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 Thursday (6/21) North and Central CA had locally generated north windswell was fading at maybe chest high and warbled with moderate northwesterly wind blowing on it. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was chest high or better and clean on the sets coming from the southern hemi Southern California up north was maybe thigh high on the biggest sets and clean with June gloom in control. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean with no wind in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The South Shore was getting limited southern hemi swell with waves chest high on the sets and clean with trades in effect. The report for the East Shore was not available.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure was retrograding away from the California Coast with only light northerly winds at 15 kts offering no windswell generation capacity. This situation to hold for the next 7 days while weak low pressure falls from the Gulf of Alaska down the US West Coast over the weekend producing 20-25 kt north winds and maybe some limited northwest windswell with luck then dissipating into early next week. Trades had backed off over Hawaii and are not expected to return with any velocity or coverage until Sunday, then holding into Tues (6/26) before backing off. A bit better chance for easterly windswell on the East Shores of the Islands during that 2 day window.
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 has already passed the Islands and was starting to hit 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. After that a gale is forecast for the Tasman Sea Sun-Mon (6/25) favoring Fiji with maybe some residual energy easing up into Hawaii and residual gal energy trying to organize east of New Zealand Tues-Thurs (6/28), but currently projections do not favor much development with seas not exceeding 30 ft. Nothing else of interest is projected
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Thursday (6/21) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs had retrograded west positioned 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii barely ridging towards the California coast generating a modest flow of 15 kt north winds nearshore, not enough to generate much if any local windswell. The high, displaced a bit to the north, was also generating only a modest 10-15 kt easterly tradewind flow over Hawaii with no windswell of interest resulting.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain locked in it's current position but building to 1032 mbs generating an slowly increasing fetch of 15 kt easterly pushing over Hawaii pushing to 20 kts by Sun (6/24) and increasing the odds for windswell production along east facing shores holding into Tuesday. Relative to California, the high is to only have any effect only in the Pt Conception area generating a tiny fetch of 20 kt north winds there perhaps sustaining some minimal level of windswell for exposed breaks in Southern CA into Tues (6/26).
Also weak low pressure is forecast to develop off Oregon on Friday (6/22) starting to generate a weak gradient off the coast resulting in 20 kt north winds building to maybe 25 kts on Sunday possibly generating some limited degree of northerly windswell for the Central and North CA coast. But by Monday that is to fade with a light northerly wind pattern taking root nearshore. everywhere north of Pt Conception.
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) fading Mon (6/25) from 1.4 ft @ 15 secs (2 ft). This swell to arrive in NCal 8.3 days later or Mon noon (6/25) at 1.4 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) pushing to 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) on Tues (6/26) down to 14 secs on Wed (6/27).
On Tuesday (6/19) Tropical Storm Talim was just off the coast of Hong Kong with sustained winds 45 kts tracking east-northeast. It traveled between Taiwan and China in the evening, then raced along the Southern Japan coast by Thursday (6/21) with winds still 40 kts then into the open West Pacific on Friday. No development forecast as it too impacts high pressure north of Hawaii mid-next week.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/21) high pressure was moving away from the coast and north winds were backing off. No windswell producing pressure gradient was present along the California coast with only a light 10 kt north windflow in play nearshore over Central CA and a weak eddy flow holding over Southern CA. By Friday the eddy flow is to be barely hanging on for Southern CA, with a gradient setting up over Pt Conception at 25 kts holding Saturday but down to 20 kts continuing Sun-Tues (6/26) with lesser north winds over the rest of the state and the eddy barely holding for Southern CA. The southern displacement of the gradient is to be attributable to low pressure building just off Oregon with a front pushing up to San Francisco late Friday (rain to Pt Reyes) and slowly fading into late Monday. The regular Cape Mendocino gradient is to try and reestablish itself on Tuesday, but quickly fade Wednesday as yet another low moves into the area off Oregon with even lighter local winds for the state through the end of the workweek (6/29). Most unusual with the low pressure system likely being fueled by the Active Phase of the MJO just south of the state.
Jet stream - On Thursday (6/21) a split jetstream pattern continued over the Southwest Pacific with the southern branch ridging south traversing the Ross Ice Shelf. The two streams finally merged and lifted north some over the far Southeast Pacific tracking into Southern Chile, but not forming anything that looked like a trough. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the west is to continue pushing south and east nearly inland over Antarctica eliminating hope for gale development over the Central and Eastern South Pacific. Meanwhile there's some indication a trough might start building under New Zealand on Sun (6/24) but winds to be light offering only minimal support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the big ridge in the Central Pacific is to slowly sweep east continuing the lock-down of the South Pacific and offering no gale production support. But the trough to the west under New Zealand is to actually pick up some wind energy late Tues (6/26) with winds 140 kts holding for 36 hours then fading east of New Zealand, perhaps providing some support for gale development in this area.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (6/21) high pressure was east of New Zealand at 1040 mbs ridging south to (62S) nearly reaching the Ross Ice Shelf and effectively locking down the Central South Pacific from gale formation. Tiny swell from a gale that was south of New Zealand had passed Hawaii and was pushing into 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 starting to impact 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 holding and basically stationary at 1036 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.
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. Maybe limited energy for California starting Sunday (6/24) at 1.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) fading Monday from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft) coming from about 220 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 remain retrograded away from the US West Coast and shrinking while tracking more to the west allow yet more weak low pressure to track over it in the Gulf of Alaska by Wed (6/27). But that low is not forecast to develop and if anything, will fade as it moves closer to the US West Coast. No swell production potential forecast.
Trades relative to Hawaii to be fading on Wed (6/27) with the core of the fetch west of the Islands and it is expected to remain that way through the end of the workweek.
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 Wednesday (6/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to -11.32. The 30 day average was down to -8.39 (again in El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -4.75 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated weak west anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) fading then redeveloping stronger to the moderate category over the dateline continuing to a point southeast of Hawaii. It appears the core of the Active Phase of the MJO was in the Central and East Pacific. A week from now (6/29) no real change is forecast with light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline then fading south of Hawaii. This suggests a degradation of the Active Phase of the MJO as it pushes east towards the Caribbean and Central America, normal for this point in it's lifecycle. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/20 are in agreement indicating the Active Phase of the MJO was fading over the West Pacific (Outgoing Long Wave radiation suppressed) and pushing east into Central America expected to continue for the next 8 days then fading there while a new Inactive Phase builds strong north of New Guinea marching to the dateline and taking control there by (7/3). The statistical model has it positioned directly over the equatorial dateline region while the dynamic model has it a little north of there. 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. Regardless, the Active Phase is to be building behind it in the Indian Ocean 2-3 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 and that pool of warm water is growing in intensity and coverage on 6/21. A pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) evaporated in April allowing warmer water to 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, and it 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) in late June or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life and reestablishes some sort of blockade. We are effectively out of the Spring unpredictability barrier relative to ENSO, and all is proceeding nicely towards a favorable pattern developing for the Fall (i.e. warmer than normal water on the equator in the East Pacific) providing this developing Inactive Phase doesn't shut things down. 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 gone. 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 the next 2 weeks late-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). Regardless - we'll know the answers by July 4th.
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 slowly easing east and moving into the Southeast Pacific by Wed AM (6/27) shifting the area of suppressed gale activity east with it through Fri (6/29).
In the west a gale is forecast building over Tasmania on Sun (6/24) with a small area of 45 kt southwest winds then building to 55+ kts in the evening resulting in 42 ft seas at 46S 160E aimed reasonably well to the north towards Fiji but with New Zealand being the prime target. Residual 45 kt southwest winds to hold over the Tasman Sea on Mon (6/26) resulting in 36 ft seas at 42S 160E again targeting Fiji. residual energy from this system is to push southeast of New Zealand Tues-Thurs (6/28) with 40-45 kt southwest winds resulting in a small but consistent area of seas in the 30-36 ft range near 49S 172E migrating to 40S 170W on the 192-200 degree path to Hawaii and the 214-216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti. Will believe it when it happens.
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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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