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 Sunday (6/30) North and Central CA had surf at waist high with some bigger sets and weak but rideable with light onshore wind and mostly clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was in the waist high range on the sets and clean early. Southern California up north had waist high wind swell wrapping in on the sets and and clean but pretty weak and gutless. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high sets coming from the southern hemi and clean early and sunny. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small and inconsistent with occasional sets from New Zealand in the waist high plus range and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting east windswell at knee to thigh high and textured early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific things were very quiet. No real weather system have occurred to produce swell. Minimal windswell was being generated along the Central CA coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds remained suppressed with no real easterly tradewind generated windswell hitting east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to remain weak and displaced to the north with even the minimal north windswell being generated relative to Central California fading out by later Monday with no immediate return projected. This is a downgrade from previous forecasts. For Hawaii high pressure and tradewinds to remained suppressed for the next 7 days with no rideable easterly local tradewind windswell expected. If anything, trades to fade even more than they currently are.
Down south a gale produced 26 ft seas east of New Zealand aimed at Hawaii. Maybe very small and weak swell for Tues (7/2). Of more interest is a small but potent storm that developed in the East Pacific on Sat (6/29) with 48-52 ft seas over an infinitesimal area, but traveling due east. It's fading Sunday with seas falling below 40 ft and tracked east of even the California swell window. Solid swell possible for South America with sideband swell up into Central America and Mexico and far less for California. This system was well east of the Hawaiian swell window. Otherwise a quiet pattern is forecast for the Southern Hemi for the next 7 days. Summer is settling in.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (6/30) a weak pressure pattern was in control of the North Pacific. Generic high pressure at 1016 mbs was off the Central CA coast generating 20 kt north winds from Cape Mendocino southward to Pt Conception producing minimal short period north windswell for exposed break there, but nothing more. And even the Hawaiian Island had no real easterly tradewinds and no easterly local windswell of notice along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours the weak gradient over Central California is to fade out mid-day Monday (7/1) with windswell dissipating. Weak low pressure is forecast developing 800 nmiles west of San Francisco late Tues (7/2) not producing any swell and undercutting any hopes for high pressure and local gradient induced windswell to develop. Likewise the Hawaiian Islands are to continue experiencing significantly reducing trades (less than 15 kts) with no tradewind generated east windswell of interest forecast for the foreseeable future.
Previously a gale tried to develop 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 got little traction on the oceans surface, with only 18 ft seas developing at 35N 160E Thursday PM (6/27) then dissipating while tracking northeast, with another patch of 22 ft seas occurring Sat AM (6/29) up at 48N 172E and aimed at the Aleutians fading from 20 ft in the evening at 50N 177E. All this was of no particular interest given it's either long distance away from and/or poor aim at Hawaii or the US West Coast. No rideable swell expected to result.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
It's remotely possible some tiny energy from Hurricane Cosme could 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 Sunday (6/30) a light wind flow was in effect for the California coast nearshore early with weak gradient induced north winds 20 kts off the coast from Cape Mendocino south to Pt Conception. The gradient is to start shrinking Monday with it's core lifting north to North CA and fading Tuesday to the 15-20 kts range off northern Cape Mendocino with a weak eddy flow building into Central CA. Wednesday the gradient is to lift up into Oregon with an eddy flow (south winds) for all of California. Maybe a hint of north winds building into Central CA on Thursday at 10 kts and up to 15 kts for Pt Conception holding into Friday (20 kt north winds for Pt Conception). No real change Saturday with something that almost looks like a building gradient and north winds starting to appear on Sunday for Central CA but with the core still displaced near Pt Conception. Southern CA to remain in a steady weak eddy flow for the week.
Jetstream - On Sunday (6/30) the jet was split over the width of the South Pacific with both streams tracking southeast almost consolidating off the southern tip of South America. A pocket of 180 kts winds was in the northern branch off Southern Chile but with no trough indicted offering no apparent support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with a trough starting to build in the northern branch east of New Zealand on Tues (7/2) but fading 36 hours later. No real support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours a big ridge is to build pushing south of New Zealand and into Antarctica Fri (7/5) and sweeping east through the weekend pretty much shutting any chance for gale development down there. A weak trough is to precede the ridge to the east, but not with enough wind speed to support gale development. In short, a pretty quiet pattern is forecast.
Surface - On Sunday (6/30) a small but powerful storm was tracking east through the Southeast Pacific targeting primarily South America (see Southeast Pacific Storm below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. Over the next 72 hours 2 gales are forecast developing southeast of New Zealand tracking flat east. The first is expected Monday (7/1) generating 45 kt west-northwest winds and 34 ft seas over a tiny area in the evening at 54S 178W tracking steadily east with winds still 45 kts and seas down to 32 ft Tuesday evening (7/2) at 57S 152W. Doubtful any swell will result for our prime forecast area. A second smaller gale is forecast for the same area Wed AM (7/3) with 45 kt west winds and 34 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 172W it's to be gone in 24 hours with even less impact.
Southeast Pacific Storm
A strong but tiny storm developed in the Southeast Pacific Sat AM (6/29) generating 60 kt west winds with seas pushing 52 ft at 44S 137W tracking due east targeting primarily South America. No fetch was aimed up at the US Mainland. 55 kt east winds held into the evening with seas 50 ft at 42S 128W, barely in the California swell window but with most energy pushing due east towards South America. By Sunday AM (6/30) the gale developed a small fetch of 45 kt south winds along with 45 kt west winds but positioned barely in the Southern CA swell window. 45 ft seas were modeled over a tiny area at 41S 120W 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 37 ft seas at 40S 111W targeting only Chile and Peru. Fetch is to hold while the gale pushes east into Monday AM (7/1) with 42 ft seas at 43S 105W, again targeting only South America. By evening winds to be fading from 40 kts but covering a decent sized area finally with seas 39 ft at 39S 95W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Tues AM (7/2) with seas fading from 33 ft at 38S 87W targeting Chile and Peru.
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. But at this time only weak background sideband swell is forecast for California, arriving on Fri (7/5) with period 20 secs and barely even noticeable. The issue is the the fetch was exceedingly small while the storm was in the CA swell window, and the fetch was all aimed due east or 90 degrees east of any great circle path up into California.
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 remain suppressed relative to Hawaii and California. The core of the Northeast Pacific high is to develop some at 1028 mbs in the Gulf of Alaska Thursday (7/4) generating 20 kt north winds along the Pacific Northwest Coast making local short period windswell there, but nothing down into California. If anything the high is to drifting north more with the fetch moving up into the Canadian Maritimes by Saturday (7/6). Perhaps a secondary fetch of 15 kt north winds to build along the Central CA coast later Sat into Sun (7/7) but not even strong enough to produce anything more than 5-6 sec chop.
Relative to Hawaii the high is to be displaced way too far 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 Sun (7/7).
This is actually interesting in that high pressure has been so dominant for so long over the past 3 years. This is the first real legitimate crash of the high since the start of La Nina in early 2010. Maybe it is finally breaking down.
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 Sunday (6/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -0.56. The 30 day average was up to 10.55 with the 90 day average down to 6.44. 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 modest easterly anomalies in pockets over the Maritime Continent and dateline region turning neutral east of there and continuing the whole way to Central America. A week from now (7/8) weak easterly anomalies are forecast over the western Maritime Continent turning weaker still over the dateline, then to neutral with one pocket of westerly anomalies south Hawaii fading to neutral into Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be building some 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 6/29 are in agreement suggesting the Active Phase of the MJO was all but gone while tracking over the equator south of Hawaii with the Inactive Phase pushing over the Philippines and far West Pacific but displaced some 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 12 days, while the Inactive Phase of the MJO tracks just north of it. 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. For now there models suggest this is the case for the next 12 days with only a chance of the Inactive Phase reaching south to the equator near the dateline 15 days out. Longer range models suggest the Active Phase is to move in 15 days out or more.
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, and continues to remain suppressed. Warm water from the West Pacific migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +3.0 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 the models are suggesting some flavor of weak Inactive MJO is going to set up. 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 6/30 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 and holding in the +0.1-+0.2 range into Nov before fading to neutral in Jan 2014. A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a less wide spread of outcomes compared to earlier projections all centered near neutral to just a bit cooler than that into Summer and early Fall 2013. The dynamic models favor slight warming, while the statistical models favor slight cooling. We are out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models are starting to get a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but 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 another small gale is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific on Fri (7/5) with 50-55 kt west winds and near 40 ft seas at 52S 134W over an infinitesimal sized area and falling southeast. No odds for swell radiating northeast towards US interests.
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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Jason-1 Satellite in Safehold - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. NOAA/JPL is analyzing the cause of the error now. It is unknown if or when the satellite will return to service.
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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