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 (6/19) North and Central CA had locally generated north windswell up a little at head high and a bit warbled with moderate southwesterly wind blowing over it. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high on the sets with a few bigger peaks and clean, mostly from wrap-around local windswell. Southern California up north was knee high with maybe a few thigh high sets and warbled with June gloom in control. Down south waves were thigh to maybe waist high on the sets and weak with eddy wind texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat with some windswell sets wrapping around at maybe waist high on occasion and a little lumpy. The South Shore was getting some limited southern hemi swell with waves shoulder high on the sets and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had east windswell at 1 ft overhead 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 extreme North CA generating a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA producing north winds at 25 kts over a small area resulting in modest short period local north windswell. This situation to hold into Wednesday (6/20), then fade as the high retrogrades west away from the coast focused more on Hawaii. Limited weak low pressure to move off of Oregon for the weekend into early next week generating 20 kt northwest winds and small northwest windswell. Otherwise nothing of real interest is forecast. Tradewind generated easterly windswell to be fading for Hawaii on Wed (6/20) then possibly returning come Sun (6/24) and holding as high pressure rebuilds north of the Islands.
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, producing a little pulse of swell that hit the Islands on Mon (6/18) and is expected into California on Thurs (6/21). 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 no swell producing weather systems are forecast until Tuesday (6/260 with maybe a small gale in the far Southeast Pacific with luck.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Tuesday (6/19) weak and diffuse high pressure at 1028 mbs was barely ridging into the extreme North CA coast generating a small pressure gradient and northerly winds to 25 kts over a tiny area over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in modest northerly windswell along the Central CA coast with lesser energy wrapping into Southern CA. The high was also generating an elongated fetch pushing over Hawaii with 15-20 kt east-northeast trades continuing resulting gin moderate windswell for the Islands.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to nearly dissolve off the North CA coast with limited 20 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, then fading out. The eddy flow over Central CA is to dissolve on Wednesday with 15 kt northern fetch pushing into the nearshore waters and continuing making conditions a bit messy through the end of the workweek. The gradient is to try and reappear on Friday (6/22) over Pt Conception but minimal in coverage with winds barely 20 kts. Not much to result windswell wise from that.
Relative to Hawaii, northeast trades to fade to 15 kts at best on Wednesday offering little support for easterly windswell continuing that way through the workweek.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (6/12) Tropical Storm Guchol developed 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 at 20N 127E (5594 nmiles from NCal on the 298 degree path and 4173 nmiles from Hawaii on the 284 degree path). Guchol turned slightly more north-northeast on Monday then moved onshore over South Japan early Tuesday AM (6/19) with winds down to 35 kts. Guchol is expected to emerge into the far West Pacific late Tuesday much weaker with winds down to 25 kts, accelerating and turning more easterly and not organizing much 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.
Maybe some small long period energy to reach Hawaii 6.5 days past it's peak with period 18 secs on Sun AM (6/24) at 1.4 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) and NCal 8.3 days later or Mon noon (6/25) at 1.4 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft).
On Tuesday (6/19) Tropical Storm Talim was just off the coast of Hong Kong with sustained winds 45 kts tracking east-northeast. It is expected to travel between Taiwan and China in the evening, then race along the Southern Japan coast by Thursday (6/21)with winds still 40 kts then into the open West Pacific on Friday. no real development forecast as it too impacts high pressure north of Hawaii mid-next week.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/19) high pressure at 1028 mbs was retrograding west with only a tiny area 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. By Wednesday the eddy is to start collapsing for Central CA by the afternoon and winds fading over Cape Mendo and by Thursday the gradient is to be gone and with it, the local windswell. Modest north winds to be in effect nearshore over all of California at 15 kts with the eddy barely hanging on for Southern CA, with the gradient setting up shop over Pt Conception on Friday at 25 kts holding Saturday and then down to 20 kts on Sunday, with lesser north winds over the rest of the state and the eddy barely holding for Southern CA. By Monday (6/25) the gradient and north winds are to be gone as low pressure builds just off Oregon with a front pushing up to San Francisco late.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (6/19) a split jetstream pattern continued over the Southwest Pacific with the southern branch tracking flat east but displaced well to the south traversing the Ross Ice Shelf. The two streams merged and lifted north some over the far Southeast Pacific forming something that almost looked like a trough but winds were light and not offering much to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the west is to continue if not become more pronounced with reinforcing energy pushing the jet well into Antarctica under New Zealand eliminating hope for gale development there. In the east the semi-trough there is to track east with winds building to 170 kts pushing directly over the southern tip of South America perhaps offering some support for gale development there almost directly over the coast but well outside our swell forecast area. Beyond 72 hours the big ridge in the west is to expand eastward reaching the eastern edge of the CA swell window by Tues (6/27) completely locking the South Pacific down and offering no gale production support. But again a trough is to build just off the southern tip of South America, perhaps providing support for gale development for Chile with luck.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (6/19) high pressure was east of New Zealand at 1024 mbs ridging south to nearly the Ross Ice Shelf with a second stronger high at 1036 mbs off Chile reaching south to 50S and effectively locking down the South Pacific from gale formation. Tiny swell from a gale that was south of New Zealand had passed Hawaii and was pushing towards California (see Small New Zealand Gale below). Smaller swell still from low pressure system that started well east of New Zealand then fell southeast (see North New Zealand Gale below) was in the water tracking towards Hawaii. But overall the pattern remained very much like that of one dominated by high pressure in the upper atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with the high east of New Zealand building to 1040 mbs driving all fetch southeast towards Antarctica. 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 hit Hawaii. Follow-on energy to continue Wednesday (6/20) and for a few days 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 30S 169W (3200 nmiles from HI on the 193 degree track), 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 (arriving Wed PM 6/20 from 192 degs peaking Thurs AM at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) from early in the systems life, 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 remain mostly retrograded away from the US West Coast for the weekend other than a small gradient over Pt Conception with up to 25 kt north winds there Sat (6/23) and lighter northerly winds elsewhere down the CA coast with low odds of windswell generation. Low pressure is to start building just off the Oregon Coast on Sat (6/23) producing a modest area of 20 kts north winds through the weekend then building to 25 kts from the northwest on Mon (6/25) before fading. Maybe some small windswell to result for Central CA.
Trades relative to Hawaii to start rebuilding to 15 kts by Saturday (6/23) pushing 20 kt on Sunday and holding for 24 hours. Northeast windswell possibly building some for Hawaii by later Sunday (6/24). There's even a hint of some north windswell being generated from that low pressure system forecast east of the high (off Oregon) late Tues (6/26), but that's mostly just speculation at this early date.
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 in 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 forecasts for MJO activity.
As of Tuesday (6/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -19.40. The 30 day average was down to -8.10 (again in El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -4.57 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated weak east anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) with weak west anomalies over the dateline and with solid west anomalies over the East Pacific (south of Hawaii). This appears to be a resurgence of the Active Phase of the MJO in the Central and East Pacific. A week from now (6/27) no real change is forecast other than lighter west if not neutral anomalies south of Hawaii. 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 6/18 are in agreement indicating the Active Phase MJO pattern was fading over the West Pacific (Outgoing Long Wave radiation suppressed) and is to continue pushing east for the next 10 days becoming more centered in Central America and the Caribbean while a new Inactive Phase builds strong over Indonesia then pushes towards the dateline eventually trying to taking control there by (7/3). 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 still 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 holed up 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 hold over the Central Pacific at 1036 mbs by Sat AM (6/23) but a gale is forecast building southeast of it with 35-40 kt south winds then building to 45 kt in the evening resulting in 25 ft seas at 55S 123W aimed well to the north. Possible small 14-15 sec period swell resulting if one is to believe the models.
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