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 (5/28) North and Central California had waist high northwest local short period windswell at exposed breaks with local west to southwest winds rippling it up. Southern California was flat with no real northwest windswell making into the coast. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with some rare thigh high sets at top spots. The East Shore was flat with no rideable surf occurring. The South Shore was effectively flat too. It doesn't get much more quiet.
The forecast for North and Central CA remains unexciting for the short term, with next to no rideable surf forecast other than perhaps some knee to thigh high background windswell coming out of the west up north on Sunday and Monday. Then back to nothing for the bulk of the workweek. Southern CA is to fall even more and hold at dead flat through the weekend into early next week. Maybe some minimal background southern hemi swell by Wednesday (6/3) to thigh high with luck. Oahu's North Shore is to see a hint of northeast swell by Saturday (5/30) peaking Sunday ( 4.5 ft faces) then fading into Monday originating from a gale forecast northeast of the Islands late this week. The East Shore is not expected to see any normal easterly windswell for the next 6 days, but maybe it will pick up after that. But they are to see that northeast windswell over the weekend. The South Shore is to see nothing through the weekend into Monday. But then everyone luck is to improve.
Longterm the picture is improving, as if it could get any worse. A little cutoff low is forming north of Hawaii on Thurs/Fri (5/29) possibly generating up to 20 ft seas aimed reasonably well at Hawaii. A little hope for north and northeastern shores from this one. But of more interest is a gale that has tracked through the South Pacific on Tues-Thurs (5/28) generating 40-45 kts winds and up to 35 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast targeting Hawaii and the US Mainland. Decently rideable swell is expected for the Islands mid-next week and the West Coast by the weekend. This should be a minimally significant class swell as has such been named Swell #2S. And more remains on the charts for early next week with a gale forecast just under New Zealand targeting the Islands and another behind it mid-week. The New Zealand storm corridor looks to be open for business. It's been a long time in coming.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Also a broad low pressure system is to seep off Kamchatka pushing to the dateline on Saturday (5/30) with 25 kt winds forecast in it's southwest sector generating seas to 15 ft at 40N 178E on Saturday (5/30). This to possibly result in some tiny energy moving towards the Hawaiian Islands.
At the surface high pressure was withering off California, but a new high pressure centered at 1024 mbs was centered 1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii. No windswell production capacity was occurring through. Trades remained suppressed over the Hawaiian Islands too. Low pressure at 1008 mbs was starting to form 900 nmiles northeast Hawaii though generating near 30 kt north winds there aimed at the Islands. Over the next 72 hours a small thin fetch of 30-35 kt north to northeast winds are forecast to continue in this lows west quadrant near 37N 145W through Friday (5/29) aimed well at the Islands with seas to 20 ft. The low to dissipate late Friday but not before generating possible small swell pushing into Hawaii by late Saturday into Sunday (5/31) with swell reaching 4.2 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.6 ft faces) from 20-23 degrees.
In essence, a low pressure regime is to take over the North Pacific and holding through the period. Clearly the Active Phase of the MJO is having an effect.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/28) high pressure was all but gone off the California coast with a neutral pressure pattern and fading north winds occurring as low pressure builds off the coast. No sign of high pressure or north winds are forecast from Friday into Saturday, and then only a small area over Pt Conception to the Channel Islands Sunday into Tuesday (6/2) with near calm winds everywhere else on into Thursday (6/4).
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Thursday (5/28) the South Pacific jetstream remained split in the west but was consolidated in the east, but diving southeast there and of no sue to anyone other than Antarctica. A small trough that started building in the southern branch of the jet under New Zealand on Tuesday continued on Thursday through winds were only 100 kts there. Just the same , it clearly was having an influence at lower levels of the atmosphere in the form of supporting low pressure development (details below). Over the next 72 hrs that weak trough is to hold if not improve muchly, with a big push of wind energy at 160 kts expected to surge north on Friday under New Zealand and holding into late Sunday (5/31) then fading. This certainly should help support gale development in that region. Beyond 72 hours yet another pulse of energy is forecast pushing into this trough on Tuesday (6/2) at 130 kts with yet another forecast on Thursday (6/4) at 150 kts . This continues to look most favorable and offers good support for gale development assuming it comes to pass. Of note, the favored storm corridor under New Zealand has really not been active for the past 3 years, presumably attributable to a persistent La Nina. Perhaps that tide is changing.
At the surface on Thursday (5/28) the remnants of a gale that tracked through the South Pacific was fading in the southeast (see Central Pacific Gale below). Yet another gale was organizing southeast of New Zealand with 35-40 kt west winds at 52S 163W, but all this momentum was aimed towards South America. On Friday AM (5/29) it's to peak with 40-45 kt west to southwest winds at 55S 150W generating 38 ft seas at 58S 142W by evening all aimed at Southern Chile, then dissipating. No real energy to seep up into our forecast area though swell is likely to radiate as far north as Peru.
And beyond yet another system is forecast forming under New Zealand starting Saturday PM (5/30) with 40-45 kt southwest winds at 61S 170W lifting northeast. By Sunday AM (5/31) and decent sized fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds are forecast at 59S 173E aimed right up the 210 degree path to California and on the edge of the Tahitian swell shadow and well up the 195 degree path to Hawaii. 28 ft seas building fast at 59S 171E. In the evening fetch is to fade a little while tracking north with 40-45 kt winds at 52S 178W aimed just like before. 35 ft seas forecast at 55S 176E. This fetch to continue pushing almost due north on Monday AM (6/1) generating 30-35 kt south winds at 49S 171W with 31 ft seas at 50S 178W and more 35 kt winds in the evening with 30 ft seas at 42S 172W. All this to be right on the 212 degree path to California (unshadowed) and 193 degree path to Hawaii.
Central Pacific Gale - Swell #2S
At the surface on Tuesday (5/26) a new gale formed in the Southwest Pacific generating a decent fetch of 40-45 kt south to southwest winds at 57S 175W and getting some traction. By evening winds were confirmed at near 45 kts at 53S 167W aimed well to the north pushing right up the 204 degree path to California and on the edge of the Tahiti swell shadow generating 30 ft seas at 54S 166W late and a bit shadowed by Tahiti relative to California (203 deg) and pushing a bit east of 183 degree path to Hawaii.
Additional 40-45 fetch was confirmed on Wednesday AM (5/27) at 53S 160W pushing right up the 202 degree path to California and mostly unshadowed by Tahiti. 35 ft seas were modeled at 51S 161W pushing well towards CA with sideband energy to Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the outer edge of the core of the fetch at 18Z and reported max average seas of 30.5 ft with one peak reading to 37.5 ft, about 3 ft less than what the models suggested. In the evening a broad and fragmented fetch of 30-35 kt winds were confirmed with a core to near 45 kts at 50S 151W aimed right up the 198 degree path to California with seas from previous fetch at 35 ft at 49S 155W tracking right up the 201 degree path to CA (unshadowed) and mostly outside the range of Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the outer periphery of the core of the fetch and confirmed average max seas there at 32 ft with a peak reading to 40 ft. This is exactly in sync with the model.
The core fetch was effectively gone by Thursday AM (5/28) with residual 32 ft seas from previous fetch at 45S 146W pushing right up the 196 degree path to California.
Overall this system did pretty well, though not quite as good as the models suggested. QuikSCAT data was right on-track providing 48 hours of 40-45 kt fetch aimed right up the great circle tracks to California and pushing north enough that Hawaii should get a decent shot of swell too. Jason-1 data suggests seas were near the 35 ft peak for 18 hrs, though not as long as the models indicated (24 hrs) . Regardless, compared to previous weeks, this was a good system for producing swell. But from a historical perspective this was just your average garden-variety southern hemi gale. Still some possible decent sized near-significant class southern hemi swell could result for California up into the Pacific Northwest and Mexico since this system pushed well to the north and virtual fetch was having some effect on those headings. Tahiti to do quite well too. Hawaii might even see near significant class sideband energy.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (6/2) at 1 AM HST with period 20 secs and size tiny but building through the day. Swell to start peaking Wednesday (6/3) at 3 AM with swell 2.8 ft @ 17 secs holding through the morning (4.8 ft faces with best breaks to 6.0 ft), moving to 16 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 16 secs (4.6 ft faces with top spots to 6.0 ft). Still decent size expected into Thursday AM with swell 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft faces), sliding down to a pure 14 secs near sunset. Swell Direction 180-185 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday (6/4) at 1 AM with period at 20 secs and size tiny but coming up. Rideable yet inconsistent surf expected to be arriving by noon with swell 1.3 ft @ 18 sec (2 ft faces). Period is to drop to 17 secs on Friday (6/5) at 1 AM with swell peaking out then to sunrise at 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft faces with top spots to 6.5 ft) pushing 3.3 ft @ 16 secs late morning into early afternoon (5.3 ft faces with top spots to 6.6 ft). On Saturday solid size is expected at sunrise with swell 3.0 ft @ 15-16 sec (5-6 ft faces), but slowly settling down by noon as period moves more to 15 secs. Sunday fun-sized residuals are forecast at 2.7 ft @ 14 secs mid-morning (4 ft faces). Swell Direction: 199-205 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday (6/4) at 6 AM with period at 20 secs and size tiny but coming up. Perhaps some rideable yet inconsistent surf expected in by sunset. Period is to drop to 17 secs on Friday (6/5) at 6 AM with swell peaking out near noon at 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft faces with top spots to 6.5 ft) pushing 3.3 ft @ 16 secs by sunset (5.3 ft faces with top spots to 6.6 ft) . Even on Saturday solid size is expected with swell 3.0 ft @ 15-16 sec early (5-6 ft faces), but slowly settling down through the day as period moves more to 15 secs. Sunday fun-sized residuals are forecast at 2.7 ft @ 14-15 secs early (4 ft faces). Swell Direction: 196-204 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 a broad area of weak low pressure is to continue holding control of the dateline region and extending west to the Kuril Islands and east to a point north of Hawaii till at least Thursday (6/4). High pressure is to try and set up mid-day between Hawaii and Pt Conception CA by Tuesday (6/2) with real trades starting to blow over the Islands by Wednesday strengthening Thursday, possibly setting up small short period windswell along east facing shores. But the high is to remain just far enough away from California to prevent any wind or windswell there.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (5/28) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Active Phase, but likely at the end of that phase, with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index still negative. The Daily SOI index was up to 14.11 making it 30 days of near consecutive negative readings (since 4/26). The 30 day average was up to -7.85 and the 90 day average passed over a momentous threshold, still in negative territory at -0.05 (the lowest since Mar 2007). The SOI indicies remained completely neutral at the moment but something appears to be happening on a grand scale. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that this second incarnation of the Active Phase has peaked out with weak westerly wind anomalies over the entire equatorial Western Pacific. It looks like it's on it's last legs now with minimal residual to seep into Central America through 6/4. What was a new Inactive Phase that was trying to form in the Indian Ocean has all but dissipated. Perhaps we are entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase (a good thing if this occurs) 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 conditions before a fully neutral pattern takes hold and warmer waters start building off California.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest that yet another gale is to push under New Zealand Wed (6/3) with 40 kt southwest winds and 32 ft seas pushing a little more east than north, but still pushing energy into the Hawaii and California swell windows (though Shadowed by Tahiti for CA). Certainly no lack of activity is forecast if the models are even close to correlating to reality.
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