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 Saturday (2/21) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with some bigger sets at top spots and mostly chopped with south wind on it later. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high with some bigger waves in sets and clean. In Southern California up north surf was waist high on the sets and glassy but weak. Down south waves were waist high and pretty warbled with onshore wind in the afternoon. Hawaii's North Shore was getting dateline swell with sets 3-4 ft overhead and almost clean with northeast trades creating a little warble. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting thigh to waist high windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a broad gale that tracked from Japan to the dateline Sun-Wed (1/18) with 26-28 ft seas was fading out in the Islands while poised to start showing along the US West Coast. A small weather system was also pushing from Japan Fri-Sat (2/21) with 26-28 ft seas, then expected to fade just west of the dateline with seas 22-24 ft Sun (2/23) targeting Hawaii. Theoretically a small gale is to develop off North Japan on Fri-Sat (2/28) producing a tiny area of 32 ft seas aimed east. Overall a rather quiet and West Pacific focused pattern to prevail.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (2/21) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan but diffuse there, then pulling together mid-way to the dateline with winds building to 170 kts and forming a bit of a trough there and reaching east to a point north of Hawaii, before .cgiitting just east of the Islands at 145W. The northern branch tracked north there up into Alaska supporting only high pressure over and west of the US West Coast. There was limited support for gale development in the trough west of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the trough west of the dateline is to try and organize while pushing east through the West Pacific. Winds to only be 140 kt in it's apex on Sun (2/22) and holding there while pushing east to a point just east of the dateline Tues (2/24) offering minimal support for gale development. At the same time the jet is to be fully .cgiitting over Japan with the northern branch pushing northeast up into the Bering Sea while the bulk of the wind energy pushes east as mentioned above. Beyond 72 hrs the trough is to fade out just east of the dateline on Thurs (2/26) while both branches of the jet push northeast over the Eastern Pacific offering no support for gale development except for a small trough off the Kuril's on Wed-Thurs (2/26). beyond that a very fractured jetstream flow is expected with no clear organization and a severe lack of energy projected offering no support for low pressure development into Sun (3/1).
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (2/21) swell from a gale that tracked east from Japan was fading in Hawaii and poised to arrive along the US West Coast (See Japan gale below). A weak gale was tracking from Japan positioned halfway to the dateline (see Second Japan Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is 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 was 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 was 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: 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
Second Japan Gale
Another small gale started developing off Japan on Thurs (2/19) with 40-45 kt northwest winds over a small area in the evening and 26 ft seas building at 32N 151E aimed east-southeast. Winds held at 40 kts Fri AM (2/20) over a tiny area with 28 ft seas at 30N 159E (291 degs HI). Winds were fading from 35-40 kts in the evening with 27 ft seas at 30N 166E (292 degs HI). Fetch collapsed Sat AM (2/21) with seas fading from 23 ft at 32N 170E (297 degs HI). 30-35 kt west fetch is to reconsolidate a bit to the west in the evening with seas 24 ft at 31N 165E targeting Hawaii (294 degs). Residual 30 kt west fetch to barely hang on Sun AM (2/22) with 23 ft seas at 29N 175E targeting the Islands (293 degs). Perhaps 30-35 kt northwest fetch to hold Sun PM with 20 ft seas at 29N 176E (296 degs HI). mall swell possible for the Islands if all goes as forecast.
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes swell arriving on Tues (2/24) building to 5.0 ft @ 14-15 secs late (7 ft). Swell holding Wed (2/25) at 5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7.5 ft) then fading on Thurs (2/26) from 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-295 degrees and mostly shadowed relative to the North Shore excluding refracted wrap-in energy.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/21) high pressure at 1036 mbs was moving into Eastern British Columbia with a backdoor front pushing south over Oregon. A south winds flow was over the Central CA. On Sunday an offshore flow is to take control of the North and Central Coast with weak low pressure over Morro Bay with southwest winds into Southern CA. This flow to fade to the light category on Monday. The backdoor front is to push south down the Sierra Sunday setting low odds of light snow for Tahoe and light rain for the coast from Big Sur southward into Southern CA, lingering in Southern CA most of Monday. 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 expected at 25 kts for North CA and 20+ kts for Central CA building to 30 kts and 20 kts respectively on Thurs (2/26). Still 20 kt north winds are forecast for North and Central CA Fri (2/27) rebuilding to 25 kts on Sat (2/28) likely continuing into Sun (3/1). A full on Spring time pattern looks to be setting up. The odds for a lingering Winter pattern are fading fast.
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 a small gale is forecast developing over North Japan on Thurs PM (2/26) with 40-45 kt westerly winds building to 50 kts on Fri AM (2/27) over a tiny area producing a infinitesimal sized area of 30 ft seas at 40N 147E. Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas 32 ft over a small area at 39N 153E. West winds fading from 40 kts Sat AM (2/28) with 32 ft seas fading at 40N 160E. This system to be gone by nightfall with no upper level support left over the North Pacific for gale development.
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 Saturday (2/21) the daily SOI was up to 25.00. The 30 day average was rising from -2.04 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -5.98. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a fading 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 (4 months). Weak high pressure was over Tahiti but expected to weaken starting late Mon (2/23) and holding in that weaker state a week out. Slightly falling SOI values are likely. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies had taken hold over the Maritime Continent continuing on the dateline and continuing neutral south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated neutral anomalies in the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 finally faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration). This was a decent event and supported Kelvin Wave development. A week from now (3/1) neutral anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent. Light west anomalies are forecast on the dateline reaching a point south of Hawaii, then 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 2/20 suggest a strong Inactive Phase was over indonesia pushing east with the last vestiges of the Active Phase fading just east of the dateline. Beyond the models are pretty similar suggesting both the Active and Inactive Phases are to dissipate completely 8 days out with a dead neutral pattern in control and holding through 15 days into the future. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/21 depicts a building weak Inactive Phase in the West Pacific and slowly pushing east reaching Central America while fading through 3/26. A very Weak Active Phase to follow at that time in the West Pacific. 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 and expanding. As of 2/21 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 continued building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has had the desired effect, creating a Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly May 1. Satellite data from 2/17 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing 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 (2/17) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding between 155E-122W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-140W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies at 168W. This suggests another Kelvin Wave is in flight. 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 2/21 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 +1.55 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