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 Thursday (6/7) North and Central CA had local windswell at waist high and local northwest winds on it strong early. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was maybe thigh high and clean but already getting ruffled outside the kelp early. Southern California up north was getting pure windswell at thigh to maybe waist high and clean early. Down south waves were waist high and reasonably clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was still getting some swell with waves to head high at top breaks and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had east windswell at waist high from east tradewind generated windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north weak low pressure was pushing into Oregon continuing to displace high pressure south and focusing the California gradient over Pt Conception limiting windswell exposure from Monterey Bay northward. Still, wind swell was in effect up there. This same pattern to hold Friday, then the gradient is to lift north as low pressure moves inland over Oregon. Better odds for windswell for Central CA starting Saturday as the gradient lift north and moves to it's usual place off Cape Mendocino by Sunday and continuing non-stop through next week. Hawaii to continue seeing modest local east trades at 15 kts with the fetch area east of the Islands holding decent size through the weekend then collapsing Monday and not returning at least through the following workweek. Typhoon Marwar now in extratropical status was maxed out east of Northern Japan offering some hope of spraying the North Pacific with small but longer period swell.
Down south a decent storm tracked south of the Tasman Sea on Tuesday (5/29) pushing energy up the great circle paths to California but nearly 7000 nmiles out, then dissipating before pushing cleanly into the Southwest Pacific. Some little swell is hitting HI and expected into CA maybe on Friday (6/8). And another stronger system developed in the same area on Monday (6/4) with 44-45 ft seas targeting Fiji best, but with some energy possibly tracking up the great circle paths to California (arriving late Tues 6/12), though mostly shadowed by New Zealand and Fiji relative to Hawaii (arriving late Mon 6/11). Otherwise the greater South Pacific remains locked down by a unfavorable jetstream flow and high pressure at the surface. The models continue to suggest that a gale might develop east of New Zealand on Monday (6/11) producing some seas of interest for a few day, but that continues to just be a tease at this early date. In short, more of the same for now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Thursday (6/7) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into the Southern California coast shunted southward by low pressure still centered over British Columbia with west fetch at 25 kts pushing towards and into Oregon. North winds were being generated from the high off California at 25 kts focused over Pt Conception CA with a shallow pool of lesser winds impacting the northern Central CA coast. And eddy flow was taking over Southern CA nearshore waters. Over the next 72 hours this pattern to hold with the high displaced south and the gradient focused on Pt Conception, with just windchop from Monterey Bay northward.
Trades were pushing into Hawaii at 15 kts and covering an solid sized fetch area expected to peak on Friday (6/8) reaching the whole way from the US mainland to the Islands with embedded winds up to 20 kts then slowly start dissipating on Saturday. This to offer modest windswell potential for east facing shores of the Islands through the weekend but definitely on the downswing by Sunday into Monday with the gradient effectively gone late on Monday. A tropical system is moving northeast positioned just east of northern Japan generating winds and swell (see Tropics section below).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday AM (6/5) Typhoon Marwar was positioned 325 nmiles south of Southern Japan with sustained winds 65 kts tracking northeast and starting to accelerate. Marwar was east of Central Japan on Wednesday with winds down to 50-55 kts but turning extratropical and covering a broader area. In the evening Marwar still had a decent sized fetch of 45-50 kt winds developing around it's core and turning more to the north, then finally starting to dissipate east of Northern Japan on Thursday AM (6/7) with winds down to 40 kts and expected to be effectively gone by Friday AM. Seas were 36 ft Wed PM (6/6) at 37N 152E then fading Thurs AM from 32 ft at 39N 157E 3936 nmiles from NCal on the 299 degree path and 2748 nmiles from Hawaii on the 301 degree path.
Small swell is radiating radiating out across the North Pacific providing potential for rideable swell hitting Hawaii on Sunday PM (6/10) with period 18 secs pushing 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8 ft faces) on Monday and maybe even a little pulse into Central CA arriving Tues (6/12) with period also in the 18 secs range. Maybe swell of 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Wed AM. The issue is Hawaii was less directly on the great circle paths associated with the peak swell energy (meaning less size there) and though California is more directly on the path, it is near 1200 nmiles further away than Hawaii, meaning more swell decay and less size. This is a novelty swell, especially considering it's early June. Sure is a nice surprise though have recurving tropical storm energy this early in the year. Maybe a harbinger of things to come?
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/7) high pressure at 1026 mbs was ridging into southern Central California generating a pressure gradient over Pt Conception resulting in 25 kt north winds there with 20 kt winds extending north to Monterey Bay and southward well off Baja. An eddy was in place over nearshore waters of Southern CA. By Friday reinforcing high pressure is to start moving in from the north with 25-30 kt north winds building over all of Central CA on Saturday (6/9) migrating up to Cape Mendocino on Sunday (down to 25 kts) with windswell on the way up and a possible eddy flow starting to develop along the Central CA coast. The gradient is to hold up over Cape Mendocino through Monday then starting to drift south again impacting Central CA on Tuesday (winds 25 kts) before lifting back north on Thurs (6/14) and rebuilding over Cape Mendocino with winds up to 30 kts or better. But the eddy is to not return to Central CA through the workweek, and instead brisk local north winds to continue nearshore holding water temps down and making conditions a mess. Southern CA to remain in an eddy though.
Jet stream - On Thursday (6/7) a split jetstream pattern continued over the South Pacific with both branches tracking semi-parallel with each other but with the southern branch ridging hard south just east of New Zealand then tracking flat east over the Ross Ice Shelf passing under the Southern tip of South America and offering no support for gale development. A weak trough was under New Zealand but with not enough wind energy associated with it to support gale development either. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the trough under New Zealand becoming slightly better defined with winds building to 110 kts by Sunday (6/10) and offering better odds to support low pressure development. Winds in the east associated with the southern branch of the jet, though still tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf are to weaken to 80 kts, possibly showing signs of weakness. Beyond 72 hours the New Zealand trough is to strengthen with 130 kts winds pushing up into it on Mon (6/11) holding for 24 hrs, then pinching off and becoming undercut. Some reasonable support for gale development possible before the pinch occurs on Wed (6/13). After that it's back to the same old flat jet pushing over the Ross Ice Shelf the width of the South Pacific offering no support whatsoever for gale development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (6/7) high pressure at 1024 mbs remained positioned just north of Antarctica in the Southeast Pacific pushing all east bound low pressure systems to the south and into Antarctica. No swell producing fetch was occurring and if anything winds over the greater South Pacific were still pushing south towards Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast though weak low pressure is forecast trying to build in the upper trough just southeast of New Zealand. But not macro-level fetch is forecast to evolve.
On Tuesday (5/29) a gale with 45 kt west winds was positioned south of Tasmania generating 42 ft seas at 59S 152E aimed right up the 216 degree great circle path to NCal and 217 deg path to SCal (unshadowed by Tahiti) and 6800 nmiles out but shadowed relative to Hawaii by New Zealand. This gale was dissipating in the evening with residual seas of 36 ft at 58S 163E (214 degs NCal/SCal and moving into the swell window for Hawaii at 200 degs (5100 nmiles out).
Hawaii: Residuals on Friday (6/8) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction:200 degrees
California: Tiny swell expected for California 9 days starting Thurs AM 6/7 at 1 ft @ 20 sec finally building to the rideable range on Saturday (6/9) at 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft) and 2 ft @ 16 secs on Sunday (6/10) (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 216 degrees
Stronger Tasmania Gale
On Saturday PM (6/2) a storm started developing southwest of Tasmania with 50 kt southwest winds. On Sunday AM (6/3) 50 kt southwest winds continued building seas to 40 ft at 60S 130E 7800 nmiles from California on the 218 degree track. In the evening winds to start fading from 45-50 kts with seas to 42 ft at 58S 142E (219 degs CA and 7500 nmiles away and effective shadowed relative to Hawaii by Fiji on the 211 degs path). On Monday AM (6/4) winds were down to 45 kts pushing northeast with seas peaking at 45 ft at 53S 151E and on the edge of the CA swell window at 221 degrees and barely in the obstructed 209 degree route to Hawaii). Monday evening 35 kt southwest winds were fading with residual 35 ft seas at 50S 159E barely unshadowed relative to Hawaii on the 209 degree path up through the Tasman Sea and shadowed relative to California on the 223 degree path. Tuesday AM (6/5) fetch was gone (30-35 kts) with seas fading from 30 ft at 40S 164E well in the New Zealand swell shadow for California and on the 210 degree Tasman Sea track relative to Hawaii.
In all some degree of tiny long period swell is possible for both Hawaii and California, but the very long travel distance (for CA) and the obstruction for Hawaii will drastically limit swell size.
But, this system is to be pushing well up the 205 degree path to Fiji and unshadowed throughout it's life and 2400-3000 nmiles away or less. This system was solid and well positioned and will results in large long period swell hitting Fiji.
Small 22 sec energy expected for California starting Tues (6/12) at 5 PM building with period 20 secs Wed (6/13) at 3 PM peaking between then and Friday AM when period hits 17 secs. If swell size hits 1.6 ft we'll be lucky.
For Hawaii, swell to start arriving late on Mon (6/11) with pure swell maybe 1.3 ft @ 19 secs peaking at 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) on Tues (6/12).
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs high pressure at 1028 mbs is to continue ridging into Oregon early next week (6/11) producing north winds at 25 kts focused on Cape Mendocino building to 30 kts by Thurs (6/14) and producing steady north windswell for the entire CA coast. There's also some suggestions of a broad low building over the dateline the middle of next week (starting 6/13) with northwest winds to 25 kts targeting Hawaii well. Seems a bit far fetch, but something to monitor. It's almost as if winter is re-emerging, or at least the Active Phase of the MJO is having some minor positive effect.
East trades to start really dropping off by Monday (6/11) with no sign of returning with any force or coverage of interest. this mean east windswell is to dissipate.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or 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 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. 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 split 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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (6/7) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down again at -9.00. The 30 day average was down to -2.56 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to -2.35.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies were building over the dateline pushing to a point north of Eastern Australia then hitting a brick wall with weak west anomalies coming at them from the west (Indonesia east to a point north of Eastern Australia). This appears to indicate a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was in-play over the dateline with the Active Phase building in the Eastern Indian Ocean. A week from now (6/15) a return to dead neutral anomalies are forecast over the far West Pacific with west anomalies building over the dateline region suggesting a return of a neutral MJO signal if not a Active Phase. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/6 indicate an Active Phase MJO pattern was already in-place over the West Pacific (Outgoing Long Wave radiation suppressed) and is to hold for the next 10 days while pushing east and faltering while the Inactive Phase builds over Indonesia pushing east. The dynamic model is far more aggressive concerning the development of the Inactive Phase than the statistical model (the statistical is historically more accurate). The preferred option is no Inactive Phase build-up and a return to a neutral pattern, which would suggest that as we move out of the Springtime unpredictability barrier, that a weak El Nino or at least a pattern that supports warm water buildup in the East Pacific continues. We are moving into the critical juncture in that determination over the coming 3 weeks.
In monitoring the migration of warm water into the equatorial East Pacific, which the existing weak MJO pattern is supporting, this becomes important because it possibly sets up a configuration in the ocean that is more conducive to storm development for the coming Fall of 2012. In fact warmer than normal water is already accumulating off Ecuador. A pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) has evaporated and warmer water is slowly but steadily pushing east into the vacuum (Kelvin Wave). This activity was the result of the last pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO (early April) and a continued weak MJO signal, appears to be reinforcing itself. It will be interesting to see if the weak MJO pattern continues (a early sign of some flavor of El Nino) or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life. We are still in the Spring unpredictability barrier relative to ENSO (continues into early June), so it's difficult to predict any particular outcome until that time has passed. But it does warrant some interest.
A weaker MJO signal is typical for this time of year, but does not normally appear as strong and as long-lasting as what is occurring now, suggesting that La Nina is disintegrating. And the horseshoe cool water pattern that has dominated the entire Pacific for the past 2 years (typical of La Nina) appears to be in steep decline (a good thing). So the next question is: Will the Active-like Phase pattern that is currently occurring continue, ultimately ushering in some flavor of El Nino, or will it stall in mid-June and leave us in limbo with just a neutral pattern in play (normal)? Either option is better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours a gale is modeled forming under New Zealand late Sunday (6/10) with 45 kt south winds pushing north and northeast over a moderate area and seas building to 30 ft Monday AM (6/11) at 58S 177E with winds then fading and seas dropping from 30 ft at 56S 179W in the evening. residual fetch to continue in that area lifting north into Wed 96/13) but seas to never get much above 25 ft in pockets. Possible swell to result for Hawaii, but inconsistent and nothing remarkable.
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