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 (6/28) North and Central CA had northwest windswell at waist high, mushy with northwest wind adding some texture on top - typical summer conditions. Down south in Santa Cruz bare minimal southern hemi background swell was occasionally producing waves in the thigh to waist high range and clean inside the kelp. Southern California up north was effectively flat and heavily textured mid-day. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and clean coming out of the south. Hawaii's North Shore had wrap around windswell at waist to maybe chest high and pretty blown by northeast trades. The South Shore was effectively flat with minimal background southern hemi swell producing waves maybe thigh high and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had tradewind produced east windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure had retrograded away from California and Hawaii not offering any windswell relative to CA but still generating enhanced trades over Hawaii resulting in easterly windswell there. Otherwise no swell production was occurring. An area of weak low pressure tracked over the top of the high on Tues-Wed (6/27) generating 20 kt westerly winds aimed at the US West Coast, maybe good for another tiny pulse of westerly windswell late week into the weekend for CA. It's not till late Tuesday (7/3) that high pressure is to finally track back east generating north winds at 25 kts over Cape Mendocino resulting in building north windswell for Central and South CA holding into late in the work week.
Down south a gale developed in the Tasman Sea Sun-Mon (6/25) with seas to barely 32 ft favoring Fiji with maybe some well filtered energy easing up into Hawaii by Mon (7/2). And of more interest, residual energy from that system organized east of New Zealand Tues-Thurs (6/28) with seas in the 33-39 ft range, but still over a tiny area. Some decent swell is expected for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast. But after that, nothing else of interest is projected. Take what you can get and be thankful for it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Thursday (6/28) high pressure at 1028 mbs had retrograding west positioned just a few hundred nmiles east of the dateline. It was still generating enhanced trades over Hawaii at 15-20 kts and producing limited short period easterly windswell along east facing shores. But the high was well west of California offering no mechanism to generate north wind or windswell of interest. Weak low pressure was poised off the Pacific Northwest Coast but producing no fetch of interest. Previously it had tracked over the top of the high north of Hawaii generating westerly fetch at 20 kts targeting Oregon and Northern CA, with maybe some minimal 9-10 sec period windswell resulting for the weekend with luck.
Over the next 72 hours the high is to lift north with trades fading over Hawaii and east windswell fading while weak low pressure hangs over the Oregon coast resulting in no pressure gradient nor north winds of interest pushing down the CA coast, with no windswell of interest there either. High pressure is to eventually start moving east late in the weekend, but not producing anything of interest immediately.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Doksuri was positioned 300 nmiles east of Manila (Philippines) on Tuesday (6/26) with sustained winds 35 kts and tracking west-northwest. This storm passed just north of the Northern Philippines late on Wed (7/27) with winds 50 kts, and is forecast to move onshore a bit south of Hong Kong China late Friday (6/29) with winds 60 kts, fading while moving inland. No swell production forecast.
No other tropical storm formation is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/28) high pressure was trying to weakly ridge into the CA coast, but not making it with only a light northerly flow indicated peaking at 15 kts over Pt Conception. Low pressure was also nudging up to the Oregon coast helping to hold back high pressure relative to California. More of the same is forecast Friday as the low fall south along the Oregon coast moving inland over Cape Mendocino on Saturday with north winds again suppressed except over Pt Conception. Late Sunday high pressure is to finally start getting a toehold off California now that low pressure is out of the way, with north winds building to 15-20 kts along the entire coast other than protected locations in Southern CA. By Monday the usual north winds flow at 15-20 kts is forecast for all of North and Central CA with Southern CA barely in a eddy pattern with the fetch and gradient becoming more defined over Central CA on Tuesday with 20-25 kts north winds centered near Pt Arena. Finally on Wednesday high pressure returns fully to the coast with north winds up to 25 kts near Cape Mendocino and 20 kts down over all of Central CA, with an eddy starting to develop for San Francisco southward on Thursday (7/5).
Jet stream - On Thursday (6/28) a split jetstream pattern continued over the entire South Pacific with the exception of a few hundred miles west of the southern tip of South America. A cutoff trough was still circulating east of New Zealand but winds were weak and it was no longer providing any support for gale development. In short, we have returned to an unfavorable upper level pattern. Over the next 72 hours another pocket of 140 kt winds is to start pushing east under New Zealand on Wed (6/27) possibly opening up another trough there for 24 hours, but just a quickly a ridge is to build behind it cutting the trough off and crashing into Antarctica, suppressing gale development potential. A weak trough is to try and get a toehold off extreme Southern America, but outside even the California swell window. Beyond 72 hours that South American trough is to get a bit better footing building northward some with winds to 130 kts late next week offering better support for gale development, but all targeting only Southern Chile. Back to the west the massively split jet is to continue raking Antarctica offering no support for gale development in the Hi and CA swell windows.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (6/26) high pressure had released it grip a bit over the Central South Pacific. A gale was still circulating southeast of New Zealand (see New Zealand Gale below) still generating swell. And swell from a gale that formed under Tasmania (see Tasman Sea Gale below) was pushing weakly towards Hawaii. Also a decent gale was off the Southern tip of South America with southwest winds 45-50 kts generating 38 ft seas at 53S 95W, targeting Chile and Peru nicely, but well east of any great circle track to the US West Coast.
Over the next 72 hours the New Zealand Gale is to quickly fade out, and the Chilean Gale is to move onshore over Patagonia with swell pushing north up the coast of Chile. But no other swell producing weather system are forecast with high pressure in the Southeast Pacific regenerating to 1028 mbs falling south on Friday (6/29) and ridging into Antarctica pretty much shutting thing down there. And another high at 1024 mbs is to be doing the same thing at the same time over New Zealand. It doesn't look good.
Tasman Sea Gale
A gale was starting to build over Tasmania on Sun AM (6/24) with a small area of 45 kt southwest winds then building to 50 kts in the evening positioned mid-way between Tasmania and New Zealand aimed well up into the Tasman Sea resulting in a tiny area of 30 ft seas at 44S 153E aimed reasonably well to the north towards Fiji but with New Zealand being the prime target. A follow-on fetch of 45 kt southwest winds to build in the Tasman Sea on Mon AM (6/26) resulting in 32 ft seas at 49S 150E again targeting Fiji and holding into the evening with seas pushing northeast and holding at 32 ft at 43S 161E. Decent swell possibly pushing towards Fiji. Fetch fading from 35 kts Tuesday AM (6/26) just west of New Zealand still aimed north towards Fiji with seas fading from 30 ft at 43S 165E and becoming shadowed relative to Fiji by New Zealand.
Swell pushing into Fiji late Thurs early Fri (6/29) Fiji time with much smaller energy tracking northeast towards Hawaii arriving late on Sun (7/1) peaking Monday AM (7/2) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.7 ft with sets to 3.5 ft). Swell fading from 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft) on Tues (7/3). Swell Direction 213 degrees
New Zealand Gale
Residual wind energy from the Tasman Sea Gale above started redeveloping southeast of New Zealand on Tuesday AM (6/26) with winds 45 kts over a tiny area and seas building and continuing in the evening and seas up to 36 ft at 51S 170E (218 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti, 201 degs Hawaii). Additional wind energy moved into the area Wednesday AM (6/27) with a larger fetch of 45 kt southwest winds taking control with seas building to 38 ft (confirmed by the Jason-1 satellite) at 49S 177E (216 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). A broader area of 40-45 kt southwest winds held into the evening with a respectable area of seas at 34 ft at 45S 178E (218 degs CA and unshadowed, 200 degs HI). This fetch lifted northeast on Thurs AM (6/28) with 40 kt southwest winds continuing and seas at 33 ft near 44S 180E (same heading as before) loosing coverage in the evening at the same location. Seas fading from 30 ft at 42S 176W (217 degs CA, 199 HI). Residual energy fading Friday AM (6/29) with winds dropping from 30-35 kts and seas fading from 26 ft at 39S 171W (216 degs CA,191 HI).
Some decent sized swell with a moderate duration is already in the water heading up to Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (7/3) with size building to 2 ft @ 19 secs late (3.8 ft with bigger sets) peaking on Wed (7/4) with swell 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell to continue on Thursday with swell 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.8 ft with sets to 6 ft) fading slightly as the day progresses. 14-15 sec residuals on Friday (7/6). Swell Direction: 198-201 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs AM (7/5) just before sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building slowly through the day to 1 ft @ 20 secs (2 ft). Swell building on Fri (7/6) to 2.8-3.0 ft @ 18 secs (4.8-5.4 ft) with luck. Swell continues on Sat (7/7) at 2.5-2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Lesser energy on Sunday (7/7). Swell Direction: 217-219 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on on Thurs AM (7/5) just after sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building slowly through the day reaching 1 ft @ 20 secs (2 ft). Swell building on Fri (7/6) to 2.8-3.0 ft @ 18 secs (4.8-5.4 ft) later. Swell continues Sat AM (7/7) at 2.5-2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Lesser energy on Sunday (7/7). Swell Direction: 216-218 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 North Pacific high is to finally start pushing east again ridging into California on Tuesday (7/3) with north fetch building over Pt Arena at 25 kts migrating to Cape Mendocino on Wednesday and holding through the remainder of the work week increasing northerly local short period windswell down the Central and South CA coasts. As the high pushes east, trades to rebuild to 15 kts for Hawaii, maybe enough to produce only bare minimal short period east windslop.
Another small low pressure system is t o ride over the top of the high early next week producing a small area of west winds to 25 kts targeting the Pacific Northwest, but a long ways out. It's interesting that the Gulf of Alaska corridor is even open at this time of year much less marginally active.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, or in it's Active Phase by 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Thursday (6/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was moderating from extremely negative readings earlier in the week (-46.96 and -49.35) to -19.96. The 30 day average was down to -11.62 (moving better into El Nino territory) with the 90 day average down to -6.68 (nearly El Nino territory). The 30 day average has dropped from +24 in early January 2012 to -12 by late June. This is a good trend.
Current wind analysis indicated a continuing small pocket of moderate to strong strength west anomalies over the far West Pacific (Maritime Continent) fading near the dateline and turning neutral if not slightly easterly from there into Central America. The Active Phase of the MJO has moved into the Caribbean and Atlantic, but the west anomalies in the far West Pacific remain were an interesting anomaly. Also the deeply negative SOI remains of interest. A week from now (7/6) moderate east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent fading near the dateline then returning to weak east anomalies over a small area well south of Baja. This suggests a return of the Inactive Phase of the MJO in the Pacific as has been forecast for some time. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/27 are in agreement indicating the Active Phase of the MJO was now over the Atlantic moving towards Africa with the Inactive Phase over the West Pacific digging in towards the dateline with a tiny area of west anomalies holding over the dateline (about what is occurring right now). But those are to be fading in 5 days as the Inactive Phase starts to max out on the dateline. 2 weeks out (7/11) there is some disagreement with the statistical model showing the Inactive Phase holding while a strong Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean while the dynamic model has the Inactive Phase almost gone and the Active Phase also fading in the Indian Ocean. 7/4 remains our stake in the ground in assessing what the trend will be over this coming Fall and Winter (more below). The preferred option is no or minimal Inactive Phase build-up the first week in July with a quick return to a neutral if not Active pattern, which would suggest that as we move more into Summer that a weak El Nino or at least a pattern that supports warm water buildup in the East Pacific continues. The critical juncture in that determination is the end of June into the first week or two in July. It's still to early to know what the outcome will be.
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 and that pool of warm water is growing in intensity and coverage on 6/25. A pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) evaporated in April allowing warmer water to 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, and it 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) in late June (it did) and early July (still to be determined) or whether the Inactive Phase comes back to life and reestablishes some sort of blockade. We are out of the Spring unpredictability barrier relative to ENSO, and all is proceeding nicely towards a favorable pattern developing for the Fall (i.e. warmer than normal water on the equator in the East Pacific) providing this developing Inactive Phase doesn't shut things down. 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 gone. And the horseshoe cool water pattern that has dominated the entire Pacific for the past 2 years (typical of La Nina) is gone with a very El Nino like warm water pattern taking hold. 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 the next 2 weeks late-June to earl July 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). Regardless - we'll know the answers by July 4th.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. High pressure is to migrated east from New Zealand at 1028 mbs pretty much ridging to 60S and driving all weather systems into Antarctica.
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