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.
On Thursday (6/4) North and Central California was very small with no real surf at north facing break and only thigh to maybe waist high southern hemi background swell at south facing breaks. A bit of a northwest breeze was coming up in the afternoon. Southern California had some knee to thigh high clean sets up north and some waist to near chest high sets down south and reasonably clean mid-day, southern hemi background swell. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with maybe some waist high sets and clean. The East Shore had east short period windswell from trades producing thigh high sets. The South Shore still had nice southern hemi swell from the gale that was under Tahiti last week, with sets near shoulder to head high on the better ones.
The forecast for North and Central CA is to improve Friday and Saturday with swell from a gale that was under Tahiti arriving and building to the waist to chest high range and maybe a little more at top spots on the better sets. Southern CA is to see that same utility class southern hemi swell by Friday with waist to chest high surf and best spots maybe with a few head high sets. Oahu's North Shore is to see some small minimal northwest windswell early Friday and fading, with nothing more to follow. The East Shore to continue seeing minimal easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh high building slowly to the waist high plus range for the weekend. The South Shore is to see the southern hemi swell fading out on Friday with bare minimal rideable leftover energy (thigh high) through the weekend.
Longterm more southern hemi swell is on tap. Another smaller gale built under New Zealand Sun/Mon (6/1) with 30-32 ft seas targeting the Tahiti, the Islands and the US West Coast. That swell to hit Hawaii late Sunday building into Monday pushing shoulder high on the sets and pushing towards the mainland for Wednesday (6/10) with waist high sets in California. And yet one more stronger system is pushing through the Southwest Pacific Wed/Thurs (6/4) with 35-37 ft seas setting up significant class swell for Hawaii by Tues-Thurs (6/11) and the mainland late next week into the weekend. After that things are to go quiet, so plan appropriately.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface weak today low pressure at 996 mbs was in the far northern Gulf of Alaska generating no winds of interest. High pressure at 1024 mbs was 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii and 900 nmiles west of Pt Conception and was serving only to generate modest trades at 15-20 kts over the Islands and some minimal easterly short period windswell there. Otherwise things were quiet, as they should be for this time of year. Over the next 72 hours some form of weak and fragmented low pressure is to continue over the Northwestern Pacific with weak high pressure at 1024 mbs locked northeast of Hawaii, continuing to generate trades and minimal east windswell for the Islands. The North Pacific remains effectively asleep and is expected to sty that way into the summer.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/4) normal high pressure remained suppressed off California, shunted away from the coast with a weak upper level low hovering just over San Francisco and slowly moving inland while dissipating. There is no sign of high pressure or north winds in excess of 10 kts forecast trough Monday (6/8). A slight chance of rain in higher elevations possible through the Friday (6/5). Light winds nearshore are forecast through next weekend and into early next week. A possible northwest flow is forecast starting next Wednesday (6/10) over Cape Mendocino and working it's way south through later in the week as high pressure starts building over the Eastern Pacific.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (6/4) the South Pacific jetstream remained split over it's width but with a solid trough still present in the southern branch pushing north under New Zealand arching towards Tahiti, then diving hard southeast towards Antarctica near the southern tip of Chile. The trough had 140 kt winds pushing well up to the north and continuing to provide a nice area to support gale development. Over the next 72 hrs one more pulse of energy is forecast pushing into this trough late Thursday (6/4) at 150 kts supporting gale development into Saturday. But then a big ridge is to start pushing hard south under Tahiti pretty much pinching the trough off. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to become totally cut-off by Sunday (6/7) as another ridge builds under New Zealand and the whole favorable pattern collapses, with the jet starting to flow flat over the Ross Ice Shelf. No change is forecast through the end of next week either suppressing gale development.
At the surface on Thursday (6/4) Swell #2S was inching towards the US West Coast while fading out in Hawaii. And swell from yet another gale was pushing northeast right behind it targeting Hawaii early next week and the US mainland after that. So two swells are poised for the mainland and one for the Islands. And yet another gale developed southwest of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (6/2) (see Swell #3S below). The remnants of System #3S were fading well east of New Zealand though 40 kts winds were still in play, but aimed more east the to the north. Follow-on 35 kt wind energy was pushing the whole distance from south of New Zealand to a point 1500 nmiles south of Tahiti, which was alot of ocean surface being affected.
Over the next 72 hours the models suggest that yet one more gale is to form next to New Zealand on Friday AM (6/5) with 40 kt southerly winds building at 50S 170E aimed due north towards Hawaii up the 201 degree path. Seas at 30 ft forecast at 51S 171E. More energy is to become assimilated in this system late evening and overnight and by Saturday AM (6/6) a small area of 55 kt south winds are forecast at 50S 172W aimed due north right up the 196 degree path to Hawaii and 20 degrees north of the 209 degree path to CA (and shadowed by Tahiti). 30 ft seas from previous fetch continuing at 45S 178W. These winds to hold into the evening in the 45-50 kt range at 47S 168W aimed a few degree east for all locations (and still shadowed for the mainland). 35 ft seas over a small area forecast at 45S 170W. Sunday AM (6/7) yet more fetch is to be building into this system with a broader area of 45-50 kt south winds forecast at 45S 160W aimed right up the 181 degree path to Hawaii and a bit east of the 205 degree path to California (shadowed still). A broader area of 31 ft seas are forecast at 44S 165W. Sunday evening a new fetch of 50+ kt south winds are forecast at 50S 155W aimed right up the 178 degree path to Hawaii and up the 200 degree path to CA and unshadowed (finally). 32 ft seas forecast at 44S 160W. Winds to and holding unchanged till Monday AM with 36 ft seas forecast at 48S 155W. A quick fade is forecast in the evening with 35 ft seas forecast at 46S 157W aimed straight north towards the Islands. This system to fade out fast after that.
Assuming all this occurs as forecast a solid swell is likely for Tahiti and Hawaii. But the issue is this is to all be tucked into the tiny pinched remnants of the trough off New Zealand, and not getting much to support it. Suspect the models are still overstating the strength of this one. Will monitor.
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.
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
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.
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 faded a little while tracking north with 40 kt winds at 52S 178W aimed just like before. 32 ft seas were modeled over a small area at 54S 180W. This fetch continued pushing almost due north on Monday AM (6/1) generating 35-40 kt south winds at 49S 170W with 30 ft seas modeled at 47S 173W then fading out in the evening. All this to be right on the 210-212 degree path to North California (unshadowed, but shadowed for SCal on the 212-213 degree path) and 189-193 degree path to Hawaii. Another shot of utility class swell is likely for all locations.
Hawaii: Expect swell to arrive on Sunday at 10 PM (6/7) with swell 2 ft @ 18 sec late (3.5 ft faces) peaking Monday AM at 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft faces), then drifting down overnight.Still swell of 3 ft @ 14 secs (4 ft faces) is expected early Tuesday AM (6/9), then fading. Swell Direction: 189-193 degrees.
Southern CA: expect swell arrival on Wednesday early morning (6/10) with period 17-18 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to start peaking Thursday AM (6/11) with swell 2.0-2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft faces) and holding through the day. Swell to drift down on Friday with period at 14-15 secs, but still rideable then heading down from there. Swell Direction: 212-213 degrees degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday late morning (6/10) with period 17-18 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to start peaking Thursday AM (6/11) at sunrise with swell 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces) and holding through the day. Swell to drift down on Friday with period at 14-15 secs, but still rideable then heading down from there. Swell Direction: 210-211 degrees
Swell #3S (Hawaii)
On Tuesday (6/2) yet another gale developed southwest of New Zealand with pressure 980 mbs and strong high pressure at 1036 mbs over the Tasman Sea forming a pressure gradient and generating 40 kt west-southwest winds over a small area at 60S 165E. Seas were building at 60S 165E just off the Ross Ice Shelf. By Tuesday evening this fetch built in coverage with winds up to 40-45 kts at 54S 173W aimed well up the great circle paths to both Hawaii and the US West coast, favoring the later. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 172E.
Wednesday AM (6/3) the fetch built more at 45 kts at 54S 173W 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 were modeled at 35 ft at 54S 175W which was heading right up the 208 degree path to NCal and 210 degrees for SCal (completely shadowed by Tahiti) and 25 degree east of the 185 degree path to Hawaii. By evening only 40-45 kt winds remained at 50S 164W. Seas of 37 ft were modeled at 49S 168W on the 190 degree path to Hawaii and the 206 degree track to NCal/210 SCal (shadowed from NCal and partially obstructed for SCal).
Thursday AM (6/4) new fetch of 40-45 kts was indicated at 51S 155W aimed more to the east with seas from previous fetch at 36 ft at 45S 158W and starting to decay (203 degs for NCal and almost partially obstructed/208 SCal and partially obstructed). This system to fade after that with seas from previous fetch Thursday PM at 31 ft at 44S 150W aimed more to the east.
Again, this system was nothing exceptional from a historic perspective, just your usual run of the mill southern hemi winter gale. But it was well positioned in the Hawaii an swell window with a good amount of fetch aimed well to the north up the 185-180 degree paths, which should results in significant class swell again. But California to suffer with the bulk of the fetch sitting right behind Tahiti and French Polynesia, resulting in energy and size loss and fewer waves per set. In all this still looks like a reasonably good system given the pattern so far this summer, but is way down from previous estimates a week ago. Still, we'll take what we can get. Detailed surf forecasts will be posted over the weekend.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival early Tues (6/9) with period 20 secs and size tiny but coming up steadily, pushing 3 ft @ 18 secs by dark (5.5 ft faces with top spots to 7 ft). Swell to peak out first light Wednesday (6/10) with swell 4.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8 ft) and holding decently through the day. still solid swell expected on Thursday (6/11) with swell 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.8 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft early) and slowly settling down through the day. Swell still to be 3.3-3.5 ft @ 13-14 secs on Friday (6/12) (4.5-5.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 182-192 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 hours weak high pressure at 1024 mbs is to hold northeast of Hawaii through Sunday (6/7), then starting to track east towards California by Tuesday (6/9) generating a weak pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino by Thursday at 20-25 kts, possibly indicating the start of some windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA. But that's purely a guess at this early date. Some form of modest trades to continue for the Hawaiian Islands through the period too, with minimal east short period windswell possible there. Undoubtably the current pulse of the active phase of the MJO is suppressing high pressure development some.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (6/4) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Active Phase, and was pulsing fir the third time since early May. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained dead neutral. The Daily SOI index was down to -5.27. The 30 day average was down to -5.34 and the 90 day average was hovering at 0.84. 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 a third incarnation of the Active Phase was in-play, with another pulse of westerly wind anomalies pushing from the Indian Ocean east into the far Western Pacific and the dateline and holding there if not a bit further east, through 6/11. Residuals to hold in the Pacific pushing into Central America through 6/16 or longer. A weak flavor of the Inactive Phase is forecast to try and develop in the Indian Ocean on 6/11, but is to die before reaching the Pacific on 6/21. 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 pushing up into Baja Mexico and expected to track north from there. 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 upwelling 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. In fact increase warming can be seen around and east of the Galapagos Islands to near 2 deg C above normal. We expect 1 more month of high pressure and local La Nina conditions before a fully neutral pattern takes hold and warmer waters start building off California. But even that might be already eroding. 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 a total shutdown of the South Pacific storm pattern with high pressure at 1032 mbs taking over the West and Central Pacific. no swell generation potential 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