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 (5/31) North and Central California had building thigh to waist high west windswell at exposed breaks coming from a gale that was north of Hawaii Thurs-Sat (5/30). Light local winds. Southern California was near flat with no real swell in the water. Maybe some thigh high sets at the top spots. Hawaii's North Shore had some waist high northeast windswell or so sets at top spots and clean as can be. The East Shore had northeast windswell from the gale that was north of the Islands at waist to near chest high on the sets. The South Shore had some rarer waist high southern hemi background swell and clean, though mostly much smaller that that. It's summertime.
The forecast for North and Central CA remains pretty quiet for the short term, with a little more thigh high background windswell coming out of the west into Monday then fading out. Minimal southern hemi background swell at thigh high possible on late Wed into Thurs but that's it. Southern CA is to remain near dead flat through the early part of the week. Maybe some minimal background southern hemi swell by Wednesday (6/3) to thigh high with luck holding into Thursday. Oahu's North Shore is to see fading northeast windswell Monday originating from that gale that was northeast of the Islands late last week. Maybe some small northwest windswell to show for Wednesday, but that's it. The East Shore is not expected to see any normal easterly windswell till maybe the weekend. The South Shore is to see nothing on Monday but by Tuesday southern hemi south swell is to move in on Tuesday peaking on Wednesday at near minimal Significant class levels. A slow fade thereafter.
Longterm the picture remains brighter. Of most interest is a gale that has tracked through the South Pacific on Tues-Thurs (5/28) generating 40-45 kts winds and up to 35 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast targeting Hawaii and the US Mainland. Decently rideable swell is expected for the Islands mid-next week at minimal significant class levels and has such been named Swell #2S. There were hopes for decent size for the US West Coast too, but further analysis indicates it will remain in the utility class range. And the charts remain positive with a gale starting to build under New Zealand Sun/Mon (6/1) targeting the Islands and Tahiti well with a much stronger one forecast in the same region for mid-week. The New Zealand storm corridor remains open for business, the first instance of this in a long time. But by the end of next week, all is to fall back into hibernation, so plan accordingly.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was 600 nmiles west of San Francisco, the remnants from a system that was north of Hawaii late last week. No swell producing fetch was associated with this low. A second broad low pressure system was just east of the dateline generating a fetch of 20-25 kt north and northwest winds aimed at Hawaii, as it has since Saturday (5/30) when it produced seas to 15 ft at 37N 178E. This to possibly result in some tiny energy moving towards the Hawaiian Islands, arriving for Wednesday at 3.7 ft @ 10-11 secs (3.5 ft faces) from 315 degrees. Over the next 72 hours the broad low pressure system is to dissipate in the far Western Gulf of Alaska with no winds of interest forecast. Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs is to try and get a foothold just northeast of Hawaii on Wednesday (6/3), maybe serving to produce some trades over the Islands by the afternoon. Pretty quiet overall.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (5/31) normal high pressure was not in the picture off California and instead neutral pressure if not slightly low pressure was digging in, the residuals of a gale that was north of Hawaii late last week were stalled well off the coast and forecast to slowly inch there way closer in the days ahead. Virtually no sign of high pressure is forecast for the next 7 days, with high level moisture and the chance of rain in higher elevations possible through the period. Light winds nearshore are forecast through next weekend.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (5/31) the South Pacific jetstream remained split over it's width with a nice trough in the southern branch just under New Zealand holding till the Central Pacific, then tracking southeast towards the southern tip of Chile. The trough had 140 kt winds pushing well to the north and providing a nice pocket to support gale development. Over the next 72 hrs that trough is to slowly loose energy but holds it's configuration into late Monday, then fade. Support for gale development to continue in that region. Beyond 72 hours yet another pulse of energy is forecast pushing into this trough on Wednesday (6/3) at 130 kts with yet another more north angled one forecast on late Thursday (6/4) at 130 kts. This continues to look favorable to support gale development assuming all goes as planned. Beyond a ridge is looking to build into the area starting Sunday (6/7), likely shutting this favorable pattern down.
At the surface on Sunday (5/31) another gale was organizing in the Southwest Pacific (see Second New Zealand Gale below). No other swell producing fetch was present. Over the next 72 hours yet one more system, this time a storm, is forecast developing southwest of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (6/2) with pressure 980 mbs, but with strong high pressure at 1036 mbs over the Tasman Sea forming a pressure gradient and generating up to 50 kt west-southwest winds over a small area at 60S 165E. 30 ft seas to be building at 61S 162E just off the Ross Ice Shelf. In the evening this fetch to build in coverage with winds still to 50 kts at 56S 172E aimed well up the grat circle paths to both Hawaii and the US West coast, favoring the later. 40 ft seas are forecast at 58S 172E. Wednesday AM (6/3) the fetch is to start fading with winds still barely 50 kts at 52S 175W aimed right up the 210 degree path to California (shadowed by Tahiti for SCal and barely unshadowed for NCal) and 25 degrees east of the 190 degree path to Hawaii. Seas to be peaking out at 44 ft at 53S 180W. By evening only 40-45 kt winds are to remain at 49S 168W. Seas of 42 ft are forecast at 48S 170W on the 190 degree path to Hawaii and the 210 degree track to California (shadowed from SCal and barely clear for NCal). Thursday AM (6/4) seas from previous fetch at 38 ft are forecast at 45S 162W and starting to decay. In all this looks like a good system if it forms, which is still a long shot. At least it's something to monitor.
Previously another gale organized southeast of New Zealand on Thursday (5/28) with 35-40 kt west winds at 52S 163W, but all momentum was aimed towards South America. On Friday PM (5/29) it peaked with 40-45 kt west to southwest winds at 55S 150W generating 38 ft seas at 59S 142W holding into Saturday AM. But it was all aimed at Southern Chile, then dissipated. No real energy is expected to seep up into our forecast area though swell is likely to radiate as far north as Peru.
Central Pacific Gale - Swell #2S Hawaii
At the surface on Tuesday (5/26) a new gale formed in the Southwest Pacific generating a decent fetch of 40-45 kt south to southwest winds at 57S 175W and getting some traction. By evening winds were confirmed at near 45 kts at 53S 167W aimed well to the north pushing right up the 204 degree path to California and on the edge of the Tahiti swell shadow generating 30 ft seas at 54S 166W late and a bit shadowed by Tahiti relative to California (203 deg) and pushing a bit east of 183 degree path to Hawaii.
Additional 40-45 fetch was confirmed on Wednesday AM (5/27) at 53S 160W pushing right up the 202 degree path to California and mostly unshadowed by Tahiti. 35 ft seas were modeled at 51S 161W pushing well towards CA with sideband energy to Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the outer edge of the core of the fetch at 18Z and reported max average seas of 30.5 ft with one peak reading to 37.5 ft, about 3 ft less than what the models suggested. In the evening a broad and fragmented fetch of 30-35 kt winds were confirmed with a core to near 45 kts at 50S 151W aimed right up the 198 degree path to California with seas from previous fetch at 35 ft at 49S 155W tracking right up the 201 degree path to CA (unshadowed) and mostly outside the range of Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the outer periphery of the core of the fetch and confirmed average max seas there at 32 ft with a peak reading to 40 ft. This is exactly in sync with the model.
The core fetch was effectively gone by Thursday AM (5/28) with residual 32 ft seas from previous fetch at 45S 146W pushing right up the 196 degree path to California.
Overall this system did pretty well, though not quite as good as the models suggested. QuikSCAT data was right on-track providing 48 hours of 40-45 kt fetch aimed right up the great circle tracks to California and pushing north enough that Hawaii should get a decent shot of swell too. Jason-1 data suggests seas were near the 35 ft peak for 18 hrs, though not as long as the models indicated (24 hrs) . Regardless, compared to previous weeks, this was a good system for producing swell. But from a historical perspective this was just your average garden-variety southern hemi gale. Still some possible decent sized utility class southern hemi swell could result for California up into the Pacific Northwest and Mexico since this system pushed well to the north and virtual fetch was having some effect on those headings. Tahiti to do quite well too. Hawaii might even see near significant class sideband energy.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (6/2) at 1 AM HST with period 20 secs and size tiny but building through the day reaching 2 ft @ 18 secs late (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell to start peaking Wednesday (6/3) at 3 AM with swell 2.8 ft @ 17 secs holding through the morning (4.8 ft faces with best breaks to 6.0 ft), moving to 16 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 16 secs (4.6 ft faces with top spots to 6.0 ft). Still decent size expected into Thursday AM with swell 2.6-2.9 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces), sliding down to a pure 14 secs near sunset. Weak residuals to follow. Swell Direction 180-185 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday (6/4) at 1 AM with period at 20 secs and size tiny but coming up. Rideable yet inconsistent surf expected to be arriving by noon with swell 1.3 ft @ 18 sec (2 ft faces). Period is to drop to 17 secs on Friday (6/5) at 1 AM with swell peaking out then to sunrise at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft faces with top spots to 5 ft) with period to 16 secs into early afternoon (4.3 ft faces with top spots to 4.6 ft). On Saturday solid size is expected at sunrise with swell to maybe 3.0 ft @ 15-16 sec (5-6 ft faces), but slowly settling down by noon as period moves more to 15 secs. Sunday fun-sized residuals are forecast at 2.7 ft @ 14 secs mid-morning (4 ft faces). Swell Direction: 199-205 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday (6/4) at 6 AM with period at 20 secs and size tiny but coming up. Perhaps some rideable yet inconsistent surf expected in by sunset (1 ft @ 20 secs). Period is to drop to 17 secs on Friday (6/5) at 6 AM with swell peaking out near noon at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft faces with top spots to 5 ft) and period to 16 secs by sunset (4.3 ft faces with top spots to 5.6 ft) . Even on Saturday solid size is expected with swell 2.6 ft @ 15-16 sec early (4-5 ft faces), but slowly settling down through the day as period moves more to 15 secs. Sunday fun-sized residuals are forecast at 2.3 ft @ 14 secs early (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 196-204 degrees
Second New Zealand Gale
Another gale starting forming under New Zealand on Saturday PM (5/30) with 40-45 kt southwest winds at 61S 170W lifting northeast. By Sunday AM (5/31) a decent sized fetch of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled at 58S 173E aimed right up the 210 degree path to California and on the edge of the Tahitian swell shadow and well up the 195 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas building fast at 59S 171E. In the evening fetch is to fade a little while tracking north with 40 kt winds at 52S 178W aimed just like before. 35 ft seas forecast over a small area at 55S 180W. This fetch to continue pushing almost due north on Monday AM (6/1) generating 35-40 kt south winds at 49S 170W with 32 ft seas at 49S 173W and more 35-40 kt winds in the evening with 32 ft seas at 44S 167W. All this to be right on the 210-212 degree path to North California (unshadowed, but shadowed for SCal) and 193 degree path to Hawaii. Another shot of utility class swell is likely for all locations. Will monitor.
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 weak high pressure at 1024 mbs is to set up northeast of Hawaii generating mild trades at 15 kts pushing into the Hawaiian Islands but the high is to have no impact whatsoever on the US West Coast. the high is to remain just far enough away from California to prevent any wind or windswell there. Some version of weak low pressure is to persist over the West Pacific, but nothing is to come of it. The dividing line between the two is to run from Hawaii north to Alaska. A very quiet pattern overall.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (5/31) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Active Phase, but likely at the end of that phase, with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index still negative. The Daily SOI index was up to 18.02. The 30 day average was up to -5.07 and the 90 day average passed back into positive territory at -0.82. The SOI indicies remained effectively neutral but something still appears to be happening on a grand scale. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that though the second incarnation of the Active Phase has peaked out, weak westerly wind anomalies continue over the entire equatorial Western Pacific and are expected to hold into 6/9. There is virtually no sign of a new Inactive Phase forecast. Perhaps we are entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase (a good thing if this occurs) The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina are effectively gone in the ocean, and fading fast in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere (though the Southern Hemi will take another 2 months longer to heal). Slightly warmer than normal waters temps are reported over the entire width of the equatorial Pacific and building off Central America nd pushing up into Baja Mexico. The large cool pool of water off the US West Coast remains, but does not reach to Hawaii any longer. This was the result of strong high pressure and upwhelling over the Spring. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water starting to pool up there. It appears that previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump, and are now pushing warmer than normal subsurface water eastward with more building up behind, and feeding a slightly warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. This is very good news. We expect 1-2 more months of high pressure and local La Nina conditions before a fully neutral pattern takes hold and warmer waters start building off California. We also expect the tropical season to become more active and surpass the below normal activity levels of the past 3 years.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest that yet one more gale might form under New Zealand on Thursday into Friday (6/5) with 35-40 kt southerly winds and 29 ft seas, good for swell targeting Hawaii and tahiti but a bit too weak to have much impact into the US mainland. After that a total shutdown of the South Pacific 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