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 (6/26) North and Central CA had northwest windswell was waist high and mushy with northwest winds adding some bump on top. Down south in Santa Cruz fading southern hemi swell was producing surf at thigh to waist high on the sets and clean early. Southern California up north was near flat and clean. Down south waves were thigh to maybe waist high on the sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and pretty blown by northeast trades. The South Shore was effectively flat with minimal background southern hemi swell producing waves maybe thigh high and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had tradewind produced east windswell at head high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure has retrograded away from the California Coast relocated north of Hawaii offering only a light flow pushing up to 20 kts near near Pt Conception. No windswell was being generated. But the high, now relocated 900 nmiles north of Hawaii was generating brisk northeast trades at 15-20 kts producing modest northeasterly windswell. These trades are to hold into Wednesday (6/27) or even early Thursday and then the core of the fetch is to move east and become centered west of Hawaii offering decreasing trades and declining odds for windswell production. Another area of weak low pressure was tracking over the top of the high on Tues-Wed (6/27) generating 20 kt westerly winds aimed at the US West Coast, maybe good for another tiny pulse of westerly windswell late week, then fading out. Tropical swell from Guchol (off Japan last week - see details below) is starting to move into the US West Coast but will not hardly be noticeable. After that a quiet pattern takes hold until Monday (7/2) when north windswell finally returns to the CA coast.
Down south only the barest small fragments of energy are expected out of the southern hemi through the workweek from unremarkable sources then descending into flatness by the weekend. A gale developed in the Tasman Sea Sun-Mon (6/25) with seas to barely 32 ft favoring Fiji with maybe some well filtered energy easing up into Hawaii by Mon (7/2). And residual energy from that system is organizing east of New Zealand Tues-Fri (6/29) with seas forecast in the 34-40 ft range, better than previous expected, but still over a tiny area. Maybe some decent swell will become possible for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast. Nothing else of interest is projected beyond that though. It's summertime
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Tuesday (6/26) high pressure at 1032 mbs was retrograding west from a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii generating trades over Hawaii at 15-20 kts and producing easterly windswell along east facing shores. The high was well west of California with only a finger of it ridging into the Pt Conception area generating north winds there at 20 kts down over the Channel Islands offering only minimal windswell production capacity for the Southern CA region. And even that is to be dissipating over the next 2 days. Weak low pressure was also tracking over the top of the high north of Hawaii generating westerly fetch at 20 kts targeting Oregon and Northern CA with maybe some minimal 9 sec period windswell resulting late in the work week with luck.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast for California coast. High pressure is to continue retrograding to the west positioned north of Hawaii with the core of the trade wind generated fetch for the Islands starting to move west of Hawaii Wednesday into Thursday (6/28) with east windswell fading.
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.
This swell supposedly arrived in NCal on Mon (6/25) pushing to 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) on Tues (6/26) down to 14 secs on Wed (6/27).
Tropical Storm Doksuri was positioned 300 nmiles east of Manila (Philippines) with sustained winds 35 kts a nd tracking west-northwest. This storm is to pass just north of the Northern Philippines late on Wed (7/27) with winds 60 kts eventually moving onshore just north of Hong Kong China Friday AM (6/29) with winds 45 kts, fading while moving inland. No swell production forecast.
No other tropical storm formation is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/26) high pressure remained displaced well to the west with just a weak ridge pushing into the coast generating north winds at 15 kts and up to 20 kts near Pt Conception. By Wednesday the north wind pattern is to break down a little as low pressure again moves towards the Pacific Northwest from the Gulf of Alaska with local winds only reaching barely 15 kts with Southern CA well below that. Thursday low pressure is to be moving into the Oregon coast with north winds isolated to Pt Conception at 15 kts and everywhere else less than that holding Friday as the low moves inland (over Oregon). Saturday northerly winds at 20 kts are forecast for Pt Conception and less for the rest of Central and North CA (10 kts) and lighter still for Southern CA. Then high pressure returns to the coast on Sunday with north winds up to 25 kts near Cape Mendocino and building to 20 kts late down over all of Central CA holding into Monday.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (6/26) a well split jetstream pattern continued over the Central South Pacific with the southern branch ridging southward traversing the Ross Ice Shelf moving well east before the two streams finally merged over the southern tip if South America. No support for gale development was indicated. The one area of interest was a weak trough who's apex was located just barely east of Central New Zealand. But winds were weak at only 80-90 kts feeding up into that trough, not offering much to support gale development down in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the Central Pacific is to continue sweeping east eliminating any odds for gale development over the Central and East Pacific. But the trough under Tasmania is to build some with 130 kts winds feeding into it Tuesday evening easing north and east offering improved support for gale development along the east coast of New Zealand into Thursday (6/28). Beyond 72 hours that trough is to try and hold together though it is to start getting cut-off and pinched off, but refusing to completely collapse until Saturday (7/30) with 90 kt winds feeding into it offering a little but fading support for gale development. But by Saturday it is to finally get cutoff with a split flow taking charge of the entire South Pacific and no change forecast into at least next week eliminating odds for gale development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (6/26) high pressure was locking down the Central Pacific at 1032 mbs ridging south to (60S) nearly reaching the Ross Ice Shelf and effectively blocking the formation of any swell producing weather systems in the Central and East Pacific. Swell from a gale that formed under Tasmania (see Tasman Sea Gale below) was pushing weakly towards Fiji and Hawaii. But of far more interest was a gale that was developing immediately south of New Zealand (see New Zealand Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the only system of interest is to be the New Zealand Gale with high pressure well east of New Zealand holding while drifting east at 1032 mbs driving all fetch southeast towards Antarctica.
Tasman Sea Gale
A gale was starting to build over Tasmania on Sun AM (6/24) with a small area of 45 kt southwest winds then building to 50 kts in the evening positioned mid-way between Tasmania and New Zealand aimed well up into the Tasman Sea resulting in a tiny area of 30 ft seas at 44S 153E aimed reasonably well to the north towards Fiji but with New Zealand being the prime target. A follow-on fetch of 45 kt southwest winds to build in the Tasman Sea on Mon AM (6/26) resulting in 32 ft seas at 49S 150E again targeting Fiji and holding into the evening with seas pushing northeast and holding at 32 ft at 43S 161E. Decent swell possibly pushing towards Fiji. Fetch fading from 35 kts Tuesday AM (6/26) just west of New Zealand sill aimed north towards Fiji with seas fading from 30 ft at 43S 165E and becoming shadowed relative to Fiji by New Zealand. Swell possibly pushing towards Fiji with maybe much smaller energy extending beyond Fiji towards Hawaii if all goes as forecast. Will monitor.
New Zealand Gale
Residual wind energy from the Tasman Sea Gale started redeveloping southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (6/26) with winds 45 kts over a tiny area and seas building and continuing in the evening with winds up to 50 kts and seas up to 34 ft at 50S 170E (218 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti, 201 degs Hawaii). Additional wind energy is to move into the area Wednesday AM (6/27) with a larger fetch of 45 kt southwest winds taking control with seas building to 40 ft at 49S 176E (217 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). A broader area of 45 kt southwest winds to hold into the evening with a respectable area of seas forecast at 36 ft at 44S 179E (218 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). This fetch is to lift northeast on Thurs AM (6/28) with 40 kt southwest winds continuing and seas at 34 ft near 44S 179E (same heading as before) loosing coverage in the evening at the same location. Seas fading from 31 ft at 40S 176W (217 degs CA, 199 HI). Residual energy fading Friday AM (6/29) with winds dropping from 30-35 kts and seas fading from 28-29 ft at 38S 170W (216 degs CA,191 HI). If all goes as forecast some decent sized swell with a long duration is expected up into Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast. Will monitor.
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 North Pacific high is to finally start pushing east again ridging into California late on Sunday (7/1) with north fetch building over Cape Mendocino at 25 kts holding into early next week (7/2) good for increasing northerly local short period windswell down into Central CA. But no trades of interest to result for Hawaii, with no easterly windswell forecast.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, or in it's Active Phase by 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 (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Tuesday (6/26) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained extremely negative at -46.96 9at this level for the past 3 days). The 30 day average was down to -10.82 (moving better into El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -6.29 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated a continuing pocket of moderate plus strength west anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) fading near the dateline and turning neutral from there into Central America. Based on previous observations it appears the core of the Active Phase of the MJO had moved into the Caribbean and Atlantic, but the west anomalies in the far West Pacific were an interesting anomaly. Also the deeply negative SOI was of interest. A week from now (7/4) weak east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading near the dateline then returning to weak east anomalies over a broad area south of Hawaii. This suggests a return of the Inactive Phase of the MJO in the Pacific as has been forecast for some time, but only very slightly. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/25 are in agreement indicating the Active Phase of the MJO was now over the Atlantic with the Inactive Phase over the West Pacific with a tiny area of anomalies holding over the dateline (about what is occurring right now). 2 weeks from now the Inactive Phase is supposed to start fading over the dateline while a new Active Phase starts building in the Indian Ocean (the statistical models has it being fairly strong) and easing east. 7/4 remains our stake in the ground in assessing what the trend will be over this coming Fall and Winter (more below). The preferred option is no or minimal Inactive Phase build-up the first week in July with a quick return to a neutral if not Active pattern, which would suggest that as we move more into Summer that a weak El Nino or at least a pattern that supports warm water buildup in the East Pacific continues. The critical juncture in that determination is the end of June into the first week in July. It's still to early to know what the outcome will be.
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 6/25. 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 (it did) and early July (still to be determined) or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life and reestablishes some sort of blockade. We are 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) is gone with a very El Nino like warm water pattern taking hold. 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 to earl July 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 no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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