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 (6/27) North and Central CA had surf coming from both the north and south that was head high with some bigger sets and a bit jumbled but not horrible with fog still in control. It was clean and clear at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was in the shoulder to head high range on the bigger sets and clean inside the kelp but nearly chopped outside the kelp. Southern California up north was waist high and clean but pretty fogged in even mid-day. Down south waves were head high on the sets coming from the southern hemi and fairly clean with just a bit of warble intermixed and pretty foggy. Hawaii's North Shore was waist to maybe chest high and clean but weak, still coming from the dateline. The South Shore was getting occasional energy from New Zealand producing sets in the chest high range and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting east windswell at knee high and heavily textured if not chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from a gale that tracked over the dateline Friday evening (6/21) with 28 ft seas was starting to fade along the North and Central CA coast. No windswell of interest was being generated along the Central CA coast with remnants of the dateline low still holding off the Pacific Northwest coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands swell from the dateline gale was all but gone though a few barely rideable sets were still in the water. Easterly tradewinds were suppressed with no real easterly tradewind generated windswell hitting east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Beyond high pressure is to be held at bay relative to California by remnants of the Gulf low pressure system circulating off the Pacific Northwest until later Saturday (6/29). An then only a small bit of high pressure is to start building along the coast offering limited odds for small and short period local north windswell and barely holding on through Monday before fading. Swell from the dateline/Gulf low to hold into Friday, then fall below rideable levels. For Hawaii high pressure and tradewinds to remained suppressed for the next 7 days with no rideable easterly local tradewind windswell expected. But high pressure is to start building along the North and Central CA coast by Thursday (7/4) to near 25 kts with windswell on the increase.
Down south a small gale formed in the Southeast Pacific Mon-Tues (6/18) producing 32-34 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast. Swell has hit California and is to be heading down by Friday (6/28) but was too far east to have any real impact for Hawaii. But another gale formed off the northern tip of New Zealand Thurs (6/20) generating 28 ft seas aimed well to the north. Rideable southern hemi swell has hit Hawaii. This system generated additional seas east of New Zealand aimed a bit towards Hawaii with more follow-on swell expected for the Islands through Sat (6/29).
Beyond a small but potent storm is forecast developing the East Pacific on Sat (6/29) with 42 ft seas building to 52 ft late, but traveling due east. Solid swell possible for South America with sideband swell up into Central America and Mexico and far less for California. But this system is to be well east of the Hawaiian swell window. There continues to be hints of some sort of a gale tracking east under New Zealand on Mon (7/1) with 32-36 ft seas, but it's still too early for any of that to be believed.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (6/27) remnant low pressure was circulating off the Pacific Northwest but generating no fetch of interest. Swell from previous fetch (see Dateline Gale below) was hitting the CA coast but heading down. This low was also causing the normal Northeast Pacific high pressure system to be retrograded well to the west and reduced in coverage, centered near the dateline. As a result the normal north wind gradient off California was not in effect with no windswell in the water and even the Hawaiian Island had no real easterly tradewinds and no easterly local windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours the low off the Pacific Northwest is to shift north slightly and weaken with a bare minimal gradient starting to form along the Central California coastal building north winds to 20 kts and making for minimal north short period windswell through Monday (7/1).
With the Northeast Pacific high shifted north and west, the Islands are to continue experiencing reducing trades (less than 15 kts) through the weekend and beyond. The net result is that tradewind generated east windswell for Hawaii to remain below rideable levels for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise a new gale was developing east of the Kuril Islands on Thurs (6/27) generating a moderate fetch of 30-35 kt west winds but racing northeast and pushing over the Aleutian Islands late Sat (6/29). Because this system is to be moving so fast, it's fetch is to get little traction on the oceans surface, with only 18 ft seas developing and of no particular interest given their long distance away and poor aim at either Hawaii or the US West Coast.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Tropical moisture and energy tracked over and northeast off Japan Wednesday (6/19) organizing into a cohesive low pressure system off the Kuril Islands on Thurs AM (6/20) producing 35 kt west winds and seas to 20 ft at 43S 162E. This low migrated east-northeast and just shy of the Aleutians in the evening with winds still 35 kts and seas building to 24 ft at 43S 170E. The gale was over the dateline Friday AM (6/21) with 40 kt west winds and seas building from 23 ft at 46N 176E holding with seas to 28 ft in the evening at 48N 180W. Pretty solid given the time of year. Winds were fading from the 30-35 kt range Saturday AM (6/22) as the low moved over the dateline with seas fading from 25 ft at 48N 173W and then dropping from 20 ft in the evening at 48N 167W. The low started falling southeast Sunday AM (6/23) with west winds 25 kts and seas 18 ft at 48N 165W continuing southeast in the evening with seas down to 17 ft at 47N 158W. 25 kt northwest winds and 15-16 ft seas to hold till Monday evening (6/24) at 44N 147W (1200 nmiles from NCal on the 297 deg path), then fading from there. By Tuesday PM (6/25) only 20 kt northwest winds and 13 ft seas are to be left at 40N 138W (650 nmiles from San Francisco on the 285 degree path) and fading from there.
North CA: Swell is to be fading Friday (6/28) from 4.7 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 297 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday AM (6/25) Hurricane Cosme was positioned 250 nmiles southwest of Cabo san Lucas with winds 70 kts and seas to 30 ft. This put the core of Cosme just barely in the Dana Point swell window at 159 degrees and traveling west-northwest at 15 kts. Some small swell energy is likely pushing north towards Southern CA. Cosme peaked in intensity this evening with winds 75 kts, then started fading, falling below hurricane strength mid- Wednesday AM (6/26). A quick fade and a turn more to the west occurred directly thereafter as the storm moved over much cooler water. On Thursday AM (6/27) winds were down to 35 kts and seas fading from 18 ft but mainly heading away from the mainland. It was 900 nmiles south of Pt Conception heading west at 14 kts. The window for swell generation relative to Southern CA was Tues-Wed (6/26).
Swell arrived in Southern CA on Thurs (6/27) mid-AM and is expected to hold into Friday at 7 AM at 2.6 ft @ 12 secs (2.5-3.0 ft), then falling off late afternoon. Swell Direction: 159-176 degrees.
It's remotely possible some tiny energy could also reach the East Shores of the Hawaiian Islands late on Sun (6/30) with swell to 1.6 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft) but then falling below that before sunrise Mon (7/1).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/27) a light wind flow was in effect for the California coast with low pressure holding off the Pacific Northwest and remnants of hurricane Cosme off Baja. By Friday a weak coastal gradient is to set up with north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA and up to 20 kts near Pr Arena late, but less nearshore for all of Central CA. Saturday north winds are to build to 20 kts for all of North and Central CA later in the day holding at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA on Sunday into Monday AM. The gradient is to start fading later on Monday with it's core lifting north to North CA and fading Tuesday to the 15-20 kts range off Northern CA. Wednesday the gradient is to start rebuilding, this time covering a larger area starting at 20-25 kts off Bodega Bay then expanding Thursday (7/4) at 20-25 kts from the Baja/SCal border northward to Southern Oregon with 15 kt north winds the whole way up into Central Canada. Enjoy the warmer water in Central CA while you can.
Jetstream - On Thursday (6/27) the jet was consolidated for the most part from just east of New Zealand to a point off Chile with winds pushing 150 kts in two pockets tracking flat east over the Southeast Pacific. The southern branch of the jet continued tracking northeast up along the east coast of New Zealand making something that almost looked like a trough there, but winds were only 70 kts in the northward flowing portion, offering no support for gale development at lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the consolidated flow taking a progressively more southeasterly track towards Southern Chile through the weekend into Sunday (6/30) driving any embedded gale to the southeast too. Winds to build to near 200 kts in one moderate sized pocket over the Central Pacific, but that southward track is problematic. The same northeasterly wind flow to continue up along the New Zealand coast but steadily fading and useless to support gale development before it totally evaporates late weekend. Beyond 72 hours the southern and northern branches are to start splitting apart from one another by Mon (7/1) in the west and with the split progressing east through next week. There's no indication of any troughs forming and therefore no support for gale development suggested.
Surface - On Thursday (6/27) a broad but weak low pressure system was circulating east of New Zealand and on the decline, perhaps having previously generated some minimal swell tracking towards Hawaii (see Another New Zealand fetch below). Otherwise no fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a new strong but tiny storm is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific Sat AM (6/29) generating 55 kt west winds with seas pushing 42 ft at 44S 137W but tracking just a tad south of due east targeting primarily South America. 55 kt east winds to hold into the evening with seas building to 50 ft at 44S 127W, barely in the California swell window but with most energy pushing due east towards South America. By Sunday (6/30) the gale is to develop a small fetch of 45 kt south winds along with 45 kt west winds but positioned barely in the Southern CA swell window. 44 ft seas are forecast over a tiny area at 42S 118W pushing mostly east. By evening the storm is to be east of even the California swell window with 45-50 kt southwest winds forecast off the coast of Chile generating 40 ft seas at 44S 107W targeting only Chile and Peru. Fetch is to hold while the gale pushes east into Monday, again targeting only South America. At least it's something to monitor.
Assuming all goes as forecast, this will be a good swell producer for Chile and Peru, with decent sideband swell working it's way up into Central America and southern Mexico. Fragments are the best bet for California, if even that.
Small Southeast Pacific Gale (CA)
On Sunday (6/13) a gale developed in the Southwest Pacific generating southwest winds at 35 kts south of New Zealand. No swell production was occurring yet. By evening fetch increased with winds building to almost 40 kts aimed well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 55S 165W. By Monday AM (6/17) a decent sized fetch of 40 kt southwest winds developed producing 30 ft seas at 60S 160W. By evening winds were holding at 40 kts with seas barely 34 ft at 59S 152W. Fetch was fading some Tuesday AM from 40 kts with seas 32 ft at 58S 142W. A quick fade is forecast after that.
Small swell is forecast for Southern CA fading on Friday from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Small swell expected for Northern CA fading on Friday from 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Small New Zealand Gale
On Wed PM (6/19) a gale developed over New Zealand producing 35+ kt southwest winds off it's northwestern tip resulting in 27 ft seas at 38S 165E. 35-40 kt southwest winds held till Thurs AM (6/20) resulting in more 27 ft seas at 34S 171E aimed well at Fiji and Hawaii. In the evening the fetch moved east of New Zealand with a small area of 40 kt south winds building along the coast aimed north resulting in 26 ft seas at 42S 175E. The fetch dissipated Fri AM (6/21).
Hawaii: Some degree of limited southern hemi swell from when the gale was over the tip of New Zealand hit Hawaii starting Wed (6/26) was was fading Thurs AM (6/27) from 2 ft @ 14 secs coming from 207 degrees. Additional swell energy (from when the gale moved east of New Zealand) is to be moving in late Thurs afternoon at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft) from 192 degrees building to 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft) on Fri (6/28). Swell fading Sat (6/29) from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft).
Another New Zealand Fetch
A broad but weak gale started circulating east of new Zealand on Wed (6/26) producing 30 kt southwest winds, building in the evening to 35 kts with seas building to 26 ft at 50S 178W aimed well to the northeast. Fetch was fading from 30-35 kts Thurs AM (6/27) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 44S 168W. Maybe some 14-15 sec period background swell to result for Hawaii starting Tues PM (7/2) at 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) building to 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft) early Wed (7/3). Swell Direction: 191 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 high pressure is to make a legitimate return to the East Pacific late on Wed (7/3) with the normal California pressure gradient starting to develop and north winds building to 20-25 kts and building in coverage on Thurs (7/40 with north winds extending from Central Canada down to the Channel Islands. Windswell likely to develop for exposed breaks.
Relative to Hawaii the high is to be displaced to the north not getting a footprint near the Islands resulting in no tradewinds hitting the minimum 15 kt threshold with local easterly windswell suppressed through Thurs (7/4).
No other swell sources projected.
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, and 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 days, 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 Thursday (6/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 33.81. The 30 day average was up to 10.42 with the 90 day average up to 6.72. Overall this is holding in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and clearly illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline region turning west south of Hawaii and continuing almost the whole way to Central America. A week from now (7/5) easterly anomalies are forecast building over the western Maritime Continent turning neutral with weak west tendencies over the dateline, then back to neutral from a point south Hawaii into Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be building in the west and the Active Phase of the MJO is to be exiting while fading to the east.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/26 are in agreement suggesting a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was fading out while tracking over the East Pacific with the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean and starting to seep into the far West Pacific but north of the equator. Both models are in agreement suggesting a fragment of the Active Phase of the MJO is to hold on the intersection of the dateline and the equator for the next 15 days, while the Inactive Phase of the MJO tracks just north of it reaching into the Central Pacific 15 days out. But, the part of the ocean that really matters, and the part where anomalous winds move warm and cold water around, is on the equator. If neutral winds hold on the equator, regardless of what happens north of there, then the neutral to warm water that is trying to build in the East Pacific off Ecuador, will be preserved. there's a glimmer of hope.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (6/27) a La Nina like pattern continues fading in the East Pacific over the equator, almost gone, but not completely. This is good news. Cooler water continues to significantly reduced it's footprint off the South American Coast with a pocket of warmer water holding there. Pockets of limited cooler water extend over the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there almost half way to a point south of Hawaii. But they continue to look weaker than previous updates. The cold pool has been steadily shrinking over the past 30 days. This cold pool previously eroded warm water that was building up north of the equator off Central America. If anything, that area appears to be holding it's own with more warm water building from the equator northward. Looking back just a few weeks it's almost as if this cold pool developed before any anomalous east winds started blowing over the West Pacific. The question had been: "Will these cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in-place?". At this time they are in full retreat - a good thing. The next thing that would be good would be to see the cool pool off West Africa eroding too. Unfortunately, it too has built almost to the coast of South America. This was a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. But with the East Pacific cold pool seemingly eroding some, maybe all hope is not lost. But the Atlantic cool pool is not budging. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, but has returned, initially only weakly but is now fully developed, with an open track from San Francisco over Hawaii all the way to the intersection of the dateline and the equator and getting cooler and expanding coverage. The teleconnection suggests this cold water pattern (driven by high pressure aloft) has a global component and will not easily be dislodged. Another interesting tidbit is last year at this time an almost El Nino like pattern developed, only to collapse late summer. So it is possible this La Nina teaser could fade as well late in July. Something to monitor.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicate a pool of cooler water that had been in place at 140W and down 150 meters dispersed in June, but now appears to be rebuilding some (as of 6/25). Warm water from the West Pacific migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +4.0 deg C water is now at 110W and down 50 meters. Temperatures on the surface appear to be warming some with the subsurface blocking pattern loosing it's legs. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic responded to the cold push in May, in what could be a building global pattern. And a pocket of -2 degrees water is holding 140W and down 125 meters. We'll see if it eventually breaks the surface. Also of concern is that the SOI 30 day average still remains well into positive territory. And the models are now suggesting the MJO is going to turn Inactive again. At best we could return to a neutral pattern biased Inactive, but at this time it seems like some flavor of weak La Nina is still dominant.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 6/27 indicate water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (-0.1 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.1 degree C level is possible by July building into Nov at +0.3 then fading from there through Jan 2014 dropping to (+2.0 deg C). A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a wide spread of outcomes ranging from La Nina to neutral to just a bit warmer than neutral into Summer and early Fall 2013. The dynamic models favor slight warming, while the statistical models favor slight cooling. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models should have a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains uncertain, but surely not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates), not anything particularly cold either. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 if not bordering weakly on La Nina.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 a gale is forecast building while tracking under New Zealand on Mon (7/1) producing a small area of 50 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft in the evening at 52S 178E. By Tues AM (7/2) 45 kt west winds to hold over an infinitesimal area pushing due east with seas building to 32 ft at 53S 170W. 45 kt west winds to hold into the evening with seas to 36 ft over a microscopic sized area at 53S 159W. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts Wed Am (7/3) with seas fading from 30 ft at 52S 147W. the gale to dissipate thereafter. At this early date none of this is believable.
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