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 Saturday (1/29) North and Central California was getting new local swell from a short lived fetch off the coast Thursday PM at 2 ft overhead with light winds early. Southern California was getting leftover dateline swell with waves waist high or so up north and clean but looking smaller down south except for rare sets also in the waist to chest high range and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover residual dateline swell at head high or so and clean with trades in effect. 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 new local windswell to be moving in for Sunday at 16 ft (faces) with dateline swell underneath at 12 ft (faces) fading from 8.5 ft and and 10 ft respectively on Monday. Tuesday (2/1) things settle down more with waves 6.5 ft. Wednesday westerly residuals remain at 4.5 ft (faces) then bumping up some on Thursday to 10 ft from the west. Southern California is to see new local swell later Sunday at 1-2 ft overhead (up north) fading to shoulder to head high Monday with chest high leftovers on Tuesday. Thigh high dribbles for Wednesday then possible head high new westerly swell for Thursday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new dateline swell up to near 9 ft early Sunday but fading. Larger swell expected on Monday from a close moving gale pushing 13 ft (faces) then stepping down to 11 ft early Tuesday. Possible better swell on Wednesday at 14 ft fading from 8 ft Thursday. The East Shore is to waist high easterly windswell through the coming week. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
The Active Phase of the MJO is all but gone with the Inactive Phase trying to organize south of the Philippines, pushing into the West Pacific through the coming weeks. This should mark a downturn in swell development potential for the North Pacific. A modest gale developed on the dateline on Wed pushing east to Thursday AM making a little more eastward headway than anything previous with seas in the 34 ft range. Utility class swell is expected for Sunday in CA. A very local gale formed just off the NCal coast on Friday evening with 24-28 ft seas, setting up local 13-14 sec period swell for Sunday into Monday (1/31) too. Longerterm there's suggestions of another similar gale forming just east of the dateline on Saturday (1/29) dropping southeast towards Hawaii into Monday with up to 26 ft seas providing a decent shot of raw local swell for the Islands but most energy traveling south of any path to the US West Coast. One more small but solid gale is forecast behind tracking east from the dateline Mon-Tues (2/1) with up to 43 ft seas, fading 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. Maybe some decent side sideband swell for the Islands and utility class swell for the US west coast if the models hold true. Things looks to be settling down after that.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (1/29) the jetstream continued looking much better than one would hope for based on it being La Nina year. We suspect that is all attributable to the unusually push of the Active Phase of the MJO the past month, with momentum from that still carrying things along. A consolidated flow was tracking flat off Japan at 200 kts reaching to just west of the dateline with a bit of a broad trough developing on the dateline, then fading but still holding together to a point just north of Hawaii before .cgiitting with the northern branch easing up into Western Alaska while the southern branch dove south south towards the equator. Good support for gale development continued over the dateline and parts just east of there. Over the next 72 hours winds to fade a little then regenerate to 200 kts on Tuesday (2/1) mid-way to the dateline with that trough on the dateline moving east to a point north of Hawaii on Monday. Good support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to fade some then redevelop northwest of Hawaii on Thursday (2/3) with 180 kt winds feeding into it until Saturday providing good support for gale development. But winds speeds in the jet are defiantly forecast to starting fading and loosing cohesion by next weekend, possibly signaling the demise of the favorable storm track that's been in control the last few weeks.
At the surface on Saturday (1/29) a local gale was just 600 nmiles off the Cape Mendocino CA coast producing 40 kt northwest winds but fading fast. Seas were modeled at 26 ft at 40N 138W. This system actually developed off Oregon on Friday PM (1/28) with 40+ kt northwest winds at 41N 140W tracking east-southeast directly over buoy 46006. One peak reading of seas at 31.8 ft @ 13 secs with pure swell of 24.8 ft @ 12.6 secs was reported near 11 PM Friday night with swell of 23 ft or better from 9 PM to midnight. This is to dump a bunch of 14 sec period raw swell into the North and Central CA for Sunday AM (1/30) at up to 11-13 ft @ 14 secs (16-18 ft). Otherwise generic low pressure was covering the dateline region to a point north 900 nmiles north of Hawaii extending up to the Aleutian Islands, but nothing was defined.
Over the next 72 hours and of interest to Hawaii is to be the formation of another gale on the dateline. It started to get organized Saturday AM (1/29) with 30 kt west winds at 33N 175EW (positioned well south - 300 HI). This system is to start getting better organized Saturday PM (1/29) evening with 35 kt northwest winds building at 32N 172W with 22 ft seas building at 32N 175W (312 degs HI). Sunday AM (1/30) 35 kts fetch is to grow in areal coverage at roughly 30N 165W aimed right at Hawaii and only 600 nmiles to the northwest and all falling southeast. Sea building to 26 ft at 30N 170W (312 degs HI). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds to continue tracking more east than south at 30N 160W starting to bypass the Islands with 24 ft seas at 30N 160W also targeting Hawaii directly up the 336 degree path. Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts Monday AM (1/31) with seas fading and pushing east of Hawaii. If all goes as forecast possible larger but raw swell of 12 ft @ 13-14 secs is expected into the Hawaiian Islands starting Monday AM from 312-330 degrees.
Another Dateline Gale
A new gale was developing on Tuesday AM (1/25) while pushing off Japan, following the jetstream track aloft while being fueled by it. In the evening pressure dropped to 984 mbs with a small area of 40 kt west winds building at 35N 165E. Seas building. On Wednesday AM (1/26) the gale was lifting northeast and starting to get more organized with pressure down to 964 mbs. 45 kt winds were building in the gales southern quadrant at 40N 180E (317 degs HI & 293 degs NCal) with seas up to 28 ft at 34N 168E aimed mostly at Hawaii. 55 kt winds were blowing Wed PM at 42N 173W resulting in 34 ft seas at 42N 173W aimed 30 degrees east of the 328 degree path to Hawaii but right up the 293 deg path to NCal. Thursday AM (1/27) the gale still had 55 kt west winds but di.cgiaced to the northeast at 47N 170W resulting in 34 ft seas at 44N 167W aimed right up the 295 degree path to NCal and well east of the 344 degree path to Hawaii. In the evening this system is to be dissipating and lifting north fast at 48N 168W resulting in 30 ft seas at 47N 161W all pushing east towards the US West Coast and Pacific Northwest.
Based on confirmed data a decent pulse of larger utility class swell is expected for US West Coast with sideband swell for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect sideband swell building to 7 ft @ 14 secs (10 ft faces) first light Saturday AM (1/29). Swell to be on the way down by noon with residual at 6 ft @ 12-13 secs early Sunday AM (1/30). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday near 9 AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft faces). This swell to get swamped by locally generated lesser period windswell. Swell Direction 293-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/29) high pressure at 1024 mbs was di.cgiaced south centered 700 nmiles southwest of Pt Conception. But local low pressure (actually a gale) was tracking east positioned just 600 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino and expected to impact the North coast on Sunday AM. South winds and rain ahead of it to start reaching Central CA Saturday evening and continue well into Sunday, with the core of the low pushing over and into Monterey Bay Sunday evening. Snow in the mountains down the the Central Sierras (Yosemite to Mammoth). By Monday (1/31) the front is to push through Southern CA with limited rain there and then a weak clearing high is to take root behind with north winds at 15 kts even reaching into Southern CA. North winds to continue for Central and North CA on Tuesday through Thursday while high pressure tries seeping up into the Pacific Northwest but doesn't quite make it. Then finally by Friday AM (2/4) an offshore flow is to return as the high starting ridging inland up north holding through next weekend.
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 a moderate sized gale is to try and organize while pushing east off Japan Saturday and Sunday (1/30). By Sunday evening 50-55 kt winds are forecast developing in it's southern quadrant at 41N 175E aimed right up the 293 degree path to NCal and 30 degrees east of the 317 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building from 28 ft at 40N 175E. Monday AM (1/31) 55 kt west winds to hold at 41N 176W again favoring the paths into the US West Coast. Seas building to 39 ft at 41N 178W (293 degs NCal & 321 HI). In the evening west winds to drop to 45 kts with the fetch still still pushing due east at 40N 170W with 43 ft seas over a tiny area at 40N 171W (290 degs NCal & 330 HI and pushing pretty much east of any great circle paths there). On Tuesday AM (2/1) the fetch is to be fading fast from 40 kts with 41 ft seas at 40N 163W (287 degs NCal). This system is to be gone in the evening. If this were to occur a good short of smaller but longer period swell would radiate east east towards the US West Coast with solid sideband swell pushing southeast towards Hawaii. This is certainly something to monitor and could be out last shot at real swell for a very long time. At some point in the next week or two is is believed the jetstream will fall apart and the storm track dissolve in sync with the dispersal of the Active Phase of the MJO (see below). It's just a question of how much favorable momentum the Active Phase of the MJO has imparted into the atmosphere.
As of Saturday (1/29) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping. The daily SOI on 1/27 was -0.61, down a little from days previous. The 30 day average was down to 18.69 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.18. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0). The 30 day average peaked on Dec 30 at 26.79, the highest average reading in over 2 years.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (1/28) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO had almost totally dissipated with residual westerly anomalies pushing east from the dateline into Central America. They are forecast to be all but gone on 2/2. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, some degree of gale development is forecast through about 2/2 but steadily declining, with a steady decrease in swell potential taking root. As of 1/28 a moderate version of the Inactive Phase was building over the Eastern Indian Ocean and expected to enter the extreme Western Pacific on 2/2, likely starting to shut down gale development potential and reaching the dateline on 2/12 fading there into 2/17. We estimate this pattern to hold through at least 3/3 as it tracks east across the tropical Pacific. But that remains just a guess with the models only extending to 2/17. Also somewhere in the middle of that, north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual (mid-late Feb).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/27) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, and solidifying it's coverage. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and even colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid 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, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it 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). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10-1/17. Current data as of 1/23 and beyond suggests temps still 4 to almost 5 degrees C below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. As of 1/29 thes anomalies had backed off, presumable due to the influence of the Active phase of the MJO. But that should be fading shortly with easterly anomalies taking control.
A moderate.cgius strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's 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, especially in summer months. 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