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 Thursday (7/16) North and Central California had thigh to waist high northwest windswell at exposed breaks with a little bit of winds on it early. You could stand up on it if you had to. Southern California was effectively flat with no northwest windswell with onshore winds and chopped in the afternoon even down into San Diego. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had knee high easterly windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore had more moderate southern hemi swell at chest high showing at better breaks with clean/trade wind conditions. Pure swell was 2.7 ft @ 13.8 secs.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for short period north windswell to be all but gone (knee high) on Friday holding into Saturday, then starting to come back up Sunday reaching chest high or so (5.0 ft @ 8-9 secs). No southern hemi swell expected. Southern CA is to see no rideable surf through the weekend, then maybe some small north windswell starting on Monday and holding into the workweek. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to see building easterly tradewind generated east windswell at near waist high Friday and chest high for the weekend then drifting down next week. The South Shore is to see more southern hemi swell from that gale of last week south of Tahiti with waves trickling down from waist high on Friday to thigh high on Saturday (7/18).
Longterm a decent but still small gale formed 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 with seas pushing 37 ft on Tuesday and just as it was pushing into the Tahitian swell shadow from 209 degrees (still shadowed). Most wind energy from this one was pushing to the east and northeast, about 35 degrees east of the great circle tracks up into North CA and 60 degrees off the path into Hawaii. In the end some small swell is expected to push up into Hawaii by Sun (7/19) and Monday at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft faces) and then California by late Tues (7/21) at near 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft faces). Of more interest is a moderate sized storm forecast for the Southeast Pacific Thurs-Sun (7/19) with up 40 ft seas mostly unshadowed on the east end of the Tahitian shadow and aimed pretty well to the northeast. The models are stabilizing now making the likelihood of this one actually forming a little more plausible, though forecast seas heights are down considerably from previous projections. Still, it is just now starting to form. Will know much more in the next few days. And a little more energy is forecast behind it in the South Pacific. So it looks like were in for a bit better run of surf.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 1500 nmiles northwest of Hawaii ridging east but not really making it to California. North winds had subsided over Cape Mendocino waters down to 15 kts and little if any northwest short period windswell was occurring in Central CA. This high was generating modest trades at 15 kts pushing into the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands, with minimal easterly windswell the result. Of note, low pressure at 1012 mbs was circulating off Washington perhaps generating some minimal windswell that will push towards the coast there. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to start surging east on Saturday increasing trades over the Hawaiian Islands to the 20 kts range with windswell inching up some. The Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is to start coming into play too late Saturday with 25 kt north winds building there on Sunday (7/19) and local north windswell building down into Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/16) high pressure was retreating from the California coast with winds subsiding and expected to hold into later Saturday. By Sunday (7/19) high pressure at 1028 mbs is expected to surge east ridging into the Pacific Northwest and again producing 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino generating small to moderate short period north windswell pushing south with 15 kts winds reaching down to Pt Conception. This same basic pattern is to hold into Thursday (7/23) as the high tracks east up into British Columbia. There is decent odds for lesser winds in the morning hours nearshore south of Pt Arena, though local lump is still likely. Southern Ca to remain mostly protected.
On Thursday Tropical Depressions Carlos and Delores were roughly mid-way between Mexico and Hawaii with Carlos closer to the Islands. Max winds were 25 kts in both. No strengthening is forecast and if anything, bit are to slowly dissipate. No swell is expected to result.. Will monitor.
On Thursday (7/16) the southern branch of the jetstream continued pushing north joining the northern branch south of Tahiti with a nice trough at the juncture and 200+ kt winds occurring at the troughs apex. Good support for gale if not storm development was occurring. The jetstream split east of there. Over the next 72 hrs this same configuration is to hold until Saturday when the trough is to get quickly cut off by a new ridge building over the Central Pacific (originating from the northern branch of the jet) pushing hard to the southeast reaching the Ross Ice Shelf and shutting the storm machine down over the Southeast Pacific. But a trough of some degree is to try and hold under New Zealand. Beyond 72 hours that trough is expected to remain there well into next week, though winds to remain light and it too looks like it might get cutoff by late in the week . Maybe some more potential for gale development in this area early in the week with luck.
At the surface on Thursday (7/16) a new storm was developing south of Tahiti (see Southeast Pacific Storm below). This system was embedded in a broad area of low pressure that has been festering in the South Pacific for weeks now, only recently getting better organized. Additional low pressure was trying to push under New Zealand but was of no immediate interest. Over the next 72 hours the Southeast Pacific Storm is to be of most interest. The low south of New Zealand is to lift north and try to develop, but producing only a short duration of 40 kt southwest winds on Sunday (7/19) producing 12 hrs of 30 ft seas early at 45S 180W, possibly setting up swell for Hawaii.
New Zealand Gale
On Sunday a new gale started to build just north of New Zealand producing 40 kt south winds aimed towards Fiji, producing a tiny area of 28 ft seas. By Sunday evening winds built 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 built to 28 ft at 33S 174W. Monday AM more 45 kt winds were modeled 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 modeled at 34S 170W. In the evening the system continued east with 40 kt winds 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. 36 ft seas were modeled at 34S 166W. Tuesday AM (7/14) renewed 45 kt southwest winds were confirmed at 34S 163W resulting in a larger area of 37 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 were confirmed at 34S 155W with a tiny area of 37 ft seas modeled at 33S 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) 40 kt winds held with 36 ft seas at 33S 148W 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 fast with far less energy drifting north towards the US mainland. 32 ft seas were modeled Wed PM at 33S 142W and dissipating. The only Jason-1 satellite pass over this fetch occurred at 06Z Thurs (7/160 with seas reported at 29.5 ft were the modeled suggested 30 ft seas. So the model was right on track.
Swell is expected into Hawaii by Sun (7/19) continuing and Monday at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft faces) and then California by late Tues (7/21) at near 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft faces) and 2 ft @ 15 secs on Wed (3 ft faces).
Southeast Pacific Storm
A new storm was organizing on Thursday (7/16) with pressure 960 mbs and a small fetch of 50 kt southwest winds at 50S 150W aimed 20 degrees east of the 198 degree path to California and partially shadowed by the east end of French Polynesia. 33 ft seas were building at 50S 153W, already mostly outside the Hawaiian swell window (179 degrees). That fetch is to start withering in size in the evening with 45 kts winds at 48S 149W aimed more to the east producing 39 ft seas at 47S 145W as a new fetch builds to the northwest at 40S 160W with barely 45 kt winds trying to develop. By Friday AM (7/17) the two fetches are to join forming a broad area of 40 kts winds at 33S 144W with seas quickly building to 32 ft at 35S 150W aimed almost directly up the 203 degree path to California and on the eastern edge of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, only partially obstructed. In the evening 40-45 kt south winds are to hold at 36S 140W aimed right up the 194 degree path to California and completely unobstructed with a broad area of seas holding at 32 ft at 32S 140W, outside of the Tahitian swell shadow for CA. A small area of 45 kts south winds to build over the same area Saturday AM (7/18) at 35S 133W aimed right up the 191 degree path northward towards CA with 40 ft seas forecast at 32S 135W. In the evening a quick fade of fetch is forecast with winds dropping from 44 kts but still aimed due north at 33S 130W with seas 40 ft at 31S 129W. This system is to dissipate after that fast with residual 36 ft seas at 30S 125W and aimed 40 degrees east of the 181 degree path to NCal (183 SCal).
This system is still 1-2 days from getting into what would be considering the core of it's development, so anything could still happen. But it's been on the charts for a week now, so some swell is likely to occur, but details remain far from certain.
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 Northeast Pacific high pressure system is to continue active generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino with lesser fetch pushing down to Pt Conception Monday (7/20) and continuing through the work week with north short period windswell and poor local conditions the expected result. Of some interest is that more low pressure is forecast to push east off the Kurils to the dateline and then northeast over the Aleutian Islands through the weekend into next week (7/21). This to also hold trades in the 15-20 kts range over the Hawaiian Islands with modest windswell expected. Also of note, more low pressure is to be streaming off the Kuril Island tracking the whole was to the Gulf of Alaska with up to 25 kt west winds forecast at times, perhaps setting up some degree of weak windswell for the Pacific Northwest next week.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (7/16) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Inactive Phase as it has been since 6/23, 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 fell to -5.17. The 30 day average was down to 7.28 and the 90 day average was down to -1.33. The SOI index remained effectively neutral but had lost all of the ground it has gained since mid-April, the highest it's been since then. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a moderate easterly flow over the East equatorial Pacific, consistent with the later phases of the Inactive Phase. Moderate westerly anamolous, the signal of a newly building Active Phase were starting to develop over the Indian Ocean. The models suggest the final bits of the Inactive Phase are to push into Central America by 7/25 with the Active Phase starting to reach into the far West Pacific by 7/20, holding decently as it hits the dateline on 7/30, then weakening as it travels east from the dateline through 8/4. This remains good news seeing how no incarnation of the Active Phase was previously modeled. So as of right now the big push of west winds that had been associated with consecutive instances of the Active Phase of the MJO in the Spring and early Summer have dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific, at least temporarily Water temps might loose a little 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 7/13 indicates a solid area of warmer than normal water is covering 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. 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 are 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. Still some weak Kelvin Wave activity looks to have resulted with pockets of warmer than normal water evolving 150 m down under the dateline. The next 3 weeks and this developing Active Phase of the MJO remains critical for the formation of a legitimate El Nino. One would expect to see the SOI tending back towards the negative and perhaps a new kelvin Wave developing. The hope is that this developing El Nino will not completely loose it's legs and falter as it did last year at this time. At this point we're in 'wait and see' mode though a bit more favorable disposed as compared to even early this week. 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.
Beyond 72 hours yet another smaller system is forecast pushing under New Zealand on Wednesday (7/22) with 32 ft seas offering some hope for the future, though nothing is guaranteed.
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