Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Saturday (7/5) in North and Central CA local windswell was producing surf in the waist high plus range and textured and crumbly with light west winds in the afternoon. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist to chest high at top spots and reasonably clean in kelp protected areas. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves in the thigh to waist high range with textured conditions mid-day. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves in the chest to shoulder thigh on the sets and textured mid-day. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves in the knee or so and clean but weak. Trade wind generated east windswell was producing waves at knee to thigh high and chopped at exposed breaks on the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell producing fetch is occurring or forecast for the North Pacific other than local windswell. Typhoon Neoguri was churning northwest in the far West Pacific. In the southern hemisphere swell from strong Storm #2S is pushing north. It formed on the eastern most edge of the Southern CA swell window on Fri (6/27) building Saturday with 40 ft seas aimed northeast then peaking Sun (6/29) with 52 ft seas outside the CA swell window targeting mainly Chile and Peru. Theoretically a solid pulse of sideband energy is to radiate up into Southern CA and then North CA over the weekend into early in the week from the earlier incarnations of this storm. The models continue to suggest some form of small gale developing southeast of New Zealand late on Sun (7/6) pushing hard northeast on Mon-Tues (7/8) with 32 ft seas aimed northeast towards Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (7/5) trades were below the 15 kt threshold east of the Hawaiian Islands offering no support for development of easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Weak low pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska suppressing high pressure and eliminating odds for development of local north windswell relative to California. See Tropics below for details on Hurricane Neoguri.
Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to dissipate and high pressure is to regenerate in the Northeast Gulf with the gradient and north winds rebuilding over North California at 25 kts helping to produce limited north local short period windswell for North and Central CA with the fetch area building into Wed (7/9) with windswell coming up some. As the high gets better footing on Monday trades to start building to 15 kts east of Hawaii on Mon (7/7) and then spanning the gap between north CA and Hawaii by Wed (7/9) with windswell on the upswing more then.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Neoguri continued developing on Sat (7/5) tracking northwest from a position 800 nmiles east of the northmost Island of the Philippines with winds 115 kts. This system is expected to develop more into Monday AM (7/7) when winds hit 150 kts (172 mph sustained) putting it well into Super Typhoon status positioned 400 nmiles east of Taiwan and turning north. Neoguri is to make a direct impact on the southern tip of the south Islands of Japan on Wed AM (7/9) with winds fading from 90 kts and turning northeast, tracking inland over Japan and then eventually up the Kuril Islands. It is to get no clean exposure in to North Pacific waters.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (7/5) high pressure was barely 1020 mbs off California with no gradient of north winds of interest occurring. A relatively light wind regime was in control of exposed waters. The gradient is to rebuild Sunday with 20 kt north winds over a small area at Cape Mendocino but remaining away from nearshore Central CA waters all expect late in the day. North winds are forecast up to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino on Monday and Tuesday with an eddy flow in play for Central CA. A broad area of 25+ kt north winds to be in play on Wed (7/10) and Thursday with a well entrenched eddy flow (south wind) over Southern and Central CA. The gradient and any winds are to fade to nil on Friday and Saturday (7/12).
Jetstream - On Saturday (7/5) the southern branch of the jet was generally in a zonal configuration running flat west to east and displaced south down on the 70S latitude line if not further south across the width of the South Pacific. That said a bit of a cut off trough was developing southeast of New Zealand but with only 60 kt winds tracking up it's westerly flank to the north offing no real support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Still , the trough was reaching up and merging with the northern branch of the jet up at 40S. Over the next 72 hours additional wind energy is to start building south of New Zealand with winds to 140 kts on Mon (7/7) and pushing north providing good fuel to support gale development at lower levels of the atmosphere into Tues AM (6/8). But after that the trough is to again get cutoff by late Tuesday, with gale support fading out. Beyond 72 hours a strong ridge is to build southeast of New Zealand pushing well into Antarctica Thurs (7/10) and pushing east into Sun AM (7/13) shutting down potential there. A bit of a trough is to preceded it east of the Southern CA swell window next weekend offering a little hope for gale development relative to Chile.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (7/5) swell from a weak gale previously in the Southeast Pacific was hitting California. Stronger swell from a large and powerful storm on the edge of the California swell window (see Storm #2S below) was pushing north, with Southern CA buoys starting to register longer period energy in the 22 sec range with size presumably on the way up.
Otherwise the models suggest a gale is to start developing south of New Zealand on Sun PM (7/6) with southwest winds building from 45 kts over a small area and seas to 26 ft at 59S 180W. A decent fetch of 45 kt southwest winds are to build Mon AM (7/7) pushing well to the northeast with seas building to 30 ft at 56S 175W. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 40 kts still aimed northeast with seas still 32 ft over a tiny area at 44S 162W. A small area of 40-45 kt south winds to continue tracking north-northeast Tues AM (7/8Z) resulting in 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 39S 159W (210 degs SCal and shadowed, 208 NCal and shadowed, 182 degrees Hawaii). South winds to be dissipating from 30 kts in the evening with 25 ft seas fading at 35S 153W. On Wed PM (7/9) a secondary fetch of 45 kt south winds are to develop with seas rebuilding to 30 ft at 46S 148W and aimed north. This system to dissipate after that. If one is to believe the models, a decent pulse of swell to result for Tahiti with energy for Hawaii and shadowed energy for California.
Southeast Pacific Storm #2S
On Fri PM (6/27) a new storm formed in the Southeast Pacific generating 50 kt south-southwest winds at 60S 140W (192 degs SCal, 189 degs NCal). Seas were on the increase. Sat AM (6/28) a broad area 45-50 kt southwest winds were positioned on the eastern edge of the CA swell window producing a moderate size area of 35 ft seas at 56S 127W (185 degs SCal, 183 degs NCal). This fetch built to 55 kts in the evening at 58S 118W (SCal 180 degs, NCal 178 degs) with seas building to 44 ft at 55S 116W, barely in the SCal swell window at 179 degrees and outside the NCal swell window at 177 degrees. By Sun AM (6/29) a solid area of 55 kt south winds were in control aimed due north with 52 ft seas building at 54S 109W targeting mainly Chile up into Peru with sideband energy targeting exposed break of South CA (175 degs) and North CA (171 degs). In the evening 55 kt due south winds continued with seas still a solid 50 ft lifting northeast at 50S 105 W targeting all of South America and with sideband energy at South and North California up the 173 and 169 deg paths respectively. A quick fade occurred Mon AM (6/30) with winds dropping from 45 kts still over a good sized area and seas fading from 43 ft at 48S 96W and of no use to California.
Winds were confirmed by the WindSat satellite and most impressive, with 36 hours of 55+ kt winds aimed well towards South America and up towards California. No direct passes of the Jason-2 satellite occurred over the core, but the best pass occurred on Sun PM 0z with a 15 reading average of 42.2 ft with a peak reading of 47.5 ft reported southeast of the core where seas were modeled at 44-45 ft. Analysis of other passes suggested the model was fairly close on track with actuals.
This is to be a solid swell producing system for Central and South America with a combination of limited sideband and more direct swell from early in the storms life hitting California.
Southern CA: Swell to peak Sun AM (7/6) with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 21 secs (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Period down to 19 secs late. Swell continues Mon AM (7/7) at 3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.8 ft with sets to 7.2 ft). Swell on Tuesday (7/8) to be 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.3 ft with sets to 6.4 ft). Much water moving around during sets. Long lulls. Swell Direction: 173-185 degs with most energy east of 176 degrees. There is some uncertainty regarding the swell size forecast given the extreme south-southeast swell angle.
North CA: Swell to peak Sun (7/6) with pure swell 3.3 ft @ 20 secs later (6.6 ft with sets to 8.3 ft). Swell continues Mon AM (7/7) at 3.3 ft @ 19 secs (6.2 ft with sets to 7.8 ft). Swell on Tuesday (7/8) to be 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 6.8 ft). Much water moving around during sets. Long lulls. Swell Direction: 169-183 degs with most energy east of 172 degrees. There is some uncertainty regarding the swell size forecast given the extreme south-southeast swell angle.
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 high pressure is to hold in the Gulf and extending west to Kamchatka locking down the North Pacific into Thurs (7/10) generating north winds over Cape Mendocino at 25 kts with an eddy flow south of there resulting in small north short period windswell relative to North and Central CA. But by Friday the gradient is to be fading with windswell on the way down, effectively gone by the weekend (7/12).
Relative to Hawaii trades to start fading in coverage between California and the Islands still at 15 kts on Thurs (7/10) , but confined mainly to areas more local to Hawaii. Still enough fetch area is to hold to result in windswell along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands through Saturday. But after that trades are to collapse, and the windswell with it.
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 planet. 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 split 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).
As of Saturday (7/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 7.32. The 30 day average was up to -4.69 and the 90 day average was down some at 2.49. The near term trend based on the 30 day SOI was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. High pressure and a rising SOI is to be the rule relative to Tahiti for the workweek, then possibly falling some as another small low pressure system develops just south of Tahiti on Fri (7/11) likely driving the SOI negative through the weekend. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak east anomalies were over the Maritime Continent fading to almost neutral on the dateline. Neutral anomalies continued from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii and from there into the Galapagos. A week from now (7/13) light west anomalies are forecast over the far west equatorial Maritime Continent to the dateline turning neutral south of Hawaii and the weakly east into the Galapagos. The GFS model indicates trades are building some in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area but are to collapse on Tuesday (7/8) and build in coverage with a very light wind regime in control by later in the workweek (good news). The TOA array continues to indicate westerly anomalies developed 6/25 west of the dateline (at the surface - the ground truth) and are holding into 7/4 in the moderate range. Previously an Easterly Wind event occurred in the West Pacific 6/13-6/19 building to the moderate plus category and it appears it turned off the warm water flow to the east (more below).
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that is now impacting Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru. And weak westerly anomalies continued through the month of May. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months.
An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here.
A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/4 are moving back in sync. They both suggest a dead neutral MJO signal is in effect in the extreme West Pacific. 5 days out the dynamic model suggests a weak active Phase is to be building peaking 10 days out then fading while the statistic model suggest just dead nuetral anomalies throughout. The ultra long range upper level model for weeks has been suggesting a building Inactive Phase of the MJO taking over the equatorial Pacific over the month of July. But as of the 7/3 run and continuing 7/5, that has totally collapsed with a dead neutral MJO signal forecast for the next 40 days, with just a hint of an Active Phase developing in the far West Pacific late July. This is a major upgrade and good news. A very weak MJO pattern is what one would expect if an El Nino were to develop. If a neutral pattern actually prevails in July it provides hope that the warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above. as we've said before, we're at the point where weak westerly anomalies should be standard in the West Pacific if El Nino where developing, attributable to warming waters temps over the width of the equatorial Pacific. 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 imagery (7/3), a warm water regime remains in control from Ecuador west over the Galapagos and drifting west from there with warm anomalies extending on to the dateline. Hi-res SST monitoring site depicts +2.25-3.0 deg anomalies embedded in the triangle. But there are suggestions that water temps are starting to decrease with a small and building pocket of neutral to -0.5 anomalies developing directly off the coast of Northern Peru (or it could just be attributable to winds and local upwelling. Small pockets of +4 degree anomalies in the triangle have vanished. The NOAA OSPO imagery actually suggests warm water filing in more in the triangle. So a little bit of mixed messages occurring. Regardless, we suspect the bulk of the warm water produced by the massive Kelvin Wave generated by Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April has reached the surface in the east (3 months later) and is on the verge of starting to disperse. Those waters are advecting west, tracking into the Nino 3.4 region. But that is the tail of the proverbial dog, while Westerly Wind Bursts are the nose. The issue remains getting more warm water into the pipe to eventually erupt near the Galapagos.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). Even the weakest signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California is fading, as would be expected if El nino was inplay. This is significant in that is suggests high pressure induced north winds are less than normal off California for this time of year. And the only cool water present is streaming off Southern Chile pushing west almost reaching up to the equator, but getting shunted south by the warm water on the equator. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific is impressive.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are fading. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave have dropped 1 degree in the past week and are currently +4 deg C above normal, and fading some. The core is 50 meters down at 110W. Temps previously were up to +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. As best as can be identified this Kelvin Wave covers a smaller area now, starting at 150W building into Ecuador with the core between 120W and 100W. Satellite data as of 6/27 continues to downgraded the areal coverage of the Kelvin Wave again with increased surface water heights only 0 to +5 cms limited to 125W into Ecuador. This is a significant downgrade in the past 5 days. And subsurface models as of 6/27 depicted the flow from the West Pacific to the east was still open, but with no significant warm water in it. But, the pipe was not closed. That said, a small pocket of +0.5-1.0 anomalies are in place under the dateline, perhaps suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape. And with a week or two of westerly anomalies forecast, perhaps more warm water will start pushing east.
The Pacific Equatorial Surface Counter-Current (from 2N to 2S from the Philippines to the Galapagos) as of 7/2 continued tracking anomalously east to west from the Galapagos to the dateline (through the heart of the Nino 3.4 region), the exact opposite direction it should be to build warm waters in the East Pacific. And the actual current was tracking fairly strong east to west over the same area too. But the strength of this flow was down from previous data. This pattern started 6/17. And better, the current is flowing west to east in the far West Pacific, and if anything is building over the past 7 days. The assumption is the change in direction in the current was attributable to development of easterly winds in the same area in mid-June, and could possibly change if westerly winds continue to hold in the West Pacific.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/2 have stabilized suggesting water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Sept building to +1.55 deg C by Nov (up +0.45 deg over the last week or so) holding into Jan 2015, then fading. Previous forecast peaked at +1.75 in Nov 2014, so we're 0.25 degs off that mark.
Analysis: Assuming it will take 2-3 months for the tail end of the big Kelvin Wave generated by the WWB that ended effectively on 5/1 to erupt over the Galapagos and Ecuador, the existing warm pool should start completely dissipating by 8/1 with neutral water temps taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle, unless something develops to reinforce it. A new WWB appears to be developing in the West Pacific (starting 6/28), and even if it were to continue, it would not reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no significant warm water to resupply the Ecuador triangle (8/1-9/28). This will likely cause water temps to decease some in the Nino1+2 regions. If no additional Westerly Wind Bursts occur, warm water in all Nino region will dissipate. This is what occurred in the 2012 False-Start El Nino. Of course the other consideration is that the June easterly wind burst was the start of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. But without another WWB building on the dateline to set up another downwelling Kelvin Wave event, then the developing El Nino pattern could dissipate. So monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific are critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
As of right now we're waiting for a feedback loop to develop, reinforcing the warm water flow and buildup of warm water off Central America into the Fall. The big concerns are the easterly wind event of the week of 6/17, the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current, a dissipating Kelvin Wave and the degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle. What is needed is another Westerly Wind Burst or at least continued westerly anomalies, and no hint of Easterly anomalies. That appears to be trying to happen at the moment. Anything that reduces or suppresses trades in the equatorial West Pacific will suffice to continue the transport mechanism. So out-and-out west surface winds are not required. The macro level concern is that the East Pacific warm pool has NOT been in place long enough to develop a coupling with the atmosphere above it, though there are some signs that a coupling is starting to develop (low pressure tracking over the dateline and into the Gulf resulting in northwest swell for the US West Coast, reduced high pressure induced north winds along the CA coast). Only once the ocean and atmosphere are coupled on a global level (that is the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino is in-play. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. From a skeptics perspective, that's another month before anything is guaranteed, and exactly the same time the warm pool is to be dispersed. But if we're just in the 'Upwelling Phase' of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, and more west anomalies and a new Kelvin Wave are being generated in the West Pacific, then all will remain on-track. The next 2 -3 week are critical.
Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Aug-Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino or La Nina present or imminent. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. There remains 2 months ahead where any number of hazards could derail this event. But this is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. In a normal situation one would expect there to be at least one or two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). Historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest a gale is to start building off Southern Chile on Sat AM (7/12) with 50 kt south winds over a small area and seas building from 28 ft at 50S 109W, outside the SCal swell window but targeting Chile. 50 kt south winds to build into the evening with 38 ft seas at 48S 102W again targeting Chile. 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table