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 (4/14) North and Central California was seeing locally generated windswell producing waves in the chest to shoulder high range and textured by nearshore northwest winds. Southern California was seeing thigh high northwest windswell and clean conditions early up north. Down south waves were waist high and a bit warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing no real swell with waves maybe waist high on the sets and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated east windswell at thigh to waist high and clean. The South Shore was getting waist high background southern hemi swell and blown out with south winds in effect.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Friday (4/15) is to see local northwest windswell producing 5.0 ft faces. More of the same is forecast for the weekend with windswell 5 ft on Saturday and dropping from 4 ft Sunday. Monday windswell drops to 3 ft and then 4 ft faces on Tuesday southern hemi swell in the mix at 3 ft at exposed breaks.
Southern California is to see thigh high southern hemi swell Friday with about the same sized windswell intermixed. Knee to thigh high windswell leftovers Saturday and dropping from knee high Sunday with thigh high southern hemi background swell intermixed. Monday thigh high southern hemi background swell continues then bumps up Tuesday to waist to chest high.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see nothing rideable though the weekend. Possible northwest windswell to near head high forecast for Tuesday though.
The East Shore is to see east windswell at waist high plus on Friday. A little more east windswell at waist high or so is expected to hold through the weekend on into Tuesday, then fading. .
The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell at head high early Friday. Chest high leftovers Saturday dropping to thigh high Sunday and knee high or so Monday. New background swell at waist high expected Tuesday.
The north Pacific remains asleep for now though a hint of maybe a gale or two moving towards the dateline region is forecast a week out,but only generating 18 ft seas with luck. Local windswell remains the best hope. Down south a little gale developed along-side of New Zealand on Friday (4/8) pushing background swell into Hawaii (already hit) with far less size expected for California. A stronger gale is tracking mostly east under New Zealand Tues-Thurs (4/14) producing up to 41 ft seas but well shadowed by Tahiti for the US West Coast. Possible rideable swell to result for the Islands and the US West Coast, but nothing too large. It continues to looks like Winter is dead as we move directly into a summer pattern.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/14) a weak version of the jetstream was pushing off Japan then instantly splitting with most energy running hard north over the extreme Western Aleutians into the far North Bering Sea, then turning abruptly south and pushing over the eastern Aleutians into the Gulf of Alaska forming a bit of a trough there before turning east and pushing into Oregon. The only winds of interest were in the trough in the Gulf at 160 kts in a little pocket mostly pushing into Oregon offering little hope to support low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours a change is forecast with some energy from what's left of the Active Phase of the MJO appearing to become assimilated into the jet. The big split is to disappear with a ragged but consolidated flow tracking flat from Japan east over the dateline and into the Oregon area. Winds to be light barely reaching 120 kts in a tiny pocket off Japan and generally 100 kts or less everywhere else. Something that almost resembles a trough is forecast for the dateline by Sunday (4/17) but offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to become more refined with a less haggard look with 150 kt winds building just off Japan extending almost to the dateline by late Tuesday (4/19) then migrating to the dateline on Thursday with some semblance of a trough remaining on the dateline moving towards the Gulf of Alaska. Maybe some limited support for gale development then.
At the surface on Thursday (4/14) nothing of interest was occurring. High pressure at 1028 mbs was barely ridging into Central CA with another weak high at 1024 mbs over the northern dateline region, and yet another at 1020 mbs off Japan. No low pressure of interest was occurring. The only fetch was trades blowing towards the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands associated with the high pressure system off California. Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low at 996 mbs is to developed under the split in the jetstream roughly centered on the dateline perhaps generating 30 kt northwest fetch aimed at Hawaii late Friday into Saturday (4/16) generating 17 ft seas on the dateline perhaps capable of generating minimal windswell targeting the Islands. Otherwise nothing of interest is forecast. Certainly quiet.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (4/14) high pressure at 1030 mbs was pushing/ridging into Central CA generating a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds of 20 kts centered over Pt Conception and extending down well into Baja. Weak low pressure was pushing into the Pacific Northwest winds south winds in effect from just north of Cape Mendocino northward, and relatively calm winds in between, centered on San Francisco. This same pattern is to hold into Saturday AM (4/16) with a light rain line from Pt Arena northward and maybe a dash of rain in the Tahoe region Sat PM. But by later Saturday low pressure off the Pacific Northwest is to be gone and a mild high pressure pattern is to take over the region. By Sunday a light northwest flow is forecast for the entire state and holding through the end of the coming work week. Maybe a change for rain in the SF to Monterey Bay region Monday AM, but that is doubtful. Northwest winds in the 15-20 kt range forecast, strongest in the afternoons, and not very thick, meaning not much chance for windswell production.
Over the next 72 hours remnants of the New Zealand Gale (see details below) are to continue tracking flat east pushing towards southern South America. But the very west to east alignment of the fetch will severely limit the northward propagation of any swell. Some degree of limited background swell in the 15-16 sec period range is possible well into the week of 4/28, but size to be minimal. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
On Thursday (4/7) a small gale developed under New Zealand tracking north up it's eastern coast generating a tiny fetch resulting in 32 ft seas in the evening at 45S 178E pushing up to 40S 179W Friday AM and holding on to the evening at 39S 170W. This was a far from impressive system, but good enough to push a decent pulse of swell towards Hawaii. Expect swell arrival there on Thursday (4/14) with swell building to 3 ft @ 16 secs late (5 ft faces) then holding at 3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft faces) into Friday AM (4/15). Leftovers for Saturday and fading. Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
New Zealand Gale
Another gale built south of the Tasman Sea tracking east-northeast on Tues (4/12) producing a solid area of 40 kt west-southwest winds and seas building. With the Antarctic Ice Sheet at it's Fall minimum, the fetch was getting some traction on ice free waters there. By Tuesday evening the fetch built to 45 kts over a solid fetch area while pushing east-northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 58S 168E (a long ways from the US West Coast - 6690 nmiles away on the 212 deg track - and aimed pretty much east of the 199 deg great circle track to Hawaii). 45 kt winds held into Wed AM (4/13) with seas to 40 ft at 56S 178E (210 degs CA -193 degs HI), with new fetch developing a bit south of there. By Wed PM 45 kt southwest winds were blowing generating 42 ft seas at 56S 170W (205 deg NCal - 185 degs HI). Thursday AM (4/14) 45 kt west winds continued to hold generating 44 ft seas at 55S 161W bypassing Hawaii and aimed a bit east of the 201 degree track to CA. By evening the fetch is to be fading fast and aimed due east with seas from previous fetch at 42-43 ft and fading fast at 54S 151W (197 degs NCal).
For the most part this system is to be be totally shadowed from CA by Tahiti and surrounding Islands and fetch aimed well east of any track going up to Hawaii. The net result is to be rideable swell at both locations, but nothing to get excited about. Just something rideable. Tahiti will do alright, but not optimal.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting at sunset Tues (4/19) with period 20 secs and size likely no noticeable, but building overnight. Swell to be 2.6 ft @ 18 secs sunrise Wed (4/20) with sets near 5 ft (face) and holding through the day. Swell to hold solid Thurs (4/21) with swell 3 ft @ 16 secs early (5 ft faces with bigger sets), then starting to fade some later in the day. Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft faces) on Fri (4/22) and fading. Swell Direction: 185-195 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 cutoff low over the dateline is to persist, but with no fetch greater than 20-25 kts resulting. Additional low pressure is to be building just east of Japan on Wed (4/20) with fragments from it getting sucked into the circulation on the dateline, but to no avail. That will only serve to destroy the Japan low and not feed enough in to the dateline low to be of any help. The Japan low is to eventually become absorbed in the dateline low, and it is to move into the Gulf of Alaska late Thursday (4/21). Maybe some swell-worthy fetch to build then, but that is just a guess.
As of Thursday (4/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued in the positive range. The daily SOI was down at 18.17. The 30 day average was down to 23.56 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.43.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (4/13) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was fading fast with modest westerly anomalies filling from the Philippines to the dateline, with neutral conditions east of there. They were having little impact on the daily SOI. These anomalies are to be slowly dissipating on the dateline 4/18 and effectively gone by 4/23. At the same time the Inactive Phase is trying to rebuild in the Indian Ocean but much weaker than previous indicated, and are to be dissipating while tracking east, not even getting out of the Eastern Indian Ocean by 4/23 then dissipating on 4/28. A neutral pattern is forecast after that. Finally there's some evidence that the current Active Phase is adding some support for gale development, with the jetsream expected to repair it's split pattern. But not a whole lot is to result from that down in lower levels of the atmosphere. It looks like the pull of Springtime trumps anything the MJO is trying to produce at this point, meaning that the 2010-2011 Winter season is likely over. Longterm, we really need to see the 30 day average SOI taking a significant dive towards neutral territory (0.0 readings, or at least a 30 day average of 10.0) before we'll believe any real trend/bias away from La Nina is occurring.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/11) 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, previously 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. Currently those temps are down to about 1 deg above normal. There had been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm and cool anomalies and it had been blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But as of 4/4, it appears that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some into 4/13. 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 and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline. The thought is this normalization of subsurface waters will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (months later). So all this is a step in the right direction.
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 almost normal and any anomalies that persisted were dying to almost totally normal as of 3/27.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus 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 aimed well towards either Hawaii or CA 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