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 (2/3) North and Central California was getting sideband swell from a gale that was just north of Hawaii with waves head high pushing 2 ft overhead on the sets and clean early. Southern California was getting the same swell with waves waist to maybe chest high or so up north and hacked later but still reasonably clean down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting swell generated by a gale that was just north of it earlier in the week with waves 2 ft overhead and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high wrap around energy from that gale and chopped with trades in effect. 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 a little more swell expected in on Friday from a gale in the Western Gulf to 10 ft (faces) fading to 6 ft on Saturday and 5.0 ft Sunday. Monday residuals of 3.5 ft are forecast with maybe another dateline pulse arriving mid-day to 8 ft, then fading from 6.5 ft for Tuesday. Southern California is to see waist high leftover swell on Friday pushing up to shoulder high late, then chest high on Saturday as Gulf reinforcements move in fading from a little over waist high Sunday. Waist high leftovers fading Monday regenerating to waist to chest high early Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see more local swell at 7 ft (faces) Friday before possible new swell builds in on Saturday at 11-12 ft and holding at 12 ft for Sunday. New dateline swell possibly arrives for Monday at 13 ft pushing 16 ft Tuesday. The East Shore is to see waist high easterly windswell through the weekend into early next week. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
The Inactive Phase of the MJO is trying to hold control over the west Pacific but is very weak and expected to fade, but not relinquish it's hold through the end of the month. A downturn in swell development potential is expected for the North Pacific. A rather modest gale formed east of the dateline on Saturday (1/29) dropping southeast towards Hawaii through Monday with 26-28 ft seas providing limited swell that is impacting the US West Coast. One more small gale tracked east from the dateline Mon-Tues (2/1) with up to 34 ft seas fading 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. More limited sideband swell for the Islands and utility class swell for the US west coast is expected by Friday. One last gale is circulating on the dateline Thurs-Fri (2/4) producing 26-30 ft seas over a small area with swell pushing southeast and east. Hawaii to see this energy on Sat-Sun (2/6). Remnants of this system are to regenerate 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Sun-Mon (2/8) with seas to 34 ft possible setting up more swell for early next week. After that the North Pacific is to shut down as previous speculated for roughly the next 4 weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/3) the jetstream continued solid with a consolidated flow of 190 kt winds tracking flat off Japan dipping mildly into a trough on the dateline then tracking east to a point just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii before splitting with the northern branch pushing up into Northern Canada and the southern branch heading due south only supporting high pressure in the upper reaches of the atmosphere anchored between Hawaii and CA. the trough on the dateline was supporting gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with winds in the jet slowly fading to 140 kts focused on that trough on the dateline Sun (2/6) continuing to support gale development there. the split east of there is to become more pronounced with high pressure building in the upper level s of the atmosphere off California. Beyond 72 hours the strong flow of winds off Japan is to evaporating with speeds down to 110 kts or less by Wednesday (2/9) and a pronounced split developing midway between Japan and the dateline. This will eliminate the potential for energetic troughs to form and will therefore minimize the potential for gales or storm to form. the good news is the split pattern could drive the northern branch of the jet up into the Bering Sea, then send in pushing south off the Pacific Northwest coast much like it did earlier in the Fall, with cold precipitation over the US West Coast a possible result.
At the surface on Tuesday 45 kt fetch associated with the new Dateline Gale (see details below) were trying to hold on about 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. Swell from a previous gale in the Western Gulf (see details below) was pushing towards Hawaii and California. Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was just off the Central CA coast. Over the next 72 hours one more modest gale is forecast developing just northwest of Hawaii Saturday evening (2/50 with 35 kt northwest winds at 30N 170W and in close proximity to the Islands (600 nmiles). Sunday AM it is to be easing north with winds to 45 kt aimed directly at Hawaii at 34N 168W (327 degrees) with no fetch aimed at the US West Coast. Seas building to 25 ft at 32N 169W. In the evening near 55 kt northwest winds are forecast at 34N 166W (331 degs HI) with seas building to 32 ft at 34N 167W. On Monday AM (2/7) 45 kt west winds to be fading at 34N 160W bypassing any route to Hawaii but generating 34 ft seas at 34N 162W all pushing towards the US West Coast (275 degs NCal). By Monday evening the gale is to have only 35 kt winds all lifting fast to the north getting little traction on the oceans surface. 28 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 34N 155W. If all goes as forecast a decent pulse of 17 sec period swell is possible for the Hawaiian Islands with utility class swell from a very westerly direction for the US West Coast.
Western Gulf Gale
A moderate sized gale organized while pushing east off Japan Saturday and Sunday (1/30). By Sunday evening 40 kt winds were modeled in it's southern quadrant at 41N 177E aimed right up the 293 degree path to NCal and 30 degrees east of the 318 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building. Monday AM (1/31) a small area of 45 kt west winds held at 41N 176W again favoring the paths into the US West Coast. Seas building from 24 ft at 40N 178W (293 degs NCal & 321 HI). In the evening west winds held at 45 kts over a slight larger area (but still small) with the fetch pushing due east at 40N 1634W with 32 ft seas over a tiny area at 40N 169W (290 degs NCal & 333 HI and pushing pretty much east of any great circle paths there). On Tuesday AM (2/1) the fetch was fading fast from 40 kts with 34 ft seas at 40N 163W (287 degs NCal). This system is to be gone in the evening with 30 ft seas from previous fetch at 41N 158W (288 degs NCal).
This system developed much weaker than originally anticipated by the models, even 24 hours before it's formation. The most reasonable expectation is for a modest pulse of swell radiating east towards the NCal at 6.5 ft @ 16 secs on Fri (2/4) 10 ft faces from 289 degs with limited sideband swell for Hawaii of 6 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft faces) on Fri AM from 320-335 degs.
One more moderate sized gale started organizing on the dateline Wed PM (2/2) with pressure down to 980 mbs and 45 kt northwest winds at 40N 175E. Seas building from 26 ft. On Thursday AM (2/3) 45 kt northwest winds were modeled at 38N 180W aimed due south and almost west of Hawaii with 30 ft seas on the increase at 35N 178E (310 degs HI). 40 kt winds to hold in that area while shifting south and east some in the evening with 28 ft seas hanging on at 35N 174W aiming at both Hawaii (315 degs) and NCal (283 degs). By Friday AM (2/4) a quick fade is forecast with winds down to 35 kts and seas from previous fetch 27 ft at 37N 169W (330 HI & 285 NCal).
If all goes as planned another small pulse of swell in the 16-17 sec range could radiate towards primarily Hawaii arriving Sat AM (2/5) with pure swell 7.2 ft @ 16 secs (11-12 ft Hawaiian) from 310-315 degrees. Lesser energy from the US West Coast (NCal) expected in on Monday near noon pushing (2/7) 4.9 ft @ 17 secs (8 ft faces) from 283-285 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/3) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked just 350 nmiles off the Central CA coast and growing roots. Alight northerly flow was trying to get a foothold. By Friday AM pressure is to build to 1036 mbs with the core just off Cape Mendocino setting up a bit of a gradient there with north winds to 20 kt up there but still trying to hang on blowing in an offshore direction down into greater Central CA. By Saturday the gradient with it's north winds are to win the battle blowing down to almost Morro Bay late and building to 25 kt off the coast and holding through Sunday into at least Tuesday (2/8) while building to 35 kts off Cape Mendo. Local wind swell to be the name of the game. By Wednesday (2/9) the high is to finally start pushing onshore over Oregon with an offshore flow developing and holding through the end of the workweek. No hint of rain in the 7 day forecast, but there's some suggestion that might change another week beyond.
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 build north of Hawaii on Thurs (2/10) with a cutoff low developing under it on the dateline producing 35-40 kt fetch aimed back at Japan. No swell production potential is forecast for our forecast area. And if anything the storm track is to start taking the northern route through the Bering Sea and then dropping down into the Northern Gulf of Alaska. This looks very similar to the storm pattern of Nov and early Dec 2010, a classic La Nina setup.
As of Thursday (2/3) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI was 20.27. The 30 day average was up to 19.77 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.61.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (2/1 - no model update as of 2/3) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO had dissipated and a very weak version of the Inactive Phase in control providing easterly anomalies over Northern Australia (and that's all). Even those are forecast to be gone on 2/5 and a dead neutral pattern is expected through 2/20. But we assume the Inactive Phase to surge some mid-month. The Inactive Phase is likely to start shutting down gale development potential now and is expected to continue through the end of the month. 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 (1/31) 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 2/2 suggests temps still 4 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 these 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 plus 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