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 (8/1) North and Central California had barely rideable minimal northwest windswell at waist high with light local winds. Southern California was effectively flat up north with some minimal southern hemi background swell pushing thigh high into the southern end of South CA with top spots getting waist high plus sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The East Shore had waist high plus east windswell with onshore winds. The South Shore was still getting a good dose of southern hemi swell from a storm that was previously east of New Zealand with waves pushing head high but with trades on it early.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more minimal local windswell in the knee high range on Sunday, then fading to nothing on Monday. Small southern hemi background swell (the same one currently hitting Hawaii originating from a gale southeast of New Zealand) is expected in on late Monday (8/3) pushing waist high or so for Tuesday into Wed (8/5) then dropping out to nothing. Southern California is to see the same pattern with no swell on Sunday then new southern hemi background swell from that gale southeast of New Zealand is expected in on Monday to thigh high building to waist high on Tuesday, then fading Wednesday (8/5). Nothing to follow. The North Shore of Hawaii is to be flat for the next week. The East Shore is to have decent short period east windswell pushing near chest high for Sunday then slowly settling down into next week but not flat. The South Shore is to be remain the standout location on Sunday with more of that swell from a storm that was southeast of New Zealand hitting at shoulder to head high then slowly settling down into Tuesday (8/3). Nothing to follow though.
Utility class swell that is currently hitting Hawaii is from a gale that formed just southeast of New Zealand on Fri/Sat (7/25) generating up to 35 ft seas aimed reasonably well to the north. A smaller version of that same swell is to reach CA for Mon-Wed (8/5). After that things to really settle down. The only fetch that has occurred was from a short lived area of gale force winds late Sunday (7/26) aimed north and positioned northeast of New Zealand. But it was gone by late Monday. Maybe some energy might be pushing towards Hawaii but don;t count on it. Virtually nothing else has occurred and nothing of interest is on the charts for the next week. Very quiet. Even the forecasts for the Tasman Sea, which was to be the focus of all action, has backed off. We're in the doldrums.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today a weak area of high pressure at 1028 mbs was in the northeastern Gulf of Alaska nuzzled up to North Canada draped south to almost Hawaii. It was generating trades over the Hawaiian Islands at near 25 kts southeast of the Islands as it interacted with Tropical Storm Lana approaching from the southeast. Weak low pressure was off Central CA suppressing the usual flow of north winds and generating no fetch of it's own. Weak low pressure was over the dateline south of the Aleutians generating a weak fetch of 15-20 kt west winds. But overall. no fetch of real interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours this same pattern is to hold with the low pressure system on the dateline pushing northeast, while high pressure holds off the Pacific Northwest and trades continuing over Hawaii with Lana steaming west, missing the Islands. The Active Phase of the MJO continues plodding possibly adding a little fuel to weather systems in the North Hemisphere over the coming 2 weeks. But overall, a pretty bland pattern is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (8/1) weak low pressure was off the Central CA coast suppressing the usual flow of northwest winds over the entire CA coast. Virtually no change is forecast through the end of the workweek other than high pressure trying to sneak in under the low pressure system setting up a weak pressure gradient off Pt Conception and generating northern winds there over the Channel Islands by Monday (8/3) at 15 kts building to 20 kts by Thursday (8/8). and 25 kts into Saturday. This is likely to have some effect into Southern CA in the late morning and afternoons with chop taking control then. Winds to remain light from Monterey Bay northward though.
On Saturday (8/1) Tropical Storm Lana was approaching the area south of the Big Island with sustained winds at 45 kts and gust to 50 kts heading due west at 14 kts. Lana was interacting with high pressure north of the Islands resulting in easterly winds at 20 kts pushing over Hawaii. Limited east windswell was already impacting the southeast shore of Hawaii with short period windswell expected for shadowed easterly shores of the remaining Islands. Lana is expected to slowly dissipate while tracking west beyond Kauai on Sunday evening (8/2) with trades starting to back off and windswell dropping some, but not out.
On Saturday (8/1) the northern branch of the Southern Hemisphere jetstream remained in control pushing flat and hard west to southeast on the 27S degree latitude. A weak ridge continued flowing over New Zealand and vicinity from the southern branch of the jetstream, shutting off surface level gale potential down. Over the next 72 hrs the exact same pattern is forecast offering no support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours the ridge in the Southwest Pacific is to build more, diving well into Antarctica and totally shutting down odds for gale development there through the end of next weekend.
At the surface on Saturday (8/1) high pressure at 1036 mbs was located south of Tahiti pushing pretty far south, to 55S, pretty much choking off the South Pacific storm corridor. A broad gale was off Chile well outside the California swell window. Another gale was trying to reach up into the Tasman Sea west of New Zealand, but wasn't quite making it. In short, no swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system in the Central South Pacific is to holds it's ground if not expand some to the southwest reaching south to almost 60S, further choking things off. Additional high pressure is to start building east of New Zealand too. None of this supports gale formation.
New Zealand Gale
A broad but diffuse area of low pressure was organizing just southeast of New Zealand on Thursday AM (7/23), but winds were only up to 30 kts. That low pressure system got better organized reaching gale status Thurs PM generating a small area of 45 kt south winds at 52S 177W with seas building.
By Friday AM a building fetch of 45-50 kt south-southwest winds were modeled at 50S 173W aimed 15 degrees west of the 209 degree path to CA and just barely in the Tahitian swell shadow and right up the 190 degree path to Hawaii. 27 ft seas were modeled building at 52S 175W. In the evening more 45-50 kt southwest winds were modeled at 50S 169W aimed right up the 208 degree path to CA and totally shadowed and 30 degrees east of the 187 degree path to Hawaii generating 32 ft seas at 50S 170W.
Saturday AM (7/25) residual 40-45 kt winds were blowing from the southwest to almost west at 48S 160W and 35 degrees east of any route to CA and perpendicular to any route to Hawaii and fading fast. 35 ft seas were modeled at 49S 163W pushing energy towards both Hawaii and CA. 32 ft seas from previous fetch were still holding Saturday evening at 48S 154W but focusing more to the east, targeting only Central and South America while fading.
Some degree of limited swell is forecast pushing northeast towards Tahiti and Hawaii, with some energy possibly for the US West Coast, though filtered by French Polynesia. .
Hawaii: Swell continuing on Sunday at 3 ft @ 14-15 secs (chest to head high with 1 ft overhead sets at top spots) and slowly fading. Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 13 secs on Monday (waist to chest high) and fading. Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Southern CA: Expect the first small signs of this swell should appear late late Sunday (8/2) reaching 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft faces). Swell to peak on Monday at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (thigh to waist high). Still swell of 2 ft @ 15 secs (waist high) is expected on Tuesday (8/4), then fading on Wed. Swell Direction: 205 degrees
Tiny New Zealand Gale
On Sunday AM (7/26) northeast of New Zealand a 988 mb cutoff low was building generating a small area of 40 kt winds at 38S 172W aimed a but more west than north, not even aimed at Hawaii yet. By Sunday evening winds in this gale were up to near 50 kts over an infinitesimal area at 38S 171W aimed due north, or up the 193 degree path to Hawaii. A tiny area of 25 ft seas were modeled at 36S 172W. Monday AM (7/28) that fetch quickly swung into the gales north quadrant aimed east with residual winds of 35-40 kts aimed north towards Hawaii at 34S 169W. 27-28 ft seas from previous fetch were modeled at 34S 172W pushing towards Hawaii. This fetch dissolved by evening with 25 ft seas fading at 32S 168W.
Some small background or impulse class swell is expected pushing into Hawaii on Saturday (8/1), lost in the swell documented above.
On Wednesday AM (7/29) a storm under the Tasman Sea built with up to 45 kt west winds modeled at 51S 160E placing 36 ft seas at 51S 158W or just barely west/outside of the California swell window. By evening 35 ft seas were repositioned east at 52S 165E aimed directly up the 119-220 degree paths and totally unshadowed by Tahiti but 6600 nmiles away. This fetch was also pushing right up the 218 degree path to Tahiti. All energy was totally shadowed relative to Hawaii by New Zealand. This system totally dissipated by early Thursday AM (7/30). Maybe some swell will result for the aforementioned targets, with Tahiti the most likely target. Next to now odds for the US mainland.
A new system built in the Southeast Pacific on Thursday PM (7/30) with 40 kt south to southeast winds at 43S 130W with seas to near 29 ft at 43S 133W building. Winds were up to 45 kts Friday AM at 50S 120W aimed due north up the 180 degree path to Southern CA. 30 ft seas were forecast at 45S 117W late Friday morning. But those winds swung totally aimed to the east 12 hrs later aimed only at Chile. Low odds of anything resulting for Southern CA. The momentum was more to the east favoring Chile.
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 high pressure is to get a foothold 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii generating trades there at 15-20 kts through the week with more tropical low pressure systems pulsing west well off Mexico and approaching the Islands, feeding the local pressure gradient late next weekend likely supporting more local windswell. This same high pressure system is expected to start ridging into south Central CA on Thursday (8/6) generating north winds at 20-25 kts over Pt Conception, but offering no real windswell generating potential. There remains indications of a decent tropical flow pushing north and northeast from off Japan up towards the Gulf of Alaska, but no clear signs of anything capable of generating swell yet. It's a step in the right direction though.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (8/1) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase, but only moderately. This was the first Active Phase since 6/23 when the last of three consecutive Active pulses took control starting April 20th. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained neutral. The Daily SOI index was up to -4.8. The 30 day average was down to 1.19 and the 90 day average was steady at -1.81. The SOI index is going to hopefully start regaining some of the ground it has lost since going Inactive a month ago. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a small area of weak easterly winds were still barely hanging on over Central America but effectively gone, consistent with the end of the Inactive Phase. But a broader area of westerly anomalies, the signal of a newly building Active Phase were pushing from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific and reaching the dateline, better than previously expected. The models suggest the Inactive Phase is to be gone by 8/3 over Central America with the Active Phase holding it's position in the West Pacific reaching to the dateline and locked there through 8/8, then dissipating through 8/14. A very weak incarnation of the Inactive Phase is to be holding over the Indian Ocean on 8/19. This is a bit more like what we've been hoping for. As of early this week we have been thinking that all the momentum associated with consecutive instances of the Active Phase of the MJO in the Spring and early Summer of 2009 have almost dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific (more below). But the latest Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/30) indicates that a solid area of warmer than normal water extends over the equator from at least the dateline east getting solid under Hawaii and building into Central/South America with temps to 2.5 deg C above normal. This is highly suggestive of a moderate El Nino. These warmer waters are pushing north up the coast of Baja Mexico almost into Southern CA. Much cooler than normal waters (-2.5 deg C) are mirrored streaming off Africa and building while pushing east, now reaching South America. This is highly suggestive of a burst of perhaps southeasterly winds building across the equatorial South Atlantic. Looking back in the records, exactly the same flow developed during the big El Nino of 1997. So this is not unfamiliar territory (there is a reverse teleconnection between the Pacific and the Atlantic from a surf perspective i.e. what's good for the Pacific hampers the Atlantic, and visa versa). This is likely to completely suppress Atlantic hurricane actively due solely to the frigid water temps. Back in the Pacific two tiny pockets of cooler water starting to show embedded in the core of the warm pool off Central America in mid-July, the likely result of the weakening of the overall MJO pattern. But those have dissipated. And looking at water temp anomalies since June to now (7/27) there has been no degradation and if anything a slight increase in the building warm anomaly. This is what one would expect of a building El Nino. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface to be exact) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water just below the surface there at nearly 4 deg C. Previous episodes of the Active Phase had primed the warm water pump and were feeding the warm regime into the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Previous Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB) associated with the Active Phase of the MJO had generated Kelvin Waves resulting in the movement of warm subsurface water to the east, stating to break the surface near Central America in mid-July. Another Westerly Wind Burst appeared to be developing on 7/6, but faded by 7/12. No Kelvin Wave resulted. So all looked good at a glance, but the lack of any clear symptoms of the Active Phase of the MJO had become a problem. But interestingly, another bout of westerly winds appeared on 7/21 extending from New Guinea almost to the dateline and became more pronounced on 7/25 and even moreso into 7/30 to 8/1. In fact, fully blowing westerly winds were in-charge associated with an area of low pressure there on 7/30 almost reaching to the dateline (not just anomalies). This is clearly a sign of a developing Westerly Wind Burst. That is starting to dissipate on 8/1. And 150 meters down under the equator, warmer water is definitely building and drifting east, so the warm water pump is not shut off after all, and if anything, is getting reinforcement. The next 2 weeks remains critical for the formation of a legitimate El Nino. If a real El Nino were to occur, one would expect to see the SOI tending back towards the negative (which it appears to be doing) and perhaps a Westerly Wind Burst and a new Kelvin Wave developing (that appears to be happening as of 7/28). The hope is that this developing El Nino will not loose it's legs and falter like last year at this time, and all data seems to be more supportive of the positive outcome as compared to a few weeks ago. Still we're in 'wait-and-see conservative mode', but are getting more optimistic. Regardless, where we are right now remains miles better than anything the Pacific has seen in at least the last 3 or more years.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure at 1032 mbs is to holds east of New Zealand but weakening some. A small gael is forecast forming southeast of it on Sat (8/8) generating 45 kt southwest winds and possibly getting some traction on ice free waters. But being 7 days out, odds of it occurring are non-existent. In short, expect more quiet conditions and no swell producing fetch to occur.
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