New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (1/5) North and Central California was getting background low level Gulf swell with waves in the chest high to head high range and glassy. Southern California was small with waves knee to maybe waist high on the sets with light onshore winds up north mid-day but near dead flat down south and glassy. Hawaii's North Shore was on the increase with Swell #10 starting to hit and surf double overhead and southwest winds in control and on the increase. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore was asleep for the winter.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for continued small surf Wednesday (1/6) in the waist high range. New weak dateline swell is expected in on Thursday at 2 ft overhead then getting overridden by utility class Swell #10 on Friday expected in the double overhead range. Leftovers to continue into Saturday with perhaps a little increase in size overnight Saturday, fading on Sunday. Southern California to see continued small surf Wednesday at less than waist high then building through the day Thursday (1/7) to waist high or a little more and then building Friday to near 6 ft faces holding into Saturday. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see more of Swell #10 on Wednesday, though fading from 16 ft with another pulse in on Thursday at near 19 ft on the face then slowly fading on Friday. The East Shore is to have no easterly windswell. The South Shore is in hibernation for the winter.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is expected to quickly transition from the Inactive Phase to the Active Phase by 1/14 which should help to fuel as stronger storm pattern for the weeks ahead. Storm # 10 is starting to push swell into the Islands and that swell is to reach California by Friday, but far more limited in size due to the storms extreme southern track. Another gale is forecast for the Central Gulf Thurs/Fri (1/8) with 37 ft seas possibly pushing more energy towards the US mainland, with yet another forecast right behind tracking from the dateline into the Gulf Sat/Sun (1/10) with seas pushing 41 ft with another smaller one right on it's heels headed for impact with Northern CA Tues/Wed (1/13). Perhaps a breakdown of local high pressure that has been protecting the mainland is in store for the next week. That could mean snow in the Sierra.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (1/5) the North Pacific jetstream remained flowing hard and flat off Southern Japan on an increasing southerly route near 30N tracking east over the dateline up to 180 kts pushing to a point just 550 nmiles northeast of Hawaii, then loosing energy and .cgiitting with two weak stream pushing west from there, one up into northern Oregon and the other over the southern tip of Baja. This .cgiit supports high pressure at the surface in between the two streams effectively protecting California from moisture. A modest trough was present on the dateline supporting Storm #10 down at the surface that was pushing north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hrs that trough is to dig out even more north of Hawaii on Wednesday into Thursday through wind speed is to weaken, dampening gale continuation in that area. But at the same time more energy is to be building over Japan, and the .cgiit point in the jet pushing east to just 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast. Beyond 72 hours on Friday (1/8) the trough off California is to totally fall apart and the jet is to weaken over the East Pacific, but things are to remain quite active over the dateline with wind energy in the jet there still at near 200 kts surging east towards the US West Coast but only reach to Hawaii. By Sunday (1/10) a solid trough on the leading edge of the jet is to start pushing hard east with winds in the jet at 190 kts and inching there way east, reaching Southern CA perhaps by Tuesday 91/12). A dramatic change in the local weather pattern is expected then. At the same time more energy is to be building over Southern Japan with all energy flowing flat east on the 30n latitude. Looks like El Nino is well dug in now. It's only a matter of time before the ticking time bomb starts really setting the storm pattern into motion.
At the surface on Tuesday (1/5) weak high pressure remained locked over Central California at 1020 mbs, providing a small wall of protection against a build storm pattern well out to sea. Storm #10 (really a gale) was filling the Central Pacific with a new smaller system trying to organize just off Japan. Over the next 72 hours starting on Wednesday evening the residuals of Storm #10 are to reorganize in the Gulf of Alaska with pressure down to 964 mbs generating 45 kts northwest winds at 41N 168W aimed a bit down the 339 degree path to Hawaii and 35 degrees south of the 292 degree path into NCal. Seas building from 30 ft at 41N 160W. This is further north than anything in recent weeks but not that much to the north. On Thursday AM (1/7) 40-45 kts west wind are forecast at 40N 159W aimed right up the 285 degree path to NCal. Seas building to 35 ft at 40N 160W. In the evening 40 kt west winds are to be fading at 38N 152W aimed about like before. Seas forecast fading from 36 ft at 40N 154W. On Friday AM (1/8) no fetch is to be left with seas fading fast from 32 ft at 39N 150W. Assuming all this occurs as modeled a possible small significant class swell could result for exposed break along the Southwest US Coast. If so, it would be labeled Storm #11.
Storm #10 - Hawaii
on Saturday (1/2) a new co.cgiex double barreled gale was developing with one core just off Northern Japan and the other on the dateline. The stronger of the two was off Japan with winds modeled at 40-45 kts at 37N 150E. Seas were building. On Saturday (1/2) evening 45 kt west-northwest winds from this system were at 35N 160E aimed right up the 299 degree path to Hawaii and too south to be on any route to CA. Seas were building to 39 ft at 35N 158E. On Sunday AM (1/3) a tiny area of 45 kt westerly winds held at 35N 170E with seas at 37 ft at 34N 168E aimed right down the 299 degree path to Hawaii and too far south to be of much use to CA. In the evening the gale reorganized some with a slightly broader area of 45 kt west winds building at 35N 180W on the dateline aimed right down the 310 degree path to Hawaii and 30 degrees south of the 285 degree path to NCal. Seas were modeled at 37 ft at 33N 178E. On Monday AM (1/4) a decent sized fetch of 40 kt west winds held at 35N 170W generating more 37 ft seas at 33N 172W, aimed about like before. In the evening this system was faltering with 35-40 kts west winds at roughly 35N 162W with 32 ft seas centered at 33N 164W pushing 60 degrees east of the 335 degree path to Hawaii and starting to favor the US West Coast, pushing right up the 275 degree path. On Tuesday AM (1/5) 40 kts west fetch was regenerating back at 35N 174W with 30 ft seas at 33N 180W. In the evening the fetch is to hold and lift north some with 40 kts west winds at 35N 162W generating 32 ft seas at 32N 170W aimed down the 307 degree path to the Islands and barely up the 279 degree path to NCal. On Wednesday AM (1/6) 35 kts winds to continue at 38N 158W aimed entirely at the US West Coast with 32 ft seas at 30N 163W pushing up the 313 degree path to the Islands and not really up the 272 degree path to Central and North CA and the 275 degree path to SCal. This system is to be fading in the evening with residual 35 kt west fetch at 35N 150W generating seas of 30 ft at 30N 160W pushing up the 336 degree path to Hawaii and barely up the 269 degree path to North and Central CA and the 273 degree path to SCal.
Hawaii is to see another solid pulse of significant class swell (Swell #10) starting 10 AM Tuesday (1/5) with period increasing and size slowly building, with swell peaking starting at 5 PM and holding through 11 PM, with pure swell 11-12 ft @ 17 secs (19-20 ft Hawaiian) then settling down some on Wed (1/6) sunrise from 11 ft @ 15-16 secs (16-18 ft Hawaiian) from the 300-315+ degree routes. Southwest winds to be a problem on the North Shore of Oahu. A very local and westerly second pulse is to possibly arrive in the Islands on Thurs (1/7) starting at 3 AM HST with period 16 secs and building quickly, peaking from 9 AM to 1 PM at 11 ft @ 17 secs (19 ft Hawaiian) from 307-315 degrees then simmering down in the later afternoon. Kona winds expected early turning trades late.
California is expected to see only utility class surf from this system (See QuikCASTs for details). This system is tracking very far to the south, putting less energy onto the great circle tracks into the state (277-287 degrees NCal/280-290 SCal).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/5) light east to calm winds were in control of Central and Southern CA, with clean conditions still in.cgiace. This pattern is expected to hold into Thursday (1/7) while a stronger gale pattern builds offshore and the jetstream makes a.cgiay to push further east. Latest data suggest perhaps a light southerly breeze to start effecting waters as far south as Monterey Bay on Friday (1/8) as a weak front tries to move into the area, but dissipates as high pressure weakly builds back in for the weekend. But by Monday (1/11) local low pressure is to impact the coast with south winds and rain likely and a whole string of reinforcements stacking up right behind for the bulk of the workweek. Maybe a real El Nino pattern might finally take hold but at this time it looks limited to locations north of Pt Conception. .
At the surface 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 hrs yet another gale is to build off Japan on Thursday (1/7) with 40-45 kt west-southwest winds building at 35N 168E aimed right up the 292 degree path to NCal and seas building from 32 ft at 33N 160E. On Friday (1/8) a small area of 45-50 kts west winds are forecast at 40N 180W again aimed up the 292 degree path with seas building from 36ft at 35N 180W. On Saturday AM (1/9) a building fetch of 45-50 kt west winds is forecast at 39N 168W aimed right up the 287 degree path to NCal with 38 ft seas forecast at 38N 170W. in the evening 45 kt west winds are still forecast at 39N 155W producing 43 ft sea at 38N 162W all tracking due east. On Sunday AM (1/10) a broad but weakening fetch of 35 kts west winds is forecast at 39N 152W with seas at 43 ft at 38N 153W In the evening this system is to be dissipating with seas fading from 36 ft at 38n 147W. Current data suggest another significant class swell (Storm #12) could result for California, bu accompanied by wind and rain as the jetstream roars onshore aloft.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (1/5) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading fast from the Inactive Phase. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index was positive with the Daily SOI at 14.09. The 30 day average was up to -6.21 with the 90 average up to -9.96.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicating easterly anomalies in control of the dateline region and working their way into Central America. This was a quicker eastward progression than anticipated. Regardless, this theoretically should be helping to suppress storm development some, but not too much with El Nino now fully in control of the storm pattern both at the surface and up at the jetstream level. This area is peaked out and is expected to slowly fade out in the Eastern Pacific through 1/14. At the same time a new version of the Active Phase is already forming and filling the Indian Ocean with Westerly anomalies and is expected to seep east to New Guinea by 1/9, reaching the dateline 1/19, then fading some while holding there to Jan 24 and beyond. For now the Inactive Phase is likely causing some degree of storm suppression, but not much through 1/14/2010.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/4) indicates that warmer than normal waters were consolidated on the equator from the Galapagos Islands west to the dateline and even west of there, and holding. A new strong Kelvin Wave (see below) has erupted along the coast and some evidence of it can be seen with a most solid warm anomaly signature present over and just west of the Galapagos Islands. It is expected that water temps will continue to increase yet more over the coming weeks as this Kelvin Wave and a new one (see below) continues impacting the coast there. This is classic El Nino. Overall the warm water signature remains non-exceptional from a historical El Nino perspective, but clearly in the moderate category and slowly but steadily building. This appears to be a late blooming ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator things continue to look favorable. A steady flow of warmer than normal subsurface water continues tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America as it has for months now. As of 1/4 the Kelvin Wave we've been tracking with a core of 5-6 deg C warmer than normal sub-surface water was fully impacting the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador coast, but pretty much peaked out. This is fueling a modest increase in the warm water surface pool as it continues impacting the coast there. This pool is expected to continue building and eventually tracking back west on the equator driven by trades. This Kelvin Wave first appeared under the dateline on 9/17 and tracked steadily east through 12/1 and was the result of a prolonged persistent westerly surface wind flow that had been in.cgiace west of the dateline from 9/8 and continued into 11/5. Of additional interest was a new pocket of warm water that pushed west from the dateline, with anomalies now up to 5 deg C above normal and effectively merging with the previously existing Kelvin Wave, forming a continuous pool of warm subsurface water at 4-5 deg C above normal extending from 160W into South America. Pretty impressive, especially considering we are about ready to enter a new Active Phase of the MJO with the potential to produce yet anther Kelvin Wave.
Over the Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing, but only in the normal range and not of any real concern yet. At some point in the next 2 months we expect the pattern of anomalously west winds to break down and fully normal trades to take over. But that will likely not happen until sometime after the next Active Phase of the MJO completes it's cycle, in maybe mid-February. Previously a Westerly Wind Burst continued very obvious starting on 11/30 with fully blowing west winds near 165E, and strong. This Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued on 12/2 through 12/8 with a most solid area of west winds pushing almost to the dateline. On 12/6 strong west anomalies pushed to 170W and held solid through 12/15, with fully blowing west winds reaching to the dateline and anomalies to 170W. This WWB started fading by 12/17 but was still present pushing to 175E with neutral (normal) winds east of there. Fully blowing West winds were evidenced on Sat (12/19) and Mon (12/21) reaching to the dateline with westerly anomalies pushing well southeast of Hawaii. This configuration fed the Kelvin Wave currently pushing east from the dateline (see above), and is helping to fuel the development of El Nino. If anything, subsurface water temps are expected to increase as the WWB continues pushing warm water into the depths on the dateline, feeding the developing Kelvin Wave there. And the Kelvin Wave currently hitting Ecuador was formed from a prolonged bout and mult.cgie pulses of westerly winds and westerly anomalies that occurred from 9/8 through 11/2. At one point towards it's end the anomalies reached the whole way from the West Pacific to almost Ecuador. Embedded in that run were Typhoons Dujuan, Choi-Wan, Parma, Melor and Nepartak. All this helped to deepen the surface warm pool in the tropical Eastern Pacific. Typhoon Nida and Storm #5 was associated with the most recent WWB. So at this time two Kelvin Waves are in the pipe. Impressive.
El Nino is expected to affect the global atmospheric weather pattern at least through Spring of next year if not into the middle of summer. All data suggests this will not be a strong El Nino, more likely a moderate one. NOAA's last update (11/5) forecasts the same outcome, though hints at some uncertainty. In short, all the best models aren't exactly sure how this is going to.cgiay out. Regardless a solid accumulation of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific is evidence in-favor of continued development. As long as there continues to be WWB's (as there obviously is), then warm water will be migrating east, and the warm water pattern will hold if not build, and the atmosphere above it will respond in-kind to the change (towards El Nino). At this point there is no evidence to suggest this El Nino will stall or dissipate. The only remaining question is whether it will hold, or grow. And current data indicates that the warm pool will hold if not slowly build. And historically it is already larger and strong than any other in the past 12 years.
The current El Nino is gaining strength, with a 2 degree water temp anomaly in the tropical East Pacific the likely outcome. Coverage is pretty solid for this event, but the lack of really high water temp anomalies will likely limit it's strength. Strong El Ninos bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast, along with the potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides storm and swell enhancement, a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, but without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. As of right now things remain better than anything the Pacific has seen in the past 12 years regarding anomalous sea surface temperatures, besting anything since the big El Nino of 1997. That is very good news. But the lack of anomalous water temps exceeding 3 degrees and an unremarkable SOI suggests a modest El Nino at best. Still, it should be enough to provide storm enhancement, and a better than average winter surf season for the North Pacific, and still likely better than anything in the past 10 years. Better yet, if it's not too strong (as this event appears to be) perhaps it will not degrade into La Nina the year after (which typically happens after stronger El Ninos), but hold in some mild El Nino like state for several years in a row. This would be an even better outcome.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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