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.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 8.1 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 6.0 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 14.2 secs. Wind west 4-8 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 2.0 ft @10.4 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.7 ft @ 13.9 secs from 210 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.4 ft @ 13.8 secs from 185 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 13.5 ft @ 10.1 secs with swell 10.4 ft @ 9.5 secs. Wind northwest 10 kts nearshore. Water temp 51.1 degs.
On Thursday (5/7) in North and Central CA surf was head high coming from the north and mostly pure local windswell and chopped by northwest wind. Down in Santa Cruz surf was maybe head high coming from the south and clean but getting weak and crossed up by windswell. In Southern California up north southern hemi swell was chest high at top breaks and fairly clean but soft. Down south waves were chest high on the sets and soft and weak, with some texture on it but not too bad. It was chopped down into Southern Orange County. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting New Zealand swell with waves chest to maybe head high and clean and fun looking. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high and chopped from easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific relative to Hawaii generic tradewind generated east windswell is expected to continue for the next week. No North Pacific swell production of interest is forecast. Relative to the US West Coast, windswell is fading and to drop out for the weekend, then is to redevelop for Tues (5/12). No legitimate swell production of interest is forecast. In the southern hemisphere a small but fairly potent gale developed tucked up along the east coast of New Zealand on Wed-Thurs (4/30) with seas to 38 ft aimed northeast. Small swell is hitting Hawaii but with much less size expected for the US West Coast by the weekend. Another small but fairly potent gale started developing in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (5/6) with up to 44 ft seas late, and forecast to fade Thurs AM (5/7) with 40 ft seas falling south but still in the California swell window, but mainly aimed east and dissipating. No other believable systems are forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (5/7) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 700 nmiles west of Central CA ridging east and continuing a pressure gradient along the coast with northwest winds 30 kts centered near Pt Arena. Windswell was being produced radiating south to at least Pt Conception. Small swell from a previous dateline gale was supposed to be hitting Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below), but there was no clear evidence of it. Otherwise tradewind generated east windswell was impacting the East Shores of the Islands courtesy of the aforementioned high pressure system off California.
Over the next 72 hours the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is to dissipate later Fri (5/8) as high pressure retrogrades to a point 1000 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii. Windswell for Central and North CA fading out. But trades are to continue for the Islands at 15-20 kts form the east through the weekend into early next week with east windswell continuing. By Monday (5/11) the high is to start tracking east again, with the pressure gradient redeveloping over Cape Mendocino CA and local north windswell starting to develop relative to North and Central CA.
No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Noul was centered 300 nmiles east of the Central Philippines on Thurs AM (5/7) with winds 100 kts tracking west-northwest. Slow strengthening is forecast with Noul moving over the northern island if the Philippines on Sat (5/9) with winds 115 kts, then turning north and northeast quickly, pushing over the far southern islands south of Japan on Tues (5/12) with winds 60 kts. A quick dissipation is forecast there on Wed (5/13). No swell production of interest relative to our forecast area is projected.
Tropical Depression #7 was positioned in the far Western Pacific with winds 30 kts and meandering. Slow strengthening is forecast as this system start tracking west-northwest later in the weekend into early next week, with winds building to 90 kts by Tues (5/12). Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/7) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 700 nmiles east of Central CA and was ridging east forming the usual pressure gradient over the North CA coast. North winds from Cape Mendocino to Pt Reyes were at 30 kts with lesser north winds pushing south to near Pt Conception. The gradient is to start fading on Friday (5/8) falling from 25 kts early and down to 15 kts early Sat (5/9) isolated mainly over North CA. Northwest winds to start rebuilding at 15 kts on Sun (5/10) for all of North and Central CA pushing 20 kts late. Round #2 of high pressure starts Mon AM (5/11) with northwest winds 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA then lifting north and isolated to North CA on Tues AM at 25 kts (5/12) and starting to fade on Wednesday down to 15 kts later and holding Thursday.
Jetstream- On Thursday AM (5/7) the jet was .cgiit with the southern branch ridging south almost over Antarctica in the far Southwest Pacific then trying to become consolidated east of New Zealand while lifting northeast. It become fulling consolidated while lifting northeast once over the Southeast Pacific forming a trough there with winds to 140 kts offering some support for gale development and moving out of the California swell window. East of there then jet fell hard south into Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to quickly fade while the whole of the jet sets up into a zonal flow (tracking flat west to east) on the 45S latitude with no troughs and no support for gale develop indicated. Beyond 72 hours new trough is to build south of the Tasman Sea pushing up into it by Wed (5/13) but a huge ridge is to build east of there just east of New Zealand starting Mon (5/11) crashing into the Ross Ice Shelf and shutting down any hope for gale development over the the greater Southwestern Pacific through Thurs (5/14). 3
On Thursday (5/7) small swell from a gale that formed just east of New Zealand on Tues (4/28) was hitting Hawaii and pushing towards California (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1024 mbs was east of Northern New Zealand generally pushing the storm track south there. A storm was circulating over the far Southeast Pacific producing swell aimed northeast (see Southeast Pacific Storm below).
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather system of interest are forecast.
New Zealand Gale
A small gale started developing south of New Zealand on Tues PM (4/28) generating 45 kt south winds with seas building from 26 ft seas at 51S 163E. By Wed AM (4/29) a tiny fetch of 55 kt south winds is to be in.cgiay lifting northeast with seas on the increase from 32 ft over a tiny area at 49S 172E. In the evening winds were tracking northeast and fading from 45 kts with seas building to 38-39 ft over a tiny area at 45S 180W. Winds were fading from 40 kts Thurs AM (4/30) with seas fading from 34 ft up at 41S 176W. This system is to be fading by evening with winds 35 kts and seas mostly from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 40S 167W. Additional 40 kt southwest fetch to build on Fri AM (5/1) with seas 29 ft at 44S 160W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts in the evening and turning more purely westerly with seas to 32 ft at 42S 152W. Fetch is to be fading fast Sat AM (5/2) with winds barely 30 kts and no additional sea production of interest forecast. The bulk of the swell production has already occurred. Secondary 15-16 sec period energy is possibly going to be added if the models verify. Swell from the initial pulse is unshadowed by Tahiti relative to California. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Residual energy continuing on Fri (5/8) from a more southerly direction. Swell Direction: 194-197 degrees
California (North and South): Swell arrival on late Thurs (5/7) with period 20 secs and size tiny. Swell building Fri (5/8) to 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) peaking on Sat (5/9) at 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.5 ft). Swell pushing 2.0 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) on Sun (5/10). Secondary swell energy from the reformed secondary pulse of this gale to arrive on Mon (5/11) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) fading some Tues (5/12) from 1.8 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) then dissipating on Wed (5/13) from 1.5 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) Swell Direction: 216 degrees initially turning to 213 degrees and becoming shadowed by Tahiti
Southeast Pacific Storm
A gale briefly formed in the Central South Pacific on Mon PM (5/4) generating a broad area of 30-35 kt southwest winds with 25 ft seas at 53S 147W. By Tues AM (5/5) southwest winds were holding at 35-40 kts and tracking east with seas building to 26 ft at 54S 145W aimed well northeast. Fetch faded from 30-35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 25 ft at 50S 137W. Very limited swell production potential is possible from this initial fetch. it mainly was just a primer for what developed behind. A new fetch starting building well west of it with winds 45 kts over a tiny area aimed east.
By Wed AM (5/6) 50 kt southwest winds were start building in the South Central Pacific aimed well to the northeast with seas building from 29 ft over a tiny area at 54S 144W. A solid area of 50-55 kt southwest winds started developing in the evening with seas building to 41 ft at 55S 137W aimed east-northeast. the Jason-2 satellite made a pass over the eastern quadrant of the storm reporting a 15 reading average of 39.3 ft with one reading to 44.8 ft where the model suggested 37-38 ft seas. The model was on track if not a little low. By Thurs AM (5/7) 50 kt southwest winds are to be on the edge of the CA swell window and fading in coverage while falling southeast with 41 ft seas at 52S 124W and aimed 45 degs east of the 182 degree track to Southern CA. Fetch is to be fading in the evening aimed almost east with seas mainly from previous fetch fading from 40 ft at 57S 118W targeting Chile and east of the California swell window. This system to dissipate by Fri AM (5/8). Some degree of modest sideband swell should result for California, but with the lions share of the fetch targeting Central America down into Northern Chile. for California, low wave count per set (2 waves per set), and sets infrequent.
Southern CA: Rough data suggest swell arrival on Wed (5/13) at 8 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to become rideable as period hits 20-21 secs late Wed pushing 2 ft @ 21 secs (4 ft). Swell to get solid on Thurs (5/14) as period hits 18 secs by 10 AM with swell 2.5 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell holding Fri (5/15) with swell about 2.5 ft @ 17 secs early (4.3 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell fading there after. Swell Direction: 186-200 degrees
Northern CA: Rough data suggest swell arrival on Wed (5/13) at 2 PM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to become rideable as period hits 21 secs overnight. Swell to become decent on Thurs (5/14) as period hits 19 secs by 10 AM with swell 2.5 ft @ 19 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell holding Fri (5/15) with swell about 2.5 ft @ 17 secs early (4.3 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell fading there after. Swell Direction: 184-188 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 high pressure is to be tracking northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska on Tues (5/12) with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient fading and all but gone by late Wed (5/13) with local north windswell gone. Relative to Hawaii the coverage of trades is to steadily be shrinking with east winds 15 kts on Tuesday and only extending east maybe 100 nmiles from the Islands by Wed (5/13) with the size and period of any east windswell dropping out.
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) As of Thurs (5/7) the daily SOI was falling at -17.80. The 30 day average was falling at -5.22 and the 90 day average was falling from -4.90. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. Low pressure was falling south from a point just south of Tahiti but has done all it will do for the SOI. But another low to follow in the same area over the weekend into Mon (5/11). And even then a weak pressure pattern is to follow. A falling SOI seem possible. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate westerly anomalies continued in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then turning neutral and continuing unchanged into the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate to strong westerly winds (not just anomalies but a reversal of trades) over the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area with anomalies holding to a point south of Hawaii, then turning neutral to the Galapagos. A week from now (5/15) moderate to strong westerly anomalies are to start at 125E (over the Maritime Continent) holding to 170E, then weakening some but reaching over the dateline just north of the equator reaching to a point just south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least westerly anomalies if not a short lived WWB) are to hold if not build a week out (a good sign) and positioned well in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) developed from 1/15-2/20 then regenerated 2/25 building steadily into the strong category by 3/7, before peaking 3/10 holding to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 then slowly faded into 3/30 but not out even to the end of April. Light westerly anomalies continued to 5/5, then rebuilding again starting 5/7. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March. Not a hint of easterly anomalies all year so far. See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/6 suggests a dead MJO signal was in.cgiay. No anomalies were occurring over the Pacific. The Statistic model suggests a continuation of the same for the next 15 days while a very weak Active Phase tries to develop in the Indian Ocean but making no headway east. The Dynamic model suggests a dead neutral pattern but with a weak Active Phase building over the West Pacific 8 days out and the Inactive Phase in the Indian Ocean and holding for the next 15 days. For now the models are generally in sync. The ultra long range upper level model run on 5/7 depicts a moderate.cgius strength Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the West Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/22. A modest Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/15 pushing steadily east and fading as if hits Central America on 6/6. A weak Active Phase is to set up after that in the West Pacific on 5/27 pushing east and into Central America on 6/14. 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 (5/7) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific definitely getting a better grasp. Warmer water is building over Ecuador and the Galapagos, markedly so per the latest imagery. This is the likely result of a new strong Kelvin Wave impacting the coast there. Warm water is also holding along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator. Warmer water extends west from the Galapagos along the equator but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator until it reaches the dateline, then expanding in areal coverage. In reviewing last years data at this same time, the warming is looking stronger, but not over the top. TAO data indicates +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. +2.0 deg anomalies are now depicted advecting west from the Galapagos. Also the pocket of 1.5 deg anomalies that had been on the dateline has rebuilt with west wind anomalies over it. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have backed off some, currently down to +1.0 degs. One would expect this area to start warming after the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west, starting maybe a month out (5/28).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming but are pushing hard east. As of 5/7 a +2.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +5 deg anomalies was starting to impact the Galapagos Islands driven by the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 and additional strong westerly anomalies in March, feeding even more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave was expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Actual data suggests it hit on 4/28 and is now starting to erupt on the surface (5/7). Peak water temps still extend westward to 140W, meaning there is a month of peak warm water still in the pipe. Satellite data from 5/3 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 175E with a core to +10 cm from 145W to the Galapagos indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (5/3) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E and the Ecuador coast with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170W eastward and +1.5 deg anomalies from 152W eastward. And a core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 143W eastward with a small pocket of 2.5 degs anomalies at 90W. This also suggests the peak of the Kelvin Wave is still offshore a bit. In short, a strong Kelvin Wave is in flight and starting to impact the Galapagos. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. We'll know more by June 1. the good news is more westerly anomalies are building over the dateline, suggestive perhaps of developing co.cgiing between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense).
Pacific Counter Current data as of 5/7 is steadily improving. The current is pushing modestly west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific and with a strong pulse just west of the Galapagos on the equator and again in the far West Pacific. . A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific north of the equator and building to the strong category in a pocket just west of the Galapagos directly over the equator in the east (120W to Ecuador) and strong over the far West Pacific centered near 130E. Sure looks like El Nino is setting up.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 5/7 for the Nino 3.4 region remain off the chart. It suggests water temps are at +1.1 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +2.25 degs C, and continuing to +2.8 degs by Oct and +3.1 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino, and strong at that. But it is too early to believe just yet. The same thing happened last year. The model is likely a statistic model and is just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight, and will settle back down after it erupts over the Galapagos. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model (rivaling the all time great '97 El Nino). The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO, though some models are now suggesting something more. 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 until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). The real teller will be during the month of June. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region are expected to be quite warm due to the arrival of a large Kelvin Wave currently in flight (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling Phase off the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. Of note: The eastward migration of warm surface water from the dateline now positioned south of Hawaii is typical of a classic variety of El Nino, which did not occur at any point in time last year. Perhaps a true El Nino teleconnection is developing. But again, the real indicator will occur in June (see above).
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 believable swell producing fetch is forecast. A tiny gale is forecast in the Southeast Pacific on Wed-Thurs (5/14) perhaps producing 38 ft seas aimed north for 6 hours late Wednesday. But the gale itself is to quickly start crashing southeast with no additional fetch aimed up towards California.
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