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 (7/7) North and Central California had waist to chest high southern hemi swell showing at south facing breaks with building northwest winds adding a fair amount of texture even early. Southern California had thigh high southern hemi southwest swell up north but there were chest high sets down south and even a few bigger peaks at the top spots. Wind was building in the early afternoon adding some moderate texture. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had mostly less than knee high easterly windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore still had some leftover waist high southern hemi swell occasionally coming through, though mainly smaller than that. Conditions were clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for 3 more days of small background southern hemi swell pushing in through Friday (7/10) and turning more from a southerly direction. This originated from a gale that was under Tahiti last week. But short period north windswell is to be moving into the area on Wed (7/8) in the waist to maybe chest high range. Southern CA is to see continued southern hemi background swell too originating from that same gale that was under Tahiti through Friday (7/10) and turning more southerly as the week progresses, then fading out. Maybe some thigh high northwest short period windswell to be in the mix up north (SB County) by Thurs. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to start seeing some minimal east tradewind generated windswell by Wednesday (7/8) at waist high or so and holding through the weekend. The South Shore is not expected to see any southern hemi swell for the next 6 days.
Longterm the South Pacific remains forecast to produce a small gale under Tahiti on Wed (7/8) generating a tiny area of up to 32-35 ft seas pushing towards both Hawaii and California, but a bit shadowed by Tahiti for the mainland. Limited small background swell is possible a week out for Hawaii and 8 days out for California. A broader area of disturbed weather is depicted southeast of New Zealand starting Tues (7/14) generating maybe 28 ft seas, but that remains only a guess by the models. So we remain is a real quiet pattern for now, in the heart of summer. One can hope for something more, but don't expect it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure was starting to build 800 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino and ridging into the California coast with north winds building to 20 kts over Northern CA. This high was also generating modest trades at 15 kts pushing into the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands, but windswell was not yet being realized. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold mid-way between CA and Hawaii at 1024-1028 mbs setting up a weak pressure gradient over Central CA and producing north winds at 20 kts with very short period north windswell north of Pt Conception starting Wed (7/8) and continuing into the weekend. Trades are also to be building over the Hawaiian Islands by Wed at 20 kts with east windswell starting to build, but period still very short. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/7) high pressure at 1030 mbs was located 850 nmiles west of Central CA ridging into the coast and producing 20-25 kt north winds off Pt Arena and generating small short period north windswell pushing south. Lesser winds in the 15 kt range extending south to Pt Conception and over the Channel Islands. By Wednesday (7/8) this fetch is to fall south some, centered off Monterey Bay and holding at 20 kts generating more weak short period north windswell and locally chopped conditions. This pattern is to hold into Thursday, then weaken some but still winds are to be 15-20 kts, regenerating to the 20 kts range by Sunday (7/12). reinforcing high pressure is to build off the coast early next week with north winds reaching 25 kts on Monday off Pt Arena and 30 kts early Tuesday (7/14) off Cape Mendo, with nearshore winds south of Pt Reyes fading. Larger windswell and improved conditions from San Francisco southward to Pt Conception possible.
Tropical storm Blanca was located 480 nmiles west southwest of Cabo San Lucas Mexico with sustained winds of 40 kts and fading. Winds never exceeded 45 kts with this system and no swell is expected to result for CA.
No other tropical system are occurring.
On Saturday (7/4) the South Pacific jetstream remained split with the southern branch pushing well to the south of even the Ross Ice Shelf from south of New Zealand to nearly Chile and hindering the development of low pressure in the South Pacific. A persistent cut-off low in the upper atmosphere east of New Zealand remains in place, perhaps offering a little bit of support for surface level low pressure development. The northern branch continued to have all the wind energy, with 190 kt winds flowing flat west to east under Tahiti and not supporting gale development. Over the next 72 hrs winds in the southern branch are to feed better up to the north and helping fuel the cutoff low south of Tahiti, actually looking decent by Fri (7/10), but it's till to be mostly cutoff. Beyond 72 hours finally the southern branch is to consolidate with a singular flow pushing northeast under New Zealand almost merging with the northern branch on Tues (7/14) and possibly setting up a real trough there. Possible support for gale development in that area if this occurs.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/7) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring in the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours a weak low pressure system is to try and organize well south of Tahiti on Wed (7/8) with 35-40 kt southwest winds forecast at 44S 155W aimed towards both CA (shadowed by Tahiti) and Hawaii and holding through the evening, then that fetch is to point to the east and southeast quickly, taking aim on Antarctica by Thurs PM. Seas of 35 ft are forecast Wed PM (7/8) at 40S 150W, but suspect that is on the high side. If this occurs some degree of decent utility class swell could be expected focusing on Tahiti and California, with sideband energy for Hawaii.
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 Thurs (7/9) 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 at 1024 mbs generating 20 kt north winds and short period north windswell for Central CA into early next week (7/14) and producing trades over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts resulting in short period east windswell there as well. the windswell should be rideable at both locations, but nothing more. Interestingly, a broad low pressure system is forecast pushing east off the Kurils to the dateline and into the Gulf of Alaska by Sunday (7/12) generating 25-30 kt west winds all the while. 10 sec period small windswell might result. But the fact that it is to occur in the middle of summer is of more interest. Of course, this is just a projection, but interesting none-the-less.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (7/7) 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 5.17. The 30 day average was up to -0.16 and the 90 day average was dead neutral at -0.14. The SOI index 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 sea surface temperature data as of 7/6 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 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 southeast 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 some, but still above normal. This is all a result of the inactive phase of the MJO currently barely in control. In the far West Pacific another westerly Wind Burst appears to be developing (7/6) and pushing to the equator. It will be interesting to see how long this WWB event holds. It could result in another Kelvin Wave and more warm waters pushing to the east. 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. So 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, certainly compared to the last 3 years.
Beyond 72 hours a broader area of 35 kt southwest winds are forecast under New Zealand by Mon (7/13) resulting in 26-29 ft seas there. This remains somewhat interesting, if only because of the complete lack of any other fetch. But overall a real quiet pattern is 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