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 (6/17) North and Central CA had locally generated north windswell was fading with waves about chest high with maybe a few bigger sets and warbled with south eddy winds in control. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was up to waist high on the sets and mostly clean inside the kelp, mostly from wrap-around local windswell.Southern California up north was knee high and clean with light fog. Down south waves were a little over waist high on the sets and weak but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a few rare northwest windswell sets in the waist to maybe chest high range and clean. The South Shore was effectively flat with waves knee high with a few bigger sets and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had east windswell at waist to chest 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 high pressure was ridging mildly into North CA generating a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA producing north winds at 20-25 kts over a small area resulting in modest short period local north windswell. This situation to hold into Thursday, then fade as the high retrograde west away from the coast. Limited swell from a broad pool of low pressure that developed on the dateline then eased into the Gulf of Alaska with northwest winds to 25-35 kts and seas 15-18 ft Tues-Thurs (6/14) was hitting Hawaii and poised just off the North and Central CA coast Sunday (6/17). Not to much is expected from it. Nothing else of real interest is forecast.
Down south a small gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Monday (6/11) with seas at 30 ft aimed well at Hawaii for a short time, maybe good for a little pulse of swell starting Mon (6/18) there and Thurs (6/21) for CA. After that a semi-tropical system developed just north of New Zealand on Friday (6/15) falling southeast across the width of the South Pacific with seas in the 36 ft range. Maybe some tiny swell for Tahiti and Hawaii with luck. But after that absolutely no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Sunday (6/17) high pressure at 1032 mbs was barely ridging into the North CA coast generating a small pressure gradient there producing northerly winds at 25 kts over a tiny area resulting in modest northerly windswell along the Central CA coast with lesser energy wrapping into Southern CA. The high was starting to push into Hawaii too with 15-20 kt east-northeast trades starting to build off the bottom of the high flowing over the Islands with windswell on the increase.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold off the North CA coast still producing 25 kt north winds over a small area near Cape Mendocino into early Thursday (6/21) producing minimal north windswell pushing down into Central CA with maybe a fraction of that energy reaching into exposed breaks in Southern CA. An eddy flow is to hold over Central CA waters through Tuesday (6/19) making for cleaner conditions, then collapsing with 15 kt northern fetch pushing into the nearshore waters making conditions messy.
Relative to Hawaii, northeast trades started picking up (15 kts Sat) and are to continue building strongly Sunday (6/17) to 20 kts extending the whole way from North CA into and over the Hawaiian Islands holding into early Tuesday (6/19) then dissipating 24 hrs later. Larger northeast local windswell possible for east facing shores of the Islands with stronger trades pushing over the Islands.
Previously a broad area of low pressure developed just east of the dateline producing up to 35 kt northwest wind and 18 ft seas Tuesday PM (6/12) then faded producing 25 kt northwest winds and 15 ft seas targeting Hawaii through Wednesday. Small swell is expected to result for Hawaii starting Sat PM (6/16) building to 3.6 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.5 ft faces) Sunday AM coming from 310 degrees.Also sideband swell from this system started hitting buoy 46006 on Sat PM (6/16) with swell 5 ft @ 12 secs. Swell should arrive in Central CA starting 4 AM Monday at 3 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (6/12) Tropical Storm Guchol was developing 250 nmiles southwest of Guam tracking west-northwest with sustained winds 35 kts. Guchol continued on a westward track reaching typhoon status late Wednesday evening with sustained winds 65 kts and then to 70 kts Thursday AM. A slow turn to the northwest occurred in the evening with Guchol then turning more to the north and strengthening, reaching 130 kts on Sunday AM (6/17) positioned 350 nmiles southeast of Taiwan. Guchol is expected to turning slightly more north-northeast in 24 hours then moving to a point just barely offshore of South Japan Tuesday AM (6/19) with winds down to 110 kts. Guchol is expected to track over Eastern Japan for 28 hrs while turning northeast emerging into the far West Pacific Wed AM (6/20) and much weaker with winds down to 46 kts, accelerating and turning more easterly and trying to organize off the Northern Japan coast. The models have Guchol racing east and hitting high pressure on the dateline (the high centered north of Hawaii) Sat (6/23) and being deflected north with no swell producing expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/17) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii and was barely ridging into the North CA coast producing a small pressure gradient centered over Cape Mendocino resulting in a small area of 25 kt north winds there. An eddy flow was in effect for South and Central CA. The gradient in this same pattern into Tuesday (6/19) with winds over Cape Mendo at 25 kts with an eddy flow in effect from Pt Arena southward. But by Wednesday the eddy is to collapse for Central CA and even threatening to dissipate for Southern CA with north winds again taking control of the Central Coast and with the gradient holding over Cape Mendocino generating 25 kt north winds. But by Thursday the gradient is to be gone and with it, fading windswell. North winds to be in effect nearshore over all of California then becoming more centered over Southern CA on Friday holding Saturday, then dissipating everywhere as low pressure builds 500 nmiles west of San Francisco.
Jet stream - On Sunday (6/17) a split jetstream pattern continued over the South Pacific with the southern branch tracking flat east over the width of the Pacific but easing a bit north of it's long standing far south position. It was up at 58S instead of down at 65-70S and barely free north of the Ross Ice Shelf getting limited exposure to open waters of the South Pacific. A weak trough was over the Central Pacific but was offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is forecast getting slightly better defined over the Central Pacific while tracking east but with winds speeds never exceeding 100 kts, then racing east with a new ridge building in behind it again pushing the jet south over the Ross Ice Shelf in the west and shutting down any hope for gale production. Beyond 72 hours the situation is to get even worse with the ridge building strong by late Thurs (6/21) pushing hard into Antarctica in the West and Central Pacific with winds 100 kts and sweeping east into Sunday (6/24). The jet behind the trough is to remain locked over Antarctica not providing any support gale development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Sunday (6/17) low pressure well east of New Zealand was falling southeast (see North New Zealand Gale below) with 2 patches of 30-35 kt west winds were just north of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Central Pacific, none of which was offering any support for swell development. No obvious high pressure systems were indicated, but the overall pattern looked very much like that of one dominated by high pressure in the upper atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours some degree of unsettle weather is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific with fragments of west winds at 35-40 kts and seas to 24 ft at 55S 125W Tuesday (6/19) but all aimed due east at Chile. No swell of interest to result.
Small New Zealand Gale
A small gale tried to organize just south of New Zealand on Sunday AM (6/10) supported by an upper trough there. There was actually a fetch of southwest winds at 30 kts trying to take root but pushing directly into southern New Zealand. By evening winds built to 45 kts aimed due north positioned just 800 nmiles south of New Zealand and held into Monday AM (6/11) with 30 ft seas building at 58S 173E on the 194 degree path to Hawaii and 5000 nmiles out and on the 211 degree path to California (well shadowed by Tahiti). Winds barely hung on into the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 53S 178E targeting Hawaii best. Fetch continued in the area with seas holding at 26 ft Tuesday AM (6/12) at 48S 176W (212+ degs CA and becoming unshadowed - 195 degs HI) then fading from barely 26 ft in the evening at 42S 178W. A secondary fetch of 40-45 kt south-southeast winds to form at the bottom of the low on Wed AM (6/13) again generating 28 ft seas at 53S 180W in the evening but this time tracking directly at New Zealand. Maybe some sideband energy to reach Hawaii, but virtually nothing aimed at the mainland US. A quick fade forecast thereafter.
In all some degree of small swell is possible for Hawaii with period in the 18 sec range arriving 7.5 days after being generated (or Monday PM - 6/18) with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft faces) peaking at 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) Tues AM (6/19) coming from 194 degrees. Maybe some follow on energy to continue for a few days too as period settle down. Limited swell expected for California starting Thurs (6/21) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft) holding into Sat (6/23) at 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 212-219 degrees
North New Zealand Gale
A gale developed north of New Zealand and rapidly intensified Thursday evening producing 55 kt south winds but with the core of the system tracking steadily southeast. Southwesterly winds built to 55-60 kt on Friday AM (6/15) with seas to 34 ft at 29S 178W then fading to 50 kts in the evening with seas to 38 ft over an infinitesimal area at 31S 169W, but again the core of the system is to be falling quickly to the southeast with all fetch moving steadily into the systems north quadrant aimed at South America (but a long ways away and tiny in areal coverage). Winds still 45-50 kts on Saturday AM (6/16) aimed due east with seas 33 ft at 33S 164W and also aimed due east. On Sunday winds were holding at 45 kts over a tiny area but all aimed southeast as the system tracked on a collision course with Antarctica. Seas 22 ft at 39S 150W Sun AM then quickly fading. There is some potential for swell for Tahiti (and less so for Hawaii 193 degs - 3000 nmiles out) from early in the systems life is all goes as planned, but otherwise nothing for anyone else.
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 retrograde heavily off the US West Coast and wither by Thurs (6/21) with only a light northerly flow expected down the CA coast and trades over Hawaii down to 15 kts covering only a small area local relative to the Islands. No windswell expected for either location through Saturday (6/23). Then the high is to start regenerating due north of Hawaii with northeast trades building over a broader area at 15 kts possibly setting up northeast windswell for Hawaii by later Sunday (6/24). There;s even a hint of a low forming east of the high, but not generating any real fetch of interest.
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 Sunday (6/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -8.93. The 30 day average was down to -6.91 with the 90 day average down to -3.94 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the dateline and far West Pacific with respectable west anomalies over the far East Pacific too. What previous was thought to be a return of the Active Phase of the MJO and a westerly Wind Burst in the Far West Pacific (WWB) was certainly short lived, and it is doubtful a Kelvin Wave would result. A week from now (6/24) neutral anomalies are to hold over the far West Pacific and dateline region with light west anomalies over the Central Pacific extending and pushing east from there. This suggests a continuation of an weak Active Phase of the MJO pushing east as it normally does. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/16 are in agreement indicating the Active Phase MJO pattern had peaked and was fading over the West Pacific (Outgoing Long Wave radiation suppressed) and is to be pushing east for the next 14 days centered more into Central America and the Caribbean while a new Inactive Phase builds strong over Indonesia and then pushes towards the dateline eventually taking control there 2 weeks out (6/30). But it is modeled to remain just a bit north of the equatorial dateline region. Not sure what effect this will have on wind anomalies there at this time, assuming it plays out as modeled. Regardless, we should assume some flavor of the Inactive Phase is going to migrate into the West if not Central Pacific 2-3 weeks out. We were hoping to avoid that. The preferred option is no Inactive Phase build-up and a return to a neutral pattern, which would suggest that as we move out of the Springtime unpredictability barrier, that a weak El Nino or at least a pattern that supports warm water buildup in the East Pacific continues. We are moving into the critical juncture in that determination through the end of June into the first week in July. It's till to early to know what the outcome will be. But we are expecting to see increased tropical activity along Mexico and into the Caribbean Sea with the Active Phase hold there 2 weeks out.
In monitoring the migration of warm water into the equatorial East Pacific, which the existing weak MJO pattern is supporting, this becomes 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 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. Regardless, the warm water pool off Central America has benefited greatly from the lack of strong trades over the equator, with warm water migrating solidly east and building up along the coast, a precursor to El Nino.
A weaker MJO signal is typical for this time of year, but does not normally appear as strong and as long-lasting as what is 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 high pressure is to build east of New Zealand at 1036 mbs by late Wed (6/20) pushing east moving weather system well to the south and over the Ross Ice Shelf. By Friday (6/22) low pressure is to build east of the high generating a broad fetch of 40 kt south winds lifting north for 24-26 hrs resulting in seas of 26 ft at 53S 128W on Sat AM (6/23) fading to 25 ft in the evening at 48S 126W then fading from there. Maybe some support for swell production assuming the models are correct (low odds).
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