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 Thursday (7/24) Northern CA surf was head high, reasonably clean early but weak. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were near flat and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist to chest high and textured. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high with some bigger sets and heavily textured mid-day. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist to chest high and textured mid-day. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist to chest high and textured too. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was thigh high.
North/Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell with some small southern hemi background swell underneath. Southern California was getting a mix of wrap-around northwest windswell with a bit of southern hemi background swell intermixed. Hawaii's North Shore was flat for the summer. The South Shore was getting a new pulse of small southern hemi swell providing something fun to ride from off the Ross Ice Shelf. Trades generated some more modest period easterly windswell on the East Shore.
For Central California modest period locally generated north windswell is to continue into Friday then drop a little for the weekend but stabilize and continue there into next week, dropping a little more into early the next week, only to rebound mid-week. Background southern hemi swell to be in the mix, perhaps building a bit Saturday/Sunday, but low odds 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 something a little better Sat/Sun, but nothing too much. For Hawaii background southern hemi swell to be fading Friday with nothing more behind it 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 best starting Thurs/Fri (7/25) and into CA starting Thurs (7/24) and Sat/Sun (7/27). A storm is in the Tasman Sea is offering some hope for Hawaii longer term though Fiji will stealing the bulk of the size. A gale that was on the very eastern edge of the California swell window could perhaps offering some background swell starting Wed (7/30). But longterm no solid swell producing systems are forecast in the California swell windows. 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. Maybe a small trough for the Gulf on Sunday, but odds low.
At the surface today a broad moderate high pressure system at 1032 mbs was parked 1100 nmiles north of Hawaii sort of ridging 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 position and strength with windswell continuing along the CA coast via the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient, though the fetch itself is to push south some (off Central CA) shortening the windswell period and making the surf a bit more raw. Trades to loose a little velocity over and east of Hawaii with windswell period shortening up more through the weekend. No other swell sources indicated from the North Pacific.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/24) northerly winds at 10-15 kts were trying to pushing into nearshore waters of the San Francisco area but not too badly resulting in texture but not too much early. Windswell originating from the core of the fetch which was moving south from Cape Mendocino was hitting too. Friday the fetch is to continue sagging south with the core near Pt Reyes bringing increased odds for local chop down into San Francisco and even more so on Saturday and Sunday likely impacting even Pt Conception. Locally messy conditions forecast through the weekend, though the Morro Bay area might be spared. Gradually the gradient is to fade by mid-next week as weak low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska Sunday/Monday with another pulse of Wed/Thurs. Local chop and mess to be gone by Wednesday and windswell with it. But windswell from the Gulf lows above might make and impact, filling the gap.
On Thursday AM (7/24) Tropical Storm Genevieve was located 500 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas tracking west at 7 kts with sustained winds 50 kts. No significant change in strength or heading is forecast over the next 2 days. Given the persistent western track, odds are low of any odds for swell moving into the California swell window. Genevieve to continue on a westward track and start decaying.
On Thursday (7/24) 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 just off the coast of Chile, totally outside the California swell window. Winds were 120 kts ridging south under New Zealand and totally ice-locked over the Ross Ice Shelf offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the trough in the east is to fade and the ridge in the west is to ease up some with the flow moving flat west to east right on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. No clear odds to support surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hrs a weak trough is to try and build under New Zealand next Tuesday (7/29) while a big ridge builds east of there crashing into Antarctica. Maybe some hope under that trough, but even that is to be short-lived and gone by Thursday (7/31) offering no support for surface level low pressure development of consequence.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours two systems of minimal interest are projected. First is a gale forecast developing on the eastern edge of the California swell window starting Saturday AM (7/26) with pressure 948 mbs but over Antarctic Ice generating winds of near 40 kts at 60S 130W aimed more east than north, mostly out of even the Southern CA swell window and more at Peru. This system to build up to 45 kts winds at the same location by night fall with a broad area of 29 ft seas at 58S 128W. Sunday AM (7/27) 45-50 kts winds forecast at 60S 122W aimed 45 degrees east of the 180 degree great circle path up to California generating 35 ft seas at 55S 120W pushing mostly towards Peru. In the evening all fetch is to be east of the Southern Ca swell window and fading. 40 ft seas are forecast at 55S 112W, essentially out of the4 Ca swell window. Limited odds of some form of background very southerly angled swell pushing up in to California, best in Southern Ca, with luck.
A second odd-ball low is to develop on the northern tip of New Zealand Friday evening (7/25) pushing a tiny area of 50 kt winds north for 12 hrs possibly targeting Hawaii. But the whole thing to be moving to the southeast towards Antarctica over the next 36 hrs with all fetch aimed well east and south of any route to Hawaii and nothing at California. Up to 36 ft seas forecast, but likely all tracking towards Chile at best.
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).
For Hawaii residual energy at 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft faces) expected on Friday (7/25) dropping to 2 ft @ 12 secs (2.0-2.5 ft faces) on Saturday. 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. Expect swell arrival on Tuesday AM (7/29) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft faces) dropping to 1.6 ft @ 14-15 secs for Wednesday (2.0-2.5 ft faces). Swell Direction:215 degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
On Monday PM (7/21) a 972 mb gale was in the far Southeastern Pacific generating a small area of 35-40 kt south winds at 48S 120W and supposedly producing 30 ft seas at 51S 123W by Tuesday AM (7/22). 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. On Tuesday evening those winds pushed northeast holding at 35 kts at 42S 113W still generating 30 ft seas at 44S 118W. Even Wednesday AM these winds persisted at 35 kts at 41S 105W, well outside the California swell window and targeting South America better. Seas to 30 ft were still at 40S 110W. This system faded after that. Most of this energy was aimed at Chile and Peru, though it is not unlikely that some form of swell could push up into Southern California from 5100 nmiles away starting Wednesday (7/30) from 180 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 there's weak hints of a gale with 30-35 kt west winds pushing through the Northern Gulf of Alaska Sunday into Monday perhaps generating some minor seas, enough to produce windswell for the PAcific Northwest down into Central CA early next week, but odds are low. Still, it's kind of interesting. Otherwise north winds to persist over outer waters of Central CA in the 20- 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 building to 20 kts for Mon-Wed (7/30) making for minimal short period easterly windswell into next week, but not breaking the 8 sec period mark.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Thursday (7/24) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the inactive phase. The SOI index moved positive on 7/16 and held there, though today it dropped to -13. Day to day variations are not unusual. The 30 day average was 3.77 and the 90 day average was 0.59 essentially neutral. A weak area of easterly trades are blowing above normal over some 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 8/2. A weak bout of the Active Phase of the MJO to follow.
Beyond 72 hrs no swell producing low pressure systems of interest are 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