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 Thursday (11/8) North and Central CA had fading northwest windswell at chest high or so and blown to bits. Unrideable. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were thigh high, weak and clean. Southern California up north was maybe waist high and reasonably clean but generally uninspiring. Down south waves were waist high and textured and weak. Hawaii's North Shore was still rideable with north swell producing waves shoulder to near head high on the sets and lined up and pretty clean. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same north swell with waves chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A broad but generally weak system developed on the dateline Tues (11/6) peaking late with seas in the 24 ft range targeting primarily Hawaii. Small but fun swell to result starting Friday. A local gale was falling south off Oregon late Thursday (11/8) producing 20 ft seas targeting the Central CA coast but with much wind expected on the swell when it swell arrives. After that things settle down until Tues (11/13) when a small gale is to fall south from the Eastern Bering Sea perhaps generating some fetch and seas just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas 38 ft tracking east with seas 30 ft or greater into Thursday (11/15). Possible swell targeting primarily the the US West Coast if one is to believe the models. But the issue remains the unfavorable influence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately we're almost through it's cycle with better conditions for gale development expected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/8) a .cgiit jet was in control with a weak polar flow tracking almost north of the Bering Sea with most energy flowing flat off Japan down at 35N tracking to the dateline and forming a weak trough there with winds 130 kts feeding into the trough offering a hint of support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Also a small backdoor trough was pushing south just off the coast of the Pacific Northwest with 130 kt winds feeding it, offering more limited support for gale development. But that trough is to be inland over San Francisco by Friday AM ending it's life. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to lift steadily northeast and moving pretty fast weakening by Saturday and offering no real support for gale development. A more consolidates flow is to organize behind. Beyond 72 hours starting late Mon (11/12) a large .cgiit in the jetstream is to set up with the .cgiit point just off Japan. Most energy is to lift into the northern branch tracking northeast to the dateline supporting high pressure over the dateline at the surface then falling southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with 120 kts winds starting to feed a developing trough there by Thurs (11/15). Possible support for gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/8) remnants of a gale previously on the dateline were fading while tracking towards the Western Gulf (see Dateline Gale below). A second small gale was off the Pacific Northwest (see Pac Northwest Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems of interest were present. Over the next 72 hours high pressure to build north of Hawaii at 1024 mbs reaching north to almost the Aleutians and west beyond the dateline pretty much shutting down gale production.
Dateline Gale - Hawaii
A gale started organizing west of the dateline on Monday (11/5) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas at 18-20 ft. It reached the dateline Tues AM (11/6) with increased north winds at 40 kts and seas building briefly to 28 ft at 45N 170E pushing due south and targeting no-one. Secondary seas of 20 ft were at 34N 173E targeting Hawaii down the 302 degree path. Fetch moved to the gales southwest quadrant in the evening fading from 35 kts but providing good coverage with seas still 24 ft but shrinking in coverage at 38N 172E (311 degs HI). Additional 30 kt north fetch continued Wed AM (11/7) resulting in 20 ft seas at 35N 175E (311 degs HI). This system faded in the evening while tracking northeast with north fetch fading in coverage at 30 kts providing no real seas of interest.
Small swell for Hawaii to result by Friday afternoon (11/9) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5-6.0 ft). Swell to continue Saturday AM (11/10) with swell 4.8 ft @ 13 secs (6.0 ft) settling down some late with residuals on Sunday fading from 3.6 ft @ 11-12 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 304-311 degrees.
Pacific Northwest Gale
Also a small gradient developed just off the Pacific Northwest on Thurs AM (11/8) resulting from high pressure at 1032 mbs in the Gulf of Alaska and a weak non-closed isobar low over Washington. It produced a small area of 35 kt north winds and seas building from 18 ft at 45N 133W (319 degs NCal) falling south. 30-35 kt north winds to hold into the evening with 19-20 ft seas at 41N 131W (301 degs NCal). A quick fade is forecast Friday AM (11/9) as the gale dissipates off the Central CA coast. Seas fading from 18 ft at 38N 127W or 300 nmiles from San Francisco on the 296 degree path.
Local windswell to result for Central CA arriving Friday (11/9) AM at 8 ft @ 11 secs building to 8 ft @ 12-13 secs later (10 ft) from 300 degrees. Windswell fading Sat AM from 6 ft @ 11 secs (6.5 ft).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (11/8) no tropical systems of interest were occurring and none were forecast. This section of the report will be discontinued now that Winter is setting in.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/8) weak low pressure was falling south down the coast from Oregon with strong high pressure at 1036 mbs in the Gulf of Alaska forming a pressure gradient and north winds at 35 kts off Oregon aimed at California. The leading edge of the north fetch off the coast was impacting the SF Bay Area in the afternoon with light rain occasionally falling. More rain expected in the evening reaching down into Southern CA. 3-4 inches of snow for Tahoe possible. By Friday the gradient is to start fading and remain mostly off the coast with local winds from the north but only 10 kts or so for North and Central CA. Periods of light rain. 2-3 inchs of additional snow accumulation for Tahoe. North winds to continue Saturday locally at 10 kts for North and Central CA, but Southern CA to see north winds at 15 kts all day Friday and up to 20 kts Saturday. Rain clearing. 2 inches of snow for Tahoe possible. A possible offshore to develop Sunday as high pressure ridges into North CA for all locations, fading some Monday into Tuesday. A front is to be pushing down the North Coast Monday with light rain likely there reaching San Francisco/Monterey Bay Tuesday. maybe 1-2 inches of snow for Tahoe confined to higher elevations. A new weak low is to build just off the Central CA coast Wednesday (11/14) generating modest south winds and rain north to San Francisco moving into Southern CA Thursday (light offshores for Central CA early and south winds for Southern CA). 4-5 inches of snow for the Southern Sierras. Moderate rain for Southern CA possible.
Surface - On Thursday (11/8) no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
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).
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 on Sun (11/11) developing over the Central Aleutians into the Bering Sea Monday (11/12) with 45 kt west fetch pushing south of the Eastern Aleutians early Tuesday (11/13) aimed east and building to 50 kts (storm force) late with seas building to 36 ft up at 52S 170W (308 degs NCal). 45-50 kt west winds to hold while the gale start tracking east-southeast Wed AM (11/14) with 38 ft seas forecast at 52N 163W. The gale is to moderate in the evening with winds fading from 45 kts and seas 37 ft at 50S 158W. Thursday AM (11/15) 40 kt winds to be fading with seas dropping from 34 ft at 50N 150W, then winds down to 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 48N 144W. At this early date this is just a wild guess by the models and not really believable. But assuming it to be true, some degree of longer period swell could result for the US West Coast from a rather northerly direction. Something to watch at least.
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).
As of Thursday (11/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding near -7.19. The 30 day average was down to 2.75 with the 90 day average up at 1.32. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies building over the Maritime Continent (WPac) but not getting much coverage yet. Weaker east anomalies were over the dateline extending to a point well southeast of Hawaii. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east and the Active Phase trying to get a toe-in-the-door in the West Pacific. A week from now (11/16) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent with light east anomalies just east of the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be fading in the Central Pacific, but the Active Phase not really doing much in the West Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/7 remain in agreement over the short term suggesting a fading Inactive Phase was over the dateline with a solid Active Phase in the Indian Ocean starting to seep into the extreme West Pacific. The statistical model suggests the Inactive Phase it is to hold strength while slowly tracking east over the next 2 weeks positioned south of Hawaii by 11/21 with a large and solid Active Phase building while pushing into the West Pacific and wrapping around the vestiges of the Inactive Phase south of Hawaii over the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model continues to be conservative suggesting the Inactive Phase to weaken and fade out 2 weeks from now but with the Active Phase also fading, moving into a dead neutral pattern by 11/21 if not slightly biased towards the Inactive Phase. 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 about 11/16).
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 erupting along the Central American coast late October but did little to r.cgienish the warm water pool only holding it at a steady state. That said, fragments of it are showing up in the Nino1+2 temp analysis. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific between Sept 2 and Oct 9. That Kelvin Wave has 2-3 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water and is located on the equator at 155W. It is expected to reach the Central America coast by December and will possibly provide a little boost to water temps at that time. At a minimum it should keep things in the normal range.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. That said, 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. But virtually all the other ENSO models predict a slow decline from El Nino threshold temps into Spring 2013, but never dipping into negative territory. The CFSv2 model is a minority opinion, if not a complete outlier. This is a bit better than hoped for and still gives us a glimmer of hope for a normal if not slightly enhanced storm production Winter. But looking at the atmosphere, there's no overt signs of anything remotely resembling El Nino, and if anything, it looks still like some vestiges of La Nina. Regardless, the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start.
It appears that neither El Nino or La Nina is imminent. But we are in a far better.cgiace than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update (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 acco.cgiished 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