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 Thursday (7/29) North and Central California was getting knee to thigh high locally generated north windswell of no real interest with minimal southern hemi swell supposedly underneath and no wind locally. Tiny but clean. Southern California was flat up north and maybe thigh high down south with a little texture on it. This was mostly weak southern hemi background energy. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting maybe waist high tradewind generated east windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore was getting some sideband southern hemi swell with sets in the shoulder high range and clean mid-day with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for tiny locally generated north short period windswell Friday at 2.0 ft on the face, then building to 4.0-4.5 ft both weekend days. Saturday small southern hemi swell is forecast at 2.5 ft building to 4 ft on the face Sunday hanging on at 4 ft into Monday before dropping from waist high Tuesday. 4 ft north windswell to continue then. Southern California is to see no windswell till maybe Sunday and then barely rideable at 2 ft on the face fading a little on Monday and holding into Tuesday (8/3). A semi real pulse of southern hemi background swell is expected in later Saturday reaching almost chest high holding at chest high Sunday, maybe still holding at that height early Monday before fading from waist high on Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the workweek into the weekend. The East Shore to see perhaps a hint of east windswell Friday at waist high holding Saturday and Sunday and continuing maybe a few inches larger well into next week. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell continuing at up to chest high Friday before slowly fading from waist high Saturday and thigh high Sunday. Nothing else till Tuesday.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than local windswell for Central CA starting over the weekend and holding well into next week. 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 arrived in Hawaii on Thursday (7/29) as expected and is to continue providing something to ride Friday on into the early part of the weekend. California is to see only weak fragments of this one due to shadowing by Tahiti, with core energy arriving on Sunday (8/1). Beyond another weak gale developed under New Zealand Tues/Wed (7/28) with seas in the 37 ft range initially, then faded some with limited 30-32 ft seas continuing into early Friday (7/30). This is likely to result in another pulse of modest southern hemi swell for HI by late Tues (8/3) peaking on Wed. CA to see some swell from this one too starting Thurs (8/5). 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 Thursday (7/29) the North Pacific jetstream had no real defined energy flowing over it other than a patch of 80-90 kts winds flowing over the dateline offering no potential to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours only a weak trough is to try a dig out some space in the far Western Gulf over the weekend but again offering no wind energy of interest. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to wash out. But a more defined flow is to start pushing east directly over the Aleutian Islands with winds theoretically to the 130 kt range. If one were to believe the models it almost looks like the first attempt at a Fall push trying to develop, but that is likely just a fantasy of the GFS model.
At the surface on Thursday (7/29) a double barreled and weak high pressure pattern was in control of the entire North Pacific with one high just west of the dateline at 1024 mbs and the second 800 nmiles west of Northern CA at 1028 mbs. Neither was producing fetch in excess of 15 kts offering no swell production capacity. The usual pressure gradient that sits over the extreme North CA coast was dormant. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system off Northern CA is to start easing east generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino producing north winds to 25 kts there late Friday and starting to produce minimal northerly windswell tracking down into Central CA. The gradient is to max out on Saturday, then start fading on Sunday while still producing some minimally rideable windswell. Trades are to start building some over the Hawaiian Islands on Friday too to the 15 kt range, pushing near 20 kts over the weekend and likely starting to generate minimal east windswell there too.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/29) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 850 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino but was not ridging at all into the Pacific Northwest, generating north winds less than 15 kts over outer waters there and offering no windswell production. Weak local low pressure was trying to produce a weak eddy flow (south winds) along the Central CA coast, but not really succeeding with light northwest winds in control. This pattern is to die on Friday as high pressure surges east and the usual northwest winds flow takes root over Cape Mendo to 25 kt late and 15 kts or so over outer Central CA waters down to Pt Conception. Nearshore warble if not outright chop is to become the name of the game. The pressure gradient is to peak on Saturday over Cape Mendocino with 25 kt north winds there holding into early Sunday, with all fetch finally moving north of Pt Reyes on Sunday and a light south windflow taking control nearshore. But by Monday (8/2) the gradient is to fade over Cape Mendocino with north winds falling south and down to 15-20 kts pushing directly into the Central CA coast and holding there through the workweek. Windswell generation potential is to fade some with locally poor conditions likely at exposed west facing breaks. Southern CA is to remain protected through through all of this.
On Thursday (7/29) a modest trough continued in the upper atmosphere centered in the mid-South Pacific with up to 120 kt winds flowing up into it offering some support for surface level gale development there. East of there the jet was flowing solidly to the south shutting down gale development potential there. Over the next 72 hours the Central Pacific trough is to continue tracking slowly east to southeast through Saturday (7/31) with winds in the 80 kt range not offering much in terms of support for surface level gale development. and after that is it to be gone. Beyond 72 hours a stronger flow of west winds is to start pushing flat east across the South Pacific on the 65S latitude providing no troughs and therefore no support for surface level low pressure development north of the antarctic Ice Sheet. No support for surface level gale development indicated.
At the oceans surface a weak gale continued tracking east, now over the Central Pacific (see Another New Zealand Gale below) but looking rather meager. High pressure was in control of the Southeast Pacific. Over the next 72 hours this gale is to fail while high pressure at 1032 mbs builds in firm just east of New Zealand driving any fetch more to the southeast than anything, directing any windswell production towards Antarctica.
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. 34 ft seas were modeled at 55S 167E. 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 were modeled at 52S 175E.
Wednesday AM (7/28) a decent fetch of 40 kts southwest winds was 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 were modeled at 50S 175W. By evening a new fetch of 45 kts southwest winds was trying 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 were modeled holding at 49S 167W. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of this area reporting average seas of 27 ft with one peak reading to 34.4 ft, a bit lower than what the model suggested.
Thursday AM this fetch was fading some with only 40-45 kt winds over a tiny area at 50S 162W aimed more to the west than north pushing barely up the 203 degree path to California and pretty well shadowed by Tahiti and 60 degrees east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. 29 ft seas were modeled rebuilding at 51S 167W. 40-45 kt west fetch is forecast in the evening at 50S 150W but starting to fall to the south fast. 32 ft seas are forecast at 50S 155W then decaying from there.
Residual seas are to remain in the mid-Pacific Friday AM (7/30) at 32 ft at 48S 151W pushing up the 198 degree path to California, then dissipating in the evening as the fetch that generated it falls south and dissipates.
Some degree of moderate southern hemi swell is likely already pushing northeast towards the usual locations of the South and North Pacific. This system is lasting longer than originally anticipated, though not necessarily strong. This could result in a nice long pulse of smaller minimally rideable sized surf if all goes as planned. Still it is to be a long ways away and much swell decay is to be expected. And Tahiti will be in the way for CA, resulting in some loss of consistency. Still, it's better than nothing (cause that's what's in the forecast behind it).
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 retrograde slightly west off California while assimilating another high previously positioned west of the dateline, resulting in one large high filling the entire North Pacific basin at 1032 mbs. This to result in a steady north wind flow over Cape Mendocino at 15-20 kts for the balance of next week, but nothing more, suggesting only limited very short period north windswell generation potential. This large high is to also continue generating a broad area of 15-20 kt easterly trades bathing the Hawaiian Islands through next week providing continued support for generation of east short period windswell for the Islands. No other swell producing fetch is indicated.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (7/29) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was holding at 24.01 and has been positive for 35 days running. The 30 day average was up to 17.93 with the 90 day average inching up to 9.91. This continues looking like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (7/29) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued indicated a 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 8/2, then slowly give up a little ground while reaching South America on 8/7 but continuing to hold on well into early August (8/12). 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 this current 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 high pressure is to retain control of the South Pacific offering no swell producing fetch of interest through Thurs (8/5).
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