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, April 19, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.2 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 2.8 ft @ 10.9 secs from 336 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 2.7 ft @ 14.3 secs from 252 degrees. Wind west 4 kts. Water temperature 61.9. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.7 ft @ 14.7 secs from 255 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.4 ft @ 15.5 secs from 226 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.3 ft @ 14.6 secs from 218 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 5.5 ft @ 13.3 secs from 293 degrees. Wind north 4 kts. Water temp 55.4 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Tuesday (4/19) in North and Central CA surf was 1-2 ft overhead on the sets at best breaks and clean and lined up but generally soft. still it was very rideable. At Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high on the bigger sets and clean and lined up wit some punch, looking very rideable. In Southern California up north waves were waist high and clean but generally weak. Down south waves were chest to maybe head high and reasonably lined up and clean but not too powerful. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell from the dateline in the chest high range and reasonably clean but with a little sideshore lump on it. The South Shore was near flat with rare thigh high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell producing waves at waist high early and chopped with modest trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Residual swell from a gale that produced up to 39 ft west of the dateline then faded Thurs (4/14) in the far Western Gulf with seas 25 ft was still hitting California, but fading. A gale tracked east from the far Northwest Pacific Fri-Sun (4/17) with seas to 31 ft then pushed over the dateline Mon (4/18) with seas 24 ft then is forecast to push east through the Gulf of Alaska Tues-Thurs (4/21) with seas redeveloping it the 24 ft range aimed east. More swell is expected for Hawaii and the US West Coast if this materializes. Nothing else to follow through. Down south the models are hinting at a gale forming in the Southeast Pacific on Sat-Sun (4/24) with up to 36 ft seas aimed north. Will believe it when it happens.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday AM (4/19) the jet was ridging slightly while pushing off Japan with winds to 180 kts preaching it's northmost point over the dateline up at 45N then falling into a developing trough in the Western Gulf but quickly loosing wind energy and fragmenting into an indistinguishable flow. There was some support for gale development in the trough 900 nmiles north of Hawaii. A weak flow of 60-90 kt winds also were present down at 20N from the dateline and points east of there. Over the next 72 hours the flow is to weaken with the trough moving east to a point just off Central CA late on Thurs (4/21). Weak support for gale development possible. Back to the west a consolidated flow is to be tracking east from off Japan with winds to 140 kts forming a bit of a weak trough on the dateline into Fri (4/22) offering minimal support for gale development. At the same time the California trough is to be pushing inland. Beyond 72 hours a consolidated flow is to persist tracking from Japan east on the 40N latitude line on Sun (4/24) reaching east and pushing over Central and North CA, but fairly diffuse. Peak winds to be 150 kts in a thin stream off Japan to the dateline with a weak trough just off Japan. That same basic pattern is to hold through Tues (4/26) with some sort of weak trough persisting in the far West Pacific, likely associated with the Active Phase of the MJO trying to get some traction there. Some support for low pressure development there. A weak .cgiit in the jet to be in.cgiay from the dateline eastward with a a thin stream of 50 kts winds peeling off and tracking east down at 15N.
On Tuesday (4/19) residual swell from a gale that tracked across the North Pacific Mon-Thurs (4/14) was still hitting California, but on the way down.
Otherwise a modest gale developed off the Kuril Islands on Fri (4/15) and has been tracking east, and is to continue east (see 4th NPac Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the 4th NPac Gale to be the only system of interest.
4th NPac Gale
A gale started building off Japan on Fri AM (4/15) producing 40 kt northwest winds getting traction on the oceans surface. Those winds pushed off Japan in the evening at 45 kts generating 28 ft seas at 41N 153E. Sat AM (4/16) a broad fetch of 40 kt northwest winds extended off the Kuril Islands with 31 ft seas at 42N 159E. 40 kt northwest winds continued east in the evening generating 31 ft seas at 44N 165E. On Sun AM (4/17) a broad fetch of 35-40 kt northwest winds continued pushing east resulting in 30 ft seas at 43N 171E. The fetch faded from 35 kts in the evening over the dateline with seas 27 ft at 44N 178E. On Monday AM (4/18) fetch faded from 30 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 24 ft 47N 177W. Additional 35 kt west fetch was moving into the area in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 173W. Swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Additional fetch was moving towards the Western Gulf from west of the dateline on Tues AM (4/19) at 35 kts from the west with seas 20 ft at 42N 174W. More of the same in the evening with a broader area of 30-35 kt west winds taking hold just east of the dateline with seas 19 ft at 42N 175W. Fetch to build to 35 kts in the Western Gulf on Wed AM (4/20) with 23 ft seas over a modest area at 43N 163W. 30-35 kt west winds to ease east in the evening with 24 ft seas at 44N 155W. On Thurs AM (4/21) fetch to fade from barely 30 kts in the Gulf with seas fading from 21 ft moving to 43N 149W. The gale to fade from there while moving towards North CA. . More swell targeting only the US West coast to result if all goes as forecast.
Hawaii: Swell arrival possible late on Tues (4/19) with swell to 3 ft @ 18 secs (5 ft). Swell peaking Wed AM (4/20) at 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Swell fading some on Thurs AM (4/21) from 4.9 ft @ 14 secs (6.5-7.0 ft). Residuals still hanging on Fri AM (4/22) at 4.8 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft). Swell dropping Sat AM (4/23) from 3.9 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees
North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Thurs afternoon (4/21) building to 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft). Swell continues on Fri AM (4/22) 4.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction: 296-298 degrees.
Theoretically swell to increase on Sat (4/23) but only due to strong local northwest winds adding alot of chop and windswell on top of the ground swell.
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 (4/19) low pressure was 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception tracking northeast and forecast to dissipate late. A light wind flow was in.cgiace along the coast. Maybe a hint of rain to result from it Wed AM from SF northward. A weak pressure pattern is expected Wed (4/20) with light south winds along the Central Coast and a broader low pressure system building in the Gulf. Thursday the low is to move closer to the coast with south winds 10 kts from Monterey Bay northward. Light scattered rain for North CA late evening. Friday the low is to dissipate with a light wind pattern nearshore but high pressure queued up about 200 nmiles out. Scattered rain possible for the entire state, included SCal later in the day. Maybe some light snow for the Southern Sierra late afternoon. High pressure and northwest winds take over Saturday AM building to 25 kts focused near Pt Conception but lighter up north near Cape Mendocino at only 15 kts. Clear skies.High pressure and north winds build Sunday at 20-25 kts everywhere but Southern CA. Monday high pressure rules with north winds 30 kts for North and Central CA and less for Southern CA early. but building even there later in the day. North winds still 20 kts on Tuesday for North and Central CA but Southern CA to be calm.
On Tuesday AM (4/19) no swell producing fetch was occurring.
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 a gale is forecast developing in the Gulf on Mon AM (4/25) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 19 ft at 45N 152W lifting northeast. By evening 45 kt northwest winds are forecast with seas building to 26 ft at 48N 150W. Fetch is to be fading Tues AM (4/26) from 40 kts with seas 27 ft at 50N 146W lifting northeast and targeting British Columbia. The gale to fade from there. Maybe some swell to result for Central CA and points northward of there. Something to monitor.
Beyond 72 hours a gale is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific Sat AM (4/23) with southwest winds 45 kts and sea building from 30 ft at 51S 145W. The gale to track east in the evening with winds still 45 kts from the southwest with seas building to 35 ft at 51S 136W. 40-45 kt southwest winds to lift northeast Sun AM (4/24) with seas 37 ft at 48S 130W targeting California reasonably well but better at Mexico down into Peru. in the evening 45 kt southwest winds to continue lifting northeast with 36 ft seas at 44S 125W. The gale to fade from there with residual seas 34 ft at 41S 120W targeting Southern CA reasonably well and mainly focused on Mexico down into Chile.
More details to follow...
Some Indicators Suggest MJO Turning Active
PDO Continues Turn towards the Positive
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: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. The last of the ocean subsurface warm water reservoir is dissipating and surface temperatures are rapidly fading. La Nina is poised to emerge.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Mon (4/18) no west winds were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) but anomalies were from the west from 160E to 165W mainly from 5S and points southward. A very weak expression of El Nino was occurring.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Modest west anomalies are forecast starting today (4/19) holding through 4/23, then weakening some but not out through 4/26. A weak El Nino pattern to hold perhaps aided by a weakly Active MJO Phase (or at least no Inactive MJO over the KWGA).
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 4/18 a neutral MJO signal was over the dateline and the Maritime Continent. The Statistic model projects the exact same pattern holding for the next 2 weeks (a dead neutral MJO pattern). The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with a very weak Active Phase setting up over the dateline 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino to continue to slightly enhance the jetstream and the MJO is to have little to no influence either enhancing or suppressing it.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/19) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was over the Maritime Continent and exceedingly weak. It is to ease east some into the West Pacific but remain very weak over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the same basic pattern.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/19) A modest Active Phase was over the dateline and is expected to move east and out of the picture through 5/1. An Inactive Phase is to develop in the West Pacific 4/26 tracking east through 5/10. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/7 tracking east through 5/24. But with the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely any active Phase will have any real positive impact.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was moving east over the dateline. This is contrary to what the above models indicate. It depicts west anomalies starting to build today and starting to provide fuel to support enhancing the jetstream and maybe storm production. The model depicts the weak Inactive Phase fading out 4/24 but west anomalies are forecast developing starting 4/21 getting decently strong by 4/25 and building 4/29 as a new Active pulse of the MJO starts to take hold, peaking on 5/4. moderate west anomalies are to continue through 5/9 then quickly collapsing. Will be interesting to see if this occurs.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/19) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29 deg temps were retreating west fast from 179W. The 28 deg isotherm line was shallow stretching east to 119W and retreating west. Anomaly wise things are collapsing fast. +1 deg anomalies extend from 165W eastward and no more than 40 meters deep near 140W and then dissipating at 95W. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching the Ecuador Coast with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 110W and lesser cool waters nearly reaching the surface near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have cold Kelvin Waves pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/8 the reservoir is fading and very shallow from 170E eastward. Anomalies were +1-2 deg over the area and only extending down 25 meters with one tiny pocket of +2-3 degs anomalies under the Galapagos. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. The onset of La Nina is imminent.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (4/13) The image depicts the warm pool is gone with no positive anomalies remaining over the entire equatorial region from the dateline to Ecuador. Instead negative anomalies are easing east at -5 cms reaching to Ecuador with -10 cm anomalies pushing east to 140W. La Nina is quickly developing.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (4/13 - but updated daily) Warm temps are gone. +0.0-0.5 deg anomalies are from 85W and points east. -1.0 deg anomalies are racing east reaching 110W. La Nina is coming closer every day and is likely only 2 weeks from materializing at the surface.
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 & 3.4 : (4/18) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates temps are in total collapse. A diffuse pattern of 1.5-2.0 deg anomalies is present straddling the equator from 110W westward to 160W. But east of there temps are crashing with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru streaming northwest to the Galapagos at -0.5 degs with a building pocket at -2.0 or lower between Ecuador and over the Galapagos and now reaching west to 100W with a second cooler pocket out at 110W. The warm pool is collapsing and La Nina is setting up.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/18): Massive cooling is setting up from Columbia and Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 150W. It looks like strong east trades are in effect in this area or cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface.
Hi-res Overview: (4/18) The El Nino signal is quickly collapsing. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps are present from a bit west of the Galapagos to 160W over the equator. But a thin stream of cooler than normal waters are from Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 115W. Warmer water present south and north of the equator, but quickly becoming less relevant with negative temps building off Ecuador and advecting west.
TAO Data: (4/2) +1.0 anomalies were over the equatorial East Pacific advecting west from the Galapagos covering out to 150W. Overall the warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/19) Today temps were stabilizing after being in a freefall, fading from +0.896 degs on 4/12 to -0.643 today.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/19) temps steadily fading again today down to +1.067, continuing a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Centered Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of March were +1.63 degs (beating '98 at +1.32 degs and '83 at +1.44 degs). For more history see updated graphs below. This make this year El Nino the strongest ever. That is not reasonable looking at other evidence.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct, Nov , Jan and Feb the values are: +1.8, +2.1. +2.2 +2.3, +2.2 and +2.0. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3, +2.3, +2.1 and +1.8. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1, +2.1, +2.1 and +1.8. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950. The ONI uses a 3 month running average.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 4/16 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is getting firmly entrenched based on this data, which is 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 and +1.5 degs April 1. The forecast indicates temps fading from here forward into Oct at -1.5 degs and down to -1.95 degs Dec. This would be in solid La Nina territory.
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 (4/19): The daily index was down some today -20.80. The 30 day average was falling from -14.76. The 90 day average was rising from -13.25. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the daily and 30 day averages suggested some form of Active MJO was in.cgiay and building.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/19 weak low pressure was over Tahiti and is forecast to build into Thurs (4/21) then holding while the original low falls southeast from Tahiti but more low pressure builds in behind. The SOI is expected to hold if not fade some more based on the Tahiti contribution perhaps providing some support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream. An interesting late season pulse appears to be setting up.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (4/16) Today's value was building some +0.93. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 but has generally fallen ever since until 4/14, when it started rising again.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (March) These numbers were released April 6th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +1.96. The Feb reading was +2.12. In Jan the reading 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 Dec reading was +2.12. 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. This years El Nino was the third strongest since 1950 per this index.
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. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. Impressive. 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 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 (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016. The MJO is not constructively interacting with the jet stream and therefore not enhancing storm production. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence, even if it does turn active, will do little to enhance storm production.
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