New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Tuesday (7/15) Northern CA surf was flat, foggy and clean. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were near flat and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was knee high and windy. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat and textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was knee high and textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high, weak and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was waist high and clean. The East Shore was flat.
North/Central California was getting no swell of interest from any direction. Southern California was effectively flat other than a background pulse coming from the southern hemisphere. Hawaii's North Shore was flat for the summer. The South Shore was getting the tail end of a mini-pulse of background southern hemi swell. The East Shore was flat.
For Central California no surf is forecast until Thursday, when short period locally generated windswell is expected to start showing, but bringing poor conditions with it That windswell to hold into Sunday now. Southern CA might see a little of this windswell at the most exposed breaks, but not much. In the Islands another pulse of background southern hemi swell to show late Wednesday into Friday providing fun rideable surf, though rather short on the period (13 sec). marginal. Down south a decent small gale formed off Chile Fri-Sun (7/13) pushing well to the north and offering good odds for swell for the US West Coast late in the coming weekend and into the week beyond. And another systems formed under New Zealand right behind it Sun/Mon (7/14) offering limited odds for background swell over the long haul. The models are teasing at yet another system in the far Southeast Pacific late in the coming weekend into next week, but that's hardly believable at this early date. So make the most of the swell that's projected in the near future and hope for something better longterm. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream is in hibernation for the summer. No features of interest were indicated with the bulk of whatever limited energy was present either over or north of the Aleutian Islands and no change forecast.
At the surface today moderate high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered in the eastern Gulf of Alaska with a second core at 1024 mbs over the dateline and joined together in between. Winds were light south of the high with no windswell producing fetch indicated. Over the next 72 hours the high is to slowly consolidate more in the Gulf of Alaska by Wednesday (7/16) with pressure at 1032 mbs generating a small pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino CA and producing 25 kt north winds there by Thursday building to near 30 kts late Friday and offering small short period windswell for the exposed Central CA coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/15) calm winds and fog were in control of the coast with light winds at worst. Wednesday (7/16) high pressure is to start pushing into the Northern CA coast with north winds starting to re-build over Cape Mendocino to 25 kts late and building down the coast through Thursday, bring north winds and chop over the Channel Islands too. This same pattern to hold through Friday (7/18), then starting to pull away from the immediate Central CA coast by Saturday AM with and eddy flow likely replacing it on through the weekend. Southern CA to be spared from the bulk of the chop, though everywhere north of Pt Conception to get a good dose of it till Saturday. A brief calm down is forecast into early the following week, but bulletproof high pressure is to be lingering offshore at 1034 mbs, so a hard blow is likely later in the week.
Hurricane Elida was 450 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas with 70 kt sustained winds and tracking due west at 10 kts with 22 ft seas. This same heading and speed to continue for the next 5 days with a slow decrease in intensity. At this time there is no indication that sufficient fetch will be aimed north to produce swell for California. But Hawaii might see some longer period swell pushing in their direction longterm if this track holds.
On Tuesday (7/15) a split jetstream pattern remained in-control of the west and central South Pacific with a steep trough lodged over the extreme east South PACific off Chile, but essentially out of the California swell window. No support for surface level low pressure development indicated. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the east is to track out of the [picture over South America and a large ridge is to crash south into Antarctica there, shutting things down. But a trough is to start forming in the west (mid- South Pacific) on Wednesday with 140 kt winds pushing pretty well to the north and holding while tracking east some decent support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hrs the trough in the east is to hold into Saturday offering some decent support for gale development then start decaying while getting pinched off through Tuesday (7/22) as a major ridge crashes into Antarctica under New Zealand, shutting things down there. No clear support for surface level gale or better development.
At the oceans surface a 948 mbs gale was trying to organize southeast of New Zealand and just off the Ross Ice Shelf with a fetch of 45 kts southwest wind forecast at 60S 165W by nightfall with seas to 30 ft at 60S 171W. No other weather systems of interest were occurring. Swell from the Two Part Gale and a Southwest Pacific Gale (see below) were heading north. Over the next 72 hours the aforementioned gale is to track east and by Wednesday AM it's to be decaying with 40 kt southwest winds at 61S 165W with 32 ft seas at 60S 160W but the core of the low is to be over the Ross Ice Shelf and fading. This system to be gone by nightfall. Maybe limited support for background swell pushing towards Hawaii and California though partially obstructed by Tahiti for the golden state.
No other swell sources indicated.
Small Two-Part Gale (updated Thurs PM 7/17)
On Wednesday PM (7/9) a 960 mb low was organizing southwest of New Zealand streaking east with 40-45 kt west winds at 59S 171E but aimed southeast at the Ross Ice Shelf. On Thursday AM (7/10), it was marginally better organized with confirmed winds at 50 kts at 59S 174W aimed due east getting some traction on the oceans surface. The Wavewatch3 model indicated seas at 30 ft at 60S 172E but the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch and reported sea at 35 ft. But these seas were on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California (210 deg NCal/209 SCal) and aimed 70 degrees east of the 194 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the fetch was gone and seas were fading rapidly. This was previously projected to be a monster storm, but has since be downgraded heavily.
With only 12 hours of effective fetch and one good seas reading but shadowed by Tahiti for California and well off any route to the Islands, it's pretty doubtful too much will result. The fetch was 6700 nmiles from California and 5100 nmiles from Hawaii. Swell arrival, if it were to occur, in Hawaii would be 8 day later or Fri AM (7/17) with period 17 sec. In California it would be roughly Sunday AM 7/20 with period 18 secs, transitioning to 17 secs in the late afternoon and getting somewhat rideable. Swell to peak Monday AM (7/21) with period at 16 secs. Swell Direction 208-210 degrees. At this time consider this more a academic exercise that anything that will result in a payoff.
This system continued east then northeast and reorganized while slowing it's forward speed. A solid fetch of 50 kt winds were confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite on Friday AM (7/11) at 55S 139W aimed almost due north or right up the 190-193 degree path to California. That fetch held well in to the evening with confirmed winds of 50 kts confirmed at 49S 132W aimed 20 degrees east of the 185-187 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 51S 135W.
On Saturday AM (7/12) fetch was fading but still decent, with 40-45+ kt winds at 45S 123W aimed almost due north or right up the 180-182 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 44S 128W. No Jason-1 satellite passes occurred near this fetch yet so no confirmation was provided. This fetch continued if not regenerated some in the evening with 45-50 kt winds aimed almost due north at 42S 117W aimed right up the 178-180 degree path to CA. 30 ft seas modeled at 40S 120W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly overhead and confirmed sea at 31.1 ft with a peak reading of 36 ft at 38S 114W.
On Sunday AM (7/13) this system was falling apart with 40 kt winds aimed northeast at 39N 110W generating up to 32 ft seas at 36S 112W maybe providing sideband energy pushing up in the the California swell window up the 172-175 degree great circle paths. In the evening this system was almost gone with a tiny area of 40 kt winds at 36S 11W and 30 ft seas mostly from previous fetch decaying at 34S 108W, pretty much outside the California swell window but bound for Central America on down into South America.
Even on Monday AM (7/14) residual seas of 30 ft were modeled at 31S 105W and fading fast.
This was not a strong system by any means, but it held together fairly well and pushed northeast with solid fetch aimed well up the great circle paths to California (first half of the gale) and Central America. But almost the entire second half of the gale was east of any direct route to California, thereby limiting direct energy from pushing northward, though side band swell is expected. Assuming the Wavewatch models are accurate, swell is already pushing north towards California expected to arrive Saturday (7/19) with period at 18 secs moving to 16-17 secs on Sunday (7/20) and well in the rideable range. Southern CA to be about 9 hours ahead of whatever hits in Northern CA.
Southern CA: Expected swell arrival Saturday (7/19) with period 19 secs at sunrise and rideable with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces) mid AM. Swell building to near 3 ft @ 17+ secs and sunset (5 ft faces with sets at better breaks to 7 ft). Swell to peak in the early morning hours and still be solid at sunrise Sunday (7/20) at 3.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft), but slowly settling down through the day, dropping to 15 secs late. Swell of 3 ft @ 14-15 secs to hold through Monday (7/21) producing 4-5 ft faces. Swell Direction 180-180 degrees
Northern CA: Expected swell arrival Saturday (7/19) with period 19 secs at sunrise and barely noticeable but coming up steadily through the day, reaching 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4+ ft faces) at sunset. Swell to start peaking just after sunrise Sunday (7/20) at 3 ft @ 17 secs and sunset (5 ft faces with sets at better breaks to 7 ft) holding solid through the day at 3.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft faces with set to 7 ft). Swell dropping on Monday (7/21) starting at 3 ft @ 15 secs producing 4-5 ft faces. Swell Direction 175-185 degrees
Southwest Pacific Gale (updated Thurs PM 7/17)
A new gale that formed Saturday evening (7/12) with 40-45 kt west winds confirmed at 56S 170E was holding south of New Zealand with pressure 968 mbs generating a broader area of 40-45 kt west winds at 55S 180W.
30 ft seas were modeled Sunday AM (7/13) at 56S 170E. This fetch tracked east-southeast with pressure dropping to 960 mbs Sunday evening and 45 kt winds confirmed at 58S 168W. Seas built to 32 ft at 58S 178W.
By Monday AM the core of the low was tracking southeast over the Ross Ice Shelf with lingering 35-40 kts west winds confirmed remaining over exposed waters near 60S 155W and fading fast. Seas were modeled at 35 ft at 58S 165W. The fetch is to be gone by evening with residual 32 ft seas modeld at 60S 152W and fading out.
Relative to Hawaii this systems fetch was at least 70 degrees east of any great circle path to the Islands limiting whatever swell they could receive. Fortunately this fetch was east of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California though still blowing 45-50 degrees east of the 198-203 degree great circle paths, likely limiting swell generation potential. Still some form of background swell is expected for all locations roughly 8.5 days out for Hawaii (Mon PM 7/21) and 10 days out for CA (Wed 7/23).
Expect swell for Hawaii arriving in the early morning hours of Monday (7/21) with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs dropping to 16 sec later in the day (2.5-3.0 ft). Residual swell of 1.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft faces) to be left on Tuesday then fading out. Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Expect swell for California arriving mid-to-late Wednesday (7/23) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs ( 2.5-3.0 ft faces) and very inconsistent. Swell to peak early Thursday with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft faces) with residuals of 1.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft faces) on Friday. Swell Direction 198-203 degrees
Central Pacific Gale (updated Thurs PM 7/17)
A 948 mbs gale organized southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (7/15) and just off the Ross Ice Shelf with a fetch of 45 kt southwest winds confirmed at 60S 165W by nightfall with seas to 30 ft at 60S 172W.
This gale tracked east and by Wednesday AM (7/16) it's was decaying with 40 kt southwest winds at 61S 165W and 35 ft seas modeled at 59S 161W, but the core of the low is to be over the Ross Ice Shelf and fading. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the extreme southern edge of this area and confirmed seas at 33.5 ft (15 reading average) with a peak to 39.7 ft (one reading). Considering this was pretty well south of the main seas area, this was encouraging, suggesting the model was at least on track if not a little low. This system was gone by nightfall with fading seas modeled at 32 ft at 58S 155W.
This system was almost due south of Hawaii and again the fetch was 70 degree east of the 180-185 degree great circle paths there, limiting the amount of energy heading north. Maybe limited background sideband swell with luck, 7-7 days out, or Thursday AM (7/24) with period 17-18 secs. Odds are a bit better for California, with the core of the fetch just barely east of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, though still partially obstructed by minor islands east of that area. Swell to arrive about 10 days out or Saturday (7/26).
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii late on Wed (7/23) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft faces). Swell holding into Thursday at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Residual energy at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs expected on Friday (7/25). Swell Direction: 180-185 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 remain locked in the Gulf of Alaska reinforcing the pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA and generating 25-30 kt north winds and limited shorter period windswell down into Central CA through Sunday (7/20) and also substantially picking up trades over the Hawaiian Islands starting late Thursday and up to 20-25 kts on Fri/Sat (7/19) and holding for the foreseeable future. Short period easterly windswell possible for eastern shores of the Hawaiian Islands. The high to retreat form California for a day or two but looks poised to return mid-next week with more windswell and locally north winds.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (7/15) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving steadily towards the inactive phase. A fading area of anomalous west 850 mb winds were fading and pushing over Central America associated with the usual propagation of the active phase of the MJO, expected to be totally gone by Thurs 7/17. A fragmented area of slightly stronger than normal easterly winds were moving over the equatorial far Western Pacific, signaling the start of the Inactive phase there, expected to move east to the dateline 7/17-22, then falling apart opening up the next window for the active phase to move in behind. The SOI index has been hovering near 0 (or neutral) since July 2, currently at -0.55. The 30 day average was -2.06 and the 90 day average was 0.40, essentially dead neutral and inching downward. La Nina is gone from a weather perspective with water temperatures over the Central Pacific just slightly below normal, though a broad warmer than usual pool of water continued building off Central America and a weak subsurface flow of warmer than usual water persists from the dateline east, fueling the buildup off the Central America coast. This should serve to wipeout the remnants of La Nina, and is mildly indicative of an El Nino. The pattern of persistent Japan storm surviving the trip to the Gulf of Alaska in mid-summer is a bit puzzling too. But if El Nino were to actually be forming, there should be clear signs of it by now in the SOI, which there is not. No clear Westerly Wind bursts have been indicated either. Will monitor.
Beyond 72 hrs per the 12Z run of the GFS model today a broad complex gale is forecast in the far Southeast Pacific starting Saturday (7/19) and building to storm status by late Sunday. But the upper level models do not indicate sufficient jetstream level support for such a system. Suspect the surface models will adjust significantly downward by the 18Z run of the models. No other systems of interest forecast.
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