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 (11/21) North and Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell out of the Gulf with waves 2 ft overhead and totally blown out with west wind 15+ kts on the beach. Southern California was getting none of that swell (too north an angle) with waves maybe thigh high on the sets and blown to bits.Down south it was maybe waist high and equally ugly. Hawaii's North Shore was the standout today with new dateline swell hitting providing waves of 7-8 ft on the face and bigger at top spots (maybe a little too north for one standout spot) and clean. Another spectacular day. The East Shore was getting maybe waist high wrap around energy from the dateline. and not too chopped. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for windswell fading Monday from 7 ft (faces) and down to 4 ft on Tuesday. Wednesday north local windswell is to push up to 7 ft and then Thursday down to 3 ft going flat on Friday. Southern California is to see north swell fading from waist high plus Monday and knee high Tuesday. Wednesday another push of north angled windswell is forecast at waist to chest high at exposed breaks fading to knee high Thursday and flat Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see dateline swell fading from maybe 1 ft overhead Monday and chest high Tuesday. Wednesday the last dateline pulse hits at 1 ft overhead fading Thursday from just under head high with waist high leftovers on Friday. The East Shore is to see no windswell until Thursday when it builds to chest high and maybe head high on Friday and linger there or a little less for a few days. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
One last little gale produced 12 hours of 24 ft seas tucked up by the Western Aleutians on Sat (11/20) all aimed south maybe setting up one more small pulse of swell for Hawaii on Wed (11/24), but that's it. High pressure rules supreme generating only east winds all aimed at Japan. High pressure has taken over the entire Eastern Pacific out to the dateline driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO with no change forecast for the next 3 weeks. With luck a gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Friday (11/26) producing 35 kt northwest fading to 30 kts while dropping southeast and pushing into Oregon on Sat (11/27). It is to generating 26 ft seas Friday evening, then down to 20 ft on Saturday. Maybe some decent north angled swell to result for the US West Coast north of Pt Conception, but that's really just a guess at this early date. Nothing else is on the charts.
The one bright spots is rain and snow (at upper elevations in the Tahoe area) has really come on as modeled with at least 2 ft of snow on the ground on top of a small base previously in place prior to the storm. And better yet is another 3-4 ft is forecast through Tuesday afternoon (11/23). Squaw opened the Red Dog Lift on Sunday and Kirkwood is forecast to open on Wednesday. Winter is here!
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sunday (11/21) the North Pacific jetstream was very weak with fragmented 120 kt winds pushing flat off Japan, then ridging hard north on the dateline pushing up into the Bering Sea the turning hard south falling into a trough just inland of the San Francisco Bay area. In all there was maybe limited support for low pressure development on the dateline, but that's it. Over the
next 72 hours energy level to remain sub-par with the flow pushing northeast off Japan and splitting with most energy taking the northern track through the Bering Sea feeding into the ridge moving east into Alaska, then all falling south into a trough focused over Lake Tahoe and Nevada. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72
hours the pattern is to only get more established with the flow tracking northeast up the Kuril Islands over the Aleutians then falling southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska on into the Pacific Northwest. Maybe limited support for gale development in the Northern Gulf late in the week with luck. High pressure looks to be norm for
the dateline region and most of the North Pacific. .
At the surface on Sunday (11/21) high pressure at 1020 mbs was off Japan with another at 1032 mbs in the Northern Gulf of Alaska. Weak low pressure was over the dateline producing maybe 25 kt north winds but of no real interest while remnants of another low were pushing onshore over Northern CA also producing 25 kt north winds off the coast there. But overall no real swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold off the US West Coast. Low pressure is to try and develop northwest of Hawaii Monday (11/22) but is to lift rapidly north and be over Alaska by Tuesday (11/23) offering no swell producing fetch. Another weak low is to be tracking east off Japan and is to form a gradient with high pressure building north of it to 1036 mbs (over the Northern Dateline region), generating only east winds at 35 kts all aimed back at Japan, with virtually no fetch aimed west towards Hawaii or the US West Coast. High pressure is to be in firm control.
Previously high pressure in the Western Gulf of Alaska forms a gradient with a backdoor low just off the Pacific Northwest Coast on Saturday (11/20) generating north winds at 30-35 kts near 41N 135W producing 22 ft seas in the evening at 40N 130W aimed towards Central CA. Larger raw short period north swell expected to hit the Central CA coast on Sunday late afternoon at maybe 8-9 ft @ 13 secs (10 ft faces) from 312+ degrees, fading into Monday AM (11/22).
Also a little gale produced 12 hours of 24 ft seas tucked up by the Western Aleutians through first light Sat AM (11/20) at 50N 170E all aimed south. this might set up one more small pulse of swell for Hawaii arriving on Wed (11/24) mid-day at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft faces) from 320 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (11/21) high pressure at 1036 mbs was in the Central Gulf of Alaska with low pressure at 1006 mbs over Oregon forming a pressure gradient and setting up northwest winds at 20-25 kt off the Pacific Northwest and 15-20 kts into Central CA. A tattered mess conditions wise. Monday those winds are to back off as the low reorganizes over Oregon pushing south inland with northwest winds over nearshore waters of North and Central CA. Light rain is forecast down to Monterey Bay with light snow for the mountains. Tuesday the low is to drop south into Central CA with 25 kt north winds along the coast, rain over the state and another good pulse of snow in the mountains. These winds are to push into Southern CA on Wednesday at 20 kts and linger in Central CA. rain fading up north but still a few drops down south. Snow fading early in Tahoe. In short, a real mess through that time. Clearing and light winds expected for Thursday (11/25) with conditions holding through the early weekend. But another backdoor low is forecast falling south with light rain possible by Sunday (11/28) and snow again for the mountains.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. 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 hold over the dateline but ease a little off the US West Coast by late in the workweek. This may allow a small gale to quickly drop out of the Eastern Bering Sea into the Northern Gulf of Alaska producing up to 40 kt northwest winds early Friday AM (11/26) but quickly fading to 30 kts in the evening repositioned off the Oregon coast. Seas to peak at 26 ft at 47N 143W Friday night (11/26) possibly setting up small swell for the US West Coast late in the Thanksgiving weekend with alot of luck.
Otherwise virtually no swell producing fetch is forecast.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Sunday (11/21) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding steady. The daily SOI was at 21.5. The 30 day average was down slightly at 13.90 with the 90 day average at 20.54 (down barely). Overall, averages were still high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (11/20) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated absolutely no anomalies with none forecast for the next 3 weeks (thru 12/10). But we continue to suspect this is an undercall by the models. Previous runs had indicated an area of mild westerly anomalies filling the tropical Pacific. The previous forecast indicated the Active phase was slowly dissipating, pushing into Central America on 11/20 then fading there through 11/25. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was already building in the Central Indian Ocean and was expected to drift east, reaching the Philippines about 11/25 and easing east from there while dissipating into 11/30, not pushing to the mid-Pacific. This pattern would suppress gale development. Both the current and previous runs of the models indicated a dead neutral pattern was expected by 12/5 with neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase in effect. but in reality, it looks very much like the Inactive Phase of the is occurring, regardless of what the models think.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/18) continues to indicate that downright cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a stable grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, but are not getting any colder, but instead are expanding their coverage. A broad secondary area of clod water was extending from a point off Chile pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. And a mirror image feeder band of cooler than normal water also extending west off the US West Coast sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling 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 strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (up from the -6 degs below normal on 10/18 and -7 degs in mid- Sept). Regardless, it is not moving and is not expected to move for months. This is 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).
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is expected 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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table