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 Tuesday (6/5) North and Central CA had local windswell at waist high plus and pretty much a blow out mess. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high and clean inside the kelp, but blowing hard and white capped outside. Southern California up north was waist high and totally trashed by hard northwest winds. Down south waves were head high or better but again the wind was blowing. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves waist high and some bigger on the sets at better breaks 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 another small low was was pushing towards Oregon displacing high pressure south and keeping the California gradient over Pt Conception limiting windswell exposure from Monterey Bay northward. Still, wind-chop was in effect even up there. This same pattern to hold through Friday, then the gradient is to lift north as low pressure moves inland over Oregon. Better odds for windswell for Central CA starting then. Hawaii to continue seeing modest local east trades at 15 kts but with the fetch area east of the Islands increasing some perhaps resulting in a little more period to the modest east windswell for East Shores of the Islands. The models continue suggesting Typhoon Marwar tracking just east of Japan and turning extratropical with a solid fetch of 45-50 kt west winds and seas pushing 34+ ft Thursday (5/7) over a tiny area, possibly spraying the North Pacific with small but longer period swell. Will believe it when it happens.
Down south 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 dissipating before pushing cleanly into the Southwest Pacific. Maybe some little swell to result for HI and CA. And another stronger system developed in the same area on Monday (6/4) 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 develop east of New Zealand on Monday (6/11) producing some minimal seas, but the models have been teasing on some variation on this theme for a while now, only to downgrade a run or two later. So there not much hope of anything real actually being produced.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Tuesday (6/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging into the Southern California coast shunted southward by low pressure developing well off the Pacific Northwest Coast. This was resulting in 20-25 kt north winds focused over Pt Conception CA with a shallow pool of lesser winds impacting the northern Central CA coast. Over the next 72 hours this pattern to hold with the high displaced south and the gradient focused on Pt Conception, with just windchop from Monterey Bay northward.
Trades were pushing into Hawaii at 15 kts and covering an increasing fetch area that is to peak on Friday (6/8) reaching the whole way from the US mainland to the Islands with winds up to 20 kts. This to offer modest windswell potential for east facing shores of the Islands through the work week. A tropical system is moving northeast just east of Japan possibly generating winds and swell (see Tropics section below).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday AM (6/5) Typhoon Marwar was positioned 325 nmiles south of Southern Japan with sustained winds 65 kts tracking northeast and starting to accelerate. Marwar is to be east of Central Japan in 24 hours with winds down to 50 kts and stating to turn extratropical. In the evening Marwar is to start redeveloping with a decent sized area of 45-50 kt winds developing around it's core and turning more to the north, then finally starting to dissipate east of Northern Japan by Thursday PM (6/7) with winds down to 35 kts. Seas are to be pushing 36 ft Wed PM (6/6) at 36N 151E and into Thurs AM with seas at 34 ft at 39N 156E 3700 nmiles from NCal on the 300 degree path and 2600 nmiles from Hawaii on the 305 degree path. 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 still a reach at this early date though. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging hard into the south Central CA coast generating a pressure gradient over Pt Conception resulting in 30 kt north winds there with 20 kt winds extending north to San Francisco and southward into Baja. This same pattern is to hold through Thursday (6/7) with low pressure off Oregon holding the high in a more south location than normal. Regardless an eddy flow is forecast trying to rebuild into Southern CA on Wednesday, but certainly by Thursday. By Friday reinforcing high pressure is to start moving in from the north with 30 kt north winds building over all of Central CA on Saturday (6/9) migrating up to Cape Mendocino on Sunday with windswell on the way up and a possible eddy flow starting to develop along the Central CA coast (finally). The gradient is to hold up over Cape Mendocino well into next week with an eddy flow continuing nearshore from Pt Arena southward.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (6/5) the same split jetstream pattern presided over the South Pacific with both branches tracking semi-parallel with each other but with the southern branch ridging east-southeast from 50S in the west falling right to the northern periphery of Antarctica as it has for the past two weeks now. There were no signs of anything that looked like a trough over the greater South Pacific except a area just southeast of New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours two pulses of wind energy are to push northeast from a point south of the Tasman Sea on Tues and Wed PM (6/6) with winds to 150 kts on the second pulse. The second pulse is to survive intact pushing southeast of New Zealand by Fri (6/8) but with winds down to 90 kts offering no real support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to hold it's ground in the deep Southwest Pacific with more wind energy feeding into it next week eventually reaching 120 kts by Tues (6/12). Improving upper level support for gale development is expected in that area, though nothing optimal. But it's a much better configuration than what has been in-play for the past 2 weeks. The situation in the East is to remain very unfavorable.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (6/5) high pressure at 1024 mbs was positioned just off Antarctica in the Southeast Pacific pushing all east bound low pressure systems to the south and into Antarctica. No swell producing fetch was occurring and if anything winds over the greater South Pacific were all pushing south towards Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast.
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 40 ft at 60S 130E 7800 nmiles from California on the 218 degree track. In the evening winds to start fading from 45-50 kts with seas to 42 ft at 58S 142E (219 degs CA and 7500 nmiles away and effective shadowed relative to Hawaii by Fiji on the 211 degs path). On Monday AM (6/4) winds were down to 45 kts pushing northeast with seas peaking at 45 ft at 53S 151E and on the edge of the CA swell window at 221 degrees and barely in the obstructed 209 degree route to Hawaii). Monday evening 35 kt southwest winds were fading with residual 35 ft seas at 50S 159E barely unshadowed relative to Hawaii on the 209 degree path up through the Tasman Sea and shadowed relative to California on the 223 degree path. Tuesday AM (6/5) fetch was gone (30-35 kts) with seas fading from 30 ft at 40S 164E well in the New Zealand swell shadow for California and on the 210 degree Tasman Sea track 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 205 degree path to Fiji and unshadowed throughout it's life and 2400-3000 nmiles away or less. This system was solid and well positioned and will results in large long period swell hitting Fiji.
Small 22 sec energy expected for CA starting Tues (6/12) at 5 PM building with period 20 secs Wed (6/13) at 3 PM peaking between then and Friday AM when period hits 17 secs. If swell size hits 1.6 ft we'll be lucky. For Hawaii, swell to start arriving late on Mon (6/11) with pure swell maybe 1.3 ft @ 19 secs peaking at 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) on Tues (6/12).
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 start ridging into the Central and North CA coasts on Saturday (6/9) with north winds at 25-30 kts initially then refocusing on Cape Mendocino by Sun (6/10) in the 25 kt range with an eddy possible for the bulk of Central CA. Steady if not slightly building north windswell expected for Central CA for the weekend then fading some early next week but not out.
East trades approaching Hawaii to start fading in coverage some but still at 15 kts Saturday (6/9) holding through the weekend, with windswell slowly sliding down. trades to start really dropping off early next week and holding.
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 (6/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down again at -11.11. The 30 day average was down to -0.98 (neutral) with the 90 day average up to -2.18.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were building over the dateline pushing to a point north of Eastern Australia with modest west anomalies pushing from Indonesia east to and point north of Eastern Australia. This appears to indicate a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was in-play over the dateline with the Active Phase building in the Eastern Indian Ocean. A week from now (6/13) a return to dead neutral anomalies are forecast over the dateline region with hard west anomalies in play just north of the equator over the Philippines suggesting a return of a neutral MJO signal at a minimum. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/4 indicate an Active Phase MJO pattern was already in-place over the West Pacific and is to hold for the next 10 days while pushing east and faltering while the Inactive phase builds over Indonesia pushing east. This seems a bit opposed to what is going on in the atmosphere today (where east anomalies are still in play).
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 a gale is modeled forming under New Zealand late Saturday (6/9) with 35 kts winds pushing northeast over a tiny area and seas building to 24 ft building into Monday (6/11) with winds increasing in coverage pushing 40 kts by Tuesday (6/12) and seas to 28 ft. This is hardly believable but at least it's a start and good to see the models hinting at a more favorable pattern.
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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table