New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (6/21) North and Central California had head high plus raw local north windswell at exposed breaks with winds on it early and nearly chopped. Southern California had the same north windswell wrapping into exposed breaks with waves waist high or a little more up north and heavily textured and smaller but cleaner down south. Theoretically there was background swell from Chile in the water, but it was weak it even present. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had chest high east windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore still what looked to be only southeast windswell wrapping in at thigh to waist high and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA has more locally generated northwest windswell coming in through the week. Size still decent and near head high Monday and Tuesday tapering off for Wed/Thurs, then expected to return with more size for Friday on into next weekend. Southern CA is to see a version of that same small northerly local windswell at thigh high Mon/Tues then fading out. A second pulse of background very southerly angled swell from off Chile is to arrive on Wednesday peaking Thursday the fading Friday, and gone by the weekend. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to see steadily easterly tradewind generated windswell at head high on Monday and Tuesday fading to chest high on Wed/Thurs and slowly but steadily fading more in the days beyond. The South Shore is to remain quiet till late Tuesday when energy from off New Zealand starts to arrive at thigh to waist high and heading up to the chest to head high range by late Wednesday and holding into Thursday with more behind it.
Longterm the South Pacific remains to stay effectively quiet. A decent series of storms developed off Chile, good for a pulse of sideband swell pushing up into Southern CA swell window Wed/Thurs (6/25) with maybe one more pulse early the week beyond. Ncal to be effectively shadowed from this though. Also a gale organized just off the east coast of New Zealand starting Wed (6/17) with seas 26-28 ft and holding through Sun (6/21), which should start pushing energy up into the South Shore of Hawaii by late Tues (6/22) continuing into the weekend (6/28). And if the models are right a better looking gale is scheduled to build southeast of New Zealand Tues (6/23) with seas barely 30 ft holding into Wednesday, with possibly another pulse of gale energy producing up to 38 ft seas into the weekend. Some swell is likely for the Islands a week beyond if this occurs with some energy into CA (though shadowed by Tahiti) 9 days beyond. At this point it's still mainly a guess by the models and far from certain.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was 700 nmiles north of Hawaii fueling the standard push of trades at 20 kts over the Islands resulting in short period windswell and producing the usual pressure gradient over North California with 25 kt north winds there and larger north short period windswell. No other weather feature of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast through Tuesday with the high pressure system holding strong. Theoretically a low pressure system tracking over the high in the Gulf of Alaska is to fire up late Tuesday into early Wednesday 700 nmiles off Washington producing 40 kt north winds and 20 ft seas, but that seems more like a fantasy of the models than anything resembling reality. Either way, the low is to diffused the pressure gradient for a day or two off California with windswell fading there. But trades are to hold firm over the Hawaiian Islands with east windswell continuing there.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/21) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 700 nmiles north of Hawaii and was ridging into the US West Coast generating the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA down to Monterey Bay producing 25 kt north winds and 15 kts north winds impacting nearshore coastal waters. More of the same is forecast Monday, with perhaps just a bit less wind nearshore in the morning. By Tuesday the fetch is to start pull away from the coast south of Pt Arena, providing a break from local chop and withering even more on Wednesday as low pressure pulls up to the coast of the PAcific Northwest. But by Thursday, after the low moves inland, high pressure is to start pushing east again generating 30 kt north winds over Cape Mendo late and holding into Friday. The good news is it tentatively looks like nearshore winds in Central CA are to remain light in the mornings and through the weekend, though blowing hard up north (30-35 kts).
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (6/21) the South Pacific jetstream was split as usual with a solid ridge pushing south over the the Ross Ice Shelf over the width of the South Pacific pretty much tamping down any gale development potential. A cut-off trough remained circulating east of New Zealand pushing far enough north to impact the northern branch of the jet with 200 winds at that juncture (south of Tahiti). But it is the winds pushing north into the trough were weak at only 90 kts limiting support for gale development. Not much is expected. Over the next 72 hrs a better but still weak trough is forecast building under New Zealand with maybe 90-100 kt winds pushing northeast, offering some weak odds for gale development in the Southwest Pacific while the ridge still hold over the Southeast Pacific. Beyond 72 hours things are to improve a little more with that trough in the southwest pushing more to the east and building with the southern branch pushing north and totally merging with the northern branch by Fri (6/26) offering more upper level wind energy to support for gale development south of Tahiti. But it is to be aligned more on a west to east line than south to north, which would tend to direct all energy towards Chile rather than up towards the United States.
At the surface on Sunday (6/21) the fading remnants of a gale that has persisted alongside of New Zealand since Wed (6/17) (see new Zealand Gale below) were still producing 30 kt south wind and 26-28 ft seas at 35S 175W aimed due north. Small to moderate swell is pushing towards Hawaii. No other swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours that fetch is to dissipate but a new fetch is to develop under New Zealand on Tues (6/23) but only with 35 kt southwest winds. 28-30 ft seas are forecast at 53S 172W in the evening aimed pretty well to the northeast on the 207 degree path to CA and totally shadowed by Tahiti and about 30 degrees east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 28 ft seas to hold into Wed AM at 48S 163W all pushing up the same headings. Some possible small swell to result for each if this develops.
A series of gales developed off Chile on Tues (6/16) with 36 ft seas at 55S 95W and mostly outside of even the Southern CA swell window, though there is some hints that sideband energy is pushing north and will reach exposed breaks in Southern CA on Sun/Mon (6/21) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) from 185 degrees. A second pulse is expected in on Wed (6/24) at up to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces with top spots to 5 ft) from 170 degrees continuing into Thurs (6/25) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces and up to 5 ft at top spots). Swell Direction: 170 degrees
New Zealand Gale
Also a persistent cut-off low formed just east of New Zealand on Wednesday (6/17) producing varying degrees of 35-40 kt south winds over a small area generating 26-28 ft seas near 40S 165-170W continuing into Sunday (6/21). Small 15-16 sec period swell is to start pushing north into the Hawaiian Islands on late Tues (6/23) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (3-3.5 ft faces) building to 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs on Wed (6/24) resulting in 3.5-4.0 ft faces late and up to head head high sets at top spots. More energy to continue Thursday (6/25) as period drops to 14 secs. Another pulse is expected in on Friday (6/26) at 3.6 ft @ 14 secs (head high sets with top spots to 1 ft overhead) holding Saturday, then heading down with period 13 secs on Sunday (6/28). Swell Direction 190 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 persistent high pressure system north of Hawaii is to is to start pushing east at 1028 mbs generating 30 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino by Friday (6/26) and holding through the weekend resulting in more and larger windswell for North and Central CA. As the high pushes east trades are to falter in Hawaii by Friday (6/26) with east windswell heading down.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (6/21) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Active Phase, and was wrapping up it's third consecutive pulse since April 20th (centered on the dateline). The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained dead neutral. The Daily SOI index was up to -11.18. The 30 day average was down just a bit to -8.35 and the 90 day average was down some at -2.49 (the lowest in 3 years). The SOI indicies remained effectively neutral but a significant change still appears to be occurring in the Pacific. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated that a third incarnation of the Active Phase has peaked out and is starting to fade with weaker westerly wind anomalies pushing from the West Pacific over the dateline reaching to Central America, filling the Pacific Basin. It is expected to fade out by 6/26 and effectively gone by then. A version of the Inactive Phase is developing in the Indian Ocean. It is to barely reach the dateline on 7/1, then slowly dissipate by 7/6. No energy is forecast reaching even under Hawaii much less Central America. So a weak version of the Inactive Phase is to possibly make an appearance in early July. We remain disposed to believe we are entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase, which supports a manifestation of El Nino and signals the death of La Nina. Latest data as of 6/18 indicates warmer than normal waters temps are reported over the entire width of the equatorial Pacific and building off Central America pushing up into Baja Mexico and expected to track north from there. The large cool pool of water off the US West Coast is gone with warm anomalous starting to build along the California coast. This looks very much like El Nino. Looking back in the satellite records (they go back to 1996), there has been no equivalent warming for any year as of June 20th other than the record setting El Nino that started in 97. We are about 6 weeks behind that one on the development timeline (i.e. it was were we are now on May 10th). So if things proceed at the current rate, we are not only moving towards El Nino, but perhaps a strong one at that. Below the surface on the equator a steady flow of slightly warmer than normal subsurface water was tracking from the West Pacific over the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water starting to pool up there. It appears that previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump, and are now pushing warmer than normal subsurface water eastward with more building up behind, and feeding a slightly warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. This is very good news. In fact increased warming can be seen around and east of the Galapagos Islands to near 2 deg C above normal. A Kelvin Wave produced by an earlier Westerly Wind Burst with 4 deg C above normal water temps is poised to break the surface there. And another Westerly Wind Burst appears to have developed just west of the dateline on 6/18, larger than previously suspected and possibly setting up another Kelvin wave and more warm water moving east. At this point high pressure and local La Nina conditions off California are long gone. If this pattern persists we expect the tropical season to become more active and surpass the below normal activity levels of the past 3 years. And the North Pacific jetstream is looking better than it has the whole of last winter. But it's not till the later half of July that we might get a real sense of how the Fall might set up. Still, things are looking much better.
Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast developing under New Zealand on Thurs (6/25) with a brief burst of 40 kt winds but not doing much. But a second pulse is expected on Friday with 45-50 kts winds forecast near 55S 180W with additional 40-45 kt fetch behind it on Sat AM (6/27). 36 ft seas are forecast Fri PM at 53S 163W pushing up to 38 ft Saturday Am (6/27) at 50S 150W with secondary seas of up to 35 ft at 48S 160W holding into Sunday AM (6/28). Possible 17+ sec period swell is to be pushing northeast with sideband energy for Hawaii and maybe a little more for the US West Coast (though still shadowed by the eastern edge of the Society Islands) if this occurs as forecast. That remains quite a reach though for the models.
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