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 (10/19) North and Central California was getting warbled locally generated windswell at chest high with not much shape and fog on top. Southern California was getting wrap-around components of the same windswell with waves thigh high and nearly chopped up north. Down south waves were effectively flat and textured, but not chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and reasonably clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was near flat with light trades and almost clean. The South Shore was getting occasional thigh high sets and clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for Gulf windswell building Wednesday at 5 ft and then Gulf swell arriving for Thursday pushing 9 ft on the face. That swell fades on Friday from 7 ft with new local west windswell building on top late to 8 ft. Saturday that swell fades from 5 ft with more larger west windswell expected for Sunday at 6.5 ft. Southern California is to see maybe knee high northern windswell at exposed breaks for Wednesday. New Gulf swell builds later Thursday to near chest high fading from waist high early Friday. New thigh high northwesterly windswell expected in for Saturday maybe pushing waist high early Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see Gulf swell arriving on Wednesday at 9 ft (faces) and up to 10 ft on Thursday. Swell fades Friday from 1 ft overhead and down th thigh high Saturday. Nothing by Sunday. The East Shore is to see no tradewind generated east windswell until Sunday (10/24) and then only thigh high. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A decent gale dropped from the Bering Sea into the Northwestern Gulf on Monday setting up 26-30 ft seas then faded to the 20 ft range while pushing into the Central Gulf later Tuesday. Fun sized mid-period swell is to result for Hawaii starting Wednesday and the US West Coast by Thursday. A series of very weak local gales are to follow tracking from the Gulf into the Pacific Northwest Wed-Mon (10/25) resulting in rather raw moderate windswell for much of Central CA and bigger up into the Pacific Northwest, but rain and wind to be a factor further north.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/19) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing decently off Northern Japan running almost flat over the dateline with winds 150-170 kts, then falling into a small steep trough north of Hawaii (in the Gulf of Alaska) and rapidly weakening, with remnant energy lifting hard north into British Columbia. The trough in the Gulf has a little potential to support gale development at the oceans surface, but the limited winds energy associated with it was a negative factor. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to ease east pushing into Oregon and extreme Northern CA late Thursday offering only minimal support for gale development until then. But the jet is to sinking well south (to 43N) flowing flat over the dateline with 170 kt winds over a broad swatch of the dateline and a broad trough trying to take hold in the western Gulf offering improve odds for gale development there into late Friday (10/22). Beyond 72 hours all that wind energy on the dateline is to push east into Oregon and holding at 170 kts, with the weak Gulf trough easing into the coast there too. A messy weather scenario likely for the Pacific Northwest. A second weaker trough is to be setting up on the dateline pushing into the Gulf on Monday (10/25) offering more modest support for gale development there tracking into Washington while yet another pocket of 150 kts winds builds over the Kuril Islands lifting northeast fast (Mon-Tues 10/26) and targeting the Bering Sea, with a ridge building on the dateline. That energy is to eventually flow into the Gulf of Alaska, with the potential fro more modest gale development likely in that trough through mid-next week.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/19) a weak pressure pattern was in control of the Eastern Pacific with a 1024 mbs high pressure center mid-way between Hawaii and Central CA setting up generally light winds over the entire US West coast all the way to the Hawaiian Islands. Weak low pressure was in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska with high pressure at 1024 mbs over the dateline, neither of which were producing any fetch of interest. Further west a broad gale was circulating just off Kamchatka generating 40 kts west winds over exposed waters and starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas to 25 ft some small energy from this system is likely to result in minimal background swell for Hawaii starting late Saturday (10/23) at 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Over the next 72 hours a series of weak gales are to set up in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska east of Northern CA and tracking east before being deflected hard north by lingering high pressure inland. The first is expected forming Wed (10/10) about 600 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA lifting fast north-northeast into Thursday with winds to maybe 30 kts and secs to 18 ft at 42N 138W aimed well at the US West Coast. 11 sec period windswell to result for CA and Oregon maybe on Friday (10/22). A stronger one is forecast forming on Friday with possibly up to 45 kt northwest winds at 43N 138 with seas to 20 ft at 43N 133W in the evening. And yet a third and larger one is forecast for the same area on Saturday (10/23) with 45 kt west winds at 44N 138W with 24 ft seas at 44N 135W and building to 30 ft as it impacts the coast near Vancouver Island into Sunday. In all a very active but raw local pattern is forecast for the US West Coast though most of this is to be bypassing Hawaii, racing east just north of the Hawaiian Islands then developing only once it's clear of the Hawaiian swell window. That said - continuous 25 kt west to northwest winds are to be blowing from Kamchatka to the dateline and points east of there Wednesday (10/20) on through the weekend generating 18 ft seas pushing towards the Islands, with some degree of ridable 11 sec period windswell the likely result well into next week.
A broad gale built in the Eastern Bering Sea on Sat-Sun (10/17) with 35 kt northwest fetch starting to fall south of the Aleutian Islands Sunday AM at 50N 170W aimed best at the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy aimed at Hawaii from a very northerly angle. This fetch held and build in coverage Sunday evening. The fetch then started fading by Monday AM down to 30-35 kts at 50N 160W then dissipating by the evening. 25 ft seas resulted Sun PM at 49N 170W building to 30 ft Monday AM (10/18) at 48N 164W then fading Monday PM from 26 ft at 47N 159W with 20 ft residuals into Tues AM at 46N 151W. Possible 15-16 sec period swell is to result targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband energy reaching south towards Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday (10/20) mid-afternoon with period 14-15 secs and size building to 7 ft @ 14 secs at sunset (9 ft faces). Swell to continue overnight with peak energy arriving at 3 AM Thursday (10/21) at 8 ft @ 13-14 secs (19 ft faces) then fading later in the day. Swell Direction: 347 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday morning pushing 6 ft @ 16 secs (9 ft faces) with period slowly settling down to 15 secs at sunset. Swell Direction: 301-303 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/19) a light northwest wind pattern was in play over the Central Coast courtesy of weak high pressure at 1022 mbs located 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception and barely nosing into the area. Winds to get even lighter on Wednesday as the high dissolves and a low pressure pattern start building in the southeastern Gulf of Alaska pushing towards the Pacific Northwest. South winds to reach maybe down to Pt Reyes late Thursday with perhaps a few drops of rain down to Monterey Bay late evening. Light winds expected Friday for Central CA southward while another front/gale builds off the coast slamming into the Pacific Northwest on late Saturday with a front and rain pushing down to Monterey Bay late. Sunday rain to continue from San Francisco northward with the front sweeping through mid-day. High pressure to build in after that with a full on pressure gradient and 25 kt north winds taking control over Central CA on Monday (10/25) then starting to fade Tuesday but ragged conditions hanging on.
At the oceans surface on Tuesday (10/19) no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs high pressure is to get a foothold over the Northeast Pacific and dateline regions starting Sunday (10/24) likely suppressing low pressure development and fueling trades over Hawaii and local easterly windswell development there and some degree of a pressure gradient off Central CA by Monday (10/25) resulting in local north windswell and poor conditions. More low pressure is to be queuing up in the West Pacific, but it will likely have to take a route through the Bering Sea dropping southeast into the Gulf of Alaska later next week. Still, this is something to monitor.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (10/19) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued in the positive range after only a 3 day dip last week. The daily SOI was at 25.27. The 30 day average was at 23.55 with the 90 day average at 22.11 and incrementally rising (it can't get much higher).
Wind anomalies as of Monday (10/18) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO has settled down a bit, but still strong. Fading easterly anomalies were holding on over the the far Eastern Pacific from a point south of Hawaii into Central America over the equator, indicating a fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. In the West a strong Active Phase (west anomalies) was filling the Indian Ocean and tracking into the far Western Pacific almost reaching the dateline with the core over the Philippines (likely supporting typhoon development there. The Inactive Phase is forecast to quickly exit east over Central America and be effectively gone by 10/23 with the Active Phase starting to reach solidly over the dateline at that same time, and then moderating while filling the Pacific though 10/30 and slowly decaying through 11/7. A weak version of the Inactive Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean behind it. This is the first real Active Phase of the MJO so far this Fall and offers at least a tease of some potential fuel to support formation of North Pacific gales starting 10/18 and continuing for a few weeks thereafter (into the first week in November). In fact the models have now pick up on this trend with a series of gales forecast for the East Pacific. It is pretty typical for MJO Phases to be not well defined during summer months or during El Nino years, and to then become much more apparent as Fall develops, with the effects at the surface more obvious then too. The swing from Active to Inactive and back to Active becomes more pronounced too during La Nina years. So this is not unexpected. We'll be following the phase shifts much more closely this Winter because only during the active Phase will there be good potential for storm development.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/18) continues to indicate that downright colder than normal waters (-2 C degs or cooler) expanding 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 were on the equator, but a broad secondary area extended from a point off Chile pushing gently northwest towards 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 if not mature 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. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. 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 on 10/18 (getting a little warmer than previous readings of -7 degs in mid- Sept). regardless, this is still 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 now fully 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. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remainder 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. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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