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 (9/14) North and Central California was tiny with minimal locally generated short period north windswell at knee to thigh high and textured with high level fog. Southern California was knee high or less up north and clean pushing thigh to waist high down south and a little textured with minimal southern hemi swell in the water. 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 was getting the New Zealand swell with waves chest high and clean with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small north windswell continuing on Wednesday (9/15) at barely 2 ft but with southern hemi background swell at 2.5 ft from the southwest and very weak. Thursday small southern hemi swell starts building late to 3.5-4.0 ft (faces), pushing to 5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft on Friday AM (9/17) and holding at 5.0 ft with sets to 6.5 ft Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell starting to fade from 4 ft with sets to near 5 ft on Sunday (9/19). Southern California is to see next to nothing on Wednesday, then southern hemi swell starts Thursday pushing to 4 ft (faces) with sets to 5 ft late. Swell building some overnight pushing to 5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft Friday AM (9/17) and holding at 5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell starting to fade Sunday with 4 ft faces with sets to near 5 ft. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no ridable surf until Sunday, when theoretically some energy from the dateline arrives possibly pushing 7 ft on the face. Hard to believe though. The East Shore to see short period east windswell at maybe thigh to waist high on Wednesday and a few inches more on Thursday holding Friday then down to waist high Saturday and less on Sunday. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell holding with faces 3-4 ft on Wednesday AM (9/15) with more energy arriving building to 4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft, then continuing at 4 ft faces with 5 ft sets on Thursday AM (9/16) and slowly fading from waist high or so by Friday AM.
Up north the models remnants of a weak tropical system are to push into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska on Wed/Thursday (9/16) resulting in 25 kts winds and maybe 12 ft seas pushing towards Oregon and Central California. At the same time a second tropical system is to track up to the dateline and organize better, holding just barely south of the Aleutians with 30 kt west winds generating 24-26 ft seas aimed well at CA, then fading from 18 ft on Friday, but a long ways away. Some swell likely for Hawaii but it is to be well decayed upon arrival in California. Down south swell from a gale that pushed east from under New Zealand last week with up to 36 ft seas (on Mon-Tues 9/7) then reorganized while making a turn to the north producing more 30-32 ft seas and aimed well to the north and unshadowed by Tahiti is to be arriving later this week on into the weekend. This really has a better chance for producing surf than the North Pacific system (directly above). Also another gale is to build in the Tasman Sea Thurs/Fri (9/17) with seas to 35 ft but all focused on Fiji, with only limited energy filtering into Hawaii and even less for the US West Coast. So for now the southern hemi swell is the best hope.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/14) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing off the southern Kuril Islands with 100 kt winds tracking flat over the dateline and actually dipping gently southeast before pushing into the Central CA coast. A good southward position for the time of year, but with no real velocity and no defined troughs of interest occurring to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours a trough is to quickly build tracking off the Kurils with maybe 110 kt winds flowing under it, then wrapping into a upper level closed isobar low on the dateline on Thursday before moderate while tracking east on Friday over the Western Gulf of Alaska. Decent support for low pressure development at the oceans surface if all goes as forecast. And a second even strong upper low is to develop in the jet off Oregon on Thurs/Friday (9/17) with 110 kt winds too with perhaps the same result. Beyond 72 hours things are to settle back down with no clearly defined troughs forecast, but with the jet tracking nicely flat over the 45N latitude with up to 150 kt winds build west of the dateline, though no troughs forming just yet. Looks like the Fall season change is starting to build in.
At the surface on Tuesday (9/14) weak high pressure that has been so dominant all summer was down to 1020 mbs and displaced well tot he south only serving to generate east-northeast trades at 15 pushing over Hawaii. In it's place a weak low pressure system at 1004 mbs was off Washington generating 15-20 kt west winds while the remnants of a tropical system were tracking fast west towards the dateline with winds modeled at up to 25 kts from the west. Over the next 72 hours the gale heading for the dateline is to reach it on Wednesday (9/15) while wrapping up nicely with 35-40 kt west winds building in it's southwest quadrant positioned just south of the Aleutians at 47N 180W and not moving any further to the north, producing 25-26 ft seas over a tiny area there (304 deg path to NCal). This system is to hold there Thursday with winds fading from 35 kts at 45N 180W but expanding some with seas at 24 ft at 45N 175W early then dissipating early Friday with seas dropping from 19 ft at 43N 173W 2100 nmiles away from NCal and 1800 nmiles from Hawaii (342 degs). Assuming this is to occur perhaps some small 13-14 sec period swell might result targeting Hawaii best Mon/Tues (9/21), with less for California. Something to monitor.
Also a low pressure system is to try and organize in the Gulf of Alaska Wed/Thurs (9/16) reaching down to 1000 mbs producing a small area of 20-25 kt northwest winds at 45N 145W resulting in 10-12 ft seas at 45N 142W possibly setting up some small 8 sec period west windswell for CA and Oregon, but not anything different than what has occurred all summer.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical activity of interest is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/14) weak low pressure at 1004 mbs was sitting 750 nmiles west of the Oregon/Washington border displacing summertime high pressure well south and west of it's usual position off San Francisco and serving to suppress the usual northwesterly wind flow over Cape Mendocino to 10 kts or less. As a result light local windswell were being experienced over Central and South CA. The low is expected to hold it's ground if not start sagging southeast into Sunday while fading, resulting in more light winds and good conditions, but also no local windswell production. High pressure is to try and sneak under the low ridging into Pt Conception, producing northwest winds there at 15 kts on late Wed into Thurs (9/16), then dropping over the Channel Islands Fri-Sun (9/19) possibly setting up a northerly flow over Southern CA too during that window. High pressure is to try and rebound northward on Monday 99/20) with northwest winds at 15-20 kts centered over Pt Conception but reaching up into North CA, then lifting north into Tuesday centered over San Francisco at 20 kts, basically covering the entire state save Southern CA. Warbled and messy conditions to return at that time.
On Tuesday (9/14) the jetstream was ridging south to nearly Antarctica over the mid-South Pacific with a weak trough just over South America with another south of Tasmania. In all there was no support for surface level gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours the exact same pattern is to hold with a solid ridge pushing south over the mid-South Pacific but with the trough in the West building and pushing north to the mouth of the Tasman Sea by Thursday (9/16) with 140 kt south winds feeding up into that trough, providing good support for gale development there. This trough to slow weaken and track east. Beyond 72 hours the remnants of the Tasman Sea trough are to be fading fast while falling southeast with no wind energy associated with it. If anything, all the jetstream energy in the South Pacific is to be falling southeast likely setting up a poor pattern to support swell producing gale development. But by early next week (Mon 9/20) there some signs of the big ridge moderating with a generalized and weak trough trying to migrated east from under New Zealand. No support for gale development indicated for the South Pacific, but at least it is not to be dominated by a strong ridge.
At the oceans surface on Tuesday (9/14) high pressure at 1036 mbs was locked down east-northeast of New Zealand reaching south to about the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf with steady northwest winds blowing over the West Pacific aimed at Antarctica. No swell production for US interests were indicated. Over the next 72 hrs no real change is forecast with the high pressure system locked in place dominating the weather scene and only serving to generate more northwest winds all aimed towards Antarctica offering no swell production aimed towards US interests.
That said, a very solid gale remains forecast forming south-southwest of Tasmania on Wed (9/15) with 45 kt south to southwest winds pushing mostly into Tasmania, with maybe a little reaching clear of it;s south end and tracking up into the extreme southern Tasmsan Sea. Lingering 40 kt southwest fetch is to finally make it free and clear of Tasmania on Thursday reaching to 35S 163E late resulting in 35 ft seas at 35S 160E then fading from 30 ft Friday AM (9/17) at 35S 167E, Northern New Zealand is to receive the brunt of this swell through a decent amount of energy is to reach up into Fiji, with perhaps some very filtered energy reaching up into Hawaii beyond with luck. But the bulk of the fetch is now forecast to be shadowed by Tasmania, prior to early optimistic estimates provided by the models.
South Pacific Gale
A strong gale started to wrap up under New Zealand on Monday AM with 45-50 kt west to almost southwest winds building, pushing to 50 kts solid in the evening at 60S 175E and aimed more to the northeast or 20 degrees east of the 209 degree path into North CA and barely shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Islands chain. Seas reached 34 ft at 59S 174E (210 degs CA and 194 degs for Hawaii).
A solid area of 45 kt southwest winds continued Tuesday AM at 57S 172W producing 36 ft seas at 58S 175W now heading right up the 209-210 degree route to CA and 35 degrees east of the 188 degree path towards Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern quadrant of this system at 18Z and reported a 15 reading average sea height of 32.1 ft with a one reading max on 37.4 ft where the model suggested 33 ft seas. It appears the model was right on track. Also having the fetch track right up the same great circle paths to CA might help improve set consistency. In the evening the fetch backed off some though still covering a reasonably large area with 40 kt southwest winds at 50S 156W 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. 32 ft seas persisted at 56S 165W (202 degs CA).
By Wednesday AM (9/8) the fetch fragmented and decayed with a smaller areas of 40-45 kts southwest winds trying to hang on at 50S 154W and seas from the original fetch at 30 ft at 51S 155W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the center of the fetch at 18Z and reported average seas of 29.3 ft with one peak reading at 36.7 ft, about exactly in line with what the model projected. In the evening a new broad fetch of 40-45 kt south-southwest winds developed at 56S 170W getting traction on an already agitated ocean surface, producing more 31 ft seas back at 55S 170W with seas from the original fetch at 30 ft at 50S 149W (196 degs CA - 187 degs HI).
This fetch held at 40-45 kts and aimed pure north from 49S 154W on Thursday AM with seas to 32 ft at 49S 158W. The models suggested a tiny area of up to 40 kt south winds peak out Thursday PM at 50S 143W pushing right up the 195 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti with sideband energy to Hawaii up the 175 degree path. 32 ft seas were modeled at 45S 152W.
On Friday AM (9/10) a big strong push north was forecast initially by the models with 40-45 kt south winds pushing well to the north at 42S 142W aimed right up the 196 degree great circle path to California and even with sideband energy aimed up the 169 degree path to Hawaii. Unfortunately that was a bit overblown, with only 30 ft seas resulting at 41S 146W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA. A quick fade occurred in the evening with winds dropping from 40 kts at 40S 140W but still aimed due north. Momentum from previous fetch held seas at 29 ft at 37S 140W. This extreme north position should greatly decrease swell decay.
A quick fade occurred thereafter.
In all this remains a reasonably positive scenario, with solid fetch and seas early in the storm life but a long ways away and aimed a bit east of the great circle tracks up to either Hawaii or California. The later half of this gales life did not develop anywhere near as strong as originally projected, but it did reach well to the north providing decent opportunities for our forecast area, but nothing over the top. Still, considering the complete lack of swell and fetch in the Southern Hemi, anything is a step in the right direction.
Hawaii: This swell to be holding in the 2 ft @ 15-16 secs range (3 ft faces) on Wednesday AM (9/15) as new swell from the second northward push of the storm arrives, building to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs near sunset (4 ft faces with set to 5 ft) then continuing at 2.3-2.5 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces with 5 ft sets) on Thursday AM (9/16) and slowly fading a period drops to 15 secs. 14 sec residuals expected on Friday and fading out. Swell Direction: 188 degrees initially turning to 1790-180 for the second half of the swell.
Southern California: Expect swell from the initial push of this storm arriving late Wednesday evening with period 20 secs. By Thursday AM (9/16) swell is to have a period of 19 secs and size tiny but building through the day, pushing to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft). Swell building some over night pushing to 3 ft @ 17 secs Friday AM (9/17) and holding (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) through the day through inconsistent. Swell from the second more northward push of the gale to start arriving late Friday midday with period at 17 secs and size building overnight, pushing 3.0 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell from the initial push to still be arriving to. Swell holding through late afternoon, then starting to fade with swell 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces with sets to near 5 ft) on Sunday (9/19). Swell Direction: Initial push from 202-210 degrees turning more towards 199-203 degrees for the second push.
North California: Expect swell from the initial push of this storm arriving Thursday AM (9/16) with period 19 secs and size tiny but building through the day, pushing to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft). Swell building some over night pushing to 3 ft @ 17 secs Friday AM (9/17) and holding (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) through the day through inconsistent. Swell from the second more northward push of the gale to start arriving late Friday night with period at 17 secs and size building, pushing 3.0 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell holding through late afternoon, then starting to fade with swell 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces with sets to near 5 ft) on Sunday (9/19). Swell Direction: Initial push from 200-208 degrees turning more towards 198-202 degrees for the second push.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs another little weak pulse of low pressure is to try and organize over the dateline Sunday (9/19) but only producing 25 kt southwest winds aimed at the Aleutians and offering no swell generation potential for our forecast area. Mid-next week a broad gale is forecast forming over Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands. Perhaps remnants from this system, if it were to form, might ease into the greater North Pacific. But that is mostly just a wild guess.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (9/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was up to 37.32 and has been that way in excess of 57 days now. The 30 day average was up to 24.24 with the 90 day average up to 17.25. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to still be in control.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (9/13) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was still in control with modest to light east anomalies covering the entire width of the tropical Pacific and pushing well into Central America. A weak incarnation of the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to build over the width of the Indian Ocean. This pattern was to continue with easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase tracking over the Eastern Pacific while fading and pushing into Central America through 9/23 then slowly dissipating into 9/28 while a weak version of the Active Phase and it's much needed westerly anomalies are forecast to try and push into the West Pacific on 9/18, making it halfway to the dateline by the 20th then stalling there and dissipating into 10/3. This is about the same as the previous forecast and might help to build a weak Fall weather pattern over the North Pacific. Also the movement of the Inactive Phase into the Atlantic might help to fuel hurricane development there through the end of Sept.
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 (9/13) indicates that downright colder than normal waters continue to expand 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 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 what is already an impressive 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 -6 degs below normal (getting colder). Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. And now from a historical perspective these easterly winds were anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this is a rather recent development, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. The interesting twist to all this is that the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. But trades never waiver from the normal range. 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 transition to 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 there suggestions of a decent gale with 45 kt west-southwest winds trying to track under New Zealand early next week. But that is a long ways off, and much can change before then.
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