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 (7/22) Northern CA surf was chest high, clean but weak and lurped with fog on top. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were thigh to waist high and unremarkable. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was flat and onshore. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high, textured and weak. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest high and textured mid-day. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist to chest high and clean early at the best spots. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was up to waist high and clean. The East Shore was thigh to waist high.
North/Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell with bare minimal and fading southern hemi swell underneath. Southern California was getting minimal wrap around energy from the northwest windswell with a decent helping of leftover southern hemi swell. Hawaii's North Shore was flat for the summer. The South Shore was getting a new pulse of background southern hemi swell providing something fun to ride from off New Zealand. Trades have returned and the East Shore was getting some short period east-northeast windswell.
For Central California modest period locally generated north windswell is to peak on Wednesday then slowly works it's way down but not out into early next week. Background southern hemi swell to be in the mix Thursday and Saturday/Sunday, but odds low of it being anything more than just barely rideable. Southern CA to see only minimal indications of the northern windswell at the most exposed breaks, but background southern hemi swell might make for some nicer rides on Thurs and Sat/Sun, but nothing worth getting worked up over. More background southern hemi swell expected for Hawaii starting late Wednesday into Thursday then fading Friday with nothing more to follow immediately until next week. Looking at the charts the background pulses indicated above are from two systems that formed southeast of New Zealand in quick succession Sun/Mon (7/14) and Tues/Wed (7/16) offering limited odds for background swell in Hawaii through the coming week and into CA starting Thurs (7/24) and Sat/Sun (7/27). A storm is in the Tasman Sea offering some filtered hope for Hawaii with Fiji stealing the bulk of the swell. A gale is on the very eastern edge of the California swell window perhaps offering some background swell for a week out. But longterm the outlook is not promising, with no even moderate gales forecast. Be grateful for the scraps you can get now. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Pacific jetstream is in hibernation for the summer. No features of interest were indicated with the bulk of the limited energy tracking just barely south of the Aleutians and into the Northern Gulf of Alaska and no change forecast for the next 7 days.
At the surface today a broad moderate high pressure system at 1028 mbs was parked 900 nmiles north of Hawaii trying to ridge into Oregon enough to generate a small fetch of 20-25 kt winds off Cape Mendocino CA producing the usual short period northerly windswell. This high was also serving to generate moderate trades over the Hawaiian Islands in the 20 kt range producing similar easterly windswell there. Over the next 72 hours the high is to hold building to 1032 mbs with windswell continuing along the CA coast, though the fetch itself is to push somewhat south shortening up the period relative to the San Francisco area. trades to hold as will the windswell in Hawaii through Thursday, then start dropping on Friday (but not out completely). No other swell sources indicated from the North Pacific.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/22) northerly winds at 10-15 kts were trying to push into nearshore waters of the San Francisco area but were away from the coast further south resulting in texture but not much worse. Windswell originating from the core of the fetch near Cape Mendocino was hitting too. Wednesday winds to build over Cape Mendocino into the 25 kt range increasing the size of the windswell while remaining clear of nearshore waters from Pt Reyes southward resulting in reasonably clean conditions. But on Thursday the fetch is to start sagging south bring increased odds for local chop down into San Francisco (though no further south) and even more so on Friday likely impacting even Pt Conception late. A mess of northerly winds is expected through the weekend, though the Morro Bay area might be spared. Gradually the gradient to lift north and fade as weak low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska Monday/Tuesday.
What was Tropical Depression Elida was not even being monitored any more, and was just a mass of clouds near 16N 148W, approaching the Hawaiian Islands. No swell production potential indicated other than along the eastern Shore of the Big Island.
Tropical Storm Fausto was located 720 nmiles south-southwest of Dana Point California tracking due west with sustained winds of 35 kts and fading, expected to fall to tropical depression status by evening. No swell generation potential exists for this system. Swell from the earlier incarnation of Fausto hit Southern CA late Monday (7/21) and was settling down through Tuesday, mixed with southern hemi swell already in the water.
On Tuesday AM (7/22) Tropical Storm Genevieve was located 350 nmiles south-southwest of Manzanillo Mexico tracking west at 12 kts with sustained winds 50 kts. A steady strengthening is forecast reaching minimum, hurricane strength Wednesday PM (65 kts). But the western track is to persist, likely eliminating any odds for swell moving into the California swell window. Genevieve to continue on a westward track and start decaying, falling to Tropical Storm strength by late Friday (7/25).
On Tuesday (7/22) a split jetstream pattern remained in-control for the most part, with a weak trough in the southern branch pushing north impacting the northern branch near 110W in the far Southeast Pacific. Winds were 110 kts feeding into the trough, limiting it's ability to support gale development at the oceans surface. And even at that, it was essentially out of the California swell window. Otherwise a weak ridge was pushing down over the Ross Ice Shelf over the western half of the South Pacific, eliminating odds for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours another weak ridge to push under New Zealand Wed/Thurs (7/24) but lifting into an almost trough again in the far Southeast Pacific Friday (7/25) with limited odds to support surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hrs that trough to try and hold on, but it is not forecast to get very deep or steep, likely limiting it's odds of supporting gael development. It's to move east and out of the picture with a split flow pattern dominating elsewhere and offering no support for surface level low pressure development of consequence.
At the oceans surface a storm was fading in the Tasman Sea (see Tasman Sea Storm below). A 972 mb gale was in the far Southeastern Pacific generating a small area of 35-40 kt south winds at 48S 120W (since Monday PM) and supposedly producing 30 ft seas at 51S 123W. This seems highly doubtful though. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwestern edge of this area reporting seas at 26 ft, in line with the WW3 WAM, so it is not completely unreasonably to suspect up to 30 ft seas might exist. In the evening those winds are to push northeast holding at 35 kts at 42S 113W still generating 30 ft seas at 44S 118W. Even Wednesday AM these winds are to persist at 35 kts at 41S 105W, well outside the California swell window and targeting South America better. Seas to 30 ft still at 40S 110W. That seems awfully far fetched. This system to persist and push east continuing to generate 30 ft seas into Thursday AM, but of no affect to California. Chile and Peru might far well though.
At this point it seems reasonable some form of minimal very southerly angled background swell should work it's way into the California swell window with period at 17 secs starting 7 days out, or late Tues (7/29) from 180 degrees. Swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs in Southern CA.
No other swell sources indicated.
Note: Regarding last weekends southern hemi swell in California - Needless to say that swell was far smaller than forecast. The big issue here was lack of verification of sea heights from the Jason-01 satellite. The forecast was based entirely on projections from the Wavewatch III wave model. Clearly it overstated the seas height, resulting in larger swell than it should have.
Southwest Pacific Gale
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 modeled 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
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 2.6 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
Expect swell arrival in California starting late Friday (7/25) with period 18 secs and size near 1 ft. Swell to build into Saturday peaking at near 1.6-2.0 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) and Sunday at 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200 degrees
Tasman Sea Storm
A a 980 mb storm formed in the Tasman Sea on Monday (7/22) generating a short lived fetch of 55 kt winds aimed north targeting Fiji well with 37 ft seas from 40S 158E Mon PM pushing to 38S 165E Tues AM (1400 nmiles from Fiji), then crashed into New Zealand late in the evening. Large swell for Fiji possible with weak filtered remnants eventually pushing into Hawaii.
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 no swell producing fetch is forecast other than from high pressure. North winds off Cape Mendocino to sink south over San Francisco for the weekend in the 25 kt range making for short period windslop then fading as the new week begins. trades to hold in the 15 kt range over Hawaii perhaps making for minimal short period easterly windswell into the weekend and beyond, but nothing with a period even reaching 8 secs..
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (7/22) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was firmly in the inactive phase. The SOI index moved positive on 7/16 and was in the 15 range is currently holding at 9.23. The 30 day average was 3.05 and the 90 day average was 0.942 essentially neutral. Easterly trades are blowing above normal over much of the equatorial Pacific both at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up). This pattern is to slowly decay through the end of the month with a neutral pattern in control by 8/5. The Active Phase of the MJO to follow.
Beyond 72 hrs no swell producing low pressure systems of believability are forecast in the Hawaii and California swell windows.
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