Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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 Thursday (5/31) North and Central CA had local windswell producing small waves in the thigh high range and almost clean early. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was effectively flat with maybe a few knee high sets every now and then and textured with brisk winds and whitecaps outside the kelp. Southern California up north was effectively flat and clean early with fog in control. Down south sets were thigh to maybe waist high and lightly chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was looking flat and clean through swell was on the buoy and coming up. The South Shore was mostly small with waves thigh to waist high with maybe a chest high peak at the better spots and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had east windswell at waist high from east tradewind generated windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north swell from a modest gale that tracked from the dateline through the Western Gulf on Mon-Tues (5/29) with 35 kt west winds and 22 ft seas was pushing towards Hawaii and California expected to arrive in HI late today (Thurs) and CA late Friday (6/1). High pressure to build a little northeast of Hawaii now that low pressure is fading in the Gulf. This should result in increased north winds along the California coast and some increase in north windswell Fri-Sat (6/2) the fading as another small low builds off Oregon on Sunday and repulsing the high from the coast. But high pressure to return by Tuesday (6/5) with windswell again on the increase. Hawaii to see modest east trades at 15 kts fairly steady for the next week resulting in small to modest east windswell for East Shores of the Islands.
Down in the Southeast Pacific a very weak gale developed Monday (5/28) resulting in 35-40 kt south winds and 25-26 ft seas for 18 hours. Normally we wouldn't even mention this, but desperate time require desperate measures. This should result in a small pulse of southern hemi swell for CA starting late Sunday peaking Monday (6/4) then fading Tuesday. Otherwise a decent storm was south of the Tasman Sea on Tues (5/29) pushing energy up the great circle paths to California but nearly 7000 nmiles out and expected to dissipate before pushing cleanly into the Southwest Pacific. Maybe some little swell to result. And another stronger system is modeled in the same area on Monday with 46 ft seas targeting Fiji best, but with some energy possibly tracking up the great circle paths to California, though shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii. But the greater South Pacific remains locked down by a unfavorable jetstream flow and high pressure at the surface meaning no signs of real hope for the next 7 days. Guess we'll have to take whatever bits we can scrounge up.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Thursday (5/31) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging east from a point midway between Hawaii and California generating 15-20 kt north winds along the coast there producing limited north windswell and then turning southwest to west and pushing over Hawaii resulting in 15 kt trades and limited easterly windswell there. Swell from a broad gale that was in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Monday (5/28) was pushing south and east (see Gulf Gale below). Remnants of that low were now fading in the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska and of no interest. No other fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hrs high pressure is to remain stable well off the CA coast and 650 nmiles northeast of Hawaii ridging into the Central California coast generating 20-25 kt north winds Fri (6/1) from Cape Mendocino south to Pt Conception resulting in modest windswell at exposed breaks. That fetch is to fade some on Saturday as a new small low pressure cell races east into the Northeast Pacific approaching Cape Mendocino late Sat-Sun (6/3) with 20-25 kt northwest winds then moving inland over Southern Oregon Monday AM. Maybe some windswell to result at best. But the low is to mainly repulse the high and cause local windswell in CA to fade Sat-Sun (6/3). Regardless high pressure is to return on Monday 96/4) with north winds on the increase to 30 kts focused mainly near Pt Conception. Trades to remain stable in the 15+ kt range along east shore of the Hawaiian Islands Friday (6/1) resulting in modest easterly windswell there then backing off to the 15 kts range and holding through the weekend into Monday (6/4) with windswell fading some more.
On Monday AM (5/28) a new gale developed over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands with a decent fetch of northwest winds at 35 kts tracking east-southeast holding into Tuesday AM then expected to fade rapidly from 30 kts in the evening. 20 ft seas were modeled late Monday near 47N 177W falling southeast and building in coverage pushing 22 ft Tuesday AM (5/29) at 45N 168W. 22 ft seas to hold in the evening at 45N 162W then dissipating fast. Modest forerunners already started hitting Hawaii on Thurs afternoon. Core 13 sec period sideband swell to hit Hawaii overnight holding into Friday AM (6/1) at 3.6 ft @ 13 secs (4.5 ft faces). This system was 1800 nmiles away from California but aimed well there resulting in swell of 4.4 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft faces) late Friday night (6/1) with good residuals left for Saturday coming from 297 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical system of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/31) high pressure at 1026 mbs continued ridging lightly into the coast while low pressure was fading in the Gulf of Alaska resulting in weakened pressure gradient and north winds (10-15 kts) over California waters. Southern CA remained in an eddy flow. This fetch is to build some Friday with north winds 20+ kts off the North and Central CA coast with Southern CA holding in a eddy flow. By Saturday more of the same is forecast with 20+ kt north winds over Central CA but starting to refocus over Pt Conception late. Winds to start fading for most of Central CA on Sunday as a small low pressure system starts moving into North CA waters then moving into Southern Oregon late, with strong high pressure building in behind. By Monday AM (5/28) the gradient is to start rebuilding along the coast focused to the south near Pt Conception with winds 25+ kts there and 30+ kts by Tuesday AM (6/5) with 20+ kt winds up to Pt Arena and lifting north. The Southern CA eddy is likely to collapse for Mon PM-Tues AM. 25-30 kt north winds to be over all Central and North CA waters on Wed fading to 25 kts on Thursday. In short, a real mess for Central CA. Southern CA to reestablish an eddy flow after Tuesday.
Jet stream - On Thursday (5/31) not much has changed with a split jetstream over the South Pacific with both branches tracking semi-parallel with each other but with the important southern branch slowly falling steadily east-southeast from 53S in the west eventually falling directly over mainland Antarctica as it moved to the Southeast Pacific. A pocket of wind to 130 kts was building south and southeast of New Zealand but again dropping southeast and offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours a semi-real trough is forecast building under Tasmania with 140 kts winds pushing up into it (to the north) while easing east on Friday (6/1), then turning all east 24 hrs later and plowing towards Antarctica and the Ross Ice Shelf. There is some support for some form of gale development south of the Tasman Sea for a short window. Beyond 72 hours a far larger trough is forecast forming south of New Zealand on Mon (6/4) with winds 130 kts pushing well to the north and continuing in some form through Thurs (6/7). Improved support for gale development in the far West Pacific.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (5/31) high pressure at 1024 mbs remained locked over the Central Pacific pushing all east bound low pressure system emerging from the Indian Ocean southward towards if not over the Ross Ice Shelf and Antarctica. No fetch stronger than 30 kts was in the South Pacific aimed northward. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Southeast Pacific Gale
A weak and poorly defined gale formed in the Southeast Pacific on Monday (5/28) with 35 to barely 40 kt south winds. Seas in the AM were modeled and validated per the Jason-1 satellite at 26 ft at 36S 130W with seas fading from 25 ft in the evening pushing further north at 32S 125W. This gale was by no means impressive but the one thing in it's favor relative to California and Mexico was it close proximity to both (3926-4210 nmiles south) and the fact that it was traveling almost due north. As a result swell is expected into exposed south facing breaks of California early next week.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (6/4) at 1 AM peaking near 5 AM with pure swell 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft faces with sets to 5.5 ft) holding through the day. 14 sec residual expected Tuesday sunrise and fading. Swell Direction: 187-190 degrees.
On Tuesday (5/29) a gale with 45 kt west winds was positioned south of Tasmania generating 42 ft seas at 59S 152E aimed right up the 216 degree great circle path to NCal and 217 deg path to SCal (unshadowed by Tahiti) and 6800 nmiles out but shadowed relative to Hawaii by New Zealand. This gale was dissipating in the evening with residual seas of 36 ft at 58S 163E (214 degs NCal/SCal and moving into the swell window for Hawaii at 200 degs (5100 nmiles out). Tiny long period but very inconsistent swell possible 8 days out for Hawaii (Wed PM 6/6 - 2 ft @ 17-18 secs) and 9 days (Thurs AM 6/7 - 1 ft @ 20 sec) for California.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 high pressure at 1028 mbs is to be building some ridging into the CA coast Tues-Thurs (6/7) with north winds 25-30 kts focused initially on Pt Conception then lifting north and fading to 25 kts off San Francisco by early Fri (6/8). Steady if not slightly building north windswell expected for Central CA over that time period.
East trades over Hawaii to hold at 15 kts over the weekend continuing through the middle to late next week (6//7) with windswell holding steady in the small size range.
The models indicate some form of tropical low pressure to build over the Northern Philippines over the weekend lifting north-northeast early next week and building in coverage eventually passing just east of Central Japan late Tues (6/5) and then to the Kuril Islands Thurs (6/7) and fading. no swell potential expected for our forecast area. Also some form of cutoff low is to develop over the dateline Wed-Thurs (6/7) with 25 kts winds possibly setting up windswell for Hawaii.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Tuesday (5/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at -8.56. The 30 day average was falling at -2.02 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to -2.34. Our working philosophy is that a SOI that holds near neutral does little to enhance swell production, and that an SOI on either of the extreme ends is better than being in the middle (where we are today). The good news is that we are hoping we are in a transition mode, moving from one opposite (La Nina) to the other, though that is mostly just wishful thinking. But this neutral position is likely influencing the lack of storm production in the Southern Hemisphere. We are in a transition phase that will likely last for the summer season. But there is a silver lining (see second paragraph below).
Current wind analysis indicates weak to modest easterly anomalies were over the dateline pushing to a point north of Eastern Australia with light west anomalies north of Central Australia and dead neutral anomalies over the East Pacific. This indicates a weak MJO signal was present (neither Active nor Inactive). A week from now (6/8) light to moderate easterly anomalies are to take over the dateline region pushing to a point north of Australia suggesting a return of the Inactive Phase of the MJO at worst. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/30 indicate a neutral phase MJO pattern for the next 7 days but then fall into disagreement with the statistical model suggesting a continuation of a neutral Phase 2 weeks out while the dynamic (less accurate) suggesting a modest return of the Active Phase. Clearly we want to see the dynamic model be true, but for now we'll go with a continuation of a weak MJO signal for the next 2 weeks (which in and of itself is not bad news). None of this outcomes suggests any real benefit to the North Pacific storm track given that summer is now moving in. But there are long tern implications (see below).
In monitoring the migration of warm water into the equatorial East Pacific, which the existing weak MJO pattern is supporting, this become important because it possibly sets up a configuration in the ocean that is more conducive to storm development for the coming Fall of 2012. In fact warmer than normal water is already accumulating off Ecuador. A pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) has evaporated and warmer water is slowly but steadily pushing east into the vacuum (Kelvin Wave). This activity was the result of the last pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO (early April) and a continued weak MJO signal, appears to be reinforcing itself. It will be interesting to see if the weak MJO pattern continues (a early sign of some flavor of El Nino) or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life. We are still in the Spring unpredictability barrier relative to ENSO (continues into early June), so it's difficult to predict any particular outcome until that time has passed. But it does warrant some interest. Note: a possible re-emergence of the cool water pocket were were monitoring a week or more back appears to no longer be an issue.
A weaker MJO signal is typical for this time of year, but does not normally appear as strong and as long-lasting as what appears to be occurring now, suggesting that La Nina is disintegrating. And the horseshoe cool water pattern that has dominated the entire Pacific for the past 2 years (typical of La Nina) appears to be in steep decline (a good thing). So the next question is: Will the Active-like Phase pattern that is currently occurring continue, ultimately ushering in some flavor of El Nino, or will it stall in mid-June and leave us in limbo with just a neutral pattern in play (normal)? Either option is better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 starting Saturday (6/2) a storm is forecast developing southwest of Tasmania with 45-50 kt southwest winds impacting the southern tip of New Zealand late Monday. On Sunday AM (6/3) seas are forecast building to 40 ft at 59S 133E and then to 45 ft in the evening at 59S 142E (218 degs CA). On Monday AM (6/4) 48 ft seas are forecast at 55S 155E on the 219 degree route to California but shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii. In the evening seas to be fading from 46 ft at 50S 160E moving into the New Zealand swell shadow for California and still shadowed relative to Hawaii. But more importantly, this system is to be pushing right up the 200 degree path to Fiji and unshadowed throughout it's life and 3000 nmiles away or less. Monitor closely if you can make last minute travel plans.
Otherwise no other 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