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 (5/28) North and Central CA had local windswell at waist high and relatively clean but crumbled and weak - pure windswell. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was still hitting at waist to maybe chest high and fairly clean. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high and blown out with strong onshore winds. Down south waves were waist to chest high all coming out of the north and chopped and pretty unappetizing. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. A beautiful day, but not for surfing. The South Shore was knee high or so and barely rideable with a light sideshore flow and textured. The East Shore was getting easterly windswell at thigh to waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific a weak low generated 16 ft seas in the Gulf of Alaska aimed at the Pacific Northwest. Maybe some windswell is pushing east but nothing remarkable. Otherwise minimal windswell was being generated by high pressure west of California. Relative to Hawaii small easterly tradewind generated windswell was occurring along Hawaii's Eastern Shores.
The local California coastal gradient is to start building Thursday getting pretty impressive by later in the weekend with and eddy flow developing nearshore, possibly setting up decent northerly windswell. Tradewind generated east to northeast windswell is to start building to over the same time for the Hawaiian Islands courtesy of the same high pressure system that is to builds the California coastal gradient.
But the bigger story remains a solid storm forecast developing east of New Zealand Thurs (5/30) and pushing east through Saturday, now with seas forecast up to 46 ft. It's still a way from actually forming, so this is all just hype by the models, but it bears watching.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (5/28) the same old southward di.cgiaced high pressure system at 1024 mbs was holding 800 nmiles west of Southern CA generating a pressure gradient focused mainly along Pt Conception down into Southern CA generating north winds at 20 kts and limited local north windswell at exposed breaks. Trades remained modest over the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts or so resulting in minimal easterly short period windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to hold but slowly lift north generating starting to generate and enhanced local fetch of 25 kt north winds centered initially between Monterey Bay and Pt Conception but lifting to near Pt Arena by late Friday with winds building to near 30 kts over a small area with increasing northerly windswell resulting and focused on the greater Central CA coast.
The same high pressure is to start generating 15 kt easterly trades relative to Oahu by Friday and becoming more focused on the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands by Saturday in the 15-20 kts range improving odds for production of short period easterly windswell.
Also a small fetch of 25-30 kt northwest winds developed in the Gulf of Alaska over a small area falling southeast late Tuesday (5/28) generating 16 ft seas near 47N 153W. Possible small windswell developing reaching the Pacific Northwest coast late in the workweek.
Otherwise no fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (5/28) modest high pressure at 1026 mbs was di.cgiaced south and 800 nmiles west of Southern CA ridging into the SCal generating 15-20 kt northerly winds along the coast if not more in the afternoon. A lighter wind flow was in.cgiace for northern Central CA up into North CA, a rare reversal of roles. Wednesday AM more of the same is forecast. But by afternoon the high is to start lifting north some with increasing odds for northwest winds at 20 kts building up into Northern CA late. Southern CA to still see brisk onshore's late, but this to be the last day of it. By Thursday the gradient is to be lifting north with 20 kts north winds building over all of Central and North CA, but with the core of the gradient still over Morro Bay at near 30 kts. By Friday 25 kt north winds are to be over the entire North and Central Coast with Southern CA protected. No signs of an eddy flow for the Central Coast yet. Saturday near 30 kt north windswell are forecast up at Cape Mendocino pushing 35 kts by Sunday with a coastal eddy starting to build for Central CA later and north with 40 kts up north late. North winds Monday AM at 35 kts early up north with a well developed eddy flow in.cgiace for all of Central CA then the gradient collapsing late, with north - northeast winds fading from 25 kts on Tues (6/4).
Jetstream - On Tuesday (5/28) the jet was becoming more consolidated over the width of the South Pacific with two small troughs developing, one just east of the New Zealand and a second a bit west of Southern Chile with a ridge in between the two. The trough off New Zealand was of most interest but was still weak with not much wind pushing up into it and looking somewhat pinched off. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to become more pronounced with southwest winds at 110 kts pushing up into it Wed (5/29) with 190 kts winds also feeding it tracking east to southeast over the top of the trough with the trough growing in areal coverage offering improved odds for gale development down at the oceans surface and helping to eat away any affects of the ridge ahead of it. The trough is to peak out on Thursday in terms of coverage but still holding respectably into Friday. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to dissipate by later Saturday (6/1) with a ridge starting to build over the Central Pacific and sweeping east, with a nearly fully .cgiit zonal jet flow forecast by Tues (6/4) resulting in no support for gale development.
Surface - On Tuesday (5/28) swell from the New Zealand Gale was fading out in California. Small swell was starting to hit Fiji and expected to peak into Wednesday (5/29) (see Fiji Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing weather system were occurring.
Over the next 72 hours a new broad gale is to start building southeast of New Zealand. Wed AM (5/29) two fetch are to develop, one tiny at 50-55 kts in the north quadrant of a newly developing storm and a secondary but broader fetch at 45-50 kts aimed well to the northeast producing seas of 32 ft at 55S 177W. By evening a broad fetch of 45 kt southwest winds is forecast aimed well to the northeast resulting in a solid area of 37 ft seas at 45S 168W (187 degs HI, 214 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 212 degs NCal and unshadowed). More 45 kt southwest winds is to hold into Thurs AM (5/30) generating 42 ft seas consolidated at 42S 160W aimed well to the north targeting Tahiti and Hawaii (182 degs) but 211 degs Scal and 208 degs NCal and totally shadowed. Additional 50 kts southwest fetch to build in the evening with 44 ft seas forecast at 48S 150W mostly east of Hawaii but totally unshadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal and NCal (202 degs). Fetch to start fading Friday AM (5/31) from 40-45 kts aimed a bit more east but covering a good sized area with seas from previous fetch up to 46 ft at 46S 141W (198 degs) and totally unshadowed. Residual 40 kt easterly fetch fading Fri PM with seas dropping from 42 ft at 44S 134W (192 degs CA). This system to be gone by Sat AM (6/01) with seas from previous fetch fading from 38 ft at 43S 124W.
If all comes to pass as forecast by the models a solid pulse of sideband wave energy is to track north hitting Tahiti up into Hawaii with more energetic swell pushing towards the US West Coast and with real size for Chile and Peru.
A small gale developed in the Tasman Sea Sat AM (5/25) with 40 kt southwest winds mid-day and seas to 32 ft at 45S 160E. Sideband swell was being generated relative to Fiji. A broader fetch developed Sunday (5/26) in the same area at 35-40 kts aimed well up the Tasman Sea targeting Fiji with 28 ft seas Sunday PM at 43S 155E continuing into late Monday with seas up to 32 ft at 38S 169E. Larger 15 sec period swell expected for Fiji on Wed (5/29) at 8 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft Hawaiian) from 201 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 the local gradient is to holding if not build some Saturday (6/1) at 25-30 kts centered near Point Arena then really fire up on Sunday (6/2) migrating up to Cape Mendocino with north winds to 35-40 kts holding into early Monday AM with copious north windswell possible along the Central CA coast and pushing south from there. A local eddy flow to settle in too on Sunday and Monday making for improved conditions. The gradient is to start fading Monday down to 20 kts with windswell dropping off.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to build and lift a little more north over the Islands by Sat (6/1) at 15-20 kts over a decent sized fetch area holding through the weekend into Monday. East windswell to improve some along east facing shores during that window. But trades to start fading on Tuesday.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast for the North Pacific.
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 (5/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up but still fairly weak at 6.99. The 30 day average was up to 6.19 with the 90 day average up at 5.92. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino, with the upward trend a likely lagging indicator of the Inactive Phase of the MJO that is already fading.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions with light westerly anomalies south of Hawaii turning neutral as they approached Central America. A neutral MJO pattern was in control. A week from now (6/5) easterly anomalies are to again start building over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline turning slightly westerly south of Hawaii then neutral into Central America. This suggests perhaps a rebuilding of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/27 remain in agreement initially, suggesting a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control over the far West Pacific. This is a bit different than what observations suggest. Regardless the Dynamic model has the weak Inactive Phase slowly building and developing into a full blown Inactive Phase 5-8 days from now and holding steadily 15 days out. The Statistic model conversely has the weak Inactive Phase slowly fading from the next 15 days and nearly gone with the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and starting to make tracking into the far West Pacific.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (5/27) a full La Nina pattern continues developing in the East Pacific over the equator with much cooler water pushing off the South American Coast extending and building near and now west of the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there the whole way to a point south of Hawaii (we erroneously reported it extending to the dateline last update). This looks like a real La Nina cold pool at this time, or maybe just a striking strong effect of a strong Inactive Phase of the MJO. This cold pool has also eroded warm water that previously built up north of the equator off Central America. Looking back just a few weeks it's almost as if this cold pool developed before any anomalous east winds started blowing over the West Pacific. The question now is: "Will those cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in.cgiace?". It's too early to know. But another ominous sign is the same thing is occurring off West Africa, with cold water radiating off the coast there on the equator and building while pushing towards the Caribbean. This is a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. And the.cgiume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years and finally closed off mid-May has returned, initially only weakly but it's growing. This was a reflection of the collapse of high pressure over the East Pacific. But that high is now rebuilding with more cool water expected to develop. Another interesting tidbit is last year at this time an almost El Nino like pattern developed, only to collapse late summer. So it is possible this La Nina teaser could fade as well. Something to monitor. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicating a pool of cooler water (-2.0 deg C) in.cgiace at 150W and down 150 meters, blocking the transport path and locked in.cgiace. A building pocket of slight warmer water is backed 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 Atlantic is starting to respond to what appears to be a building global pattern. The only hope is the SOI is starting to fall. But even that is to return to a building positive index if the MJO again turns Inactive. All signs are pointing towards La Nina.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 5/28 remain oblivious to the cold water building occurring in the Southeast equatorial Pacific. The model indicates water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (+0.0 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.25 degree C level is possible by July building into November at +0.6 holding near +0.5 through 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. But by mid-June we'll be clear of that barrier and will have a better handle on the long term outlook. So for now the outcome is uncertain, but not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates). 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 no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast. There's some suggesting of a small gale in the Eastern Tasman Sea on Mon (6/3) with 30 kts seas pushing well north offering energy for Fiji, but that's it.
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