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 Tuesday (7/27) North and Central California was getting knee to thigh high locally generated north windswell of no real interest with modest south wind on it. Southern California was flat and blown out up north and near flat and textured down south with only hints of weak southern hemi background energy warbling through. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting knee high tradewind generated east windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore remained tiny with waves in the knee high range and textured with modest trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for mostly small locally generated north short period windswell. The forecast looks is for windswell at 2 ft on Wednesday doing about the same on Thursday. Friday windswell comes up to 2.5 ft on the face then to 4.5 ft both weekend days. Sunday small southern hemi swell is forecast in the mix too with 4 ft faces expected hanging on into early next week. Southern California is to see no windswell till maybe Sunday and then barely rideable at 2 ft on the face. Some minimal southern hemi swell is expected in on Thursday at thigh high then fading out. Fortunately a semi real pulse is expected in later Saturday reaching chest high plus holding at chest high Sunday then slowly settling down. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the workweek into the weekend. The East Shore to see no real east windswell until Friday when it rebuilds to waist high holding Saturday and Sunday on into early next week. The South Shore is to see new southern hemi swell late Wednesday at waist high building to shoulder to head high on Thursday and chest high Friday before slowly fading out over the weekend.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than local windswell for Central CA over the coming weekend. 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). Beyond a w weak gale is developing under New Zealand Tues/Wed (7/28) with seas now forecast up to 37 ft this evening, then fading some but theoretically hanging on int he 30-32 ft range into early Friday (7/30). Another pulse of modest southern hemi swell is likely to result for HI and CA. But beyond that nothing else is projected on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (7/27) the North Pacific jetstream had no real cohesive flow with winds generally below 80 kts other than one little patch extending barely east of the Kuril Islands and offering no potential to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other than a weak trough trying to get some legs well east of the Kuril Islands migrating to the dateline but again offering no wind energy of real interest. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to reach into the Western Gulf of Alaska and just stagnate while slowly weakening, but again of no real interest.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/27) double barreled but generally weak high pressure was in control of the entire North Pacific with one just west of the dateline at 11024 mbs and second 1100 nmiles west of Northern CA also at 1024 mbs. Neither was producing fetch in excess of 15 kts offering no swell production capacity. Even the usual pressure gradient over the North CA coast was quiet. Over the next 72 hours much of the same is forecast with a quiet pattern in control till Friday, when finally the high pressure system off Northern CA start building to 1032 mbs and easing east creating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino producing north winds to 25 kts there late and starting to produce minimal northerly windswell tracking down into Central CA. Trades are to start building some over the Hawaiian Islands on Friday too to the 15 kt range, perhaps starting to generate minimal east windswell there.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/27) high pressure at 1026 mbs was positioned 1100 nmiles northwest of Cape Mendocino and was ridging lightly into the Pacific Northwest but only generating 15 kt north winds over outer waters there. Local low pressure was forming a weak eddy flow (south winds) along the Central CA coast with light west to northwest winds in Southern CA (though stronger in the Santa Barbara area). This general pattern is to hold into early Thursday (7/29), 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 impacting the coast of Central CA into Friday into Saturday. At the same time the usual pressure gradient is to start building over Cape Mendocino with 30 kt north winds there by late Saturday into early Sunday, with all fetch finally moving north of Pt Reyes on Sunday with light winds south of there. But by Monday (8/2) the gradient is to die along with it's windswell generation potential, and a light eddy flow is to return with fading fetch up north. Light if not eddy winds to remain in control of Central CA down into Southern CA Sunday onward.
On Tuesday (7/27) the jetstream remained split over the entire South Pacific through a modest trough was indicated south of New Zealand with up to 120 kt winds flowing up into it offering some support for surface level gale development there. Otherwise east of there the jet was tracking along the 65S latitude or south of that line and all over Antarctic Ice. Over the next 72 hours the trough in the west is to continue tracking slowly east with winds in the 110-120 kt range flowing up it's westerly flank pushing up to 52S and offering continued hope to support gale development down at the oceans surface into late Thursday (7/29). Beyond 72 hours that trough is to weaken fast on Saturday and get totally cut off but a burst of westerly winds at 120 kts, returning the southern hemisphere to a split and southward displaced jetstream pattern by Sunday (8/1) offering no support for surface level gale development.
At the oceans surface high a gale of interest was building south of New Zealand (see Another New Zealand Gale below). High pressure was in control of the Southeast Pacific. Over the next 72 hours
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) then fading out. 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 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4.0 ft faces) late Saturday (7/31) and peak out on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.0 ft faces and better at best breaks). Swell to be fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces) on Monday (8/2) fading on Tuesday to 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200-205 degrees.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on late on Friday (7/30) with period at 20 secs by no rideable size. Swell to push to maybe 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft faces) late Saturday (7/31) and peak out on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.0 ft faces and better at best breaks). Swell to be fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces) on Monday (8/2) fading on Tuesday to 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
Another New Zealand Gale
On Monday (7/26) a broad gale started tracking under New Zealand while building. Monday AM a decent area of 40 kts southwest winds were modeled at 54S 165E aimed up the 216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and also up the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were building. By evening winds faded to 35-40 kts at 55S 172E pushing up the 213 degree track to CA and the 196 degree track to Hawaii. with stronger winds building west of there. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 172E.
Tuesday AM (7/27) that fetch moved into the swell window at 45-50 kts blowing from the southwest at 56S 164E tracking well up the 216 degree path to California and clear up the 201 degree track to Hawaii. 33 ft seas were modeled at 54S 170E. In the evening more southwest winds are to be in play in the 40-45 kt range at 51S 180W aimed more a bit more to the east but still pushing up the great circle tracks as before. 37 ft seas are forecast at 52S 177E.
Wednesday AM (7/28) a decent fetch of 40 kts southwest winds is forecast up at 50S 169W pushing up the 207 degree track to California and somewhat shadowed and a good bit east of the 186 degree path to Hawaii with more fetch behind that. 33 ft seas forecast at 50S 172W. By evening a new fetch of 45 kts southwest winds are to develop over a small area at 52S 173W pushing up the 209 degree path to California and a bit shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Island chain and up the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas holding at 50S 170W.
Thursday AM this fetch is to build to 50 kts over a tiny area at 48S 160W aimed well to the north pushing up the 203 degree path to California and pretty well shadowed by Tahiti and 45 degrees east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. 34 ft seas are forecast at 49S 165W. 55 kt fetch is forecast in the evening at 50S 150W but starting to fall to the south fast. 34 ft seas are forecast at 47S 160W then decaying from there.
If all this comes to pass some degree of moderate southern hemi swell could push into the usual locations of the South and North Pacific. interesting, but the models have suggested this system will last much longer than originally anticipated, though not necessarily strong. This could results in a nice long pulse of smaller fun sized surf if all goes as planned. Still it is to be a long ways way and much swell decay could be expected. And Tahiti will be in the way for CA, resulting in some loss of consistency. Still, it's better than nothing.
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 hold tight at 1032 mbs off California while also and ridging some into Hawaii producing 25 kt north winds along the North CA coast for the weekend (7/31) producing modest northerly windswell down into Central CA. It is to also produce easterly fetch into the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts Saturday (7/31) providing some hope for windswell there, then backing off to the 15-20 kts range into Sunday but holding tight there on into mid-next week. Continued modest east windswell possible for the Islands. No other swell producing fetch is indicated.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (7/27) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was up hard to 34.10 and has been positive for 33 days running. The 30 day average was up to 17.87 with the 90 day average inching up to 9.25. This continues looking like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Wind anomalies as of Tuesday (7/27) 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 8/5, then slowly give up a little ground on 8/10 but continuing to hold on well into early August (8/15). A weak push of the Active phase is forecast building over the Indian ocean behind and under it, reaching the Philippines on 8/15. but in short, this push of the Inactive Phase is the strongest we've seen in years (not a good sign).
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 (7/26) indicates that cooler than normal waters have expanded their grip on the equator now covering solidly from South America 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. It was downright cold just off Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of colder than normal water continued developing 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