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.
Note: Next forecast update is scheduled for Sun (7/5). We're taking a short break before we get into the core of the summer swell season.
On Tuesday (6/23) North and Central California had head high somewhat raw but reasonably clean local north windswell at exposed breaks. Southern California had the same north windswell wrapping into exposed breaks with waves thigh to waist high up north and reasonably clean even in the afternoon and a little smaller but cleaner down south. Theoretically there was background swell from Chile in the water, but it was weak if even present. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had head high east windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore was small with a few thigh to waist high southeast windswell generated waves wrapping in at the better breaks and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more locally generated northwest windswell arriving through the week. Size to taper off to chest high for Wed/Thurs (6/25), then it is expected to return to head high plus on Friday holding into the weekend. Southern CA is to see a version that same small northerly local windswell really falling off by Wednesday. But decent pulse of background very southerly angled swell from off Chile is to arrive on Wednesday peaking Thursday near head high at the better breaks, then fading Friday, and gone by the weekend. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to see steadily easterly tradewind generated windswell at head high plus on Wed fading to chest high Thurs and then holding at waist to chest high on Friday and holding for the foreseeable future. The South Shore is to start seeing swell from off New Zealand arriving Wednesday (6/24) at waist high and heading up to the chest to head high range late and holding for Thursday into Saturday (6/27) before heading down.
Longterm the South Pacific shows hints of some life, but nothing that one would classify as particularly active. A series of storms developed off Chile, good for a pulse of sideband swell pushing up into Southern CA swell window Wed-Fri (6/26). NCal to be effectively shadowed from this though. Also a gale organized just off the east coast of New Zealand starting Wed (6/17) with seas 26-28 ft and holding through Sun (6/21), which should start pushing energy up into the South Shore of Hawaii by late Tues (6/22) continuing into the weekend (6/28). And the models depict another gale building southeast of New Zealand Tues (6/23) with seas barely reaching 30 ft on Wednesday with possibly more energy moving in behind producing more 30 ft seas by late Thursday and holding into the weekend being reinforced on Sunday with up to 36 ft seas and pushing east out of the CA swell window Tues (6/30). Some swell is likely for the Islands a week beyond if this occurs with energy into CA (though shadowed by Tahiti) 9 days beyond. At this point it's still mainly a guess by the models and far from certain.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii fueling the standard push of trades at 20 kts over the Islands resulting in short period windswell and producing the usual pressure gradient over North California with 25 kt north winds there and moderate north short period windswell. Low pressure was starting to build 900 nmiles west of Washington forecast to produce 40 kt northwest winds for 6 hrs in the evening with seas reaching 18 ft, possibly setting up some longer period windswell pushing into the US West Coast under the pre-existing windswell on Thurs (6/25). Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to falter just a bit while the above low pressure system pushes into the Northwest coast late Wed/Thurs. But then high pressure is to return by Friday (6/26) pushing east with the usual summer time pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino firing up and 30+ kt north winds returning there, producing solid north local windswell for Central CA for the foreseeable future. Trades are to hold firm over the Hawaiian Islands through Thursday, then start fading as the high pushes east.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/23) high pressure at 1028 mbs 900 nmiles north of Hawaii was ridging into the US West Coast generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA down to Monterey Bay producing 25-30 kt north winds and 15 kts north winds coming very close to impacting nearshore coastal waters. Wednesday as low pressure pulls up to the Pacific Northwest coast, the gradient and north winds are to fade. But by Thursday, after the low moves inland, high pressure is to start pushing east again generating 30-35 kt north winds over Cape Mendo late and holding into Friday, through the weekend and into at least Tues (6/30). This episode of the gradient is to be further north than previous ones, leaving light nearshore winds over Central CA and improved conditions.
On Tuesday afternoon (6/23) hurricane Andres, the first of the Pacific Season was just off Manzanillo Mexico with sustained winds 65 kts (minimal hurricane force). It was tracking northwest at 11 kts producing seas of 24 ft. It was not in the US swell window. The projected path has Andres falling to tropical storm strength by Wed AM and taking a gradually more westerly path while dissipating. No swell producing fetch is forecast, and in fact, Andres is to dissipate before ever getting inside the CA swell window.
On Sunday (6/21) the South Pacific jetstream was not as split as it has been with the weak trough east of new Zealand pushing far enough north to impact the northern branch of the jet with 190 winds at that location south of Tahiti). But winds pushing north feeding into the trough remained weak at only 80 kts limiting support for gale development. Not much in terms of support for low pressure development was indicated. Over the next 72 hrs that trough is to get better defined and it's to start covering a much larger area, almost totally filling the Southwestern Pacific with up 130 kt southwest winds feeding up into the trough, offering better odds for gale development by Friday (6/26). Beyond 72 hours things are to improve even a little more with that trough in the southwest pushing more to the east and building with the southern branch pushing north and totally merging with the northern branch by Sunday (6/28) offering up to 180 kt winds pushing into the apex of the trough and offering better odds for supporting gale development southwest of Tahiti. But it is still to be aligned more on a west to east line than south to north, which would tend to direct all energy more towards Chile rather than up towards the United States. By 7/1 is looks like that energy is to start pushing south, possibly developing into a ridge and hampering gale development, but that is just a guess.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/23) a new fetch was starting to develop under New Zealand but only producing 35 kt southwest winds at 50S 173W. 28 ft seas are forecast at 53S 173W in the evening aimed pretty well to the northeast on the 207 degree path to CA and totally shadowed by Tahiti and about 30 degrees east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas are forecast by Wed AM at 49S 169W all pushing up the same headings, then dissipating. Some possible small swell to result for both Hawaii and CA if this develops. Over the next 72 hours another gale is forecast developing under New Zealand on Thurs (6/25) with a brief burst of 45 kt winds into the evening resulting in 32 ft seas at 48S 160W but pushing as much to the east and northeast. Limited background swell likely for both Hawaii and CA. But a second pulse is expected on Friday PM again with 45 kts winds forecast near 47S 175W holding into Saturday PM (6/27) resulting in 36 ft seas at 43S 155W (positioned well to the north but still partially shadowed relative to the US West Coast) then slowly fading into Sunday. Possible 17+ sec period swell is to be pushing east-northeast with sideband energy for Hawaii and maybe a little more for the US West Coast (though still shadowed by the eastern edge of the Society Islands) if this occurs as forecast. That remains quite a reach though for the models.
A series of gales developed off Chile on Tues (6/16) with 36 ft seas at 55S 95W and mostly outside of even the Southern CA swell window, though there is some hints that sideband energy 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). Swell Direction: 170 degrees
New Zealand Gale
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 continuing into Sunday (6/21). 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. Another pulse is expected in on Friday (6/26) at 3.6 ft @ 14 secs (head high sets with top spots to 1 ft overhead) holding Saturday, then heading down with period 13 secs on Sunday (6/28). Swell Direction 190 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 hours the persistent high pressure system that has been locked north of Hawaii is to push east with trades fading alot by Fri (6/26) over the Islands and windswell slowly diminishing. But with the high moving east and holding at 1028 mbs, 30 kt north winds are to continue over Cape Mendocino through the weekend and into at least Tues (6/30)resulting in more and larger windswell for North and Central CA.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (6/23) 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 up to 11.04. The 30 day average was up some to -6.89 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -2.31. The SOI indicies remained effectively neutral but signifies that a major change is 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 had peaked out and was starting to fade with weaker westerly wind anomalies pushing from the West Pacific over the dateline reaching to Central America, covering a smaller area of the Pacific Basin. It is expected to fade out by 6/28 and effectively gone by then. A version of the Inactive Phase is developing in the Indian Ocean but had not reached the Pacific yet. It is to barely limp into the West Pacific on 6/27 reach the dateline on 7/2, then slowly dissipating there by 7/12. Still 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 seas surface temperature data as of 6/22 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 are starting to build near the California coast. This looks very much like El Nino. Looking back in the satellite records (they go back to 1996), there has been no equivalent warming for any year on June 20th other than the record setting El Nino of 1997. We are about 6 weeks behind that one on the development timeline (i.e. it was were we are now on May 10th). So if things proceed at the current rate, we are not only moving towards El Nino, but perhaps a strong one at that. 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 3-4 deg C above normal water temps is starting to break the surface there. And another Westerly Wind Burst appears to have developed just west of the dateline on 6/18, with reinforcing west winds south of Hawaii on 6/22 possibly setting up another Kelvin wave and more warm water moving east. At this point 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 yet another pulse of gale energy is forecast developing south of Tahiti on Sunday PM (6/28) with 45 kt winds forecast pushing more to the east and tracking on that same heading resulting in a small area of 36 ft seas at 43S 140W by Monday AM pushing out of the SCal swell window by Tuesday. More possible sideband swell for CA and up into the Pacific Northwest if this occurs.
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