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 (4/16) North and Central California had shoulder to head high northwest windswell with some wind on it and pretty chopped, but nowhere near as bad as days past. . Southern California was getting mostly northwest windswell with waist in the chest high range and still pretty ragged up north, improving as you head south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting swell from off Kamchatka with waves 2-3 ft overhead and reasonably clean. The East Shore had waist high plus east tradewind generated windswell. The South Shore was effectively flat.
The forecast for North and Central CA is to see less and less windswell through Saturday with some background swell originating off Kamchatka trying to filter in. Then some small northwest swell originating from a gale in the Gulf Thurs/Fri is to hit for later Saturday into Sunday (4/19) providing maybe some slightly overhead surfs. but by Monday that is to be fading out with not much immediately behind it. Southern CA to see a tiny portion of that Kamchatka swell on Saturday and even less of the Gulf swell due ti it's very northern angle. So you should probably take whatever you can get out of it and set your sites low. Oahu's North Shore is seeing the peak if the Kamchatka swell with energy levels dropping slowly Friday then steadily into Saturday, effectively gone by Sunday with no backup forecast. The East Shore is expected to see slowly fading east tradewind generated windswell through the weekend then basically gone after that. The South Shore is to have no rideable southern hemi swell for the next 5 days.
Longterm the focus is all down south. In the southern hemi a decent system formed starting Tues (4/14) and is rebounding pretty nice Thurs (4/16) with up to near 40 ft seas aimed pretty well to the northeast in the CA swell window with sideband energy forecast up into the Hawaiian swell window. Odds are favoring the first significant class southern hemi swell of the season.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/16) the North Pacific jetstream was a mess with a big weak ridge pushing north of the Bering Sea in the west and then dropping into a weak trough running through the Northern Gulf of Alaska with winds peaking at 120 kts there. Limited support for low pressure development in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (4/19) essentially the same pattern is forecast, but with the ridge in the west weakening as is the trough in the Gulf. No clear support for low pressure development indicated. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a trough is forecast forming east of Kamchatka pushing east to the dateline and falling apart. A cutoff trough might form north of Hawaii.But overall no clear support for low pressure development is indicated.
At the surface weak low pressure at 996 mbs was in the northern Gulf of Alaska generating 30-35 kt west winds in it's south most quadrant generating a broad area of 17 ft seas pushing towards the Pacific Northwest. These to build to 20 ft in the evening pushing 23 ft Friday AM at 48N 140W, then fading after that. This should result in a nice spurt of 13-14 sec energy pushing towards the Pacific Northwest for late Saturday pushing into Central CA by Sunday AM (4/19) with swell of 5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6-7 ft faces) from 307-310 degrees. Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked off the Central CA coast making for a steady northwest breeze nearshore at 15-20 kts. Over the next 72 hours that high pressure is to hold off the coast through Saturday with 15-20 kt north to northwest winds and short period windswell the result. continuing the only thing of interest is to be from the gale off Kamchatka.
On Saturday PM (4/11) 40 kt west winds were centered just off Kamchatka at 48N 162E and cut off from any track to the US West Coast, but sending some energy down towards Hawaii down the 318 degree path. Sunday winds faded to 35 kts with seas to 28 ft early at 47N 167E as the gale limped east and was almost gone on Monday with only 30 kts winds and 25 ft seas crossing the dateline at 46N 178W pushing down the 302 degree path to North CA.
Swell from this system has already hit Hawaii and is to be fading on Friday from 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5 ft faces) from 325 degrees. Very limited energy is expected into the US West Coast late Friday into early Saturday (4/18) but being overrun by more local Gulf swell later Saturday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/16) moderate high pressure at 1030 mbs was 500 nmiles west of San Diego CA ridging into the South and central CA coast generating a modest northerly flow at 15-20 kts from Pt Reyes southward over the Channel Islands. No effective change is forecast Friday into Saturday as the high starts pushing northeast ridging and tracking into the Pacific Northwest by Saturday (4/18). North winds to finally abate on Sunday continuing into Tuesday (4/22) before the next batch of strong high pressure at 1034 mbs builds in the Gulf pushing into Cape Mendocino Wednesday generating 30-35 kt north winds extending south to almost Monterey Bay and generating larger summertime north windswell and chop nearshore. Southern Ca to be effectively protected through all of this.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (4/16) a solid gale was tracking through the Southeast Pacific. See Possible Storm #1S below. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is forecast for the next 72 hours.
Possible Storm #1S
A gale started developing under New Zealand pushing east Monday (4/13). By Tuesday AM pressure dropped to 968 mbs with a decent sized fetch of 50 kt southwest winds building at 60S 165W starting to get traction on the oceans surface and building in size pushing up the 198 degree path to California and barely unshadowed by Tahiti. 35 ft seas were modeled at 60S 162W. In the evening pressure dropped to 964 mbs with a solid area of 45 kt southwest winds at 55S 156W pushing northeast on the 197-198 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti. Seas were modeled up to 42 ft at 56S 155W. By Wednesday AM (4/15) this system was fading with a large fetch of 40-45 kt southwest winds modeled at 53S 145W pushing right up the 197-199 degree paths to California and unshadowed with seas holding at 39 ft at 53S 147W. More 35-40 kt southwest winds occurred in the evening at 55S 145W with 36 ft seas modeled at 49S 140W (191 degrees CA). Thursday AM (4/16) the gale was reorganizing with 45-50 kt southwest winds modeled at 49S 132W aimed 30 degrees east of the 188 degree path to California pushing seas back to 40 ft at 48S 134W. A shrinking area of 45 kts southwest winds are to be fading in the evening at 49S 120W with seas still at 40 ft at 44S 126W. 40 kt winds to continue into Friday AM with seas fading from 36 ft at 40S 120W and starting to push well east of the CA swell window targeting Chile and Peru better..
This storm actually is beating what the models called for 5 days ago, a rarity. It is likely to produce 108 hours of decent fetch with peaks to near 50 kts, resulting in two 24 hr long spurts of 40 ft seas aimed reasonably well to the north up the 198 and 188 degree paths to California. This is the best we've seen so far this season by a mile and seems entirely likely to produce longer period significant class summer time swell for the US West Coast, the first significant class swell of the 2009 summer season. Side band energy is likely for Hawaii from early in the this storms life (when it was under New Zealand) with healthy size expected into Mexico down to Chile.
Rough data suggest swell pushing into California early Wed (4/22) with period 20+ secs, peaking late Friday into early Sat (4/25) with swell roughly 4 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft faces with top spots to 8-9 ft from 188-197 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 virtually no real swell producing fetch is forecast in the North Pacific. Looks like summer is settling in. A cutoff low is forecast 600-700 nmiles north of Hawaii Mon/Tues (4/21) producing up to 35 kt north-northeast winds and 20 ft seas near 35-37 154-156 aimed just a bit west of Oahu. This could be good for some decent 12 sec period swell if it occurs.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/16) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Inactive Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index moving positive. The Daily SOI index was 6.92, down from the 20-30 range earlier. The 30 day average was up to 6.15 and the 90 day average was up to 7.68. The SOI indicies remained barely symptomatic of La Nina mainly attributable to the 90 day average. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that the Inactive Phase was filling the equatorial Pacific from Northern Australia over the international dateline and over Central America. It was peaking out a suppressing storm development in the North Pacific. The Inactive Phase is to push hard east into Central America through 4/20 and into the Atlantic by 4/25. A new Active Phase is building strong behind it in the Indian Ocean, expected to be pushing into the Pacific on 4/25, but weakening as it tracks east. It's to be fading steadily as it tracks over the dateline and into the East Pacific through 5/5. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina remain in-control in the atmosphere, and cooler than normal water off of Central America has gotten a little enforcement from the latest push of the Inactive Phase. But below the surface on the equator a persistent patch of cool water (-0.5 degree C) is essentially gone, the first time in months. The big question is how much effect will this current 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 stronger than currently modeled. 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 suggest a rather active pattern down south, though all are to be rather small and tracking more east than north. A small one is forecast in the Southeast Pacific Sun-Mon (4/20) generating up to 32 ft seas targeting the US West Coast nicely, though small. A second one is forecast under New Zealand starting Sunday (4/19) seeping east but never really getting it's act together with seas hovering in the 28-30 ft range through Thursday (4/23) and never moving too far east. Good odds for 15-16 sec period background swell for Hawaii and Tahiti from this one.
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