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 (4/30) North and Central California had weak thigh to waist high southern hemi swell occasionally showing. Southern California had thigh high northwest short period windswell at exposed breaks up north and nearly chopped and thigh high rare southern hemi swell and cleaner down south. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high or so with onshore winds and not clean. The East Shore was getting the same north-northeast windswell at waist high at exposed breaks. The South Shore had some south swell at waist high occasionally more and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA indicates some minor southern hemi background swell for the weekend to waist high with southwest windswell at chest to shoulder high. Southern CA is to see the same southern hemi background swell at waist high with limited thigh high westerly windswell intermixed. Oahu's North Shore is to see some background waist high energy from across the dateline on late Saturday into Sunday. The East Shore is to stay flat. The South Shore is see fading background southern hemi Saturday and gone by Sunday.
Longterm remnants of a gale that passed east from the Kurils to the dateline over the past week were starting to fire up on the dateline later Thursday into Friday pushing well into the Gulf of Alaska with seas to 26 ft aimed decently at both the Islands and even more at the mainland. That fetch is to slowly fade out off the Pacific Northwest on Monday with seas dropping from 20 ft, likely setting up some swell fore east next week and then slowly fading into mid-week. Down south a decent storm was tracking from well south of Tahiti east towards Chile with seas to 39 ft, but little if any fetch is to be aimed north, limiting odds for swell pushing up into the California swell window. But Central and South America should do well from this one. A bit of a break after that.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/30) the North Pacific jetstream was surprisingly strong with a pocket of 190 kts winds almost flowing flat over the dateline then dipping into a steep almost-trough east of Hawaii and off the California coast. No real support for gale development yet other than in association with the pocket of energy over the dateline. Over the next 72 hours that pocket of winds is to push southeast and gradually loose some steam while trying to form a broad trough in the Gulf of Alaska, providing decent support for surface level gale development, then pushing into Central California on Sunday. Beyond 72 hours the bulk of the upper level energy is to be onshore over California by early Wednesday (5/6) though a decent trough is to still be in-place north of Hawaii holding through Thursday. Low pressure development is not out of the questions in this area.
At the surface low pressure at 996 mbs was over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians producing limited 30 kt northwest winds in it's southwest sector. 20 ft seas were modeled at 47N 178E. A near neutral pressure pattern was off California offering no windswell potential and no trades were blowing over the Hawaiian Islands. Over the next 72 hours this low pressure system is to build with 35 kt northwest winds extending from the dateline to a point well north of Hawaii generating 23 ft seas at 45N 180W Thursday PM pushing southeast. Friday AM seas to reach 25 ft at 44N 173W then fading from 23 ft in the evening but covering a larger area at 42N 167W. More fetch at 35 kts is forecast Saturday AM (5/2) producing 25 ft seas again at 43N 170W peaking at 26 ft in the evening at 42N 162W. 26 ft seas are to hold into Sunday AM at 43N 153W then fading from 23 ft in the evening at 40N 148W. Residual 20 ft seas forecast into Monday AM. Possible small 14-15 sec period swell for the North Shore by Sunday (5/3) after sunset fading from 13 secs into Monday and into the US West Coast starting late Sunday up in Oregon and CA on Monday (5/4).
On Tuesday (4/28) weak low pressure was approaching the dateline centered over the Aleutians at 988 mbs with limited 30 kt west and northwest winds in it's southwest sector. 20 ft seas were modeled at 43N 165E likely good for limited background swell for the Islands at 3.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (4 ft faces) on Saturday-Sunday (5/3).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/30) northwest winds were centered over Pt Conception reaching south into Baja but low pressure was making a move east in the Gulf of Alaska. By Friday (5/1) south winds to 20 kts are forecast for San Francisco and south to Pt Conception as the front form this low pushes east, then turning west Saturday. Another little front is expected early Sunday in Central CA maybe reaching south to Monterey Bay. Southwest winds are forecast from Pt Arena northward Monday and Tuesday before a weak clearing pattern and high pressure takes over. Rain is expected pushing into the San Francisco area Friday morning pushing south to San Diego in the evening, then trying to dry out on Saturday before another weaker but still wet pulse hits down to Monterey Bay Sunday. Another decent load of rain is forecast for Northern CA and Oregon late Monday through early Wednesday (5/60 before things finally dry out. A nice late season dose of rain looks possible.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (4/30) the South Pacific jetstream was split over the West but had formed a decent rough in the Southeast with 130 kts pushing northeast some. Decent support for gale development in the far Southeast Pacific. Over the next 72 that trough is to push east out of the US mainland swell window Friday (5/1) with an energetic ridge building behind it with winds to 190 kts pushing southeast towards the southern tip of Chile on Saturday. Decent support for gale development, but not in the US Swell window. Beyond 72 hrs a weak pattern is to take over the Central Pacific and generally ridging south, suppressing gale development until Thursday (4/7) when a strong trough is forecast forming under New Zealand with 140 kts winds pushing hard northeast there offering potential for gale development. But that is far from certain at this early date.
At the surface on Tuesday a gale was trying to organize southeast of New Zealand and on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. 35-40 kt southwest winds were building expected to reach 45 kts by evening at 62S 162W. Seas on the increase. Over the next 72 hours this storm is to be the only ting of interest. By Wednesday AM a solid fetch of 45-50 kts southwest winds are forecast at 61S 149W aimed right up the 194 degree path tot California. Seas building from 32 ft at 62S 150W. In the evening a most solid fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds are forecast at 60S 133W aimed 40 degree east of the 186 degree path to California and taking aim more on Central America. Sea building to 38 ft at 59S 140W. Thursday AM the storm is to deepen to 948 mbs with 55 kts winds forecast at 65S 133W and free and clear of ice and aimed 40 degree east of the 186 degree path to CA with seas to 41 ft at 55S 130W. That fetch is to fade to the 45-50 kt range in the evening and nearly pushing out of the California swell window at 60S 123W aimed way more east then north. 40 ft seas forecast at 57S 120W. On Friday (5/1) 45 kt pure east winds are to be pushing out of the California swell window towards Chile with 36 ft seas at 55S 112W fading from 32 ft in the evening at 58S 103W bound for Chile.
At the surface on Tuesday (4/28) a gale was trying to organize southeast of New Zealand and on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. 35-40 kt southwest winds were building pushing 45 kts by evening at 62S 162W. Seas on the increase. By Wednesday AM a solid fetch of 45-50 kts southwest winds were in play at 62S 145W aimed 30 degrees east of the 194 degree path to California. Seas were building from 32 ft at 62S 150W. In the evening a most solid fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds were present at 60S 133W aimed 20 degree east of the 192 degree path to California. Seas built to 38 ft at 60S 142W. Thursday AM the storm deepened to 948 mbs with a broad area of 40-45 kt winds at 57S 127W aimed 40 degree east of the 186 degree path to CA with seas to 39 ft at 58S 130W. That fetch is to fade to the 35 kt range in the evening and pushing out of the California swell window at 53S 115W aimed decent northeast. 37 ft seas forecast at 55S 119W. On Friday (5/1) this system is to fade with 35-40 kt east to southeast winds pushing towards southern Chile with residual 32 ft seas at 52S 111W fading away.
Some limited sideband swell from this one is possible reaching up to exposed breaks in South and Central CA if this storm forms as forecast, but that remains a guess.
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 residual low pressure energy from the dateline/Western Gulf gale is forecast pushing into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska Monday (5/4) and inland into Canada the day after. Limited fetch of 30 kts is forecast in the systems south quadrant targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest with 20 ft seas pushing into the coast there.
Beyond weak high pressure to build in behind it.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/30) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index dropping well into the negative range. The Daily SOI index up some to -9.74, providing 5 days in a row of negative readings (after 26 days of positive values). The 30 day average was down to 8.04 and the 90 day average was down to 7.36. 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 near peaking out with westerly anomalies covering the entire equatorial Western Pacific to the dateline nearly into Central America. It is to be weakening a little as it tracks east filling the Pacific by 5/4 and then heading east but still having an effect over the Eastern Pacific through 5/9. A new version of the Inactive Phase is forecast building in the Indian Ocean by 5/2, but is expected to be weak as it moves east, limping to the dateline by 5/19. 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 are 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 over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America. So now we are waiting to see if this current episode of the Active Phase will start pushing warm waters of the West Pacific eastward, kicking us into a warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Regardless, it will still take months before the atmosphere begins to simmer down from the La Nina induce weather pattern. But, for the first time since November 2008, a consolidated jetstream pattern is forecast over the North Pacific, a early sign of recovery if it holds. Conversely a huge cool tongue of water extending from Central CA the whole way over Hawaii to the dateline remains in-place, 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 generating massive upwelling. Expect 1-2 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). But even recently there are signs the jetstream is returning to normal.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no additional swell development in the South Pacific until Wednesday (5/6). At that time But a push of energy is expected to start tracking into the South Pacific from under Australia possibly feeding into a trough forecast in that area. Possible gale development under New Zealand if this occurs as 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