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 (6/12) North and Central CA had locally generated north short period windswell at head high and pretty warbled everywhere. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high and clean, mainly just wrap-around windswell. Southern California up north was getting the same windswell at thigh high and pretty warbled with winds on it. Down south waves were waist high and a warbled mess with wind on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting tropical storm swell at head high and clean with maybe even a few stray bigger sets. The South Shore was getting decent southern hemi swell with sets in the head high range and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had east windswell at thigh 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 North CA and expected to only build through the late workweek generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino California producing north winds at 30 kts and resulting in short period local north windswell that is expected to continue through the weekend for all of California. But that is to be fading by early next week (6/18) as low pressure builds near Japan and starts tracking across the North Pacific. A broad pool of low pressure is also starting to organize near the dateline with northwest winds to 35 kts and seas 18 ft Tuesday evening (6/12) then easing into the Gulf of Alaska into the early weekend, but becoming progressively more 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, but with some swell energy hitting Hawaii and expected into California (arriving late Tues 6/12). Size to be minimal if even noticeable though. More recently a small gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Monday (6/11) with seas at 30 ft aimed well at Hawaii for a short time, maybe good for a little pulse of swell there. After that a semi-tropical system is to develop just north of New Zealand on Friday (6/15) falling southeast across the width of the South Pacific bound for Antarctica. There's maybe a hint of some relief after that, but we're not holding our breath.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Tuesday (6/12) high pressure at 1028 mbs was reorganizing off the North CA coast generating a modest pressure gradient over Central CA producing northerly winds at 20-25 kts resulting in the standard sized northerly windswell along the Central CA coast with lesser energy wrapping into Southern CA. The high was having no impact over Hawaii with 10 kt east-southeast trades extending off the bottom of the high flowing over the Islands but not producing much in terms of windswell. Otherwise a broad area of low pressure was starting to organize over the dateline with 35 kt northwest winds and 18 ft seas forecast building by evening targeting Hawaii and expected to result in small northwest windswell there.
Over the next 72 hours this pattern is to amplify with high pressure building solid along the North and Central CA coasts producing 30 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino later Wednesday and continuing nonstop into Sunday AM (6/17) but aiming more offshore than onshore by Saturday finally allowing an eddy flow to take hold of Central CA waters. Cleaner local north windswell expected starting then.
Also by Wednesday the broad area of low pressure over the dateline is to start pushing east-northeast with a decent pocket of west winds at 25+ kts holding into late Friday 1200 nmiles north- northwest of the Islands, but seas never exceeding 16 ft. Reinforcing small short period northerly windswell possible for Oahu or Kauai.
Trades to remain generally suppressed over the Hawaiian Islands through Friday at or below 15 kt over open waters due mostly to the influence of low pressure in the North Pacific.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (6/12) Tropical Storm Guchol was developing 250 nmiles southwest of Guam tracking west-northwest with sustained winds 35 kts. By late Wednesday evening Guchol is to reach typhoon status with sustained winds 65 kts and turning more to the northwest. Guchol is expected to continue on the track moving to within 200 nmiles east of Sunday AM (6/17) with winds to 85 kts. The GFS model has Guchol turning northeast after stalling off Taiwan approaching southern Japan late Tuesday (6/19). It's way too early to know if any of this is realistic, but something to monitor. Any yet another instance of a recurving tropical system, signs of an improving pattern for the Autumn.
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 rideable swell hitting Hawaii on Sunday PM (6/10) with period 18 secs pushing 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8 ft faces) on Monday. Rideable energy continued into Tuesday too.
And a little pulse of swell was reaching Central CA on Tues (6/12) with swell 1.5 ft @ 18 secs (per the Pt Reyes buoy - consistent with forecast projections). Maybe swell of 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Wed AM.
This is a novelty swell, especially considering it's early June. Sure is a nice surprise though to have recurving tropical storm energy this early in the year. Maybe a harbinger of things to come?
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/12) high pressure at 1028 mbs had retrograded some off the North CA coast with a slackening of the pressure gradient now centered off San Francisco resulting in a small area of 20-25 kt north winds there. An eddy flow was in effect for southern Central CA down into Southern CA. The gradient is to rebuild strong on Wednesday with north winds to 30+ kts focused on Cape Mendocino but hugging the coast at 20+ kts down to Pt Conception and holding Thursday and Friday (though core wind down to 25+ kts on Friday). No eddy is expected for north or Central CA with north winds hugging the coast down to Pt Conception. Southern CA to remain in an eddy flow over the duration. Finally on Saturday the gradient is to regenerate with north winds 30 kts up at Cape Mendocino but those winds are to start pulling away from the Central Coast, with an eddy flow finally developing and becoming more pronounced on Sunday. Southern CA to remain in an eddy through the weekend. By Monday (6/18) the gradient is to start withering away and with it the windswell and colder waters it has been producing for months now. We may be cursing the wind, chop and water temps, but when the wind finally fades and flatness moves in, we may be eating our words.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (6/12) a weak split and ill defined jetstream pattern continued over the South Pacific with the southern branch ridging hard south over the East Pacific tracking into Antarctica then rising and pushing directly into the southern tip of South America offering no support for gale development. But a decently developed trough was just east of southern New Zealand with 140 kt winds pushing north up into the trough possibly supporting limited gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the trough under New Zealand is to become cutoff on Wednesday and is to quickly wither away with a flat flow setting up traversing the width of the South Pacific way down at 70S effectively tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf if not Antarctica proper. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a trough is forecast starting to develop well southeast of New Zealand at 65S on Sun (6/17) pushing east to the East Pacific by Wed (6/20) but with winds never exceeding 100 kts and offering no obvious support for gale development. But finally seeing a trough in the semi-open South Pacific is hopefully a start.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (6/12) high pressure at 1028 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. A gale was circulating southeast of New Zealand producing decent winds and of some interest (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a gale of tropical origins is forecast forming north of New Zealand on Thursday (6/14) with 45 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 32 ft over an infinitesimal area, 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). Winds down to 40 kts on Saturday (6/16) with seas 30 ft seas but all aimed due east. On Sunday winds to build to 45 kts but all aimed southeast as the system tracks on a collision course with Antarctica. Seas 36 ft at 40S 148W Sun AM then fading out. There is some potential for swell for Tahiti (and less so for Hawaii) from early in the systems life is all goes as planned, but otherwise nothing for anyone else. No other swell producing systems are 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.
For Hawaii, swell to start fading, having peaked at 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) on Tues (6/12).
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 (2.0-2.5 ft faces).
Small New Zealand Gale
A small gale tried to organize just south of New Zealand on Sunday AM (6/10) 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. By evening winds built to 45 kts aimed due north positioned just 800 nmiles south of New Zealand and held into Monday AM (6/11) with 30 ft seas building at 58S 173E on the 194 degree path to Hawaii and 5000 nmiles out and on the 211 degree path to California (well shadowed by Tahiti). Winds barely hung on into the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 53S 178E targeting Hawaii best. Fetch continued in the area with seas holding at 26 ft Tuesday AM (6/12) at 48S 176W (212+ degs CA and becoming unshadowed - 195 degs HI) then fading from barely 26 ft in the evening at 42S 178W. A secondary fetch of 40-45 kt south-southeast winds to form at the bottom of the low on Wed AM (6/13) again generating 28 ft seas at 53S 180W in the evening 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 18 sec range arriving 7.5 days after being generated (or Monday PM - 6/18) with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft faces) peaking at 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) Tues AM (6/19) coming from 194 degrees. Maybe some follow on energy to continue for a few days too as period settle down.
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 (starting next week) high pressure is to remain away from the California coast and instead diffuse and focusing more over the Northern dateline with no local gradient and no local fetch expected, resulting in no windswell.
Trades to regenerate over Hawaii at 15 kts starting Saturday (6/16) as high pressure pulls away from the CA coast building to 20 kts on Sunday and covering a large area likely building larger northeast windswell for the Islands. but by Wednesday (6/20) that too is to be fading as the North Pacific transitions to a different pattern as compared to what has been in-play all Spring. in fact, a small semi-tropical low is to be pushing off Japan heading east. It's too early to believe this will really occur, but it provides a little hope.
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 Tuesday (6/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -20.67. The 30 day average was down to -8.00 (in El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -3.72 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated very light easterly anomalies over the dateline with building west anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) and into Northern Australia. West anomalies were over the far East Pacific too. This appears to indicate a return of the Active Phase of the MJO. A week from now (6/20) east anomalies are to return to the far West Pacific with neutral anomalies over the dateline and hard west anomalies over the Central Pacific and pushing east. This suggests a continuation of an Active Phase of the MJO pushing east as it normally does. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/11 indicate an Active Phase MJO pattern was peaking over the West Pacific (Outgoing Long Wave radiation suppressed) and is to be pushing east for the next 10 days and faltering while the Inactive Phase builds strong over Indonesia and also pushing east. The dynamic and statistical models are now coming into agreement concerning the development of the Inactive Phase over the next 7 days, but the dynamic model remains more aggressive in the Inactive Phases push east after that. regardless, it now is looking like some flavor of the Inactive Phase is going to migrate into the West if not Central Pacific 2-3 weeks out. We were hoping to avoid that. 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 no swell producing systems of interest 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