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 (4/19) North and Central California was seeing locally generated windswell producing waves at maybe waist high with southern hemi background swell at the same size at exposed breaks. Winds were light and conditions glassy early. Southern California was seeing southern hemi swell in the waist to maybe chest high range up north and clean early. Down south southern hemi swell was waist to near chest high and clean and well lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing windswell in the waist to chest high range and a little textured with modest trades in effect. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated east windswell at knee to thigh high and chopped. The South Shore was getting the New Zealand southern hemi swell with waves chest to head high and a bit tattered from east-southeast trades.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Wednesday is to see windswell dropping out to 2 ft (faces) with southern hemi swell 3 ft (on the face). Thursday windswell fades more with new southern hemi swell to 2.5 ft early. Windswell bumps up on Friday to near 2.5 ft with new semi real southern hemi swell 3.5 ft. Saturday southern hemi swell peaks at 4 ft then fading Sunday from 4 ft.
Southern California is to see no windswell of interest. Southern hemi background swell is to be waist to chest high Wednesday. Swell fades to waist high Thursday with new southern hemi swell arriving Friday at near chest high. Saturday southern hemi swell peaks at chest high fading Sunday from waist to chest high.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see northwest windswell fading from shoulder high early Wednesday and waist high or less Thursday. Maybe some more windswell on Saturday at waist high and maybe thigh high early Sunday.
The East Shore is to see no east windswell Wednesday then maybe bumping up to knee high Thursday then back to flat Friday. Knee to thigh high east windswell for Saturday and up slightly Sunday.
The South Shore is to see better southern hemi swell arriving Wednesday at almost 1 ft overhead fading from shoulder high plus early Thursday and chest to shoulder high Friday. Saturday that swell fades from waist high with knee high leftovers Sunday.
The North Pacific is asleep and expected to stay that way with no seas in excess of 17 ft forecast for the next week. Down south a decent gale pushed under New Zealand Tues-Thurs (4/14) with 40-42 ft seas but shadowed by Tahiti. Swell from it started hitting Hawaii late on Tuesday and is expected into the US West Coast near the weekend. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is aimed up into our forecast area and nothing else forecast for the next 7 days.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (4/19) the jetstream was pushing off Japan running almost flat to the east over the dateline with winds to 170 kts in a pocket just off Japan, and then on into Oregon but much weaker with winds not exceeding 100 kts. No troughs of interest were indicated, but the split jetstream pattern which has plagued the North Pacific was gone too. Over the next 72 hours the winds pocket off Japan is to be pushing over dateline with winds down to 140 kts and something that almost looks like a trough trying to form there. Maybe some support for low pressure development possible in that area. Beyond 72 hours that wind energy is to push east and hold, at 140 kts off Oregon on Sunday (4/24) with a semi real trough forecast on the dateline and providing some support for low pressure development. The trough and winds energy are to push east with the trough just off the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday providing more support for low pressure development down at the oceans surface.
At the surface on Tuesday (4/19) nothing of real interest was occurring. Weak low pressure at 1016 mbs was 800 nmiles west of San Francisco (winds only 20 kts) with a much broader system trying to organize on the dateline, but fetch only up to 25 kts. Weak high pressure was in between the two and not strong enough to even generate trades greater than 15 kts over and east of the Hawaiian Islands. Over the next 72 hours the low off California is to move inland over Central CA early Thursday (4/21) while the broad low over the dateline continues to circulate generating 25 kt westerly fetch. Seas to 17 ft on the dateline possible maybe holding a smidgen of potential for windswell for the Hawaiian Islands. Set your sites low.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (4/19) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was trying to ridge into Central CA from a position off the Pacific Northwest. Light winds were in control everywhere but Cape Mendocino (northwest 15-20 kts there). Weak low pressure was 800 nmiles west of San Francisco pushing east. The low is to track east into and over the San Francisco Bay area by Thursday (4/21) with modest south winds at 10 kts expected ahead of it on Wednesday extending down to Pt Conception. Light rain is forecast for the same area late Wednesday into Thursday AM, with 1 ft or snow in the Lake Tahoe region. But by Thursday AM high pressure is to be ridging in behind the low generating northwest winds at 15-20 kts for the entire North and Central CA coasts chopping things up pretty well, and slowly fading into Friday. Again a large area of low pressure is to be moving into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska by Saturday AM reducing northwest winds from Pismo Beach northward with southerly winds possible for that area into Sunday. Rain moving into the north coast before sunrise Saturday, then down to San Francisco mid-AM and to Monterey Bay by sunset. Additional rain down to Monterey Bay through Sunday. High pressure is to finally take hold on Tues (4/26) with northwest winds back in control.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast in the California or Hawaiian swell windows. Remnants of the New Zealand Gale (details below) are regenerating just off the southern tip of South America with south winds to 50 kts and expected to generate a small area of seas to 36 ft by mid-Wednesday (4/20) aimed northeast, but aimed well east of any great circle track to US interests. Chile and Peru might do well though.
Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs is to be building east of New Zealand on Thursday (4/21) driving the storm track to the southeast pretty much shutting down swell generation potential for the Southwest and Central Pacific.
New Zealand Gale
A gale built south of the Tasman Sea tracking east-northeast on Tues (4/12) producing a solid area of 40 kt west-southwest winds and seas building. With the Antarctic Ice Sheet at it's Fall minimum, the fetch was getting some traction on ice free waters there. By Tuesday evening the fetch built to 45 kts over a solid fetch area while pushing east-northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 58S 168E (a long ways from the US West Coast - 6690 nmiles away on the 212 deg track - and aimed pretty much east of the 199 deg great circle track to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southeast quadrant of this system and reported average seas at 28.4 ft with one reading to 32.8 ft where the model indicated 32 ft seas. This was about right on track. 45 kt winds held into Wed AM (4/13) with seas to 40 ft at 56S 178E (210 degs CA -193 degs HI), with new fetch developing a bit south of there. By Wed PM 45 kt southwest winds were blowing generating 42 ft seas at 56S 170W (205 deg NCal - 185 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system again and reported average seas at 31.1 ft with one reading to 34.4 ft where the model indicated 31 ft seas. This was right on track. Thursday AM (4/14) 45 kt west winds continued to hold generating 44 ft seas at 55S 161W bypassing Hawaii and aimed a bit east of the 201 degree track to CA. By evening the fetch is to be fading fast and aimed due east with seas from previous fetch at 42-43 ft and fading fast at 54S 151W (197 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system are reported average seas at 28.8 ft with one reading to 36.4 ft where the model indicated 30 ft seas. This was again right on track.
This system developed right on track with the models and the models were well correlated to the readings coming off the Jason-1 satellite, though most of those readings were from the outer periphery of the systems rather than over it's core. For the most part this system was totally shadowed from CA by Tahiti and surrounding Islands and fetch aimed well east of any track going up to Hawaii. The net result is to be rideable swell at both locations, but nothing to get excited about. Just something rideable. Tahiti will do alright, but not optimal.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting at sunset Tues (4/19) with period 20 secs and size likely no noticeable, but building overnight. Swell to be 2.6 ft @ 18 secs sunrise Wed (4/20) with sets near 5 ft (face) and holding through the day. Swell to hold solid Thurs (4/21) with swell 3 ft @ 16 secs early (5 ft faces with bigger sets), then starting to fade some later in the day. Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft faces) on Fri (4/22) and fading. Swell Direction: 185-195 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving later Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 205-210 degrees
Northern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving late Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 203-208 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 hrs the dateline low pressure system is forecast to track east pushing into the Western Gulf Sat-Sun (4/24) generating a modest fetch of 25-30 kt west winds north of Hawaii and west of Oregon possible setting up 18 ft seas pushing east towards the Pacific Northwest. Maybe some limited 11 sec period windswell might result if all goes as forecast.
As of Tuesday (4/19) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued in the positive range, though down from previous readings. The daily SOI was down to 15.79. The 30 day average was up to 25.15 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.18.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (4/18) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was gone with only a tiny area of weak westerly anomalies holding just over the dateline and neutral conditions everywhere else. They were having no impact on the daily SOI. These anomalies are to be dissipated on the dateline 4/23 with neutral conditions in control then on into 5/8. At the same time the Inactive Phase was all but gone in the Central Indian Ocean and expected to be dissipated while tracking east on 4/28, not even getting out of the Eastern Indian Ocean. It looks like the pull of Springtime trumps anything the MJO is trying to produce at this point, meaning that the 2010-2011 Winter season is likely over.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/18) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a a good bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing 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. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relenting some as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But there had also been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there that was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently (4/19) a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies are tracking from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline. The thought is this normalization of the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though painstakingly slow.
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 almost normal and any anomalies that persisted were dying to almost totally normal as of 3/27.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. 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. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours there's some suggestion of a gale starting to build under New Zealand on Tues (4/26) with 50 kts southwest winds. It's a very long reach for the models though. At least it's a little tease to monitor.
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