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.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.8 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 10.1 secs from 254 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 7.1 secs with swell 6.4 ft @ 6.6 secs from 285 degrees. Wind northwest 21-25 kts. Water temperature 57.7. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.2 ft @ 10.2 secs from 261 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 4.6 ft @ 7.7 secs from 268 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 8.3 ft @ 8.7 secs from 291 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.3 ft @ 9.1 secs with local windswell 8.4 ft @ 9.6 secs with Gulf swell 4.1 ft @ 15.8 sec from 300 degrees underneath. Wind northwest 21-27 kts. Water temp 51.6 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (4/28) in North and Central CA surf was 2 ft overhead and warbled and lumpy and nearly white capped early but with some lines indicating swell in between the windswell. At Santa Cruz surf was head high with maybe some bigger peaks and clean but soft indicative of windswell. In Southern California up north waves were waist high and textured and weak but sort of rideable. Down south waves were waist to chest high and weak and soft, but generally clean nearshore. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high or maybe a little more at top spots and clean and pretty lined up. The South Shore was small with set waves waist high or so at top spots and clean but with trade wind texture on it. The East Shore was getting windswell producing waves at waist high and chopped with modest trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell from a gale that developed in the Northwest Gulf on Mon (4/25) with seas to 30 ft aimed east was starting to hit North CA but buried in locally generated short period north windswell. A weak gale is forecast developing 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Fri-Sat (4/30) producing 23 ft seas aimed east. And another system to develop just off Japan Sat-Sun (5/1) producing 27 ft seas, but is to dissipate before reaching the dateline. Nothing else is predicted after that in the North Pacific. Down south a small storm formed in the Southeast Pacific on Sat-Sun (4/24) with up to 42 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell is pushing north targeting California and points south of there. And another system is forecast forming southeast of New Zealand on Fri-Sat (4/30) lifting well northeast with seas to 33 ft. Maybe some swell to result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (4/28) the jet was pushing relatively consolidated off Japan with winds building to 140 kts over the dateline forming a weak trough there, then tracking reasonably flat east almost pushing into Washington but then falling hard south into a trough landlocked over Central CA. A weak split was still occurring on the dateline with a thin stream tracking south of the main flow south of Hawaii and eventually into southern Baja. There was limited support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to slowly gain organization into Fri (4/29) moving into the Western Gulf with 150 kt winds feeding it while tracking east into the Gulf early Sat (4/30) and winds building to 160 kts offering good support for gale development into early Sunday, then starting to pinch off. Back to the west another weak trough is forecast starting to develop over and just off Japan on Sat (5/30) but with no real wind energy feeding it. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to start redeveloping late Monday while falling southeast off the California coast, tracking east and eventually moving directly over Central CA on Thurs (5/5). the Japan trough is to ease east on Mon (5/2) with only 110-120 kt winds feeding and weakening into Tues (5/3) half way to the dateline. Remnants of this trough to hold together into Thurs (5/5) pushing over the dateline into the Western Gulf, but with not enough wind energy to support gale development. For now a weak Active Phase of the MJO is having a bit of interaction with El Nino helping to enhance it and therefore feeding the jetstream.
On Thursday (4/28) swell from a small gale previously in the Eastern Gulf on Sun-Mon (4/25) producing up to 30 ft seas was hitting California but buried in local windswell and almost unrecognizable (See 2nd Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a new small gale is forecast developing in association with a trough moving east over the Gulf of Alaska. On Fri AM (4/29) the gale is to have 40 kt west winds generating seas at 21 ft at 41N 166W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to race east-northeast generating 35-40 kt west winds with seas building to 23 ft at 43N 160W (292 degs NCal) targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA but mostly bypassing Hawaii. On Sat AM (4/30) winds to be fading from 35 kts from the west with seas fading from 21 ft at 45N 152W. The gael is to dissipate after that. Possible small swell for California with period at 13-14 secs.
Also a gale is forecast developing off Japan on Sat AM (4/30) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 26 ft at 42N 154E. In the evening fetch is to build in coverage holding at near 40 kts aimed more to the west with seas 27 ft at 42N 158E. Fetch fading Sun AM (5/1) from 30-35 kts from the west winds seas 24 ft at 43N 162E. The gale is to be gone by evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 45N 172E. Small swell possible for Hawaii with luck.
Second Gulf Gale
Another gale developed in the Western Gulf on Sun PM (4/24) producing a decent sized fetch of 35 kt west winds with seas building from 20 ft at 46N 162W. On Mon AM (4/25) 45 kt northwest winds were building with seas 26 ft at 48N 165W falling southeast. By evening 40 kt west winds were tracking east-southeast with seas 30 ft at 46N 159W (300 degrees NCal). Fetch was fading Tues AM (4/26) from 30 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 24 ft at 46N 152W tracking east targeting the Pacific Northwest. The gale to fade from there. Maybe some swell to result for Central CA and points northward of there.
North CA: Swell arrival expected on Thurs (4/28) at 9 AM with period 17 secs building to 4.5 ft @ 16 secs (7.0 ft) around noon and buried in chop. On Fri (4/29) expect swell fading from 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft) and still buried in local windswell. Swell Direction: 300 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 AM (4/28) north winds were in control at 25+ kts over North and Central CA waters and over Southern CA waters just off the coast driven by high pressure offshore and low pressure inland over Nevada tracking east. More north winds expected for North and Central CA on Friday (4/29) at 20+ kts strongest over North CA up to 25 kts. Saturday winds to rebuild to 25 kts for Central CA and 30+ kts for NCal with light for Southern CA. Maybe a dusting of snow for the Sierra mostly early. Finally Sunday winds retreat to the north and light everywhere but north 20 kts from Pt Arena northward. Maybe 1 inch of snow for the Southern Sierra late. Monday (5/2) a generally light flow is forecast for all of CA continuing Tuesday. Wednesday light north winds to return driven by high pressure at 10-15 kts over Central CA and 15 kts for North CA. Weak low pressure developing off the Central Coast late. Thursday high pressure is to get a better foothold off the coast but low pressure is to be moving over the Central and South coasts. North winds 20 kts over North CA but light winds for Central and South CA. Snow for the Sierra late.
On Thurs AM 4/28) no swell producing fetch was occurring. But swell from a storm previously in the Southeast Pacific was pushing northeast with some energy expected for California (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).
Also small swell from a small gale southeast of New Zealand last weekend was pushing towards Hawaii (See New Zealand Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours an elongated gale is forecast starting to develop southeast of New Zealand on Fri PM (4/29) producing core fetch at 45 kts from the south aimed well north and seas starting to develop from 32 ft at 62S 173W. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1500 nmile long fetch of 30-35 kt south winds is to be in place with a core to 40 kts generating 33 ft seas at 57S 166W. The fetch is to fade in the evening from 35 kts lifting north generating 29 ft seas at 53S 160W. Fetch is to be gone by Sun AM (5/1) with seas dropping from 26 ft at 48S 157W. Something to monitor for Tahiti and Hawaii.
Southeast Pacific Storm
On Sat AM (4/23) a small storm developed in the Southeast Pacific with southwest winds 45 kts over a tiny area and seas building from 30 ft at 50S 140W. The storm tracked northeast in the evening with winds building to 55 kts from the southwest with seas building to 41 ft at 48S 134W over a tiny area. 45 kt southwest winds lifted well northeast Sun AM (4/24) with seas fading from 40 ft at 42S 129W targeting California reasonably well but better at Mexico down into Peru. In the evening 35 kt southwest winds continued lifting northeast and fading with 32 ft seas at 38S 122W. The gale to faded out there after. swell is pushing north and northeast with energy at California but more so at Mexico down into Central America and Peru.
South CA: Swell to start being noticeable on Sat AM (4/30) at 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft) building through the day as period fades some reaching 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft with sets to near 6.0 ft). Swell to start peaking Sun AM (5/1) at 3.1 ft @ 17 secs (5.4 ft with sets to 6.7 ft) holding through the day as period drops to 16 secs late. Swell fading Mon AM (5/2) from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). residuals Tues AM (5/3) fading from 2.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 192-193 degrees
North CA: Swell to start being noticeable on Sat AM (4/30) at 1.6 ft @ 21-22 secs (3.5 ft) building through the day as period fades some reaching 2.8 ft @ 19 secs (5 ft with sets to near 6.5 ft). Swell to start peaking Sun AM (5/1) at 3.1 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.4 ft with sets to 6.8 ft) holding through the day as period drops to 17 secs late. Swell fading Mon AM (5/2) from 3.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Residuals Tues AM (5/3) fading from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 188-189 degrees
New Zealand Gale
Also a gale developed just southeast of New Zealand on Sun AM (4/24) generating 50 kt southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 49S 174E. 40 kt west winds continued into the evening with seas 31 ft at 48S 175W. The gale faded Mon AM (4/25). Small background swell possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Swell arrival on Sun (5/1) building to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs mid-day (2.5 ft). Swell continuing on Mon (5/2) at 1.7 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). residuals on Tues (5/3) fading from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees
Over the next 72 hours no swell production 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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
La Nina Erupting
Weak Active Push of the MJO Barely Present
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 (4/27) no west winds were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were modest from the west from the dateline to 165W from 5S and points southward. This is mostly attributable to El Nino with weak enhancement from the Active Phase of the MJO.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Modest west anomalies started 4/19 and held through 4/23, then weakened but not out through 4/26 only to pulse again 4/27-4/28. West anomalies are forecast holding lightly 4/29-5/5. A weak El Nino pattern to hold perhaps aided by a weakly Active MJO Phase over the KWGA.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 4/27 a neutral MJO signal was over the dateline and the Maritime Continent. The Statistic model projects the exact same pattern holding for the next 2 weeks but with a few faint signs of the Inactive Phase depicted starting 1 week out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but without as much Inactive Phase development beyond 1 week. In all no real enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/28) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was collapsed in the Indian Ocean as weak as it can be. It is to perhaps slowly emerge in the East Indian Ocean 2 weeks out. The GEFS model depicts the same thing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/28) A weak Inactive Phase was in the far West Pacific and is to reach the dateline 5/6, tracking east into Central America through 5/21. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/18 tracking east into Central America through 6/5. With the change of season in play, it is unlikely any Active Phase will have any real positive impact.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests no MJO signal was present over the dateline. It also depicts west anomalies are weak over the dateline and are providing very limited fuel to support enhancing the jetstream and maybe storm production. The model depicts no MJO signal into 5/11 but weak west anomalies from El Nino are to hold in the KWGA into 5/18, with a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO setting up starting 5/16 and hold into mid June. As of now, no east anomalies are forecast through July.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/28) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west from 139W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist tracking west between 177E to 135W and no more than 35 meters deep. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching Ecuador at -2 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 110W and getting ready to erupt. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have cold Kelvin Waves pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/23 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 165W to 120W and 40 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were undercutting it and upwelling near Ecuador. The onset of 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 : (4/27) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water is taking over the equator region from Ecuador westward. Negative anomalies extend west from Ecuador over the Galapagos to 135W peaking at -2 degs. Negative anomalies are also building along the immediate coast of Peru and Chile streaming northwest feeding the Galapagos cool pool. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnants of El Nino warmer than normal waters are 3 degs north and south of the equator and on the equator from 135W westward but getting undercut fast.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/26): Cooling continues from Columbia, Ecuador and Peru over the Galapagos out to 150W. It looks like strong east trades are in effect in this area and/or cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface.
Hi-res Overview: (4/25) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remain from 135W out to the dateline and 3 degs north and south of the equator east of there. But a thin stream of cooler than normal waters are from Peru and Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to nearly 140W and growing. Negative temps are building in the Nino1.2 region.
TAO Data: (4/27) +1.0-1.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific advecting west from 142W to the dateline. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 125W. The warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/28) Today temps were rebounding some at -0.535, up from -1.329 degs on 4/26
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/20) temps were stable at +1.082 but generally continuing a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Centered Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of March were +1.63 degs (beating '98 at +1.32 degs and '83 at +1.44 degs). For more history see updated graphs below. This make this year El Nino the strongest ever. That is not reasonable looking at other evidence.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 4/16 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is getting firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps reached +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then faded slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Feb 1. Then a sharp decline started with temps down to +2.5 degs mid-Feb and falling from +2.0 degs in early March and +1.5 degs April 1. The forecast (4/26) indicates temps fading from here forward reaching normal (0.0) mid May falling Aug 1 to -1.0 degs, holding then falling in Nov to -1.3 degs and stabilizing into Jan 2017. This is up a little from a few days ago but still puts us in solid La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-March Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.5 by December. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Coupling Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Southern Oscillation Index (4/26): The daily index was still well negative at -27.30, bouncing back from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20 rivaling peak depths from Feb. The 30 day average was falling from -18.25. The 90 day average was falling from -13.85. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the daily and 30 day averages suggested some form of Active MJO was in play.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/28 weakening low pressure was south of Tahiti. This same pattern to slowly fade while the low pressure falls southeast. High pressure to start building in behind weakly on Fri (4/29) then strongly by Tues (5/3). The SOI is expected to start slowly rising and then strongly so a week out based on the Tahiti contribution likely shutting of enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (4/28) Today's value was steady at +1.11. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1/12.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (March) These numbers were released April 6th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +1.96. The Feb reading was +2.12. In Jan the reading increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Dec reading was +2.12. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. This years El Nino was the third strongest since 1950 per this index.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: 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 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. 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 is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily 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. 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 MJO appears to be trying to be constructively interacting with the jet stream and therefore helping to enhance storm production. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence will only do a little to enhance storm production.
The focus now turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected 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