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 Thursday (10/23) in North and Central CA surf was 2 ft overhead on the faces and clean early coming from the Gulf. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high on the sets and warbled and wonky and trashed by south winds early. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high or so and clean and soft. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean and lined up. Looks.cgieasant. Hawaii's North Shore was getting background Gulf swell with waves thigh to waist high and clean. The South Shore was getting background swell with waves knee to thigh high and clean. On the East Shore was getting northerly windswell at thigh to waist high and chopped by trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A broad but weak fetch tracking through the Gulf on Wed-Fri (10/24) generating 18-20 ft seas falling southeast targeting CA well then regenerated just off the Central CA coast on Friday PM (10/24) generating 28-30 kts seas400-500 nmiles off Monterey Bay. Large raw swell is expected to radiate towards the coast for later in the weekend. The remnants of Hurricane Ana have regenerated to hurricane strength and are tracking northeast starting to merge with a cold core low but getting sheared in the process eventually moving into the Pacific Northwest late Monday (10/27). Raw windswell possible mainly in Oregon and Washington. Another weak gale to develop in the Gulf falling southeast Wed-Fri (10/31) generating 20-22 ft seas and moving directly into Pt Conception while another weak gale develops in the Northern Gulf. An interesting early season pattern is projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (10/25) the jet was .cgiit with the two streams pushing off Japan and the Kurils tracking east-northeast with winds 90 kts merging while falling south through the Eastern Gulf forming a pinched trough with winds still only 90 kts then ridging northeast and moving inland over Northern CA. Support for gale development was indicated in the trough. Otherwise no trough of interest were indicated. Over the next 72 hours a .cgiit flow to persist into Monday before starting to get invigorated some and becoming more consolidated on Tues (10/28). No support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere until them. Beyond 72 hours starting on Tues (10/28) a .cgiit flow is to persist starting inland over Russia with a trough in control just over the Kuril Islands then ridging north up into the Western Bering Sea with the jet fully consolidating on the dateline and falling into the Western Gulf. Winds to build to 170 kts feeding the trough later Tuesday. The trough is to persist while easing east into Thursday (10/30) with winds still 160 kts offering good support for gale development in the Gulf. That trough to dig further south into Saturday (11/1) while nearly pinching off just west of San Francisco and moving inland late. A consolidated but broad unfocused flow to be in.cgiay tracking off the Kurils later Saturday (11/1) pushing flat east centered on the 45N latitude reaching across the width of the North Pacific. No real troughs to be developing, but overall it looks like decent pattern.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (10/25) swell from the Second Gulf Gale that tracked through the Gulf was pushing towards the California coast (see Second Gulf Gale below). Also a weak low was circulating in the Western Gulf and starting to absorb what was again Hurricane Ana (see Tropical update section below). Over the next 72 hours Hurricane Ana to be the only system of interest.
Second Gulf Gale
A gale starting to develop in the Eastern Gulf on Thurs AM (10/23) generating a modest area of 30-35 kt northwest winds over a broad area and seas building from 20 ft up at 50N 147W (312 degs NCal). That fetch fell southeast in the evening and faded to 30 kts with seas 18 ft at 47N 145W (307 degs NCal). That fetch faded but a new core developed 600 nmiles west of San Francisco Fri AM (10/24) with winds building from 35 kts and seas building to 17 ft at 35N 141W. This system regrouped directly off San Francisco Friday PM with northwest winds 45 kts and seas building from 24 ft at 39N 135W (283 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). By Sat AM (10/25) the new mini gale was pushing northeast up into Oregon with 45 kt north winds still in.cgiay off North CA and 29 ft seas over a solid local area at 37.5N 128W targeting San Francisco (270 degs) to Pt Conception (290 degs SCal). The gale is to move inland over the NCal-Oregon border Sat afternoon with no additional swell production expected. A decent front with south winds and rain pushed into North and Central CA Saturday AM. Large raw local swell is expected for Central CA early in the weekend.
NCal: Expect small swell from the first pulse of this gale to reach exposed breaks Sat AM (10/25) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces) fading some late. Southwest windchop intermixed. Swell from the more local component to hit at sunset Sat (10/25) peaking at 14 ft @ 15 secs (21 ft Hawaiian) a bit later. Swell fading Sun AM from 9.1 ft @ 13 secs (11 ft). Swell Direction: First Pulse 307+ degrees, Second Pulse; 270 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival Sunday building through the day peaking mid-day at 5.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (8 ft) at exposed breaks. Swell fading Monday AM from 3.9 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Ana was 650 nmiles west-northwest of Kauai late on Fri PM (10/24) with winds back to hurricane force at 65 kt and tracking northeast at 21 kts generating 20 ft seas. Ana is to continue on the track while accelerating to the northeast Sunday (10/26) with winds down to 50 kts mid-day and becoming absorbed in a cold core low 1500 nmiles north of Hawaii. Seas down to 16 ft Sun PM (10/26) well off Oregon. This extratropical system is to continue east with winds 30-35 kts on Monday (10/27) moving inland over British Columbia later in the evening. Best result is windswell for the Pacific Northwest,
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (10/25) a low pressure system was moving into Oregon with a front pushing south down Central CA producing rain and south winds. High pressure and north winds building Sun AM to 20 kts by late in the day for North and Central CA holding Monday then confined to Pt Conception later Tuesday as low pressure rebuilds in the Gulf pushing into the Pacific Northwest. A light northwest flow is forecast for North and Central CA Wed-Thurs. Light rain possible for extreme North CA for the same timeframe. Then another low is to be approaching the coast with south winds 20 kts for North CA on Fri AM reaching south to Pt Conception late with rain on the same timetable. Theoretically rain is to reach Southern CA mid-Saturday. Snow is forecast for the Sierra too.
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 a new gale is forecast developing in the Northwestern Gulf on Tues AM (10/28) with 30 kt winds building over a solid area and falling southeast with seas building from 18 ft at 50N 164W. Winds to holding in the evening at 30 kts falling further south with 18 ft seas at 47N 162W. On Wed AM (10/29) 35-40 kt northwest winds to start falling into the Northern Gulf with seas still 18 ft over a broader area from the Aleutians southeast to 44N 157W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. No real swell to result. More of the same forecast in the evening with 30-35 kt northwest winds and 20-22 ft seas building at 50N 154W. 30 kts northwest winds to continue moving more to the Central Gulf on Thurs AM (10/30) with seas 20-22 ft at 45n 150W (296 degs NCal). 35 kt northwest winds to build in the evening well off Central CA with a secondary low building just off the Washington Coast with 22 ft seas from the original fetch at 40N 143W. By Fri AM (10/31) 30 kt northwest winds to be 600 nmiles off Morro Bay generating 20 ft seas at 36N 138W targeting Southern CA with 40 kt northwest winds associated with the secondary low and 25 ft seas up at 46N 134W (315 degs NCal). The north most low is to fade in the evening while the southern low moves towards Central CA with 35 kt northwest winds moving over San Francisco Sat AM (11/1) with 35 kt northwest winds and 20 ft seas off Pt Conception targeting Southern CA. Something to monitor. More 30 kt west winds and low pressure is to be tacking through the Northern Gulf at the same time too.
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 Saturday (10/25) the daily SOI was up some at -16.96. The 30 day average was down some at -6.87 and the 90 day average was up some at -8.03. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a steady weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO. A weak low pressure regime is in control south of Tahiti but is forecast to fade with weak high pressure building in on Tues (10/28) and holding from there. 30 day average SOI numbers to start rising at that time.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline. Light west anomalies developed south of Hawaii fading to neutral and pushing into the Galapagos. A week from now (11/2) weak east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline the fading to neutral south of Hawaii turning weak westerly approaching and over the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest west anomalies still over the West Pacific. It started 10/16 and has held through 10/22, and was fading as of 10/24 but still present. It is presumed an Active Phase of the MJO was loosing control there and is 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, 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline with another 10/12-10/22 on the dateline. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is developing in the dateline region being fed by westerly anomalies in October there. That's two WWBs over the past 20+ days. 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 10/24 are generally in sync. They both suggest a weal to modest Inactive MJO pattern over the West Pacific. The Dynamic model depicts this Inactive Phase fading over the next 10 days, then rebuilding (not believable) while the Statistic model has it fading completely 10 days out. Neither model has it tracking east at all. The ultra long range upper level model run 10/25 depicts a weak Inactive pulse in the Central and tracking east while decaying, all but gone by Nov 9 in the East Pacific. A dead neutral pattern is to follow into early December. 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 (10/16) 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 and building slowly. TAO data suggests 1.0 deg C anomalies present from the Galapagos to 140W, fading to 0.5-1.0 degs west from there to the dateline. +1.0 deg C anomalies are forecast west of the dateline. Hi res data suggests a string of pockets of +2.0 deg anomalies from the Galapagos to 125W (the new Kelvin Wave erupting there), and then 1.25-1.5 deg pockets from 155W to well west of the dateline (Kelvin Wave Generation Area), suggesting more warm water is poised to track east. It now appears warm water is building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region based on TAO and hi res imagery.
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. 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.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 near 140W. The significant feature of late is that this pocket is in rapid decline and being r.cgiaced with normal if not slightly warmer than normal waters. Given this situation, it suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin, rather than isolated only to the North Pacific as it has been most of this year. 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 10/25 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 170W and 100W tracking towards the Galapagos. This is good news in that it indicates the pipe is open and at least one if not two Kelvin Waves are in flight. The leading edge of the first Kelvin Wave is theoretically erupting over the Galapagos (with limited evidence of it at the surface now starting at 120W. Satellite data from 10/15 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 as predicted. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (10/15) indicates the first modest Kelvin Wave has developed in the west reaching east to 100W but is making no easterly headway. It is presumed the warm water is building on the surface there. A bit of a cooling followed (the presumable upwelling phase) and a new Kelvin wave is building back at 145E-160W, in sync with the satellite data and warmer and larger than this last one. It is assumed steady light westerly anomalies and 2 recent WWBs events over the past 20 days are feeding more warm water into the pipe. At this time we are well over the proverbial 'hump' and some sort of warm event is underway. As the first or the pair of Kelvin Waves arrives at the Galapagos now, more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things into minimal El Nino territory. And if when the second Kelvin Wave pushes east (about 3 months from now or Feb 10) then we are set. Of course what is good enough to feed storm develop and what constitutes an official El Nino are two different things. We are focused on the former. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 10/6 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. If anything it's moving into the moderate to strong category from the West Pacific to a point south of Hawaii. On and just south of the equator the current was generally pushing east to west in the moderate category. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest between 130E-170E and in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. 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.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 10/25 are stable and in an interesting way. It suggests water temps have built to +0.5 deg C and are to slowly but steadily increase building to +0.6 deg C in early November and are to hold through the Winter into Spring. But the real interesting part is that water temps are hold decently if not start building from +0.7 degs in May 2015, pushing +1.4 degs C by July. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: A downwelling Kelvin Wave was generated and pushed east starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. A weaker one followed in July with yet a modestly stronger one supposedly building in October. 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, even 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 2-3 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. Evidence of such includes a 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 finally Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27 and again on Oct 15 and agin in late Oct. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushed off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October (Fengshen and Vongfong). The only argument against the feedback loop now is a weak west moving Pacific Counter Current (rather than flowing east).
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 believable swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. A gale with 37 ft seas is forecast tracking under Tasmania on Tues AM (10/28) reaching the mid-Tasman Sea in the evening with 33 ft seas at 42S 159E, then quickly fading. Swell possible for Fiji if this comes to pass. And a second system to be right behind with 46 ft seas southwest of Tasmania on Wed AM at 55S 141E (2600 nmiles from Fiji on the 212 degree path). It's to be tracking east with seas fading to 42 ft Wed PM at 55S 150E (2350 nmiles from fiji on the 208 deg path). a quick fade to follow.
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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