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.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 5.1 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 4.2 ft @ 7.7 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 190 secs with swell 2.3 ft @ 17.5 secs. Wind southeast 6-8 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 0.6 ft @ 17.0 secs from 198 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 17.6 secs from 188 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.5 ft @ 18.5 secs from 188 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 5.5 ft @ 12.7 secs. Wind south 10-14 kts nearshore. Water temp 54.0 degs.
On Thursday (5/14) in North and Central CA Gulf swell was producing surf at chest to maybe head high, crumbled and nearly chopped by southerly wind. Cleaner and smaller at select breaks. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf at nearly head high at top spots and textured with south winds light outside the kelp. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves at waist high and weak but clean. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves at waist to chest high on the sets and crumbled with near chop from southerly wind bumping up the faces. Hawaii's North Shore was getting only east wrap around windswell at thigh high and clean and not really ridable. The South Shore was getting leftover New Zealand swell with waves waist high and clean at top breaks. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high 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 a weak gale formed near the dateline on Tues (5/12) producing 22 ft seas aimed east offering hope for small northwest swell by early Fri (5/15). Perhaps some swell to result from Typhoon Dolphin, scheduled to recurve northeast and barely make it east to the dateline. Otherwise generic tradewind generated east windswell is expected to continue into the weekend, but slowly fading. Relative to the US West Coast, a tiny gale tracked through the Northern Gulf on Mon (5/11) generating 22 ft seas aimed east but was gone by Tuesday. Small swell is hitting. No real windswell is in the forecast. From the southern hemisphere a small but fairly potent gale started developing in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (5/6) with up to 44 ft seas late, then faded from 40 ft Thurs AM (5/7) with the core of the gale falling south and barely in the California swell window. Swell is starting to show in California. Beyond the charts suggest a gale pushing under New Zealand on Mon (5/18) with seas to 42 ft, but quickly fading. Even that is a reach by the models. Otherwise nothing of interest is projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (5/14) weak swell from a gale previously in the West Pacific was moving towards Hawaii (see West Pacific Low below). Also swell from the Gulf of Alaska was hitting Central CA (see Gulf Low below). Meteorologically a double lobed high pressure system at 1024 mbs was stretched west to east on the 32N latitude line extending from the dateline to a point 600 nmiles northeast of Hawaii generating 15 kt east trades and small short period windswell into exposed east shores of Hawaii. But for California the high was retrograded west with weak low pressure 500 nmiles off the coast falling southeast with the usual pressure gradient gone and no north winds present along North and Central CA to produce local windswell.
Over the next 72 hours the low is to move into Southern CA late Friday (5/15) with high pressure trying to push east, only to get shunted back west as another weak low falls down the US West Coast on Mon (5/18) preventing the formation of the standard pressure gradient and offering no odds for north windswell development. Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure is to continue generating trades at 15 kts resulting in east windswell for exposed breaks in the Islands, put progressively weakening into Tues (5/19). East windswell gone by then.
West Pacific Low
A broad low pressure system started developing in the Western North Pacific on Mon (5/11) tracing east-northeast generating a fetch of 35 kt northwest winds getting traction on the oceans surface generating 20 ft seas at 35N 160E somewhat targeting Hawaii. Fetch built in the evening with northwest winds to 40 kts as the gale lifted northeast with seas building to 23 ft at 38N 165E again targeting the Islands. Those winds built to near 45 kts Tues AM (5/12) generating more 23 ft seas at 40N 172E again targeting Hawaii. In the evening winds to be fading from 35 kts with the gale lifting north with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 178E. The gale is to reorganize just south of the Central Aleutians Wed AM (5/13) with 30-35 kt west winds aimed east and 22 ft seas up at 50N 180W targeting only the US West coast, holding into Thurs AM (5/14) with 20 ft seas fading at 46N 172W but too far away to be of interest. Some degree of small 13-14 sec period swell is pushing towards the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii: Swell fading Fri (5/15) from 3.6 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 306-310 degrees
A small gale developed in the Northern Gulf on Mon AM (5/11) producing 35 kt west winds resulting in 18 ft seas at 52N 157W. Winds held at 35 kts in the evening falling southeast over a small area generating 22 ft seas at 51N 148W secs (310 degs NCal). The gale fell southeast from there but fetch faded and seas were less than 20 ft.
NCal: Swell fading Fri (5/15) from 4 ft @ 10-11 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 300 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Dolphin had 95 kt sustained winds on Thurs AM (5/14) tracking west-northwest positioned 300 nmiles east-southeast of Guam. Dolphin is to build with winds 110 kts tracking just north of Guam on Fri AM (5/15) with winds 110 kts. A slow turn to the northwest is forecast on Sun (5/16) with winds 120 kts and then turning north to northeast on Sun (5/17) with winds holding at 120 kts. A steady track to the northeast is forecast thereafter with the GFS model suggesting Dolphin slowly becoming absorbed by a broad low pressure system tracking off the Kuril Islands and North Japan on Wed (5/20) with Dolphin loosing identity 24 hours later. But this storms eventual track might offer another clue as to what is occurring in the global weather pattern. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/14) weak low pressure was off the Central CA coast generating south winds at 10 kts for many location over Central CA. A secondary low is to develop and push into Southern CA on Friday while high pressure tries to re-establish itself late up north setting up north winds at 10-15 kts. North winds to build to 15-20 kts on Sat (5/16) over Central and North CA as high pressure tries to build back, only to fade on Sunday as another weaker low sets up off the coast (light winds again) and holding Monday. High pressure and 15 kts north winds to try to return on Tues (5/19) building to 15-20 kts on Wednesday then lifting north on Thursday with 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino and 15 kt north winds down to Pt Conception.
On Thursday AM (5/14) the jet was .cgiit with the southern branch ridging south and tracking over Antarctica south of New Zealand with the northern branch tracking north of New Zealand. The two streams merged somewhat over the far Southeast Pacific but with all energy tracking east-southeast (zonal flow) continuing into southern South America. No troughs of interest were present offering no real support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours much the same pattern is to persist with a .cgiit flow in the West with a new ridge pushing south to 70S and over Antarctic Ice on Sat (5/16), then sweeping east, recovering and pushing north only once it was over the far Southeast Pacific and east of the California swell window. No troughs and no support for gale develop indicated. Beyond 72 hours the ridge is to only build over the Central Pacific pushing hard south into Antarctica by Tues (5/12) covering the region from 180E to 100W by Thurs (5/19) actively suppressing gale formation.
On Thursday (5/14) swell from a storm that developed in the Southeast Pacific was starting to impact California (see Southeast Pacific Storm below). Also swell from a previous gale in the Tasman Sea was pushing towards Fiji (see Tasman Sea Gale below) Otherwise strong high pressure at 1036 mbs was east of New Zealand pushing the storm track south there over the Ross Ice Shelf. East of there no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold control over the Southwest Pacific easing only slightly to the east and locking down from there well into the Central South Pacific and actively suppressing storm formation.
Southeast Pacific Storm
A gale briefly formed in the Central South Pacific on Mon PM (5/4) generating a broad area of 30-35 kt southwest winds with 25 ft seas at 53S 147W. By Tues AM (5/5) southwest winds were holding at 35-40 kts and tracking east with seas building to 26 ft at 54S 145W aimed well northeast. Fetch faded from 30-35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 25 ft at 50S 137W. Very limited swell production potential is possible from this initial fetch. it mainly was just a primer for what developed behind. A new fetch starting building well west of it with winds 45 kts over a tiny area aimed east.
By Wed AM (5/6) 50 kt southwest winds were start building in the South Central Pacific aimed well to the northeast with seas building from 29 ft over a tiny area at 54S 144W. A solid area of 50-55 kt southwest winds started developing in the evening with seas building to 41 ft at 55S 137W aimed east-northeast. the Jason-2 satellite made a pass over the eastern quadrant of the storm reporting a 15 reading average of 39.3 ft with one reading to 44.8 ft where the model suggested 37-38 ft seas. The model was on track if not a little low. By Thurs AM (5/7) 50 kt southwest winds were on the edge of the CA swell window and fading in coverage while falling southeast with 41 ft seas at 52S 124W and aimed 45 degs east of the 182 degree track to Southern CA. Fetch was fading in the evening aimed almost east with seas mainly from previous fetch fading from 40 ft at 57S 118W targeting Chile and east of the California swell window. This system dissipated by Fri AM (5/8). Some degree of modest sideband swell should result for California, but with the lions share of the fetch targeting Central America down into Northern Chile. For California, low wave count per set (2 waves per set), and sets infrequent.
Southern CA: Swell holding Fri (5/15) with swell about 3.0 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5.0 ft with sets to 6.0 ft). Swell fading on Sat (5/16) from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 186-200 degrees
Northern CA: Swell holding Fri (5/15) with swell about 2.5 ft @ 17 secs early (4.3 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell fading from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) on Sat (5/16). Swell Direction: 184-188 degrees
Tasman Sea Gale
In the Tasman Sea on Wed AM (5/13) a modest sized gale developed with 40 kt south-southwest winds aimed northeast generating 30 ft seas at 45S 151E targeting Fiji. Winds held at 40 kts aimed north-northeast in the evening with 28 ft seas over a tiny area at 46S 158E. Thurs AM (5/14) 40 kt south winds were pushing due north with seas 30 ft at 42S 159E. And yet more 40 kt south winds to hold into the evening pushing north with 32 ft seas fading at 37S 163E. Fetch to fade fro 40 kts Fri AM (5/15) with seas fading from 26 ft at 32S 169E targeting Fiji well and only 750 nmiles away. Assuming all goes as forecast, a nice pulse of swell should result for Fiji.
Fiji: Swell arrival forecast near 1 AM Sat (5/16) peak near 3 PM local time at 9.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (14 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading Sun (5/17) from 8.7 ft @ 14-15 secs 912 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 210 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 remnant low pressure associated with a previous gale in the Northwest Pacific (details above) are to continue circulating over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians into Sun (5/17) easing slowly east and minimizing high pressure and potential for development of local north windswell relative to California. Trades and windswell to continue relative to Hawaii then dissipating on Wed (5/20) as a new low pressure system theoretically starts building on the dateline and pretty far to the south (40N). It is to grow in coverage while tracking northeast into the Northern Gulf on Thurs (5/21) but with winds never exceeding 30 kts and seas never reaching 20 ft. No swell generation forecast.
Otherwise all eyes are to be on Typhoon Dolphin (see tropical update above).
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 (5/14) the daily SOI was slowly relaxing but still well negative at -27.7. The 30 day average was falling at -12.34 and the 90 day average was falling from -7.29. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of steady Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak low pressure was over Tahiti with strong high pressure holding south of Darwin. By Fri (5/15) a new low pressure cell is forecast developing south of Tahiti building into Sun (5/17) while a 1032 mb high fades some and tracks east over Southeast Australia with the SOI at least holding if not falling some. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate westerly anomalies continued in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching a bit shy of the dateline then fading more but still modestly westerly south of Hawaii reaching half way to the Galapagos then turning neutral on into South America. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong westerly winds to 15-16 kts (not just anomalies but a reversal of trades) over the central Kelvin Wave Generation Area associated with a developing tropical system north of there with anomalies holding to a point just south of Hawaii, then turning neutral to the Galapagos. A week from now (5/22) neutral to very weak west anomalies are to be over the Maritime Continent reaching over dateline and building some to modest strength 1/2 way to the Galapagos. Neutral anomalies to continue into South America. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least a solid WWB) is to slowly fade a week out. to have a second WWB in early May after the big one in March is a good sign.
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 the end of April. Light westerly anomalies continued to 5/5, then rebuilt again starting 5/7 peaking in the strong category 5/9-5/13 then fading some but not forecast out till 5/17. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March faded some, then redeveloped and raged for 7 days in early May. 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 5/13 suggests a dead MJO signal was in.cgiay. No anomalies were occurring over the Pacific. The Statistic model suggests a continuation of the same for the next 15 days with a modest Inactive Phase bottled up in the Indian Ocean. The Dynamic model suggests the exact same thing. For now the models are generally in sync. The ultra long range upper level model run on 5/14 depicts a strong Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the East Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/18. A modest Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/18 pushing steadily east and fading as if hits Central America on 6/8. A dead neutral pattern biased towards the Active Phase is to take over the entire equatorial Pacific thereafter into 6/23. 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 (5/14) a modest warm water/El Nino-like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific definitely getting a better grasp. Warmer water is building over Ecuador and the Galapagos, steadily per the last 3 updates. This is the likely result of a new strong Kelvin Wave impacting the coast there. But it's development is not striking. Warm water is also holding along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator but nothing remarkable. Warmer water extends west from the Galapagos along the equator but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator until it reaches the dateline, then expanding in areal coverage. In reviewing last years data at this same time, the warming is looking stronger, but not over the top. In comparison to '97, it is similar if not slightly warner near the Galapagos. TAO data indicates +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies are depicted advecting west from the Galapagos. Also the pocket of 1.5 deg anomalies that had been on the dateline has rebuilt with west wind anomalies over it. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are warming again, currently up to +1.05 degs. One would expect this area to start warming markedly as the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west, starting about 5/28. Will be monitoring for this.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are starting to show some signs of warming again under the dateline, but most anomalies are under the equatorial East Pacific pushing east into Ecuador. As of 5/14 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +5 deg anomalies was starting to impact the Galapagos Islands 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 4/28 and started to erupt on the surface (5/7). Peak water temps still extend westward to 140W, meaning there is a month of peak warm water still in the pipe. Also of interest is the apparent downwelling of more warm water on the dateline , the result of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Satellite data from 5/8 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E (expanding west some) 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 (5/8) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E and the Ecuador coast with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170W eastward and +1.5 deg anomalies from 151W eastward. And a core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 130W eastward with a small pocket of 2.5 degs anomalies at 90W. This also suggests the peak of the Kelvin Wave is still offshore a bit. In short, a strong Kelvin Wave is in flight and starting to impact the Galapagos. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. We'll know more by June 1. The good news is more westerly anomalies are building over the dateline, complete with associated tropical development north of the equator, suggestive perhaps of developing co.cgiing between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense). And 1 tropical system in the West Pacific (Noul) has recurved northeast with another forecast to follow that path behind.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 5/7 is steadily improving. The current is pushing modestly west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific and with a strong pulse just west of the Galapagos on the equator and again in the far West Pacific. . 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 in a pocket just west of the Galapagos directly over the equator in the east (120W to Ecuador) and strong over the far West Pacific centered near 130E. 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 5/14 for the Nino 3.4 region remain off the chart but have settled down slightly. It suggests water temps are at +1.1 deg C (a bit on the high side) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +2.0 degs C, and continuing to +2.8 degs by Oct and +3.0 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. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), 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 of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The real interesting thing is westerly anomalies and a certified WWB developed in early to mid May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area indicating another Kelvin Wave is in development, much different than what occurred last year. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. 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 a gale is forecast tracking east under New Zealand, but making little eastward headway once entering the far Southwest Pacific.
It is to have 40-45 kt southwest winds over a broad area aimed northeast Sun PM (5/17) with 39 ft seas at 58S 161E (200 degs HI, 215 degs NCal/SCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). By Mon AM (5/18) 45 kt southwest winds to hold but over a smaller area with 42 ft seas at 55S 171E (198 degs HI,214 degs NCal/SCal and unshadowed). Fetch is to be gone in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 33 ft at 53S 180W. Something to monitor.
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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