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.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 3.4 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 9.1 secs from 159 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.2 ft @ 6.2 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 10.5 secs from 245 degrees. Wind northwest 10-12 kts. Water temperature 59.7. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.9 ft @ 11.6 secs from 261 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.0 ft @ 13.8 secs from 235 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.0 ft @ 12.9 secs from 268 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 12.1 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 6.7 ft @ 12.4 secs from 303 degrees. Wind northwest 18-24 kts. Water temp 51.1 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Tuesday (4/26) in North and Central CA surf was 3 ft overhead and warbled and lumpy with small chop on top even though nearshore winds were relatively light early. Pure windswell continues to dominate. At Santa Cruz surf was 1-2 ft overhead and soft but consistent and fairly clean. In Southern California up north waves were thigh to waist high and clean but weak and warbled. Down south waves were chest high and weak and nearly chopped. It was not good. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. Maybe a few waist high sets at top spots. The South Shore was small with set waves waist high or so at top spots and clean on the sets. The East Shore was getting windswell producing waves at thigh 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 Northeast Gulf on Sat (4/23) producing 26 ft seas on the northern edge of the Central CA swell window was hitting north CA but buried in local chop. Another gale developed in the Northwest Gulf on Mon (4/25) with seas to 30 ft aimed east. Perhaps another system to develop just off Japan Sat-Sun (5/1) producing 26 ft seas, but is to dissipate before reaching the dateline. Nothing else is predicted 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. Nothing else is on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday AM (4/26) the jet was pushing relatively consolidated off Japan with winds building to 150 kts over the dateline forming a weak trough there ridging slightly in the Western Gulf before falling into another developing trough off the Pacific Northwest. A weak .cgiit developed on the dateline peeling off a thin stream of 50 kts winds tracking south of Hawaii eventually into South Baja. There was limited support for gale development in both troughs. Over the next 72 hours the trough off the Pacific Northwest is to develop some off California Wed-Thurs (4/28) pushing hard south reaching down into Southern CA late Thursday not so much offering swell potential but more so weather. The dateline trough is to remain pretty weak but slowly gain organization into Fri (4/29) moving into the Western Gulf. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to track east into the Gulf early Sat (4/30) with winds feeding it building to 160 kts offering good support for gale development into early Sunday, then starting to pinch off and lifting northeast, eventually pushing into Alaska on Tues (5/3). But winds to hold if not build on the dateline to 180 kts on Tues (5/3) starting to form a new trough off the California coast. One final trough is to develop just east of Japan on Mon (5/2) pushing east but with no real winds associated with it and getting pinched all the while. Behind it the jet is to .cgiit over East Asia suggesting a weaker pattern to follow. But for now a weak Active Phase of the MJO is having a little more interaction with El Nino than previously expected helping to enhance it.
On Tuesday (4/26) swell from a small gale previously in the Eastern Gulf on Sat-Sun (4/24) producing up to 26 ft seas at 52N 148W was hitting California but buried in local windswell and almost unrecognizable and a from a very north angle.
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 at 9 Am with period 17 secs building to 4.5 ft @ 16 secs (7.0 ft) around noon. Swell Direction: 300 degrees. Swell buried in local chop.
Over the next 72 hours no swell production of interest is forecast. A local gradient is forecast developing in association with a upper trough over California on Thurs (4/28) generating 30 kt north winds over North and Central CA, the moving inland and starting to fade on Fri (4/29).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (4/26) north winds were still in control at 20 kts over North and Central CA waters and expected to hold through the day driven by high pressure off the coast. Wednesday a new low develops over North and Central CA with light winds early but building to 20-25 kts for all regions nearshore by sunset including Southern CA. Light rain is forecast pushing south from Pt Arena to to Morro Bay late. Light snow for the Sierra through the day and into the evening focused mainly on the Southern Sierra. Thursday the low to move inland with high pressure taking control and north winds 25+ kts for all of North and Central CA and 20 kts for Southern CA all day. Light snow possible for the Sierras into the evening. More north winds for North and Central CA on Friday (4/29) at 20 kts strongest over North CA up to 25 kts. Saturday winds hold if not build late at 25 kts for all of North and Central CA. Finally Sunday winds retreat and light everywhere but north 20 kts from Pt Arena northward. Monday (5/2) a generally light 10 kt north flow is forecast but up to 15 kts for Cape Mendocino. More of the same on Tuesday.
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
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 a gale is forecast developing off Japan on Sat AM (4/30) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 23 ft. In the evening fetch is to build in coverage but fade in velocity to 35 kts aimed more to the west with seas 27 ft at 42N 156E. Fetch fading Sun AM (5/1) from 30-35 kts from the west winds seas 24 ft at 42N 161E. The gale is to be gone by evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 41N 169E. Small swell possible for Hawaii with luck.
Beyond 72 hours an elongated gale is forecast starting to develop southeast of New Zealand on Fri PM (4/29) producing 35-40 kt south winds aimed well north and seas starting to develop. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1500 nmile long fetch of 35-40 kt south winds is to be in.cgiace generating 26 ft seas at 47S 170W. The fetch is to hold in the evening lifting north generating 28 ft seas at 40S 164W. Fetch is to fade Sun AM (5/1) in coverage with seas dropping from 29 ft at 40S 159W. Something to monitor for Tahiti and Hawaii.
More details to follow...
La Nina Building - Cooler Water Taking Hold of Galapagos
Active Pulse of the MJO on it's Last Legs
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: 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 Mon (4/25) residual light west were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) near the dateline and calm elsewhere south of the equator. Anomalies were moderate from the west from the dateline to 155W from 5S and points southward. This was attributable to low pressure associated with what was Tropical Cyclone Amos just east of the dateline near Pago Pago being driven by a weak Active Phase of the MJO, integrating with El Nino and enhancing it some.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Modest west anomalies started 4/19 and held through 4/23, then weakened but not out through 4/26. West anomalies are forecast building some into the modest category 4/26-5/3. 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 4/25 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 (a dead neutral MJO pattern) until day 15, and then only a hint of the Active Phase developing on the dateline. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but without the upgrade at day 15. This suggests El Nino to continue to slightly enhance the jetstream and the MJO is to have little to no influence either enhancing or suppressing it.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/26) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was over the Maritime Continent and as weak as it could be. It is to backtrack to the Indian Ocean 2 weeks out and build some but still weak. The GEFS model depicts it stationary and weak over the Maritime continent with no change forecast.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/26) A weak Inactive Phase was in the far West Pacific and is to reach the dateline 5/11, tracking east into Central America through 5/21. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/21 tracking east through 6/5. With the change of season in.cgiay, 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 5/21 even though a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is to set up starting 5/16 and hold into mid June. If anything, east anomalies are to start taking over in July, typical of La Nina.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/26) 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 136W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist from 180W eastward to 132W and no more than 35 meters deep and tracking west fast. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching Ecuador at -2 degs. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have cold Kelvin Waves pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/18 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 170E 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 : (4/25) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates temps in total collapse. Negative anomalies are on the equator extending 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 developing, and strongly. The only remaining warm waters is from 135W west on the equator and that is getting undercut fast.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/25): Cooling continues from Columbia, Ecuador and Peru over the Galapagos out to 142W. 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 quickly dissipating. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remain from 135W out to the dateline. But a thin stream of cooler than normal waters are from Peru and Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to nearly 140W and growing. Warmer water is present south and north of the equator, but quickly becoming less relevant with negative temps building in the Nino1.2 region.
TAO Data: (4/20) +1.0-1.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific advecting west from 130W to the dateline. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 120W. The warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/26) Today temps were falling hard negative down to -1.329 degs
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/26) temps were stable at +1.101, 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 Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Southern Oscillation Index (4/21): The daily index was down solidly at -45.30 on 4/20 rivaling peak depths from Feb. Today's value rose slightly at -36.20 today. The 30 day average was falling from -17.26. The 90 day average was falling from -13.57. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the daily and 30 day averages suggested some form of Active MJO was in.cgiay and building.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/26 weak low pressure was south of Tahiti, the remnants of Cyclone Amos. This same pattern to hold into Thurs (4/28) then slowly fade while the low pressure falls southeast. High pressure to start building in behind weakly on Fri (4/29) then strongly on 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): (4/26) 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