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 (6/16) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell producing surf in thigh to waist high range and warbled though clean at protected spots. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat and clean, maybe a few knee high sets. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high and clean and weak - all windswell. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high sets and clean and lined up coming from the southern hemi. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was thigh high and clean, normal summer conditions. The East Shore was getting east-northeast windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no real swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring or forecast. Even the normal local pressure gradient had dissipated along the California coast. Hawaii was getting modest local tradewind generated windswell along east facing shores.
The models suggest no swell producing weather systems in the North Pacific for the next 7 days. Relative to California local weak low pressure was off the Pacific Northwest suppressing the normal northwesterly wind flow and eliminating the odds for windswell production for a few days. But by later in the workweek the low is to dissipate and the high is to rebuild increasing odds for limited windswell to rebuild. For Hawaii high pressure is to barely hold north of the Islands allowing easterly tradewinds to blow at 15 kts and generating minimal windswell along east facing shores into Thursday (6/20). The models are suggesting some degree of an organized low pressure system developing over the Kuril Islands on Wed (6/20) and pushing east through the weekend, moving up to the US West Coast at that time. But winds to never exceed 20-25 kts. Maybe some windswell to result for all locations with luck if one is to beleive the models.
A tiny storm formed under New Zealand Sun (6/9) with up to 40 ft seas for 12 hrs aimed due east. Small swell is hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast on Tues (6/18). And a larger gale again formed under New Zealand on Mon-Tues (6/11) with seas to 38 ft. Perhaps a little more size possible for the same regions, hitting Hawaii Tues (6/18) and the mainland Thurs (6/20). But nothing above impulse class size expected. Beyond a small gale is forecast nestled up along New Zealands east coast on Thurs (6/20) producing a tiny area of 36 ft seas for18 hours. Maybe some small swell to results mainly for Hawaii. Otherwise no respectable swell producing weather systems are charted.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (6/16) organized high pressure was noticeably absent from the North Pacific with a weak low at 1012 mbs positioned 600 nmiles off the Pacific Northwest coast. Northwest winds and windswell had dropped as a result along the California coast. But there was just enough of the high left north of Hawaii at 1020 mbs to continue producing east winds at 15 kts and making for small easterly windswell along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Over the next 72 hours the models indicate the low off the Pacific Northwest is to slowly move inland over Washington through Wed (6/19) allowing high pressure to start rebuilding to 1024 mbs, but displaced south some forming the usual pressure gradient along the California coast but displaced southward too, centered near Pt Conception. Winds to reach 25 kts there by Tuesday (6/18) building in coverage into Wednesday with 15 kts north winds in place up to Cape Mendocino then. Windswell to start rebuilding, but focused mainly on the south end of Central CA on down into Southern CA.
This same high pressure system is to start driving 15+ kts trades extending from the California coast all the way over Hawaii in one continuous fetch by Tues (6/18) holding through Wed (6/19) offering improved odds for better easterly windswell along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were occurring or forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/16) low pressure at 1010 mbs was centered 600 nmiles west of Northern Oregon and moving towards the Pacific Northwest. As a result high pressure was suppressed back to the west and weak, resulting in only a small area of 15 kts northwest winds pushing down the Central CA coast. Whatever gradient there was was displaced south. By Monday the gradient is to move over Pt Conception and small in coverage at 25 kts with Southern CA remaining protected. The gradient is to hold there Tuesday then start building Wednesday and Thursday with north winds near Pt Conception and the Channel Islands to 30 kts before starting to lift north on Friday (6/21) spreading northwards to Cape Mendocino with winds down to 20-25 kts and holding into Saturday. The gradient is to fade on Sunday (6/23). In short, a limited break from north winds for Central CA early in the workweek mainly from Monterey Bay northward, then the north wind pattern is to return by late Wednesday. Upwelling and cold water to remain the norm.
Jetstream - On Sunday (6/16) the jet remained nearly completely split over the width of the South Pacific with the southern branch down at 60S and tracking flat west to east (zonal flow). There was one small trough centered near 155W pushing the southern branch up into the northern branch of the jet but winds were only 120 kts feeding up into that trough offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to fade quickly and race with the wind energy from it feeding into a ridge pushing southeast and shutting down any hope for gale production. Back to the west another ridge is to form pushing southeast too also suppressing support for gale production. Beyond 72 hours the entire southern branch of the jet is to move southward down to 70S and over Antarctic Ice completely suppressing support for gale development over ice free waters of the South Pacific through Sun (6/23).
Surface - On Sunday (6/13) a gale was trying to develop in the Southwest Pacific generating southwest winds at 35 kts south of New Zealand. No swell production was occurring yet. By evening fetch is to increase with winds building to almost 40 kts aimed well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 55S 165W. By Monday AM (6/17) a decent sized fetch of 40 kt southwest winds is forecast producing 28 ft seas at 60S 160W. By evening winds to start fading from 40 kts with seas barely 30 ft at 59S 153W. Fetch and seas to fade after that. Small impulse class swell possible mainly for the US West Coast if all goes as forecast. Otherwise over the next 72 hours no other swell producing fetch is forecast.
On Sunday AM (6/9) a small gale developed and quickly peaked under New Zealand and just off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf with winds 50 kts out of the west over a small area. Seas were modeled at 40 ft over a tiny area at 61S 163E. The gale was fading fast by evening with winds barely 40 kts and falling into Antarctica with seas dropping from 36 ft at 62S 175E. By Monday AM this system was gone. Minimal small background swell is possible reaching the US West Coast (CA) by late Tues (6/18) with period 20 secs from 211 degrees but likely not big enough to be rideable till period drops into the 17 sec range.
On Monday evening (6/10) a small gale developed south of New Zealand just off the Ross Ice Shelf producing 45 kts west winds and seas building to 36 ft over a moderate sized area at 58S 170E. Winds were fading to 40 kts by Tues AM (6/11) resulting in seas of 38 ft at 59S 178W. The fetch was disintegrating by evening fading from barely 40 kts with seas 34 ft at 58S 165W. Small swell possibly reaching Hawaii on Tues AM (6/18) at 1.3 ft @ 18 secs (2 ft) from 191 degrees. Even less size for California arriving on Thurs (6/20) midday with period 18 secs from 208 degrees.
Another gale tracked east through the Southeast Pacific Friday (6/14) mainly over Antarctic Ice then turned slightly northeast in the evening producing 40+ kt west winds in the extreme Southeast Pacific and emerging from the ice sheet targeting extreme Southern Chile. Seas reached 32 ft on the eastern edge of the California swell window Fri PM at 61S 132W then quickly exited to the east but targeting only Southern Chile into Saturday. Maybe some background sideband swell to radiate up into Southern California swell window starting Sun AM (6/23) with period 17-18 secs from 189 degrees.
Monitor QuikCAST's for swell details on all three of the above systems.
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 high pressure is to start getting better footing for a day or so Fri-Sat (6/22) off the California coast enabling 20+ kt north winds to set up over Cape Mendocino and supporting north windswell production of a limited sort for the entire California coast. But low pressure to be right behind it cutting it's legs off with windswell heading down later Sunday (more details below).
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to falter a bit on Thursday (6/20) as low pressure tracks east well north of the Islands, but then rebuild by Sun (6/23) at 1024 mbs in close proximity to the Islands with trades 15 kt solid covering an area both east and west of Hawaii. Improving odds for local easterly windswell at that time.
Tropical moisture and energy is to be tracking over Japan mid-week and organizing into a cohesive low pressure system off the Kuril Islands on Thurs (6/20) migrating east just shy of the Aleutians and over the dateline Friday. Wind generally in the 20 kt range with pockets to 25 kts. There even suggestions it might organize more off the US West Coat on Saturday with some pockets of west winds to 30 kts, but that seems more like a fantasy of the model than anything one could count on.But if it were to occur, some degree of windswell could result for both Hawaii and the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by 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 days, 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Sunday (6/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 0.42. The 30 day average was down to 11.85 with the 90 day average up to 6.05. Overall this is moving towards La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and clearly illustrative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. But SOI values tend to be lagging indicators.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending over the dateline region with light east anomalies continuing almost to Central America. A week from now (6/24) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and the dateline and holding that way into Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be fading.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/15 are in agreement suggesting a weak Active Phase of the MJO was building in Indian Ocean and easing into the far West Pacific with no sign of the Inactive Phase. Both models have the Active Phase of the MJO easing east from the Indian Ocean tracking into the far West Pacific 4 days out, then weakening and dissipating 12-15 days out. The dynamic model has it fading earlier than the statistical model. At this point any hint of an Active Phase is better than nothing.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (6/13) a La Nina like pattern continues in the East Pacific over the equator with much cooler water pushing off the South American Coast extending over the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there almost half way to a point south of Hawaii. But it continues to not look as forceful as previous updates, with the cold pool steadily shrinking over the past 22 days. It's too early to tell whether this is a sign of a trend or just a pause until the next inactive Phase invigorates it yet again. This cold pool had eroded warm water that previously building up north of the equator off Central America. But that warm water appears to have made some headway as of late. Looking back just a few weeks it's almost as if this cold pool developed before any anomalous east winds started blowing over the West Pacific. The question now is: "Will these cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in-place?". It's too early to know but they appear to be fading - a good thing. But another ominous sign is the same thing is occurred off West Africa, with cold water radiating off the coast there on the equator and building while pushing towards the Caribbean. This was a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. But with the cold pool seemingly eroding some, maybe all hope is not lost. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, but has returned, initially only weakly but is growing. The teleconnection suggests this cold water pattern (driven by high pressure aloft) has a global component and will not easily be dislodged. Another interesting tidbit is last year at this time an almost El Nino like pattern developed, only to collapse late summer. So it is possible this La Nina teaser could fade as well. Something to monitor. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicate a pool of cooler water that has been in place at 140W and down 150 meters has effectively dispersed. And warmer water from the West Pacific has migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +3.0 deg C water is now at 120W and down 80 meters. Temperatures on the surface appear to be warming some with the subsurface blocking pattern loosing it's legs. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic responded to the cold push in May, in what could be a building global pattern. Of concern too is that the SOI 30 day average is still pretty far into positive territory. But the models suggest the MJO is turning more towards the Active Phase and less Inactive. Maybe we will return to a pattern biased neutral, but at this time it sure seems like were in some flavor of weak La Nina.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 6/16 indicates water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (-0.1 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.1 degree C level is possible by July building into October at +0.5 and holding there through Jan 2014. A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a wide spread of outcomes ranging from La Nina to neutral to just a bit warmer than neutral into Summer and early Fall 2013. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models should have a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains uncertain, but surely not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates). Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 if not bordering weakly on La Nina.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours a broad low pressure system is to develop over New Zealand Wed (6/19) becoming more organized by Thurs AM (6/20) producing a tiny area area of 45 kt south winds nestled just east of the coast there resulting in 32 ft seas over a microscopic area at 42S 180W. 50-55 kt winds to building into the evening with seas responding reaching 38 ft over a tiny area at 40S 180W targeting Hawaii well. The gale is to be almost gone by Fri AM (6/21) with seas fading from 36 ft at 36S 174W. Maybe some swell to result for Hawaii if all goes as planned. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
The real issue is we are approaching the height of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, with Antarctic Ice nearing it's peak coverage, extending north up to nearly 60S over the entire Southwestern Pacific. This significantly reduces the area of ice free waters, reducing the area eastward tracking storms have to get traction on the oceans surface and generate swell.
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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'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
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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