New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 Thursday (6/18) North and Central California had waist to chest high locally generated northwest windswell and pretty textured even early. Southern California had some leftover southern hemi swell intermixing with smaller northwest windswell producing waves in the waist high range and sometimes a bit more pushing chest high at the better south facing breaks with a little textured mid-day. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had some thigh high east windswell. The South Shore still had southeast swell but thing were definitely down from days before, with waves waist to chest high and occasionally a little more and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA locally generated northwest windswell is all that expected for the foreseeable future, pushing head high on Friday and possibly 1-2 ft overhead over the weekend but with wind on it. Southern CA is to see that same small northerly local windswell at thigh high Friday and waist high to occasionally more at top exposed breaks over the weekend. Background very southerly angled swell from off Chile is to start arriving on Sunday at chest high holding into Monday. Oahu's North Shore is to see a little pulse of northwest windswell on Friday at near chest high but going back to Saturday and staying there. The East Shore to see steadily building easterly tradewind generated windswell pushing up to almost head high on Friday, then drifting down some Saturday only to return on Sunday and more into early next week. The South Shore is to see maybe a dribble more of energy from that southeast swell from off Chile on Friday, then getting very quiet for the weekend.
Longterm a near total shutdown of the South Pacific has been in effect with no swell producing weather systems occurring. A decent series of storms have been developing just off Chile, effectively east of even the Southern CA swell window. Still some smaller sideband swell is expected to push up into the SCal swell window starting Sun/Mon with another pulse by Wed to pushing up that way a week out. Some persistent small fetch is forecast building just east of New Zealand by Wednesday-Fri (6/26). Also a gale has been trying to organize just off the east coast of New Zealand with seas 26-28 ft, which should start pushing energy up into the South Shore of Hawaii by late Tues (6/22) continuing into the end of the workweek. And if the models are right a better looking gale is schedule to build under New Zealand Tues (6/23) with seas pushing the 35 ft range into Wednesday, possibly setting up another pulse of decent swell for the Islands a week out and into CA (though shadowed by Tahiti) 9 day beyond. That's still a reach for the models at this early date.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure at 1024 mbs was 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii starting to fuel the development of 15-20 kt trades over the Islands and starting to show some easterly windswell there. This high was also starting to ridge into the US West Coast generating 25 kt north winds off Cape Mendocino and producing small short period north windswell along Central CA. Low pressure that was in the gulf is all shunted north now, in the Bering Sea and in-effective at swell production. Previously this low was on the dateline and produced a small area of 30-35 kt west winds near 45N 180W on Monday AM (6/15) with 20 ft seas at 42N 175W, good for some background barely rideable swell pushing into Hawaii by Friday (6/19) at 3 ft @ 12 secs (4 ft faces). Over the next 72 hours the big high pressure system off California and northeast of Hawaii is to organize more with pressure holding at 1028 mbs generating trades at 20 ks over Hawaii and north winds building to 25-30 kts over Cape Mendocino with short period windswell building in both locales through the weekend.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/18) high pressure was starting to impact the North CA coast generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino building south into Central CA. this pattern is to only amplify with up to 30 kt north winds over Pt Arena Friday and Saturday with lesser winds raking nearshore coastal waters with windswell on the way up. The fetch is to slid a little south on Sunday fading to 25 kt out of the north and still raking the coast. Then another pulse of winds energy is expected by Monday (6/22) with 30 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino and lesser winds over nearshore waters. A choppy mess is expected through the period north of Pt Conception. Finally on Tuesday the fetch is to pull away from the coast south of Pt Arena, providing a little break from local chop, only to return for Wed and Thurs (6/25). Water temps are likely to take a dive.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (6/18) the South Pacific jetstream was split as usual with a decent sized but moderating ridge pushing south over the Southeast Pacific over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. But a trough was trying to organize under New Zealand pushing far enough north to impact the northern branch of the jet with 190 winds at that juncture. But it is the winds pushing north that were weak, only 100 kts that would support gale development. So not a whole lot is expected here other than some weak support for gale development. Over the next 72 hrs that trough is to get cut-off by more energy flowing fast to the east under New Zealand, but the trough is to not loose it's identity, likely continuing to support weak gale development just east of New Zealand. Beyond 72 hours thing are to improve more with the trough easing to the east and building with the southern branch pushing north and totally mering with the northern branch by Tues (6/23) offering better support for gale development south of Tahiti and holding into Thurs (6/25). Still, wind speeds feeding into this broad trough are to remain below 120 kts, so whatever forms at the surface, if anything, will not be strong.
At the surface on Thursday (6/18) high pressure at 1032 mbs was in control of the Southeast Pacific pushing south to the Ross Ice Shelf but also pushing a steady fetch of 35 kt southwest winds from Antarctica right over southern Chile. All this fetch was outside even the Southern CA swell window, though there is some hints that sideband energy from a previous incarnation of this system is pushing north and will reach exposed breaks in Southern CA on Sun/Mon (6/21) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) from 185 degrees. A second pulse is expected in on Wed (6/24) at up to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces with top spots to 5 ft) from 170 degrees continuing into Thurs (6/25) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces and up to 5 ft at top spots).
Also a persistent cut-off low formed just east of New Zealand on Wednesday (6/17) producing varying degrees of 35-40 kt south winds over a small area generating 26-28 ft seas near 40S 165-170W and expected to continue into Friday. Small 15-16 sec period swell is to start pushing north into the Hawaiian Islands on late Tues (6/23) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (3-3.5 ft faces) building to 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs on Wed (6/24) resulting in 3.5-4.0 ft faces late and up to head head high sets at top spots. More energy to continue Thursday (6/25) as period drops to 14 secs. Swell Direction 190 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours yet more 35 kt south winds to continue alongside of New Zealand at 40S 175W aimed due north Fri-Sun (6/21) resulting in a consistent area of 28 ft seas at 38S 175W. This winds to be pushing 15 degrees north of the 213-216 degree tracks to California and totally unshadowed and up the 198-200 degree path to Hawaii. This should result in continuing modest south swell pushing into the Hawaiian Islands through Sunday (6/28). Limited amounts of energy should reach the mainland.
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 hold at 1028 mbs through Tuesday (6/23) generating more 20 kt trades over the Hawaiian Islands and and winds to 25 kts holding over Cape Mendocino resulting in more windswell for both locations. The high is to push east and trades are to falter in Hawaii with east windswell heading down, but the Cape Mendocino gradient is to hold in California at least into Friday (6/26).
A gale previously forecast developing off Japan on Friday (6/19) has evaporated from the charts.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (6/18) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Active Phase, and was wrapping up it's third consecutive pulse since April 20th (centered on the dateline). The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained dead neutral. The Daily SOI index was down to -20.46. The 30 day average was steady at -7.56 and the 90 day average was down slightly at -1.76, within a point or two of where is has been since 5/23 (dead neutral) but dipping a little deeper into negative territory. The SOI indicies remained effectively neutral but a significant change appears to be occurring in the Pacific. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that a third incarnation of the Active Phase has peaked out, with weaker westerly wind anomalies pushing from India east into the Pacific over the dateline reaching to Central America, filling the Pacific Basin. But by 6/21 it's to start moderating, withering away into 6/26. A version of the Inactive Phase is trying to develop in the Indian Ocean, but weaker than previous estimates. It is to barely reach the dateline on 7/1, then effectively gone by 7/6. No energy is forecast reaching even under Hawaii much less Central America. So a weak version of the Inactive Phase is to possibly make an appearance in early July. We remain disposed to believe we are entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase, which supports a manifestation of El Nino and signals the death of La Nina. Latest data as of 6/15 indicates warmer than normal waters temps are reported over the entire width of the equatorial Pacific and building off Central America pushing up into Baja Mexico and expected to track north from there. The large cool pool of water off the US West Coast is gone with warm anomalous starting to build along the California coast. This looks very much like El Nino. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water starting to pool up there. It appears that previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump, and are now pushing warmer than normal subsurface water eastward with more building up behind, and feeding a slightly warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. This is very good news. In fact increased warming can be seen around and east of the Galapagos Islands to near 2 deg C above normal. A Kelvin Wave produced by an earlier Westerly Wind Burst with 4 deg C above normal water temps is poised to break the surface there. And another Westerly Wind Burst appears to be developing just west of the dateline, larger than previously suspected and possibly setting up another Kelvin wave and more warm water moving east. At this point high pressure and local La Nina conditions off California are long gone. If this pattern persists we expect the tropical season to become more active and surpass the below normal activity levels of the past 3 years. And the North Pacific jetstream is looking better than it has the whole of last winter. But it's not till the later half of July that we might get a real sense of how the Fall might set up. Still, things are looking much better.
Beyond 72 hours gale is forecast developing under New Zealand Tues (6/23) with 40 kt southwest winds forecast near 55S 180W holding into Wed AM then starting to dissipate. 35 ft seas are forecast Tuesday PM at 53S 172W holding into Wednesday PM at 45S 168W . Possible 17+ sec period swell is to be pushing north toward Hawaii and the US West Coast (though a little shadowed by the western edge of the Society Islands) if this occurs as forecast. But that's still a ways off.
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