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 Saturday (7/24) North and Central California was getting waist to chest high locally generated north windswell at exposed west facing breaks and reasonably clean conditions early. Southern California was getting wrap around northwest windswell up north at maybe thigh high and limited residual southern hemi background dribbles at up to waist high down south with clean conditions early. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting knee to thigh high tradewind generated east windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore was tiny with waves in the knee high range and clean early with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for mostly small locally generated north short period windswell. Sunday windswell is expected at thigh high with maybe some thigh to waist high southern hemi swell underneath only at south facing breaks. Waist high plus windswell is expected on Monday fading to waist high Tuesday dropping to knee high plus on Wednesday. Southern California is to see minimal south angled southern hemi swell at thigh high on Sunday going dead flat on Monday and staying there through Wednesday other than low odds of knee high north windswell on Monday up north. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the weekend into mid-next week with no change forecast anytime soon. The East Shore to see no real east windswell by Sunday and holding there into Wednesday. The South Shore is to see no real rideable southern hemi swell Friday or Saturday. On the South Shore there's some hope for thigh high background energy on Sunday holding into Monday then being reinforced Tuesday and reinforced again late Wednesday.
Up north a quiet weather pattern remains forecast offering no potential for swell production over the next 7 days. Down south a gale formed under New Zealand lift gently east-northeast and generating up to 38 ft seas just southeast of New Zealand Thursday AM. But it quickly maxed out and faded into early Friday. Limited sideband swell is likely for Hawaii by Thursday (7/29) providing something to ride into the early part of the weekend. California is to see on weak fragments of this one due to shadowing by Tahiti, with the core energy arriving on Sunday (8/1). A weak gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand Tues/Wed (7/28) with seas to maybe 32 ft, but that isn't much. And nothing else is on the charts. Looks like it's going to get real flat for a while.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (7/24) the North Pacific jetstream had no coherent flow and no winds in excess of 80 kts offering absolutely no potential to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other than a weak flow extending off the Kuril Island to a bit east of the dateline but offering no winds energy or troughs of interest. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with a weak flow continuing east off the Kuril Islands (48N) extending to the dateline and eventually the Western Gulf of Alaska with winds up to maybe 90 kts, and almost a trough forming there next weekend, but again of no real interest. Summer has fully taken control of the upper atmosphere now and El Nino's effect are no longer apparent.
At the surface on Saturday (7/24) weak high pressure was hanging just off the Pacific Northwest coast at 1028 mbs generating a weak pressure gradient off extreme Northern CA producing a small area of 25 kt north winds positioned just off extreme Southern Oregon likely resulting in small north angled crumbly windswell reaching down into exposed breaks of Central CA. The high was having no enhancing effects on trades pushing into the eastern shores of the Hawaiian Islands offering no windswell production capacity there. A second high pressure system at 1028 mbs was over the dateline down at 38N. Over the next 72 hours much of the same is forecast with a steady but weak area of north winds holding off Cape Mendocino in the 20 kt range resulting in bare minimal northerly windswell tracking down into Central CA. Windswell likely to be dropping in sync with the drop in wind speeds. Trades are to build some to 15 kts over the Hawaiian Islands by Monday, perhaps offering hope for minimal windswell then.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/24) high pressure at 1030 mbs was positioned 700 nmiles northwest of Cape Mendocino off Washington and was ridging modestly into the US West coast over Oregon forming the usual pressure gradient and north winds off the extreme North CA coast at up 20 kts. Weak low pressure continued over Central CA generating a weak eddy flow there (south winds at 5 kts). This general pattern is to hold into early Wednesday (7/28), then local low pressure is to die and the gradient is to drop south some, with an eddy flow fading and a northwest flow taking root maybe even impacting the coast of Central CA into Thursday. But by Friday (7/30), the gradient is to return to it's normal position off Cape Mendocino and build with 25 kt north winds there, but light winds from Pt Reyes southward and holding through the weekend, but with winds in the gradient building to near 30 kts . Light if not eddy winds to remain in control of Central CA down into Southern CA with building windswell a possibility.
On Saturday (7/24) the jetstream remained fully split with fragments of energy traveling between the two split flows. The southern branch was all running down along the 65S latitude or south of that line and all over Antarctic Ice. Over the next 72 hours a semi real trough remains forecast tracking under New Zealand on Monday (7/26) with 130 kt southwest winds pushing well up it's western flank and easing east offering some hope to support low pressure down at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to weaken on Wednesday (7/28) with winds down to 100 kts, but is to then regroup Friday into the weekend over the Central South Pacific with supposedly up to 110 kts winds pushing due north carving out a pretty decent trough then. Decent support for gale development possible.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1036 mbs in control of the Southeast Pacific pushing all fetch towards Antarctica and offering no swell potential there. In the west much the same pattern was in evidence with low pressure tracking steadily east down at 55S and points south of there, but all fetch aligned west to east and winds only in the 35 kt range, offering no opportunity for swell production radiating north into our forecast area.
Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast until Monday (7/26) when a broad gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand and building some. Monday AM a broad area of 40 kts southwest winds are forecast at 55S 165E aimed up the 216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and also up the 201 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas forecast at 58S 162E, a long ways away. By evening winds to hold at 40-45 kts at 55S 172E pushing up the 213 degree track to CA and the 196 degree track to Hawaii. 35 ft seas are forecast at 56S 170E. Tuesday AM (7/27) more 45 kt south to southwest fetch is forecast at 57S 178E tracking well up the 210 degree path to California and starting to become shadowed by the outer Islands of Tahiti and clear up the 193 degree track to Hawaii. 33 ft seas are forecast at 51S 175E, though that seems a little low. In the evening a secondary fetch of more southwest to west winds is to build in with 45 kts winds at 54S 180W aimed more east but still pushing up the great circle tracks as before. 30 ft seas forecast at 55S 175E. Wednesday AM (7/28) a decent fetch o 40-45 kts southwest winds is forecast at 53S 170W pushing up the 208 degree track to California and somewhat shadowed and a good bit east of the 187 degree path to Hawaii. 34 ft seas forecast at 54S 175W. By evening maybe 40 kts southwest winds are to remain but fading fast at 50S 162W with 30 ft seas holding at 50S 165W. If all this comes to pass some degree of modest swell could push into the usual locations of the South and North Pacific. But this one is to be a long ways away, and much swell decay could be expected. Tahiti is probably the best shot.
New Zealand Gale
In the West Pacific a gale developed on Wednesday (7/21) at 936 mbs forming well inland over the Ross Ice Shelf tracking east but with fragments of 40 kt winds extending north over ice free waters, with a secondary fetch developing back west from it. By Thursday AM (7/22) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled at 57S 180W. 38 ft seas were modeled at 58S 180W pushing reasonably well up the 208 degree track to California. In the evening fetch faded to the 40-45 kt range but lifting northeast to 52S 164W generating 36 ft seas at 54S 170W. Unfortunately it was in the heart of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California at 205 degrees. The fetch dropped to 35 kts on Friday AM at 50S 151W with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 51S 160W. Possible swell pushing northeast with sideband potential for Hawaii but mostly shadowed by Tahiti relative to California.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late Wednesday (7/28) with swell to 1.6 ft @ 19-20 secs (3.5 ft faces) building into Thursday with pure swell to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft faces with top spots to slightly overhead). Swell to hold Friday (7/30) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs early (4 ft faces) then start declining, down to 2.6 ft @ 14 secs by Saturday AM (7/31) (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on late on Friday (7/30) with period at 20 secs by no rideable size. Swell to push to maybe 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft faces) late Saturday (7/31) and peak out on Sunday at 2.0-2.3 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces at better breaks). Swell Direction: 205 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 hrs high pressure is to effectively dissolve off the US West Coast through the day Tuesday (7/27) with north winds fading out off Cape Mendo and windswell dissipating along the Central CA coast, the first time all summer. Conversely high pressure in the West Pacific is to nudge east some helping to push trades back to the 15 kt range on Wednesday (7/28) and expanding in areal coverage on Thursday into Friday suggesting a steady increase in east windswell then and continuing into the weekend with up to 20 kts east winds forecast then. In the Gulf of Alaska there's some suggestion of low pressure developing next weekend too but only providing 20 kt northwest winds, meaning no real windswell production is likely given it's rather distant position from the greater US coast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (7/24) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was at 22.412 and has been positive for 30 days running. The 30 day average was up to 14.52 with the 90 day average inching up to 8.24. This continues looking like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (7/24) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued indicated a very strong area of east anomalies in control from India peaking across the Philippines then fanning out over dateline reaching almost to Central America. The coverage of this area remained huge and is a very clear signal of a building Inactive Phase of the MJO. The Inactive Phase and these strong east anomalies are to hold through 7/28, then slowly give up a little ground on 8/21 but continuing to hold on well into early August (8/7) before dissipating on 8/12. A weak push of the Active phase is forecast building over the Indian ocean behind it, reaching the Philippines on 8/12.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. The expectation is that we'll fall back into some form of a moderate La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for later 2010 into 2011. NOAA seems to support that plan too per the latest ENSO update last week.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/22) indicates that cooler than normal waters have developed over a moderate strip on the equator from South America drifting west to the dateline and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea now. It was downright cold just off Ecuador, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of colder than normal water were developed pushing off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -3 degs below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, with easterly anomalies now in control of the entire Western Pacific, though normal conditions in the East. But the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing to towards South America to flowing towards the west in mid-March, right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. This suggest trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around. Something to study in the years ahead.
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through the Summer of 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is 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