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 Tuesday (8/26) Northern CA surf was head high or slightly more and warbled. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were thigh high and gutless. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was shoulder high and pretty textured mid-day. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was up to waist high and textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh to waist high and reasonably clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat and clean. The South Shore was maybe thigh high and clean. The East Shore was knee high.
North/Central California was getting moderate sized local north windswell providing something to ride. Southern California was mostly very small with only a fraction of the northerly windswell wrapping into exposed breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The South Shore was flat. Almost no east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California locally generated northerly windswell remains the best swell source for the rest of the week then coming up more for the weekend before fading next week. A weak low was pushing through the eastern Gulf of Alaska Tues/Wed possibly setting up small swell for late Thurs/Fri, but that to be masked by the dominant local windswell. Southern CA to see fractional bits of the windswell, with a little pulse of southern hemi background swell Thurs (8/28) and then again on Sat (8/30). But otherwise small surf to continue. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expected to see any southern hemi swell of interest for the week on through the weekend. No tradewind generated east windswell expected on the East Shore until Labor Day, but then it's to hold for a few days. The North Shore to remain unrideable for the next week. Long term the models are favoring the southern hemisphere, with a gale forecast well south of California Wed/Thurs (8/27) possibly pushing 24 hrs of fetch our way with 32 ft seas modeled. And a better system is forecast pushing under New Zealand Thursday/Friday (8/29) with some almost decent winds and seas projected offering swell potential for both Hawaii and California, assuming this one forms as projected. So for now we return to a summer-like pattern while we wait on Fall to take hold. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream was falling apart with a consolidated flow over the east but formed into a ridge only serving to build high pressure at the oceans surface with a weak split flow was over the West Pacific offering no odds for surface level low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours that split flow to push east and mostly take over the North Pacific though still trying to hold together as a single flow in the east. Still no support for surface level development though. Beyond 72 hours mostly energy is to be tracking southeast out of Northern Siberia dropping across the Western Bering Sea than crossing the Aleutians over the PAcific near the Gulf of Alaska making something that almost looks like trough there Sunday on into early next week. Perhaps some small support for surface level low pressure development.
At the surface today weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was located 900 nmiles west of Monterey Bay CA generating a weak pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino producing up to 30 kt north winds and moderate windswell pushing south. Also a small weak low pressure system was pushing east through the Gulf of Alaska generating 30-35 kt west winds and 20 ft seas targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest down into maybe Central CA with background windswell Thursday (8/28). Light 15 kt trades were pushing over the Hawaiian Islands with no real windswell potential. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low is to move inland early Wednesday leaving only high pressure in it's wake, with the gradient over Cape Mendocino and resulting windswell holding through Friday (8/29). No other swell source indicated.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/26) high pressure at 1024 mbs was 900 nmiles west of Monterey Bay ridging into Oregon and Washington generating the standard pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in 30 kt north winds there and northerly windswell for breaks south of there. The fetch was barely hanging over the coast, making for heavily textured conditions nearshore. This same setup is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, but with the fetch pulling away from the coast resulting in cleaner nearshore conditions with the windswell still in effect. Possible eddy winds to kick in (southwest 5 kts). Late Saturday (8/30) more high pressure is to move in reinforcing the pressure gradient and pushing winds over Cape mendocino to the 35-40 kt range, bumping up the size of the windswell but with the fetch still staying clear of nearshore waters leaving reasonably clean conditions a distinct possibility for Sunday. A rapid retreat of high pressure forecast by Monday with windswell in quick decline, and clam winds settling in through Tuesday (9/2).
On Tuesday (8/26) no tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
On Tuesday (8/26) a split jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific. The southern branch continued flowing heavily southward over the Southeast Pacific but positioned a bit more to the north under New Zealand but still not very favorable. Over the next 72 hours some improvements are forecast under New Zealand with an almost real trough developing there Wednesday and pushing hard north with winds to 140 kts, getting steep and almost pinched off by Saturday (8/30) before fading out. Decent support for gale development in this trough. Beyond 72 hrs the same old split flow is to set up with the southern branch of the jet pushing over the Ross Ice Shelf, ice-locked and offering no odds for surface level low pressure development (over ice free waters).
At the oceans surface no swell producing winds of interest were occurring. High pressure at 1020 mbs was in firm control of the Southeast Pacific ridging into Antarctica and a second high at 1032 mbs was east of New Zealand ridging south to near 62S and basically blocking the storm corridor. A cutoff low was well east of Chile an south of California with up to 45 kt south winds expected by this evening pushing north. Over the next 72 hrs that cutoff low to hold into mid-Wednesday (8/27) generating 30-32 ft seas near 38S 123W targeting California southward to Peru. Possible small background swell for CA 6 days beyond, with larger swell for Central America.
Of more interest is a gale low forecast to sneak under New Zealand late Wednesday with 45-50 kt westerly winds at 58S 160E generating 32 ft seas at 58S 165E. This one to track northeast with 40 kts winds over an expanding area Thursday AM (8/28) at 55S 175E generating 36 ft seas at 56S 170E aimed well towards both Hawaii and CA, then rebuilding Thursday PM with 45-50 kt winds at 60S 172W aimed due north targeting primarily Hawaii. 35 ft seas then at 53S 175W (from previous days fetch). By Friday AM (8/29) 32 ft seas are forecast at 50S 172W, then fading out. This is not to be a particularly intense system, really just utility class by usual summertime standards, but given the amount of activity of late, this might actually be something to get a bit excited over, especially in Hawaii. Of course it hasn't even started to form yet, so it's anyone guess what will really happen.
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 off California is to build to 1028 mbs Saturday (8/30) with 35+ kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino into early Sunday, with a uptick in the windswell for exposed Central CA breaks on Sunday. But this to be a short lived event with the high fading directly thereafter and weak low pressure again taking up residence in the Gulf of Alaska late Monday aided by the building trough in the jetstream above it. Only 20 kt northwest fetch is to result though aimed at the Pacific Northwest. New high pressure at 1028 mbs to be building at the same time over the Aleutians in the Western Gulf, blocking the storm corridor and prevent Fall from starting in earnest.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (8/26) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fully in the Inactive phase and not supportive of North Pacific storm formation. The Daily SOI index was up to 20.09. The 30 day average was up to 4.5 and the 90 day average was up to 2.83, still neutral, but up compared to weeks and days previous. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated east winds over the entire Western Pacific reaching over the dateline almost to South America west of Peru. This appears to be the peak of the Inactive Phase. It's to slowly fade through the first week in September and be gone by 9/10. Unfortunately no signs of a building Active Phase are forecast suggesting no support for fueling the development of North Pacific storms into September. 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 no swell producing weather systems are forecast with the jetstream returning to it's old unfavorable ways directing all potential weather systems over ice.
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