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 (11/30) North and Central California was getting maybe waist high sets and clean with no winds and clear skies. Southern California had thigh high wrap around northwest swell with textured conditions and chopped at unprotected breaks up north. Down south it was effectively the same. Hawaii's North Shore was getting no defined swell with waves thigh high and clean. The East Shore report was not available. 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 surf bumping up a little on Wednesday to 5.5 ft (faces) coming from the Gulf of Alaska holding Thursday at 6.0 ft and again 6 ft on Friday. Saturday surf drops from 4.5 ft with new Gulf swell possibly arriving Sunday to 6.5 ft faces. Ridable and fun. Southern California is to see no ridable surf on Wednesday then thigh to waist high wrap around windswell arrives for Thursday holding Friday. Saturday windswell fades from thigh high then new swell builds to waist high for Sunday all from a pretty northerly direction. The North Shore of Oahu is to see north angled swell at chest high on Wednesday (12/1) fading from waist to chest high Thursday and turning more northeasterly and then dropping out on Friday. Saturday and Sunday no ridable swell is forecast. The East Shore is to see east windswell at waist high plus on Wednesday pushing chest high Thursday and 4 ft overhead on Friday. East windswell drops to 2-3 ft overhead on Saturday holding Sunday. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
A gale was in the Northeastern Gulf generating 30-35 kt northwest winds on Tuesday (11/30) and 22 ft seas but expected to fade out and move inland over Canada by Wednesday, likely setting up limited north angled swell for the Pacific Northwest reaching Central CA by Thursday. Another pulse is expected a little west of that location Thursday falling to a point 700 nmiles west of Oregon on Friday producing up to 40-45 kt northwest winds and 26 ft seas late Friday, possibly setting up better swell reaching down into CA for Sunday (12/5). And a broader but weaker gale is to follow in the Northeastern Gulf on Sun-Tues (12/7) with 35 kt north winds and 26 ft seas, likely making more swell the middle of next week. But period is to be only in the 12-13 sec range on any of these and pretty well north angled making only for fun sized ridable surf assuming local winds cooperate.
The La Nina induced backdoor coldfront pattern remains in effect but is to be repositioned a bit west, focused more on Oregon and over the ocean, but still providing s decent smattering of snow down into the Central Sierras. Get the 84 hr hi-res forecast here: Snowforecast
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (11/30) the same old split jetstream pattern remained in effect over the North Pacific, heavily influenced by La Nina. The jet was pushing northeast off Japan with the main flow pushing into the Bering Sea over the dateline and then down over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with a weak semi permanent trough holding off British Columbia down into just west of the Pacific Northwest supporting the development of low pressure there. The jet split off Japan with a weak secondary flow tracking southeast over Hawaii and fragmenting almost dissipating east of there. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with a single flow pushing off Japan then splitting heavily with most energy taking the northern route through the Southern Bering Sea dipping south forming a weak trough over the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska then tracking into the US West Coast with a weak secondary flow pushing southeast into Central America. No real support for gale development indicated other than whatever happens to develop in the Eastern Gulf in that trough there. Beyond 72 hours no change is forecast and if anything, the split jetstream pattern is to only get more pronounced with a little more energy moving into that trough in the eastern Gulf, with winds to 130 kts there providing more support for gale development in the lower levels of the atmosphere off Washington.
At the surface on Tuesday (11/27) a weak gale low at 980 mbs was tucked up into the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska producing 35 kt northwest winds at 54N 145W resulting in 23 ft seas at 53N 140W. By late evening this system is to be dissipating. At beset some degree of limited north angled semi-swell is forecast reaching into Central CA on by Thursday at 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft faces). Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked in just east of the dateline reaching up into the Bering Sea and south to almost Hawaii, forcing the storm track up into the Bering Sea then falling southeast into the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska, same as it has been most of this Fall. More high pressure as east of Japan too. pretty much making an immovable barrier that any east moving storm system has to track north of. Over the next 72 hours another similar gale is to develop in the Northern Gulf on Thursday (12/2) with a tiny area of 45 kt northwest winds (from the interaction of low pressure in the Gulf and high pressure at 1036 mbs north of Hawaii ridging northward). The gale is to fall southeast in the evening with more 45 kt northwest winds at 50N 148W generating seas of 26 ft over a tiny area at 51N 148W. The gale is to be fading fast Friday AM with 35 kt northwest winds at 44N 141W with 25 ft seas fading at 46N 145W. If all this comes to pass some degree of northwest semi-swell might result for Northern and Central CA on Sunday (12/5).
Also strong high pressure building north of Hawaii on Wed-Fri (12/3) to generated 20+ kt easterly winds resulting in larger windswell for Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands starting Friday and holding through the weekend in the 9-10 ft @ 9 sec range (8-9 ft faces) from 60-80 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 (11/30) weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was inland over eastern Nevada tracking east with a tail still dangling off California. Light winds were in effect over the state while a front associated with a new gale in the Eastern Gulf was sagging south into Oregon. That front is to dissipate over Northern CA late Tuesday though light rain from it is to slowly ease south into maybe Point Arena as late as Thursday AM (12/2). Light winds to hold for everywhere south of there. A new local low pressure system is to start spinning up over Central CA on late Thursday pulling rain southward to Morro Bay late Friday with snow forecast for the Lake Tahoe region, but the low itself is to dissipate. Maybe a some 15 kt north winds are to develop over Central CA then. By Saturday (12/4) another low is to be sinking south well off the Central CA coast with light offshore winds in control though the weekend. But a new front is to be queuing up just off the CA coast on Monday with south winds building into Central CA during the day and rain filtering into as far south as Morro Bay late continuing into Tuesday (12/7).
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 another broad low pressure system is to drop out of the Bering Sea into the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday PM (12/4) producing 35-40 kt northwest winds over a decent sized fetch area through Monday resulting in 26 ft seas at 47N 150W on Monday AM (12/6) fading while tracking west into Tuesday PM with 20 ft seas just off the Oregon-CA boarder. Possible larger northwest swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA if this develops as forecast (low odds at this early date). No swell is expected to reach down into the Hawaiian swell window.
Otherwise high pressure and east winds are forecast for the dateline and points west of there (not good).
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (11/30) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory, but not overtly strong. The daily SOI was at 22.39. The 30 day average was up some at 16.31 with the 90 day average unchanged at 20.45. Overall, averages remained high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (11/29) 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 12/19). But we continue to suspect this is an undercall by the models. Previous runs had indicated the Inactive Phase of the MJO was building in the Central Indian Ocean 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 all recent runs of the models indicated a dead neutral pattern expected into mid December with neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase in effect. If the weather pattern of late is the result of no anomalies (either positive or negative), and no change is forecast, then one can logically expect no real change in the gale pattern. But overall this looks very much like Inactive Phase of the MJO is occurring embedded in a moderate plus strength La Nina.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/29) 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 and not expanding their coverage. Maybe we have already reached the peak of this La Nina event, but that is likely just wishful thinking. A broad secondary area of cold 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