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 (3/10) in North and Central CA surf was waist high or so and weak with modest onshore winds making for heavy texture if not small chops at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high on the sets and heavily textured and weak. In Southern California up north surf was flat and textured. Down south waves were waist high on the rare set and clean with heavy haze and inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northwesterly windswell with waves 1-2 ft overhead and cleaner but with unremarkable form. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting windswell too with waves head high and chopped from northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A tiny gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (3/4) with 34 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell is pushing towards CA. A small gale is developing on the northern dateline region Tues (3/10) with seas at 28 ft falling southeast, and is to redevelop due north of the Islands Wed PM (3/11) targeting Hawaii decently with 26 ft seas. Possible small north swell for Hawaii. A new gale is forecast in the Western Gulf on Mon (3/16) with 30 ft seas aimed east. Otherwise 28 kt west winds (not anomalies but fully reversed trades) continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (since Thurs 3/5). The MJO is awake!
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/10) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds building from 150 kts but trapped in an upper level low over north Japan. Residual energy was tracking southeast from the Bering Sea falling into a weak trough over the Gulf of Alaska but winds only 90 kts not offering much in terms of support for gale development. From there the jet was ridging northeast into the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours the jet in the west is to start building strongly with 180 kt winds tracking northeast over the dateline then falling into a trough with it's apex over Hawaii, then ridging northeast up into the Pacific Northwest. Improving odds for gale development possible in the Gulf/Hawaiian trough, though it's to be pretty pinched off. Beyond 72 hrs the jet is to continue to consolidate with winds pushing near 190 kts on Sun (3/15) and tracking more flat west to east reaching a point north of Hawaii then falling into the same weak trough now just east of Hawaii before ridging northeast up into Oregon. The issue with the trough is no real winds are to be in it's apex. Instead they are to all be west and east of it. By Tues (3/17) 180 k winds are to continue from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii with a semi legitimate trough starting to develop just north of it offering improved support for gale development. But back to the west (over Japan) winds are to start weakening and there's some signs of a new .cgiit trying to develop. This improving pattern is likely the result of the building Active Phase of the MJO. But more wind energy is required long term if the jet is to remain actively supporting gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/10) low pressure was covering the Gulf of Alaska with a fetch in it's west quadrant (see North Dateline Gale below). Another gale was over North Japan and landlocked, and is not expected to make any eastern headway and is to die over land. No other swell source was occurring.
On Tuesday AM (3/10) a small gale was developing over the Northern Dateline region generating a moderate sized area of 40 kt north-northwest winds and 26 ft seas aimed south at 45N 176W (333 degs HI). 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the evening with 27 ft seas fading at 42N 172W (331 degs HI). 35-40 kt northwest winds to be redeveloping Wed AM (3/11) taking aim a bit east of Hawaii with 24 ft seas at 38N 167W (335 degs HI). The gale is to reorganize in the Northeastern Gulf Wed PM with 35 kt north winds north of the Islands generating 26 ft seas at 38N 169W (335 degs HI). fetch is to fade from 30-35 kts while holding position Thurs AM (3/12) generating 24 ft seas at 42N 161W (355 degs HI). Fetch is to be gone by Thurs PM. Swell is possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes, moderate swell is expected into Hawaii starting just past sunset Thurs (3/12) building overnight an peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 9.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (13.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 333-335 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
In association with a strong Westerly Wind Burst occurring on the equator between 150E-175E a tropical low pressure system is trying to organize in the northern hemisphere near 5 N 170E tracking west. A second stronger system system is south of it at 10S 170E. And yet a third system was west of it at 12S 148E. The first 2 systems are forecast to develop, with the southern hemi system becoming the strongest and falling due south. The Active Phase of the MJO is having a solid effect on the tropics.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/10) high pressure nearshore was breaking down with low pressure previously north of Hawaii move east towards Oregon and just off the CA coast. 20 kt south winds and rain are expected for the North Coast Wed (3/11) with light south winds and scattered showers for much of the Central Coast. Light snow possible for higher elevations of the Sierra. High pressure and building north winds are expected for all of North and Central CA Thursday reaching 15-20 kts late. But those winds to be diminishing on Friday for North and Central CA fading to calm on Sat (3/14) holding Sunday. Possible light rain on Sunday for Cape Mendocino reaching south to Bodega Bay late. North winds are forecast for North and Central CA Monday at 10-15 kts holding at 15 kts Tuesday but up to 20 kts for North CA.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell generation is expected.
2nd Early Gale
A small gale started building in the South Central Pacific on Tues PM (3/3) generating 45 kt southwest winds and starting to get some traction on the oceans surface with seas building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 58S 142W. 40-45 kt southwest winds were lifting northeast Wed AM (3/4) with 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 135W (190 degs SCal,188 degs NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds held into the evening with seas building to 34 ft at 52S 129W (186 degs SCal, 185 degs NCal). The gale was in quick decline Thurs AM (3/5) with fetch fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 28 ft at 48S 122W (182 degs SCal, 180 degs NCal). Small background southern hemi swell is possible.
Southern CA: Swell to be hitting decently Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.9 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) at 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 185 degrees
North CA: Swell to be hitting Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) from 1.9 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 183 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 a broad area of low pressure is to start building over the dateline and into the Western Gulf of Alaska associated with an improving upper level wind pattern. A gale is forecast forming on the southern periphery of this low pressure system on Mon AM (3/16) with a small area of 45 kt westerly winds and seas building from 28 ft at 42N 177W. In the evening 45 kt west winds to continue over a small area aimed east with 31 ft seas at 42N 170W targeting mainly the US West Coast. Winds to fade some Tues AM (3/17) down to 35-40 kts with seas fading from 28 ft at 41N 168W. The gale is to be gone by evening. Possible modest swell to result if one is to believe the models.
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).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (3/10) the daily SOI was down some at -17.10. The 30 day average was falling from -0.82 and the 90 day average was falling from -5.94. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. Low pressure is to start building around Tahiti holding into Wed (3/11), then weak high pressure to follow till Sun (3/15) when weak low pressure is projected developing directly over Tahiti. Weakly deepening SOI values are possible into Wed (3/1) then rising, then possibly falling hard by Tues (3/17). The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a solid sized area of strong westerly anomalies were over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline but positioned mainly over and south of the equator. Light to moderate east anomalies continuing from there to a point south of Baja on the equator. Light east anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to and just east of the dateline. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but regenerated 2/25 positioned more to the east building to the strong category on 3/7 and was holding into 3/10. This is already a decent event before it rebuilt on 3/7 supporting Kelvin Wave development, with far more warm water transport now in progress. A week from now (3/18) moderate to strong westerly anomalies are to continue over the Central Maritime Continent reaching east of the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are expected from there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue regenerating on the dateline a week out. This is a significant WWB.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/9 suggests a building Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was developing over the Maritime Continent. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to fade some while easing east over the next 15 days, making it to the dateline intact. The Dynamic model suggests a building Active Phase developing reaching the strong state 10 days out and holding on the dateline 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/10 depicts a very strong Active Phase currently in the Western Pacific (it started 3/7) and is to hold into 3/17 while slowly pushing east, the fading slowly while tracking east reaching Central America but still solid on 3/30. A moderate Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/25 and tracking east and building pushing into Central America 4/17. A modest Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/14.
Our analysis suggests the MJO is regenerating and should reach a very Active state over the next 2 weeks. This should help repair the North Pacific jetstream and could possibly fuel a small storm cycle, likely the last of the 2014-2015 Winter season. 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 (3/9) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America and a building cool pool developing off South America just like it did last year at this time. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 145W with more solid +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 150W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area at 180W. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are holding now at +0.75 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. With this being a Modoki El Nino, cooler water would be expected in the NINO 1.2 area (near the Galapagos and Peruvian Coast).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue warming and expanding. As of 3/10 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continues building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. And with strong westerly anomalies now in.cgiay in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, pronounced warming is possible beyond. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Satellite data from 3/4 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing east of the dateline and a building peak to +10 cm, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 100W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/4) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding while easing east between 163E-110W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 173E-118W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies from 139W-172W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at, that is in-flight. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21/14) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Modoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 2/20 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over patches in the West Pacific reaching east with less energy north of the equator in the East Pacific. But solid east current was in control over and south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. No real easterly anomalies were present. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/10 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.0 degs C, and continuing to +1.50 degs by Nov. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino. But it is too early to believe that just yet.See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring late 2013 though 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 Spring Unpredictability Barrier. At this time we're assuming the situation will move to a multiyear, Modoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay per NOAA. But we continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
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