New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Thursday (4/9) North and Central California surf head high or so and coming up with swell from off Japan buried under local chop from south winds and occasional rain showers. Southern California was getting some of that same Japan swell with waves thigh high and slowly coming up but pretty chunked up with northwesterly bump. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the tail end of the swell originating from a storm off Japan last week with waves head high and kinda chunky. The East Shore had waist high east tradewind generated windswell from high pressure northeast of the Islands. The South Shore had knee to thigh high fading southern hemi swell coming from a gale that was under New Zealand early last week.
The forecast North and Central CA has Japan swell fading on Friday and out by the weekend with only local north windswell projected. Small southern hemi swell to be lurking underneath though making for something rideable at protected breaks. Southern CA to continue seeing a portion of that Japan swell through Friday then gone by the weekend. But southern hemi swell is expected in by Sunday and Monday making for some fun sized surf at the right breaks. Oahu's North Shore is to not see anything till Sunday when a little sideband energy from a gale over the northern dateline starts sneaking in for a day or so. By Tuesday it will be gone though. The East Shore is expected to continue with some form of modest easterly trade wind generated windswell through for the next 7 days, mostly in the waist high range. The South Shore is to see another southern hemi swell in by Friday providing more solidly rideable surf into Saturday, then heading down with nothing else immediately behind.
Longterm one more gale is developing in the North Pacific tracking just south of the Aleutians and into the Gulf Thursday with up to 36 ft seas forecast and offering some limited swell potential for mainly the US West Coast early next week. But after that things are to really be quieting down with no seas grater than 19 ft forecast over the next 7 days. Pretty quiet in the southern hemi too with only one week gale forecast early next week under New Zealand. Make the most of what you can get.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/9) the North Pacific jetstream was split just west of the dateline with the northern branch ridging northward up to and just south of the Aleutians then tracking east through the Gulf of Alaska and dipping south just off California, pushing inland over Central CA. Only the weakest of a trough was over the dateline offering bare minimal support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (4/12) no real change is forecast other than that little trough pushing into the Gulf while energy levels over the entirety of the jet fade dramatically. The split per se is to fade out, but instead a weak broad and fragmented flow is to be left behind incapable of supporting gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is fall back to it's old split pattern, only weaker with the northern branch ridging hard to the north off Kamchatka, pushing up in the the Bering Sea then dropping into a weak trough in the Gulf. Maybe some support for gale development there mid-next week.
At the surface high pressure at 1028 mbs remained positioned 600 nmiles north of Hawaii generating brisk trades pushing over the Hawaiian Islands at near 20 kts generating limited short period windswell along east facing shores. The high was trying to ridge into the US West Coast, but wasn't; quiet there yet with weak low pressure hanging just off the San Francisco coast. A gale low had organized on the dateline just south of the Aleutians with 45 kt west winds and 32 ft seas at 49N 176W aimed at the Pacific Northwest south towards North CA down the 306 degree great circle path. Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Swell from the Japan storm (see below) was impacting the mainland. Over the next 72 hours the only thing of interest is to be from that gale on the dateline. On Thursday evening it's to continue east with winds down to 40 kts and seas peaking at 36 ft at 48N 169W, then east into the Gulf on Friday while fading with seas 30 ft first light at 48N 162W and dropping fast from there. This was all on the 306-308 degree paths relative to Central CA with very limited energy heading south towards Hawaii. Maybe some decent longer period swell for Oregon/Washington later Sunday and California by Monday AM.
A storm was forming off Japan Thursday (4/2) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and 26 ft seas modeled late at 38N 154E pushing well towards Hawaii down the 302 degree great circle path. On Friday AM (4/3) west winds at 45 kts with seas up to 36 ft at 38N 160E targeting Hawaii well and even pushing energy towards the US West Coast up the 296 degree path (NCal). By evening winds to be dropping from 40 kts with seas peaking at 37 ft at 38N 166E aimed at NCal (3300 nmiles away) down the 295 path and Hawaii (2100 nmiles away) down the 309 degree path. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch and confirmed seas at only 30.6 ft with one spurious peak reading at 39 ft. This was considerably less than what the model suggested. 30 kt west winds were fading fast Saturday AM (4/4) with seas fading from 36 ft early at 41N 171E, down to barely 29 ft at sunset at 41N 175E. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western side of the peak seas at 18Z Saturday and confirmed seas at 27.8 ft @ 40.6N 168E with a peak reading to 32.2 ft where the modeled suggested seas of 28 ft. So the model was right on target this time.
North CA: Swell fading from 4.5 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft faces) on Friday from 295-296 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (4/7) weak low pressure at 1010 mbs was directly over the Oregon/NCal border bringing south winds and light rain down into Central CA. The core of the low is to be well inland on Wednesday with light high pressure trying to build in behind and rain clearing out. But another weaker low is to drop south down the coast Thursday (4/9) with more 10-15 kt south winds and rain forecast to Pt Conception and into Southern CA Friday while a clearing pattern and north winds builds over the northern half of the state, clearing into Southern CA Saturday with high pressure and north winds building south by Saturday. Light northerly winds to continue Sunday (4/12) before major high pressure at 1038 mbs builds off the coast hitting on Monday with up to 30 kt north winds nearshore of San Francisco building to 35 kts Tuesday. SCal to be protected but everywhere north of Pt Conception to be in tatters.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (4/9) no swell producing fetch was occurring and none was forecast for the next 72 hrs.
First New Zealand Gale
On Sunday (3/29) an elongated fetch of 35-40 kt west winds were under New Zealand associated with a 960 mbs low in the deep Southwest Pacific and generated 30 ft seas at 55S 158E south of the Tasman Sea and shadowed from Hawaii and the US by New Zealand. By Monday AM that gale was fading with 35 kt southwest winds aimed better to the northeast, then fading from 30 kts by Tuesday AM. Seas were modeled at 30 ft Mon AM (3/30) at 54S 176E and holding at 30 ft in the evening at 54S 179W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the fetch at 06Z Tues and reported seas of 25.8 ft with a peak to 34.8 where the model suggested seas of 27-28 ft. This was about on-track. One more reading of 28 ft occurred Tuesday AM (3/31) at 52S 180W then dissipating. Possible modest 17 sec southern hemi swell is possible by Thursday (4/9) for California (1.6 ft @ 16 secs - 2.5 ft faces from 210 degrees).
Second New Zealand Gale
Southeast Pacific Gale
Another gale tried to get going under New Zealand Wednesday (4/1) producing a modest area of 40 kt wind at 60S 180W Wed PM aimed somewhat to the northeast, but dissipating into Thursday AM. 28 ft seas were modeled Wed afternoon (3/31) at 60S 170W pushing to 29 ft Thursday AM (4/2) at 58S 177W then down to 26 ft in the evening at 55S 165W. Possible sideband swell for the Islands starting Fri (4/10) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) down to 2 ft @ 14.5 ft on Sat (3 ft faces) from 188 degrees. This swell was barely unshadowed (Tahiti swell shadow) for California.with smaller energy limping in Sun (4/12) with swell 1.6 ft @ 19 secs (3 ft faces) from 195 degrees.
Remnants of the Second New Zealand Gale (see details below) congealed in the Southeastern Pacific on Sunday AM (4/5) producing a small fetch of confirmed 50 kt almost south winds at 48S 138W aimed 15 degrees east of the 194-197 degree path to CA and east of the Tahiti swell shadow, expected to hold into the evening at 46N 128W aimed up the 184 degree path to CA. 35 ft seas were modeled Sunday evening at 45S 132W with the momentum pushing them more east than north. 30 ft seas were modeled Monday AM at 43S 125W. Beyond the fetch quickly turned east to southeast on Monday AM (4/6) and fading. 26 ft seas were pretty well east bound for Peru from 42S 115W in the evening. This system was gone after that. Possible very southerly angled swell pushing up into South California starting Sunday afternoon (4/12) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft faces) building to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft faces - 6.5 ft top spots) Mon (4/13). Swell still decent but fading on Tues at 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs. Swell Direction: 188-190 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 hours there's faint hope for low pressure developing off Kamchatka Sun/Mon (4/13) producing 23 ft seas with limited energy pushing towards Hawaii then fading, only to reorganize in the Gulf Tues/Wed (4/15) producing a small area of up to 32 ft seas targeting Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest. Keep you fingers crossed cause pickin's are a gettin' slim.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/9) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving into the Inactive Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index moving positive. The Daily SOI index was up to 15.86. The 30 day average was up slightly to 2.38 and the 90 day average was up, first time in a while to 6.76. This was almost exactly what has happened for the past 3 years in a row, where the SOI dives south in mid-March. Will be interesting to see if it holds there as it did last year for 6 moths almost fueling an El Nino, or rebounding as it did on 2007 to kick off the current La Nina episode. The SOI indicies remained barely symptomatic of La Nina mainly attributable to the 90 day average, but clearly La Nina has taken a big hit over the past month. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a strong pulse of the Inactive Phase pushing from Indonesia and Northern Australia east to the international dateline, and suppressing storm development in the West Pacific. this was clearly evidenced on the surface charts too. The Inactive Phase is to push hard to the dateline by 4/13, then racing east and be in the Eastern Pacific by 4/23 oozing over Central America and fading out through the end of the month. A new Active Phase is forecast to build behind it in the Indian Ocean, but not reaching the Pacific until 4/28, and maybe now holding together a little better than previous expected. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina remain in-control, with cooler than normal water trying to hold west of Central America. But that took a pretty good hit over the week of 3/30 with warmer than normal waters now barely built-in there at the surface. And below the surface the equatorial subsurface warm pool of water that has been repressed back west of the dateline worked it's way east to 130W, a major step forward. But it is getting pushed toward the surface by a persistent patch of cool water -1 degree C anchored down at 125 meters at 130W. The big question is how much effect will this next Inactive Phase of the MJO have on surface and subsurface waters of the East Pacific through the next 3 weeks, and whether the Active Phase behind it comes-on strong. Suspect we will loose some ground by the middle to end of the month. Regardless, it will still take months before the atmosphere begins to respond to any warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, so expect a continuation of cool and foggy Spring weather in California into early summer. But come summer, if warming develops in the Tropical Eastern Pacific, this could set up up for a decent Fall, and maybe an enhanced late summer southern hemi season.
Beyond 72 hours the models place low odds of a gale developing under New Zealand pushing east Mon-Wed (4/15) with up to 36 ft seas. Possible swell pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coast if this develops.
A stronger system to follow under New Zealand on Wed/Thurs (4/16) but sinking hard southeast and targeting only Antarctica with swell. No hope there.
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