New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Sunday (5/3) North and Central California had shoulder high windblown southwest windswell with chop on top. A little bit of southern hemi background swell was in there too. Southern California had thigh high northwest short period windswell wrapping into exposed breaks up north (maybe even a rare waist high section) and a little warbled but basically reasonably clean. It was more textured down into the LA Area. Southern hemi swell was hitting at exposed breaks down south in the waist to chest high range and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was chest to head high coming from the dateline and clean as can be - a beautiful sunny spring morning. The East Shore was getting the same north-northeast windswell at waist high at exposed breaks. The South Shore had some fading weak southern hemi swell at waist high and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA indicates that better size is coming starting Monday, swell from a gale that has been organizing in the Gulf since Friday. Decent late season swell is expected in by Monday and continuing into Wednesday though south winds might be an issue the first two days. Better conditions possible down into SLO. Southern CA is to see a fraction of this same Gulf swell providing something fun to ride through the middle of the week. No southern hemi swell during this window though. Oahu's North Shore is to see some of the Gulf energy too starting at sunset Sunday best on Monday and still holding decently into Tuesday before dropping off on Wednesday. The East Shore is to stay flat with no real trades forecast. The South Shore is to be quiet during the workweek with no southern hemi swell forecast.
Longterm, after the gale in the Gulf fades by Tuesday no other swell producing sources are suggested,.at least not immediately. There's been some continued indications something might develop on the dateline next weekend (5/10) but that's purely a guess by the models. Down south a decent storm tracked from well south of Tahiti east towards Chile with seas to 37-39 ft on Wed-Fri ((5/1), with little bit's of that swell expected into even Northern CA by Friday (5/8) likely providing rideable surf for the weekend for the entire state. Central and South America should do much better during the workweek. Make the most of this cause there's nothing on the charts for the next 7days, with one exception. That is a decent storm pattern forecast for the Tasman Sea, with 3 separate events scheduled this week pushing well to the north. Hawaii might even get a fraction of this swell assuming the storms materialize, after Fiji takes a chunk out of it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (5/3) the North Pacific jetstream looked surprisingly decent, flowing flat from just off Japan east over the dateline and into Central CA. No split pattern was in evidence. This is the first time in months this has happened, signaling perhaps the end of La Nina and the beginning of a real neutral cycle. This is good news. That said, there were no troughs of interest in the flow, though a decent pocket of 150 kt winds were north of Hawaii embedded in this flow supporting low pressure in the the Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours that pocket of winds is to push east and gradually loose steam while pushing into Central CA then lifting gradually north into the Pacific Northwest by Tuesday (5/5). But a weak consolidated flow is forecast to hold from off Japan east over the bulk of the North Pacific. Beyond 72 hours a weak but consolidated flat flow is forecast tracking over the North Pacific lifting a bit to the north, with hints of more energy starting to be injected into the flow by Sunday (5/10) from Siberia. It's very late in the season to expect this will result in anything, or to even think it will happen at all. But it's all quiet interesting given the absolute horrible state of the jet since December. So it's all good from this point forward.
At the surface the remnants of low were in the Gulf of Alaska at 988 mbs gently pushing east with winds to 25 kts and not doing anything but producing 9-10 sec period windswell. But swell from previous fetch was steaming towards the coast (see Gulf Gale below). A generally light pressure pattern was off California offering no windswell potential and no trades were blowing over the Hawaiian Islands. But rain was falling in Central CA, even up a t high elevations to near 8000 ft, the 2nd day in a row, and a product of the Gulf Gale and the flat jetstream pushing into the coast. Every drop counts. is Over the next 72 hours this low pressure system is to east to the east and push into British Columbia while dissipating, offering no more swell production potential. A neutral pressure pattern is to follow though hints of high pressure are to start showing, with light trades starting to push over Hawaii by Wednesday (5/6).
On Thursday low pressure system was building in the Western Gulf of Alaska with 35 kt northwest winds extending from the dateline to a point well north of Hawaii generating 23 ft seas at 45N 180W Thursday PM pushing southeast. Friday AM seas reached 25 ft at 44N 173W then moving while holding at 23 ft in the evening but covering a larger area at 42N 170W. More fetch at 35 kts developed Saturday AM (5/2) producing 23 ft seas again at 43N 168W, holding at 25 ft in the evening at 42N 160W. 23 ft seas held into Sunday AM at 41N 153W then are to be fading from 18-20 ft in the evening at 40N 148W. Residual 20 ft seas forecast into Monday AM.
Modest 14 sec period swell is expected for the North Shore by Sunday (5/3) after sunset peaking Monday at 5.2 ft @ 13 secs 6.5 ft faces) from 330 degrees. Swell down to 5 ft @ 11 secs on Tuesday (5.5 ft faces).
Swell is expected into US West Coast starting late Sunday up in Oregon and into Central CA on Monday (5/4) with swell to 5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.5 ft faces) from 285 degrees. A bit more is forecast on Tuesday with intermixed windswell, though pure swell is to hold at 6 ft @ 11 secs (6.5 ft faces) from 280 degrees. And finally on Wednesday (5/6) the best is expected with swell at 5.5 ft @ 14 secs producing 7.5 ft faces from 289-290 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (5/3) low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska fueled by the Active Phase of the MJO had finally suppressed northwest winds along the CA coast everywhere by the Channel Islands with light rain and modest south winds along the Central CA coast. A rare May shower pattern was in progress. South winds and an approaching front are forecast from Monterey Bay northward Monday and Tuesday before a weak clearing pattern and neutral pressure takes over. Rain is expected pushing over the San Francisco area down to Monterey Bay Sunday. Another decent load of rain is forecast for Northern CA and Oregon late Monday into Monterey Bay Tuesday with another pulse late Tuesday into Wednesday (5/6) before things finally dry out late Wednesday. Nice accumulations of warm late season rain looks possible. High pressure is to take over on Thursday (5/7) with north winds well in control at 20 kts from Pt Arena southward focused on Pt Conception, pushing 30 kts on Friday and 20-25 kts Saturday (5/9) and finally 15-20 kts on Sunday. A real blowout at exposed breaks. Southern CA looks likely to see some of these northwest winds too on Wed and Thurs, then moving into an eddy flow beyond. .
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (5/3) the South Pacific jetstream was split over the West but consolidated in the East with a 150 kt flow pushing southeast towards Southern Chile, no offering any energy in the US Swell window and mostly aimed south. Over the next 72 that pocket of energy is to persist over the far Southeast Pacific and pushing into Southern Chile, offering nothing for the US. The split pattern is to remain over the West Pacific again offering nothing of interest. Beyond 72 hrs a huge ridge is to develop southeast of New Zealand Wednesday (5/6) pushing the southern branch of the jet into Antarctica and holding well into next weekend (at least) totally shutting storm production down. A series of persistent very steep troughs are to push up into the Tasman Sea Wed and Sat (5/9) possibly offering some hope there, but that's it. This is not good.
At the surface on Sunday the remnants of the Southeastern Pacific Gale (details below) were fading just off the coast of Southern Chile and totally outside the US swell window. Residual 26 ft seas were on the eastern edge of the US swell window, bit of no real interest. No other swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours high pressure at 1032 mbs is to be building south of Tahiti pretty far to the south and pushing the storm track well to the south, if not suppressing storm development. No activity is expected.
Southeastern Pacific Gale
At the surface on Tuesday (4/28) a gale organized southeast of New Zealand and on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. 35-40 kt southwest winds built pushing 45 kts by evening at 62S 162W. Seas on the increase. By Wednesday AM a solid fetch of 45-50 kts southwest winds were in play at 62S 145W aimed 30 degrees east of the 194 degree path to California. Seas were building from 32 ft at 62S 150W. In the evening a most solid fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds were present at 60S 133W aimed 20 degree east of the 192 degree path to California. Seas built to 38 ft at 60S 142W. Thursday AM the storm deepened to 948 mbs with a broad area of 40-45 kt winds at 57S 127W aimed 40 degree east of the 186 degree path to CA with seas to 39 ft at 58S 130W. That fetch faded to the 35 kt range in the evening and pushing out of the California swell window at 53S 115W aimed decent northeast. 37 ft seas were modeled at 55S 119W. On Friday (5/1) this system faded with 35-40 kt east to southeast winds pushing towards southern Chile with residual 32 ft seas at 52S 111W fading away.
Some limited sideband swell from this one is possible reaching up to exposed breaks in Southern CA. Swell is to hit Southern CA on Thurs (5/7) late with swell 2 ft @ 19-20 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) from 190 degrees Friday swell to reach near 3.0 ft @ 18 secs (5 ft faces at top spots) from 188 degree. More is expected in on Saturday at 2.6-3.0 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces) then fade on Sunday from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft faces).
Swell is to hit Northern CA on Fri (5/8) with swell 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces) from 188 degree. Swell to peak on Saturday at 2.3-2.6 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) then fade on Sunday from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft faces).
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 high pressure at 1024 mbs is to start building directly off Central CA on Wednesday (5/6) with a gradient in control of the coast Thursday producing 20-25 kt north winds and short period windswell, through focused more on Pt Conception. 30 kt north winds forecast there on Friday, trying to drift north on Saturday with winds down to 25 kts then fading into Sunday. Short period northerly windswell the likely result. Trades are forecast building off the south side of this high over Hawaii by Thursday and continuing through the weekend. Short period east windswell the likely result along east facing shores.
Out on the dateline low pressure that is to push of Japan on Friday is to head northeast fast, with a 968 mb gale in the southern Bering Sea on the dateline early Sunday (5/19) producing 35 kt northwest winds south of the Aleutians and building seas. But this is a wild guess at best. Kinda late in the season to expect much of anything.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (5/3) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index dropping well into the negative range. The Daily SOI index up some to -7.87, providing 8 days in a row of negative readings (after 26 days of positive values). The 30 day average was down to 6.27 and the 90 day average was down to 6.43 (the lowest in 6+ moths). The SOI indicies remained weakly symptomatic of La Nina mainly attributable to the 90 day average but were trending more towards dead neutral. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that the Active Phase had peaked out on 5/2 with westerly anomalies covering the entire equatorial Western Pacific to the dateline and into Central America. It is to be weakening a little as it tracks east but still filling the Pacific by 5/7 and then heading east but still having an effect over the Eastern Pacific through 5/10. A new version of the Inactive Phase is building in the Indian Ocean on 5/2, but is expected to be weak as it moves east, limping to the dateline by 5/12-5/17, and gone by 5/20 with only fragmented reaching the Eastern Pacific. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina remain in-control in the atmosphere though weaker than in weeks and months past. Cooler than normal surface water off of Central America are gone with normal, neutral water temps back in-play if not verging on slightly warmer than normal. And below the surface on the equator, cool water that had locked down the region are essentially gone, the first time in months, with a steady flow of normal subsurface water tracking from the West Pacific over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America. So now we are waiting to see if this current episode of the Active Phase will start pushing warm waters of the West Pacific eastward, kicking us into a warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. There is evidence of a Westerly Wind Burst occurring on the dateline on Sunday (5/3), but we'll have to wait to see if that results in a transport of warm subsurface waters pushing to the east. And it now appears that for the first time since November 2008, a consolidated jetstream pattern is occurring over the North Pacific, a early sign of recovery if it holds. But months of high pressure off California and stiff north winds there turning trades over Hawaii has resulted in a huge cool tongue of water extending from Central CA the whole way over Hawaii to the dateline generating massive upwelling. We had expected 1-2 more months of high pressure before a possible neutral pattern takes hold (i.e. no split in the jetstream over the North Pacific - warmer waters off California). But that might be healing even earlier than expected.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no additional swell development in the South Pacific until Wednesday (5/6). At that time a push of energy is expected to start tracking into the Tasman Sea from under Australia with 35 kt south winds fed by an upper trough forecast in that area. Seas building to 26 ft at 45S 155E. That to push up to northwest New Zealand on Thursday (5/7) with 35 kt south winds there and more 26 ft seas aimed straight at Fiji. Another gale is to build in the South Tasman Sea on Friday again with 35 kt south winds pushing into the Center of the Tasman Sea on Saturday (5/9) with near 45 kt south winds and seas building to 32 ft at 36S 167E, with winds fading Sunday off Northwestern New Zealand and seas peaking at 36 ft at 34S 168E. This looks incredibly good for Fiji assuming it occurs (odds very low).
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