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 Tuesday (11/18) in North and Central CA surf was waist high and clean and lined up, but just too small. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high on the sets and clean but small. In Southern California up north surf was knee high and lined up but heavily textured bordering on chopped and not really rideable. Down south waves were thigh high and lined up and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband Gulf swell with waves 2 ft overhead and rideable but with a fair amount of northerly sideshore bump running through it. The South Shore was flat with onshore winds and trashed. The East Shore was getting wrap around northerly swell with waves 1 ft overhead and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale previously north of Hawaii redeveloped off Central CA on Mon-Tues (11/18) with 23 ft seas pushing mainly towards South and Central CA and arriving on Wed (11/19) with some precipitation for Central CA. A small gale is forecast fort he Northwestern Gulf on Thurs (11/20) with 32 ft seas aimed east to northeast. A broader but weaker secondary system to follow for the same area Fri-Sat (11/22) with 25 ft seas aimed east. But overall a generally weak storm pattern is forecast attributable to the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/18) the jet was pushing flat east off South Japan with winds building to 160 kts as it tracked over the dateline falling into a weak trough trying to organize 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii with the jet .cgiitting with 60% of the wind energy tracking north up into Alaska and the rest pushing east into Southern CA. Limited support for gale development in the weak trough north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the trough north of Hawaii is to wash out with the energy on the dateline surging east pushing the jet straight into Oregon on Fri (11/21). Winds to be 140-150 kts from the dateline into Oregon but no troughs to be in.cgiay with the jet running flat on the 40N latitude line. Limited support for gale development possible, mainly attributable to wind speeds in the upper atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours a weaker flow is forecast tracking east off Japan building to 110 kts on the dateline Sunday (11/23) falling into a weak trough northwest of Hawaii before starting to ridge into the US West Coast with winds building to 180 kts. A muddled semi coherent flow is to continue off Japan on Tues (11/25) with the trough moving northeast of Hawaii and the ridge moving steadily inland over the US West Coast. Perhaps some weak support for gale development possible in the trough, though winds are to only be 110 kts falling into it. Overall not a bad jetstream configuration is forecast, it's just that winds speeds are to be rather moderate.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (11/18) swell from a weak gale that formed in the Western Gulf Sat-Sun (11/16) was still hitting Hawaii, but on the way down.
Remnants of that gale pushed towards the US West Coast forming a local gale off North CA on Mon (11/17) AM generating 35 kt west winds and 22 ft seas at 33N 143W targeting Southern CA (279 degrees). Those winds held at 35 kts in the evening generating 23 ft seas at 35N 140W (266 degs NCal, 281 degs SCal). Winds faded from 30 kts from the northwest Tues AM (11/18) generating 20 ft seas at 35N 138W (265 degs NCal, 281 degs SCal). Fetch is to lift northeast and fade off San Francisco Wed AM (11/19) with no seas of interest remaining. This to be more a weather event than anything for NCal.
North CA: Expect swell arrival Wed AM (11/19) pushing 7.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (10 ft faces) from 263-266 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (11/19) at 9 PM with period 14 secs and swell pushing 3.5 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft faces). Swell to hold at 3.5 ft @ 13 secs (4.5 ft) Thurs AM (11/20) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 279-281 degrees
On Wed AM (11/19) a new gale is to build on the southern periphery of low pressure in the Eastern Bering Sea. Southwest winds to build to 40 kts with the core of the low lifting northeast. In the evening 45 kt northwest winds are forecast over a small area with seas building from 22 ft at 45N 165W (296 degree NCal). On Thurs AM 45-50 kt west winds to be south of the Eastern most Aleutians with 32 ft seas over a small area at 49N 158W mainly pushing towards Canada but also targeting the Pacific Northwest down to maybe Central CA (308 degs NCal). Winds to be fading from 40 kt in the evening with 30 ft seas fading at 52N 155W (311 degs NCal). Small swell possible for Central CA northward.
On Thurs AM (11/20) a broad secondary fetch of 35 kt west winds are to build over the dateline associated with the Bering Sea low generating 20 ft seas at 45N 175W. That fetch is to build in coverage in the evening with 23 ft seas again at 44N 173W (334 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Fetch is to hold Fri AM (11/21) with 24 ft seas moving east to 44N 169W (340 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). More of the same is forecast in the evening with 25 ft seas at 44N 160W (bypassing HI, 295 degs NCal). Fetch is to start fading Sat AM (11/22) from 35 kts with seas 25 ft at 45N 160W (296 degrees). Fetch is to be fading from 25 kt over a large area in the Western Gulf in the evening with seas fading from 21 ft at 46N 158W (297 degs NCal). A decent pulse of 14 sec periods well is possible for the US West Coast with sideband energy for Hawaii. Something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (11/18) low pressure was 600 nmiles west of Pt Arena lifting northeast. South winds were in control from San Francisco northward and building while pushing south, but still only 10 kts from Monterey Bay southward but 20 kts up into Cape Mendocino late. Rain starting over North CA Tues PM building south to Central CA early Wednesday pushing down to Big Sur late. South winds are forecast at 20+ kts early Wednesday from Pt Reyes northward but only 10 kts at Morro Bay early and fading as the day progresses. 1 inch of snow for Tahoe Wed PM at higher elevations. A light wind pattern is forecast Thursday morning turning southerly then northerly later for North and Central CA at 10-15 kts while another low moves into the region. Light precip Thursday during the day town to Morro Bay and clearing overnight. Light snow Thursday evening (2-4 inches) for Tahoe. Light winds are forecast again on Friday except northwest winds 20 kts for Pt Conception. Light rain for Cape Mendocino early Friday building to Monterey Bay late. The front to pass Sat AM for North and Central CA with perhaps moderate rainfall over a short timeframe and heavy but short duration snow to Tahoe. High pressure and north winds take over Sun AM at 15 kts for San Francisco and 20 kts for Pt Conception, building to 20-25 kts late. North winds to be fading quickly Monday AM as high pressure moves onshore over South Oregon with a light flow on Tuesday as a new low and front build off the coast.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest 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 there's suggestions of yet another series of gales developing in the vicinity of the dateline with energy up into the Bering Sea. The pattern seems well focused on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians so far this year, and the coming weeks appear no different. But no clearly defined and believable swell producing systems are yet charted.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (11/18) the daily SOI was up to 3.81. The 30 day average was rising at -10.17 and the 90 day average was rising slowly at -7.99. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weakening Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 for a month now. A weak trough was trying to form over Tahiti and is forecast building some Sat (11/22) holding into Tuesday (11/25). A bit of a rise in the 30 and 90 day averages expected into Saturday, then falling some. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate east anomalies were over the Maritime Continent turning neutral near the dateline. West anomalies were east of there extending south of Hawaii to almost the Galapagos. A week from now (11/26) modest east anomalies are forecast shrinking in coverage to a small area over the Maritime Continent turning neutral on the dateline, and continuing neutral south of Hawaii before turning weak westerly while approaching the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated a mix of moderate east anomalies at 160E in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, and modest west anomalies east of it at 155W. This is the first easterly wind event of the year.
Looking at the trend over the past year there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades, other than the one occurring now. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies (suppressed trades) which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2, 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline with another 10/12-10/31 (WWB) on the dateline. More weak west anomalies occurred 11/11-14. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos (11/3-11/15) associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is in flight under the 160W region being fed by westerly anomalies in late October there. That's two WWBs over a 30 day window. We're in great shape for the 2014 year into early 2015. The question now becomes what, if any, effect the easterly wind event currently in flight (11/18) will have.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/17 are in sync. They both suggest a modest Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model depicts the Inactive Phase pushing east over the next 15 days tracking over the dateline 15 days out. The Dynamic model has nearly the same thing, but not pushing east. Both depict an Active Phase developing over the next 15 days in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/18 depicts a modest Inactive pulse over the dateline region pushing east and exiting over the East Pacific on 12/3. A weak Active Phase is to follow tracking west to east 12/8 through 12/28. The somewhat troubling development is that 1) both models are in sync and 2) the atmosphere seems to be responding somewhat like an Inactive Phase is building in the West Pacific. This means the MJO is returning, which in turns suggests El Nino might be giving up some ground. Normally the MJO fades away during El Nino events. Something to monitor. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any projected Inactive Phases. The models are calibrated assuming a neutral global weather pattern, and typically either overcall weather events during La Nina and undercall then during El Nino in the Pacific Basin. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some gentle guiding impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (11/17) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, up some since early Sept and still building slowly. Warm pockets are getting better traction while tracking east between 90W to 160W, likely the result of the first of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (as expected). A weak El Nino signature has been getting more defined since 11/10. TAO data suggests 1.0-2.0 deg C anomalies present and continuous from the Galapagos to the far West Pacific. +1.0-2.0 deg C anomalies are present west of the dateline and again near the Galapagos. Hi res data suggests a string of pockets of +1.0-2.0 deg anomalies from the Galapagos to the dateline (the new Kelvin Wave erupting there). It appears warm water is building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region based on TAO and hi res imagery.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California. Warm water remains entrenched along the California coast suggesting the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weaker relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is also starting to build in warmth with only on small cool pocket well off Chile, not reaching even north to 10S and in decline. A warm regime has the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm. As of 11/18 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with a broad embedded pocket of +4 deg anomalies between 130-165W pushing east embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from there into the Galapagos. This is good news in that it indicates the pipe is wide open and a Kelvin Wave is in flight. Satellite data from 11/14 depicts a broad area of 0-5 cm anomalies are covering the entire equatorial Pacific from New Guinea to the Galapagos, with +5 cm anomalies south of Hawaii to 2/3rds of the way to the Galapagos indicative of a Kelvin Wave in flight pushing east. Other models collaborate the presumption of a Kelvin Wave in flight. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (11/14) indicates the second of a pair of recent modest Kelvin Waves started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 115W. When this second Kelvin Wave arrives in the east (about Jan 20) we will be set for the winter. Of course what is good enough to feed storm develop and what constitutes an official El Nino are two different things. We are focused on the former. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 11/6 is vastly improved. The current is pushing west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. If anything it's moving into the moderate to strong category over the entire area from the West Pacific to a point southeast of Hawaii. On and just south of the equator the current was generally pushing west to east except east to west east of Hawaii. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest near 170W.This data suggests a improved picture is developing with light westerly anomalies over the bulk of the equatorial Pacific to about 120W, very similar to the subsurface flow and supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 11/18 for the Nino 3.4 region have held in upgraded position. It suggests water temps are up to +0.9 deg C and are to fade some to between +0.6-0.9 through April 2015. But the real interesting part is that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in May 2015, pushing +2.0 degs C by early August 2015. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either. See the chart based version here - link. A consensus of other models are not as optimistic.
Analysis: A downwelling Kelvin Wave was generated and pushed east starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. A weaker one followed in July with yet a modestly stronger one building under the dateline in October. The only interruptions have been attributable to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May 2014 onward, even during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies have held in the West Pacific all year so far producing the aforementioned Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. There has been no signs of easterly anomalies or a shut down of the Kelvin Wave pipe for better than a year now. This is a huge step forward. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
At this point a teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. Evidence includes a total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system this summer, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then the near record pulse of tropical activity off Mexico (8/18-9/20) resulting in Lowell, Super Hurricane Marie, followed by Odile and Polo (though these last 2 produced no swell) and finally Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27 and again on Oct 15 and 6 inches on Oct 31. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushed off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October (Fengshen and Vongfong). And then one more recurving tropical system in November (Super Typhoon Nuri). And even the Pacific Counter Current is now falling in line.
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 from our perspective. 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. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were gone.
Note that what we consider 'teleconnected' and what NOAA considers threshold El Nino conditions are two different things and serve different purposes. We are focused on monitoring weather events that contribute to the production of open ocean storms 9and therefore swells) mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs. That said, considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, and the Kelvin Wave that preceded it, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Aug of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). We will continue monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which has already been productive) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which was nonexistent) are key. But at this time odds continue stacking up in favor that a global teleconnection is now established. If that's true, the focus then becomes estimating how deep the ENSO cycle will become, or whether it will stay shallow but transition into a multi-year event. At this time we're predisposed to the multiyear, Midoki scenario. And that is actually the better of all options.
Officially we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, from a winter storm and swell production perspective, atmospheric transition is well underway and we are in a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table