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 Tuesday (6/22) North and Central California had chest high locally generated short period north windswell with warbled/chopped conditions. Southern California was getting knee to thigh high wrap around weak northwest windswell up north and clean even late. Down it was pretty much the same thing. Hawaii's North Shore was dead flat with clean conditions. The East Shore was getting waist high plus tradewind generated east windswell with a moderate chop on it. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell at waist high and clean with moderate trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more modest sized locally generated north windswell pushing at waist high Wednesday and Thursday up to waist high plus on Friday then waist to chest high for the weekend with some southern hemi swell at at thigh to waist high both days. Southern California is to see no real northwest windswell for the rest of the workweek, then maybe up to knee high at t op spots over the weekend. Some background southern hemi swell is expected Wed/Thurs at thigh high dropping Friday then a new pulse arriving Saturday at waist high and maybe chest high Sunday fading on Monday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no swell of interest for the foreseeable future. The East Shore to see east tradewind generated windswell at chest high Wednesday and nearly shoulder high Thursday then chest high Friday. Waist to chest high windswell for the weekend. The South Shore to see southern hemi swell from just east of New Zealand arriving on Wednesday at waist high late pushing shoulder high Thursday back to chest high Friday then fading out from waist high on Saturday.
Up north no swell producing fetch is expected from the North Pacific for the next 7days other than locally generated windswell. Down south a cutoff low kinda developed well south of Tahiti on Friday (6/18) producing a short duration of 30 ft seas aimed pretty well to the north towards Hawaii and the US West coast with swell arriving in the Islands on Wed (6/23) and California on Saturday (6/26). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems are forecast out of the South Pacific.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (6/22) the North Pacific jetstream was pretty much non-existent other than an upper level low circulating over the northern dateline region producing a patch of west winds at 120 kts flowing flat on the 42N latitude but dissipating before reaching the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours that upper level low is to ease east into the Western Gulf through Friday but of no real interest toward supporting even low pressure development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours that energy is to migrate to the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska on Sun (6/26) carving out a little trough there and holding just off Washington and Oregon into early next week. Limited support for low pressure development there. But back to the west no upper level energy of any interest is forecast.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/22) very weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was stationary 800 nmiles west of Pt Conception generating a weak version of the standard summertime pressure gradient over Central California waters producing north winds there at 15-20 kts resulting in minimal short period north windswell tracking down the Central CA coast with even less wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA. The high was providing modest trades over Hawaiian waters at 15+ kts. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to retrograde to the west with trades rebuilding over the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts offering increased support for easterly windswell production there. North winds to drop to the 15-20 kts range along the Central CA coast with windswell fading to the waist high range.
A weak low pressure system built over the northern dateline region Mon (6/21) circulating in-place there with perhaps a small fetch of 30 kt northwest winds being generated Mon at 48N 180W holding into Tuesday AM at 47N 178W then dissipating. Seas were modeled at 18 ft Tues AM at 47.5N 178W then fading. No swell of interest is expected because it will decay before reaching any landmass.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/22) high pressure was retrograding west away from the CA coast with weak low pressure trying to move into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. Northwest winds were down to 15 kts over outer waters of Central CA. On Wednesday the bulk of the gradient is to be effectively gone, though a persistent patch of 15 kt north winds is to linger just off the Central CA coast still producing warble and minimal windswell through Thursday. By Friday into early Saturday (6/26) high pressure is to try and make a return with north winds again on the increase to the 20 kts range and windswell and chop building back into the North and Central CA coast pushing 25 kts up by Cape Mendo on Sunday (6/27). Southern CA to remain protected. But more low pressure is to make a push through the Gulf on Mon/Tues (6/29) preventing high pressure and the usual pressure gradient from getting even moderately strong along the central and north CA coast, with winds over outer waters in the 20 kts range. Limited warbled windswell the best hope.
On Monday (6/22) a split jetstream flow remained in control of the South Pacific with the southern branch of the jet tracking east down at 65S and pushing along the northern edge of the Antarctic ice pack, with winds generally below 120 kts and offering no support for gale formation. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast other than more winds energy building into the southern branch of the jet starting under New Zealand and pushing east if not a little northeast. Beyond 72 hours a trough is to build in the Southeast Pacific out of the energy racing east across the South Pacific on Saturday (6/26) with winds to 140 kts setting up on the west side of the trough Sunday pushing pretty well to the north offering decent support for gale development. But it is to be on the extreme eastern edge of the CA swell window and tracking slowly east, likely not offering too much support for gale development in the US swell window. Maybe Central and South America will fare well though.
At the oceans surface real no fetch of interest was occurring in the Hawaiian or California swell windows with a high pressure pattern in control generally pushing winds south. Over the next 72 hours a building wind pattern is forecast across the width of the South Pacific but all aligned generally west to east pushing nothing to the north.
Previously, On Thursday (6/17) low pressure was circulating well east of New Zealand and starting to organize after stalling in the Central Pacific setting up a large area of 35 kt south winds Thursday evening. It got marginally amplified on Friday (6/18) as it tapped the jetstream with south winds building to 45 kts at 55S 135W holding for 12 hours resulting in 28 ft seas Friday AM at 41S 157W (from the original fetch) and then another spot of 30 ft seas at 50S 133W from the stronger fetch in the evening. But it was gone by Saturday. Some limited 16-17 sec period swell to result focused best on Hawaii arriving later on Wed (6/23) and in California on Sat (6/26). Swell only 2 ft @ 16-17 secs in both locations.
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 retrograde even more to the west and
northwest while low pressure that had been over the dateline eases
east to the Gulf of Alaska generating 20 to maybe 25 kt west winds, offering windswell generation potential aimed at the Pacific Northwest coast on Sunday (6/27) then dropping southeast on Monday while dissipating, likely offering nothing for California but maybe windswell up north. With the demise of the low, high pressure and north winds to bump up to the 20-25 kts range on Tuesday (6/29) for Central CA, perhaps pushing windswell up a notch then. Conversely, with high pressure retrograding even west of Hawaii, trades to drop off below 15 kts on Sunday (6/27) with east windswell fading.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (6/22) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued backing off from positive territory. The daily SOI was down to -8.51 and has been in slightly negative territory for 19 days. The 30 day average was down to 3.76 with the 90 day down to 7.53. This continued looking like a weak Active Phase dip embedded in a broader La Nina pattern.
Wind anomalies as of Tuesday (6/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models suggested strong east anomalies building over a broad area over the West Pacific indicative of a building instance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. They extend from Eastern Africa to the dateline on east almost to South America. A small and fading area of westerly anomalies indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO were dissipating over Central America and were exiting east into the Atlantic. Looks like the Inactive Phase is getting ready to take over the Pacific in a bad way. Easterly anomalies are forecast to hold solid on the dateline almost filling the entire equatorial Pacific by 6/26 then slowly fade into 7/6. Finally on 7/11 a weak pulse of the Active Phase is to start building in the Indian Ocean easing east into the far West Pacific.
We believe the remnants of El Nino will linger in the upper atmosphere for a while. Regardless, we'll fall back into some form of a light La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for later 2010 into 2011. Of other interest will be whether the Iceland Volcano will spew enough high level fine particle dust and aerosols into the atmosphere to produce a reflective effect, dropping surface temperature and pushing us into a multi-year La Nina. This is a very real concern.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/17) indicates that cooler than normal waters have developed over a thin strip on the equator from South America drifting west to the dateline now and covering the important equatorial area of the better than half the Pacific Ocean. And feeder plumes of colder than normal water have developed pushing off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -4 degs below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, but only in the normal range. This still looks like the normal early Summertime transition typical for this time of the year but is likely to change towards an increased easterly flow as Fall approaches symptomatic of La Nina.
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact is to continue into the Summer of 2010 enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific some. A slow transition to a normal if not slight cooler than normal state (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models indicate a good sized area of fast moving 45+ kts winds are forecast developing in the deep South-Central Pacific with some energy aimed north starting Friday evening at 59S 160W. It is to lift northeast Sat AM with a broad area of 45 kt winds at 53S 140W racing in the evening to 48S 130W at 40 kts, then fading. There some suggestion of near 40 ft seas on the eastern edge of the CA swell window late Friday, but it's way too early to forecast with any certainty.
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