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 Thursday (1/28) North and Central California was getting limited head high residual swell from the tail end of Storm #18 with clean conditions but nothing extraordinary. Southern California had small leftovers from Swell #18 too in the thigh to waist high range and clean up north but a little textured in OC. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a solid hit from Swell # 19 with waves 10-12 ft on the face, smaller than anticipated but still decent with northeast trades in effect. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore was asleep for the winter.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for Swell #19 to hit on Friday at 12 ft on the face with south winds again, dropping from 10 ft early Saturday with improving conditions and dropping on Sunday from 8-9 ft. Head high residuals expected on Monday then a little larger on Tuesday. Southern California is to see the same thing with Swell #19 building through the day Friday reaching head high or so up north late then holding at 1 ft overhead at top spots early Saturday, fading from shoulder to head high on Sunday with improving conditions. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see Swell #19 dropping from 3-4 ft overhead Friday with 1-2 ft overhead sets left on Saturday. Possible new swell expected on Sunday at 11-12 ft on the face. The East Shore is to have no easterly windswell. The South Shore is in hibernation for the winter.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is strongly in the Active Phase with El Nino still controlling the storm track. One would expect a decent storm pattern in.cgiay, but that is not the case, at least not for the next 5 days or so. But 1 week out there some suggestions that El Nino might start to rear it's head again with a local and very far south positioned gale forecast off Southern CA with a building gale pattern over the dateline. It's really too early to tell for sure, but no lack of surf appears obvious (by the middle of next week), though nothing large is suggested either. Make the most of what you can get. .
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (1/28) the North Pacific jetstream continued flowing flat east on the 30N latitude with a weak trough and a pocket of 160 kt winds on the dateline, pushing east to a point 600 nmiles off Southern CA then .cgiitting with the northern branch pushing up into British Columbia and the south branch into mainland Mexico. Almost a repeat pattern of late December, but winds overall were much weaker over the length of the jet. Still some support for gale development was likely on the dateline. Over the next 72 hrs the dateline trough is to push east and deepen a little tracking north of Hawaii on Saturday then dissolving east of there on Sunday. decent support far gale development into Saturday north of Hawaii, then things dying some. Still a hug pool of 130-150 kt wind is forecast tracking flat under Japan to a point north of Hawaii. Suspect this will be the focus of future storm development. The jet is to still be barely .cgiit off California, through trough is to be carving out the whole way down into Baja late. Looks like possible rain way to the south. Beyond 72 hours a stronger trough is to set up well off California with 160 kt winds forecast by Wednesday (2/3) offering decent potential for gale development. And that pool of 150 kts winds is to be holding under Hawaii and getting better organized pushing towards the dateline and likely aided by the Active Phase of the MJO and surface westerly anomalies there. The trough off California is to be nearly inland by Fri (2/5).
At the surface on Thursday (1/28) the remnants of Storm #19 (see details below) were fading in the Gulf of Alaska with a front starting to nudge into the Pacific Northwest and bound for Northern CA. Another weak gale was over the dateline and a third was trying to organize over the Kuril Islands. None was strong with winds 30-35 kts, but all were distinct and suggestive of a conveyor scenario heading east. Over the next 72 hours the dateline gale is to be building Thursday PM (1/28) with 40 kt northwest winds sinking southeast at 42N 175E aimed down the 319 degree path to the Islands. 23 ft seas forecast at 37N 180W. On Friday AM (1/29) a small area of 45 kt northwest wind are forecast at 36N 175W aimed down the 322 degree path to Hawaii and over 50 degrees south of any route to the US West coast. 27 ft seas are forecast over a moderate area at 35N 175W pushing towards the Islands from 1200-1300 nmiles out. In the evening this system is to be fading with 35 kt northwest winds at 30-32N 160-165W aimed down the 331 degree path to the Islands and dissipating. 27-28 ft seas forecast at 34N 168W and fading. Assuming all goes as forecast some degree of large utility class class swell is likely for Hawaii starting Sunday (1/31). This would be Swell #20. Expect swell to hit at 6 AM HST with swell reaching to 8.3 ft @ 14 secs (11-12 ft faces) coming from 317-325 degrees. Little to no energy is expected from the core of this storm pushing into the US West Coast.
On Monday AM (1/25) a solid area of 40-45 kt northwest winds developed at 34N 176W pushing towards Hawaii down the 319 degree path with 28 ft seas at 32N 180W and on the increase. Nothing was aimed at the US West Coast yet. In the evening a decent sized area of 45-50 kt west winds were building in the storms south quadrant at 37N 170W aimed well down the 320 degree path to Hawaii with seas up to 32 ft at 35N 170W and aimed at Central CA up the 287 degree path and lesser height towards Hawaii. The ASCAT satellite confirmed west winds of 40-45 kts at 35N 170W, a bit less than what was modeled.
Tuesday AM (1/26) 40-45 kt west winds were modeled holding at 38N 163W with 37 ft seas building at 36N 166W pushing towards Central CA up the 283 degree path. Winds were fading from 40 kts at 40N 160W in the evening with seas at 35 ft at 37N 160W pushing directly towards Central CA up the 284 degree path.
35-40 kt west winds held Wednesday AM (1/27) at 40N 155W barely aimed down the 358 degree path to Hawaii and mostly up the 286 degree path to Central CA the with more 30 ft seas modeled at 40N 154W pushing towards Central CA on up into the Pacific Northwest. This system rebuilt slightly on Wednesday PM (1/27) with 40 kt west winds at 40N 155W aimed right up the 283 degree path to Central CA and bypassing Hawaii. Seas holding at 27 ft at 39N 152W.
On Thursday AM (1/28) more 35-40 kts west winds were occurring at 40N 147W making a beeline east towards Northern CA with 28 ft seas modeled at 38N 151W pushing towards Central CA up the 283 degree great circle path. This system is to totally dissipate Thursday evening with barely 30 kt winds left and seas fading from 27 ft at 38N 145W.
If all goes as forecast another significant class swell could result for the Hawaii initially and possibly the US West Coast.
Swell is to be pushing in Central California on Friday (1/29) at 11 AM building to 7.7 ft @ 17 secs (12-13 ft) from 280 degrees then slowly setting down into Saturday with swell 7 ft @ 15 secs early (10-11 ft faces).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/28) the remnants of Storm #19 were decaying in the Gulf of Alaska with a front associated with it starting to impact the extreme Northern California coast, though light winds were occurring from Pt Arena southward and south winds north of there. By Friday (1/29) the remnants of that front are to almost reach the San Francisco Bay Area with rain to Pt Reyes pushing down to maybe Monterey Bay late and a secondary pulse reaching down to nearly Pt Conception late and a light southerly flow forecast. By Saturday light scattered rain showers to linger into mid-day with weak high pressure and light winds trying to take hold. But Sunday a weak front is to dissipate over outer water and perhaps producing light southerly winds late from Monterey Bay northward and holding as a gale system start organizing off the coast. Light rain up in the Pt Arena area too Monday reaching down to Pt Reyes Tuesday. By late Wednesday (2/3) the local storm door is to open again with a full on gale positioned just off the coast with raging south winds from Pt Conception northwards and building into Southern CA on Thursday with rain moving in for all overnight.
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 hrs the models suggest another fragmented gale is to try and organize west of the dateline and a bit more to the north on Saturday with 40 kt west winds forecast at 45N 175E aimed almost due east 35 degrees east of the 325 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 300 degree path to North CA. Seas building. In the evening 40 kt west winds to hold at 45N 180W aimed about like before generating seas of 30 ft at 45N 178E. West fetch is to be fading on Sunday AM (1/31) at 45N 180W with 32 ft seas fading at 44N 176W pushing right down the 296 degree path to NCal but too far east of any track to Hawaii. Utility class swell possibly for both Hawaii and the US West Coast a few days out if all goes as forecast. Yet more backup fetch is forecast building in the same area Monday perhaps adding a bit of life to this one.
On Tuesday a more interesting system with tropical roots is forecast pushing east off Japan building with 50 kt west winds on the dateline Wednesday then fading as it moves into the Western Gulf on Thursday (2/4). 36 ft seas forecast pushing best to the east targeting the US West Coast. And a local gale is forecast building 600 nmiles off Central CA on Wed/Thurs (2/4) with 45 kt winds targeting Southern CA and near 30 ft seas developing. Looks like a wet blown out mess for the Southwest US Coast then. And a whole strong of smaller but reasonably solid gales are forecast behind that. Looks like the storm track might wake up again.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (1/28) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index was moving more negative with the Daily SOI at -17.33 (23 days in a row negative). The 30 day average was down to -5.59 with the 90 average steady at -7.41.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicate a solid area of westerly anomalies covering from Indonesia east over the dateline fading at a point south of Hawaii. A core of strong westerly winds were straddling the dateline. This continues looking like a certified Westerly Wind Burst. It was occurring right on time as we reach into the core of a new Active Phase of the MJO. The storm pattern in the North Pacific is likely to be helped by this phase in the coming 2 weeks. The Active Phase and it's solid westerly wind anomalies are expected to seep east holding over the dateline and parts east of there through 1/30, then easing on the dateline 2/6-2/11 before fading out entirely 2/16 while a new stronger Inactive Phase starts to push east into the Pacific. Suspect if there is going to be a big last push from El Nino, it will occur during the next 2-3 weeks.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/28) indicates that warmer than normal waters were consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. Interestingly a strong Kelvin Wave (see below) that had erupted along the Ecuador coast in Dec and early Jan was expected to build surface temperatures there, but it appears trades are blowing that warm water quickly west. This is looking more like a Midoki El Nino than one of the classic variety. Overall the warm water signature remains non-exceptional from a historical El Nino perspective, but clearly in the moderate category and holding, not building. Suspect we are at or near the peak of this ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator things are starting to back off from weeks previous. 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. But the two Kelvin Waves which that had been impacting the the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador coast have peaked out, with only 3 degree warm anomalies still present from 140W into the coast there and slowly loosing it's warm advantage. Still, it continues fueling the warm surface anomalies associated with El Nino in the East equatorial Pacific as it continues impacting the coast there. We're looking for one more Kelvin Wave with luck from the currently occurring Active Phase of the MJO before the source of this El Nino producing event is over.
Over the Equatorial Pacific solid trades were blowing in the East and continuing north of the equator all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. But a building area of fully blowing westerly winds which started to appear pushing from the far west to almost the dateline on 1/20 were covering a larger area on 1/23, and in full bloom on 1/25-1/28, looking very much like a real Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) event. Anomolies reached to 170W and expected to push a bit further east of there in the days ahead. This is what is needed to generate yet one more Kelvin Wave. Regardless, at some point in the next month or so we expect the pattern of anomalously west winds to break down completely and a normal trade pattern to take over. But that will likely not happen until sometime after this Active Phase of the MJO completes it's cycle, in maybe mid-February (at the earliest). Previously Westerly Wind Bursts produced Kelvin Waves that resulted in the subsurface warm pool currently present in the tropical East Pacific that have formed El Nino.
El Nino is affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern at this point in time and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggest that not only will the winter and spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. All data suggests this will not be a strong El Nino, more likely a solid moderate one. A solid accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warn subsurface water remains in.cgiace, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But as long as there continues to be WWB's, then warm water will be migrating east, and the warm water pattern will hold, and the atmosphere above it will respond in-kind to the change (towards El Nino). We expect this one last shot at another Kelvin Wave from the current Active Phase in.cgiay now (Jan 2010) and then the slow degradation will begin in the ocean. But the atmosphere is already be strongly influenced by the warm water buildup over the past 6 months, and it will not return to a normal state for quite some time. This El Nino it is already larger and strong than any other in the past 12 years.
Strong El Nino's bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast along with the benefit of increased potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides that storm and swell enhancement, but more of a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, 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 are looking to be in the middle to high-end of a moderate event. Since anomalous water temps on the equator have not exceeded 3 degrees (nor are they forecast to) and the SOI remains unremarkable, this all suggests a modest El Nino is all we're going to see. This is clearly already enough to provide storm enhancement, and a better than average winter surf season for the North Pacific (that is already in evidence with 13 significant class storms on the record) , 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 Nino's), 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