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 Thursday (7/9) North and Central California had waist local northwest windswell and knee to thigh high southern hemi swell showing at south facing breaks. northwest winds were hacking it up pretty good to. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell at exposed breaks up north and new southern hemi south swell pushing to near head high on the sets at top spots. Wind was a bit of a factor though. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had waist high easterly windswell and onshore winds. The South Shore had no southern hemi swell but was getting waist high wrap around tradewind windswell pushing into exposed breaks with clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for maybe a day or two of tiny background south angled southern hemi swell pushing in through Friday (7/10) to early Saturday then dissipating. But small to modest sized short period north windswell is really the more dominant swell and is expected to continue, a little smaller for the weekend, then rebuilding to the waist to chest high range for next week. Southern CA is to see continued southern hemi background swell through Friday (7/10) and turning more southerly, then fading out. Maybe some thigh high northwest short period windswell to be filtering into Santa Barbara Co for Friday, then fading by the weekend. A little bit better odds for windswell up north next week. Oahu's North Shore is asleep for the summer with no rideable surf forecast. The East Shore to seeing more minimal east tradewind generated windswell for Friday, then dropping off some on Sat/Sun (thigh to waist high) then possibly back to waist high or so for the balance of the following week. The South Shore is not expected to see any southern hemi swell until Wed of next week, and then only background energy (7/15).
Longterm the South Pacific produced a small gale under Tahiti on Wed (7/8) generating a tiny area of up to 26-27 ft seas pushing north towards Hawaii. But the swell to be very small upon arrival there on Wed (waist high) with nothing of interest expected to reach California. Over the very long term a broad gale is modeled building under Tahiti in the same area that has supported a cutoff upper level trough for a week now, with 35 ft or greater seas suggested by Thurs (7/15). Will believe it when it happens.
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 positioned equidistant from Hawaii and San Francisco CA ridging into the California coast with north winds to 20 kts over Central CA waters generating weak northwest short period windswell there. This high was also generating modest trades at 15-20 kts pushing into the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands, with minimal easterly windswell the result. Over the next 72 hours this high pressure system is to hold mid-way between CA and Hawaii at 1024 mbs continuing to generate a weak pressure gradient over Central CA sinking more towards Point Conception producing north winds at 20 kts there with very short period north windswell expected from Pt Arena southward to Pt Conception into the weekend. Trades are to continue over the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts into Friday, then fading to the 15 kt range over the weekend with east windswell faltering some, but still rideable, but period very short. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/9) high pressure at 1026 mbs was located 800 nmiles west of Central CA ridging into the coast and producing 20-25 kt north winds extending from Cape Mendocino southward to near Pt Conception and generating small short period north windswell pushing south. Lesser winds in the 15 kt range extending south over the Channel Islands then turning southwest and heading towards Hawaii. This pattern is to hold into Friday, then weaken over the weekend but still winds are to be 15-20 kts with smaller and shorter period local windswell and chop expected. Late Sunday (7/12) the fetch is to regenerate to the 20-25 kt range as reinforcing high pressure builds off the coast with north winds reaching 25-30 kts late 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. The gradient is to slowly fade into Wednesday (7/15) with winds dying and windswell fading with improved conditions. A near calm winds pattern is forecast by Thurs (7/16).
No tropical systems of interest were occurring.
On Thursday (7/9) the South Pacific jetstream was actually starting to come together with the southern branch crashing into the northern branch just south of Tahiti. But next to no wind energy was associated with the southern branch (50-60 kts0 not facilitating gale development at the oceans surface. Still, this was more favorable than anything in weeks. Over the next 72 hrs winds in the southern branch are to continue feeding up into the northern branch with the two meeting south of Tahiti, and at the juncture point winds are to push to 200 kts Fri/sat (7/11) though the coverage area is to be small. Maybe some support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours this same pattern is to hold with a bit more wind energy tracking northeast off New Zealand reaching the juncture point. More support for gale development possible in that area if this occurs.
At the surface on Thursday (7/9) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring in the South Pacific though a persistent weak surface low pressure system was parked 1500 nmiles south of Tahiti. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast, with the Tahitian low still circulating, but weak with winds below 30 kts with any consistency. a brief gale is to build just northwest of northern New Zealand on Friday (7/10) producing 45 kt winds but all aimed at Australia. No hope for our forecast area.
Weak Tahitian Gale
A weak low pressure system tried to organize well south of Tahiti on Wed (7/8) with 35-40 kt southwest winds modeled at 44S 150W aimed towards both CA (shadowed by Tahiti) and Hawaii and holding through the evening, then dissipating fast early Thursday. Seas of 27 ft were modeled Wed PM (7/8) at 40S 150W. A small and weak pulse of utility class sideband swell is expected to reach Hawaii for Wed/Thurs (7/16) at 2.0-2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft faces pushing 3.5 ft at top breaks) from 180-185 degrees.
It's doubtful any swell energy will survive the being sheared by the French Polynesia and then survive the long journey north to the US Mainland.
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 1028 mbs but favoring the mainland more Mon/Tues (7/14) generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino with more short period north windswell expected for Central CA into mid next week (7/15). Trades to also continue over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts resulting in small short period east windswell there as well. There's some indications the high could surge a little late next week with increased east windswell for the Islands then, but that's more of a guess than anything. Of some interest is a broad low pressure system is forecast pushing east off the Kurils to the dateline and then northeast over the Aleutian Islands on by Monday (7/13) generating up to 25-30 kt west winds. Maybe some 12 sec period small windswell might make it to the Islands if this occurs. But what's more of interest is the fact that it is to occur in the middle of summer. This remains only a projection, but is still an interesting piece of the possible El Nino puzzle.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (7/9) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Inactive Phase as it has been since 6/23, but the first Inactive Phase 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 down to -4.06 possibly signaling the start of another Active Phase. The 30 day average was up to 0.48 and the 90 day average was down to -0.68. 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 loose some ground off Central America. But at this time we remain disposed to believe we have turned th corner and have entering a phase biased towards the Active Phase and less supportive of the Inactive Phase, which supports a manifestation of El Nino. In fact 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 strongly 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 (150 m below the surface to be exact) under the dateline and then breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water starting to pool up there. Previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump and feeding the warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Warmer than normal waters can be seen around and east of the Galapagos Islands to near 2 deg C above normal. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that developed just west of the dateline on 6/18, with reinforcing west winds south of Hawaii on 6/22, set up a Kelvin wave resulting in more warm subsurface water moving east and just now stating to break the surface near Central America. And in the far West Pacific another Westerly Wind Burst appears to be developing (7/6) with more warm waters starting to feed into the subsurface flow west of the dateline. This is pretty impressive considering we're in the Inactive Phase. It will be interesting to see how long this WWB event holds. The hoped-for result is yet another Kelvin Wave and more warm waters pushing to the east. The next 3 weeks are critical for the formation of a legitimate 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 July, pushing out into the West Pacific. At this time, no such an occurrence is modeled. But there are already sign that something is starting to take root, even though the models haven't graped it yet (Namely the WWB and dropping SOI numbers). 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 and maybe even better than anything in the last 12 years.
Beyond 72 hours remnants of the gale forecast over north New Zealand are to track east and rebuild late Monday (7/13) with 45 kt south winds forecast at 35S 165W holding almost into Tuesday evening at 32S152W. A small area of 36 ft seas are forecast Tues AM at 32S 162W pushing 38 ft in the evening at 31S 156W then quickly dissipating. Possible swell is to be tracking well to the north towards Hawaii and even reasonably unshadowed relative to California if this occurs. And given the fetch's position well to the north, it would put it much closer than normal, substantially helping to minimize swell decay. Something to watch.
By Thursday (7/16) a massive gale low is to theoretically develop in the Central South Pacific with a huge fetch of fragmented 40-45+ kts winds near 50S 160W all aimed well towards both Hawaii and the US mainland (though totally shadowed relative to California by Tahiti). 36 ft seas are modeled and on the increase. Of course this is still a week out, and to have any belief that even a portion of it will actually form is foolhardy at this early date. But it is a step in the right direction.
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