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 (2/1) this first day of February North and Central California was getting leftover dateline swell in the 1 ft overhead range and kinda warbled though nearshore winds were offshore. Southern California was getting the same swell with waves waist to chest high or so up north and pretty clean early. Down south it was about the same but with more northwest winds on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more locally generated northerly swell with waves double plus overhead and pretty warbled with Konas still in control. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA for Wednesday is for more westerly residuals remaining at 4.5-5.0 ft (faces) then bumping up some on Thursday to 9 ft from the west. A little more swell is expected in on Friday from a gale in the Western Gulf to 9-10 ft fading to 6 ft on Saturday and dropping from 4.5 ft on Sunday. Southern California is to see thigh to waist high leftovers on Wednesday then possible head high new westerly swell for Thursday. Waist high leftovers on Friday pushing up to chest high on Saturday (Gulf reinforcements) fading from a little over waist high Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see 8 ft (faces) leftover local swell on Wednesday fading from 7-8 ft early Thursday. This same energy is to hold in the 7ft range Friday before possible new swell builds in on Saturday at 11 ft and up to 14 ft on Sunday. The East Shore is to see waist high easterly windswell Wed-Fri then dropping off some. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control now and expected to die on the vine with neutral conditions (trending towards the Inactive Phase) holding through the end of the month with a generalized downturn in swell development potential for the North Pacific forecast. A rather modest gale formed just east of the dateline on Saturday (1/29) dropping southeast towards Hawaii through Monday with 26-28 ft seas providing a decent shot of raw local swell for the Islands but most energy traveling south of any path to the US West Coast. Maybe some swell expected into CA on Thursday (2/3) but set your sites low. One more small gale tracked east from the dateline Mon-Tues (2/1) with up to 34 ft seas fading 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. Maybe some very limited sideband swell for the Islands and utility class swell for the US west coast late in the week. Looking at the models one last modest gale is forecast forming just east of the dateline Thurs-Fri (2/4) producing 32-34 ft seas over a small area for 24 hrs and not making any eastern headway. Hawaii might get a decent shot of swell if all goes as forecast. But beyond, things are expected to really settle down with no MJO and therefore jetstream activity expected to support gale development for at least the next 4 weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (2/1) the jetstream continued looking solid with a consolidated flow of up to 200 kt winds tracking flat off Japan reaching to a point just east of the dateline with something that almost looked like a trough pushing through the Western Gulf of Alaska. Decent support for gale development was suggested. East of there the jetstream totally split pushing due north and south only supporting high pressure in the upper reaches of the atmosphere anchored between Hawaii and CA. A large trough was pushing down the eastern Sierras feeding another winter storm over the interior US mainland. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with winds in the jet fading slowly to 180 kts with a little bit better of a trough forming on the dateline Thurs-Fri (2/4) helping to support gale development there. Beyond 72 hours the flow of energetic winds of Japan is to start evaporating with speeds down to 140 kts or less by late Sunday (2/6) with the trough on the dateline still holding, but loosing it's ability to fuel much at lower elevations of the atmosphere. And by Tuesday the flow, though still consolidated, is to be completely anemic. Expect a massive split to start developing in the West a week out, but that is purely a guess.
At the surface on Tuesday residual 40 kt fetch associated with the Western Gulf gale (see details below) were fading about 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. It was actually embedded in a cluster of other generic and non-specific fetch in the 30 kt range aimed east. High pressure was locked down tight at near 1040 mbs pushing into the Pacific Northwest with a tail still hanging off the California coast. A new patch of 30 kt northwest winds were trying to build just off the coast of Japan though no clear swell production potential was being exhibited.
Over the next 72 hours a moderate sized gale organized while pushing east off Japan Saturday and Sunday (1/30). By Sunday evening 40 kt winds were modeled in it's southern quadrant at 41N 177E aimed right up the 293 degree path to NCal and 30 degrees east of the 318 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building. Monday AM (1/31) a small area of 45 kt west winds held at 41N 176W again favoring the paths into the US West Coast. Seas building from 24 ft at 40N 178W (293 degs NCal & 321 HI). In the evening west winds held at 45 kts over a slight larger area (but still small) with the fetch pushing due east at 40N 1634W with 32 ft seas over a tiny area at 40N 169W (290 degs NCal & 333 HI and pushing pretty much east of any great circle paths there). On Tuesday AM (2/1) the fetch was fading fast from 40 kts with 34 ft seas at 40N 163W (287 degs NCal). This system is to be gone in the evening with 30 ft seas from previous fetch at 41N 158W (288 degs NCal).
This system developed much weaker than originally anticipated by the models, even 24 hours before it's formation. The most reasonable expectation is for a modest pulse of swell radiating east towards the US West Coast (6.5-7.0 ft @ 16 secs on Fri - 11-12 ft faces - 289 degs) with limited sideband swell (6 ft @ 14 secs - 9 ft faces on Fri AM - 320-335 degs) for Hawaii .
Previous another gale formed on the dateline. It started to get organized Saturday AM (1/29) with 30 kt west winds at 33N 175E (positioned well south - 300 HI). This system then got better organized Saturday PM (1/29) evening with 35 kt northwest winds building at 32N 172W with 20 ft seas building at 32N 175W (312 degs HI). Sunday AM (1/30) 35 kts fetch grew in areal coverage at roughly 30N 165W aimed right at Hawaii and only 600 nmiles to the northwest and all falling southeast. Sea built to 26 ft at 30N 170W (312 degs HI). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds continued tracking more east than south at 30N 160W starting to bypass the Islands with 28 ft seas at 29N 160W also targeting Hawaii directly up the 336 degree path. Fetch was fading from 30 kts Monday AM (1/31) with seas fading and pushing east of Hawaii at 26 ft at 33N 158W (273 degs NCal). This system dissipated after that. Larger but raw swell of 12 ft @ 13-14 secs hit the Hawaiian Islands Monday AM and was fading Tuesday. Swell Direction: 312-330 degrees.
Some small sideband energy from this system is expected to reach into Central CA near 8 AM Thurs (2/3) with pure swell 6 ft @ 14 secs (8-9 ft faces) from 272-278 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/1) high pressure at 1028 mbs was sagging down the California coast from a core at 1040 mbs centered over the Great Basin. North to northwest winds at 15-20 kts were indicated over outer CA waters though less nearshore. By Wednesday those are to break down and an offshore flow is to take root holding into Thursday. A new high pressure center is to build to 1036 mbs on Friday AM off Oregon setting up a bit of a gradient over Cape Mendocino with north winds 20 kt up there but still offshore down into greater Central CA. The gradient is to take on a more offshore characteristic over Cape Mendo over the weekend with winds to 25 kts blowing from the northeast with an offshore flow early over Central and Southern CA. The gradient is to dissolve on Monday with an offshore flow and dry weather continuing.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs one more moderate sized gale is to try and organize on the dateline starting Wed PM (2/2) with pressure down to 980 mbs and 45 kt northwest winds at 40N 175E. Seas building from 26 ft. On Thursday AM (2/3) 50-55 kt northwest winds are forecast at 37N 180W aimed well at Hawaii with 28 ft seas on the increase at 39N 175W (328 degs HI). 50 kt winds to hold in that area shifting south some in the evening with 34 ft seas building at 38N 173W aiming at both Hawaii (327 degs) and NCal (287 degs). By evening a quick fade is forecast with winds down to 35 kts and seas from previous fetch 32 ft at 37N 172W (327 HI & 286 NCal). If all goes as planned another small pulse of swell in the 17 sec range could radiate towards both Hawaii and the US West Coast.
No other swell producing weather system are forecast.
At some point in the next week or two is is believed the jetstream will fall apart and the storm track dissolve in sync with the dispersal of the Active Phase of the MJO (see below).
As of Tuesday (2/1) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI on 1/1 was 30.02. The 30 day average was up to 19.42 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.44.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (2/1) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO had dissipated and a very weak version of the Inactive Phase in control providing easterly anomalies over Northern Australia (and that's all). Even those are forecast to be gone on 2/5 and a dead neutral pattern is expected through 2/20. But we assume the Inactive Phase to surge some mid-month. The Inactive Phase is likely to start shutting down gale development potential now and is expected to continue through the end of the month. Also somewhere in the middle of that, north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds-in much stronger and earlier than usual (mid-late Feb).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/31) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, and solidifying it's coverage. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and even colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10-1/17. Current data as of 2/2 suggests temps still 4 degrees C below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. As of 1/29 these anomalies had backed off, presumable due to the influence of the Active phase of the MJO. But that should be fading shortly with easterly anomalies taking control.
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table