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 Sunday (6/3) North and Central CA had residual Gulf swell still hitting with local windswell intermixed producing waves in the head high range and pretty warbled. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was waist high with a few bigger sets on occasion and clean but foggy. Southern California up north had some sets in the waist to near chest high range and clean but foggy. Down south waves were waist high and clean but pretty weak with morning fog. Hawaii's North Shore was fading back into flatness with waves maybe thigh high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was mostly small with waves thigh high 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 a small low is to push into Southern Oregon on Monday suppressing local high pressure and north winds along the California coast, meaning less local windswell and even a hint of rain from San Francisco northward. But by Tuesday (6/5) clearing high pressure is to return with windswell again on the increase. Hawaii to see local modest east trades at 15 kts steady through the workweek but the fetch area east of the Islands is to increase resulting in perhaps a little more push to the modest east windswell for East Shores of the Islands. The models keep teasing about a tropical system (Typhoon Marwar) tracking just east of Japan and turning extratropical with a solid fetch of 45-50 kt west winds and seas pushing 30 ft late Thursday (5/7), possibly spraying the North Pacific with small but longer period swell. Will believe it when it happens.
Down in the Southeast Pacific a weak gale developed Monday (5/28) resulting in 35-40 kt south winds and 25-26 ft seas pushing north for 18 hours. This is normally not mentionable, but we're desperate. Small southern hemi swell is expected for CA starting late Sunday peaking Monday (6/4) then fading Tuesday. Otherwise a decent storm tracked south of the Tasman Sea on Tuesday (5/29) pushing energy up the great circle paths to California but nearly 7000 nmiles out, then it dissipated before pushing cleanly into the Southwest Pacific. Maybe some little swell to result for HI and CA. And another stronger system is modeled in the same area on Monday with 44-45 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. Otherwise the greater South Pacific remains locked down by a unfavorable jetstream flow and high pressure at the surface. There is suggestions that a gale might track under New Zealand on Friday (6/8) producing a tiny fetch with seas to 45 ft and making some decent eastward progress, so that provides a glimmer of hope. But we wouldn't bet on that just yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Sunday (6/3) high pressure at 1028 mbs had retrograded away from the California coast and was centered 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii resulting in 15 trades for the Islands but very shallow and not offering too much in terms of local windswell production. More oddly a tiny low pressure system that had tracked east across the Eastern Pacific was now in the Southern Gulf of Alaska positioned just 600 nmiles off San Francisco. It was producing only 20 kt northwest winds and of no real interest but was starting to serve to dampen local northwest wind and windswell along the CA coast. Also residual swell from a broad gale that was in the Western Gulf of Alaska last week was pushing into the CA coast. Over the next 72 hrs the local California low is to push into the coast on Monday (6/4) perhaps bring some light rain down to San Francisco but nothing more. Strong high pressure is to build back in setting up north winds for the Central Coast focused more down towards Pt Conception for the workweek, surely to continue upwhelling and colder water temps but also generating some local windswell.
Trades to build in areal coverage starting Monday relative to Hawaii as the little low (above) moves out of the picture and high pressure again reestablishes itself. Still, winds speeds to only remain in the 15 kt range, offering only very modest windswell potential for east facing shores of the Islands through the work week. A tropical system is organizing off the Northern Philippines expected to track north and then northeast possible generating winds and swell (see Tropics section below).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday AM (6/3) Typhoon Marwar was positioned 160 nmiles northeast of the Northern Philippines with sustained winds 95 kts tracking north-northeast and moving rather slowly. By Sunday evening Marwar is to be peaked out with winds 105 kts and starting to accelerated off to the northeast taking a track that puts it east of Central Japan by Thursday AM (6/7) with winds down to 40 kts and turning extratropical. Interestingly the GFS model indicates Marwar is to build in coverage on Thursday with west winds to 45-50 kts and seas pushing 32 ft at 40N 156E and holding there into Friday while fading, with seas holding at 28 ft near 39N 157E. If one were inclined to believe the model then possible swell could radiate out across the North Pacific providing potential for rideable swell for Hawaii and maybe even a little pulse into CA with luck. It's all pretty far fetched at this early date though. Something to monitor just out of curiosity sake.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/3) high pressure was evaporating locally off the Central CA coast as low pressure was pushing east into the area. North winds continued at 15-20 kts isolated near Pt Conception while Southern CA remained in an eddy flow. The low is to move into Southern Oregon Monday AM with light rain possible as far south as San Francisco through the day but with strong high pressure building in behind. By Monday evening 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 late Tuesday (6/5) with 20+ kt winds up to Pt Arena and lifting north. The Southern CA eddy is likely to collapse by Tues AM holding maybe into Wed AM. 25-30 kt north winds to be over all Central and North CA waters on Wed fading to 25 kts on Thursday and still centered near Pt Conception. In short, a real mess for Central CA. Southern CA to reestablish an eddy flow by Thursday AM at the latest (if not sooner). By Friday reinforcing high pressure is to start moving in from the north with 30 kts north winds building near Cape mendocino on Saturday (6/9) continuing into Sunday with windswell on the way up but brisk north winds still holding nearshore over all of Central CA.
Jet stream - On Sunday (6/3) the same split jetstream pattern presided over the South Pacific with both branches tracking semi-parallel with each other but with the southern branch falling slightly east-southeast from 55S in the west but not falling into Antarctica as it has for the past week or more. So that is an improvement. Still it was running flat and showing no signs of anything that look like a trough over the greater South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours a solid trough is forecast building under Tasmania Sunday afternoon (6/3) with 140 kts winds pushing up into it (to the north) while easing east into Monday evening (6/4), then fading with the jet again starting to fall into Antarctica over the East Pacific by Wed (6/6). good odds for gale development in the Tasmanian trough. Beyond 72 hours another trough is forecast developing under New Zealand on Thurs (6/7) with 130 kt winds pushing up into it, and holding firm though loosing energy while tracking east into the West Pacific into next weekend (6/10). Maybe some improved support for gale development in the far West Pacific. But things in the East to remain horrible.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Sunday (6/3) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned just off the southern tip of South America pushing all east bound low pressure systems decidedly to the south and into Antarctica. One such low pressure system was squeezing under the high created a pressure gradient and 55 kt west winds, but located east of the US swell window any great circle path up into US waters. This was of interest only to Chile. Otherwise no fetch stronger than 30 kts was in the South Pacific aimed northward. Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast forming under Tasmania of some interest to us (see Tasmania Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast with the storm track all decidedly southeastward crashing into Antarctica. The good news is this pattern appears to slowly be easing east some possibly starting to open the Southwest Pacific longterm.
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 Sunday (6/3) at noon with pure swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft) nd on the increase. Swell to start peaking on Monday (6/4) near 5 AM with pure swell 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8 ft faces with sets to 5.5 ft) holding through the day. 14 sec residual expected Tuesday sunrise (3 ft @ 14 secs - 4 ft faces) and fading. Swell Direction: 187-190 degrees.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (6/3) near 6 PM at 1.6 ft @ 19 secs building and peaking near 9 AM Monday (6/4) with pure swell 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8 ft faces with sets to 5.5 ft) holding through the day. 14-15 sec residuals expected Tuesday sunrise (3 ft @ 15 secs - 4.5 ft faces) and fading. Swell Direction: 185-187 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).
Hawaii: Tiny long period but very inconsistent swell possible 8 days out for Hawaii starting Wed PM 6/6 - 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft faces) peaking on Thursday (6/7) at 2.3 @ 16 secs (3.5 ft faces with a few bigger sets). Residuals on Friday (6/8) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction:200 degrees
California: Tiny swell expected for California 9 days starting Thurs AM 6/7 at 1 ft @ 20 sec finally building to the rideable range on Saturday (6/9) at 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft) and 2 ft @ 16 secs on Sunday (6/10) (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 216 degrees
Stronger Tasmania Gale
On Saturday PM (6/2) a storm started developing southwest of Tasmania with 50 kt southwest winds. On Sunday AM (6/3) 50 kt southwest winds continued building seas to 38 ft at 59S 131E. In the evening winds to start fading from 45-50 kts with seas to 44 ft at 57S 1421 (218 degs CA and 7800 nmiles away and effective shadowed relative to Hawaii by Fiji on the 211 degs path). Late evening Seas are to build to 45 ft at 55S 145E and on the edge of the CA swell window at 221 degrees and barely in the obstructed 209 degree route to Hawaii). Monday AM (6/4) 45 kt southwest winds to be pushing hard northeast with 44-45 ft seas forecast at 52S 151E barely unshadowed relative to Hawaii on the 209 degree path and shadowed relative to California on the 223 degree path. In the evening fetch is to be gone (30-35 kts) with seas fading from 35 ft at 50S 160E well in the New Zealand swell shadow for California and still shadowed relative to Hawaii. In all some degree of tiny long period swell is possible for both Hawaii and California, but the very long travel distance (for CA) and the obstruction for Hawaii will drastically limit swell size.
But, this system is to be pushing well up the 206 degree path to Fiji and unshadowed throughout it's life and 3000 nmiles away or less. Though down some from previous forecast, this is still a solid and well positioned storm and might be worth some last minute travel.
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 continue holding off the CA coast Thurs-Sun (6/10) with north winds at 25-30 kts initially focused near Pt Conception lifting north and rebuilding off Cape Mendocino to 30 kts by Sun (6/10). Steady if not slightly building north windswell expected for Central CA over that time period.
East trades over Hawaii to hold at 15 kts through the workweek and into next weekend with windswell holding steady in the small size range.
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 Sunday (6/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up at 16.94. The 30 day average was up to -0.10 (neutral) with the 90 day average up to -2.20. 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 modest easterly anomalies were building over the dateline pushing to a point north of Eastern Australia with light west anomalies retrograded to Indonesia and dead neutral anomalies over the East Pacific. This indicates what appears to be a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was in-play. A week from now (6/11) a return to dead neutral anomalies are forecast over the dateline region suggesting a return of a neutral MJO signal. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/2 indicate a weak Active Phase MJO pattern was in place and is to hold for at least the next 7 days then faltering with a return to neutral conditions while the Inactive phase builds over Indonesia. This seems a bit opposed to what is going on in the atmosphere today. So 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 outcome 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 hours another gale is modeled forming under New Zealand late Thursday (6/7) with seas building to near 45 ft over a tiny area late on Friday into Saturday (6/9) and tracking flat east. Perhaps some small swell to result if this comes to pass. At least it's a start and good to see something pushing into the West Pacific, even if it is just a fantasy by the models.
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