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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Next Forecast Update: Thurs PM (6/2)
Thursday, May 26, 2016
- Buoy 146 (Lanai): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 12.3 secs from 194 degrees and 1.0 ft @ 20.0 secs from 213 degrees .
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.5 ft @ 7.1 secs with swell 2.8 ft @ 6.3 secs from 262 degrees. Wind northeast 2-4 kts. Water temperature 63.3. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.9 ft @ 6.1 secs from 259 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.9 ft @ 6.4 secs from 266 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.8 ft @ 6.6 secs from 282 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 10.3 ft @ 8.3 secs with local northwest windswell 8.6 ft @ 7.6 secs from 318 degs. Wind northwest 18-21 kts. Water temp 54.3 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (5/26) in North and Central CA surf was waist to chest high at top spots and pretty warbled from northwest wind. At Santa Cruz surf was flat and clean. In Southern California up north waves were knee to maybe thigh high on the sets and clean early and barely rideable. Down fading there was no rideable surf with south winds adding some texture to the surface. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was very small with waist high sets and clean. The East Shore was flat with light southeast trades and nearly clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell was in the water in the North Pacific. A small low developed in the far Northwest Pacific on Wed (5/25) producing 20 ft seas targeting Hawaii. Maybe windswell to result on Mon (5/30). Otherwise a summer time pattern has taken over. For the southern hemi, swell that previously hit Fiji from a small storm that was in the Tasman Sea on Thurs-Fri (5/20) with seas to 42 ft aimed north is pushing towards Hawaii, but well filtered. A tiny pulse of south-southeast swell from a gale off Chile on Fri (5/20) with seas to 26 ft is pushing towards Southern CA. Another small gale started building in the far Southeast Pacific Mon (5/23) with 34 ft seas then is forecast to pulse again on Tuesday to 32 ft and again on Wednesday to 31 ft, but all over just tiny areas. South angled swell for California down into Mexico and Central America looks likely. After that the models are hinting at something developing under New Zealand on Wed (6/1) with seas to 40 ft aimed east-northeast with secondary fetch behind that on Thurs (6/2) generating 35 ft seas aimed northeast. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (5/26) modest high pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska at 1032 mbs and weak low pressure was over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians at 996 mbs, the remnants of a previous gale that produced some windswell pushing towards Hawaii (see Northwest Pacific Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
The local California coastal pressure gradient started producing north winds at 25 kts on Thurs (5/26) over North CA waters and is forecast building to 30 kts on Fri (5/27) but also starting to fall south some. Windswell is likely for Central CA but also marred by wind. The gradient is to lift north again on Sat (5/28) at 25+ kts over Cape Mendocino fading to 25 kts on Sunday, then lifting north and fading from 25 kts early Monday. More windswell possible through Monday (5/30) then fading out. .
Northwest Pacific Gale
Low pressure in the Northwest Pacific started building on Tues PM (5/24) with winds to 35 kts in it's east quadrant but all fetch was aimed north as the low interacted with high pressure to it's east in the Gulf. But northwest fetch started building in it's west quadrant at 30 kts. This system built more on Wed AM (5/25) generating 35 kts north winds in it's west quadrant and seas to 18 ft at 48N 168E. In the evening 30 kt northwest winds were fading with seas building to 20 ft at 49N 172E. A quick fade followed. Windswell with period in the 11-12 secs range is possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected Mon AM (5/30) at 2.2 ft @ 12 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell fading through the day. Residuals Tues AM (5/31) fading from 2.0 ft @ 10-11 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 323 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/26) high pressure at 1032 mbs was just off North CA ridging into the coast setting up the standard summer time pressure gradient producing northwest winds at 25 kts over North CA and 20 kt north winds for Central CA and lighter still into Southern CA. The gradient is to build on Friday with north winds to 30 kts over North CA and 20 kt north winds down to Pt Conception and the Channel Islands. Saturday the gradient is to fade some but still at 30 kts from the north early off North CA and 20 kt north winds further off the Central CA coast. SCal is to be protected. Sunday (5/29) 25 kt north winds to be in the Pt Arena to Pt Reyes area with 15 kt north winds down into Central CA. Monday the gradient is to start lifting north and fading through still at 25 kts late but isolated to Cape Mendocino with low pressure moving into the Gulf of Alaska. A light local wind flow is forecast from Pt Arena southward starting mid-day. Tuesday the gradient is to dissipate with a light northwest flow forecast for North and Central CA. More of the same is forecast Wednesday with a front from the previous Gulf low dissipating while pushing into outer CA waters. More light winds expected Thurs (6/2) as a gale start building north of Hawaii with low pressure isobars reaching within 600 nmiles of the north coast. That seems highly optimistic.
On Thursday AM (5/26) a split jetstream pattern was in control with the southern branch running west to east down at 63S with a cutoff upper low circulating in the far Southeast Pacific, remnants of a trough previously in that area but now fading. The northern branch was running west to east up at 27S and splitting half way across the South Pacific and offering no trough to support gale development. IN all a pretty muddled pattern was in control. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is expected, with a split pattern in control and no troughs forecast. If anything the northern branch is to have more wind energy associated with it than the southern branch. Beyond 72 hours starting Tues (5/31) a decent patch of wind energy is to start building under New Zealand at 150 kts starting to form a trough ahead of it but those winds to fade pretty fast on Wed (6/1). Additional energy to 120 kts is forecast pushing up into this trough on Thurs (6/2) carving it out more and offering continued support for gale development. south and southeast of New Zealand. Something to monitor.
On Thursday AM (5/26) swell from a storm previously in the Tasman Sea was starting to show at the buoys in Hawaii (1 ft @ 20 secs) and well filtered by Fiji, and expected to be more noticeable on Fri (5/27) (see Tasman Sea Gale below).
Also swell from a gale that developed off Chile on Fri-Sat (5/21) was pushing north towards Southern CA (see Small Chilean Gale below).
Also swell from another gale further west of Chile is producing swell heading north (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no other swell source is forecast.
Tasman Sea Gale
A solid but compact storm formed in the Tasman Sea on Thurs PM (5/19) with seas to 37 ft late at 46S 155E (Central Tasman Sea). The storm moved northeast on Fri AM (5/20) with seas 41 ft at 41S 161E. The gale was fading in the evening with seas dropping from 35 ft at 37.5S 168. Residual seas at 30 ft were fading Sat AM (5/21) at 33S 172E and mostly shadowed by the tip of New Zealand. Large swell arrived in Fiji on Mon (5/23) local time. Small sideband and filtered swell eventually reaching for Hawaii. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Swell fading Fri AM (5/28) from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 212 degrees
Small Chilean Gale
On Fri AM (5/20) a small gale developed on the southern coast of Chile producing a decent fetch of 35-40 kt south winds aimed north mainly at Mexico. 40 kt south fetch held into the evening with seas building to 25 ft at 37S 116W. On Sat AM (5/21) a solid fetch of 35 kt south winds held with seas still at 25 ft at 34S 107W. A new pulse of 40 kt south winds developed in the evening with seas building to 28 ft at 38S 105W aimed north. This system dissipated from there. Small swell is radiating north towards Mexico and exposed breaks in Southern California.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (5/28) building to 1.8 ft @ 14-15 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell holding on Sun (5/29) at 2.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell dissipating early Mon (5/30) from 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 173 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival only at the most exposed breaks starting Sun AM (5/29) 1.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (2 ft) and holding. Swell fading Mon AM (5/30) from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 166-167 degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale developed in the far Eastern South Pacific on Sun AM (5/22) starting to produce a small area of 30 kt south winds and seas building. In the evening a small fetch of 35-40 kt south winds was in play generating a tiny area of 22 ft seas aimed north. By Mon AM (5/23) a decent sized area of 40 kt south winds were blowing with an embedded area to 45 kts with seas building to 26-28 ft over a decent sized area at 42S 136W. This was pretty far north of normal. Fetch was fading from 40 kts from the south in the evening and tracking northeast with seas associated with it fading from 35 ft at 42S 128W while a new broader fetch of 35 kt south winds was building below it with seas on the increase from 24 ft and pushing north. On Tues AM (5/24) 40+ kt south winds held with with 29 ft seas building at 50S 134W aimed north. 35-40 kt south winds were pushing north in the evening with seas 32 ft at 48S 130W. On Wed AM (5/25) a new tiny fetch of 45 kt south winds were developing on the eastern edge of the CA swell window with seas barely 30 ft over a tiny area at 49S 122W. South fetch increased in coverage but fading from 40 kts in the evening aimed due north with seas fading from 30 ft at 44S 119W. Beyond that this fetch is to rapidly fade with no additional seas of interest forecast.
There is decent potential for swell resulting for Mexico up into California.
Southern CA: Expect the first pulse of swell arriving on Mon (5/30) building to 2.1 ft @ 17 secs late (3.5 ft). That pulse to peak on Tues AM (5/31) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft). Secondary swell to start building underneath to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs late (3.5 ft). Secondary swell building first light Wed (6/1) to 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft) and holding. Swell holding on Thurs (6/2) at 3.6 ft @ 15-16 sec early (5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 195 degrees moving towards 185 degrees
North CA: Expect the first pulse of swell arriving on Mon (5/30) building to 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs late (4.0 ft). That pulse to peak on Tues AM (5/31) at 2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft). Secondary swell to start building underneath to 1.6 ft @ 19 secs late (3.0 ft). Secondary swell building late afternoon Wed (6/1) to 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft) and holding. Swell holding on Thurs (6/2) at 3.6 ft @ 15-16 sec early (5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 195 degrees moving towards 185 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 the models suggest a moderately more active pattern developing in the North Pacific starting Sun (5/29) but no fetch capable of generating swell is expected to result initially. there's some suggestion that a legit gale might develop north of Hawaii on Thurs (6/20) producing 30 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii initially. Low odds of any swell resulting at this early date.
Beyond 72 hours a primer gale is to develop south of New Zealand on Tues (5/31) 35-40 kt southwest winds generating 28 ft seas at 57S 178W mid-day serving mainly to rough the oceans surface up. On Wed AM (6/1) a small but far stronger storm is forecast over the same area producing 60 kt southwest winds and seas building to 36 ft at 53S 176W. In the evening 55 kt southwest fetch is to be fading while tracking east-northeast with seas building to 40 ft at 49S 164W. And a larger secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest winds is to be building behind that with 29 ft seas at 55S 178E. That fetch to build to 45 kts Thurs AM (6/2) while the original fetch start fading from 50 kts and falling southeast. Seas in the secondary fetch building to 32 ft over a solid area at 54S 177W with seas in the original fetch fading from 36 ft at 50S 150W. The secondary fetch is to build a little more. It's way too early to believe any of this, but it's something worth monitoring.
More details to follow...
La Nina Continues to Advance
ESPI and SOI Retreating
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).
Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. La Nina is emerging.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wed (5/25) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) except south of the equator where winds were calm. Anomalies were neutral over the entire region except weak from the west over the dateline.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Weak east anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast slowly fading through 6/1 returning to neutral by 6/2. La Nina is in control.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 5/25 a weak Inactive MJO signal was over the dateline with the Active Phase of the MJO over the Maritime Continent moving into the West Pacific. The Statistic model projects the Inactive pattern fading 4 days out with a moderate Active pattern taking control of the dateline 1 week out then fading some 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the Inactive pattern fading out in the next 2 days with a dead neutral pattern thereafter through the next 2 weeks. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/26) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO is over the Maritime Continent and fading but is expected to surge some while pushing towards the West Pacific. The GEFS model depicts the MJO collapsing and dissipating with no return in sight.
40day Upper Level Model: (5/26) A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the West Pacific and is expected to slowly track east through 5/5. On 6/25 a new Active Phase of the MJO is to start pushing into the West Pacific.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading over the dateline with neutral winds offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO gone by 5/28 with a weak Active Phase starting to produce weak west anomalies anomalies through 6/23. After that the MJO is to be weak with no real anomalies or weak west anomalies into 7/4 fading to neutral and holding through 8/24. El Nino is dead per this model no west anomalies of interest forecast other than those associated with the MJO.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/26) Actual temperatures are retreating daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west to 157W (loosing 1 deg per day). No El Nino subsurface anomalies remain. Neutral anomalies rule from the West Pacific to the east to 149W with weak negative anomalies east of there. Cool subsurface waters are at depth erupting east of 150W with -3 degs anomalies reaching east at depth to 120W. The Kelvin Wave pipeline has been replaced with a cold river rushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/18 one last weak pocket of +0.5 deg anomalies is confined to a shrinking area 175E to 155W. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in play in the under the entire width of the equator, undercutting and residual warm water above it and upwelling over a broad area of the East equatorial Pacific. La Nina has begun.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (5/25) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water continues over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru (though collapsed a little compared to days previous) pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos building west to 157W peaking at -1.5 degs over a good portion of that area now. La Nina is firmly in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator. No warm water remains anywhere in the Nino regions on the equator.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/24): A cooler than normal trend is along Chile and Peru and continues from the Galapagos west out to 165W but has backed off some recently. A mirror image (though weaker) of that trend continues up in the Atlantic tracking west from Africa half way to Brazil and has built some in the past 2 days. Temps are holding along the California coast due to slackening of high pressure driven northwest winds. The PDO warm pool is building solidly from Oregon out to Hawaii and west from there to the Philippines.
Hi-res Overview: (5/24) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A clear La Nina cool water pool is tracking firmly from Ecuador and building in width on the equator from west of the Galapagos out to near 165W. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 160W. Cooler water is over the dateline in the North Pacific with warm water off the Pacific Northwest streaming over Hawaii looking very much like the classic Active PDO pattern.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/26) Today's temps were falling some at +0.173.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/26) temps continue falling and are now down to +0.176 degs attributable to a developing La Nina cool pool.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 5/22 the current was strong continuously from the east on the equator from 90W to 150E. Anomalies were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/26) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -0.6 degs early July, then easing down to -0.8 degs in early Sept stabilizing between -0.6 and -0.8 degs into Jan 2017. This is solid La Nina territory but it's up from the -1.5 and -1.25 degs indicated even a few weeks ago.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-May Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.7 by Sept then starting to drift higher to -0.6 in February, See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/26): The daily index was steady at 3.30. The 30 day average was rising from -0.07. The 90 day average was rising from -8.87. El Nino was still evident in the 90 day average, but even that will soon be a distant memory.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/26 a weak high pressure pattern was south of Tahiti. That pattern is to hold into Sat (5/28) then start fading a little with perhaps a bit of low pressure developing over Tahiti on Mon (5/30) holding into Thurs (6/2). The SOI is expected to hold based on the Tahiti contribution and not provide any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/26) Today's value was falling rapidly at +0.13. It peaked on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1.12. But it has been falling steadily ever since.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues to rise. April's value was +2.62, the highest it's been since 1941. The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 up to +1.75 in Feb, then spiking to +2.40 in March and +2.62 in April. Impressive. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.
Conclusion: This El Nino was the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory due to it's westward displacement. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016.
The question now turns to how much the jet will be enhanced by remnants of El Nino for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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