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.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 5.5 ft @ 9.4 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 20.2 secs. Wind west 12-15 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 0.9 ft @ 20.3 secs from 215 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.4 ft @ 23.4 secs from 185 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.4 ft @ 20.4 secs from 185 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.6 ft @ 9.1 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 21.5 secs. Wind south-southwest 7 kts nearshore. Water temp 53.6 degs.
On Sunday (5/3) in North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead on the sets at best breaks and pretty chopped by south wind. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 1-3 ft overhead and inconsistent but reasonably clean coming from the south. In Southern California up north local southern hemi swell was head high and closed out and chopped by northwest winds. Down south waves were 3 ft overhead and coming up but wracked by northwest winds and chop. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves waist high or so and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell 3-4 ft and chopped from easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific relative to Hawaii generic tradewind generated east windswell is expected to continue for the next week. No North Pacific swell of interest is forecast. Relative to the US West Coast, windswell is to not be in.cgiay until late Tuesday, building until late Thursday (5/7) then fading. A small gale developed in the Gulf on Sat (5/2) generating 26 ft seas aimed east over a tiny area targeting Central CA northward. Down south Swell #2S was destroying Puerto with long period forerunners hitting Southern CA and working their way up into Central CA. Previously it produced up to 54 ft seas on Sun-Mon (4/27) while tracking over the Southeast Pacific with most energy pushing east-northeast towards Chile and Peru. Another small but fairly strong gale developed tucked up along the east coast of New Zealand on Wed-Thurs (4/30) with seas to 38 ft aimed northeast. Certainly some swell to result for Hawaii with much less for the US West Coast. Another small gael is forecast for the Southeast Pacific on Tues (5/5) with 30-32 ft seas building Thurs AM (5/7) with 39 ft seas in the California swell window but mainly aimed east pushing to 46 ft in the evening but outside the CA swell window targeting South Chile.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (5/3) low pressure associated with what was previously a gale in the Gulf was fading while tracking towards Washington. It was no longer producing swell. A new broad gale was trying to organize over the dateline with 35 kts northwest winds expected to result in barely 20 ft seas at 45N 178E in the late evening to Mon AM (5/4) targeting Hawaii down the 327 degree path. A quick fade to follow. Perhaps small swell to result for Oahu on Wed night (5/7) peaking Thurs AM (5/8) at 3 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft). Something to monitor.
The usual summer time Cape Mendocino pressure gradient was weak on Sun (5/30 resulting in no local north windswell production. But by Tues (5/5) 1028 mb high pressure is again to start ridging into the North and Central CA coasts with north winds building to 30 kts near Pt Arena High down to Pt Reyes and continuing into Thurs AM (5/7) resulting in increasing north local short period windswell. The gradient is to weaken Thurs (5/7) with windswell starting to fade. Otherwise trades to continue relative to Hawaiian, in the 15+ kts range from the east. Short period east windswell expected for exposed east facing shores.
On Fri PM (5/1) a small gale started building in the Gulf of Alaska generating 40 kt northwest winds with seas on the increase. The gale tracked east Sat AM (5/2) with west-northwest winds holding at 40 kts with seas 26 ft over a tiny area at 47N 157W. Fetch started fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas holding at 26 ft at 47.5N 152.5W. This system quickly dissipated after that. Small and limited 14 sec period swell could result for North CA starting Tues AM (5/5). Maybe 4 ft @ 13-14 secs (5 ft faces) from 301 degrees and shadowed in the SF Bay Area.
No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Noul was centered 175 nmiles east of the Islands of Yap with winds 35 kts tracking west-northwest. Slow strengthening is forecast over the next 5 days with winds pushing 115 kts on Fri (5/8) positioned 350 nmiles off the Northern Philippines. A turn to the north is expected then turning northeast and positioned 300 nmiles south of Southern japan tracking northeast on Mon (5/11). It is doubtful, even if this does happen that any swell will result in the North Pacific. It's just too late in the season. Still, this is an interesting scenario and something worth monitoring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (5/3) high pressure at 1024 mbs was north of Hawaii trying to ridge east but being shunted by low pressure in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. North winds over Cape Mendocino were limited to 15 kts with an eddy flow over Central CA. The eddy flow is to start collapsing on Monday with north winds 15 kts along mainly the Point Area to Bodega Bay coastline building to 20 kts late. The gradient to rebuild and fall south on Tues (5/5) with 25 kts north winds taking over all of North CA building to 30 kts on Wednesday with 25 kts over most of Central CA nearshore, then fading from 25 kts Thursday (5/7) and fading from 15 kts on Friday (5/8). A light winds pattern is forecast over the weekend except 15 kts on Sun (5/10) near Pt Conception.
Jetstream- On Thursday AM (4/30) a .cgiit flow was in control over the Tasman Sea, merging just east of New Zealand with a solid trough pushing the southern branch of the jet north there. Winds were 110 kts flowing up into the trough, offering some reasonable support for gale development. East of there the combined flow started falling southeast, and then hard southeast while disintegrating over the Southeast Pacific forming a defined ridge and shutting down any support for gale development there on into Southern Chile. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to continue holding together, but easing east with only 90-100 kt winds feeding it, offering minimal support mainly for low pressure development through Sat (5/2). Meantime a ridge is to be building under New Zealand Locking thing down there. Beyond 72 hours starting Mon (5/4) remnants of the New Zealand trough is to still be holding together, but now positioned in the Southeast Pacific with 110 kts winds from the West Pacific portion of the jet feeding into it offering some support for gale development. forecast building east of New Zealand with 120 kt winds feeding up into it and slowly easing east but also slowly loosing energy. If anything, the trough is to start pushing north into Wed (5/6) still being fed by 100 kts winds , then pinching off on Thursday (5/7) with the whole southern branch lifting a little bit north running flat west to east on the 53N latitude line. No real support for gale development indicated.
On Thursday (4/30) long period forerunners of swell from Storm #2S was hitting Chile and working it's way north (see Storm #2S below). A gale also had formed just east of New Zealand with swell from it pushing northeast (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was over the mid-southern latitudes of the Southeast Pacific generally pushing the storm track south there. Over the next 72 hours starting Mon AM (5/4) high pressure is to build over New Zealand at 1032 mbs with the same 2014 mb high off of Southern Chile. No swell production other than what is noted above is forecast.
South Pacific Storm #2S
On Sat PM (4/25) a small but potent storm started developing southeast of New Zealand with 60-65 kt west winds and seas building from 40 ft seas at 60S 166W (183 degs HI, 202 degs SCal, 200 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). The Jason-2 satellite passed near the core at 06Z Sun (4/26) reporting seas at 43 ft with one readying to 46.4 ft where the model suggested seas should be 44-45 ft. The model was doing a good job. Fetch built in areal coverage aimed more east-northeast Sun AM (4/26) at 60 kts with seas 50 ft at 60S 150W (195 degs SCal, 193 deg NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the outer periphery of this storm and reported seas 36.3 ft with one reading to 42.7 ft where the model was projecting 36-38 ft seas. In the evening winds held at 55 kts over a solid area aimed north-northeast and lifting east-northeast with seas building to 54 ft at 55S 137W targeting Chile, Peru and up into Central America with sideband energy tracking up into California (189 degs SCal, 187 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite made a pass near the core at 05Z Mon (4/27) and confirmed seas at 47.1 ft with one reading to 53.9 ft where the model was projecting 48-49 ft seas. On Mon AM (4/27) fetch was fading from 50 kts with 45 kt winds over a solid area all from the south-southwest pushing well northeast with 52 ft seas at 53S 126W (183 degs SCal, 181 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite made 2 passes over the north and south periphery of the storm. It reported 41.2 ft seas with one reading to 48.7 ft where the model suggested seas should be 39-40 ft. The model was on the money. In the south quadrant it reported seas to 30-32 ft where seas should have been 29 ft. Fetch was fading in the evening from barely 40 kts with 43 ft seas at 50S 117W and outside the CA swell window but aimed well north and targeting Chile and Peru well (sideband swell for SCal on the 179 degree track, 177 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed directly over the core of the storm at 03Z Tues (4/28) and reported seas at 42.2 ft with one readying up to 50.6 ft where the modeled suggested 41 ft seas should be. Again, the model was spot on.
This storm has completed it's lifecycle and was strong and impressive. Jason-2 satellite data has confirm what the model has been projecting, with a good correlation between all the data points. Most energy was aimed east-northeast at Chile up into Peru, but solid sideband energy is forecast radiating up into Central America and the US West Coast. A solid long period swell is in the water.
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting sunset Sat (5/2) with period 25 secs and pure swell maybe 2.3 ft @ 25 secs late (5.5 ft faces). Swell building steadily as period drops to 22 secs early Sun (5/3) with swell 3.6 ft @ 22 secs (7.9 ft with sets to 10.0 ft). Swell pushing 4.3 ft @ 20 secs late (8.5 ft with sets to 10.7 ft). Swell to continue upwards peaking on Mon (5/4) AM at 4.4 ft @ 19 secs (8.4 ft faces with sets to 10.5 ft). Swell still solid but fading some on Tues (5/5) at 4.1 ft @ 17 secs (7.0 ft with sets to 8.7 ft). Residuals on Wed (5/6) with period fading from 16 secs. Swell Direction: 185-195 focused on 190 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting sunset Sat (5/2) with period 25 secs and pure swell maybe 2 ft @ 25 secs (5 ft faces). Swell building steadily as period drops to 22 secs mid-day Sun (5/3) with swell 3.3 ft @ 22 secs (7.3 ft with sets to 9.0 ft). Swell to continue upwards peaking on Mon (5/4) at 4.0 ft @ 20 secs (8.0 ft faces with sets to 10 ft). Swell still solid but fading some on Tues (5/5) at 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.3 ft with sets to near 8 ft). Residuals on Wed (5/6) with period fading from 16 secs. Swell Direction: 183-193 focused on 188 degrees
New Zealand Gale
A small gale started developing south of New Zealand on Tues PM (4/28) generating 45 kt south winds with seas building from 26 ft seas at 51S 163E. By Wed AM (4/29) a tiny fetch of 55 kt south winds is to be in.cgiay lifting northeast with seas on the increase from 32 ft over a tiny area at 49S 172E. In the evening winds were tracking northeast and fading from 45 kts with seas building to 38-39 ft over a tiny area at 45S 180W. Winds were fading from 40 kts Thurs AM (4/30) with seas fading from 34 ft up at 41S 176W. This system is to be fading by evening with winds 35 kts and seas mostly from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 40S 167W. Additional 40 kt southwest fetch to build on Fri AM (5/1) with seas 29 ft at 44S 160W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts in the evening and turning more purely westerly with seas to 32 ft at 42S 152W. Fetch is to be fading fast Sat AM (5/2) with winds barely 30 kts and no additional sea production of interest forecast. The bulk of the swell production has already occurred. Secondary 15-16 sec period energy is possibly going to be added if the models verify. Swell from the initial pulse is unshadowed by Tahiti relative to California. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late Tues (5/5) with swell maybe 1.5 ft @ 18-19 secs (2.5 ft). Swell to peak on Wed (5/6) mid-day at 2.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0 ft). Swell fading on Thurs (5/7) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Residual energy continuing on Fri (5/8) from a more southerly direction. Swell Direction: 194-197 degrees
California: Rough data suggests swell arrival on late Thurs (5/7) with period 20 secs and size tiny. Swell peaking as period hits 17 secs after sunset on Fri (5/8). Swell maybe 2.0 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 216 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 the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is to start rebuilding as the previous Gulf Gale fades while pushing east into Washington on Tues (5/5). 25 kt north winds to again build over North and Central CA on Wednesday.
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) As of Thurs (4/30) the daily SOI was rising at -7.30.The 30 day average was rising from -3.08 and the 90 day average was falling from -4.89. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a weakening Active Phase of the MJO. As of Thursday (4/30) a weak pressure pattern remained in.cgiay. The models suggest low pressure is to be building just south of New Zealand on Mon-Tues (5/5) and building into Fri (5/8), would suggests falling SOI numbers. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest westerly anomalies were in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline strengthening marginally while passing a point south of Hawaii. Weak westerly anomalies continued from there into the Galapagos Islands but mainly north of the equator except in the immediate vicinity of the Galapagos. To see westerly anomalies over the Galapagos is interesting. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate westerly anomalies over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area holding to a point south of Hawaii, then turning light westerly almost to the Galapagos. A week from now (5/8) moderately strong westerly anomalies are to start at 130E (over the Maritime Continent) holding almost the dateline, then fading to neutral just east of the dateline. Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there except turning to light westerly over and south of the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least westerly anomalies) are to hold if not build a week out (a good sign) and positioned well in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) developed from 1/15-2/20 then regenerated 2/25 building steadily into the strong category by 3/7, before peaking 3/10 holding to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 then slowly faded into 3/30 but not out even to 4/17. And now it appears to be rebuilding again. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March. Not a hint of easterly anomalies all year so far. See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/29 suggests a dead MJO signal was in.cgiay. No anomalies were occurring. The Statistic model suggests a continuation of the same for the next 15 days while a very weak Active Phase tried to develop in the Indian Ocean but making no headway east. The Dynamic model suggests a dead neutral pattern and holding fro the next 15 days. For now the models are generally in sync both short and longer term. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/30 depicts a strong Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the far East Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/5. A weak Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/5 pushing steadily east and fading as if hits Central America on 5/30. A dead neutral pattern biased towards the Active Phase is to set up after that through 6/9. 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 (4/30) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific perhaps getting a better grasp. Warmer water is trying to get traction along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator, with a small warm pocket depicted between the Galapagos and the mainland, building some in the latest image. This pocket started forming on 3/28, faded some, and has been trying to rebound some, but with only limited success. Inroads seen on 4/28 have faded again. Warmer water extends west from there but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator until it reaches the dateline, then expanding in areal coverage. It is this pocket of cooler water south of the equator that is of some concern, possibly limiting long term transition to a legit El Nino pattern. TAO data indicates +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. +1.5 deg anomalies are now depicted advecting west from the Galapagos. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps warmed some, currently at +1.1 degs, up 0.1 degree from 2 days ago. One would expect this area to start warming after the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west, starting maybe a month out (5/28).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming but are pushing hard east. As of 4/30 a +2.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continued holding coverage with its core at 130W, and it's leading edge (at +5.0 C) now impacting the Galapagos and driven by the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 and additional strong westerly anomalies in March, feeding even more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave was expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Actual data suggests it hit on 4/23. Satellite data from 4/23 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core to +10 cm from 145W to the Galapagos indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (4/23) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E-80W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 175E-80W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 157W-85W. And a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 146W-110W. In short, a strong Kelvin Wave is in flight tracking east and starting to impact the Galapagos. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 4/17 is steadily improving. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire northern equatorial Pacific and with a strong pulse west of the Galapagos on the equator. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific north of the equator and building to the strong category and positioned directly over the equator in the east (130W to Ecuador). Sure looks like El Nino is setting up.
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 4/30 for the Nino 3.4 region are on the upswing again. It suggests water temps are at +1.1 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +2.2 degs C, and continuing to +2.6 degs by Oct and 2.9 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino, and strong at that. But it is too early to believe just yet. The same thing happened last year. The model is likely just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight and will settle back down after it erupts over the Galapagos. But the recent migration of warm surface water south of Hawaii is starting to look more interesting suggesting a feedback loop might be developing and the core of the Walker circulation is easing east. But much more warm water would be too be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop, especially of the magnitude projected by the model (rivaling the all time great '97 El Nino). The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO, though some models are now suggesting something more. 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 until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). The real teller will be during the month of June. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region are expected to be quite warm due to the arrival of a large Kelvin Wave currently in flight (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling Phase off the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. Of note: The eastward migration of warm surface water from the dateline now positioned south of Hawaii is typical of a classic variety of El Nino, which did not occur at any point in time last year. Perhaps a true El Nino teleconnection is developing. But again, the real indicator will occur in June (see above).
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 production 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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