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 Sunday (7/12) North and Central California had thigh to maybe waist local northwest windswell at exposed breaks and a bit lumpy/textured. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell at exposed breaks up north and limited fading southern hemi swell intermixed pushing waves to the waist high or so range near Huntington Beach southward with near calm winds early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had waist high easterly windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore had no southern hemi swell with waves effectively flat and with clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for slowly improving small to modest sized short period north windswell building into Wednesday reaching waist to almost chest high, fading some on Thursday the with a little more windswell energy expected in for the weekend. No southern hemi swell expected though. Southern CA is to see more limited thigh high northwest short period windswell filtering into exposed breaks Monday and Tuesday, then fading mid to the later half of the week only to return for the weekend. Perhaps a dribble of southern hemi background swell on Wednesday at thigh to waist high from the gale that was south of Tahiti last week. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to see more minimal east tradewind generated windswell during the week at waist high, building late Friday and with more size for next weekend. The South Shore is not expected to see any southern hemi swell until Wed (7/15), then energy from that gale of last week south of Tahiti is to arrive at waist high pushing chest high on Thursday trickling down Friday into Saturday (7/18). .
Longterm the South Pacific produced a small gale under Tahiti on Wed (7/8) generating a tiny area of up to 26-27 ft seas pushing north towards Hawaii (see above). But the swell to be very small upon arrival there on Wed (waist high) with nothing of interest expected to reach California. Another stronger but still small gale is forecast forming just northeast of New Zealand on Monday AM (7/13) with 40-45 kt southwest to west winds producing 32 ft seas tracking almost due east pushing 36 ft on Tuesday AM and just starting to push into the Tahitian swell shadow peaking in the evening at 38 ft (34S 156W) from 209 degrees (still shadowed). Most wind energy from this one is to be pushing to the east and northeast, about 35 degrees east of the great circle tracks up into North CA. In the end some small swell is expected to push up into Hawaii and California if all goes as planned. Of way more interest is a large storm forecast for the Central South Pacific Thurs-Sat (7/18) with up 47 ft seas just barely shadowed on the east end of the Tahitian shadow and aimed pretty well to the northeast. But with each run of the models this one makes some major change, so it is still unbelievable that it will form at all. Still it's something to monitor. And more is forecast behind that. Looks like a improving storm pattern is brewing for the South Pacific this week, good news for everyone who is surf starved.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was holding north of Hawaii riding east to California though generally ill defined producing generic north winds to 20 kts over Central CA waters and generating weak northwest short period windswell there. This high was also generating modest trades at 15 kts pushing into the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands, with minimal easterly windswell the result. Over the next 72 hours this high pressure system is to hold it's strength at 1024 mbs and position, ridging a little more to the east generating a stronger pressure gradient over North CA producing north winds to 25 kts off Cape Mendocino by Tuesday (7/14) resulting in marginally improving short period north windswell from Pt Arena southward to Pt Conception into mid-week. Trades are to continue over the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts into Wednesday resulting in east windswell of 4.5 ft @ 7 secs (waist high) then fading some. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/12) high pressure at 1026 mbs was located 600 nmiles west of Central CA ridging into the coast and producing 20 kt north winds extending from Pt Arena southward to Pt Conception and generating small short period north windswell pushing south. By Monday (7/13) the fetch is to build in coverage at 20-25 kts range as reinforcing high pressure builds off the coast with north winds reaching 25 kts late Monday off Cape Mendocino and 25-30 kts early Tuesday (7/14), with nearshore winds south of Pt Reyes fading then. Larger windswell and improved conditions from San Francisco southward to Pt Conception expected. The gradient is to slowly fade into Wednesday (7/15) with winds dropping to 20 kts off the North Coast and windswell fading as conditions improve. But by Thurs (7/16) additional high pressure is to start moving into the area with 25 kts winds starting to develop over Cape Mendocino and windswell inching up into Friday. By the weekend the fetch is to shift south over Central CA at 20 kts generating more local windswell but with deteriorating conditions. .
On Sunday hurricane Carlos was located 1380 nmiles due south of South California with sustained winds art 70 kts heading due west at 11 kts. QuikSCAT imagery indicated the fetch was incredibly small and little was aimed north. No swell producing fetch was indicated relative to California. Forecast projections indicate Carlos is to continue on a westerly track while slowly building, with winds to 90 kts by Tuesday but well beyond range of CA. This system is to hold a hurricane strength 5 days out, brining it to within range of HAwaii at that time. Will monitor.
On Sunday (7/12) the South Pacific jetstream was not great, but neither was it horrible. The southern branch was pushing northeast impacting into the northern branch well south of Tahiti. But still no real wind energy was associated with the southern branch (90 kts) not facilitating gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hrs a new push of northward moving energy in the southern branch is forecast Monday (7/13) at 120 kts pushing up to New Zealand feeding up into the northern branch through Wednesday carving out an improving trough there with winds to 190 kts building at the junction of the two streams. Decent support for gale development if this occurs. And that flow is to hold if not improve with more energy streaming north from New Zealand, with winds at 190 kts at the juncture point holding into Friday (7/17) with a nice trough getting carved out. Decent support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours this same pattern is to hold with a bit more wind energy tracking northeast off New Zealand reaching the juncture point. More support for gale development possible in that area if this occurs.
At the surface on Sunday (7/12) three separate low pressure systems were circulating in the South Pacific though none had swell producing potential relative to our forecast area. Of most interest was the weak one circulating just north of New Zealand producing 40 kt south winds aimed towards Fiji, producing a tiny area of 28 ft seas. Over the next 72 hours and by Sunday evening winds are to build to in this gale to 45 kts over a tiny area at 34S 177W aimed 30 degrees northeast of the 224 degree path to California and 40 degrees east of the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building to 28 ft at 33S 174W. Monday AM more 45 kt winds are forecast over a tiny area at 34S 172W aimed 30 degrees east of the 220 degree path to CA and 45 degrees east of the 195 degree path to Hawaii. 32 ft seas forecast at 34S 170W. In the evening the system is to continue east with 40 kt wind forecast at 34S 165W and aimed 35 degrees east of the 216 degree path to CA (unshadowed) and 65 degrees east of the 183 degree path to Hawaii. 35 ft seas forecast at 34S 166W. Tuesday AM (7/14) renewed 45 kt southwest winds are forecast at 34S 163W with 36 ft seas at 34S 161W aimed 25 degrees east of the 214 degree path to North CA and just barely unshadowed and 70 degree east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. Tuesday evening 40-45 kts winds are forecast at 34S 155W with 38 ft seas forecast at 34S 155W or in the heart of the Tahiti swell shadow relative to CA (208 degrees) and pushing almost totally east of the 180 degree path to Hawaii. By Wednesday AM (7/15) winds are to fade from 35-40 kts with residual seas of 36 ft at 34S 149W pushing 35 degrees east of the 204 degree path to CA and emerging from the core of the Tahitian swell shadow. This system is to continue beyond but sinking southeast some, with far less energy drifting north towards the US mainland. Rough data suggest swell arriving in CA starting Thurs (7/23).
Weak Tahitian Gale
A weak low pressure system tried to organize well south of Tahiti on Wed (7/8) with 35-40 kt southwest winds modeled at 44S 150W aimed towards both CA (shadowed by Tahiti) and Hawaii and holding through the evening, then dissipating fast early Thursday. Seas of 27 ft were modeled Wed PM (7/8) at 40S 150W. A small and weak pulse of utility class sideband swell is expected to reach Hawaii for Wed/Thurs (7/16) at 2.0-2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft faces pushing 3.5 ft at top breaks) from 180-185 degrees.
It's doubtful any swell energy will survive the being sheared by the French Polynesia and then survive the long journey north to the US Mainland. If it does it will show in SCal on Wed (7/15) with swell 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft faces) from 210 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 usual high pressure system is to start regrouping on Friday at 1028 mbs centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii with trades on the increase there first, building steadily through the weekend to near 20 kts and covering a much larger area, with windswell on the way up some.This high is to start ridging into the mainland by Friday (7/17) generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino and building southward to Point Conception over the weekend resulting in a bit larger push of short period north windswell expected for Central CA (7/19). Low pressure is forecast pushing east off the Kurils to the dateline and then northeast over the Aleutian Islands on by Monday (7/13) with another on Wednesday and another behind that. No swell producing fetch is forecast, but it is interesting that it is occurring in the middle of summer. And there was rain in the SF Bay Area on Saturday evening (7/11), which is stranger still.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (7/12) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Inactive Phase as it has been since 6/23, but the first Inactive Phase in months after going through three consecutive Active pulses since April 20th. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained neutral. The Daily SOI index was up a big increment +18.04. The 30 day average was up to 5.54 and the 90 day average was down to -0.96. The SOI index remained effectively neutral. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated completely neutral conditions, or normal. And no change is forecast through the end of the month. The big push of west winds that had been associated with the Active Phase of the MJO have dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific is over, at least for now. Unless another pulse of the Active Phase occurs, water temps might begin to loose some ground off Central America. But at this time we remain disposed to believe we have turned the corner and have entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase, which supports a manifestation of El Nino. Latest sea surface temperature data as of 7/9 indicates warmer than normal waters temps are reported over the entire width of the equatorial Pacific and building strongly off Central America pushing up into Baja Mexico and expected to track north from there. This looks very much like El Nino. Looking back in the satellite records (they go back to 1996), there has been no equivalent warming for any year on June 20th other than the record setting El Nino of 1997. We are about 6 weeks behind that one on the development timeline (i.e. it was were we are now on May 10th). So if things proceed at the current rate, we are moving towards El Nino. But it remains too early to declare that for a fact just yet. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface to be exact) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water pooling up there. Previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump and feeding the warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Warmer than normal waters can be seen around and east of the Galapagos Islands to near 2 deg C above normal. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that developed just west of the dateline on 6/18, with reinforcing west winds south of Hawaii on 6/22, set up a Kelvin wave resulting in more warm subsurface water moving east and just now stating to break the surface near Central America. And in the far West Pacific another Westerly Wind Burst appeared to be developing (7/6), but faded by 7/12. It is doubtful another Kelvin Wave will result pushing to the east. The next 3 weeks remain critical for the formation of a legitimate El Nino. If it were to occur, one would expect another decent pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO to take root towards the end of July, pushing out into the West Pacific. At this time, no such an occurrence is modeled. And with the SOI tending towards the positive, we're beginning to wonder if the great start to what looked like a developing El Nino might be loosing it's legs, and getting ready to falter just as it did last year. In fact, it was exactly at this time last year that a budding El Nino hit a brick wall and fell apart. The momentum from it held in the atmosphere until late Fall, and then what was looking like a decent storm pattern totally fell apart. For this year, unless a new Active Phase of the MJO starts building in the next 3 weeks, we'll be in trouble again. At this point we're in 'wait and see' mode. Regardless, where we are right now is better than anything compared to the last 3 years and maybe even better than anything in the last 12 years. An some of this goodness might finally be starting to affect the Southern Hemi weather pattern too.
Beyond 72 hours starting Wed (7/15) a new storm is to build in the Southwest Pacific with a small area of 55 kt south winds at 48S 170W holding at least into the evening while tracking east with a solid area of 36 ft seas modeled at 45S 165W by evening. on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadow for CA (209 degs). This system is to build and reorganize Thursday (7/16) into a massive gale low with a huge fetch of 45 kts winds near 40S 158W all aimed just 10 degrees east of the 208 degree path to CA and 30 degrees east of the 179 degree path to Hawaii. 38 ft seas building at 40S 158W. 50 kts winds are forecast Friday AM (7/17) at 38S 148W with seas building to 45 ft at 38S 150W and 46-47 ft in the evening at 35S 142W outside of the Tahitian swell shadow for CA. Of course this is still 3 days out before it start forming, and we still have little belief that even a portion of it will actually form. Still, it has been on the charts for some time now, so it is not out of the question that some fraction of this systems might materialize.
And yet one more solid system is forecast forming behind it southeast of New Zealand on Sat (7/18). So all is moving in the right direction for a change.
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