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 (7/14) North and Central CA had surf at thigh high and textured with a modest southerly flow early - all coming from the north. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high with sets to chest high at better breaks and clean with no wind and the normal overcast early. Southern California up north was thigh high or a little more on the sets and and clean but weak - pure windswell. Down south waves were chest high pushing shoulder high on the sets and inconsistent from the south but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was tiny with waves thigh high at best and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore was getting minimal easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh head high and lightly chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no large scale swell producing fetch of interest has occurred nor is forecast to occur to produce swell, typical for the summer. North winds near Cape Mendocino were just barely strong enough to barely produce rideable north windswell for best breaks along the Central CA coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds were suppressed due to very weak low pressure north of the Islands making for no rideable easterly tradewind generated windswell along east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to hold in the Northeast Pacific but retrograding west and reducing ridging into the North CA coast with the already small fetch of north winds over Cape Mendocino area fading out Tuesday (7/16) and not returning till later Friday (7/19) and then only at 20 kts, building Sunday to 25 kts and finally resulting in some possible decently rideable north windswell for North and Central CA. For Hawaii tradewind generated windswell is to return some later Monday as low pressure pushes west of the Islands and high pressure starts to rebuild north of Hawaii with trades on the increase resulting in small easterly windswell. This situation to hold into Wednesday, then the high is to start fading with trades still 15 kts but covering only a fragmented area.
Swell from a tiny gale that developed under New Zealand Wed-Fri (7/5) with seas in the 30 ft range tracking a little bit to the northeast is to be fading out for California mid-Monday (7/15).
The item of most interest is a modest gale that formed in the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (7/11) with seas in the 34 ft range aimed well to the northeast which then turned pure east with seas in the 30-32 ft range Friday offering limited sideband potential. Nothing significant is expected but some rideable swell is likely to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, California down into Central and South America.
Beyond a series of very weak system are forecast east of New Zealand, the first on Wed (7/17) with 26 ft seas aimed north towards Hawaii while a second forms southwest of it just off the Ross Ice Shelf Thurs (7/18) with 28 ft seas aimed northeast again targeting only maybe Hawaii and Tahiti. A third stronger but still small system is forecast in the same area Sun (7/21) with 42 ft seas. So there's at least something to monitor, but nothing to get excited about.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (7/14) high pressure at 1028 mbs was holding over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska ridging into the Southeast Oregon Coast down to Cape Mendocino generating 20 kt north winds in that area generating bare minimal north windswell for exposed breaks in mainly Central CA. The high was also barely ridging over the Hawaiian Island generating easterly tradewinds there in the 10 kt range resulting in no real easterly local windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build some to 1032 mbs on Mon-Tues (7/16) while retrograding slowly west resulting in a broader fetch of 20 kt north fetch over Cape Mendocino resulting in a slight increase in local north windswell for Central CA, but not much. But then by Wednesday the high is to retrograde too far to the west and the fetch is to dissipate along the US West Coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands weak low pressure north of the ISlands is to track west and be out of the region by Monday (7/15) with high pressure retrograding west and becoming better focused on Hawaii, with trades returning at 15 kts and some modest increase in easterly windswell along east facing shores. This pattern to hold into Wed (7/17) then starting to fade on Thurs (7/18) with the commensurate decrease in easterly windswell expected then.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (7/14) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/14) north winds were holding over Cape Mendocino at 20 kts with a weak westerly flow barely hanging on for the Central Coast and near calm down into Southern CA. Monday the gradient is to build some over Northern CA with 20 kt north winds expanding coverage and 15 kt north winds building over outer waters of Central CA, and 10 kts nearshore. Light winds for Southern CA. But by Tuesday the gradient is to be in full retreat as high pressure retrogrades west away from the coast. North winds to maybe 10 kts for North and Central CA and 5 kts for Southern CA and holding Wednesday. But by Thursday weak high pressure is to return with 15 kts north winds forecast for all of California early except for protected breaks in Southern CA and up to 20 kts over Cape Mendocino. Friday this pattern is to hold but with north winds to 25 kts over Cape Mendo and maybe 5-10 kts for exposed breaks in Southern CA later. By the weekend north winds to hold at 25 kts over Cape Mendo with a weak eddy flow (south winds) setting up for Bodega Bay southward. In all, a seasonal pattern.
Jetstream - On Sunday (7/14) the jet was split over New Zealand holding that way over the South Central Pacific finally merging in the extreme Southeast Pacific forming a bit of a trough there but essentially east of even the Southern CA swell window. Back to the west the southern branch of the jet was running flat east down at 62S with no troughs indicated offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the fully split pattern is to push east with the entire South Pacific locked down by the southern branch of the jet running flat east down at 65S offering no support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours a pocket of 150 kt winds are to push under New Zealand Friday (7/19) barely lifting northeast but not really growing in coverage or strength and by late Saturday what was hopes for a trough are to be gone. But in the evening another pocket of wind energy is to push east under New Zealand with winds 170 kts again offering a little chance for a trough to develop ahead of it pushing up to 55S and looking better defined on Sunday (7/21). Perhaps there's some odds to support gale development.
Surface - On Sunday (7/14) residual swell from a weak system that formed in the Southwest Pacific on 7/2 was fading along the California coast (see 2nd Southwest Pacific Gales below). Of more interest was swell from a gale that tracked through the South Central Pacific last week (see Central Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low pressure system is forecast developing well east of New Zealand late Tuesday (7/16) producing 35-40 kt south winds aimed due north with seas building. On Wed AM (7/17) 35-40 kt south fetch is to hold with seas 24 ft at 41S 151W targeting only Tahiti. Fetch is to start breaking up in the evening with seas from previous fetch peaking at 26-28 ft at 37S 150W targeting Tahiti with maybe some sideband swell for Hawaii. Seas fading from 26 ft Thurs AM (7/18) at 34S 143W. In all some rideable swell expected for Tahiti and maybe background energy for Hawaii with period at 14-15 secs assuming this gale even forms.
2nd Tiny Southwest Pacific Gale
A smaller gale developed in the Southwest Pacific starting Tues PM (7/2) with a tiny area of 45 kts west winds. By Wed AM (7/3) with 45 kt west winds were holding with 36 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 177W, then winds fading by evening with seas 30 ft at 55S 172W moving slightly northeast. This system redeveloped some Thursday with 32 ft seas at 54S 163W fading from 30 ft in the evening at 52S 153W. Given this system slightly northeast trajectory, limited odds for swell pushing up into California (but not Hawaii).
Southern CA: Expect swell fading out on Monday (7/14) from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees
North CA: Expect swell fading out on Monday (7/14) from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees
Central Pacific Gale
A small gale built in the Southwest Pacific on Tues AM (7/9) with pressure 968 mbs and winds to 45 kt over a tiny area aimed somewhat northeast and it turned more to the northeast in the evening resulting in seas to 28 ft at 60S 172W. By Wed AM (7/10) winds were down to 40-45 kts over a decent size area aimed well northeast resulting in seas of 30 ft at 56S 165W. By evening 40-45 kt south winds were holding pushing well north with seas building to 34 ft at 50S 161W. 45 kt south winds were pushing northeast Thurs AM (7/11) with seas to 36 ft at 47S 153W. 40-45 kt southwest to west fetch held in the evening with seas of 34 ft up at 41S 143W. 35 kt southwest fetch was fading Fri AM (7/12) with seas dropping from 32 ft at 43S 133W aimed mainly east with sideband fetch pushing northeast. In the evening the original fetch is to be falling southeast and of no interest to anyone but Antarctica. But a new small secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest winds was building west of the core of the old low resulting in 30 ft seas at 45S 135W. Sideband energy tracking northeast. By Sat AM (7/13) residual 35-40 kt southwest winds were holding resulting in 29 ft seas at 43S 133W. By evening this system was gone.
Swell is already in the water pushing towards Tahiti with sideband swell for Hawaii. More solid direct energy is forecast pushing up into the US West Coast, Mexico and Central America. This will be nothing exceptional, just rideable surf.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Tues (7/16) with period 19 secs and size tiny, maybe 1.5 ft @ 19 secs (2.5 ft). Swell to start peaking on Wed (7/17) at 2.7 ft @ 17 secs mid-day (4.5 ft with sets to near 6 ft). Decent energy to hold Thurs (7/18) with swell 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading out on Fri (7/19) with swell 1.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (7/18) with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs late (4.5 ft with sets pushing 6 ft). This might be an optimistic projection. Swell peaking on Fri (7/19) with pure swell to 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5.4 ft with set near 7 ft). Additional swell energy to fill in Saturday (7/20) with swell still 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.4 ft with sets near 7 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell Direction 198 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (7/18) with swell building to 2.0 ft @ 18-19 secs late (3.5 ft with sets pushing 4.5 ft). This might be an optimistic projection. Swell peaking later on Fri (7/19) with pure swell to 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft with set near 5.5 ft). Additional swell energy to fill in Saturday (7/20) with the first pulse 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft with sets near 4.5 ft) and the new pulse 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft). Swell Direction 195 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 regroup off the Pacific Northwest Friday (7/19) with a decent sized fetch of 20 kts north winds building over Cape Mendocino building to 25 kts Sat AM (7/20) and even near 30 kts by Sun day. This should result in increasing short period north windswell down into Central CA.
Relative to Hawaii high pressure is to not be strong enough to produce anything more than barely 15 kts traders on Friday (7/19) and fragmented in coverage at that, holding into Saturday then fading even more on Sunday. The result is to be decreasing easterly short period windswell on east facing shores of the Islands falling below the rideable level later Fri (7/19).
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 (7/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding 10.83. The 30 day average was down to 6.41 with the 90 day average up to 6.27. Overall this is holding stable in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning slightly easterly on the dateline then regressing back to neutral south of Hawaii continuing on into Central America. A week from now (7/22) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent continuing to the dateline, then fading to neutral east of there into Central America. This suggests that a near neutral to maybe lightly Inactive Phase is to hold over the equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/13 are in agreement initially suggesting the Inactive Phase was all but gone and fast over the Philippines but extending not much east of there. Both models are in agreement suggesting the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to fade over the next 3-5 days to almost nothing while a new Active Phase fades while pushing from the East Indian Ocean into the far West Pacific. 8 days out the models remain in sync with the Inactive Phase gone the Active Phase fading out while pushing into the far West Pacific and all but gone 15 days out. The even longer range models have a very weak Active Phase holding into early August while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean, moving into the far West Pacific mid-August.
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 (7/11) a weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator, almost gone, but not completely. In fact - a few tiny pockets of cooler water are now appearing on the latest imagery propagating northwest off the immediate coast of Peru to the Galapagos and beyond. This is a step back from what we thought was the death of this pattern just a few days before. The source of this cool water is a small pool of cooler than normal water holding directly along the coast of Peru with small increments out flowing to the northwest. The anomalously cool pool off West Africa, thought to be eroding some, is still in-place and not completely dispersed, and if anything, appears to be recharging. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. But as of now it's still in-play. This was a direct reflection of what previously occurred in the Pacific, an unforeseen burst of cool water gurgling up off both South America and West Africa - a global teleconnection. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, returned in June when the cold pool emerged off Peru and Africa, but is fully closed off now with warmer than normal waters taking root. With the cold pool fading down south, or at least appears to be loosing strength, it make sense the cold pool off CA is fading and high pressure is receding.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a mainly neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific has migrated east over top of a previous cold pool - eliminating it's impact. Neutral water is generally in control over the entire equatorial Pacific down 50-100 meters below the surface. Temperatures on the surface appear to be neutral too. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic responded to the cold push in May, in what could have been a global pattern that is still not totally dislodged.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/14 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation and no significant change is forecast into April 2014. In short, a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but not anything particularly cold either. Instead the ocean is in recharge mode, with cold water dispersing and temperatures gradually on the rise again. 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. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one year of neutral temperatures 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 hours a small gale is forecast building under New Zealand on Wed (7/16) producing a small area of 45 kt southwest winds with seas building to 28 ft Thurs AM (7/18) at 57S 174W and then 28 ft again in the evening at 54S 164W. Maybe background swell for Tahiti and Hawaii with luck.
On Sat PM (7/20) a small but strong storm is forecast forming under New Zealand with 55 kt southwest winds building to 60 kts and tracking flat east with seas building to 45 ft at 59S 162W right off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. Zero odds for this system developing given the models track record at long range forecasting. .
It's still a long ways from occurring, but it's something to monitor.
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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'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table