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 (8/4) North and Central California had waist high southern hemi background swell coming from a gale that was east of New Zealand last weekend (7/25) producing 35 ft seas. Light local winds were in effect. Southern California had some thigh high southern hemi swell up north and maybe thigh to waist high down south but a bit windy and chopped. This was coming from the New Zealand Gale previous mentioned. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The East Shore had knee high east windswell with onshore winds. The South Shore had a little leftover southern hemi swell coming from the New Zealand gale mentioned above with waves waist high on the sets at the better breaks and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small southern hemi background swell originating from that gale southeast of New Zealand pushing waist high into Wed (8/5) then dropping out to nothing. Maybe some more thigh to waist high southern hemi background swell is expected for the weekend with local waist high windswell on top on Sunday (8/9), but that's it. Southern California is to see the same pattern with southern hemi background swell from New Zealand into Wednesday, then dropping out. Another pulse of similar sized souther hemi swell at waist high is forecast late Friday into Saturday, then back to flat. The North Shore of Hawaii is to be flat for the next week. The East Shore is to start seeing building short period east windswell pushing waist to near chest high by Wednesday (8/5) to head head high on Friday, then stepping down an little for the weekend. Theoretically much more size is expected next week. The South Shore is to drop to nearly flat on Wednesday and then fade completely by Thursday and hold for the next 7 days.
Looking at the models virtually nothing of any believable interest is forecast in the southern hemi for the next 7 days. A cutoff low is forecast south of Tahiti next week (8/110 but that's so far out as to be worthless. Of more interest is the North Pacific. Nothing for sure is indicated but a tropical pattern is forecast setting up east of Hawaii and pushing close to the Big Island early next week. Also a large pool of low pressure east of the Philippines up to Japan is to start becoming active this weekend into next week. Certainly something to monitor.
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 1024 mbs was positioned in a line from Hawaii up into the northeastern Gulf of Alaska. It was producing northeasterly trades of 15-20 kts over the Hawaiian Islands but nothing more. Very weak low pressure continued off of Central CA but not producing any wind of interest. A large pool of low pressure at 996 mbs was circulating well east of the Philippines as it has for 8 days now, fueled by the Active Phase of the MJO and possibly trying to jump start the Fall season. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system north of Hawaiian is to hold if not build to 10/28 mbs while weak tropical low pressure tracks west under it forming a pressure gradient and perhaps building the trades a bit to 20 kts, increasing the odds for local east Wed-Fri (8/7). An area of north winds to continue blowing down the California coast confined to Southern CA and the Channel Islands. No swell to result. A piece of this low pressure system is to break off the Philippines and track northeast off Japan heading towards the dateline, generating 25 kts west winds into Friday. No swell to result but this provides a hint of what is maybe to come.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/4) low pressure at 1016 mbs was off Central CA suppressing winds along the coast there, but high pressure was sneaking in under the low setting up a weak pressure gradient off Pt Conception and generating northern winds there south over the Channel Islands at 15 kts with limited effects into Southern CA. This same pattern is to hold Wed and Thurs (8/6). By Friday the low off Central CA is to be gone with north winds building to 20 kts over the same region, though Monterey bay northwards are to remained mostly protected. This pattern is to continue to have some effect on Southern CA in the late morning and afternoons with chop taking control. By the weekend high pressure is to start pushing into Central CA proper with north winds increasing some, but not exceeding 15 kts and making for some chop.
The Active Phase of the MJO is clearly having an impact on tropical storm formation:.
On Tuesday (8/3) Tropical Storm Morakot was 600 nmiles south of Southern Japan with sustained winds 50 kts and on the increase, tracking west and bound for China. No swell production is forecast in association with it.
Tropical Storm Gone had sustained winds at 45 kts and fading heading northwest, bound for southern China as well.
Tropical Storm Enrique was 1200 nmiles south of Southern CA heading west-northwest winds sustained winds 50 kts. A continued path to the west is forecast with the system peaking out Wed AM (8/5) at 60 kts, then fading in the days beyond. No swell production for Hawaii or CA is forecast.
Hurricane Felicia was midway between Hawaii and Mexico (further west than Enrique) tracking essentially west with sustained winds 70 kts. A continue path to the west is forecast with winds building and peaking at 100 kts Wed PM (8/5) then holding before slowly fading. Still 65 kts winds are forecast Sunday (8/9) as the storm starts approaching Hawaii. Possible east swell to result for exposed East and Southeast Shore of the Hawaiian Islands.
On Tuesday (8/4) not a whole lot had changed from a week before. The northern branch of the Southern Hemisphere jetstream remained in control pushing flat and hard to the east and southeast on the 25S 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. A weak trough was in over the Southeast Pacific, but winds were so weak as to provide no support for gale development of interest. Over the next 72 hrs the exact same pattern is forecast, and if anything, with a stronger ridge pushing hard south over the West Pacific and heading to the East offering no support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours the ridge in the Southwest Pacific is to expand east over the entire South Pacific totally shutting down odds for gale development through the middle of next week.
At the surface on Tuesday (8/4) high pressure at 1020 mbs was located southeast of New Zealand ridging south over the Ross Ice Shelf and into interior Antarctica totally blocking the South Pacific storm corridor. A broad low pressure center was off Chile and well outside the California swell window and offering no winds for anyone by Southern Chile. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system southeast of New Zealand is to build to 1024 mbs and expanding in size, remaining the blockade on the entire South Pacific. No support for gale formation is forecast.
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 hitting the US West Coast, though filtered by French Polynesia. .
Southern CA: The last fading portion of this swell is expected at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (waist high) is expected on Wednesday (8/5), then fading out on Thursday. Swell Direction: 205 degrees
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 no 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 hold 900 nmiles north of Hawaii generating trades there at 15-20 kts through the weekend and into next week with more tropical low pressure pulsing west of Mexico and approaching the Islands, moving over the Big Island on Monday (8/10) and feeding the local pressure gradient supporting more local windswell development. Of course the GFS model is not good at projecting tropical development, so it's anyone guess what will really occur. This same high pressure system is expected to try and weakly ridge into south Central CA by Saturday (8/8) generating north winds at 15 kts and maybe a little weak windswell at best. But of more interest is the large low pressure pool off the Philippines and Japan which is expected to turn east and head for the dateline by Tues (8/11). There's some signs it could start developing there, but that is a guess at best. And fragments that broke off earlier are to be hitting the Gulf of Alaska by Tues (8/11) with west fetch to 30 kts possible in the Gulf. The good news is the models continue to show good movement from the West Pacific towards the dateline, suggesting the storm corridor is open and flowing. All we need now is some storm energy to push into it. For the time of year, this is encouraging.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (8/4) 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 essentially neutral. The Daily SOI index was down to -8.07 and has been negative (or nearly so) for the past 15 days (since 7/21). The 30 day average was down to 0.52 and the 90 day average was down slightly to -1.91. The SOI index was trying to regain some of the ground it lost when the MJO went Inactive in early July. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated modest westerly wind anomalies, the signal of the Active Phase, continued were pushing from the Eastern Indian Ocean into the West Pacific and reaching the dateline. The models suggest the Active Phase is to hold it's position in the West Pacific over the dateline through 8/13, then dissipating by 8/18 with neutral conditions to follow through 8/23. No sign of the Inactive Phase is forecast. As of late July we had 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 had dissipated, and with it the mechanism that had been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific (more below). But Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/30-8/3) indicates that a solid area of warmer than normal water extends over the equator from the dateline east and building into Central/South America with temps to 2.0 deg C above normal. This is 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. Looking at water temp anomalies since June to now (7/30) there has been little to no degradation in the warm anomaly, but not real advance either. This is what one would expect of a weak to moderate 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, starting 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 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 was a sign of a Westerly Wind Burst. But it dissipated on 8/3. 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 some modest 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 appeared to be happening as of 8/3). The belief at this time is this developing El Nino will not completely loose it's legs and falter like last year, but will survive in some fashion with effects continuing in the atmosphere until Spring of next year. That is not to say this will be a strong El Nino, more likely a weak or moderate one at best. That delineation is still to be seen. But that is possibly good. Strong El Ninos bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast, along with the potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides swell improvements, without the weather. Regardless, things remain miles better than anything the Pacific has seen in at least the last 3 or more years.
Beyond 72 hours strong high pressure at 1038 mbs is to holds east of New Zealand band continuing to ridge south to the Ross Ice Shelf through the weekend (8/8). A series of gales are to be dropping southeast from New Zealand but all winds are to be over ice with no swell generation potential suggested. A cutoff low is forecast south of Tahiti early next week with up to 45 kts winds, but there is little hope of that actually forming. In short, more quiet conditions and no swell producing fetch is expected.
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