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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 5.9 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 6.0 secs from 276 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.9 ft @ 5.9 secs with swell 5.1 ft @ 6.0 secs from 289 degrees. Wind northwest 21-27 kts. Water temperature 58.8. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.5 ft @ 12.2 secs from 262 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.5 ft @ 6.7 secs from 268 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.7 ft @ 8.3 secs from 278 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.0 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 9.4 ft @ 10.0 secs from 311 degrees. Wind northwest 18-24 kts. Water temp 52.0 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Tuesday (3/29) in North and Central CA surf was head high at top spots and weak and mushed with warbled conditions even though local wind was light early. More pure local windswell. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high on the sets and clean with a few fun sections occasionally. In Southern California up north waves were up to waist high but nearly chopped with whitecaps outside and weak - pure windswell. Down south waves were maybe chest high on the sets coming out of the north and weak with local lump intermixed. Hawaii's North Shore was getting wind blown local windswell with waves maybe chest high and an unrideable mess. The South Shore was near flat with rare waist high sets and chopped. The East Shore was flat and clean with Kona wind in control.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell is in the water originating from a gale that developed near the dateline Sat (3/26) falling southeast producing up to 32 ft seas tracking directly towards Hawaii through Tues (3/29). Swell is hitting the outer Hawaii buoy as this morning. Small swell from a gale in the deep South Pacific is pushing towards California from a gale there on Sun (3/20), but small is the operative word. Looking at the models some sort of a weak low pressure/gale pattern is forecast developing in the North Pacific near the dateline on Sun (4/3) and easing east from there but there is no clear indication of it getting traction on the oceans surface. The Active Phase of the MJO is to supposedly provide one last push before the season fades out, but even that is not guaranteed.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday AM (3/29) the jet was consolidated pushing off Japan with winds building and forming a pocket to 170 kts centered on the dateline, then .cgiitting 600 nmiles north of Hawaii with the northern branch tracking north up into Alaska and then forming a backdoor trough pushing over California. The southern branch proceeded east from the .cgiit point tracking over Hawaii and then into North Baja. the apex of a steep and almost pinched trough was just west of the .cgiit point offering support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to weaken and dissipate on Thurs (3/31) with the northern branch fading and falling south into North Canada 24 hours later. Beyond 72 hours a generally consolidated jet is to remain tracking flat across the Pacific on the 30N latitude line with a new pocket of winds in the 140 kt range developing over the dateline on Sat (4/2) reaching east to a point north of Hawaii. A bit of a trough is to develop just off Japan and another in the Western Gulf at that time and easing east offering limited support for gale development. The east most of those two troughs is to be nearly pinched an moving over California on Tues (4/5) with the western trough moving into the Western Gulf but winds feeding it down to 120 kts offering only minimal support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. And back to the west the jet is to remain consolidated, but broad and weak running to the east up at 40N, suggesting a .cgiit possibly developing longer term. The jet is not looking particularly robust.
On Tuesday (3/29) groundswell from the Dateline Gale (see details below) was approaching Hawaii with sideband energy pushing east towards the US West Coast. Remnants of this gale were still circulating north of Hawaii generating 30 kts northwest winds targeting the Islands well.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
A new broad gale developed in the Northwest Pacific starting Fri PM (3/25) producing 30-35 kt west winds just south of the Central Aleutians and west of the dateline and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Sat AM (3/26) 40 kt northwest fetch was building in the same area with seas building from 22 ft at 45N 170E (324 degs HI). In evening 45 kt west winds built while easing southeast with seas building to 30 ft at 43N 172E (324 degs HI). Sun AM (3/27) 40 kt northwest winds continued resulting in a broader area of 32 ft seas at 42N 178E (325 degs HI). 40 kt northwest winds continued in the evening with the gale falling southeast generating 31 ft seas at 39N 177E. A slow fade to set in Mon AM (3/28) with winds barely 40 kts from the northwest and seas 31 ft at 36N 180W (313 degs HI). In the evening fetch faded from barely 35 kts positioned 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas dropping southeast from 29 ft at 33N 176W (314 degrees). This system was effectively gone by Tues AM (3/29) with northwest fetch 30 kts and barely reaching Kauai at 15 kts. 26 ft seas were fading at 32N 171W. A possible long run of rideable surf to result for Hawaii. Sideband swell for California.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected on Tues afternoon (3/29) pushing 8.4 ft @ 16 secs (13.5 ft). Swell to peak early Wed AM (3/30) at 11.2 ft @ 16 secs (17 ft Hawaiian - but that's probably a bit over stated). This would put it in significant class territory (#13 for the NPAC season). Residuals Thurs AM (3/31) fading from 8.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (12.0 ft). Dribbles on Fri AM (4/1) fading from 5.3 ft @ 12 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 314-324 degrees
North CA: Swell arrival on Thurs PM (3/31) pushing 3.6 ft @ 16 secs (5.5 ft). Swell peaking on Fri (4/1) at 4.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (6.5 ft). Swell fading on Sat (4/2) 4.6 ft @ 14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (3/29) high pressure at 1032 mbs was over the Central Canadian Coast ridging south with low pressure inland over Nevada tracking east generating a gradient with north winds 25 kts off the North and Central Coast but forecast to weaken through the day. An inch of snow is possible for Tahoe overnight. A far lighter north flow is forecast on Wed (3/30) with northwest winds 10 kts and down to nearly calm early Thursday and Friday. A weak pressure pattern is forecast early Sat (4/2) with north winds 5 kts for North and Central CA though stronger over Pt Conception. No change Sunday with a weak low approaching the coast and maybe south winds 10-15 kts for extreme North CA later in the day. A light south winds flow at 5-10 kts is forecast Monday from Pt Conception northward. Low pressure is to develop off Southern California on Tuesday (4/5) with south winds 10+ kts pushing into Southern CA on up into Central CA. Light snow of the Southern Sierra possible late. h north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA. With this north wind event, much of the El Nino driven warm water will likely be r.cgiaced by cold upwelled water.
On Sun AM (3/20) a gale tracked east through the deep Central South Pacific resulting in 38 ft seas at 67S 140W then fading from 31 ft in the evening at 67S 135W. 30 ft seas were fading while tracking east on Mon AM (3/21) at 66S 130W, then fading. Background swell possible for SCal a week out but most of this energy was focused on Chile.
SCal: Swell arrival starting Tues AM (3/29) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) building to 2 ft @ 17 secs later (3 ft). Swell building Wed (3/30) to 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell fading Thurs (3/31) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Another gale tracked under New Zealand on Mon PM (3/21) generating 32 ft seas at 63S 170E. On Tues AM (3/22) 33 ft seas were at 63S 175W and fading. No swell is expected for Hawaii.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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 another small gale is forecast developing on the dateline on Sat (4/2) producing 35 kt northwest continuing Sunday while tracking east. Given it's small footprint and rather fast eastward track, winds are to get only limited traction on the oceans surface with seas peaking at only 18 ft Sat PM at 37N 172E likely resulting in no swell.
No other swell producing fetch is indicated.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
More details to follow...
MJO Collapsing in West Pacific
Subsurface and Surface Warm Pools Collapsing
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).
Overview: A strong El Nino is fading out. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool built steadily in spurts, peaking in the Oct-Nov, timeframe, then began a slow decline. But even in Jan 2016, the strongest Westerly Wind Burst of the event occurred, with another Kelvin Wave developing. And another weaker one occurred in Feb. But it was too little, too late. There was not any real warm water left in the West Pacific to transport east. El Nino was in a steady collapse by mid-Feb with the subsurface warm reservoir in the East Pacific in steep decline with cool water ready to move in migrating from the west. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a paragraph that ties all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Mon (3/28) a small area of strong west winds were south of the equator in the KWGA near 165E associated with low pressure there with anomalies between 155E to 155W. A weak expression of El Nino was occurring, more than a few days ago.
1 Week Forecast: Per the GFS model weak west anomalies developed starting 3/19 near 150E and are forecast to hold through 4/2 in the 6 m/sec range. No east anomalies are indicated and none have occurred since early 2014 except for on pulse on 12/7-12/17/16 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO. For now a very weak El Nino pattern continues to hold control.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)
On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 3/28 a weak signal of the Active Phase of the MJO was over the dateline with a stronger Inactive Phase over Indonesia. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving east reaching to a point south of Hawaii while slowly fading over the next 2 weeks while the Inactive Phase moves into the far West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Active Phase fading 1 week out and the Inactive Phase moving into the West Pacific 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream is already fading and is to continue to fade out 2 weeks from now.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (3/29) The ECMF model indicates an extremely weak Active MJO signal near Africa. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving to the East Indian Ocean and very weak. The GEFS depicts the same basic pattern. No west wind anomalies in the KWGA are expected from the MJO. Whatever exists is from El NIno. There is no real fuel to supporting strengthening of the jetstream.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (3/29) A weak Active Phase was over the central Pacific and is forecast to track east to Central America through 4/5. A modest Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/6 moving to the East Pacific 4/28. Another Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/23 into 5/8.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO was all but gone on the dateline and was moving east. No west wind anomalies were in.cgiay on the dateline per this model. Fuel for the jetstream and therefore storm production was minimal. The model depicts west anomalies redeveloping weakly on the dateline 4/8 as the Active Phase of the MJO pushes east. It is to move over the West Pacific through 4/28. Modest west anomalies are forecast slowly building through that window and extending beyond the end of the Active Phase till May 3, then fading. Another very weak Inactive Phase to develop starting 5/8 but not getting solid ever. At this time this model seems like a minority opinion.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/29) Actual temperatures are in retreat. A pocket of 29 deg temps were holding at depth between 140E to 163W (tracking west) with the 28 deg isotherm line retracting fast to 145W. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +1 deg anomalies extend from 172E eastward with 2 degs anomalies over one small area from 110W eastward. No warmer anomalies are present. The entire warm pool only extends no more than 75 meters deep at it's deepest point. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east now reaching the Ecuador Coast with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 110W down at 75 meters and pushing towards the surface. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/24 the reservoir is fading and very shallow but warm water is still flowing into it from the dateline attributable to Kelvin Wave #6 with +1-2 deg anomalies. A few tiny pockets of +2-3 deg anomalies attributable to WWB #5 were fading from 120W to Ecuador and very shallow. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. Kelvin Wave #5 and #6 are resisting the total collapse of this ENSO event and the onset of La Nina, but that resistance will likely be short lived.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (3/24) The image depicts the warm pool is gone with no anomalies remaining.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (3/24) Temps are gone. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are all that is left and fading from the Galapagos to Ecuador. -1.0 deg anomalies are moving east reaching 150W with a pocket east to 130W. La Nina is coming.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (3/28) The latest image indicates temps are trying to hold on at +2.25 degs straddling the equator from the Galapagos west to 108W. A pocket of cooler water (0.0 degs) is from Columbia to the Galapagos. Warmer temps previously in pockets along the coast of Peru are fading fast.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/28) The latest image depicts this area is fading with no +2.25 deg anomalies remaining. It's over.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/28): Solid cooling is occurring over the entire Nino area from Ecuador to 150W. The warm pool is collapsing
Hi-res Overview: (3/25) The El Nino signal is still very much present but is on the decline. A pocket of +2 degs above normal attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 is between 90W to 110W. 2 deg anomalies are also out at 165W attributable to Kelvin Wave #4.
TAO Data: (3/24) +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to 170E. The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is not present (formally at 140E). 2 pockets of +1.5 deg anomalies were present from 180W to 150W and again from 130W to 95W with a pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies from 108W and points eastward. Overall the warm water signature is decent but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/29) Today temps were up some at +1.088 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (3/29) temps were slowly fading from +1.519 degs. From 2/25-3/11 they were steady at about +2.023. They fell below the +2.1 mark on 2/25 for the first time since when this El Nino first started developing, and below the +2.5 deg range that was reached in late Dec through Feb 11. The all time peak was reached at +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), Temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21.
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of Feb were +2.19 (beating '98 which was +1.89 and '83 which was +1.84). Jan readings were +2.23 (beating '98 which was +2.21 and '83 which was +2.13). December was +2.31 (beating 97 which was +2.23 and 82 at +2.21). November was +2.36 degs (beating the highest temp recorded in '97 Nov - +2.32 degs and beating '82 +2.03 degs). Oct temps were +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. The ONI uses a 3 month running average.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec the values are: +1.8, +2.1. +2.2 +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3 and +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1 and +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.
Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 3/12 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 100W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. El Nino is in solid decline based on this data, which would be normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps reached +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then faded slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Feb 1. Then a sharp decline started with temps down to +2.5 degs mid-Feb and falling from +2.0 degs in early March. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +1.35 by 4/1, then slowing their decline before stabilizing at +0.3 degs in August before starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe and is a minority opinion.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-March Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.5 by December. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Southern Oscillation Index (3/26): The daily average was rising at -14.30.The 30 day average was rising from -6.99. The 90 day average was rising from -15.74.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 3/29 a neutral pressure pattern was in control south of Tahiti and is forecast to hold for the next week. The SOI is expected to stabilize in the somewhat negative range based on the Tahiti contribution and offer better support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/29) Today's value was falling some at +0.96, having peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Feb) These numbers were released March 5th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +2.12. In Feb the readings increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.
Conclusion: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the 2nd strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific so far this season. The target is 16, but that appears ambitious.
From a pure El Nino perspective, the peak of the event is over. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is destructively interacting with the influence on the jet stream and storm production. And this will continue until the next Active Phase of the MJO comes into.cgiay, perhaps sometime in April. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence will not be a strong as previous Active Phases in winter.
The focus now turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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