 kts over a small area aimed east with seas 27 ft over a moderate area tracking due east at 31N 171E (293 degs HI). Fetch was down to 35 kts pushing east-northeast in the evening with 27 ft seas at 33N 177E (304 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 291 SCal). 30-35 kt east winds were tracking east Wed AM (2/18) with 24 ft seas at 34N 180W (309 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds continued in the evening over a smaller area with 24 ft seas at 34N 177W (308 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 30-35 kt northwest fetch held there Thurs AM (2/19) with 25 ft seas at 33N 173W (322 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal). 30 kt east fetch to be fading fast in the evening with seas fading from 23 ft at 33N 166W (279 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal) and fading from there. This system is to be gone by Fri AM (2/20).
Perhaps some very westerly 15-16 sec period swell possible for the Islands with lesser size for the US West Coast.
HI: Swell building overnight Thurs (2/19) and holding decently through the day Fri (2/20) at near 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Swell fading Sat AM (2/21) from at 6.4 ft @ 13-14 secs early (8.5 ft) and fading from there. Residuals on Sun AM (2/22) fading from 4 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 293-300 initially and shadowed in Haleiwa moving to 304-309 degrees and becoming less shadowed.
NCal: Swell arrival Sun (2/22) building to 3.5 ft @ 16-17 secs later (6 ft). Swell peaking on Mon (2/23) at 4.5 ft @ 15 secs (6.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (2/24) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 -6.0 ft). Residuals on Wed (2/25) fading from 3 ft @ 11-12 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 280-284 degrees
Southern CA: Swell arrival late Sun evening (2/22) building Mon (2/23) through the day pushing 2.1 ft @ 15-16 secs later (3 ft) with exposed breaks up north pushing 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft) later (but that is likely overstated). Swell continues solid on Tues (2/24) at 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft) with exposed breaks up north to 4.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (6 ft) . Residuals on Wed (2/25) fading from 2.1 ft @ 12-13 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 286-291 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/19) high pressure at 1026 mbs was off the Pacific Northwest coast with north winds building to 15-20 kts over outer waters of North and Central CA associated with a pressure gradient, but lighter nearshore. The gradient is to build Friday with 25 kt north winds over North CA pushing to near 30 kts late and 15 kt north winds nearshore in Central CA. More of the same on Saturday except light winds nearshore early in Central CA. The gradient is to collapse on Sunday with offshore winds taking control and fading to the light category on Monday. A backdoor front might set up light snow for Tahoe on Sun (2/22) and light rain for the coast from Monterey Bay southward into Southern CA, but clearing on the coast Mon AM though light snow might linger in the Southern Sierra. New high pressure is to start building off the Vancouver Coast on late Tuesday (2/24) but light winds still expected nearshore for CA. But by Wednesday the high is to start falling south with north winds possible at 25 kts for North CA and 15 kts for Central CA building to 30 kts and 15-20 kts respectively on Thurs (2/26). Almost looks like s summer time setup.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours residuals from the second Japan gale to possible flare up slightly on the dateline late Sun PM (2/22) generating a tiny area of 45 kt north winds and 26 ft seas at 36N 176E. 35-40 kt northwest winds to be pushing southeast Mon AM (2/23) generating 26 ft seas at 33N 179E targeting Hawaii well. Fetch is to be gone in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 30N 177W. Something to monitor. But nothing else is forecast to follow with the jet stream falling apart.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Thursday (2/19) the daily SOI was up to 16.30. The 30 day average was rising from -6.03 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -6.62. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a modest Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a weak steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (3.5 months). A weak high pressure system was over Tahiti with no change forecast for the next 7 days likely causing the SOI to stabilize in the positive range. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies had developed over the Maritime Continent per the model holding on the dateline and continuing neutral south of Hawaii. Mostly neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate west anomalies in the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area focused at 165E. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay and has been blowing since 1/15 (almost a month in duration). This is a significant event. A week from now (2/27) modest east anomalies are to develop over the Maritime Continent likely signaling the end of the WWB. Light west anomalies are forecast on the dateline. And modest west anomalies are forecast south of Hawaii fading to neutral from there into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start fading and migrating east a week out.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/17 suggest a dead neutral pattern was in control over the equatorial Pacific. Beyond the models diverge with the Statistic model depicting a weak Active Phase redeveloping on the dateline 5 days out and moving east over the next 15 days and fading south of Hawaii while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific. The Dynamic model has the Active Phase trying to redevelop but not making it, with a weak Inactive Phase developing over the dateline 15 days out. Either way it looks like the MJO is fading. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/19 depicts a building weak Active Phase in the West Pacific and slowly pushing east while fading, dissipating in the Central Pacific on 3/11. A modest Inactive Phase is currently over the Central Pacific and is to build while pushing east reaching Central America on 3/31 and being joined by another Inactive Phase pushing over the West Pacific starting 3/18. Best guess is the MJO is falling into a weak and listless pattern having little positive influence on the storm track. It's not surprising given the time of the year. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. As of the most recent low res imagery (2/19) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America. TAO data suggests neutral anomalies are covering a region from roughly 130W to Ecuador with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 130W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have stabilized at 0.6, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle briefly had an impact on water temps, but is now loosing ground. Still, this being a Modoki El Nino, cooler water would be expected in the NINO 1.2 area (near the Galapagos and Peruvian Coast).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming nd expanding. As of 2/19 a +1.0 C anomaly flow had fully rebuilt control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +3 deg anomalies was building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB occurring at the surface just west of there for the past month has had the desired effect, pushing more warm water to depth. Satellite data from 2/12 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm just east of the dateline indicative of an open pipe with an embedded Kelvin Wave, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (2/12) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are continuing to expand between 150E-125W with a core at +1.0-1.5 degs from 168E-145W, suggestive that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. This one should arrive the first week of May in the Galapagos. Theoretically the peak of what was though to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Modoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as appears to be the case). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/26 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over a small area of the far West Pacific, but mainly east to west over the rest of the equatorial Pacific. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets to 135W. Pockets of moderate east anomalies were just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east. But we suspect that might be attributable tot he current upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase in flight now.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 2/17 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.1 degs C, and continuing to +1.5 degs by Nov. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino. But it is too early to believe that just yet.See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring late 2013 though 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 Spring Unpredictability Barrier. At this time we're assuming the situation will move to a multiyear, Modoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay per NOAA. But we continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table