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 Thursday (8/21) Northern CA surf was head high and reasonably clean though still a bit warbled and foggy. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were up to chest high but kinda warbled mid-day. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist high and blown out mid-day. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat but reasonably clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was knee to thigh high and lightly textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high and lightly textured mid-day. The North Shore of Oahu was flat and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was maybe knee high.
North/Central California was getting a nice pulse of Gulf of Alaska windswell providing something to ride. Southern California was effectively flat. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat. The South Shore was near flat. Almost no east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California semi-real swell is expected early Friday from the Gulf, then fading slowly through the weekend into next week. Southern CA to remain essentially flat until maybe some energy from the Gulf of Alaska filters in Friday into Saturday. The South Shore of Hawaii might get a little pulse of background southern hemi swell Friday, fading out early Saturday. Maybe some minimal tradewind generated east windswell can be expected on the East Shore starting Friday and holding through the weekend into early next week, but not much. The North Shore to remain unrideable for the next week. A gale is in the northern Gulf of Alaska Tues/Wed (8/20) has provided some north swell energy pushing towards exposed breaks in North and Central CA by late in the week and hanging on through the weekend. The jetstream charts suggest that the upper level flow is to remain decent for the foreseeable future though no clear well-developed low pressure systems are expected to form until Tuesday, and even that on to be on the minimal side of the scale. The Southern Hemi is to remain quiet relative to Hawaii and California until a week out when a supposed gale is to pass under New Zealand. Will believe it when it happens. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream continues to look decent for the time of year with a consolidated wind flow tracking from the southern Kuril Islands (North of Japan) flowing flat over the dateline and still just south of the Aleutians at 100 kts then fading some while flowing flat over the Gulf of Alaska. No clear support for low pressure development indicated. Over the next 72 hours the energy currently over the dateline is to push into the Gulf and form a trough with 150 kts winds Saturday/Sunday (7/24) looking every bit as good as the previous one, then tracking into Canada on Monday. Decent support for low pressure development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to build into the Gulf shutting things down by Tuesday (8/26), then the pattern is to fall apart with a weak split flow pushing off Siberia and withering through the middle of next week reducing odds of surface level low pressure development.
At the surface today a small weak low pressure system was pushing east through the Gulf of Alaska offering no swell producing winds. A neutral pressure pattern was off California offering no windswell producing north winds there either. Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was north of Hawaii but not strong enough to generate any easterly tradewind's or windswell of interest. Over the next 72 hours the same general pattern is forecast to continue with more weak low pressure pushing through the Gulf, but unproductive from even a windswell generation perspective.
Second Gulf Gale
On Monday AM (8/18) a 984 mb low was starting to form in the Northern Gulf of Alaska while tropical energy from what was tropical storm VonFong moves in from the west. 30 kts west winds built at 45N 152W, getting traction on the oceans surface and generating 17 ft seas at 46N 155W. By evening pressure dropped to 976 mbs in the Northern Gulf with a thin small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds confirmed at 52N 152W aimed down the 310 degree path to the San Francisco area. Seas started to build from 20 ft over a tiny area at 53N 157W while the original fetch of 17 ft seas continued at 44N 148W.
Tuesday AM (8/19) the low broadened slightly with pressure 980 mbs and 35-40 kt northwest winds confirmed at 509N 147W aimed well down the 308 degree path to Central CA and up into Oregon. 22 ft seas were modeled at 51N 149W. By evening the low was sinking southeast with 30-35 kt northwest winds at 48N 142W, just 950 nmiles from San Francisco but aimed more towards Washington and about 15 degrees east of the 312 degree path NCal with the associated front from this system pushing into Oregon and Washington. 25 ft seas were modeled at 48N 143W 1000 nmiles northwest of SF.
Wednesday AM (8/20) the low was pushing inland with 30 kt west winds fading at 47N 135W targeting Oregon. 21 ft seas modeled at 48N 136W or 900 nmiles from SF.
On Thursday swell hit buoy 46059 with pure swell peaking at 8.3 ft @ 12.5 secs from 9 AM at least to 2 PM.
In all this looked pretty good on the models with a nice pulse of utility class swell with period in the 13 secs range expected for Washington south into Central California.
North CA: Expected swell arrival starting at Thursday at 6 PM with period 14 secs and size steadily building, peaking near midnight-3 AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 13 secs (8-9 ft faces). Swell to be heading down by sunrise with swell still 6.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (8 ft faces0 and fading. Swell Direction: 308-312 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/21) weak high pressure was building into California waters, expected to start generating northerly winds by this evening and into Friday but pulling away from the coast at first light. A small gradient is to be off Cape mendocino, but fading by Saturday. the net result is to be some lump in the water, and some weak windswell, but nothing like chop. No change till Monday when a new high pressure system starts building just off the coast and winds on the increase, pushing near 30 kts Tuesday (8/26) generating chop and larger local windswell. The gradient to become consolidated over Cape Mendo on Wednesday with local windswell fading or turning to a eddy flow. the gradient to hold through mid-next week with cleaner local windswell in to forecast through the period. .
On Thursday (8/21) no tropical system of interest were being tracked.
On Thursday (8/21) a split jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific. The southern branch continued flowing flat over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on the 71S latitude, weak and fragmented offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the split pattern is to continue with a ridge building over the Central Pacific pushing the southern branch of the jet into Antarctica proper starting Friday (8/22) and continuing in spurts through Tuesday (8/26). No support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hrs no real change is forecast with a split flow in control and no troughs, and if anything a ridge continuing to push south through late next week.
At the oceans surface no swell producing winds of interest were occurring. High pressure at 1020 mbs was in firm control of the Central Pacific ridging south to 62S and basically blocking the storm corridor. A cutoff low was north of the high in the southeast Pacific tracking east with 35 kts winds targeting Chile. Over the next 72 hrs no real change is forecast other than theoretically that cutoff low building some while pushing into Chile and outside our forecast window.
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 another weak gale is forecast to try and develop in the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday-Tuesday (8/26) pushing from the dateline east into the Gulf but with only maybe 30 kts winds and a tiny area of 20 ft seas resulting, nothing of interest.
High pressure to build off California at the same time forming a small pressure gradient and 30 kt north winds off Cape Mendocino Tues-Thurs (8/28) possibly setting up some windswell for the coast south of there.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Thursday (8/21) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was transitioning from the Active phase to the Inactive phase. The Daily SOI index was 7.83. The 30 day average was down to 0.39 and the 90 day average was 1.73, neutral. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated the building of the Inactive phase of the MJO over Asia (north Indian Ocean to New Guinea) though a small weak area of westerly winds associated with the fading Active Phase of the MJO continued confined to the waters just west of Central America and fading. This is projected to continue into 8/23, then fade. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to remain very weak too, fading out by 8/31. Over the long haul there appears to be little bias either for or against the development of winter low pressure systems in the North Pacific. Of note - the weak MJO pattern of late has caused what was a promising flow of warmer than normal subsurface waters from the West to east Pacific to break down, with a slightly cooler pool now positioned 150 deep on the equator south of Hawaii. This is not indicative of an El Nino like circulation, thereby suggesting no enhancement to the winter North Pacific storm pattern.
Beyond 72 hrs a fetch of 40-45 kt south winds are forecast developing off Chile aimed due north Sunday/Monday (8/25) generating seas pushing up towards Mexico. Possible swell to result if this happens, but odds remain low at this time. There's also some hints of winds energy pushing under New Zealand a week out, but that is not believable at this early date. A quiet pattern to continue.
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