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 Sunday (8/3) Northern CA surf was waist high shoulder high and moderately textured on more. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were up to thigh high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was thigh high and a little textured early. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was knee high with maybe a few thigh high sets and lightly textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was maybe thigh high and moderately textured early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high on occasion and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was knee high or so and clean. The East Shore report was unavailable.
North/Central California was getting a very tiny mix of local windswell and nondescript southern hemi swell. Southern California was getting very limited background southern hemi swell. Hawaii's North Shore was getting no swell for the summer. The South Shore was getting only the minimalist of southern hemi background energy. Trades were down and there was no windswell on the East Shore.
For Central California it's all downhill from here, as if it could even get any smaller. Well it will. Virtually no rideable surf is forecast other than 2 very minor pulses of southern hemi background swell Tuesday/Wednesday and Saturday/Sunday maybe reaching thigh high with luck. Not even any local windswell in the forecast. Southern CA is in the same boat with only minor pulses of southern hemi background swell Tues/Wed and Sat/Sun, best down south. The South Shore of Hawaii is flat and expected to stay that way for the next 7 days. Tradewind generated east windswell on the East Shore to be the big story for the week, starting small on Wednesday and building to a peak on Friday and holding into Saturday before starting to settle down. Long term the models are offering virtually nothing of interest in either the Southern Hemi or the North Pacific for either Hawaii or California over the next week. Make the most of whatever you can get your hands on and be thankful for it, however meager it might be. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream is in hibernation for the summer. No features of interest were indicated with the bulk of it's energy tracking through the North Bering Sea and only cutoff upper level lows south of the Aleutians. By Thursday (8/7) some of the stronger energy is to track south though with a trough forming in the Gulf of Alaska with up to 110 kts winds and more energy building behind that over next weekend. Maybe this is the first signs of a Fall push starting to set up.
At the surface today two very weak lobes of high pressure were indicated at 1024 mbs each, one over the dateline and the second off the Pacific Northwest, with weak low pressure at 1008 mbs in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska. Only the high off the mainland was generating anything that resembled winds, pushing 20 kts along the outer California coast and generating maybe some 7 sec period windswell there. Otherwise a calm wind pattern was indicated. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other than the dateline high pressure system fading some and merging into the high off the Pacific Northwest. This to generate a fetch of 15-20 kt northeast winds extending from Cape Mendocino southeast to over Hawaii and building more solidly at 20 kts there into late Wednesday offering improved odds for windswell there. Nothing though for the mainland. And the Gulf low pressure system is to retrograde (move west) some and almost start wrapping up over the dateline heading north towards the Aleutians.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/3) high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered off British Columbia sagging south and generating an elongated weak pressure gradient off California generating 15-20 kt north winds and very weak short period northerly windswell at exposed breaks. But even that is to start breaking up on Monday as the high backs down and moves away from the coast with 20 kt north winds limited to the Cape Mendocino region and a lighter flow south of there. By Tuesday a light wind regime to take over all but the most northern CA coast with not even any chop forecast over outer waters. Weak low pressure to start moving into British Columbia waters on Friday (8/8) continuing to hold high pressure at bay and continuing a light wind pattern through the weekend. Low odds for any chop.
On Sunday (8/3) no tropical systems of interest were occurring.
On Sunday (8/3) a muddled jetstream pattern was present, mostly split through there was some co-joining occurring in the Eastern South Pacific. But a big ridge in the southern branch was pushing south of New Zealand over the Ross Ice Shelf all the way to the eastern edge of the California swell window pretty much locking things down and suppressing storm development. Over the next 72 hours no real change forecast with the ridge remaining in control and building more to the east continuing the lock-down. Beyond 72 hrs something that almost resembles a trough to build under New Zealand on Thursday (8/7) but is to quickly flatten out and just return to a zonal (flat) flow crossing the width of the South Pacific over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and not helping the situation substantially. In short, no real support for surface level low pressure development forecast.
At the oceans surface virtually no swell producing winds of interest were occurring except a fetch of 40 kt southerly winds on the edge of the Southern CA swell window. High pressure at 1028 mbs was right in the middle of the storm corridor south of Tahiti pushing all the way over Antarctic Ice. Over the next 72 hrs a complex low pressure system is to develop just off the coast of Southern Chile, all outside the California swell window while high pressure locks down the rest of the South Pacific. No swell producing fetch forecast for either Hawaii or California.
Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale was developing on the eastern edge of the California swell window 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 built up to 45 kts winds at the same location Saturday evening with a broad area of 29 ft seas at 58S 128W. On Sunday AM (7/27) this system produced 45-50 kts winds at 60S 122W aimed 45 degrees east of the 180 degree great circle path up to California generating 32 ft seas at 56S 123W pushing mostly towards Peru. In the evening all fetch was east of the Southern CA swell window and fading. 37 ft seas were modeled at 57S 115W, essentially out of the California 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 week later starting (Mon 8/4) reaching 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) on Tuesday then fading Wednesday at 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft faces) from 180 degrees.
Short Central Pacific Gale
On Tuesday AM (7/29) a 960 mb gale was positioned in the far southern Central Pacific generating a fetch of 45 kt west winds. These winds held into the evening then faded producing 12 hrs of 32 ft seas at 60S 155W. Maybe a small pulse of swell to push into California up the 196 degree path at 17 secs 10 days later or Fri PM (8/8) since the Tahitian swell shadow was not a factor. Swell to peak Saturday at 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft faces).
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 the new high pressure system in the east is to solidly 750 nmiles north of Hawaii generating a solid fetch of 20-25 kt east winds over Hawaii aided by weak tropical low pressure passing south of the Islands likely generating easterly windswell for exposed shores. The low over the dateline is to hold then weaken some while another low forms in the Gulf of Alaska, but with no fetch of interest suggested. A strong of tropical systems to build tracking from Cabo San Lucas west to under Hawaii. But that's all a fantasy by the model. Just the same, it's something to watch for. Looks like a transition to a Fall pattern might be starting to occur, and the timing is about right.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Sunday (8/3) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving towards the active phase. The SOI index which has been positive since 7/16 started moving negative on 7/23, but has edged up over the past few days, now at 14.38. The 30 day average was up to 2.74 and the 90 day average was essentially unchanged at 0.12, neutral. A weak area of stronger than normal easterly trades has regenerated extending from the dateline to Panama at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicating the INactive phase of the MJO has resurged some and is not quite ready to give up. The uptick in the SOI seems to support this too. But the Active Phase of the MJO was still building over the eastern Indian Ocean pushing trying to push into the equatorial Pacific but not quite making it. Once it gets there this would signal the start of the Active Phase of the MJO. But current estimates suggest this episode will be very weak and fading by even mid-August with a neutral pattern forecast beyond that. This is not conducive to fueling an El Nino like winter pattern. If anything it looks like a neutral pattern and perhaps another dry winter for the Southwest US.
Beyond 72 hrs virtually no swell producing fetch from low pressure is forecast. New high pressure at 1020 mbs is forecast building southeast of New Zealand at 55S 170W on Friday (8/8) continuing the lock-down of the storm corridor.
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