New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Sunday (7/13) Northern CA surf was up to waist high with light winds and glassy conditions. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were maybe knee to thigh high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was up to knee high and glassy. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat with rare knee to maybe thigh high sets and textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was knee high and textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were knee to thigh high and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was waist high and clean. The East Shore was maybe thigh high on the rare sets.
North/Central California was getting a tiny mix of fading locally generated northwest windswell and tiny background southern hemi swell. Southern California was effectively flat other than a few stray waves coming from the southern hemisphere. Hawaii's North Shore was flat for the summer. The South Shore was getting the tail end of a mini-pulse of background southern hemi swell. The East Shore was flat.
For Central California no surf is forecast until Wednesday, when locally generated windswell is expected to start showing, but bringing poor conditions with it. Southern CA might see a little of this windswell at the most exposed breaks, but not much. In the Islands another pulse of background southern hemi swell to show Monday, but size is to be very marginal. A better but short period pulse of southern hemi swell is forecast on Wednesday-Friday providing fun rideable surf. Down south a decent small gale formed off Chile Fri-Sun (7/13) pushing well to the north and offering good odds for swell for the US West Coast late Next weekend into early the following week. And another systems is forecast forming under New Zealand later today into Monday offering odds for background swell over the long haul. But looking at the models,nothing really gets out attention to suggest the slack wave pattern we've been in is going to break up anytime soon. So take what you can get and be happy for it. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream is in hibernation for the summer. No features of interest were indicated with the bulk of whatever limited energy was present either over or north of the Aleutian Islands and no change forecast.
At the surface today moderate high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered over the dateline and ridging south, but even west of Hawaii. No swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours the high is to slowly start seeping east through the early part of the week eventually moving one lobe into the Gulf of Alaska by Wednesday (7/16) with pressure at 1032 mbs generating a small pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino CA and producing 25 kt north winds there building to near 30 kts late Thursday and offering small shorter period windswell for the exposed Central CA coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/13) a slack wind pattern and glassy conditions were in control of the California coast. No substantial change is forecast until Wednesday (7/16) when high pressure starts pushing into the Gulf of Alaska and north winds start building over Cape Mendocino to 25 kts and building down the coast bring north winds and chop even wrapping into Santa Barbara. This same pattern to hold into Friday AM (7/18) though Southern CA to be spared from the bulk of it. Later Friday there's some indications the fetch will start pulling away from the Central CA coast offering slightly decreased local winds though 25-30 kts winds still forecast off Cape Mendo, then fully moving off the coast Saturday with and eddy flow back in control. By Sunday the gradient is to die with calm winds in control of the entire CA coast.
Tropical Storm Elida has formed and is currently 270 nmiles southeast of Manzanillo Mexico with sustained winds 55 kts. The official track has her tracking almost due west building to hurricane strength this evening and peaking Monday AM at 70 kts, then continuing west and passing just south of the island of Socorro and Clarion (well south of Cabo) on Tues/Wed (7/16) respectively with winds slowly fading, declining to tropical storm strength and slowly fading out past that. Due to the westerly track, no swell generation potential is suggested for California, though Cabo should do well.
Interesting, but the GFS model has another system forming right behind on a similar course also following that westerly track but holding together pretty well maybe drifting more to the north by next weekend. Something to watch for.
On Sunday (7/13) a split jetstream pattern remained in-control of the western South Pacific with a slight hint of a trough in the southern branch there, though winds were only in the 100 kt range. In the east a large trough was pushing the southern branch of the jet north merging it with the northern branch with 100 kt winds pushing up it's western flank and up to 160 kts in it's apex near 35S 110W, mostly outside the California swell window. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the east is to track even further east and out of the picture for all but South and Central America. The almost-trough in the west is to try and hold getting some reinforcements on Wednesday with 140 kt winds pushing pretty well to the north but washing out 24 hours later. In all no real support for surface level gael development suggested. Beyond 72 hrs a ridge is to build in the east and crash into Antarctica (late Wed 7/16) shutting things down there, while the flat flow in the west is to hold till late Saturday (7/19) when a big ridge builds under New Zealand shutting things down there as well. No clear support for surface level gale or better development.
At the oceans surface a gale was off Chile (see Small 2 Part Storm below). A new gale that formed Saturday evening (7/12) with 40-45 kt west winds confirmed at 56S 170E was holding south of New Zealand with pressure 968 mbs generating a broader area of 40-45 kt west winds at 55S 180W. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 170E. Over the next 72 hours this fetch to track east-southeast with pressure dropping to 960 mbs Sunday evening and 45 kt winds forecast at 60S 162W. Seas building to 35 ft at 56S 175W. By Monday AM the core of the low is to be tracking southeast over the Ross Ice Shelf with lingering 35 kts west winds remaining over exposed waters near 60S 155W. Seas to hold at 35 ft at 58S 165W, then both the fetch and seas are to be gone by evening. Relative to Hawaii this systems fetch is to be at least 70 degrees east of any great circle path to the Islands limiting whatever swell they could receive. Fortunately this fetch is to be east of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California though still blowing 45-50 degrees east of the 198-203 degree great circle paths, likely limiting swell generation potential. Still some form of background swell is expected for all locations roughly 8.5 days out for Hawaii (Mon PM 7/21) and 10 days out for CA (Wed 7/23).
Small 2 Part Storm
On Wednesday PM (7/9) a 960 mb low was organizing southwest of New Zealand streaking east with 40-45 kt west winds at 59S 171E but aimed southeast at the Ross Ice Shelf. On Thursday AM (7/10), it was marginally better organized with confirmed winds at 50 kts at 59S 174W aimed due east getting some traction on the oceans surface. The Wavewatch3 model indicated seas at 30 ft at 60S 172E but the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch and reported sea at 35 ft. But these seas were on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California (210 deg NCal/209 SCal) and aimed 70 degrees east of the 194 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the fetch was gone and seas were fading rapidly. This was previously projected to be a monster storm, but has since be downgraded heavily.
With only 12 hours of effective fetch and one good seas reading but shadowed by Tahiti for California and well off any route to the Islands, it's pretty doubtful too much will result. The fetch was 6700 nmiles from California and 5100 nmiles from Hawaii. Swell arrival, if it were to occur, in Hawaii would be 8 day later or Fri AM (7/17) with period 17 sec. In California it would be roughly Sunday AM 7/20 with period 18 secs, transitioning to 17 secs in the late afternoon and getting somewhat rideable. Swell to peak Monday AM (7/21) with period at 16 secs. Swell Direction 208-210 degrees. At this time consider this more a academic exercise that anything that will result in a payoff.
This system continued east then northeast and reorganized while slowing it's forward speed. A solid fetch of 50 kt winds were confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite on Friday AM (7/11) at 55S 139W aimed almost due north or right up the 190-193 degree path to California. That fetch held well in to the evening with confirmed winds of 50 kts confirmed at 49S 132W aimed 20 degrees east of the 185-187 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 51S 135W.
On Saturday AM fetch was fading but still decent, with 40-45+ kt winds at 45S 123W aimed almost due north or right up the 180-182 degree path to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 44S 128W. No Jason-1 satellite passes occurred near this fetch yet so no confirmation was provided. This fetch continued if not regenerated some in the evening with 45-50 kt winds aimed almost due north at 42S 117W aimed right up the 178-180 degree path to CA. 30 ft seas forecast at 40S 120W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly overhead and confirmed sea at 31.1 ft with a peak reading of 36 ft at 38S 114W.
On Sunday AM (7/12) the GFS model has this system falling apart with 40 kt winds aimed northeast at 39N 110W generating up to 32 ft seas at 36S 112W maybe providing sideband energy pushing up in the the California swell window up the 172-175 degree great circle paths. In the evening this system is to be gone with 30 ft seas from previous fetch decaying at 34S 105W, pretty much outside the California swell window but bound for Central America on down into South America.
Assuming this plays out as forecast and assuming the wavewatch models are accurate, swell is already pushing north towards California expected to arrive late Saturday (7/19) with period at 18 secs moving to 17 secs on Sunday (7/20) and well in the rideable range. More to follow...
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 high pressure is to become more organized north of HAwaii ridging east into the Pacific Northwest continuing to generate 25-30 kt north winds and limited shorter period windswell down into Central CA into Saturday (7/19) and also substantially picking up trades over the Hawaiian Islands starting late Thursday and up to 20-25 kts on Fri/Sat (7/19). Short period easterly windswell possible then.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Sunday (7/13) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving steadily towards the inactive phase. A fading area of anomalous west 850 mb winds were pushing over Central America associated with the usual propagation of the active phase of the MJO, expected to be totally gone by Thurs 7/17. A fragmented area of slightly stronger than normal easterly winds were moving over the equatorial far Western Pacific, signaling the start of the Inactive phase there, expected to move east to the dateline 7/17-22, then falling apart opening up the next window for the active phase to move in behind. The SOI index has been hovering near 0 (or neutral) since July 2, currently at -1.23. The 30 day average was -2.11 and the 90 day average was 0.55, essentially dead neutral and inching downward. La Nina is gone from a weather perspective with water temperatures over the Central Pacific just slightly below normal, though a broad warmer than usual pool of water continued building off Central America and a weak subsurface flow of warmer than usual water persists from the dateline east, fueling the buildup off the Central America coast. This should serve to wipeout the remnants of La Nina, and is mildly indicative of an El Nino. The pattern of persistent Japan storm surviving the trip to the Gulf of Alaska in mid-summer is a bit puzzling too. But if El Nino were to actually be forming, there should be clear signs of it by now in the SOI, which there is not. No clear Westerly Wind bursts have been indicated either. Will monitor.
Beyond 72 hrs no system with winds of 45 kts or great are forecast and no seas of 30 ft or greater for any duration are projected.
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