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 Tuesday (5/7) North and Central CA had surf that was effectively flat with nothing really rideable and clean with no real wind blowing. Down in Santa Cruz occasional thigh to waist high sets were breaking at top spots and clean inside the kelp, but pretty ruffled outside the kelp. Southern California up north was flat to knee high and clean. Down south limited southern hemi swell was producing sets in the waist high range and lightly textured. Nice and sunny. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some windswell with waves waist high or a little more on occasion and fairly clean with just a little northerly texture. The South Shore was getting minimal background southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high on the sets and clean with winds light. The East Shore was getting thigh high northeast tradewind swell and reasonably clean with light winds in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring with a weak pressure pattern in control. But a pair of weak gales are developing, one east of Japan and one in the Western Gulf. The Gulf system was producing 25-30 kt northwest winds over small area Tuesday with seas to 15 ft late, with a decent sized fetch continuing generating 13-14 ft seas Wed-Fri (5/10) aimed at Hawaii. The second gale off Japan is to generate 25-30 kt northwest winds and 15 ft seas on Thur-Fri aimed reasonably well at Hawaii, but a long distance away. Maybe some windswell to result for Hawaii from both systems. These systems are to hold together weakly and track east, possibly offering windswell potential for exposed breaks in California (from the Gulf system) and then Hawaii again (from the Japan system). Something to monitor. Relative to California no local windswell is forecast till a week out (Tues 5/14).
Looking into the southern hemi a small gale wrapped up just over the eastern coast of New Zealand late Saturday (5/3) generating 30-32 ft seas aimed north, good for minimal background swell for Hawaii for the weekend (5/11). Otherwise a quiet pattern prevails. On Thursday (5/9) a gale is supposedly to track northeast from under New Zealand producing 34 ft seas while approaching Tahiti into Sat (5/11) then fading, but not out. A weak second pulse is now forecast developing early next week (5/13) with seas to 32 ft and yet a stronger third pulse possible on Tues-Wed (5/15) with seas to 40 ft. But the models are highly unstable with the exact forecast changing with every run. No outcome is certain. But at least it's a step in the right direction. Regardless, these systems northward track will stack the odds in favor of producing swell for Tahiti and Hawaii, assuming all goes down as forecast. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (5/7) a near neutral pressure pattern remained in control of the North Pacific providing no swell producing fetch exceeding 15 kts other than a developing low in the Western Gulf. That low had a tiny fetch of 30 kt northwest winds Tues AM (5/7) with seas on the increase. No local gradients or weather capable of generating fetch was occurring in the vicinity of California. Trades were not blowing over Hawaii and not expected to develop for the next 72 hours.
Over the next 72 hours the low in the Western Gulf is to develop more Tuesday evening (5/7) with northwest winds still 30 kts and seas building to 15 ft at 45N 169W. By Wed (5/8) 25 kt northwest winds to continue generating 13 ft seas near 44N 167W targeting Hawaii. Fetch to build in coverage Thursday (5/9) still at 25 kts generating 14 ft seas at 44N 170W, then fading later and into Friday with seas 13-14 ft tracking southeast. Windswell expected for Hawaii by Saturday (5/11) at 4.8 ft @ 10 secs (4.5 ft) then holding Sunday at 4.5 ft @ 10-11 secs (4.5 ft). Windswell fading Monday.
And another fetch is to develop just off Japan producing a short lived fetch on Wednesday with 30 kt northwest winds holding if not building into Thursday (5/9) producing more 30 kt northwest fetch and 16 ft seas at 36N 159E aimed at Hawaii. Fetch to fade some Friday buy still at 25 kts producing 14 ft seas at 37N 165E again aimed at Hawaii while pushing east. Fetch fading from there. Small northwest windswell possible for Hawaii if all goes as forecast, but that's far from certain.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (5/7) remnant local low pressure was off the Central CA coast driving a light southerly flow for Central CA turning offshore for Northern CA. Light winds were over Southern CA. A light wind flow is forecast for the entire state Wednesday and Thursday until late afternoon when northwest winds build to 10-15 kts mainly for the Central Coast near Pt Conception. Friday mostly light winds are forecast other than the northerly flow at 15 kts near Pt Conception with broad low pressure starting to approach from the west. A front is to push very close to the SF Bay Area late Saturday but dissipate before reaching land with high pressure trying to nose in under it into Central CA with northwest winds 15 kts building up to San Francisco late in the day. the same pattern expected Sunday too (5/12). Finally on Monday, as low pressure dissipates in the Gulf, high pressure to build off the North and Central Coast with local north winds building to 15-20 kts late and then 25 kts on Tuesday, lifting slowly north towards Northern CA late Tuesday.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (5/7) the jet remained .cgiit and fragmented flowing flat east, from either end of New Zealand then merging while pushing into extreme Southern Chile. Winds were generally light until the reached just off the coast of Chile building to 150 kts. But no troughs of interest were indicated offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic flow is to hold until a trough start building well south of New Zealand on Wed (7/8) with 150 kt southeast winds feeding into it. Some support for gale development possible. By Thurs PM the trough is to rapidly build with 190 kt winds feeding up into it then moderating while pushing hard north Friday, dissipating late. improved support for gale development. beyond 72 hours additional energy to push up into the remnants of the trough on Sat (5/11) at 130 kts with the trough really opening up and increasing in coverage and holding into Tues (5/140, but winds speeds steadily dropping. Still decent support for gale development possible. Something to monitor.
Surface - On Tuesday (5/7) swell from a gale off New Zealand was arriving in Fiji (see New Zealand Gale below) with remnants expected to seep past there moving towards Hawaii (see QuikCAST's for details). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast until Thursday (5/9) when a gals is to build southeast of New Zealand (see Possible New Zealand Gale below).
Possible New Zealand Gale
On Thursday AM (5/9) a modest gale is forecast to start developing while tracking under New Zealand moving into and upper level trough producing an area of 45 kt southwest winds down at the surface and seas building from 26 ft at 58S 172E. Thurs PM the gale is to track northeast with fetch building to the north pushing up into the South Pacific with winds holding at 45 kts southeast of New Zealand targeting Hawaii and seas to 34 ft at 54S 178E. Additional 40-45 kt pure southerly winds are to be holding and lifting north Fri AM (5/10) generating more 34 ft seas at 48S 178W. A broad fetch of 40 kt southerly winds are expected holding in the evening with 32 ft seas lifting north at 43S 170W. 45 kt south winds to build Sat AM (5/11) with seas 34 ft at 44S 162W. Southerly fetch fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 41S 157W with secondary fetch building to 45 kts south around the core of the gale. On Sun AM (5/12) a solid fetch of 45 kt south winds are forecast wrapping around the core of the gale with seas building to 36 ft at 50S 150W. By evening winds are to be fading from 40 kts as the core of the low retrogrades south with seas fading from 30 ft over a tiny area at 52S 152W. Assuming all this comes to pass some degree of decent 17 sec period swell could radiate northeast targeting Tahiti with secondary swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast. the early part of this fetch to be unshadowed for California by Tahiti, then moving well into the shadow and popping out the east side late in it's life. But given the dynamic state of this system on the models, nothing is for sure yet. At least it's something to monitor.
New Zealand Gale (Fiji)
A small non-closed isobar low started developing in the Central Tasman Sea on Sat AM (5/4) producing 35-40 kt south winds with seas on the increase. By evening it had closed off along the Eastern New Zealand coast generating 40 kt south winds with seas building from 28 ft at 36S 167E aimed well at Fiji. The core of the gale was moving inland Sunday AM (5/5) still producing a small fetch of 40 kt south winds aimed well at Fiji with seas peaking at 30 ft (06Z) at 35S 168E. The gale to move inland over New Zealand on Sunday with all fetch quickly fading.
In all a short pulse of 16-17 sec period swell is likely to result starting to radiate into Fiji on Mon afternoon GMT (5/6) reaching 9 ft @ 16 secs (14 ft Hawaiian) fading through Tuesday (5/7) from 8 ft @ 15 secs early(12 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 208 degrees. Swell a little bit raw given the close proximity of the fetch (900 nmiles).
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 the normal summertime local windswell producing gradient is forecast re-developing along the North and Central California coast on Tues (5/14) with windswell possible for nearshore locations.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii beyond 72 hours either.
The gale previously in the Western Gulf is to east east possibly redeveloping off the Pacific Northwest Coast on Sat-Sun (5/12) producing 25 kt west winds and seas to in the West Pacific is to also track east Fri-Sun (5/12) producing 25 kt westerly winds and seas in the 13-14 ft range, possibly producing some limited westerly windswell for Oregon. Fetch fading before reaching the coast.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by 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 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Tuesday (5/7) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up somewhat -6.65. The 30 day average was down some at -3.71 with the 90 day average up slightly at 3.10. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino, but the downward trend is encouraging.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated moderate east anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline and then light easterly on into Central America. A Inactive MJO pattern appeared to be building. A week from now (5/15) solid east anomalies remain forecast over the Maritime Continent extending over the dateline and east of there to a point south of California, then fading to neutral along the equator into Central America. This suggests a building moderate pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is possible, the strongest in a very long while.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/6 are in general agreement. Both suggest a moderate Inactive MJO pattern was in control of the far West Pacific, the worst of it occurring now. It is forecast to start moderating 5 days out, then start fading 10 days out and gone 15 days from now. Both models suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is building in the Western Indian Ocean and is moving east. The Dynamic model has it moving cleanly into the West Pacific 15 days out while the Statistic model is more conservative with it moving into the West Pacific but not as quickly. So assuming all this comes to pass, it would suggest a return to a stronger MJO cycle.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (5/6) a faint pool of slightly warmer water covers the entire north side of the equator from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii. But on the south side of the equator much cooler water is building. A thin current of markedly cold water continues tracking north up along the South American Coast turning west at Ecuador extending to the Galapagos Islands, and getting much better traction pushing west of the Galapagos. It's not enough to call it a real La Nina cold pool yet, but it sure continues looking that way. A .cgiume of slightly cooler than normal water continues radiating off the California coast tracking just southeast of Hawaii and barely making it to the equatorial dateline, typical of the effects of a somewhat stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. And it looks like it's gotten cooler, the result of a prolonged burst of northerly winds previously over the CA coast. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicating a building pool of cooler water (-3 to -4 deg C) in.cgiace at 150W and down 150 meters, blocking the transport path. A small pocket of slight warmer water appears to be backing up in the West Pacific, typical of La Nina. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and if anything are cooling, while the subsurface path is blocked by cooler water, not doing anything to transport warm water eastward, even if there was warm water to transport. And the coastal pattern off the US mainland suggests somewhat higher pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern. Interestingly the falling SOI (both daily and 30 day average) suggests something else is in.cgiay. It's still a very mixed pattern with no clear long term signal suggesting either El Nino or La Nina.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 5/7 seem to be in denial of the current situation. They indicate water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and are to bottom out in May near normal (+0.0 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.25 degree C level is possible over the summer holding through Fall to Jan 2014. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier where accuracy of all the ENSO models is historically low. So for now the outcome is uncertain, but not trending towards anything that would be considered warm. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours a second fetch associated with the New Zealand gale is forecast development late Sun-early Mon (5/24) resulting in a thin fetch of 45 kt southwest winds and a small area of 34 ft seas near 43S 169W but short lived.
And yet another fetch to develop in the upper trough southeast of New Zealand on Tues (5/140 producing 45-50 kt southerly winds and 40 ft seas near 52S 168W. Certainly something to monitor.
Otherwise 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