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 Sunday (6/10) North and Central CA had local windswell at shoulder to head high and pretty warbled but at least it wasn't a white capped mess. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to maybe waist high and clean but weak and windswell like. Southern California up north was getting windswell at thigh high or so and a bit textured even early. Down south waves were head high on the sets coming from the southern hemi and pretty torn up even early from eddy flow wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was still getting minimal swell with waves thigh to maybe waist high 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 modest high pressure was ridging into Oregon generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino California and north winds at 25 kts producing short period local north windswell that is expected to continue for the week, building some late in the workweek as high pressure builds and holding through the weekend (6/17) but also displaced south some. As it moves further south for the weekend the high is to also start generating a broader fetch of trades pushing into Hawaii, perhaps bumping up easterly windswell there too. A broad pool of low pressure is also forecast setting up over the dateline mid-week easing into the Gulf of Alaska into the weekend, but unorganized with winds only in the 25 kts range in pockets. Maybe some northwest windswell potential for Hawaii with luck.
Down south a fairly strong system developed south of Tasmania on Monday (6/4) with 44-45 ft seas targeting Fiji best (swell has already hit there), 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 shadowed by Fiji relative to Hawaii (arriving late Mon 6/11). But it was 7000 nmiles out relative to the US West Coast so not much to result swell wise. Otherwise the greater South Pacific remains locked down by a unfavorable jetstream flow and high pressure at the surface. A gale was starting to develop east of New Zealand and by Monday (6/11) seas are forecast at 30 ft aimed well at Hawaii for a short time maybe good for a little pulse of swell there. But when you see storm systems developing just north of New Zealand falling southeast across the width of the South Pacific bound for Antarctica like 2 are forecast to do, you know the jetstream is not favorable. So it's more of the same as what is possibly becoming the worst summer pattern ever continues to dig in.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Sunday (6/10) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging into Oregon generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA and producing northerly winds at 25 kts resulting in mid-sized northerly windswell along the Central CA coast and lesser energy into Southern CA. The high was not having much impact in Hawaii with 15 kt trades extending off the bottom of the high but not even reaching the Islands. Otherwise virtually no weather systems of interest were occurring over the greater North Pacific. Over the next 72 hours this pattern to hold with the high slowly fading and becoming displaced southward just a bit with the gradient becoming focused more on San Francisco with winds 20 kts by Wednesday (6/13), resulting in more wind windchop than windswell from Monterey Bay northward.
Also on Wednesday a broad area of low pressure is to start building over the dateline resulting in a pocket of northwest winds at 25+ kts and holding, but seas never exceeding 15 ft. Something to monitor just the same if you're at Oahu or Kauai.
Trades to remain generally suppressed over the Hawaiian Islands through Wednesday at below 15 kt over open waters.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (6/10) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
Previously 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. In fact - Sunday AM (6/10) swell of 0.6 ft @ 22 secs was starting to hit the Wiamea Bay buoy. And maybe even a little pulse of swell is to reach 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 Sunday (6/10) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino resulting in 25 kt north winds there with 20 kt winds extending southward to Pt Conception but pulled away from the coast with a near eddy flow in effect in much of Central CA dow into Southern CA. The gradient is to hold up over Cape Mendocino through Monday then starting to fade and drift south impacting Central CA on Tuesday AM (winds 20 kts), rebuilding Wednesday with winds to 25 kts and up to near 30 kts on Thurs (6/14) focused over Pt Arena. But no eddy is expected with strong north winds hugging the coast down to Pt Conception. More of the same into Saturday when the gradient is to fade slightly with winds down to 25 kts an wind starting to pull away from the Central Coast, with an eddy flow finally developing on Sunday. Southern CA to remain in an eddy through the workweek and into next weekend.
Jet stream - On Sunday (6/10) a weak split and ill defined 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 tracking into the Ross Ice Shelf and even Antarctica proper before finally rising after pushing directly into the southern tip of South America and offering no support for gale development. A trough was developing under New Zealand with winds to 110 kts pushing north up into the trough possibly able to support limited gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the trough under New Zealand becoming better defined with winds building to 130 kts Monday (6/11) and 140 kts Tuesday offering decent support for gale development just southeast of New Zealand. But by Wednesday the trough is to become cutoff and is to quickly wither away. Winds in the Central and East Pacific associated with the southern branch of the jet are to continue tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf and of no interest. Beyond 72 hours it's back to the same old flat jet pushing flat east way dow at 65S tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf the width of the South Pacific offering virtually no support whatsoever for gale development. It doesn't get any worse.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Sunday (6/10) high pressure at 1024 mbs remained positioned just north of Antarctica in the far 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. That said, a small gale was trying to organize just south of New Zealand supported by an upper trough there. There was actually a fetch of southwest winds at 30 kts trying to take root but pushing directly into southern New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours the only area of interest is to be the above gale. By Sunday evening (6/10) winds are to build to 45 kts aimed due north positioned just 800 nmiles south of New Zealand and holding into Monday AM (6/11) with 30 ft seas building at 57S 172E on the 194 degree path to Hawaii and the 211 degree path to California (well shadowed by Tahiti). Winds to barely hang on into the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 53S 177E targeting Hawaii best. Fetch is to continue in the area with seas holding at 26 ft Tuesday AM (6/12) at 47S 177W (212+ degs CA and becoming unshadowed - 195 degs HI). A secondary fetch of 45 kt southeast winds to form at the bottom of the low on Wed AM (6/13) again generating 30 ft seas at 58S 180W but this time tracking directly at New Zealand. Maybe some sideband energy to reach Hawaii, but virtually nothing aimed at the mainland US. A quick fade forecast thereafter. In all some degree of small swell is possible for Hawaii with period in the 16-17 sec range if all goes as forecast. Otherwise a calm seas state is forecast.
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 rebuild off Central CA on Thursday (6/14) with north winds pushing 30 kts and holding into the early weekend resulting in moderate northerly local windswell for Central CA. But the core of the gradient is to not move north towards Cape Mendocino, blocked by a large low pressure system moving into British Columbia. This to also result in northeast winds generated of the south side of the high pushing from California the whole way into Hawaii by Sunday (6/17) at 15+ kts possible resulting in a step up in easterly windswell for the Islands and increased local trades.
The broad low pressure system on the dateline is to east east-northeast Wed-Sat (6/16) still producing northwest winds to 25 kts targeting Hawaii but also forming a gradient with high pressure off the CA coast generating a fetch of south west winds at near 30 kts aimed at British Columbia. Maybe some windswell for them as well. It's almost as if winter is trying to reemerge, or at least the Active Phase of the MJO is to have some minor positive effect.
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 Sunday (6/10) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -15.82. The 30 day average was down to -5.61 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to -2.93.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies that had been over the dateline had now collapsed to dead neutral and covered the entirety of the equatorial Pacific. This appears to indicate a return to neutral conditions (a good thing). A week from now (6/18) more of the same is forecast with dead neutral anomalies forecast over the far West Pacific with hard west anomalies building in the East Pacific. This suggests a continuation of a neutral MJO signal over the dateline with perhaps an Active Phase in the East Pacific. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/9 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 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. Regardless, the warm water pool off Central America has benefited greatly from the lack of strong trades over the equator, with warm water migrating solidly east and building up along the coast, a precursor to El Nino.
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 of tropical origins is forecast is modeled forming north of New Zealand on Thursday (6/14) with 50 kt south winds but with the core of the system tracking steadily southeast. Southerly winds are to build to 55 kt on Friday (6/15) with seas to 38 ft, but again the core of the system is to be falling very fast to the southeast with all fetch moving readily into the system north quadrant aimed at South America (but a long ways away and tiny in areal coverage). 40 ft seas forecast mid-day on Saturday (6/16) but all aimed due east and fading as the system tracks on a collision course with Antarctica. There is some potential for swell for Hawaii and Tahiti from early in the systems life is all goes as planned, but otherwise nothing for anyone else. No other swell producing systems are 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