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.
On Tuesday (7/6) North and Central California had more head high to 1 ft overhead trashed north angled short period locally generated windswell with south winds still in control. Southern hemi swell #5S was still doing pretty well that at head high with sets 1-2 ft overhead and clean down south. Southern California was getting waist high plus high wrap around northwest windswell up north and clean. But the real story was the southern hemi swell down south head high with sets 1-2 ft overhead and real lined up but kinda ruffled by southern winds. Hawaii's North Shore was flat with clean conditions. The East Shore was getting knee high trade wind generated east windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore was small with waves thigh high and kinda textured by east trades.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for one more day of Southern hemi swell at chest high or so on Wednesday then dropping out. Meanwhile locally generated north short period windswell is to continue at chest high Wednesday, down to thigh high Thursday then gone Friday only to return to the chest high range on Saturday and a little less on Sunday (7/11). Southern California is to see one more day of southern hemi swell at chest high on Wednesday and waist high Thursday with luck, then dropping out entirely. Low odds of knee high wrap around local north windswell up north on Wednesday and then fading out till maybe Saturday, returning at maybe knee high then on into Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no swell of interest for the foreseeable future though there is rumor of possible dateline swell on Sunday (7/11) at shoulder high with alot of luck . The East Shore to see no real east tradewind generated windswell till Friday when maybe some thigh to waist high sets straggle through pushing waist high steady into the weekend. The South Shore is to see no real swell until Saturday (7/10) when southern hemi swell arrives at waist high or so, continuing into Sunday.
Up north a broad area of low pressure is slated for the dateline and Western Gulf on Fri-Sat (7/10) possibly generating 18 ft seas pushing towards Hawaii initially and 24 ft seas towards the US West Coast, but that is high ly unlikely. Down south a gale is forecast to push under New Zealand on Sat (7/10) and lifting northeast with 32-35 ft seas, possibly sending some swell into Hawaii and the US West Coast, but it's too early to know if this system will even form yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (7/6) the North Pacific jetstream was tracking generally northeast from Northern Japan into the Western Gulf of Alaska with a steep trough there then ridging hard north up into Alaska proper. No real support for swell producing low pressure was indicated in this trough. Over the next 72 hours a new trough is to build over the dateline with a good sized area of 130 kts northwest winds expected on Thurs (7/8) pushing east and northeast fast into Friday possibly providing a little more support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours that energy is to all stream northeast feeding a building ridge just off the California coast likely ushering in a period of strong high pressure down at the oceans surface while the jet whithers away to almost northing back over the Western Pacific.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/6) the usual area of high pressure was off California ridging northeast into Canada at 1028 mbs generating a modest area of 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino generating short period northerly windswell mainly for Central CA. It was also bridging towards a second high at 1024 mbs over the dateline generating light easterly trades at 15 kts blowing over the Hawaiian Islands not generating much in terms of local east windswell. No low pressure of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to give way to a building and broad low pressure system centered over the dateline reaching down to 988 mbs on late Wed (7/7) with 30 kt west winds developing in it's south quadrant at 39N 175W offering potential to produce windswell moving towards Hawaii. That low is to deepen to gale status on Thursday with pressure supposedly down to 968 mbs with 40 kt west and northwest winds building at 46N 175W and holding there for almost 24 hours aimed towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Seas are modeled jumping to 26 ft in that vicinity. If that occurs some degree of decent 14 sec period swell could result for the above locations. But, it is very unlikely give the time of year and it is more likely just a case of the model overestimating the strength of this low. Will monitor. Regardless, with the buildup of low pressure in the mid-North Pacific high pressure is to fade as is locally generating windswell with it.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/6) high pressure at 1032 mbs was 600 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino ridging mostly into British Columbia generating the usual pressure gradient and north winds at 20-25 kts over outer waters of the North and Central CA coast resulting in short period junky north windswell and warble. And eddy flow (south winds) was in control of nearshore waters of Central and South CA. This same pattern is to hold into Thursday (7/8) but with the gradient fading and windswell dying with it. There's suggestions the gradient could rebuild some for the weekend (Fri-Sat) but with windswell producing fetch remaining well off the coast, with an eddy flow in control nearshore. Then by Monday (7/12) the gradient is to fade out and the eddy flow with it.
On Tuesday (7/6) a split and fragmented jetstream remained in control of the South Pacific. The southern branch of the jet was tracking east down at 65S and even further south in the east and west over the Antarctic ice pack eliminating odds for development of surface level low pressure over exposed waters of the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast with a ridge of 130+ kt winds tracking east on the 65S latitude, reinforcing the above situation. Beyond 72 hours a gently building trough is forecast taking hold southeast of New Zealand on Sat (7/10) with 130 kts winds pushing northeast through it and continuing if not building into Monday (7/12) while tracking slowly east, offering some decent chances to support surface level gale formation. this trough to continue east from there on Tuesday but loosing energy and likely loosing it's ability to support gale production at the oceans surface.
At the oceans surface a little more swell from Gale #5S in the Southeast Pacific was impacting the California Coast. Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring in the South Pacific, and if anything winds were blowing to the southeast (towards Antarctica) at near 40 kts under and southeast of New Zealand, hindering swell production. Over the next 72 hours a small gale is to wind up just east of New Zealand on Thurs (7/8) not so much generating swell producing fetch but preparing the atmosphere to support broader and stronger low pressure in the days ahead. To the east high pressure is to remain in control still driving winds to the southeast at 35 kts and offering nothing in terms of swell production for anywhere other than Antarctica.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs weak high pressure is to try and hold on at 1028 mbs
located 1300 nmiles off Northern California trying to ridge into British Columbia but not making it, producing a small area of 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino Fri/Sat (7/10) and limited small short period north windswell before retrograding and dissipating. This high is to also stimulate trades over the Hawaiian Islands to near 20 kts Fri-Sat (7/10) offering a little more hope for some windswell then along east facing shores. But after that a near neutral pressure pattern is to take hold of the entire North Pacific with no swell producing fetch forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (7/6) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was at 19.70 and has been positive for 11 days running. The 30 day average was up to 2.90 with the 90 day at 6.93. This is looking like the start of a modest run of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (7/5) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models suggested moderate to moderate plus east anomalies holding over a broad area in the West Pacific centered near the Philippines indicative of a moderate pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. They extend from just west of India to the dateline. A small and fading area of westerly anomalies indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO were trying to hold on over Central America, not dying as fast as previous forecast. Regardless, the Inactive Phase is trying to take over the Pacific. Easterly anomalies are forecast to hold if not ease east of the dateline through 7/15 taking over the majority of the greater Pacific, then slowly loosing coverage. Finally on 7/25 a neutral wind pattern is to take over as the Active Phase of the MJO fades out. If anything, with each new run of the models the strength and duration of this Inactive Phase increases (not good). This is likely a harbinger of what is to come this Fall and Winter.
We believe the remnants of El Nino will try to linger in the upper atmosphere for a while longer. But in reality, they are almost gone. The expectation is that we'll fall back into some form of a light to moderate La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for later 2010 into 2011.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/1) indicates that cooler than normal waters have developed over a moderate strip on the equator from South America drifting west to the dateline and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea now. And feeder bands of colder than normal water have developed pushing off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -4 degs below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, but only in the normal range. But there has begun to be some signs of slight easterly anomalies developing, which is to be expected given all the other data. This is typical for this time of the year but is likely to change towards an increased easterly flow as Fall approaches symptomatic of La Nina.
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact is to continue through the Summer of 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models indicate a broad area of gale force winds area to develop in association with e 960 mb low southeast of New Zealand on Sat (7/10) with southwest to south winds at 40 kts lifting northeast into the evening then fading some Sunday, only to redevelop Monday (7/12) with a smaller area of 45-50 kts south-southwest winds pushing near 55 kts later in the day and tracking slowly east-northeast into Tuesday. Possible swell generation potential for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast. But it is still quite early and much could change between now and then.
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