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 (7/3) North and Central CA had northwest windswell at shoulder high on the sets, mushy and reasonably clean but heavily warbled. Down south in Santa Cruz it was effectively flat with waves maybe knee high and clean. Southern California up north had northwest windswell at thigh high and reasonably clean but mushy. Down south waves were waist high and warbled with southwest local wind texture on top of that and weak. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat with some wrap around windswell at 12 inches and clean. The South Shore had limited southerly swell with waves waist to chest high on the sets and reasonably clean. The East Shore had tradewind produced east windswell at waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure was starting to ridge into Northern CA generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino resulting in north winds there to 25 kts generating larger windswell along the Central CA coast than has been seen in a week or so. But that fetch to back off in 24 hrs and not return till the weekend. Trades were blowing over Hawaii at 15 kts from the east and expected to build more pushing near 20 kts by Friday holding through the weekend offering better odds for somewhat larger easterly windswell along east facing shores. There even some hints of tropical activity in the East Pacific long term.
Down south a gale organized east of New Zealand Tues-Thurs (6/28) with seas in the 33-39 ft range, but only over a tiny area. Swell has passed Tahiti ans is starting to arrive in Hawaii, and expected to reach California later this week. And another gale formed off Chile on Tues-Wed (6/27) producing up to 38 ft seas, but on the very edge of only the Southern CA swell window, possibly setting up very south angled swell hitting in-sync with the New Zealand swell relative to CA. After that a small system is forecast developing under New Zealand on Thurs-Fri (7/6) tracking flat east with seas to maybe 36 ft but with little energy radiating north. Beyond 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 Tuesday (7/3) high pressure at 1032 mbs had redeveloped 1300 nmiles west of San Francisco resulting in a building pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino with winds to 25 kts late in the afternoon. Local north windswell was on the upswing as a result. The high was also feeding east trades over Hawaii at 15 kts with a decent sized fetch east of the Islands resulting in short period easterly windswell along east facing shores. Also low pressure was tracking east through the Northern Gulf of Alaska forming a pressure gradient with the high off California resulting in west winds at 25-30 kts and seas building to 15 ft 1200 nmiles west of Oregon. Maybe some limited 10 sec period windswell to reach into California and Oregon on Saturday (7/7).
Over the next 72 hours the high is to weaken to 1028 mbs on Thursday and pull away from the US West Coast as low pressure is the Gulf migrates east and fades. This to take the legs out of the local Cape Mendocino pressure gradient by late Wednesday with winds to 20 kts late and down to 15 kts on Thurs-Fri 97/6) with local California windswell fading. But the high is to make a little jog southward pushing trades into the 15-20 kts range relative to Hawaii for late in the workweek perhaps nudging easterly tradewind windswell there up a little.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
The models suggest some form of tropical low developing 500 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas on Thurs (7/5) tracking west towards Hawaii but dissipating before getting even half way there. But a second stronger system is forecast forming 300 nmiles south of Puerto Escondido on Sat (7/7) tracking west and getting reasonably strong by Mon (7/9) positioned 600 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas. Of course this is just a fantasy from the model but is still worth monitoring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/3) high pressure was ridging into Central and North CA generating a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino and pushing north winds at 20 kts southward over all Central CA waters but a bit removed from the coast. Conditions were warbled but not trashed. Southern CA remained in a clean eddy flow. And eddy flow is to build up into Central CA on Wednesday with the gradient retreating and effectively gone by with north winds down to 15 kts well off the coast and light nearshore, then starting to rebuild on Friday. North winds then to be back up at 15-20 kts nearshore over all of North and Central CA and strengthening some on Saturday (20 kts) but relocated north to Cape Mendocino with a weak flow nearshore for Central CA. Southern CA to remain protected in an eddy flow. Same thing on Sunday and Monday.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (7/3) a split jetstream pattern continued over the West and Central Pacific with the southern branch being very weak (winds less than 90 kts) and a big ridge pushing the northern branch down into the southern branch over the East Pacific with the jet there almost crashing into Antarctic Ice. There was no clear support for gale production occurring anywhere in the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the exact same pattern is to continue but with more energy building into the southern branch under New Zealand late Thursday (7/5) with winds to 120 kts offering some support for limited gale development. But no clear trough is forecast developing. Beyond 72 hours a bit more of something that looks like a trough is forecast forming southeast of New Zealand by Sun (7/8) with winds 110 kts, pushing east then fading 48 hrs out. Maybe some limited hope for gale development there. Otherwise a massive ridge is to be pushing south into Antarctica off Chile shutting down gale production for the East Pacific.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (7/3) high pressure at 1024 mbs was located just southeast of New Zealand pushing isobars south to just a bout the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf offering no area of gale development. A second high at 1049 mbs was off Chile pushing right into Antarctica locking thing down even worse there. Disorganized low pressure at 1068 mbs was inland over the Ross Ice Shelf south of open waters of the Central Pacific. In short, no fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure southeast of New Zealand is to lift north allowing a gale to make a short entrance in the far West Pacific under New Zealand by Thurs (7/5) with 50 kt west winds over a small area just clear of the Ross Ice Shelf with seas on the increase. By evening fetch is to hold while pushing east with seas building to 36 ft over an infinitesimal area at 60S 180W but all tracking flat east with no energy radiating northward. By Friday AM (7/6) the gale is to be fading with winds down to 45 kts over a shrinking area and the core falling southeast. 34 ft seas forecast at 62S 168W and starting to move into Antarctic Ice. No other fetch is forecast from this system. there's low odds of maybe some background energy radiating northward towards Tahiti, Hawaii and California assuming this system even develops.
New Zealand Gale
Residual wind energy from the Tasman Sea Gale above 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 and seas up to 36 ft at 51S 170E (218 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti, 201 degs Hawaii). Additional wind energy moved into the area Wednesday AM (6/27) with a larger fetch of 45 kt southwest winds taking control with seas building to 38 ft (confirmed by the Jason-1 satellite) at 49S 177E (216 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). A broader area of 40-45 kt southwest winds held into the evening with a respectable area of seas at 34 ft at 45S 178E (218 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). This fetch lifted northeast on Thurs AM (6/28) with 40 kt southwest winds continuing and seas at 33 ft near 44S 180E (same heading as before) loosing coverage in the evening at the same location. Seas fading from 30 ft at 42S 176W (217 degs CA, 199 HI). Residual energy fading Friday AM (6/29) with winds dropping from 30-35 kts and seas fading from 26 ft at 39S 171W (216 degs CA,191 HI).
The big issue with this one was it was a long ways away from the US West Coast, had a very small fetch area and did not push decidedly north or northeast, but instead slowly migrated on those headings. The net result is some modest sized swell is expected with a decent duration heading up to Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast.
Hawaii: Swell to peak on Wed (7/4) with swell 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell to continue on Thursday with swell 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.8 ft with sets to 6 ft) fading slightly as the day progresses. 14-15 sec residuals on Friday (7/6). Swell Direction: 198-201 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs AM (7/5) just before sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building slowly through the day to 1 ft @ 20 secs (2 ft). Swell building on Fri (7/6) to 2.2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with 5 ft sets) with luck. Swell continues on Sat (7/7) at 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft sets to 5.5 ft). Lesser energy on Sunday (7/7). Swell Direction: 217-219 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on on Thurs AM (7/5) just after sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building slowly through the day reaching 1 ft @ 20 secs (2 ft). Swell building on Fri (7/6) to 1.8-2.0 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft with 4.5 ft sets) with luck. Swell continues on Sat (7/7) at 2.3-2.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.7-4.3 ft with sets to 5.3 ft). Lesser energy on Sunday (7/7). Swell Direction: 216-218 degrees
Chilean Gale (S Cal)
On Tuesday (6/26) a gale started wrapping up in the extreme Southeastern Pacific off the tip off Southern Chile generating a fetch of 40 kt southwest winds building Wednesday AM (6/27) with southerly winds to 50 kts and barely in the Southern CA swell window. Seas were 30 ft at 64S 107W pushing well up the 175 degree path to SCal. That fetch pushed due north in the evening holding at 50 kts and expanding in coverage some resulting in building seas of 36 ft @ 59S 106W pushing up the 174 degree path to SCal. Thursday AM (6/28) the fetch races northeast winds winds still in the 45-50 kts range, but was pushing out of the CA swell window. Seas mostly from previous fetch were 39 ft at 54S 97W (168-171 degs SCal) and tracking well out of the US swell window, mostly bound for Chile and Peru now.
This system was of good intensity and pushing north but was so far east as to only push sideband energy up into the Southern CA swell window.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (7/4) with pure swell to 1 ft @ 21 secs late (2 ft). Swell building through the day Thursday (7/5) to 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.3 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to peak on Friday (7/6) at 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.1-4.4 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell fading Saturday from 2.1 ft @ 15 secs(3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 170-175 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 North Pacific high is to start rebuilding over Cape Mendocino CA on Fri-Sat (7/7) with north winds there to 20 kts offering some degree of north windswell for Central CA through the weekend. Even more wind velocity is forecast by next week on Tues (7/10) with north winds at 25-30 kts over Cape Mendo with local north windswell on the increase. Easterly trades to hold at 15-20 kts for Hawaii through Saturday (7/7) then start fading dropping to the 15 kts range and holding there into mid-next week. East windswell backing off some as the winds fade some.
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 (7/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was falling back into negative territory after being very negative last week (-41.19, -49.35, -46.96 and -34.44) then rebounding for 2 days into the positive range. Today the reading was -14.71. The 30 day average was down some -12.32 with the 90 day average up to -5.43. The 30 day average has been on a near continuous drop from +24 in early January 2012 to -10 by the last day of June, and now -12. This is a good trend.
Current wind analysis indicated a small pocket of modest west anomalies over the West Pacific (Maritime Continent) fading near the dateline and turning slightly easterly from there to a point south of Hawaii, then going dead neutral. This looks like a very weak version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the Pacific disregarding the pocket of Westerly Anomalies in the far West Pacific. A week from now (7/11) dead neutral anomalies are forecast over the entire equatorial Pacific, signaling the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO (if one is to believe the models).If true that would be an incredibly short Inactive Phase. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/2 are in agreement indicating a moderate instance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is currently over the West Pacific expected to peak on (7/7) then starting to fade 2 weeks out. The dynamic model is more aggressive on the rate of fade than the dynamic model and in fact the dynamic model has it rebuilding 2 weeks out. But both models continue to show some small pocket of west anomalies on the equatorial dateline through the next 2 weeks. 7/4 had been our 'stake in the ground' in assessing the strength of this Inactive Phase and to determine what the trend will be over this coming Fall and Winter (more below), but were extending that out 1 more week (7/11). Regardless, the preferred pattern is no or minimal Inactive Phase build-up the first 2 weeks 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 first week or two in July. It's still to early to know what the outcome will be but it is tentatively looking good.
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 7/3 (part of a continuous pattern that started in Jan 2012). 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. If one inspects the water temperature anomaly chart as of 7/3 an unmistakable El Nino pattern has developed extending from south of Hawaii into Ecuador and extending north to Cabo San Lucas and south well into Chile. It will be interesting to see if the weak MJO pattern continues (a early sign of some flavor of El Nino) into early July (still to be determined) or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life and reestablishes some sort of blockade. But as of now 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 if not the start of a weak El Nino.
A weaker MJO signal is typical for the June timeframe but does not normally appear as strong and as long-lasting as what is currently occurring, suggesting that La Nina is gone and something better is replacing it. 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 an Active-like Phase pattern take hold, ultimately ushering in some flavor of El Nino, or will it stall in the first 2 weeks of 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 answer somewhere between July 4th and the 11th.
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