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 Saturday (7/4) North and Central California had waist high local northwest windswell trying to lap in with occasional little bits of southern hemi swell showing at south facing breaks in the same size range, with generally light northwest winds adding a little texture at worst. Southern California was flat up north but had some small southern hemi swell pushing thigh high at better exposed breaks down south and up to the waist to chest high range at top breaks. Winds light southwest 5 kts making for some texture. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had maybe knee high easterly windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore still had some lingering southern hemi swell with waves waist to chest high, maybe a bit more on the bigger sets at the top breaks with light trades in-effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small background southern hemi swell pushing in through Thursday (7/9) from a gale that was under Tahiti last week in the thigh to waist high range with locally generated short period north windswell moving into the mix by Wed (7/8). Southern CA is to see continued southern hemi background swell originating from that same gale that was under Tahiti through Thursday (7/9), then fading out. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to see some minimal east tradewind generated windswell by Tuesday (7/7) holding for a few days. The South Shore is to see the southern hemi swell fade much by Sunday and be gone by Monday, with nothing to follow immediately.
Longterm the South Pacific is to produce a weak and small gale under Tahiti late Tues into Wed (7/8) generating a tiny area of up to 32 ft seas pushing towards both HAwaii and California, but shadowed by Tahiti for the mainland. More background swell is possible. A broader area of weather is depicted southeast of New Zealand next weekend, but that is hardly believable at this early date. So in all, a really quiet pattern is to continue for the South Pacific. High pressure is to build a little northeast of Hawaii mid-week, increasing trades and pushing a little more local short period windswell into the East Shores of the Hawaiian Islands and help to produce north windswell pushing down the Central CA coast at exposed breaks. But in all things to be quite in the North Pacific too. We're in the dead middle of summer, and though one could hope for more, you can't expect it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today a near neutral pressure pattern was in-play generating no winds down the mainland and only minimal trades at 10 kts into the Hawaiian Islands. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to try and build in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday (7/7) to 1028 mbs setting up a weak pressure gradient over Central CA and producing north winds at 20 kts with very short period north windswell trying to get a foothold late. Trades are also to start building over the Hawaiian Islands on Tuesday too with east windswell starting to build, but not much. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/4) a neutral pressure pattern was in control of the California coast and no winds of interest were occurring. By Monday (7/6) high pressure at 1028 mbs is to start building in the Northern Gulf of Alaska ridging somewhat into the Central and South CA coasts, generating 15-20 kt north winds over the area late and chopping things up. This fetch to fade a little Tues AM (7/7) and rebuild by the afternoon mainly north of Pt Conception. By Wednesday (7/8) a persistent fetch of 20 kt north winds is to set up over waters from Cape Mendocino south to Pt Conception generating weak short period north windswell and locally chopped conditions. This pattern is to hold non-stop through at least Sat (7/11).
No tropical system of interest are occurring.
On Saturday (7/4) the South Pacific jetstream remained split with a very weak flow pushing in the southern branch over the Ross Ice Shelf the whole way from south of Australia to nearly Chile pretty much hindering the development of low pressure in the South Pacific. The northern branch had all the wind energy, with winds at 170 kts in pockets flowing flat west to east and not supporting gale development. Over the next 72 hrs no real change is forecast with the southern branch getting even weaker. Maybe a cutoff low is forecast well south of Tahiti on Mon (7/6), but that is not to offer much help to support gale development down at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours something that almost looks like a real trough is forecast forming south of Tahiti on Wed (7/8) through winds feeding into it are to be very weak, but building and looking decent by the weekend (7/11) with 100 kt south winds pushing up into the trough from New Zealand then. Possible support for gale development in that area is possible if all goes as modeled, a long shot at this early date.
At the surface on Saturday (7/4) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring in the South Pacific. Pretty calm for the time of year. Over the next 72 hours a weak low pressure system is to try and organize well south of Tahiti on Sun (7/5) but with no fetch aimed north, and only minimal fetch aimed east towards Chile. No swell production is expected and it is to almost dissipate by Monday.
On Friday (6/26) through Sun (6/28) a weak gale developed east of New Zealand pushing to a point well south of Tahiti producing a small fetch of 40-45 kt southwest to west winds and seas at 28 ft near 45S 170W pushing to 35 ft at 45S 150W. Most of this energy was tracking towards South and Central America. Sideband swell energy did reach up into Hawaii for Thurs-Fri (7/3) and was starting to hit exposed south facing breaks in California on Sat (7/4). Varying degrees of background swell of mostly 2 ft @ 15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) is expected for South and Central CA starting Sun (7/5) and continuing into late Wed (7/8) from 205 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 usual high pressure system between Hawaii and California is to hold while sinking south a bit, setting up north winds at 20 kts pushing down and over the Central CA coast and generating short period north windswell into next weekend (7/11) and producing trades over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts resulting in short period east windswell there as well. Something rideable for both locations, but nothing more.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (7/4) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Inactive Phase, the first in months after going through three consecutive Active pulses since April 20th. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained neutral. The Daily SOI index was at 1.85. The 30 day average was up a fair amount to -1.46 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -0.12. The SOI indicies remained effectively neutral. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated completely neutral conditions, or normal. And no change is forecast through the end of the month. The big push of west winds that had been associated with the Active Phase of the MJO have dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific is over, at least for now. Unless another pulse of the Active Phase occurs, water temps might begin to subside off Central America. But at this time 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 seas surface temperature data as of 6/22 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. 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 on June 20th other than the record setting El Nino of 1997. 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 moving towards El Nino. But it remains too early to declare that for a fact just yet. 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 Westerly Wind Burst appears that developed just west of the dateline on 6/18, with reinforcing west winds south of Hawaii on 6/22 has set up another Kelvin wave and more warm water moving east. It is 4 deg C above normal and positioned under the equator south of Cabo San Lucas Mexico, bound for Central America. More heating to erupt as it hits the coast there. At this point local La Nina conditions off California are long gone though high pressure is starting to rebuild resulting in modest upwhelling, and water temps have dropped back down to normal. The next 3-4 weeks are critical for the formation of El Nino. If it were to occur, one would expect another decent pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO to take root towards the end of the month, pushing out into the West Pacific. At this time, no such an occurrence is modeled. But it sometimes takes the models a week or so to catch up to reality. But at this point, we're in 'wait and see' mode. 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 continue to look better rather than worse.
Beyond 72 hours another pulse of low pressure energy is forecast developing south of Tahiti on Tues (7/7) with a small area of 40 kt winds forecast pushing to the north aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast though totally blocked by Tahiti relative to California. A tiny area of 32 ft seas are forecast Tues PM at 42S 156W. Will see if this really occurs. Even if it does, only background swell to result for the US mainland. Hawaii might do marginally better.
A broader area of 35 kt southwest winds are forecast under New Zealand by the weekend (7/11) resulting in 26 ft seas there. That's is somewhat interesting, if only because of the complete lack of any other fetch. In all a real quiet pattern is in-play.
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