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 (11/3) North and Central CA had residual west swell from the Gulf of Alaska was still hitting providing waves in the chest high range and clean but soft. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were near flat with maybe a stray thigh high sets and clean. Southern California up north was thigh high and clean but pretty weak. Down south waves were waist high and clean and nicely lined up but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was small with chest high sets and clean. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore had minimal thigh high tradewind generated windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
We're waiting for the arrival of swell from a gale that wrapped up in the Northern Gulf late Thursday into Friday with seas over a small area in the 38 ft range aimed south and southeast. Swell is in the water tracking primarily towards the US West Coast but with some energy running south towards Hawaii too. Surf for California north of Pt Reyes and for Hawaii by Sunday (11/4). A secondary system is developing right behind on Saturday (11/3) forecast to track northeast fast from just north of Hawaii into Canada by Sunday with seas in the 25 ft range. Actually swell from this system will be larger for Hawaii and a little more westerly and provide less size for the US West Coast and again from a more westerly direction. Beyond there's suggestions of a weaker system developing on the dateline Tues-Thurs (11/8) with seas in the 20-22 ft range targeting primarily Hawaii. Something to monitor. After that another very weak system is schedule for the Northern Dateline region next weekend. But for now the issue remains the storm dampening affect of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the Pacific. The good news is we should be out from under that in a little over a week, so the worst is hopefully over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (11/3) the jet was running flat off Central Japan on the 37N latitude then gently lifting north some after crossing the dateline eventually pushing into British Columbia. There were two embedded pockets of 140 kt winds, one off Japan and the other off the Pacific Northwest. The only thing that looked like a trough was occurring just northwest of Hawaii but winds there were only 100 kts offering little to support gale development (or so it seems). Over the next 72 hours the mini-trough north of Hawaii is to develop some but lift northeast fast supported by 140 kts winds providing perhaps some support for gale development. Meanwhile the pocket of winds off Japan is to start developing into a trough on Monday (11/5) tracking west but never making it past the dateline on Wednesday. Beyond 72 hours a big ridge is to develop over the East Pacific pushing the jet well to the north arching over the Eastern Aleutians Thursday with perhaps a backdoor front for California on Friday (11/9). After that a rather weak and ill-defined jetstream pattern is forecast offering no support for gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (11/3) a gale was dissipating in the northern Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). A secondary gale was developing north of Hawaii (see Secondary Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a new gale is to start organizing west of the dateline on Monday (11/5) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas at 18-20 ft, reaching the dateline Tues AM (11/6) with increased northwest winds at 35-40 kts and seas building briefly to 24 ft at 37N 168E targeting Hawaii down the 306 degree path. Fetch to hold into the evening with seas still 24 ft but shrinking in coverage at 35N 177E (306 degs HI). Additional 35 kt north fetch to continue Wed AM (11/7) resulting in 20 ft seas at 40N 177E (319 degs HI). This system is to be fading in the evening while tracking northeast with no additional development forecast. Possible small swell for Hawaii to result by Friday (11/9).
A weak system tracked from the dateline across the North Pacific and started developing in the Northern Gulf on Thursday AM (11/1) with north fetch building from 40-45 kts targeting Hawaii down the 180 degree path and also starting to take aim on the US West Coast. By evening 45-50 kt northwest winds were in the Northern Gulf aimed at both Hawaii and the US West Coast (Pacific Northwest down to Central CA) with seas building from 26 ft. A small fetch of 45-50 kt north winds were in-play Friday AM (11/2) with seas to 32 ft over a tiny area up at 51N 158W aimed south at Hawaii (360 degs HI). 50-55 kt west winds were also wrapping into the gales south quadrant with seas building to 36 ft at 49N 152 (306 degs NCal) aimed well at Oregon northward. In the evening 45 kt winds were pushing up into the storms east quadrant with 34 ft seas from previous fetch at 48N 146W targeting the Central CA coast (306 degs) northward but aimed best at British Columbia. Saturday AM (11/3) west fetch to be fading from 35 kts with the gale tracking north towards Alaska. 26 ft seas were fading at 48N 142W (311 degs NCal). This system to be gone by evening. This was not an ideal setup, but at least some small and very north angled swell could result for Hawaii with better size targeting the US West Coast
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Monday AM (11/5) building through the AM peaking late AM at 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5 ft faces) coming from 360 degrees and mixing with more local swell fading from 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft) coming from 350 degrees.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival from the first part of this gale Sunday AM (well before sunrise) with pure swell 6.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (8.5 ft faces) from 295 degrees. The core swell to arrive through the morning building to 5.2 ft @ 16-17 secs around noon (8.5 ft) from 307 degrees. Residual energy expected Monday fading from 6 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft faces).
Secondary Gulf Gale
A secondary gale low started to develop just 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Friday (11/2) tracking northeast by evening with winds 45 kts in it's north quadrant but all aimed back to the west and of no use to anyone. By Saturday AM (11/3) winds were blowing from the northwest at 45-50 kts over a small area aimed at Hawaii as the gale itself tracked north of Hawaii, generating 26 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii for a few hours at 34N 163W or 850 nmiles north-northwest of the Islands. Swell from this system to arrive in the Islands in sync with swell from the Gulf Gale (below). This system is to race northeast in the evening with west winds 50-55 kts over a tiny area in the storm south quadrant and barely getting traction on the oceans surface. Still 27 ft seas to be generated at 38N 153W targeting the US West Coast (280 degs NCal, 290 SCal). The gale is to be off North Oregon on Sunday AM (11/4) with 50-55 kt west winds and seas 27 ft at 45N 142W (302 degs NCal and beyond the SCal swell window). The gale is to be impacting Central Canada Sunday evening. For the most part this swell to look just like a more westerly extension of the Gulf Gale (below) relative to California and add-in energy relative to Hawaii from the north.
Swell arrival in Hawaii on Sunday AM (11/5) peaking late morning with swell at 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10 ft) from 320 degrees and swinging steadily more northerly.
Swell arrival in Northern CA before sunrise on Tuesday (11/6) (actually late Monday night) at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft ) from 290 degrees.
Swell arrival in Southern CA on Tues AM (11/6) at 2.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft) and up to 4.2 ft @ 14-15 secs at exposed breaks down south (6 ft). Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Saturday (11/3) Tropical Storm Rosa was tracking west mid-way between California and Hawaii at 12.6N 119.6W with winds 40 kts and slowly drifting west. Rosa is to fall to depression status in 12 hours and dissipate a few days beyond. No swell to result.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/3) weak high pressure was trying to hold off the coast but was under attack by a new low winding up just north of Hawaii and well off the California coast racing northeast. Northwest winds were isolated to Pt Conception at 15 kts with calm winds elsewhere. On Sunday the low off the coast is to be moving into Canada and high pressure is to get a chance to build, ridging into Oregon late with northwest winds 15 kts mainly off the immediate North and Central CA coast building through the day. By Monday the high is to move inland with a neutral pressure pattern and light winds for most of CA (north winds 15 kts Cape Mendocino) and holding into mid Wednesday. But by late afternoon there's suggestions of strong high pressure at 1034 mbs building in from the north and north winds building strong over the North and Central Coast at 20 kts late. Those winds to fade to 15 kts Thursday but then a full pressure gradient to develop courtesy of an upper low over the California coast with north winds at the surface at 20 kts covering the entire state Friday AM fading from 15 kts Saturday. Looks like a blow-out.
Surface - On Thursday (11/1) a small storm was in the deep Central Pacific producing 50 kt west winds and seas to 38 ft at 55S 138W. It is to start dissipating in the evening with fetch fading from 45 kts but seas from previous fetch up to 41 ft at 53S 131W. No additional fetch of interest forecast. the mostly straight east trajectory is a problem for our forecast area. Just the same, Southern CA to see some small southern hemi swell from this one from 190-195 degrees starting Thurs (11/8) with period 20 secs (2 ft @ 20 secs late - 4 ft faces) peaking late on Friday (11/9) at 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (4 ft). Residuals on Saturday (11/10) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft).
Over the next 72 hours the models are hinting at a tiny gale forming off New Zealand lifting north with seas building to barely 30 ft at 45N 172W late Monday (11/5). Maybe some tiny background swell for Hawaii with luck. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours another weak gale is forecast tracking off Japan traveling northeast reaching the northern dateline region by Sat (11/10). Only limited 30-35 kt north fetch is forecast offering no real seas of interest. Will monitor just the same.
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 (11/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 8.01. The 30 day average was up some at 4.52 with the 90 day average up at 0.90. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis (last updated 10/31) indicated moderate east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with neutral anomalies on the dateline extending into Central America. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the West Pacific. A week from now (11/8) east anomalies are forecast starting to fade over the Maritime Continent reaching almost to the dateline then rebuilding south of Hawaii. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be moving east towards the Central Pacific, typical of the MJO (moving west to east).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/2 remain in agreement over the short term suggesting a moderate Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific but is starting to fade. The statistical model suggests it is to fade some while tracking east over the next 2 weeks positioned south of Hawaii by 11/16 with a large Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and pushing into the West Pacific and wrapping around the vestiges of the Inactive Phase. The dynamic model now suggests the Inactive Phase to weaken and fade out 2 weeks from now but with the Active Phase also fading, moving towards a neutral pattern by 11/16. Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believe a return to a normal MJO cycle is likely with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. The current Inactive Phase is evidence of that, and if the theory is correct, the Active Phase should appear as scheduled and with equal if not stronger intensity by mid-November. The statistical models clearly indicates that. An increase in swell producing storms would seem likely then. But until then, storm production in the North Pacific is to remain dampened (through 11/12).
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east both subsurface (2-3 deg C anomaly at 118W) and at the surface (1 deg C anomaly), moving east of 120W and off the charts by 9/17. It was erupting along the Central American coast by late October but was doing little to replenish the warm water pool and is only holding it at a steady state. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific starting Sept 2 and continued for 21 days through 9/22 then faded on 9/25 only to return on 9/28 before finally dissipating on 10/9. A Kelvin Wave resulted evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline around 10/23, and has since (11/3) reached 3 deg C and is located to the east at 155W. It is expecte4d to reach the Central America coast by December but will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests a return to a normal pattern. Latest projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but rather a return to a neutral state by November or almost a return to La Nina with -0.6 deg C water temps by January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. So the warm spurt in July 2012 was likely just a false start, typical for the time of year.
At this time remnants of La Nina are almost gone in terms of their affects on the atmosphere and we're shifting very close to the normal category. La Nina is effectively gone but El Nino is not materializing.
Though no El Nino is imminent, we are in a better place than the previous 2 years under the influence of La Nina. We are in a neutral pattern with limited bias on the warm side. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out. And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table