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 (6/14) North and Central California was seeing shoulder to head high locally generated northwest windswell and moderately bumped up with foggy conditions. Southern California had thigh to waist high northwest windswell wrapping in up north with clean but somewhat warbled conditions early. Down south waist high windswell sets were mushing through. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had waist to chest head high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell at maybe waist high at top spots with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A strong local pressure gradient is forecast building over Cape Mendocino mid-week resulting in much local north windswell for Central CA. Otherwise the North Pacific is in hibernation for the summer. Down south Storm #4S developed in the extreme Southeast Pacific Tuesday (6/7) pushing due north into early Wednesday (6/8) resulting in 36 ft seas pushing pretty well towards the US West coast, then turning east providing a better shot of energy aimed at Chile. This is to result in a modest pulse of very southerly angled minimally significant class swell for CA starting Wed (6/15) peaking 24 hours later. On the charts a new gale is developing under New Zealand and forecast to lift northeast tracking up the east coast of NZ while builds, with seas pushing 37 ft Wednesday evening (6/15) then fading while continuing northeast. Decent odds for solid swell pushing up into Hawaii with unshadowed swell possible for the US West Coast. Another quirky little system is forecast tracking up the South American coast Thurs-Sat (6/18) with up to 38 ft seas, of no use to US interests but sending possible very south angled swell towards Central America, Peru and Northern Chile.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Tuesday (6/14) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino forming a pressure gradient over the North CA coast with northwest winds at 25 kts and starting to produce northwest windswell along exposed breaks. This high was also driving modest trades over the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts and generating minimal short period windswell at exposed east facing breaks. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to surge east more increasing the pressure gradient along the North Coast of CA and increasing northwest winds there to 30-35 kt on Thurs (6/16) resulting in more and larger windswell for Central CA. Trades to also increase over Hawaii at 15-20 kts Thurs-Mon (6/20) resulting a modest increase in easterly windswell there (see QuikCASTs).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity of interest is being monitored.
At very best some tiny south swell from the remnants of Hurricane Adrian could result for Pt Dume and points west of there starting at 3 PM Mon (6/13).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (6/14) high pressure at 1028-1030 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino forming a modest pressure gradient along the Central CA coast and generating 25 kt northwest winds for all of North CA and 15 kt northwest winds from most of Central CA. By Wednesday a full on summer pressure gradient is to be in control with 30-35 kt north winds blowing over North CA to a point off Monterey Bay and north windswell and chop likely radiating south. More of the same on Thursday but the bulk of the winds moving a bit north, with the gradient slowly backing off on Friday (25 kts) with 15 kts north winds and chop still over all of Central CA. The gradient is to hold in the 20 to barely 25 kt range off Pt Arena on Saturday (6/18) with perhaps an eddy flow in control nearshore. Sunday the gradient is to fire back up with 25-30 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino and 15 kt north winds from Pt Reyes southward to Pt Conception. The gradient is to lift north on Monday with an eddy flow filling in from Pt Arena southward and then the gradient is to fade 24 hours later.
On Tuesday (6/14) the jetstream was starting to form a broad trough under New Zealand extending east to the Central Pacific, then falling into a solid building ridge over the Southeast Pacific and pushing into Antarctica. There was building support from low pressure development under New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to continue pushing north with 150 kts southwest winds pushing up into it, but also starting to get pinched off by late Thursday (6/16) with 140 kt south winds still feeding up into it and reaching up to nearly 35S). Good support for gale development through that time. But then on Friday into Sat (6/18) the trough is to start quickly receding to the southeast with all energy diving into Antarctica with support for swell producing gale activity quickly dissipating. Beyond 72 hours a large ridge is to build pushing hard south under New Zealand on Sunday (6/19) and increasing coverage to nearly the entire South Pacific by later Tuesday, totally eliminating support for gale development over the long haul.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/14) a complex low pressure system was trying to organize just southeast of New Zealand generating a fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds just under the southern tip of NZ and getting traction on the oceans surface. Seas were building to 30 ft at 55S 168E (216 NCal and unshadowed, 201 HI). By evening the fetch is to become better defined at 40 kts and aimed almost due north with 30 ft seas holding at 52S 173E. By Wednesday AM (6/15) a solid fetch of 40-45 kt south winds are forecast building just east of southern New Zealand resulting in 34 ft seas at 49S 179E pushing right up the 214 degree path to NCal (217 SCal) and well up the 197 degree path to HI. In the evening 40 kt south fetch is to continue pushing north with 37 ft seas peaking at 46S 176W aimed right up the 214 degree path to NCal (unshadowed) 217 SCal and well up the 193 degree path to HI. Very nice. Thursday AM (6/16) more 40 kt south fetch is to be blowing with 36 ft seas at 42N 168W pushing right up the 211 degree path to NCal (unshadowed), the 215 degree path to SCal (becoming shadowed by Tahiti) and a bit east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the core of this system is to be increasing in strength, but falling quickly to the south with all swell generation potential fading off fast. If all this comes to pass as modeled, a decent push of southern hemi swell could be moving towards both Hawaii and California (5700 nmiles), with Hawaii getting the most size due to their close proximity (4084 nmiles). Will monitor.
Storm #4S - Southeast Pacific
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 (58S 140W). Tuesday AM (6/7) a small fetch of 40 kt south winds were lifting north at 60S 132W resulting in 28 ft seas at 57S 135W. By evening that fetch intensified with 45 kt south winds at 53S 129W resulting in 32 ft seas at 54S 129W pushing up the 186 degree path to Central CA and the 188 degree path to Southern CA. That fetch pushes more to the northeast and started fading Wed AM (6/8) from 45 kts resulting in 36 ft seas up at 48S 124W (182 degs NCal/184 SCal) while a secondary fetch of 45 kt south winds built under it. By evening the fetch was starting to wrap 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 34 ft seas were modeled at 45S 117W. Maybe some more swell was pushing up the 180 degree path to SCal, with not much for Central CA (178 degs). Thursday AM (6/9) 45 kt fetch was pushing due east towards Chile at 42S 117W with 37 ft seas at 44S 110W, totally outside the CA swell window and effectively only aimed at Peru southward. More 45-50 kt west fetch and seas in excess of 30 ft pushing near 40 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.
Southern CA: Swell to become rideable by Wednesday sunrise (6/15) with swell 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5 ft faces) and size on the increase and starting to peak, reaching 3.6 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8.0 ft). Swell to continue building with period 16-17 secs Thursday AM and peaking early near 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft with sets to 8.0 ft), then backing off later in the day. Swell to be fading on Friday (6/17) from 3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5 ft). 14 sec residuals on Sat (6/18). Swell Direction 182-187 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell to arrive on Wednesday sunrise (6/15) with period 19 secs and size on the increase, reaching 2.3 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (3.5 ft faces). Swell to continue building with period 17 secs Thursday AM then peaking in the afternoon near 3.6 ft @ 16 secs (5.5-6.0 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Swell to be fading on Friday (6/17) from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft). 14-15 sec residuals on Sat (6/18). Swell Direction 180-184 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 high pressure is to decrease some off California Saturday (6/18) resulting in smaller windswell, only to resurge on Sunday (25 kts) and then back to 30 kts on Monday, before fading. Local windswell to pick up in Central CA in-sync with the increase in winds. Trades to hold solid through early next week over Hawaii, then back off as the high retreats Tuesday (6/21). East windswell to increase with the trades, and fall as they do.
As of Tuesday (6/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading down more. The daily SOI was down to -13.43. The 30 day average was down to 5.76 with the 90 day average down some to 11.54.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (6/13) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a small weak area of residual easterly anomalies from south of Hawaii into Central America. This was indicative of the end of a mini-Inactive Phase of the MJO. It is forecast to be dissipating while pushing east into Central America, then gone just after 6/18. All the while a new but modest instance of the Active Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean weakly pushing into the extreme West Pacific on 6/18, limping to the dateline on 6/23 then dissipating. This is a bit of a downgrade from previous forecasts. It remains a point of interest how the model jumps around, not having a good handle on what is currently occurring. We suspect that maybe the historical record is just spiky, causing the sudden emergence of anomalies, through they've been there in reality all along. Regardless, a neutral pattern is forecast 6/28-7/3.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/13) is effectively 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. This is typically what is referred to as a horseshoe 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. Interestingly is the new emergence of a cold tongue of water in the tropical Atlantic, tracking west from Africa on the equator to nearly South America (the exact opposite of what's occurring in the tropical Pacific). For now the big picture still looks like a La Nina, though slowly fading and trying to turn neutral if not something more.
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 June 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. This suggest the warm waters currently pooling up off Ecuador will likely dissipate as summer progresses but at the same time, the cooler than normal horseshoe pattern over the North and South Pacific will dissipate too.
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 another small system if forecast building in the deep Central Pacific on Sat (6/18) with 32 ft seas pushing northeast into Sunday AM (198-200 deg path to NCal and mostly unshadowed), then turning east with little energy pushing up the great circle paths and moving towards Chile. Possible sideband energy to result for Hawaii if all goes as forecast.
Also a quirky little system is forecast tracking up the South American coast Thurs-Sat (6/18) with up to 38 ft seas at 36N 90W, stalling there and fading. This one is to be of no use to US interests but sending possible very south angled swell towards Central America, Peru and Northern Chile.
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