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 (7/16) North and Central CA had surf at knee to maybe thigh high and clean with a light southerly flow. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean with only a light winds and texture outside the kelp. Southern California up north was knee high and chopped - pure windswell. Down south waves were waist high and still a bit lined up but weak, just residual southern hemi swell. Southwest texture was on it. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves knee to thigh high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting minimal easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh 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 of the summer. North winds near Cape Mendocino were dropping out from 20 kts with no real windswell resulting along the Central CA coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds were starting to regroup blowing at 15 kts making for bare minimally rideable easterly tradewind generated windswell along east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to rebuild over the Northeast Pacific later Friday (7/19) to 25 kts and holding through the weekend into early Monday (7/22) resulting in rideable north windswell for North and Central CA, then fading out. For Hawaii high pressure is to hold north of the Islands resulting in tradewinds at 15 kts generating very modest east windswell into Friday (7/19). Beyond the high is to start fading with trades falling below 15 kts over the weekend as low pressure develops north of the Islands. Tradewinds and windswell to remain suppressed well into next week (7/23).
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 Hawaii by Wed (7/17) and California by Fri (7/19) reaching down into Central and South America.
Beyond no obvious swell producing weather system are forecast for the South Pacific. A weak gale is forecast east of New Zealand on Wed-Fri (7/19) with 26 ft seas aimed north towards Tahiti and Hawaii but very small in coverage, with a second system forming just off the Ross Ice Shelf Sat-Sun (7/21) with 28-30 ft seas aimed due east and racing east with no real potential indicated. A third stronger but still small system is forecast hovering over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf Sun-Mon (7/22) with 32 ft seas, but it's way too early to believe even that. We're in the dog days of summer.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/16) high pressure at 1032 mbs was holding over the Gulf of Alaska but retrograding west with only a tiny fragment of 20 kt north fetch over Cape Mendocino early producing 20 kt north winds generating only bare minimal north windswell for exposed breaks in mainly Central CA. But the high was starting to build better into the Hawaiian Island generating easterly tradewinds there in the 15 kt range resulting in small easterly local windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold at 1032 mbs but retrograded over the Western Gulf Wed-Thurs (7/18) with no fetch of interest forecast relative to California. But by Friday the high is to again start pushing east with a small fetch of 25 kt north winds building over Cape Mendocino with 20 kt north winds extending south to Pt Conception late starting to revive north windswell production for exposed breaks mainly in Central CA. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands high pressure to to continue well focused on Hawaii with trades holding at 15 kts through Thursday (7/18) with small to modest east windswell expected along east facing shores. But by Friday (7/19) a new weak low pressure system is to start building north of the Islands with high pressure getting undercut with the commensurate decrease in easterly windswell expected.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (7/16) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/16) a light eddy flow was in control of the North and Central coast with light north winds nearshore in the afternoon for Southern CA. Perhaps a light north flow to maybe 10 kts to settle in late Wednesday for North and Central CA and 15 kts for Southern CA. 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. Monday (7/22) the gradient to start fading with the eddy flow slackening for Central and South CA with a light northerly flow forecast by Tuesday afternoon.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (7/16) the jet was fully split starting over Eastern Australia and continuing over New Zealand that way over the South Pacific finally merging over Southern Chile. The southern branch of the jet was tracking flat west to east down at 65S effectively unbroken over the width of the South Pacific. There were no troughs indicated offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast. A cutoff trough is to form low between the split flows in the Central Pacific on Wed (7/17) but winds only at 55 kts offering no support for gale development. A weak northward displacement in the southern branch of the jet is forecast Fri (7/19) over the Central Pacific with 150 kts feeding it, but washing out in 24 hours. no real support for gale development likely. Beyond 72 hours another pocket of 150 kt winds are to nudge northeastward under New Zealand late Sunday (7/21) but not really growing in coverage or strength while racing east early next week and still displaced pretty far south. Perhaps there's some minimal odds to support gale development.
Surface - On Tuesday (7/16) swell from a gale that tracked through the South Central Pacific last week (see Central Pacific Gale below) was poised to hit Hawaii and was tracking towards the US West coast.
Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low pressure system is forecast developing well east of New Zealand late Tuesday (7/16) producing 30-35 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 44S 150W targeting only Tahiti. Fetch is to start breaking up in the evening with seas from previous fetch peaking at 26-28 ft at 42S 147W targeting Tahiti with maybe some sideband swell for Hawaii. Seas fading from 26 ft Thurs AM (7/18) at 41S 147W. 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.
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 was 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 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 @ 16 secs late afternoon (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) midday 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 late 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 continue regrouping off the Pacific Northwest Saturday (7/20) with a decent sized fetch of 25 kts north winds building over Cape Mendocino holding through Sunday. This should result in increasing short period north windswell down into Central CA for the weekend. but by Monday winds are to drop below 25 kts and barely at 20 kts later Tuesday (7/23) with north windswell fading relative to Central CA.
Relative to Hawaii high pressure is to remain suppressed with trades below 15 kts as low pressure continues building north of the Islands through the weekend. 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) with no return forecast through Tues (7/23).
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 Tuesday (7/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 14.40. The 30 day average was up to 6.78 with the 90 day average up to 6.32. 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 modest easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline then regressing back to neutral south of Hawaii continuing on into Central America. A week from now (7/24) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the extreme West Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the East Maritime Continent and continuing to the dateline. Neutral anomalies are to be 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 7/15 are in agreement initially suggesting no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. Both models are in agreement suggesting a neutral MJO pattern is to hold 5 days from now. But beyond the statistic model has a building Active Phase pushing from the West Pacific 8 days out to the dateline region 12-15 days out while the dynamic models depicts the exact opposite, with a building Inactive Phase taking control on the same locations and time periods. The even longer range models has a weak Active Phase holding into early August while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean, moving into the far West Pacific mid-August. it's anyones guess what will happen.
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 (7/15) a weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator, almost gone, but not completely. In fact - a building pocket of cooler water is building off the immediate coast of Peru with the outflow tracking almost to the Galapagos. Residual cool pockets continue west of there from a previous pulse that escaped from this cool pool. This is a step back from what we thought was the death of this pattern just a few days before. The anomalously cool pool off West Africa, thought to be eroding some, is still in-place and not completely dispersed. 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 simultaneously - 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 has since fully closed off with warmer than normal waters the rule for the north Pacific. For now cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a mainly neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact. But now a small pool of -2 deg C water is developing centered at 110W and down 75 meters. This is similar to what has been going on all Spring. So no real change is occurring.
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 a weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina, but we're still not in a pure neutral pattern either. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years 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 broad gale is forecast building southeast of New Zealand on Fri (7/19) producing a decent sized area of 40 kt northwest winds all targeting Antarctica and right over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf with seas building to 28 ft Sat AM (7/20) at 58S 165W and then 28 ft again in the evening at 60S 158W. No swell expected to radiate north.
On Sat PM (7/20) a small but decently powerful gale is forecast forming under New Zealand with 45 kt west winds building to 50 kts Sun AM (7/21) and tracking flat east fast with seas building to 32 ft at 62S 172W right off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. Additional 40-45 kt southwest fetch to building in the evening aimed a little better northward with 32 ft seas expected at 57S 177W. 45 kt southwest winds holding into Mon AM (7/22) with 32 ft seas at 57S 161W. This system is to to continue east from there. At this time there next to no odds of this system developing given the models track record at long range forecasting. .
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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Jason-1 Satellite Decommisioned - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. The satellite has since officially been decommissioned. It's last working transmitter failed on 6/21. All efforts have been made to get a response to no avail. The satellite has been placed in a parking orbit with it's solar panels turned away from the the sun. It's batteries are to discharge in the next 90 days. No additional data is expected from this satellite. We are working to start capturing data from the Jason-2 satellite, but that will take some time. More information to follow.
'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