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 Sunday (4/26) North and Central California had building 1-2 ft overhead local northwest windswell at north facing breaks with onshore northwest winds and chopped. South facing breaks were getting the last leftovers of southern hemi swell (Swell #1S) at waist high with perhaps the rare chest high set. Southern California has limited waist high northwest windswell at exposed breaks up north with rare southern hemi sets still in the waist to maybe chest high range. A bit of warble was on it though overall it was clean. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with maybe some 2 ft background north windswell hitting and not looking very clean. The East Shore was getting the same north-northeast windswell at waist high at exposed breaks. The South Shore was effectively flat with no rideable surf indicated.
The forecast for North and Central CA is a mixed bag. Northwest windswell is all for Monday at 1 ft overhead, fading out Tuesday and then some little southern hemi background swell moves in for Wednesday and Thursday at waist high or so. Southern CA is to be in the same boat, with northwest local windswell thigh high on Monday and fading Tuesday with southern hemi background swell moving in later Tuesday at waist high and holding through Wednesday, and nearly gone by Thursday. Oahu's North Shore is not expected to see any surf until Wednesday when some background windswell from the dateline shows up at 1 ft overhead, holding into Thursday. to see that northeast windswell fading on Friday (4/24) and essentially gone by Saturday. Maybe some background waist high energy from across the dateline on Sunday, but odds are low. The East Shore is expected to see that same north windswell, and following the same profile as the North Shore. The South Shore is to remain quiet till Wednesday when background southern hemi swell arrives on Wednesday at waist to chest high and holds into Friday.
Longterm the models suggest a small gale pushing off Japan on Monday pushing to the dateline and fading by Wednesday with seas to 23 ft, good for background swell for the Islands. And of some interest is a supposed building gale pattern on the dateline Thursday pushing well into the Gulf of Alaska by next weekend which could have potential for everyone, likely fueled by the Active Phase of the MJO. Down south a supposed very strong storm is forecast building south of Tahiti mid-week tracking straight east with seas to 48 ft, but little if any fetch is to be aimed north, limiting odds for swell pushing up into the California swell window. Odds are it won't form as strong as forecast either. At least there's something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (4/26) the North Pacific jetstream had a good amount of energy starting to track off Japan reaching to the dateline with winds 140-150 kts, with a little trough on the dateline offering limited odds for gale development. A huge ridge was over the East Pacific shutting everything down there. Over the next 72 hours that energy is to build more with winds to near 180 kts arching over the dateline and spilling down into the Gulf of Alaska almost as far south as Hawaii. No clear troughs are forecast but it seems that low pressure development is possible from the dateline pushing east. Beyond 72 hours the pattern is to hold with a solid singular flow of energy tracking almost flat from Japan over the dateline to a point just off the California coast by Friday (5/1) with winds slowly fading down to 150 kts then fully pushing onshore over Central CA late Saturday into Sunday. It almost looks like winter again. What is amazing is how strong the MJO influences this pattern because it is to be peaking in the Active Phase on 4/30, right in-sync with the jetstream buildup. Decent odds of gale development if this comes to pass. .
At the surface high pressure at 1036 mbs was locked down in the Gulf of Alaska generating a fetch of 20-25 kt north to northwest winds pushing down the coast of British Columbia through the Pacific Northwest and down California through Baja Mexico resulting in building short period northwest windswell for that entire area. Low pressure was over the dateline in the Bering Sea generating a small fetch of 25 kt northwest winds just south of the Aleutians producing 19 ft seas there as it has since late Saturday. This should be good for some small swell pushing into Oahu on Wednesday (4/29) at 5.5 ft @ 12 secs (6-7 ft faces) from 327 degrees and holding into Thursday. Over the next 72 hours high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska is to gradually wither, getting anemic by Tuesday (4/28) with windswell it has been producing fading out. At the same time a new low pressure system is to form southeast of the Kuril Islands pushing towards the dateline generating 30-35 kt west winds in it's south quadrant Mon-Tues (4/28) generating a small area of 23 ft seas targeting primarily Hawaii. Limited 12-13 sec period swell for the North Shore possible Saturday (5/2).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (4/26) high pressure at 1038 mbs remained in control of the Gulf of Alaska producing 25 kt north winds over waters of the entire state. These winds to fade just a little later Monday and become isolated to just the area off Pt Conception by late Tuesday, perhaps ushering in calmer winds for other breaks. But by Wednesday a new little patch of high pressure is to be rebuilding in the Gulf pushing down to Baja with 15-20 kt northwest winds forecast late. But this is to be brief, with calmer winds settling in on Thursday as low pressure tried to build in the Gulf. Light winds forecast Saturday with rain pushing into the state turning south on Sunday as a second front edges up to Central CA with rain pushing into California and weak low pressure filling the Gulf of Alaska. Looks like we're slowly returning to a normal rain pattern as La Nina dies out.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (4/26) the South Pacific jetstream was split over the West with a trough south of Tahiti with winds 110 kts pushing up into it. But a ridge of near 190 kt winds was tracking southeast off Chile kinda limiting what it could produce. Over the next 72 a storm is to start building southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday (4/28) with 50-55 kts winds at 65S 168W all aimed mostly to the east. that trough south of Tahiti is to push east fast and out of even the US swell window by late Monday and be undercut by a zonal flow of winds coming from the West Pacific, pretty much shutting things down. Beyond 72 hrs a flat zonal flow is forecast to take over entire Southern Pacific with a pocket of 120 kt winds embedded in the flow south of Tahiti Wednesday and being reinforced Friday to 150 kts in the same area then pushing east. Limited support for surface level low pressure development.
At the surface on Sunday no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a storm is start building southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday (4/28) with winds to 55 kts over a small area at 65S 162W all aimed well to the east and little to the north. Seas to 36 ft late at 65S 162W. By Wednesday an impressive area of 55 kts west winds are forecast at 63S 149W but again not aimed north at all. 42 ft seas forecast in the AM at 63S 152W and up to 47 ft in the evening at 61S 140W. Thursday that fetch is to fade to the 45-50 kt range and pushing out of the California swell window at 60S 123W. 48 ft seas forecast at 60S 127W early and 48 ft in the evening at 58S 116W, out of the CA swell window. Maybe some sideband swell from this one will reach up to exposed breaks in Southern CA if this storm forms as forecast, but even that is only a wild guess at this early date.
Hawaii Background Swell
At the surface on Tuesday AM (4/21) a 980 closed isobar low formed just south of New Zealand producing 50 kt southwest winds at 60S 165E with seas on the increase. In the evening winds tracked northeast quickly and faded to 40 kts at 56S 178E with 30 ft seas modeled at 57S 174E pushing 30 degrees east of the 193 degree great circle path to Hawaii. By Wednesday AM (4/22) almost all fetch was gone with residual 28 ft seas modeled at 54S 178W and fading fast, gone by evening. There's some potential for small 16 sec sideband utility swell to reach up into Hawaii late Wed (4/29) with pure swell 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft faces) fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft faces) Thurs AM (4/30). Swell direction 189-193 degrees.
Southern CA Background Swell
A storm formed Friday PM (4/17) well south of New Zealand producing a small area of 55 kt south winds at 65S 172E aimed well up the 193 degree path to Hawaii but practically over the Ross Ice Shelf. It was quickly fading Saturday AM (4/18) with 45 kt southwest winds modeled at 65S 175W and seas barely 29 ft over a tiny area at 64S 175W. Winds were gone by evening with 29 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 64S 165W. Sunday AM (4/19) it tried to reorganize with a decent sized fetch of 40 kt southwest winds aimed northeast while pushing northeast through the Southeast Pacific producing a small area of 28 ft seas at 60S 152W, moving to 55S 142W in the evening and down to 26 ft, then fading with winds 35 kts and aimed more easterly with 26 ft seas at 53S 133W Monday AM (4/20) before dissipating in the evening. Decent odds for small background southerly swell for Southern CA starting at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) on Tues (4/28) peaking at 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Wed (4/29) then down to 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft faces) Thursday AM coming from 192 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 new low pressure is forecast building on the dateline with assistance from the jetstream, producing a decent sized fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds on Thursday (4/30) and holding in some fashion into Sunday (5/3) with seas in the Western Gulf of Alaska 21-24 ft at 45N 170-180W. Possible 13-14 sec period swell for US West Coast and Hawaii if this occurs.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (4/26) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index dropping to the negative range (a good thing). The Daily SOI index down to -2.96, the first time negative in 26 days. The 30 day average was up to 9.87 and the 90 day average was up to 8.62. The SOI indicies remained weakly 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 Active Phase was firmly taking control, stronger than originally expected with westerly anomalies covering the entire equatorial Western Pacific to the dateline. It is to be weakening a little as it tracks east filling the Pacific by 4/30 and then heading east but still having an effect over the entire Pacific by 5/5. A new version of the Inactive Phase is forecast building in the Indian Ocean by 5/5, but is expected to be weak as it moves east if not totally dissipating before entering the Pacific between 5/10-15. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina remain in-control in the atmosphere. Cooler than normal surface water off of Central America are gone with normal, neutral water temps back in-play if not verging on slightly warmer than normal. And below the surface on the equator cool water that had locked down the region are essentially gone, the first time in months, with a steady flow of normal subsurface water tracking from the West Pacific the whole way into Central America. So now we are waiting to see if something will start pushing the warm waters of the West Pacific eastward, kicking us into a warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. This bout of the Active Phase should help that process along. Regardless, it will still take months before the atmosphere begins to simmer down from the La Nina induce pattern currently in effect. Evidence of this is a huge cool tongue of water extending from Central CA the whole way over Hawaii to the dateline, the result of months of strong high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska resulting in brisk north winds down California turning to northeast winds over Hawaii. Expect 2 more months of high pressure before a possible neutral pattern takes hold (i.e. no split in the jetstream over the North Pacific - warmer waters off California).
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest another storm is to form on the very eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window on Saturday (5/2) with 55 kts winds at 60S 122W pushing out of the window by evening. 36 ft seas area forecast at 55S 125W Saturday AM pushing 46 ft in the evening at 58S 115W, but essentially of no use to anyone by Peru down into Chile.
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