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 (6/14) North and Central CA had larger locally generated north short period windswell continued at 2 ft overhead and a bit warbled with clean surface conditions. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high (on the sets) and clean, a little Fiji swell under the wrap-around local windswell. Southern California up north was getting more local windswell at thigh high and reasonably clean. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high and warbled with eddy wind bumping it up. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting stray tropical storm swell at waist to chest high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was getting leftover Fiji swell with waves waist high with sets to maybe chest high at top spots 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 high pressure was ridging solidly into North CA generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA producing north winds at 30 kts and resulting in larger short period local north windswell. This situation to hold into the early weekend, then start backing off with an eddy flow building over Central CA. At the same time a broad pool of low pressure developed on the dateline with northwest winds to 35 kts and seas 18 ft Tuesday evening (6/12) and now was easing into the Gulf of Alaska with winds down to 25 kts and seas in the 15 ft range. Northwest windswell likely for Hawaii by Sunday (6/17) with lesser energy (if even noticeable) for California with luck.
Down south a fairly strong system developed south of Tasmania on Monday (6/4) with 44-45 ft seas targeting Fiji, but with some swell energy already passing Hawaii and moving into California. Size was 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 with seas in the 36 ft range. Maybe some swell for Tahiti and Hawaii. But after that it's back to the same old boring non-swell producing weather pattern. Winter can't get started in the southern hemi to save it's life.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Thursday (6/14) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into the North CA coast with low pressure over Nevada generating a solid pressure gradient over Central CA producing northerly winds at 30 kts resulting in slightly larger than normal northerly windswell along the Central CA coast with lesser energy wrapping into Southern CA. The high was having minimal 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 circulating just east of the dateline producing 25 kt northwest winds and 15 ft seas targeting Hawaii. In fact this system produced up to 35 kt northwest wind and 18 ft seas Tuesday PM (6/12) again targeting Hawaii well. Small swell is expected to result for Hawaii starting Sat PM (6/16) building to 3.6 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.5 ft faces) Sunday AM coming from 310 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to ease some along the North and Central CA coasts still producing 30 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino into early Saturday but over an increasing shrinking area then dropping to 25 kts Sunday AM (6/17) and aiming more offshore allowing an eddy flow to take hold of Central CA waters. Cleaner local north windswell expected starting Saturday with size slowly backing off through the weekend.
Also the broad area of low pressure tracking east-northeast from the dateline is to fading late Friday pushing into the northern Gulf of Alaska and dissipating there. No additional swell production forecast beyond Friday AM relative to Hawaii but it should still result in reinforcing small short period northerly windswell for Oahu or Kauai into Monday (6/18).
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. But after that east to northeast trades are to start picking up (15 kts Sat) building strongly by Sunday (6/17) at 20 kts extending the whole way from North CA into and over the Hawaiian Islands holding into early Tuesday (6/19) then dissipating 24 hrs later. Larger northeast local windswell possible for east facing shores of the Islands if all goes as.cgianned.
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. Guchol continued on a westward track reaching typhoon status late Wednesday evening with sustained winds 65 kts and then to 70 kts Thursday AM. a slow turn to the northwest is forecast in the evening with Guchol turning more to the north and strengthening, reaching 95 kts on Sunday AM (6/17) positioned 300 nmiles southeast of Taiwan. Guchol is expected to turning slightly more north-northeast moving to a point 150 nmiles south of the southern tip of Japan Tuesday AM (6/19) with winds down to 70 kts. Guchol is expected to track over Southern Japan, moving into the China Sea, then turning east and moving into the far West Pacific Thursday AM (6/21) and much weaker but trying to reorganize off the Northern Japan coast. It's way too early to know if any of this is realistic, but something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/14) high pressure at 1026 mbs was lodged off the Central CA coast with a healthy pressure gradient centered over Cape Mendocino resulting in a moderate area of 30 kt north winds there. An eddy flow was in effect for Southern CA. The gradient is to hold strong on Wednesday Friday with core winds 30 kts positioned just off San Francisco early then lifting north in the afternoon. 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. Finally on Saturday the gradient is to lift north with north winds 30 kts isolated to Cape Mendocino but those winds are to be pulling away from the Central Coast, with an eddy flow finally developing and becoming more pronounced on Sunday as winds up at Cape mendocino moderate to the 25 kt range. Southern CA to remain in an eddy through the weekend. By Monday (6/18) no real change is forecast with the gradient holding over Cape Mendo at 25 kts with an eddy flow in effect from Pt Arena southward and holding into Tuesday AM. After that the eddy is to collapse with north winds again raking the Central Coast and the gradient regenerating with 30 kts north winds up at Cape Mendo then withering away on Wed-Thurs and with it, fading windswell.
Jet stream - On Thursday (6/14) a .cgiit jetstream pattern continued over the South Pacific with the southern branch tracking flat east over the width of the Pacific di.cgiaced way too far south down at 65-70S and effectively traversing the Ross Ice Shelf with no exposure to open waters and offering no support for gale development. No troughs of interest were present. Over the next 72 hours a bit of a trough is forecast starting to develop well southeast of New Zealand at 65S on Sat (6/16) pushing east to the Central Pacific by Sunday but with winds never exceeding 100 kts and offering no obvious support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to ease east but getting progressively weaker and offering no support for even low pressure development. Back to the west and new ridge is to build pushing hard south over the Ross Ice Shelf again not providing any support gale development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (6/14) no obvious high pressure systems were indicated, but the overall pattern looked very much like that of one dominated by high pressure in the upper atmosphere. A broad and diffuse low was southeast of New Zealand but with winds no stronger than 30 kts and seas below 25 ft. High pressure at 1032 mbs was locked just west of Southern Chile. A new gale was circulating just north of New Zealand with producing south winds at 35 kts. Over the next 72 hours the North New Zealand Gale is to rapidly intensify Thursday evening producing 55 kt south winds but with the core of the system tracking steadily southeast. Southwesterly winds are to build to 55-60 kt on Friday AM (6/15) with seas to 38 ft at 29S 178W then fading to 50 kts in the evening with seas to 38 ft over an infinitesimal area at 31S 171W, but again the core of the system is to be falling quickly to the southeast with all fetch moving steadily into the systems north quadrant aimed at South America (but a long ways away and tiny in areal coverage). Winds still 45-50 kts on Saturday AM (6/16) aimed due east with seas 37 ft at 33S 164W and also aimed due east. On Sunday winds to hold at 45 kts but all aimed southeast as the system tracks on a collision course with Antarctica. Seas 42 ft at 38S 153W Sun AM then quickly fading. There is some potential for swell for Tahiti (and less so for Hawaii 193 degs - 3000 nmiles out) from early in the systems life is all goes as.cgianned, 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.
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 high pressure is to remain just off the North CA coast resulting in more north winds in the 25 kt range over Cape Mendocino over a small area Mon-Wed (6/20) and producing some degree of north windswell pushing down the Central CA coast. Rough guess puts swell size in the 'standard' category (5 ft @ 9 secs). After that high pressure is to start retrograding and weakening with north winds fading to 15 kts and windswell dropping out.
Windswell producing trades to fade over Hawaii by Wednesday (6/20) with easterly windswell fading with it. No return of windswell producing trades forecast through next weekend (6/23). There some suggestion that the remnants of typhoon Guchol to track east off Japan by Fri (6/23). Details in the Tropics update (above).
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.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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (6/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up at 6.40. The 30 day average was down to -8.44 (barely El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -3.80 (neutral).
Current wind analysis indicated very light easterly anomalies over the dateline with strong west anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) and into Northern Australia then sweeping southeast from there. Solid west anomalies were over the far East Pacific too. This appears to indicate a return of the Active Phase of the MJO and a westerly Wind Burst in the Far West Pacific (WWB) possibly enough to generate a Kelvin Wave. A week from now (6/22) neutral anomalies are to return to the far West Pacific with moderate west anomalies over the dateline extending the whole way into the Central Pacific and pushing east. This suggests a continuation of an Active Phase of the MJO pushing east as it normally does and likely will support formation of a Kelvin Wave. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/13 are in agreement indicating 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 14 days centered more into Central America and the Caribbean while a new Inactive Phase builds strong over Indonesia and then pushing towards the dateline. But it is modeled to track north of the equatorial dateline region. No sure what effect this will have on wind anomalies there at this time, assuming it.cgiays out as modeled. Regardless, we should assume 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 through the end of June into the first week in July.
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.cgiay (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