Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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 Sunday (4/15) North and Central CA had swell fading out with waves in the 2 ft overhead range and kinda raw but with light wind early. In Santa Cruz surf was shoulder to maybe head high and clean but with some lump in the swell. Southern California up north was waist to near chest high and clean but soft and alot of lines stacked close together. Down south waves were waist high high, soft and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting west swell with waves 3-4 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was getting southern hemi background swell with waves waist high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around westerly energy at select spots at chest to shoulder high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
One last gale developed over the dateline on Thursday (4/12) with seas to 32 ft targeting primarily the Islands, the fizzled. moved to the Gulf of Alaska and redeveloped Saturday (4/14) with 26 ft seas setting up swell that hit Hawaii on Sunday (4/15) and is pushing towards the US West Coast for Tuesday (4/17). Things really settle down after that with one tiny gale forecast producing 18 ft seas off Washington on Tues (4/17) with virtually nothing behind that. In the southern hemi a small gale developed in the Southwest Pacific with seas 33 ft on Sat (4/7) with small swell hitting Hawaii and projected into the US West Coast on Sun-Mon (4/16). Nothing else of interest to follow immediately with only some faint hope on the charts later this week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Sunday (4/15) the jet was split over Asia with a weak trail of energy peeling off to the north tracking inland over western Siberia. The remaining energy was pushing east off Japan splitting again with the northern branch running flat over the dateline and into the US West Coast over Oregon. One pocket of winds to 130 kts were over the dateline but everywhere else was 90 kts or less with no troughs of interest occurring offering nothing to support gale development in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the energy pocket on the dateline diffusing and pushing east with winds 100 kts from the dateline pushing into Northern CA with no troughs and no support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours multiple splits are forecast in the jet with the strongest cohesive energy again focused on the dateline with a ridge occurring there with winds to 140 kts on Sun (4/22) falling into a weak trough off the Pacific Northwest tracking east. Low odds for gale development forecast there. And no odds elsewhere in the North Pacific.
Surface - On Sunday (4/15) residual low pressure from the Dateline Gale (see details below) were circulating in the Northern Gulf of Alaska with west winds still 30 kts, but fading. Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was situated south of it extending from the dateline to the California coast with the core of easterly trades displaced south of the Hawaiian Islands. A weak low was circulating just off Japan and of no interest. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to consolidate mid-way between California and Hawaii at 1024 mbs gradually increasing trades over Hawaii to the 15 kt range and generating a light northerly flow over Central CA focused mainly off Pt Conception at 15 kts. Low pressure is to develop in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Mon (4/16) with 35 kt west and southwest winds building moving into the Central Gulf late. The gale is to fade by Tuesday AM (4/17) with winds dropping from 30 kts and seas peaking at 18 ft at 45N 143W pushing towards Oregon. This system is to dissipate by the evening. Maybe some 11-12 sec period windswell to result for mainly the Pacific Northwest late Wed (4/18).
Another gale started developing over the dateline on Wednesday evening (4/11) with 35 kt west winds in it's southern quadrant and seas 24 ft at 36N 171E (303 degs HI) on the increase. By Thursday AM (4/12) a broader area of 40-45 kt west winds were in place 1500 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas building to 302 ft at 36N 177E (310 degs HI). In the evening winds to be fading from 35-40 kts with seas peaking at 30-32 ft at 36N 176W (315 degs HI) and 1200 nmiles out. Fetch was fading Friday AM (4/13) from 35 kts over a tiny area with seas fading from 24 ft at 35N 168W pushing mainly east with sideband energy tracking towards Hawaii.
Swell arrived on Oahu on Saturday (4/14) near 11 AM with swell peaking at 9 PM at 6.1 ft @ 16 secs (10 ft faces) coming from 310-315 degrees.This swell was also tracking towards the US West Coast and is expected to arrive in Central CA on Monday at 5 PM with pure swell to 5.2 ft @ 17 secs (8.8. ft) from 286 degrees
This system faded then started to reorganize in the Gulf of Alaska on Friday evening (4/13) with west winds 30-35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 20 ft at 37N 162W. On Saturday AM (4/14) west winds in the gales south quadrant peaked at 40 kts with seas building to 26 ft at 44.5N 160W (296 degs NCal) and bypassing Hawaii to the east. In the evening winds were fading from 30-35 kts with seas fading from 26 ft at 45N 152W. Expect swell arrival in Central CA near 7 AM Tues (4/17) with pure swell (mixed with swell from when the system was on the dateline) at 6.2 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft faces) coming from 296 degrees with energy underneath from 286 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (4/15) a weak north wind pattern was still in play along the entire California coast at 10-15 kts but focused mainly on the Pt Conception area and driven by weak high pressure off the Southern CA coast. More of the same is expected on Monday (still northerly 10 kts) and continuing Tuesday (maybe to 20 kts near Pt Conception). Wednesday the high is to get a little better footing with north winds to 15 kts expanding their footing up to Cape Mendocino and southward into Baja them retreating slightly on Thursday. The core of the north winds is to lift north on Friday centered over Monterey Bay and then San Francisco on Saturday (4/21) and holding. No rain or snow is in the forecast, consistent with a reestablishment of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
At the surface in the South Pacific on Sunday (4/15) no fetch of interest was occurring and over the next 72 hours none is forecast.
Second Small Gale
On Friday AM (4/6) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds developed southeast of New Zealand with seas on the increase. In the evening that fetch raced northeast and increased in areal coverage, but with winds fading to 40 kts. Seas built to 32 ft over a tiny area at 58S 162W. Fetch continued tracking northeast Sat AM (4/7) with winds down to 35 kts and seas from previous fetch peaking at 33 ft over a decent sized area at 51S 157W (201 degs CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and 180 degs HI). In the evening fetch was fading from 30 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 48N 153W.
Small southern hemi swell radiating northeast and hit Hawaii on Sat (4/14) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft faces) from 180 degrees with more direct though small energy expected for the US West Coast down into Central America (arriving in Southern CA on Sun (4/15) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) from 198 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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast with a very weak pressure pattern in play and no low pressure systems of any magnitude expected.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Sunday (4/15) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at 5.55. The 30 day average was up slightly at -8.29 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 1.80. The last pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO was having marked effects with the 90 day average surpassing the lowest point it's been in 2 years, but not as low as the El Nino of 2009-2010. A steady downward fall in the 30 day average has been ongoing since early January when it was +24 (now -8). We're hopeful this is part of a longer term ENSO trend away from La Nina.
Current wind analysis indicates light easterly anomalies over the equator extending from the dateline to the Indian Ocean. Weak westerly anomalies were near 140W and fading. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was fading in the Eastern Pacific while traveling east with the Inactive Phase starting to take control. A week from now (4/22) weak easterly anomalies are to be approaching the dateline with dead neutral anomalies from the dateline to Ecuador indicative of perhaps a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO moving towards the dateline. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/14 are a bit fragmented in their view with the statistical model depicting the Inactive Phase already on the dateline and holding for the next 2 weeks through 4/28 with the dynamic model indicating it is to fall back to the Indian Ocean a week out and the try and re-push east 2 week from now. Regardless, the Active Phase is not in control and the upper level circulation clearly indicates that, suggesting the North Pacific is likely going to sleep for the Summer.
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 early Summer of 2012. But after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013. We're almost there - it's been a long 2 years.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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