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 (3/16) North and Central California was getting new northwesterly Gulf swell with waves near triple overhead and glassy early, then ruffling up pretty good by noon. Southern California was getting more wrap around Gulf swell with waves waist high or so and heavily textured by early afternoon. Hawaii's North Shore was getting another day of Gulf swell with waves 12 ft and reasonably clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell and wrap around Gulf swell at 3 ft overhead and chopped. The South Shore was getting no southern hemi swell.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for a new pulse of more local swell to maybe 15 ft on Wednesday but far rawer, then settling down from 9 ft on Thursday and 1 ft overhead Friday.Head high generic northwest swell expected fort he weekend both days with chest high southern hemi swell underneath. Southern California is to more Gulf swell Wednesday to 1 ft overhead but very north angled, then fading Thursday from shoulder high or so. Waist high leftover for Friday then dropping out but southern hemi swell is expected in for Thursday at waist high or so pushing chest high Friday and waist high plus on Saturday. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see fading Gulf swell at 9 ft Wednesday with 1 ft overhead leftovers Thursday. Local northerly swell expected in for Friday at 12 ft fading from 8 ft Saturday with new generic swell to 7 ft Sunday. The East Shore is to see easterly windswell at waist high or so through the rest of the week into the weekend with Gulf swell wrapping around as well. The South Shore is to see southern hemi background swell to maybe chest high Wednesday then fading out on Thursday. New southern hemi swell is expected in on Saturday to 3 ft overhead or more then 2-3 ft overhead on Sunday.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is in the Inactive Phase reducing odds for storm formation. Remnants from a Gulf gale reformed off North CA on Tuesday setting up swell for mostly Central CA on Wednesday. But after that things are to really start settling down. Another very small and weak gale is forecast on Wed/Thur in the Gulf targeting mostly Hawaii for Fri/Sat. A stronger system is forecast for the dateline over the weekend. Solid southern hemi swell is expected into Hawaii for the weekend (3/20) and the US West Coast the week beyond. Winter is fading out fast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/16) the North Pacific was split with the northern branch ridging hard north in the west up the Kuril Islands then sinking southeast over the dateline with a broad trough running under the Gulf of Alaska. Winds were light in the Gulf trough though at 120 kts or less. Limited support for gale development in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hrs a bit more energy is to flow into the Gulf trough at 150 kts with the ridge in the west pushing east. That trough is to pinch off and get very steep with a new ridge building off the US West coast. Maybe some support for gale development in the Gulf but fading fast later Thursday (3/18) with the whole jet in the east dissolving after that. Beyond 72 hours a highly diffuse and low wind energy jet pattern is to settle in over the east. In the west a bit of a trough is to build on the dateline over the weekend (3/20) with 130 kt winds flowing into it, possibly helping to support gale development there. Beyond (into next week) a diffuse and weak jetstream flow is forecast over the North Pacific.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/16) a gale was tracking north just off the Pacific Northwest (see Local US Gale below). Over the next 72 a weak and disorganized low pressure system is forecast circulating 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii on Wednesday (3/17) generating 30-35 kt northwest winds near 35-45N 155-160W producing 20 ft seas targeting Hawaii reasonably well. Possible larger windswell for Friday at 9 ft @ 13 secs (12 ft) from 345 degrees.
Otherwise weak high pressure at 1024 mbs is to take root over the length of the dateline and no swell producing system of interest are forecast.
Local US Gale
Remnants of the weekend Gulf Gale redeveloped just 600 nmiles off the North CA coast Monday evening (3/15) generating 40 kt west winds at 40N 135W aimed at Central CA up the 290 degree great circle path. By Tuesday AM (3/16) near 50 kt west fetch was lifting north to 43N 134W resulting in 27 ft seas at 43N 132W. By evening this system is to be pushing inland over Vancouver Island. Moderate sized but raw push of swell is expected to result for locations from Pt Conception northward on Wed (3/17).
Expect swell arrival in North CA at 2 AM Wednesday with size quickly reaching 10.7 ft @ 16 secs (17 ft) and holding through the early morning hours, then slowly fading through the afternoon. Swell Direction: 296+ degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/16) a generally light wind pattern was in control with a local gale tracking fast to the north off North CA. By Wednesday (3/17) that storm is to be pushing into British Columbia while high pressure at 1028 builds in hard behind it generating 25 kt northwest winds from Pt Conception northward a bit off the coast with lesser wind nearshore, but still likely making a mess of things and holding through Thursday. Relief is expected by Friday with light winds returning and holding through the weekend (3/21) into late Monday (3/22). But more high pressure is to be right behind setting up more northerly local winds at near 30 kts just off the coast and in the 20 kt range nearshore for Tuesday.
On Thursday (3/11) a small gale was circulating well southeast of Tahiti with 45 kt south winds at 45S 132W aimed due north. Those winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening at the same location. A infinitesimal area of 30 ft seas developed Thurs PM at 43N 131W aimed mostly north towards California. Small swell is expected into Southern CA on Thurs (3/18) from 190 degrees at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) building to 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces) on Fri (3/19) fading from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs on Sat (3/20).
On Saturday PM (3/13) a broad gale (almost a storm) starting developing just south of New Zealand with 40 kt southwest winds at 53S 172E aimed up the 215 degree path to CA (mostly unshadowed by Tahiti) and up the 195 degree path to HI. Seas were building from 32 ft back at 55S 170E. By Sunday AM (3/14) 50 kt southwest winds were forecast at 52S 176W aimed at CA (209 degree and partially shadowed) and up the 192 degree path to HI. Seas modeled to 40 ft at 53S 180W. In the evening 50 kts winds were modeled barely holding at 50S 168W generating 46 ft seas at 50S 170W pushing up the 208 degree path to NCal (partially shadowed) and a bit east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 45 kt west-southwest fetch was modeled into Monday AM (3/15) at 49S 161W with 44 ft seas forecast at 49S 162W pushing up the 204 degree path to CA and in the heart of the Tahitian swell shadow. Most of that energy is to be pushing east of Hawaii. A quick fade is occurred Monday PM with winds 40 kts all aimed due east towards Peru. 40 ft seas from previous fetch occurred at 48S 152W. A quick fade followed.
If all this occurred exactly as modeled one could conclude that a larger southern hemi swell was on it's way north. But as always, the devil is in the details. The ASCAT satellite confirmed winds a bit less in the core of the storm than what the weather model suggested. The model indicated 50 kts solid but the satellite only found a small area of 50 kt winds and most in the 40-45 kts range. Likewise the Jason-1 satellite passed over the core of the fetch on Sunday evening and reported seas at 38.8 ft (15 reading average) with one peak reading to 41 ft where the model suggested 43 ft seas, then again 6 hrs later reporting seas at 37.4/41 ft (peak) where the model said 44 ft. So the weather model was biased on the high side which in-turn caused the wave model to be biased on the high side. And for California, consider that the peak of the swell generation occurred in the core of the Tahitian Swell Shadow.
Still, there's good odds for decent swell for all locations including Tahiti, Hawaii, and the US West coast.
Hawaii: Rough data suggest swell arrival on Saturday (3/20) with swell building to 4 ft @ 19-20 secs (8+ ft faces and pushing double overhead at top spots). Swell to peak out just after sunset with swell down to 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (6-7 ft faces) early Sunday (3/21) and slowly declining. Swell to be fading from 3 ft @ 15 secs at sunrise Monday (3/22) (head high or a little more at top spots) dropping to 2 ft @ 13-14 secs Tuesday AM (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 188-192 degrees
Southern CA: Rough data suggest swell arrival on Monday (3/22) with swell building to 2.3 ft @ 20 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft) continuing to slowly build Tuesday to 3 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft - top spots). A bit more size to follow. Swell Direction: 209-212 degrees
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 a decent gale is to start wrapping up
on the dateline by Sunday (3/21) between 40-45N generating up to 37 ft seas targeting Hawaii initially and the US West coast a bit later if all goes as forecast. But this system is not expected to push much east of the dateline region, limiting swell size for the US West Coast (if it even forms). .
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (3/16) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) appeared to finally be fading from the Active Phase of the MJO moving towards a neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained negative though with the Daily SOI at -2.78. The 30 day average was up to -8.88 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -13.73 (bottomed out at -14.2 on 3/14). El Nino maxed out on 2/15.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated light easterly anomalies across the entire Indian Ocean to Northern Australia and New Guinea, a sign of the Inactive Phase. But persistent remnants of the Active Phase still lingered from almost the dateline into Central America and fading fast. Models project the Active Phase to be gone in a day or so and the Inactive Phase holding over Northern Australia reaching the dateline 3/20 then dying there by 4/2 or so. A weak version of a new Active Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean at the same time. The Inactive Phase of the MJO should gently suppress storm development. But with the effects of El Nino on the atmosphere already well entrenched, the momentum to support storm development will be slow to dissipate over the coming next 6 months. We will continue monitoring the MJO for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May timeframe to see if this Midoki El Nino can hang on for another year, or whether we fall back into a La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/15) indicated no change from previous weeks, with warmer than normal waters consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, almost gone off South America. Erosion of warmer waters over the Galapagos continues, symptomatic of the fading of El Nino. In all this continues looking more like a Midoki El Nino than one of the classic variety. But regardless, we are past the peak of this ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 3/15 tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 150W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core now up to 6 C at 110W. This is expected to fuel or at least extend El Nino symptoms into summer, but is likely the last Kelvin Wave we are going to see.
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. Still, this looks like the Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. An area of fully blowing westerly winds which started to appear pushing from the far west to almost the dateline on 1/20 continued through 3/15 but on the way down. This lingering WWB is what generated the Kelvin Wave currently pushing east. Regardless, at some point in the near future we expect this pattern of anomalously west winds to break down completely and a normal trade pattern to take over the entire equatorial Pacific. 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 continues affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggest that the spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. This has not been a strong El Nino, more of a solid moderate one. A respectable accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warm subsurface water remains in place, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But the atmosphere is already being 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.
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. This was a moderate event. 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 and something we are monitoring for. The months of Mar-June normally are when the transition takes place.
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