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 (10/14) in North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and warbled and getting trashed by south wind driven from an incoming front. Surf was maybe head high at protected breaks and clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high and clean and lined up but generally weak. In Southern California up north surf was chest high and clean and lined up but soft. Looks like fun. Down south waves were shoulder high on the sets and clean and lined up with some improvement in the bottom at select breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was getting nice little leftover swell with wave occasionally head high and clean but soft. Mostly smaller though. The South Shore was getting background swell with waves waist high or so and lined up and clean. On the East Shore local windswell was thigh high and chopped with trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Remnants of a dateline low redeveloped in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Mon-Tues (10/14) producing up to 28 ft seas providing north angled swell for the US West Coast mid-to late week, and likely some weather too. The extratropical remnants of Typhoon Vongfong and tracking northeast just east of the Kurils. Recurvature to the east is expected with it pushing over the Northern Dateline region on Thurs (10/16) with 36 ft seas then pushing into the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend with 27 ft seas. Something to monitor. Another gale to follow on a similar course a week out. And tropical Storm Ana is east-southeast of Hawaii expect to build and push towards Hawaii. The North Pacific is the focus from here forward. Summer is over and Fall has begun.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/14) the jetstream was ridging northeast just off the Kuril Islands tracking just south of the Aleutians with winds to 140 kts then .cgiitting some over the dateline before consolidating and falling southeast into a trough off the US West Coast with 150 kt winds feeding into it, offering good support for gale development there. Only this trough was of interest at the moment. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to move inland over North CA on Wed (10/15) likely ushering in some weather there. Meanwhile the jet is to start organizing better off Japan on Wednesday with a nice consolidated flow tracking northeast off the Kurils reaching to the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians then falling southeast into a broad but weak trough holding in the Gulf. That pattern is to continue into Fri (10/17) with the strongest winds starting to fall into the trough then at near 140 kts digging the trough deeper and offering improved support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to build with 140 kts winds holding into Saturday (10/18) offering good support for gale development while easting east, eventually pushing onshore over North CA on Tues (10/21). But even then additional wind energy is to be falling into the Gulf likely supporting gale development beyond. Not a bad pattern at all.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (10/14) low pressure was still circulating in the Gulf of Alaska generating some sea and swell of interest (see Small Gulf Gale below). And what was Super Typhoon Vongfong was tracking northeast positioned free and clear of land in the far West Pacific tracking off the Kuril Islands.
Over the next 72 hours the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Vongfong are to move from a position just east of the Kuril Islands on Tuesday (10/14) pushing off Kamchatka on Wed AM (10/15) with 45 kt west winds and turning east, with the core barely south of the Aleutians. By evening fetch is to build in coverage at 45 kt from the northwest with the core of the low over the Aleutians and approaching the dateline with seas 35 ft over a small area at 48N 171E (306 degs NCal, 324 degs HI). The core of the gale is to be tracking just south of the Central Aleutians near the dateline Thurs AM (10/16) generating 45 kt northwest winds and 36 ft seas at 48N 177E (304 degs NCal, 329 degs HI). The model suggests this system is to start falling east-southeast in the evening with a broader fetch of 40 kt northwest winds just east of the dateline with 32 ft seas at 46N 173W (300 degs NCal, 336 degs HI). By Fri AM (10/17) a decent sized area of 35-40 kt northwest winds are to be positioned in the Western Gulf with seas 30 ft at 44.5N 165W (296 degs NCal, 348 degs HI). More 40 kts winds to build into the lows west quadrant in the evening as it moves squarely into the Gulf with 29 ft seas holding at 44N 159W (296 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal). By Sat AM (10/18) the gale is to be fading with a large area of 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas still 28 ft at 44N 154W (296 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal). Fetch is to hold in the evening with the gale moving east with seas fading from 25 ft at 44N 150W (296 degs NCal, 304 degs SCal). The gale is to still continue pushing east on Sun (10/19) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and 24 ft seas at 43N 150W (295 degs NCal).
This is something to monitor with sideband energy possible for Hawaii and more direct energy for the US West Coast.
Small Gulf Gale
The remnants of an extratropical storm that moved from the dateline into the Gulf last week redeveloped again in the Northern Gulf on Mon (10/13) aided by a favorable upper level jetstream flow generating 35-40 kt northwest winds early and 20 ft seas at 50N 152W targeting the Pacific Northwest. In the evening northwest winds built to 40 kts over a modest sized area with 26 ft seas building at 51N 150W (312 degs NCal) again targeting the Pacific Northwest down into North CA. Winds held at 40 kts Tues AM (10/14) while falling southeast producing 27 ft seas over small area at 47N 144W (304 degs NCal). Fetch is to fall southeast in the evening and be fading from 25 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 44N 139W (303 degs NCal). This system to fade thereafter.
A decent but raw pulse of swell is possible for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. A rather windy and wet pattern is possible for that area too.
NCal: Preliminary swell energy expected on Wed (10/15) at 5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay area. The core of the swell is to arrive Thurs (10/16) before sunrise holding at sunrise at 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10.5 ft) and fading steadily through the day, down to 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft faces) by sunset. Swell Direction: 304-312 degrees
Southern CA: Swell expected to reach Southern CA starting Thurs AM (10/16) at 2.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (3 ft faces) building slightly through the day. Core swell energy is to hit overnight with swell fading Fri AM (10/17) from 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft) fading to 2.6 ft @ 13 secs (3.5 ft) late. Swell Direction: 308-314 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Ana was 800 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii with winds 45 kts and seas 10 ft and building. A steady west-northwest track is forecast with winds reaching hurricane force on Wed PM (10/15) peaking at 75 kts 12 hours later. Winds to hold at 70 kts into Sun AM (10/19) with Ana poised directly off the southeast coast of Hawaii. The GFS model suggests Ana moving directly over the Eastern Islands then veering north, bound for the Gulf of Alaska. Nothing is certain. Monitor this situation closely.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (10/14) low pressure was in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with a front pushing into Oregon and reaching south to Cape Mendocino CA. Light winds were modeled for all of CA but south winds were pushing 15 kts in San Francisco suggesting the model were missing the strength of the approaching front. The low is to move inland on Wednesday with the front reaching south to maybe Monterey Bay with light rain there Wed AM. Light winds forecast from the Golden Gate southward but south winds north of there. A secondary low and associated front to queue up off the coast on Thurs moving into Oregon on Friday with south winds over Cape Mendocino Thurs PM reaching south to Monterey Bay Friday mid-day. Light rain for Cape Mendo Fri AM reaching to the Golden Gate Fri PM. Light winds to follow until Sunday when another low and front approach northernmost CA with rain down to Morro Bay late Monday, but winds remaining light. Perhaps high pressure is to try and get a toe in the door after that, but yet another low is forecast for the Gulf.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch was occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 the remnants of Hurricane Ana are to track north moving towards the Gulf of Alaska on Tues (10/21). Another weak gale is to be moving into the Gulf of Alaska at the same time with 30 kt northwest wind and 17 ft seas. Something to monitor.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (10/14) the daily SOI was down to -6.13. The 30 day average was steady at -3.40 and the 90 day average was up some at -5.80. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a fading Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading Active Phase of the MJO. A weak low pressure regime is forecast holding south of Tahiti and is to continue for a week with gently falling SOI numbers expected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing light westerly on the dateline continuing south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast from there to the Galapagos. Neutral anomalies were east of there. A week from now (10/22) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline extending to a point south of Hawaii. Light west anomalies are forecast from there into and over the Galapagos. A Westerly Wind Burst developed in the West Pacific 9/28-10/8, then faded. But residuals from it are working their way east with yet another WWB apparently in.cgiay now (since 10/12) forecast into 10/19 near the dateline. This pattern suggests tropical development may cease in the West Pacific but might start building under Hawaii and into Mexico a week out if the models are correct. The TOA array indicates neutral anomalies over the equatorial Pacific. It is presumed an Active Phase of the MJO was in control in the West Pacific and is now pushing east.
Looking at the trend over the past few months there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades so far this year, and we're over 280 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies (suppressed trades) which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2 and 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. Another Kelvin Wave (modest at this point) is in-flight associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August and continues to be fed up to the current date. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape and have been all year. No easterly anomalies of interest have occurred all year. It would be hard to make a case stating some flavor of weak El Nino was not in.cgiay at this point.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/13 are generally in sync. They both suggest a modest Inactive MJO pattern over the West Pacific. Both the Statistic and Dynamic models depicts that Inactive Phase to hold for the next 15 days if not building some. The ultra long range upper level model run 10/14 depicts a weak Active Phase exiting east over the East Pacific. A weak Inactive pulse is developing in the West Pacific and is to track east reaching the East Pacific 11/13. Another weak Active Phase to follow starting 11/3 in the West Pacific. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any projected Inactive Phases. The models are calibrated assuming a neutral global weather pattern, and typically either overcall weather events during La Nina and undercall then during El Nino in the Pacific Basin. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some gentle guiding impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (10/13) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, down some from the peak of the Kelvin Wave eruptions in late June in the east, but up some since early Sept. TAO data suggests 0.5 deg C anomalies present from Central America to 140W, and then 0.0-+0.5 degs above normal between 140W-150W. +1.0 deg anomalies held near 160E (Kelvin Wave Generation Area), suggesting more warm water is poised to track east. Contrary to expectations, warm water is NOT building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region at the moment (nor is it fading). But a new Kelvin Wave is poised to erupt over the Galapagos. Mixed signals continue.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California as would be expected this time of year. And serious warm water is entrenched along the California coast and building in coverage, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years. Waters temps in San Francisco are 62 degrees and holding solid. Very rare. But this is expected if El Nino were in.cgiay. This is significant in that is suggests the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weakened relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is mostly normal/neutral except for cool water streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator just south of Hawaii. But even the areal coverage of that pocket is in decline, suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains most impressive, while the South Pacific is starting to trend in the same direction.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm. As of 10/14 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with two embedded pockets of +2 deg anomalies at from 180W and 120W pushing up towards the Galapagos. This is great news indicating the pipe is open and at least one Kelvin Wave is in flight. The leading edge of this new Kelvin Wave is theoretically now reaching the Galapagos. Satellite data from 10/10 depicts a broad area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the dateline region and tracking east reaching the Galapagos, indicative of a Kelvin Wave starting to impact that area. This is right as predicted. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (10/10) indicates this modest Kelvin Wave has developed in the west reaching east to 100W but is making no easterly headway. And a new Kelvin wave is building back at 145E-175W, in sync with the satellite data and warmer and larger than this last one. It is assumed the light westerly anomalies and the recent WWB of late in the West Pacific are feeding more warm water into the pipe. At this time we are well over the proverbial 'hump'. As the first Kelvin Wave arrives at the Galapagos (~Sept 30), more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things into minimal El Nino territory. And if a second Kelvin Wave is in development, then we are set into January. Of course that cannot be declared until the first Kelvin Wave hits, but everything is lining up. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 10/1 suggests an unchanged pattern. The current is pushing west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. On and just south of the equator the current was generally pushing east to west. West anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest between 110-140W and also near 140E. There were no significant east anomalies indicated. This data suggests a somewhat mixed picture but continued slightly better than the last update and improving incrementally. But it appears the easterly current is no longer overtaking the westerly component. A slight improvement.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 10/14 are stable and in an interesting way. It suggests water temps have built to +0.5 deg C and are to start increasing building to +0.75 deg C in early November and are to hold if not build to +0.9 through the winter into Sprint. But the real interesting part is that water temps are hold decently still at +0.8 into May 2015, then start building from there, pushing +1.4 degsC by July. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: A series of downwelling Kelvin Waves have been generated starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. And now a weaker one is in flight starting July and continuing non-stop through the present date. The only interruptions have been when the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle took over. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May-June 2014 onward, event during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies developed in the West Pacific in July and have held through present time producing the latest Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. Water temps have held in the Galapagos triangle in the +1.5 degree range for several months now. Certainly there is nor has been any signs of easterly anomalies or a shut down of the Kelvin Wave pipe for better than a year now. This is a huge step forward.
Assuming westerly anomalies continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (west of the dateline), more warm water will migrate east. This seems reasonable seeing how there has been virtually no easterly anomalies for the first 9 months of this year. And trades tend to weaken during Fall months in the northern hemi, meaning we're just now starting to reach the point in time where Westerly Wind Bursts should have the best support for development. Most El Nino's do not develop till the Fall, including the Super El Nino of '83/83. Only a few (namely the '97 Super El Nino) developed and survived strong through the summer and over the span of an entire year. A more 'normal' development life cycle would favor the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here . Notice the alternating eastward migrating 'cool' and 'warm' cycles (upwelling/downwelling Kelvin Waves). Also note the CFSv2 model accurately depicted the upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase, with water temps in Nino1.2 fading in August then redeveloping in September.
Finally, there's the 'feedback loop' consideration. As far as we're concerned it is in.cgiay. The largest argument in favor of that is the total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then the near record pulse of tropical activity off Mexico (8/18-9/20) resulting in Lowell, Super Hurricane Marie, followed by Odile and Polo (though these last 2 produced no swell) and now Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. The only argument against the feedback loop now is a west moving Pacific Counter Current.
Only once the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied on a global level (that is, the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino can result. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved from our perspective. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were gone except the Pacific Counter Current.
Note that what we consider 'teleconnected' and what NOAA considers threshold El Nino conditions are two different things and serve different purposes. We are focused on monitoring weather events that contribute to the production of open ocean storms mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs. That said, considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, and the Kelvin Wave that preceded it, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Aug of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). Monitoring the number, location and track of tropical systems in the North Pacific over October will help to put the final nail in coffin, though given the current track record, it is only a formality at this time. We will continue monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which has already been productive) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which is nonexistent) are key. But at this time odds continue stacking up in favor that a global teleconnection is now established. If that's true, the focus then becomes estimating how deep the ENSO cycle will become, or whether it will stay shallow but transition into a multi-year event. At this time we're predisposed to the multiyear, Midoki scenario. And that is actually the better of all options.
At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the multiyear 2010-2013 La Nina cycle dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Officially we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, from a winter storm and swell production perspective, atmospheric transition is well underway. Even if we never reach official El Nino status this is a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. Still lingering concerns about what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998) will temper our forecasts.
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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