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 (6/7) North and Central California was seeing chest to shoulder high northwest windswell with better energy from Swell #3S building in underneath to head high at better breaks with light wind conditions early. Southern California had thigh high windswell/southern hemi swell mix with nice conditions up north. Down south the same northwest windswell/southwest swell was producing waves at waist to chest high but getting jumbled by onshore winds. Hawaii's North Shore has a few waist high leftover sets and a bit warbled from northeast trades. The East Shore had thigh high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was still getting Swell #3S with occasional waves at chest to shoulder high and clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific has a small gale developing just west of the dateline on Tues (6/7) expected to produce 24 hours of 19-20 ft seas good for a tiny pulse of background swell for Hawaii, but that's it. Down south swell from Storm #3S is moving into the CA coast. This storm pushed under New Zealand on Sat-Mon (5/30) with up to 46 ft seas but all aimed well to the east. Some decent but modest sized southwest swell (barely significant class) is expected for the bulk of this workweek. Beyond a gale continues is developing in the extreme Southeast Pacific Tuesday expected to push due north into early Wednesday (5/8) resulting in 38-42 ft seas pushing pretty well towards the US West coast, then turning east providing a better shot of 42 ft seas aimed at Chile and in fairly close proximity. This is to result in a modest pulse of very southerly angled swell for CA with better energy heading towards Chile and Peru. Nothing else of real interest is on the charts, though there is some potential indicated tracking under New Zealand early next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (6/7) the jetstream was flowing east off Central Japan almost forming a trough a bit west of the dateline with winds 120 kts and likely supporting some degree of low pressure formation there. But east of the dateline the jet was highly fragmented and weak, offering no support for anything. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the dateline is to track northeast and dissipate, providing only a flat but weak flow tracking from Japan into the Pacific Northwest winds winds 100 kts or less and no troughs of interest indicated. Beyond 72 hours a bit more energy is to get infused into the jet pushing off Japan, but tracking more to the northeast with winds up to 130 kts, offering no trough formation and therefore no support for low pressure development. A weak trough is forecast in the Gulf early next week, but not likely to be productive.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/7) a decent sized low pressure system was organizing west of the dateline with pressure 980 mbs resulting in a fetch of 30 kt west winds at 43N 170E aimed at bit east of the great circle paths into Hawaii. Modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was 750 nmiles off the US West Coast generating a modest 15 kt north flow for all location other than protected Southern CA. Trades were barely up to 15 kts pushing into Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold at 1028 mbs off the CA coast producing northwest winds at 20-25 kts centered off Cape Mendocino and good for local northwest windswell production. But of slightly more interest is to be the low currently approaching the dateline. It is to hold in strength and areal coverage while moving east setting up more 30 kt west winds reaching almost to the dateline through Wed (6/8) afternoon resulting in a decent patch of 19-20 ft seas through the day Wednesday AM near 43N 174E-177E perhaps good for some windswell pushing down towards Hawaii for late in the weekend. Size to be minimal though. Otherwise no low pressure of interest is forecast. Trades to build some over the Islands into the 15-20 kts range Wed-Fri (6/10).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm formation of interest is occurring or forecast for the next 72 hours.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (6/7) high pressure was slowly building into the coast providing a light northwest flow from Pt Conception northward. A small summer-like gradient is forecast for the Cape Mendo area by Wednesday with north winds there to 25 kts but generally staying away from the coast from Pt Reyes southward then fading some Thursday (6/9) but moving closer to the coast with 15 kts winds forecast all locations other than SCal. The gradient is to increase some Friday to 25 kts over Cape Mendo and building on Saturday with 20 kt northwest winds forecast for the entire North and Central Coast. A lighter northwest wind pattern is forecast for Sunday (6/12) with winds down to 15 kts and the gradient itself gone, but still not anything near calm. Then Monday (6/13) the gradient is to again develop over Cape Mendocino with northwest wind there to 20 kts building to 25 kts on Tuesday, but generally staying away from nearshore locations south of Pt Reyes. No rain in the forecast and it looks like the wet Spring pattern that has been so dominant is finally over. regardless, the damage is done. Mammoth Mountain remains open and Squaw is expected to reopen for the 4th of July weekend.
On Tuesday AM (6/7) remnants of a cutoff low previously south of Tahiti were in the deep Southeast Pacific. this low actually first started organizing Monday AM (6/6) resulting in a modest fetch of 40 kt southwest winds at 62S 143W and starting to take aimed more due north. By Monday evening southwest winds at 45 kts were lifting to 59S 141W with seas starting to build from 28 ft in that area. Tuesday AM (6/7) a small fetch of 40 kt south winds were lifting north at 60S 132W resulting in 28 ft seas at 58S 135W. By evening that fetch is to intensify with 45 kt south winds forecast at 53S 129W resulting in 32 ft seas at 53S 129W pushing up the 186 degree path to Central CA and the 188 degree path to Southern CA. That fetch is to race north and start fading Wed AM (6/8) from 45-50 kts resulting in 38 ft seas up at 49S 124W (182 degs NCal/184 SCal) while a secondary fetch of 45 kt south winds builds under it. By evening the fetch is to start wrapping into the northern quadrant of the storm all aimed to the Northeast and east (Peru-Chile) and moving out of the CA swell window. A small area of 42 ft seas are forecast at 46S 118W. Maybe some more swell to be pushing up the 180 degree path to SCal, with not much for Central CA (178 degs). Thursday AM (6/9) 45 kt fetch is to be pushing due east towards Chile at 42S 117W with 42 ft seas at 43S 110W, totally outside the CA swell window and effectively only aimed at Peru southward. More 40 kt west fetch and seas in excess of 30 ft to continue into Friday evening pushing into Southern Chile. This system has good chances of generating a small significant class swell pushing up into CA on down into mainland Mexico, with better odds for moderate to larger swell targeting Chile and Peru.
Minimal Storm #3S
On Saturday AM (5/28) a new complex gale started organizing under New Zealand. It had 36 ft seas from fetch the previous evening at 45 kts. Those seas were positioned at 53S 174E aimed pretty well up the 215 degree path to CA and unshadowed and well east of the 199 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell likely pushing towards both locales. That fetch was fading out Saturday evening with residual 30 ft seas at 54S 176W.
Of more interest was a new fetch building directly behind with 55 kt southwest winds at 55S 164E (216 degs NCal but shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI). By Sunday AM (5/29) a tiny area of 55-60 kt southwest fetch was moving into exposed waters generating up to 44 ft seas at 57S 175E (210 degs NCal and moving into the Tahiti Swell Shadow/196 degs HI unshadowed) and building. In the evening 50 kt west fetch was holding with 46 ft seas peaking at 58S 172W pushing due east (not good). That's 40 degrees east of the 205 degree path to NCal and in the middle of the Tahitian swell shadow, 207 degs relative to SCal and moving out of the core of the shadow, and 60 degs east of the 189 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell possibly moving towards all locations but favoring California and points south of there. Also swell pushing 40 degree east of the 203 degree path to Tahiti. This storm was fading on Monday AM (5/30) with 40 kt west winds dropping and seas fading from 40 ft at 55S 165W (203 degs relative to NCal and out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, 205 degrees SCal and out of the heart of the shadow and pushing 65 degree east of the 183 degree path to HI. Secondary 40 kt southwest fetch held into the evening with seas fading from 40 ft at 50S 165W.
This system was on a very direct west to east track with all fetch aimed due east, limiting the amount of swell that will radiate north. Still, with seas forecast to nearly 47 ft, some degree of energy is expected to push up into Hawaii and CA.
Hawaii: 15 secs residuals expected to be fading on Wednesday (6/8). Swell Direction: 192-199 degrees
Southern CA: Swell to continue upward with period 18 secs Wednesday AM (6/8) and peaking near noon with pure swell 3.0-3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.1-6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and holding through sunset. Swell to continue solid at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8-5.3 ft with sets to 6.5 ft) through the day Thursday (6/9), with period dropping towards 15 secs at sunset. 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 207-218 degrees
Northern CA: Swell to continue upward with period 18 secs Wednesday AM (6/8) and peaking near 2 PM with pure swell 3.0-3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.1-6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and holding through sunset. Swell to continue solid at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8-5.3 ft with sets to 6.5 ft) through the day Thursday (6/9), with period dropping towards 15 secs just after sunset. 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 205-216 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 hrs a second high pressure system is to build off the Kuril Islands tracking east and merging with the high stationary off the Central CA coast, Pretty much filling the North Pacific By late Saturday (6/11) and holding well into next week. This to result in a steady gradient over Cape Mendocino CA and northwest winds there at 20-25 kts and a steady northwest flow pushing down the US West Coast at 15 kts. all good for some local windswell. Trades to hold at 15-20 kts over Hawaii through the weekend, then backing down some. Weak low pressure is to track northeast off Japan, but no fetch of interest is forecast. Otherwise no activity of interest is forecast.
As of Tuesday (6/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI was up to 24.53. The 30 day average was up to 3.56 with the 90 day average up some to 13.47.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (6/6) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a small area of easterly anomalies over the Philippines and extending 1400 nmiles east and west of there. This was indicative of a mini Inactive Phase of the MJO. Regardless, it is to be stationary on 6/11 and fading, gone with dead neutral pattern in control of the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean Basins by 6/16 and holding through 6/26 suggestive of neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase of the MJO.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/2) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Hawaii to the dateline but steadily loosing coverage. The larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure that built in over both hemispheres in the winter causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, the cooler waters in the North Pacific continue to slowly relent in spurts as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters are building over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there and continue slowly increasing in coverage in fits and spurts. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east but not very effectively. Still the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though slowly fading).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. Then on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely by 4/7 and by 4/19 a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water started flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies tracked from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W as of 5/1. On 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water started to make a faint showing at 140W and was holding through 6/5, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. On 5/26 it appeared more warm water was pushing through the subsurface current heading towards Central America, possible a new Kelvin Wave and the likely result of the latest Active Phase of the MJO. +1 degree anomalies covered the entire subsurface current other than one little break at 140-150W with up to 2 degree anomalies embedded in the larger flow. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters in the east, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline, and continuing to get better by the day. The thought is this normalization of the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (6 months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though slow evolving.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were 'normal' with only light easterly anomalies persisting in the far Western Pacific.
We did some analysis on ocean currents on the Pacific equator this year an found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through May 2011. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that coupled with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely if not impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure that was just east of New Zealand is to be pushing into the Central and Eastern Pacific reaching down to 50S and generally pushing the storm track to the south and the fetch angle from west-to-east there, bypassing any routes up into our forecast area. But with the eastward movement of the high, the favored Southwest Pacific is to try and open up slightly by the weekend (6/11). A series of gales are forecast tracking under New Zealand with decent fetch and seas exceeding the 30 ft threshold. But it's too early to say with any certainty whether they will materialize, and if they do, whether the fetch will be aimed decently to the north. The first real system with such a fetch is not scheduled till Tues (6/14), a long ways away. Regardless, it's something to monitor.
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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Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
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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