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 (5/24) North and Central California had chest to shoulder high windblown northwest local period windswell at exposed breaks. This was about the peak of this windswell event. Southern California was getting the windswell too with thigh to waist high surf up north and clean, but near flat down south except for rare thigh to waist high southern hemi sets pushing through. But it was clean as can be. Hawaii's North Shore had some very small waist to maybe chest high sets rolling through at top spots coming from the north and clean as can be. The East Shore was tiny with knee high northeast windswell at best. The South Shore had some small southwest swell at waist to chest high or so on the sets at top spots coming from the Tasman Sea. Clean conditions early.
The forecast for North and Central CA remains unchanged, with mid-sized northwest local windswell expected to hold into Monday, maybe even Tuesday with luck, then start falling steadily, dropping into the very small range by Thursday and gone by Sunday (5/31). Southern CA is to see some of this same northwest windswell at exposed breaks into Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, then descending into flatness and staying there with virtually nothing on the charts. Oahu's North Shore is to fall into flatness on Monday and stay there all week. Maybe a hint of northeast swell next Sunday (5/31) originating from a gale forecast northeast of the Islands this week, but that's purely a guess. The East Shore is not expected to have any of the usual easterly windswell for the foreseeable future, with trades remaining suppressed. The South Shore is to see a little more pulse of background southwest swell originating from the Tasman Sea holding into Monday evening (5/25), then dissipating. Nothing else is expected for the next 5 days.
Longterm and odd little cutoff low is to form between Hawaii and Vancouver Island west of Pt Conception on Thursday (5/28) possibly generating up to 18 ft seas aimed decently towards Hawaii. A little hope from well for northeast shores from this one. But of more interest is a gale forecast for the South Pacific on Wed (5/27) supposedly generating 35 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast. Maybe some swell mainly to the US mainland if this comes to pass.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 600 nmiles west of San Francisco ridging northeast into British Columbia generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino resulting in 25 kt north winds there with northerly windswell propagating south into Central CA. Trades remained suppressed over the Hawaiian Islands with very weak low pressure north of there deflecting trades to the north. Over the next 72 hours through Wednesday (5/27) no real change is forecast until late in the period when the high pressure system off the US West Coast starts to dissipate, and the windswel it's been generated start fading too. The low north of Hawaii is to dissipate then too.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (5/24) high pressure was holding 600 nmiles west of San Francisco ridging northeast to British Columbia generating north winds to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino and lesser winds pushing south from there to Pt Conception, remaining well off the beaches from Pt Arena south but with a solid eddy flow in control in Central CA. Windswell was still present. The gradient is to hold on Monday but shifting a bit south with period on the windswell fading 1 sec (9 secs). Further southward movement of the gradient is expected on Tuesday (5/26) with the core at 30 kts right off San Francisco, and north winds impacting the coast down to Pt Conception likely making a choppy mess of things though Southern CA is to remain protected a it has. By Wednesday (5/27) the gradient is to start fading fast and drifting north again with windswell dropping out and all but gone by Thursday as low pressure builds off the coast, supported by a burst in the Active Phase of the MJO. No sign of high pressure or north winds south of Pt Area from Thursday on through next weekend with a light wind pattern nearshore.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (5/24) the South Pacific jetstream remained split over it's width with no troughs indicated. But the better news was the big ridge that has been pushing the southern branch over the Ross Ice Shelf appears to have broken up, with the southern branch now starting to push over ice free waters. There is no support for surface level gale development, but it isn't totally hindering it either now. Over the next 72 hrs a weak trough is to start forming in the southern branch well south of Tahiti, though winds are to remain weak in this trough, at 100 kts not providing much if any support for gale development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hrs the weak trough is to hold till Friday (5/29) then a ridge is to start pushing south in the same area where the trough was holding, pretty much shutting things down there. A steep trough is forecast forming under New Zealand Friday (5/29) with 160 kt winds flowing up into it, which is pretty solid, but it's to be short lived a little is expected to results from it at the oceans surface. So for now there's a little hope, but the larger pattern still appears to be biased against storm development, attributable to 3 years of La Nina forcing the momentum of the atmosphere towards a unsupportive mode.
At the surface on Sunday high pressure that had locked things down for weeks was gone, with a series of weak gales tracking north of the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and getting some traction on ice free waters of the South Pacific generating 25 ft seas, but nothing of any real interest. Over the next 72 hours a new gale is forecast forming in the Southwest Pacific generating a small fetch of 45 kt winds and getting some traction generating 28-30 ft seas at 55S 160W late a bit shadowed by Tahiti relative to California and almost east of the swell window for Hawaii. Additional fragmented 40-45 fetch is forecast on Wednesday AM (5/27) at 53S 155W pushing well up the 200 degree path to California unshadowed by Tahiti. 32 ft seas are forecast at 52S 158W pushing towards CA with sideband energy to Hawaii. In the evening a broad fetch of 30-35 kt winds are forecast with a core to near 40 kts at 49S 147W aimed right up the 196 degree path to California resulting in 35 ft seas at 49S 152W tracking up the 198 degree path to CA and mostly outside the range of Hawaii. The core fetch is to be gone on Thursday AM (5/28) though new fetch is to be forming south of there, but all aimed to the east and of no use to the US mainland. If this develops as forecast, some possible decent sized utility class southern hemi swell could result forCalifornia up into the Pacific Northwest and of course Mexico too.
Previously on Saturday (5/16) some more wind energy seeped into the Tasman Sea at 35 kts from the southwest winds expected to push to New Zealand on Sunday. 30 ft seas from previous fetch rounded under Tasmania Sat AM (5/16) at 43S 154E dropping to 26 ft in the evening at 41S 161E. 26 ft seas held to Sunday AM at 40S 155E and then faded out. More swell likely for Fiji with perhaps some very limited swell southwest for Hawaii starting Sunday (5/24) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) from 215-220 degrees. Period dropping to 14 secs on Mon (5/25) and dissipating that evening.
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 miraculously low pressure is to form 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii on Thursday (5/28) generating 35-40 kt northeast winds for 12 hours over a tiny area aimed well at the Islands, with seas building to 18 ft. POssible small 11 sec period swell to push towards the Islands if this goes as forecast. And some degree of broad low pressure is to seep off Kamchatka pushing to the dateline through the weekend (5/31). No swell is to result, but the fact that it is to hold together and make it to the dateline would be a sure sign of the power of current Active phase of the MJO.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (5/21) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was resurging in the Active Phase, with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index still negative. The Daily SOI index was down to -11.47 making it 29 days of near consecutive negative readings (since 4/26). The 30 day average was down to -9.16 (the lowest since 7/2007) and the 90 day average was teetering on a momentous landmark, down at 0.57 and almost negative (the lowest since Mar 2007and still on a steep nosedive). The SOI indicies remained completely neutral at the moment. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that the Active Phase had surprisingly re-energized itself with weak westerly wind anomalies over the entire equatorial Western Pacific reaching to the dateline and building eastward. It was still as if a whole new Active Phase of the MJO had built in. It is expected to seep east through 5/28 when it reaches Central America, then slowly dissipating through 6/7. A new Inactive Phase is trying to form in the Indian Ocean but is expected to die while trying to push into the Pacific on 6/9, having no impact. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina are effectively gone in the ocean, and fading fast in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere (though the Southern Hemi will take another 2 months longer to heal). Cooler than normal surface waters off of Central America are gone with slightly warmer than normal waters temps reported over the entire width of the equatorial Pacific. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water starting to pool up there. It appears that previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump, and are now pushing warmer than normal subsurface water eastward with more building up behind, and feeding a slightly warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. This is very good news. Months of high pressure off California and stiff north winds there turning trades over Hawaii had resulted in a huge cool tongue of water extending from Central CA the whole way over Hawaii to the dateline which generated massive upwelling. That continues to moderate, through a large pocket of cooler than normal waters remains off California extending to almost Hawaii with no immediate abatement. We expect 1-2 more months of high pressure and local La Nina conditionsbefore a fully neutral pattern takes hold and warmer waters start building off California. It can't happen soon enough wit water temps in the San Francisco Bay area hovering in the 51-53 degree mark.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest that by Thursday (5/28) additional low pressure is to try and start congealing in the Southeast Pacific with 40 kt wind initially at the oceans surface building to near 50 kts by late Friday at 58S 144W all aimed due east. 32 ft seas are forecast by Thursday PM at 55S 135W building to 36 ft at 52S 130W by Saturday AM (5/30). Sideband swell could theoretically be tracking up into California up the 186 degree path, but most energy is to be pushing towards Peru and points southward. This isn't too bad, especially given the trend of the past few weeks.
And yet beyond a larger system is forecast forming snuggled up to New Zealand on Sunday (5/31) generating 45-50 kt south winds at 50S 175W building to near 60 kts in the evening with seas likely pushing to near 40 ft. This looks very good for Hawaii and Tahiti if it is to form. But it's a week off and odds are impossibly low that it will materialize.
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