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 (3/23) North and Central California was getting head high fading windswell from the northwest with onshore winds and crumbled. Southern hemi Swell #1S was hitting select spots too. Southern California was getting the same mix of swells, with the southern hemi swell dominant at exposed breaks. Surf was waist to chest high up north and trashed by northwest winds mid-day pushing 1 ft overhead down south but north winds still on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the new Gulf swell with waves 12 ft on the face and reasonably clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell and wrap around local north swell at 3 ft overhead and chopped. The South Shore was getting the trailing edge of Swell #1S with waves chest to shoulder high and fading.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for swell from the Gulf of Alaska arriving on Wednesday to 11 ft with some local swell intermixing Thursday while more southern hemi swell lingers underneath, then both swells fading out Friday into Saturday. Southern California is to see mainly the southern hemi swell Wed-Thurs in the Shoulder high range with top spots doing a little better, and Gulf swell hitting select breaks mostly Thursday at near head high. All is to be fading Friday and Saturday. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see Gulf swell fading from 10 ft Wednesday and down to near head high Thursday. Mild head high Gulf swell is expected Friday pushing 2 ft overhead Saturday The East Shore is to have steady waist high or so east windswell with limited wrap around energy from the Gulf mostly Wednesday. The South Shore is to see more southern hemi swell at waist high Wednesday before dropping out.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is in the Inactive Phase reducing odds for storm formation through about the first week in April. But El Nino is still in.cgiay pushing the North Pacific Storm Track some. A solid gale pushed through the Western Gulf on Sun-Mon (3/22) with 32 ft seas aimed mid-way between Hawaii and CA. Swell has already hit the Islands and is bound for CA on Wed (3/24). And another stronger system is on the charts for Fri/Sat (3/27) with up to 38 ft seas and pushing well into the California swell window. And a bigger one is forecast behind that Sat-Mon (3/29). So the North Pacific appears to be active for the week ahead.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/23) the North Pacific jet was generally weak and .cgiit, with two distinct flows tracking in parallel across the North Pacific with the northern branch down at 42N and heading flat east. A weak trough was in the Gulf of Alaska but with only 100 kt winds tracking through it and offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hrs energy levels are to slowly build in the northern branch, with winds up to 160-170 kts creeping east over the dateline and towards the Western Gulf of Alaska with a trough starting to build there by Thurs (3/25) and carving out a certified real trough 24 hours later. Good support for gale development then. Beyond 72 hours yet more energy is forecast pushing east and feeding into the eastward moving trough with 170-280 kt winds covering the balance of the North Pacific through the weekend, building to 190 kts on Monday with a new trough building in the Western Gulf bound for the Pacific northwest 24 hours later. More support for a new gale possible. And yet a third trough is forecast for the dateline a week out with 170 kts winds feeding it. The .cgiit in the jet is to be all but gone by then too. Looks like a nice pattern setting up.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/23) the remnants of a previous Gulf Gale (see details below) were pushing to within 1200 nmiles of the Central CA coast, with winds down to 30 kts generating 18-20 ft seas. Small 5.6 ft @ 13 sec energy is to result pushing into the coast on Thurs (3/25) right at sunrise. Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked 600 nmiles north of Hawaii generating brisk trades there. Over the next 72 hours a new gale is to form just west of the dateline Wednesday PM (3/24) with 40 kt west winds at 43N 175W aimed mostly to the east. By Thurs AM up to 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 45N 165W aimed mostly towards the US West coast (296 deg NCal, 60 degs east of the 347 degree path to HI). Thurs PM up to 55 kt west winds are forecast at 46N 160W aimed exclusively towards NCal and locations north of there up the 297+ degree path. 32 ft seas are forecast at 46N 160W but that seems a bit low. Friday AM (3/26) 45-50 kt west fetch is to hold at 45N 155W aimed again at NCal up the 296+ degree path. 38 ft seas are forecast at 45N+ 155W. Friday PM still 45 kt west winds are forecast at 45N 148W aimed up the 298+ degree path to NCal. 37 ft seas forecast at 45N 150W. 40 kt west winds to hold into Sat AM (3/27) at 45N 148W with 34 ft seas continuing at 45N 145W. Decent swell possible mainly for the US West Coast early next week.
A new gale built just east of the dateline Saturday (3/20) with 40-45 kts west winds confirmed by the ASCAT satellite at 40N 171W, then up to 45-50 kt west winds confirmed at 43N 168W Saturday evening pushing pretty well east of the 331 degree path to Hawaii but well up the 292 degree path to NCal. 20 ft seas were building there. On Sunday AM (3/21) more 45 kt west winds were in.cgiay over the same general location perhaps aimed a little more to the south, providing the opportunity for energy to also radiate down to Hawaii. 32 ft seas were modeled 42N 165W. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of the fetch and confirmed a 15 measurement average of 33.3 ft seas with a single peak reading at 38.7 ft where the model indicates 32-33 ft seas. The model was right on track. By Sunday evening this system was winding down with residual 40 kt northwest winds forecast at 40N 170W aimed even better towards Hawaii and about 1200 nmiles out. 32 ft seas were modeled at 40N 168W. This system is to be effectively over by Monday AM (3/22). Seas from previous fetch at 28 ft were modeled 39N 164W falling more towards Hawaii than the US West Coast.
Possible decent large utility class swell could result for the Islands with pure swell 9.8 ft @ 16 secs Tuesday (3/23) at 7 PM from 338 degrees.
Expect swell hitting Central CA on Wednesday building to 6.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (11 ft faces) mid-day. swell to be dropping to 6 ft @ 14-15 (8.5 ft faces) Thursday with additional 13 sec energy building over top as the remnants of the gale moved closer to the coast. Swell Direction: 286-291 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/23) high pressure at 1026 mbs was 600 nmiles off the coast generating northerly wind early but settling down some late afternoon. A gale low was just west of it pushing east with light winds taking control Wednesday ahead of the gale with a front just off the coast, pushing into extreme NCal by evening then holding north of Central CA through Thursday (3/25). By Friday weak high pressure is to try and get a nose in generating northwest winds at 15 kts, but another stronger gale is to be building off the coast pushing dangerously close Saturday (3/27) then fading and falling apart all the while. Light winds for Central CA likely. A front is possible on Sunday with light south winds, dissipating Monday with light winds while a broad gale nuzzles up to the coast them. A front is to reach maybe North CA, but nothing south of there. By Tuesday (3/30) high pressure and northwest winds to build in late.
The models hint at a northward tracking gale in the far East Pacific on Thurs/Fri (3/26) generating 30-32 ft seas on the 120W longitude line. If this materializes some degree of limited very southerly angled swell could result for Southern CA down into Mexico and Central America. Will monitor.
Storm 1S Hawaii
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.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (3/22) well before sunrise with period 23 secs and size steadily building though inconsistent, reaching 2.3 ft @ 20 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft) continuing to slowly build Tuesday peaking late afternoon at 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft - top spots). Swell to hold into Wednesday (3/24) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs all day (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft) and more consistent. Swell fading slowly Thursday (3/25) from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 209-212 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (3/22) well before sunrise with period 23 secs and size steadily building though inconsistent, reaching 2.3 ft @ 20 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft) continuing to slowly build Tuesday peaking at sunset at 2.8 ft @ 18 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft - top spots). Swell to hold into Wednesday (3/24) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs all day (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft) and more consistent. Swell fading slowly Thursday (3/25) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 207-211 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 new storm is to start building west of the dateline Friday evening (3/26) with 55 kt west wind at 46N 170E aimed up the 303 degree path to NCal and the 320 degree path to Hawaii. 32 ft seas building at 47N 168E. Winds to fade some to 45-50 kts Sat AM (3/27) positioned at 45N 180W aimed up the 299 degree path to NCal and the 328 degree path to HI. 36 ft seas forecast at 47N 176E. This system to hold while gradually sinking southeast into Sunday AM (3/28) with 45 kt west winds at 43N 160W targeting NCal exclusively up the 292 degree path. 40 ft seas are forecast at 44N 168W. A gradual fade is forecast into Monday AM (3/29) but still 40 kt west fetch is forecast at 44N 147W (296 deg NCal) with 37-38 ft seas at 42-45N 150W. Not too bad for April. will see what actually materializes.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (3/23) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Active Phase of the MJO, moving towards a neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained negative with the Daily SOI at -1.63. The 30 day average was down to -9.61 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -12.24 (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 moderate easterly anomalies from the mid-Indian Ocean to the dateline, a clear signal of the Inactive Phase. Models project the Inactive Phase to be dominant for a while centered on the dateline 3/25 then and drifting east into 4/3 while dissipating. A weak version of a new Active Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean all the while almost reaching Northern Australia by 4/4, but dissipating there. Since the Inactive Phase of the MJO is dominant now, it 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 time frame 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). But latest data from the models suggest a return to neutral conditions.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/18) indicated no dramatic 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 3/23 tongue of warmer than normal water was in.cgiace extending east from 140W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core at 5 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 entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. This looks like the normal Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. Previous, an area of fully blowing westerly winds extended from the far west to the dateline on 1/20 and continued through 3/15 generating the Kelvin Wave currently pushing east into Central America. We expect a normal trade pattern to take hold over the entire equatorial Pacific for the remainder of the Spring. Previously Westerly Wind Bursts produced Kelvin Waves that resulted in the subsurface warm pool currently present in the tropical East Pacific, resulting in 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 suggests 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.cgiace, 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.cgiace.
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