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 (4/5) North and Central California was seeing locally generated northwest windswell at chest high and well-hacked even early with northwest winds in control. Southern California was seeing some waist high windswell sets though most smaller and reasonably clean up north early. Down south waves were in the waist to maybe chest high range and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a nice dose of northerly Gulf swell with waves 3 ft overhead and clean with modest trades in control. The East Shore was getting the same northerly Gulf swell with waves 2 ft overhead and chopped. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Wednesday (4/6) is to have Gulf swell with waves to 11 ft (faces) but shadowed in the SF area. Thursday that swell holds with windswell on top to 10 ft and again about 8 ft on Friday. North winds to continue to be an issue. Saturday local windswell expected at 7 ft fading to 4 ft on Sunday.
Southern California is to see new very north angled Gulf swell for late Wednesday at head high only at exposed breaks holding for early Thursday then dropping and down to chest high Friday. Waist high leftovers expected on Saturday dropping from thigh high early Sunday.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see dateline swell still 2 ft overhead early Wednesday. Maybe some chest high leftovers Thursday and pretty much flat by Friday. Nothing expected for the weekend.
The East Shore is to see east windswell Wednesday building to chest high and up to 1 ft overhead Thursday and Friday. head high east windswell expected for Saturday fading to chest high Sunday.
The South Shore is to see more southern hemi background swell at chest high Wednesday fading to waist high Thursday and then back to flat through the weekend.
High pressure remained in control of the greater East Pacific with north winds excerpting a strong influence down the California coast. A gale organized on the dateline late Fri (4/1) tracking fast northeast with seas in the 20 ft range, then finally got decently organized in the Northern Gulf on late Sunday with seas in the 36 ft range but positioned well to the north aimed best at British Columbia and mostly outside the Hawaii swell window. Limited swell has already hit Hawaii and is on the decrease with the same swell expected to Hi CA on Wed (3/6). Another very north positioned gale is forecast on the dateline Wed-Thursday but mostly obscured by the Aleutian Islands, but now forecast to fall southeast towards Oregon over the weekend, but seasonly in the 20-22 ft range. Maybe some limited swell for the US West Coast if this comes to pass. Nothing else is on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (4/5) the jetstream was .cgiit over Siberia the almost coalesced into a singular flow off Japan with a weak trough there, only to .cgiit heavily again on the dateline and then dissolve into a myriad of ill-defined streams east of there. In all there was no real support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other than the trough off Japan lifting hard north and tracking east through the Bering Sea. But in large all energy is to be tracking over or north of the Aleutians. Beyond 72 hours the .cgiit pattern is to fall into a more controlled regime, and by Monday (4/11) a singular flow is to be pushing off Japan and then .cgiitting just west of the dateline, with the northern branch pushing up to the Aleutians on into the Bering Sea then falling southeast into the Eastern Gulf with a trough forming there before pushing inland over Central CA. This looks like the typical La Nina pattern we've become used too and should be somewhat supportive of gale development in the Gulf.
At the surface on Tuesday (4/5) weak low pressure was holed up in the extreme Northeastern Gulf of Alaska generating a fetch of 30 kt west winds aimed at the Pacific Northwest good for 11 sec period windswell at best, but not much else. High pressure at 1040 mbs was 1500 nmiles west of North CA and totally in control of the weather picture driving all eastward bound gale energy off Asia up into the Bering Sea. A new little gale was trying to organize on the dateline but was getting driven hard north by the aforementioned high pressure system. Only 30 kt south winds were indicated, all aimed north towards the Central Aleutians. In short, a typical La Nina induced Springtime pattern.
Previously a gale started building over the dateline Friday AM with west winds to 45 kts producing a small area of 26 ft seas at 33N 175E and lifting northeast fast. By evening 40 kt northwest and west winds were up at 40N 170W with 22 ft seas over a small area at 38N 172W offering fetch aimed at Hawaii up the 334 degree path. By Saturday AM (4/2) 40 kt northwest and west winds continued at 45N 170W as the gale lifted due north with 23 ft seas continuing at 43N 170W bypassing Hawaii. In the evening 40 kt northwest winds started building way up at 49N 164W with 23+ ft seas building at 44N 165W. All energy taking aim at the Pacific Northwest. Sunday AM (4/3) 45-50 kt northwest fetch held up at 50N 160W with 26 ft seas at the same locale focused on the Pacific Northwest. In the evening 45 kt westerly winds were pushing east at 51N 152W with seas building to 35 ft at 51N 153W pushing towards Vancouver Island. A rapid decrease in fetch occurred Monday AM (4/4) with winds down to 35 kts and seas fading from 34 ft at 50N 147W. Most swell was aimed at the Pacific Northwest with small sideband energy already hitting Hawaii on Tues (4/5). Swell is expected for Central CA from a fairly northerly angle starting Wed AM at 7 ft @ 15-16 secs (11 ft faces) from 306 degrees. See QuikCAST's for more details.
Over the next 72 hours a new gale is to form over the intersection of the the dateline and the Aleutians Wednesday AM (4/6) generating 40-45 kt south winds all aimed at the Aleutians with the core of the low north of the Aleutians. In the evening winds to be up to 50-55 kts out of the west but all north of the Aleutians with only limited 35 kt westerly fetch free-and-clear at 50N 178W just south of the Aleutians generating 20 kt seas at 47N 180 west aimed towards the US west Coast (302 degs NCal). 50 kt west winds to hold up in the Bering Sea Thursday AM (3/7) but only 35 kt west winds south of the Aleutians generating up to 26 ft seas at 51N 172W (308 degs NCal) and bypassing any great circle route to Hawaii. The core of the gale is to be fading well up in the Bering Sea in the evening with residual seas of 26 ft fading at 52N 165W (308 degs NCal). There's some suggestion the remnants of this gale may start falling southeast Friday AM (4/8) with 35 kt west wind at 52N 160W generating 27 ft seas at the same locale. Again the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA would be the main targets. At best some small north angled swell is possible for the US West Coast mainly north of Pt Conception. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (4/5) strong high pressure at 1040 mbs was 1200 nmiles north of the Big Islands ridging east into North CA and Oregon generating the standard pressure gradient along the Central California coast and generating northwest winds at 25 kts over outer waters and less nearshore, hacking up the surf from the Oregon-CA border south to Pt Conception. This situation is to only get worse as the high builds east and weak low pressure from the Gulf of Alaska falls southeast with northwest winds holding at 25-30 kts over outer waters and continuing non-stop through Friday. These winds to even reach well into nearshore waters of Southern CA by Thursday holding into Friday. Some precipitation is forecast for Central CA Thursday as the weak low drops down the state with maybe 6-8 inches of snow in the Tahoe region. Finally the gradient is to fade some later Saturday as the high dissipates and falls south of CA with a front trying to push into the north end of the state late. Lighter winds to hold into Sunday while the front dissipates while pushing into maybe the North San Francisco Bay area. Light rain possible Sunday for North CA working it's way down to SF late in the evening with 3-4 inches of snow possible for Tahoe into Monday (4/11). But more high pressure is to be right behind with building northerly winds expected for Central and North CA by Monday holding into at least mid-next week.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. 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
Beyond 72 hrs the remnants of the Bering Sea Gale are to track east-southeast generating a fetch of basically 30 kt northwest winds over the northern half of the Gulf of Alaska into Sunday AM (3/10) resulting in 24 ft seas reaching to 47N 150W on Sunday AM (303 degs NCal). Maybe some 13-14 secs period swell to result for exposed breaks next week north of Pt Conception. Otherwise by Saturday (4/9) high pressure is to rebuild it's grip over the dateline to Central CA region with more forecast behind it. It will take a really good dose of the Active Phase of the MJO to move in and break up the high pressure pattern that is trying to get established. There's maybe one more chance on the charts (see MJO forecast below). Otherwise it looks like Spring has finally arrived.
As of Tuesday (4/5) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 31.15. The 30 day average was up to 23.10 with the 90 day average up to 21.51.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (4/4) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was building with westerly anomalies extending from the mid-Indian Ocean east over the dateline and moderately strong. It is to be centered on the dateline by 4/9, then easing east while slowly dissipating into 4/19. At the same time the Inactive Phase is to start rebuilding in the Indian Ocean reaching the extreme West Pacific by 4/19 then dissipating before hitting the dateline on 4/24. Though the SOI index is still not indicating the Active Phase in control, a dip in those numbers should be coming shortly. This all suggests that support for gale development should likely get enhanced as the Active Phase of the MJO gets a stronger foothold about 4/9. Theoretically high pressure should start breaking down on the dateline and the jetstream should repair it's currently .cgiit configuration. The interesting thing is that even though we are in a La Nina pattern, the Active Phase has been more dominant than expected from February onward and continues to surprise with it's consistency (a good thing) and steadiness. It's almost as if at least a normal pattern is trying to take hold, if not something more. We really need to see the 30 day average SOI taking a significant dive towards neutral territory through before we'll believe any real trend away from La Nina is occurring.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/4) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing 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. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relating as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water was edging east from the West Pacific, up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator on 3/3 and holding there though 3/22. There had been minor fluctuations in it's intensity but in all, reasonably stable. There has been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm and cool anomalies and it has been blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But as of 4/4, it appears that that wall is fading with a small finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months.
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 anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, but not unusually so. And if anything, they were dying to almost totally normal as of 3/27. We actually expected more from this La Nina.
Remnants of what was a moderate.cgius strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. 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. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an acco.cgiished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table