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 Sunday (9/5) North and Central California was getting larger locally generated north windswell at head high or better and pretty warbled from strong north winds just off the coast. Southern California was encased in dense fog but from what we could tell it was about 1 ft up north through some windswell should be wrapping into exposed breaks in the knee high range and pretty warbled, though clean locally. No southern hemi swell of interest was occurring. There were some thigh high sets down south. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with summer sand clogging the reefs. The East Shore was getting knee high tradewind generated east windswell with lightly chopped conditions. The South Shore continued to have some knee high southern hemi sets coming through with clean conditions and trades light.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more local northwest local windswell on Monday at 5.5 ft on the face holding Tuesday at the same size then dropping to 3 ft on Wednesday and about the same on Thursday. More smaller windswell is expected on Friday too at 3.5-4.0 ft with more windswell of the same size is expected beyond. Southern California is to see some more north windswell for exposed breaks on Monday at almost waist high and then dropping from knee to thigh high on Tuesday and barely knee high on Wednesda. Windswell to be knee high or less through the rest of the workweek into the weekend. No southern hemi swell forecast. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf for the next 7 days. The East Shore to see no real short period east windswell with waves being knee high on Monday, then less than knee high through Saturday (9/11) maybe coming up a notch on Sunday to thigh high. The South Shore is to see nothing rideable through at least Wednesday, then maybe some thigh high background southern hemi swell will appear at sunset Friday holding into Saturday AM (9/11) before dropping out.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days though the models continue to hint at more activity in the West Pacific that we've seem for months, but seas to remain below 20 ft. Otherwise only locally generated short period north windswell is expected for North and Central CA through the early part of the week then dropping off but not out. Down south the models had suggested that a small gale might form southeast of New Zealand this weekend, but that has evaporated from the charts. But a new system is now on the charts developing under New Zealand on Monday (9/6) with seas to 35 ft then tracking gently northeast Tuesday into Wednesday while holding strength before getting an infusion of new energy while pushing north on Thursday through the Southeast Pacific producing a small area of 34 ft seas before tracking east out of the California swell window. This system is not to be impressive, but it holds reasonable odds of actually forming and producing some rideable southern hemi swell if and when it does form. At least there's something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (9/5) the North Pacific jetstream continued flowing generally over the 45N latitude line, with a weak trough over the west extending east to the dateline and a weak ridge over the east centered in the Gulf of Alaska. Winds speeds were generally below 1o0 kts over it's width other than a small pocket of winds to 130 kts pushing north of the dateline at the transition line between the trough in the west and the ridge in the east. There was no clear support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the weak trough in the west is to loose definition but still generally be intact while the ridge builds slightly in the west and a backdoor trough develops over British Columbia pushing south reaching south to about San Francisco on Wednesday AM (9/8). There even a hint of rain that far south too, but any odds of it actually developing are low. Still, maybe rain and snow flurries at high elevations over the Pacific Northwest. With La Nina in play, this pattern of cold core lows dropping down the coast is to be expected. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the west is to hold between Kamchatka and the dateline if not getting slightly more defined and supporting weak low pressure at lower levels of the atmosphere while the modest ridge persists over the Gulf of Alaska supporting high pressure down at the surface, with the jet flowing generally into the PAcific Northwest. No real support for gale development is suggested, but not real support for advanced high pressure is in the cards either.
At the surface on Sunday (9/5) high pressure at 1032 mbs continued over the Eastern Pacific centered 900 nmiles west of Central Oregon, a bit further east than has been the norm of late. It was ridging east to about Oregon generating a stronger pressure gradient over Northern CA producing 30 kt north winds there and producing slightly larger local windswell than has been typical for Central CA. A low pressure system was also circulating over the dateline just south of the Aleutians with up to 30 kt south winds in it's east quadrant all aimed towards the Aleutians. No swell production for Hawaii or the mainland US is evident. Trades at 15 kts were pushing over Hawaii but not forecast to get any strong and if anything are to falter with the high pressure system in the Gulf too far to the north. Over the next 72 hours the pressure gradient over North CA is to hold through early Monday (9/6) producing north winds at 30 kts and moderate windswell for Central CA, then moderating with winds barely 25 kts on Tuesday and then 15 kts 24 hours later and impacting the entire Central CA coast. The low over the dateline is to track northeast up into the Bering Sea and be gone for our purposes, only to have another tropically fueled low develop off Kamchatka on Wednesday (9/8) producing 25 kts winds, but too far to the west to be of any interest to even Hawaii. Trades to remain generally at 15 kts or less over the Islands, with high pressure holding over the Eastern Pacific, but to far to the north and retrograding back west some allowing the gradient to die over Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical activity of interest is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/5) high pressure at 1034 mbs was ridging into Oregon generating a solid pressure gradient and 30 kts north winds over Cape Mendocino producing larger north windswell pushing down into Central CA and select breaks in Southern CA. If anything this pattern is to only be more pronounced Monday AM with a lighter nearshore flow forecast while 30 kt north winds hold early to the north. By Tuesday the gradient is to collapse and 20 kt north fetch is to start sinking south pushing into the Central CA coast late and holding. Wednesday a 15 kt northerly flow is to be impacting all of North and Central CA with chop the expected result though Southern CA is to remain protected. .More of the same is forecast on Thursday, with the fetch finally lifting a bit north and moderating nearshore on Friday, with perhaps a light eddy flow in effect. The weekend is looking to see a mixed bag of north winds at 15 kts in the afternoons for North and Central CA but perhaps a bit lighter in the mornings. Southern CA is to remain unaffected.
On Sunday (9/5) the jetstream remained well split in the east and under Australia, but a bit of a convergence of the stream was occurring from New Zealand and just a bit east of there. No troughs of interest were yet developing, but for the first time in weeks there was some signs of weakness in what otherwise has been an impossibly split jetstream flow. And a huge ridge was in control over the East Pacific offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours at the point where the two jetstream flows converge, a trough is to start developing Tuesday AM (9/7) well southeast of New Zealand with it's apex at 57S 150W and building steadily northeast, reaching 50S 133W Wed PM with up to 130 kt winds flow up into it. This is to produce decent odds to support gale development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to hold while easing slowly east with a more northward flow of 130 kt winds feeding up into it, offering good odds for gale development into Thursday (9/9) before fading and pushing out of the California swell window. A bit of a ridge is to be building behind it over New Zealand with the split jet flow returning, though not as strong as well previous. And if anything, another trough appears to be building under Australia. For now, that trough forecast mid-week is the best bet to watch.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1020 mbs was positioned over the East Pacific driving south winds at 35 kts towards Antarctica and providing the exact opposite of support for swell production for Northern Pacific A weak and disorganized pressure pattern was in play over the Southwest Pacific. Over the next 72 hrs a strong gale is to wrap up under New Zealand on Monday AM with 45-50 kt west winds building to 50 kts solid in the evening at 60S 175E aimed 20 degrees east of the 209 degree path into North CA barely shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Islands chain. Seas to reach 35 ft at 58S 174E (210 degs CA and 194 degs for Hawaii). A large area of 45 kt southwest winds to continue Tuesday AM at 55S 170W producing 36 ft seas at 56S 175W again heading right up the 209-210 degree route to CA and 188 degrees towards Hawaii. Having the fetch track right up the same great circle paths to CA might help improve set consistency. In the evening the fetch is to back off some though still covering a large area with 40-45 kt southwest winds at 49S 154W tracking up the 202 degree path to California, on the eastern edge of the Tahitian swell shadow and aimed well east of the 178 degree path to Hawaii. 36 ft seas to persist at 54S 163W (202 degs CA). By Wednesday AM (9/8) the fetch is to fragment and decay with smaller areas of 40 kts southwest winds trying to hang on at 48S 145W and seas from the original fetch at 34 ft at 50S 153W. In the evening a tiny area of 40 kts south winds is to develop at 48S 150W getting traction on an already agitated ocean surface, producing more 32 ft seas at 46S 158W (203 degs CA - 180 degs HI) and faltering on Thursday AM at 43S 147W. The models suggest some degrees of limited 35 kt south-southwest fetch is to hold while tracking northeast through Friday PM (9/10) producing up to 35 ft seas reaching to 36S 132W 190 degs CA). before dissipating. In all a pretty interesting scenario, especially considering the complete lack of swell and fetch in the Southern Hemi at present. Certainly something to monitor.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs the same pattern is to hold with low pressure lifting northeast just off Kamchatka producing 25 kt winds, but too far away from even Hawaii to be of interest. And high pressure is to hold over the East dropping to only 1024 mbs by Saturday (9/11) making for 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino CA with only meager local windswell resulting and trades at 15 kts over Hawaii offering little in terms of windswell production there. There's suggestion of a 1004 mbs low developing off Vancouver Island later Sunday (9/13) producing up to 25 kt north winds aimed south towards the Pacific Northwest, but even that is likely an optimistic assessment at this early date. For now it looks like more of the same while we wait for the first Fall gale to develop. And it might be a few weeks or more for that to occur, until some decent push of the Active Phase of the MJO occurs.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (9/5) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued bulletproof in the positive range. The daily SOI was up to 30.13 (43.5 the day before) and has been that way in excess of 48 days. The 30 day average was up to 22.18 with the 90 day average up to 14.73. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to still be in control.
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (9/20) (latest data from BOM) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was again in control with strong east anomalies over the Philippines pushing in to the mid-Indian Ocean and reaching east to a point south of Hawaii. What was the Active Phase of the MJO was already over Central AMerica and fading fast. This pattern was to continue with easterly anomalies and the INactive Phase holding over the West Pacific reaching almost to the dateline on 9/7 then slowly dissipating into 9/22. No sign of the Active Phase and it's much needed westerly anomalies on the equator through then.This does not do much for building a Fall pattern over the North Pacific.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate to moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remained of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/2) indicates that downright cold waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea. The coldest waters extended from a point south of Hawaii to just west of the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of cooler than normal water continued building off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America. This is good for sea life and the food chain (since they tend to like colder waters), but bad for storm production. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This continues the turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters has stalled in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific. This was of concern to hurricane forecasters there. But it appears residual upper level shear from El Nino has done a good job of if not chopping the tops off developing systems, at least directing then to the north. But that shear appears to be fading some as we move into the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic. Regardless of this year, next year might be a very strong hurricane producer, with the El Nino shear gone and a mature La Nina in control.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (getting colder). Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. But from a historical perspective these easterly winds were not anomalous, only in the normal range. And this has been the case all summer. But the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing to towards South America to flowing towards the west in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around (i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. .Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through early Fall 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with low pressure continuing to lift northeast through Sunday (9/12) producing more 30 ft seas down at 50S 124W, on the eastern edge of the CA swell window. But west of there no immediate swell production is forecast with high pressure appearing to have the upper hand, at least for a little bit more.
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