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 (3/12) in North and Central CA surf was thigh to waist high and textured and weak. Down in Santa Cruz surf was maybe thigh high on the sets and clean and gutless. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high with some chest high sets and lightly textured. Southern hemi swell very rarely showing. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with waves waist high or so and effectively chopped with rain. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting windswell with waves waist high and chopped from northwest wind.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A tiny gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (3/4) with 34 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell is pushing towards CA. A small gale developed on the northern dateline region Tues (3/10) with seas at 28 ft falling southeast, then redeveloped due north of the Islands Wed PM (3/11) targeting Hawaii decently again with 26 ft seas. Small north swell for Hawaii on Fri (3/13). A new gale is forecast in the Northwestern Gulf on Sun (3/15) producing a small area of 26 ft seas targeting mainly Canada. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is forecast even though the MJO is Active and a strong Westerly Wind Burst event is occurring.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (3/12) the jet was tracking east-northeast off Southern Japan with winds 190 kts moving towards the northern dateline region but then weakening and falling into a trough with it's apex directly over Hawaii. From there the jet tracked northeast moving generally into the US West coast, but diffuse. Overall the jet was starting to become more consolidated into a single flow, but still a bit ragged. Winds were light in the aforementioned trough offering only weak support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds in the jet in the west are to hold Sat (3/14) near 190 kts ridging slightly over the dateline then falling into the semi-pinched trough still locked over Hawaii, before rebounding to the northeast and pushing into Washington. Winds int the apex of the trough are to be below 90 kts, providing only limited support for gale development. And at 72 hours (Sun 3/15) the jet is to be fully consolidated and finally flattening out with winds down to barely 180 kts over and east of the dateline, and only 100 kts over Japan with the trough previously over Hawaii dissipating and positioned halfway towards the US West Coast. Minimal support for low pressure development possible east of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hrs the jet is to be fully consolidated pushing flat east off Japan and building in velocity to 160 kts on Tues (3/17) near 170W continuing to 145W, then weakening and showing signs of starting to .cgiit there. A broad and weak trough was almost starting to develop above the core of these winds offering some support for gale development. 24 hours later the jet is to almost .cgiit just off Japan feeding more 150 kt winds into the previously mentioned trough, and that trough is to become more defined and push east to a point north of Hawaii by Thurs (3/19) with 150 kt winds in it's apex. improving odds for gale development there. Back to the west the jet is to be reconsolidating with winds building from 150 kts, offering better hope longterm.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (3/12) low pressure was over the Gulf of Alaska, residuals associated with the North Dateline Gale (see below). with a fetch in it's west quadrant (see North Dateline Gale below). No other swell source was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to move from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii and flattening there as low pressure develops in the South Bering Sea easing southeast and pushing into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska on Sat AM (3/14) with 30-35 kts west winds starting to building. By evening a small area of 35 kt westerly fetch to build with seas building from 22 ft up at 48N 165W. Sun AM (3/15) 35 kt west winds to continue over the same general area with 26 ft seas building at 49N 162W targeting British Columbia down to maybe Central CA. Fetch is to fade from 30 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 25 ft at 49N 157W. This system is to be gone after that. Some odds for small swell for the Pacific northwest down into Central CA.
North Dateline Gale
On Tuesday AM (3/10) a small gale was developing over the Northern Dateline region generating a moderate sized area of 40 kt north-northwest winds and 26 ft seas aimed south at 45N 176W (333 degs HI). 35 kt northwest winds faded in the evening with 27 ft seas fading at 42N 172W (331 degs HI). 35-40 kt northwest winds redeveloped Wed AM (3/11) taking aim a bit east of Hawaii with 24 ft seas at 38N 167W (335 degs HI). The gale reorganized in the Northeastern Gulf Wed PM with 35 kt north winds north of the Islands generating 27 ft seas at 38N 169W (331 degs HI). Fetch was fading from 30-35 kts while holding position Thurs AM (3/12) generating 20-21 ft seas at 42N 161W (355 degs HI). Fetch is to be gone by Thurs PM. Swell is possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Moderate swell is expected reaching into Hawaii starting just past sunset Thurs (3/12) building overnight. Swell to be peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 8.1 ft @ 14-15 secs (11.5 ft Hawaiian). Residuals on Sat (3/14) fading from 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft). Swell Direction: 331-335 degrees turning to 350 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thurs AM (3/12) in association with a strong Westerly Wind Burst occurring on the equator between 150E-175E:
Tropical Storm Bavi was over Kwajalein Island with winds 35 kts tracking west-northwest. This track is to continue with the storm peaking on Sun (3/15) with winds 60 kts. No recurvature to the north is projected.
A second stronger system system Pam is is south of it at 14S 170E with winds 135 kts forecast to 150 kts Fri AM 93/13) falling due south.
And yet a third system Nathan was west of it at 13S 145E tracking east with winds 55 kts forecast building to 85 kts late Sat (3/14).
The Active Phase of the MJO is having a solid effect on the tropics.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/12) modest high pressure was moving onshore over Oregon resulting in light winds over North CA down to Monterey Bay and north winds 15 kts for the Pt Conception area. Winds to be light from the north 10 kts or less Friday fading to calm on Sat (3/14) as weak low pressure sits off the coast building moving into extreme North CA on Sunday. 35 kt west winds for Cape Mendocino then but light elsewhere. Possible moderate rain on Sunday for Cape Mendocino reaching south to Bodega Bay late AM. North winds are forecast for North and Central CA Monday at 15 kts building to 20 kts Tuesday but up to 25 kts for North CA as high pressure builds in. A light winds pattern is forecast everywhere but Cape Mendocino Wednesday (20 k ts from the north there) and fading to light north everywhere (10 kts or less) Thursday. .
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell generation is expected.
2nd Early Gale
A small gale started building in the South Central Pacific on Tues PM (3/3) generating 45 kt southwest winds and starting to get some traction on the oceans surface with seas building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 58S 142W. 40-45 kt southwest winds were lifting northeast Wed AM (3/4) with 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 135W (190 degs SCal,188 degs NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds held into the evening with seas building to 34 ft at 52S 129W (186 degs SCal, 185 degs NCal). The gale was in quick decline Thurs AM (3/5) with fetch fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 28 ft at 48S 122W (182 degs SCal, 180 degs NCal). Small background southern hemi swell is possible.
Southern CA: Swell to be hitting decently Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.9 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) at 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 185 degrees
North CA: Swell to be hitting Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) from 1.9 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees
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 weak low pressure is to continue circulating in the Gulf Sun-Wed (3/18) but producing no fetch exceeding 30 kts aimed at our main forecast area. No swell to result from this system. A stronger gale is projected tracking off North Japan to the North Dateline region Wed-Thurs (3/19) but generating no more than 30 kts west winds. Perhaps something to monitor longer term.
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 (3/12) the daily SOI was holding at -15.80. The 30 day average was falling from -1.75 and the 90 day average was falling from -6.16. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a weakly building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak high pressure was in the vicinity of Tahiti but expected to give was to lower pressure on Sat (3/14) and deepening into Tues (3/17). Weakly deepening SOI values are possible, then possibly falling hard. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a solid sized area of strong westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline. Light to moderate east anomalies continuing from a point south of Hawaii to a point south of mainland Mexico on the equator. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to and just east of the dateline. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) started on 1/15 then faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but regenerated on 2/25 positioned more to the east building to the strong category on 3/7. It peaked on 3/10 but was holding solidly as of 3/12. This is already a decent event before it rebuilt on 3/7 and was supporting Kelvin Wave development. But with these additional strong west winds, far more warm water transport is now in progress. A week from now (3/20) moderate to strong westerly anomalies are to continue over the Central Maritime Continent reaching east of the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are expected from there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue regenerating on the dateline a week out. This is a significant WWB and moving into the range of the historic event of last year at this same time.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/11 suggests the solid Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to hold the next 5 days while easing east, then state fading over the remaining 15 days, making it to the dateline intact. The Dynamic model suggests a building Active Phase developing reaching the strong state 5 days out and holding on the dateline through 15 days out, but starting to fade some then. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/12 depicts a strong Active Phase currently in the Western Pacific (it started 3/7) and is to hold into 3/17 while slowly pushing east, the fading slowly while tracking east reaching Central America but still solid on 3/30. A moderate Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/25 and tracking east pushing into Central America 4/17. A modest Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/11 pushing east.
Our analysis suggests the MJO is regenerating and should reach a very Active state over the next week. This should help repair the North Pacific jetstream and could possibly fuel a small storm cycle, likely the last of the 2014-2015 Winter season. 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 (3/12) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with a pocket of cooler water (-0.5-0.75 degs C) along the Peruvian Coast advecting west over the Galapagos reaching 120W. This is not surprising given easterly anomalies there. TAO data suggests -0.5-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 140W with warm anomalies at +0.5-1.0 degs holding from 150W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies on the dateline. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are falling at +0.4 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. With 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 continue warming and expanding. As of 3/12 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continues building in coverage now positioned at 150W, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. And with strong westerly anomalies now in.cgiay in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, additional warming is expected beyond. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Satellite data from 3/4 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 and a building peak to +10 cm, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 100W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/4) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding while easing east between 163E-110W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 173E-118W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies from 139W-172W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at, that is in-flight. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21/14) 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 is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 3/12 was more encouraging than previous indications. The current is pushing moderately west to east over patches in the West Pacific reaching east with less energy north of the equator in the East Pacific. A very weak east current was in control south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - strong west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets south of Hawaii, then moving back centered on the equator in the East.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/12 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 +1.0 degs C, and continuing to +1.40 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