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.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 2.3 ft @ 11.6 secs from 326 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 13.5 secs from 266 degrees. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. Water temperature 59.2. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.0 ft @ 14.1 secs from 254 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.4 ft @ 14.8 secs from 229 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.1 ft @ 14.8 secs from 220 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.1 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 4.5 ft @ 13.1 secs from 254 degrees. Wind north 6-8 kts. Water temp 55.0 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Sunday (4/3) in North and Central CA surf was chest to head high at top spots but with poor form and light onshore winds making for some texture. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high with bigger sets to 1 ft overhead and clean and occasionally lined up. In Southern California up north waves were shoulder to head high on the sets and a little warbled though wind was calm. It was rideable. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead on the sets and occasionally pretty powerful, but again with surface warble interfering some. Hawaii's North Shore was getting residual dateline swell with waves chest to maybe head high at top spots and reasonably clean early with some sideshore texture on it. The South Shore was near flat with rare thigh high sets and clean. The East Shore was flat and chopped with modest trades blowing.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The last dribbles of combo southern hemi and west swells are in the water hitting California. Otherwise no swell has been generated or is in flight towards our forecast area. Looking at the models some sort of a weak gale is forecast developing over the North Dateline region on Wed (4/6) producing 28 ft seas aimed east for 24 hours. A weaker system to follow further south on Fri (4/8) producing 24 ft seas offering better hope for Hawaii but again very short lived. And maybe a somewhat stronger system to push off Japan 180 hrs out. It certainly looks like the winter season has shut down hard with no clear signals the MJO is coming to rescue the day. Nothing is forecast in the Southern Hemi either.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday AM (4/3) the jet was well .cgiit over Japan with the northern branch tracking up and over Kamchatka then falling hard south rejoining the main flow just east of Japan forming a trough there with winds building to 170 kts but all positioned east of the trough, offering only weak support for gale development. From there the consolidated jet ridged northeast a little and .cgiit mid-way between Hawaii and California, with the northern branch weakly tracking up into British Columbia while the more powerful southern branch pushed east over Southern Baja. In all no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the trough off Japan is to track east reaching a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii by Tues AM (4/5) but very pinched with strongest winds still in the east side of the trough, offering little in terms of support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. East of there the jet is to remain well .cgiit with the northern branch tracking up into Central Canada and the southern branch pushing over Baja. To the west the jet is to be reasonably consolidated tracking from Japan over the dateline and into the aforementioned trough with peak winds 150 kts offering no real support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to pinch off becoming cut off late Thurs (4/7) off Central CA and holding together eventually pushing into Southern CA on Sat (4/9) offering a hint of weather there down at the surface. Back to the west the jet is to be consolidated with a new trough forming over the dateline on Thurs (4/7) being fed by 170 kts winds and offering some decent support for gale development. That trough is to push to the Western Gulf late Friday and almost pinching off after that, approaching Central CA on Sun (4/10). Yet another weak trough is to form just west of the dateline on Sun (4/10) with winds 150 kts offering some support for gale development, then ridging over the dateline before falling into the aforementioned trough off CA. The real issue is the jet is to be weak with only limited pockets of stronger winds feeding it. This is pretty normal given the time of year. But with El Nino supposedly in effect, one would hope for more.
On Sunday (4/3) no swell of interest was in the water nor being generated. Low pressure was circulating in the Northwest Gulf but only generating 25 kt northwest winds and offering no swell generation potential. No other weather systems of interest were occurring.
Over the next 72 hours that low is to track northeast into the Northern Gulf offering no fetch of interest. A small gale is to be tracking off Japan Tues (4/5) and forecast to develop some while lifting northeast to a point just south of the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians in the evening with winds building to 40 kts. By Wed AM (4/6) winds to build to 45 kts over a small area aimed east with seas 26 ft at 50N 177E. In the evening winds are to be fading from 40 kts with seas peaking at 28 ft at 50N 177W. The gale to fade quickly from there. Most swell energy to push east towards the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday AM (4/3) a weak pressure and wind pattern was in effect for the California coast. High pressure is to take over hitting the North and Central Coast Monday AM with northwest winds 20 kts building to 25 kts later from Pt Conception northward. More of the same is forecast on Tuesday then the high is to be moving onshore over the Pacific Northwest Wed AM and winds in CA fading if not turning light offshore all locations. Light south winds forecast Thurs AM (4/7) from Pt Conception northward at 5-10 kts associated with a weak closed isobar low off the North Coast. More of the same is forecast Friday with the low moving nearshore late with south winds building to near 15 kts. Light rain building for the entire state late. South winds to continue from Pt Conception northward Sat AM but west at 15 kts for Southern CA as the low start pushing onshore there. Light steady rain for the entire state all day. Snow down to Lake tahoe level early then rising as the day progresses. More light snow overnight. A very light westerly flow is forecast on Sunday (4/10) for the entire state. Patchy light rain statewide. Light snow through the day Sunday for the Sierra.
On Sunday AM (4/3) no swell producing fetch was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
A gale tracked under New Zealand on Mon PM (3/21) generating 32 ft seas at 63S 170E. On Tues AM (3/22) 33 ft seas were at 63S 175W and fading. No other fetch resulted. No swell is expected for Hawaii or the US West Coast.
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 cutoff low might generate a tiny area of 20 ft seas off North CA on Thurs AM (4/7) at 38N 138W targeting the US West Coast.
Another gale is forecast developing on the dateline Thurs PM (4/7) generating 35 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas at 44N 176E. 30-35 kt northwest winds to hold into Fri AM (4/8) generating 22 ft seas at 41N 177W targeting mid-way between Hawaii and the US West Coast. 35 kt northwest winds to continue into the evening if not build some with 22 ft seas continuing. This system to fade from there. Something to monitor.
Another gale is to track off Japan on Sun (4/10) generating 30-35 kt west winds and 24 ft seas targeting Hawaii. Something to monitor.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
More details to follow...
Inactive MJO Supposedly Building in West Pacific
But GFS Model Projects Building Low Pressure South of Tahiti
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, 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 .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).
Overview: A strong El Nino is fading out. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool built steadily in spurts, peaking in the Oct-Nov, timeframe, then began a slow decline. But even in Jan 2016, the strongest Westerly Wind Burst of the event occurred, with another Kelvin Wave developing. And another weaker one occurred in Feb. But it was too little, too late. There was not any real warm water left in the West Pacific to transport east. El Nino was in a steady collapse by mid-Feb with the subsurface warm reservoir in the East Pacific in steep decline with cool water ready to move in migrating from the west. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a paragraph that ties all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Sat (4/3) a small area of moderate west winds and anomalies were south of the equator in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) from 165E to 175W mainly from 5S and points southward. A weak expression of El Nino was occurring.
1 Week Forecast (GGFS Model): Near calm winds are forecast in the KWGA with no west anomalies projected. For now a very weak El Nino pattern continues to hold control.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)
On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 4/2 a weak Inactive Phase MJO signal was over the West PAcific moving over the dateline. The Statistic model projects the Inactive Phase in control for the next 2 weeks, building at the end of that period. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase fading steadily through the period and all but gone 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream is being suppressed by the Inactive MJO and is to continue for the next 1-2 weeks.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/3) The ECMF model indicates the Active phase of the MJO was over east Africa. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving to the Indian Ocean and fading out. The GEFS depicts the same basic pattern. West wind anomalies in the KWGA attributable to El Nino are expected to get no help from the MJO anytime soon and if anything are to be actively suppressed by the Inactive Phase. There is to be no real fuel to supporting strengthening of the jetstream.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/3) A weak Active Phase was over the Central Pacific and is forecast to track east to Central America through 4/18. A moderate Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/18 moving east and dissipating into 4/28. An Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/23 tracking east into Central America into 5/13.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Active Phase of the MJO was on the dateline moving east, and is to hold through 4/13. But no west anomalies of interest are to be associated with it. There is no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream and therefore storm production was minimal. The model depicts the Inactive Phase taking over 4/13-4/23 again suppressing west anomalies. Then another Active Phase is to take over 4/20-5/7. Weak west anomalies are the best we can hope for this late in the season and is generally supported by all the models.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/3) Actual temperatures continue to retreat. A pocket of 29 deg temps were holding at depth between 140E to 165W (tracking west) with the 28 deg isotherm line retracting fast to 140W. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +1 deg anomalies extend from 172E eastward with 2 degs anomalies over one small area from 132W eastward. No warmer anomalies are present. The entire warm pool only extends no more than 75 meters deep at it's deepest point at 165W. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east now reaching the Ecuador Coast with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 112W down at 75 meters and pushing towards the surface. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/29 the reservoir is fading and very shallow and no longer continuous with 3 distinct pockets remaining from 170E eastward. Each pocket has temps at +1-2 deg anomalies with the third pocket under the Galapagos pushing +2-3 degs. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. Kelvin Wave #5 and #6 are resisting the total collapse of this ENSO event and the onset of La Nina, but that resistance will likely be short lived.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (3/29) The image depicts the warm pool is gone with no anomalies remaining. -5 cm anomalies are easing east fast to 120W.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (3/29 - but updated daily) Warm temps are gone. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are all that is left and fading from the Galapagos (84W) to Ecuador. -1.0 deg anomalies are moving east reaching 150W with a pocket east to 140W. La Nina is coming.
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 : (4/2) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates temps are trying to hold on at +2.25 degs straddling the equator from the Galapagos west to 120W. A pocket of cooler water (0.0 degs) is from Columbia to the Galapagos. Warmer temps also continue in pockets along the coast of Peru streaming northwest and joining the main pool at the Galapagos. The whole flow actually looks a little warmer compared to days past.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/1): Marked warming is occurring from the Galapagos to 140W. Otherwise temps are holding.
Hi-res Overview: (4/1) The El Nino signal is still very much present but is on the decline. A pocket of +2 deg above normal temps is present from Ecuador to 135W attributable to the eruptions of the last of the subsurface reservoir. 1-2 deg anomalies are also out at 165W, the advection west of the warm pool.
TAO Data: (4/2) +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to 170E. One pocket of +1.5 deg anomalies was present from 138W to Ecuador with a pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies embedded in it from 110W and points eastward. Overall the warm water signature is decent but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/3) Today temps were steady at +1.042 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/3) temps were steadily fading from +1.261 degs. From 2/25-3/11 they were steady at about +2.023. They fell below the +2.1 mark on 2/25 for the first time since when this El Nino first started developing, and below the +2.5 deg range that was reached in late Dec through Feb 11. The all time peak was reached at +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), Temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21.
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of Feb were +2.19 (beating '98 which was +1.89 and '83 which was +1.84). Jan readings were +2.23 (beating '98 which was +2.21 and '83 which was +2.13). December was +2.31 (beating 97 which was +2.23 and 82 at +2.21). November was +2.36 degs (beating the highest temp recorded in '97 Nov - +2.32 degs and beating '82 +2.03 degs). Oct temps were +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. The ONI uses a 3 month running average.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec the values are: +1.8, +2.1. +2.2 +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3 and +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1 and +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.
Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 4/1 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 150E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. El Nino is in solid decline and La Nina is on the rise 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. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +1.35 by 4/1, then slowing their decline before stabilizing at +0.3 degs in August before starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe and is a minority opinion.
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 Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Southern Oscillation Index (4/3): The daily average was steady near -11.00. The 30 day average was rising from -3.57. The 90 day average was rising from -14.63. El Nino was still quite evident in this index.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/3 weak low pressure was in control south of Tahiti and is forecast to slow fall south and dissolve. Interestingly a series of small low pressure cells are to develop west of Tahiti on Tues (4/5) and track southeast building south of Tahiti Thurs-Fri (4/8), holding into Mon (4/11). The SOI is expected to fall some based on the Tahiti contribution and offer better support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (4/3) Today's value was rising some +1.02. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 but has generally fallen ever since.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Feb) These numbers were released March 5th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +2.12. In Feb the readings 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 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.
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. 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 2nd 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 so far this season. The target is 16, but that appears ambitious.
From a pure El Nino perspective, the peak of the event is over. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is destructively interacting with the influence on the jet stream and storm production. And this will continue until the next Active Phase of the MJO comes into.cgiay, perhaps sometime in April. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence will not be a strong as previous Active Phases in winter.
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