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 (12/22) North and Central California was getting nice long period swell from the northern dateline region, but it was blown to bits by local 30 kt north winds. Southern California was mostly shadowed from this energy with only local windswell getting in. Waves were waist high and blown to smitherines. Painful to look at. A little cleaner down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more sideband north swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead at better spots and still a bit warbled. The East Shore has getting a little wrap-around energy at waist to chest high. The South Shore was asleep for the winter.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for fading swell from the northern dateline region to continue Wednesday at 1 ft overhead and cleaning up. A new dateline swell is expected on late Thursday getting some size (4 ft overhead) after sunset continuing through Christmas at 2-3 ft overhead, then fading out the day after. Southern California to see limited northern dateline region swell on Wednesday to possibly chest high at exposed break, with north local swell intermixed then fading on Thursday. New inconsistent dateline swell is expected for Christmas Day at head high then fading through Saturday (12/26). The North Shore of Hawaii is to see some action with larger longer period swell from the dateline expected to hit after sunset on Tuesday (12/22) pushing 11 ft (Hawaiian) by sunrise Wednesday (12/23). This swell to continue fading from double overhead on Thursday. Possible large swell is expected in for Christmas. The East Shore is to have no easterly windswell. The South Shore is in hibernation for the winter.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) has resurged nicely back into the Active Phase, helping to fuel the development of a strong of winter storms in the West Pacific. A solid gale pushed over the dateline Sun/Mon (12/21) with up to 35 ft seas targeting mainly Hawaii with small significant class swell forecast there overnight Tuesday (12/22). Limited lesser swell for the US mainland late Christmas Eve. A far strong storm is developing today west of the dateline and expected to push over the dateline Wednesday before fading north of Hawaii on Thurs (12/24) producing up to 40-44 ft seas. Significant class swell is expected for Hawaii Christmas Day with lesser energy pushing towards the US West Coast. This remains a projection, but decent fetch is getting traction on the oceans surface. Weak but still decent energy to follow behind too. Looks like a good run of longer period modest sized surf is to be expected for the US West Coast with a significant class swell possible for at least the Islands.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (12/22) the North Pacific jetstream has flowing hard off Southern Japan pushing 200 kts as it crossed over the dateline and falling into a developing trough north of Hawaii, but also .cgiitting there with the energy tracking equally up into Northern Canada and over Central Baja. Good support for strong gale development occurring in the trough north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hrs this pattern is to hold with the trough getting better defined and the .cgiit to the east also stronger. Winds to slowly fade feeding into the trough, down to 170 kts Thurs (12/24) then resurging on Friday pushing back to 190 kts, pushing the .cgiit point to within 600 nmiles of the Central CA coast. Good support for gale redevelopment there. Beyond 72 hours the trough on the leading edge of the core jet energy is to continue trying to inch east with up to 140 kts winds on Sunday (12/27) almost pushing into CA while a continued decent and consolidated flow of 130-140 kts winds are to be pushing flat over the greater Pacific. A weak trough is to try and develop over the dateline but not quite make it. A new patch of 150 kt winds to regenerate off Japan on Tues (12/29) while the lading edge trough pushes over CA and a new steep trough builds just off the coast. No clear sign of storm supportive troughing forecast for the greater Pacific, though sufficient energy levels are to be present.
At the surface on Tuesday (12/22) a co.cgiex double barrelled gale was straddling the dateline pushing east (see Storm #8 below). Swell from Storm #7 was approaching the Hawaiian Islands (see Storm #7 below). Swell From a Storm that was over the northern dateline region was hitting Central CA (see North Dateline Storm below). Otherwise weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was off California generating strong north winds along the coast there. Over the next 72 hours the main focus will be the eastward migration of Storm #8, expected to make it a point north of Hawaii then deteriorate while stalling, stuck by the .cgiit jetstream off the coast California coast.
North Dateline Storm
Swell from it is expected to up into the Pacific Northwest and reaching Central CA starting early Tuesday (12/22) at 5 AM with period 18 secs peaking mid-day with swell possibly to 6.2 ft @ 17 secs (9 ft faces). Swell fading on Wednesday from 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8 ft faces). Swell Direction: 305-305 degrees.
On Friday (12/18) a storm was at the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians generating a decent sized area of 55 kt west winds at 49N 178E aimed right down the 304 degree path to NCal producing seas of 42 ft at the same location. This system was at it's peak and then moved into the Bering Sea within 12 hours with all fetch fading out.
Storm #7 (Hawaii)
On Sunday (12/20) a large pool of low pressure was over the dateline extending from almost the Kuril Islands east towards the Central Gulf of Alaska. Embedded within that was a fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds that had generated an area of 29 ft seas pushing from Japan towards the dateline on Saturday PM (12/19). On Sunday AM (12/20) that fetch had produced 35 ft seas at 37N 173E on the 308 degree path to Hawaii and pushing pretty well south of the 289 degree path to NCal. In the evening 32 ft seas were modeled at 35N 180W and fading fast. Some form or modest significant class swell is expected for Hawaii with lesser sideband west swell for exposed breaks in CA.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (12/22) at 7 PM HST with swell quickly ramping up to 8 ft @ 17 secs (13-14 ft faces). Swell Direction 307-308 degrees. Swell dropping from 8 ft @ 14 secs on Wednesday at sunrise (11 ft Hawaiian).
North California: Expect swell arrival at 10 PM Thurs (12/24) with swell 6.2 ft @ 17 secs (10 ft faces) fading overnight with swell 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8 ft faces) on Christmas Day . Swell Direction 285-290 degrees
Storm #8 (Hawaii)
On Monday (12/21) a new gale started building off Northern Japan with pressure 984 mbs and a tiny area of 45-50 kt west-northwest winds setting up and growing in areal coverage through the day, covering a solid area by evening at 42N 160E aimed best at Hawaii down the 312 degree path. 25 ft seas were building. On Tuesday AM (12/22) a .cgiit fetch of 45 kt west winds was modeled at 41N 163E with a secondary fetch racing ahead of it also at 45 kts. 37 ft seas were building at 41N 163E. In the evening a dual fetch pattern is to continue with 45 kts winds holding and sinking southeast at 39N 174E with the second fetch at 45 kts developing around the core of the low pressure center at 41N 172W. 43 ft seas are forecast from the old fetch at 40N 174E pushing directly towards Hawaii down the 313 degree path and 25 degree south of the 294 degree path to NCal. Wednesday AM (12/23) the core fetch is to start taking prominence with 45-50 kt northwest winds at 42N 163W and starting to assimilate the more southerly fetch (45 kts west winds). 44 ft seas forecast at 38N 180W (315 deg HI), and 42 ft seas at 42N 165W (292 NCal). Finally in the evening the two fetches are to somewhat consolidate with a solid fetch of 40-45 kt west winds forecast at 36N 162W aimed a bit east of the 331 degree path to Hawaii and 30 degree south of the 283 degree path to NCal. 41 ft seas are forecast at 37N 168W. The fetch is to be fading fast on Thursday AM (12/24) with 40 kt mostly west winds forecast at 44N 160W generating seas of 39 ft over a small area at 36N 160W pushing 20 degrees south of the 279 degree path to NCal with nothing aimed at Hawaii. In the evening 35-40 kt fetch is to be fading at 45N 160W with seas from previous fetch fading from 31 ft down at 36N 148W (273 degs NCal).
Assuming all this develops exactly as modeled some degree of significant class swell seems likely for Hawaii with possible smaller long period energy pushing towards the US West Coast. Virtual fetch looks likely for Hawaii in the 17 secs period frequency resulting in higher number of waves per set and increased set consistency. The real issue with this system is th dual fetch configuration, with the lead smaller fetch stealing all the energy from the larger, trailing fetch. The models on Monday (12/21) showed these two fetches becoming assimilated into one large fetch, with near 50 ft seas resulting. But as of Tuesday (12/22) they were expected to remain distinct-separate entities, with lesser seas the result.
Hawaii: Based mostly on modeled output and for.cgianning purposes, expect swell arrival in the Islands on Friday (12/25) at 4 AM HST with period 20 secs and size steadily pushing up. Expect the core of the swell to arrive right at noon with swell peaking at 11.5-12.5 ft @ 17 secs (20-23 ft Hawaiian) and a good number of waves per set and fairly consistent sets. Period dropping towards 14 secs near 3 AM Saturday (12/26) and size slowly heading down. Swell Direction: 311-317 degrees with some energy later in the swell up to 325-330 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/22) north winds were blowing to 30 kt over Central CA and getting a toe into Southern CA, with conditions a mess most everywhere. This pattern is expected to slowly break up on Wednesday, but still northwest even into Southern CA and not turning offshore in Southern and Central CA until early Thursday AM (12/24). Calm to light offshores to follow through Saturday (12/26). A weak high pressure system is to form off the Central CA coast on Sunday and start drifting east, possibly generating north winds by late afternoon and holding early Monday. Then a new small local low is forecast forming Tuesday (12/29) pushing into the state with south winds and rain.
The MJO has moved back into a fairly solid active state.
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
At the surface no swell producing fetch was occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 yet another small storm is forecast forming over the dateline early Friday (12/25) with 45 kts west fetch, but only over a tiny area pushing east for 24 hours. Maybe 32 ft seas to result. A broader system is to try and develop from this systems remnants in the Central Gulf Sun/Mon with 35 kts west winds and 23-25 ft seas possible. Maybe some 13-14 sec period more northerly angled swell to result for the US West Coast later in the week with limited follow-on energy behind that. Looks like the lions share of the swell is being generated now.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (12/22) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) had moved back into the Active Phase, and strongly so with the SOI well into negative territory. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index was negative with the Daily SOI at -22.11 (9 days in a row). The 30 day average was down to -10.82 while the 90 average was down to -10.62. This continues looking good.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicating westerly anomalies were in control from North Central Australia ramping up solidly over the dateline and pushing east into Central America on over the Atlantic into Africa, providing a nice canvas for storms to develop upon in the Pacific. This area is about peaked out and is expected to slowly fade on the dateline through 12/26, then with remnants drifting east into the east equatorial Pacific into Jan 3. Support for storm formation expected in this region though these timeframes. A stronger version of the Inactive Phase is forming in the Indian Ocean and expected to seep east to New Guinea through 12/31, then fading while pushing over the dateline Jan 5th and beyond. This Inactive Phase is likely to starting suppressing storm formation by 12/31 and continue through 1/21/2010. Plan accordingly.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (12/21) indicated that warmer than normal waters were consolidated on the equator from Ecuador and Columbia west to the dateline and even west of there, and starting to strengthen in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. A new strong Kelvin Wave (see below) was erupting along the coast and some evidence of it can be seen with a most solid warm anomaly signature present over and just west of the Galapagos Islands. It is expected that water temps will continue to increase yet more over the coming months as this Kelvin Wave (see below) continues impacting the coast there while a new one builds under the dateline pushed east. This is classic El Nino. Overall the warm water signature remains non-exceptional from a historical El Nino perspective, but clearly in the moderate category and slowly but steadily building. This appears to be a late blooming ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator things continue to look most favorable. A steady flow of warmer than normal subsurface water continues tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America as it has for months now. As of 12/22 the Kelvin Wave we've been tracking with a core of 5-6 deg C warmer than normal sub-surface water was impacting the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador coast while holding together pretty well. This is fueling an increase in the warm water surface pool as it continues impacting the coast there. This pool is expected to continue building and eventually tracking back west on the equator driven by trades. This Kelvin Wave first appeared under the dateline on 9/17 and tracked steadily east through 12/1 and was the result of a prolonged persistent westerly surface wind flow that had been in.cgiace west of the dateline from 9/8 and continued into 11/5. Of additional interest was the development of a new pocket of warm water on the dateline, with anomalies now up to 4 deg C above normal and continuing to slowly grow in areal coverage as it eased east, currently at about 160W. This is a new small reinforcing Kelvin Wave.
Over the Equatorial Pacific anomalous surface winds started to move from the west to the east on 11/28 extending the whole way from Indonesia to a point south of Hawaii, with fully blowing west winds confirmed in the far West Pacific. This was a new Westerly Wind Burst and continued very obvious on 11/30 with fully blowing west winds near 165E, and strong. This Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued on 12/2 through 12/8 with a most solid area of west winds pushing almost to the dateline. On 12/6 strong west anomalies pushed to 170W and held solid through 12/15, with fully blowing west winds reaching to the dateline and anomalies to 170W. This WWB started fading by 12/17 but was still present pushing to 175E with neutral (normal) winds east of there. Fully blowing West winds were evidenced on Sat (12/19) and Mon (12/21) reaching to the dateline with westerly anamolies pushing well southeast of Hawaii. This configuration is feeding the a newly developing Kelvin Wave under the dateline (see above), and is helping to fuel the development of El Nino. If anything, subsurface water temps are expected to increase as the WWB continues pushing warm water into the depths on the dateline, feeding the developing Kelvin Wave there. And the Kelvin Wave currently hitting Ecuador was formed from a prolonged bout and mult.cgie pulses of westerly winds and westerly anomalies that occurred from 9/8 through 11/2. At one point towards it's end the anomalies reached the whole way from the West Pacific to almost Ecuador. Embedded in that run were Typhoons Dujuan, Choi-Wan, Parma, Melor and Nepartak. All this helped to deepen the surface warm pool in the tropical Eastern Pacific. Typhoon Nida and Storm #5 was associated with the most recent WWB. So at this time two Kelvin Waves are in the pipe. Impressive.
El Nino is expected to affect the global atmospheric weather pattern at least through Spring of next year if not into the middle of summer. All data suggests this will not be a strong El Nino, more likely a moderate one. NOAA's last update (11/5) forecasts the same outcome, though hints at some uncertainty. In short, all the best models aren't exactly sure how this is going to.cgiay out. Regardless a solid accumulation of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific is evidence in-favor of continued development. As long as there continues to be WWB's (as there obviously is), then warm water will be migrating east, and the warm water pattern will hold if not build, and the atmosphere above it will respond in-kind to the change (towards El Nino). At this point there is no evidence to suggest this El Nino will stall or dissipate. The only remaining question is whether it will hold, or grow. And current data indicates that the warm pool will hold if not slowly build. And historically it is already larger and strong than any other in the past 12 years.
The current El Nino is gaining strength, with a 2 degree water temp anomaly in the tropical East Pacific the likely outcome. Coverage is pretty solid for this event, but the lack of really high water temp anomalies will likely limit it's strength. Strong El Ninos bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast, along with the potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides storm and swell enhancement, a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, but without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. As of right now things remain better than anything the Pacific has seen in the past 12 years regarding anomalous sea surface temperatures, besting anything since the big El Nino of 1997. That is very good news. But the lack of anomalous water temps exceeding 3 degrees and an unremarkable SOI suggests a modest El Nino at best. Still, it should be enough to provide storm enhancement, and a better than average winter surf season for the North Pacific, and still likely better than anything in the past 10 years. Better yet, if it's not too strong (as this event appears to be) perhaps it will not degrade into La Nina the year after (which typically happens after stronger El Ninos), but hold in some mild El Nino like state for several years in a row. This would be an even better outcome.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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