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 Sunday (7/19) North and Central California had chest high local northwest windswell at exposed breaks with a little bit of southwest wind on it early. But at least it was rideable. Southern California was effectively flat up north with some windswell sneaking in to thigh high every now and then. Same thing down south but dead clean even in the late afternoon. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The East Shore had some waist high plus easterly windswell with onshore winds. The South Shore was starting to get a taste of of that southern hemi swell that tracked east under Tahiti with long lines coming in for the afternoon to chest high, maybe a little more at top spots on the sets.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for short period north windswell to fade a little on Monday to the waist to chest high range, dropping more on Tuesday to waist high and holding there on Wednesday then nudging up some on Thursday and Friday with minor southern hemi background swell in on late Tuesday peaking at waist high on Wednesday (2 ft @ 15 secs at best) then heading down on Thursday. Southern CA might see the same very minor local north windswell on Monday, then fading out by Tuesday. The same small southern hemi background swell from under Tahiti to arrive for late Tuesday holding into Wednesday AM at 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). The East Shore to see a fading bit of easterly tradewind generated east windswell at waist high Monday dropping Tuesday then rebounding slightly to thigh high on Wednesday and Thursday, dissipating Friday. The South Shore is to see more small southern hemi swell from that gale that tracked east under Tahiti last week with swell 2 ft @ 14+ secs and waves about waist high Monday and slowly heading down from there.
Longterm a moderate sized storm developed in the Southeast Pacific Thurs-Sun (7/19) with up 42 ft seas mostly unshadowed on the east end of the Tahitian shadow and aimed pretty well to the northeast. Significant class Swell #4S is expected into the US West Coast by late week holding through the weekend with even some significant class sideband energy forecast for Hawaii late Wednesday into early Thursday. See details below. Beyond things to settle down with the South Pacific still wanting to try, but the jetstream just not permitting it.
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 centered 1300 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii ridging east and barely making it into North California. North winds were near 25 kts over Cape Mendocino waters down to 15 kts off Central CA generating a little new north windswell. This high was generating modest trades at 15 kts pushing into the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands, with minimal easterly windswell the result. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to fizzle in relation to California with north winds fading to 15 kts off Cape Mendocino and north windswell nearly dissipating. Trades over the Hawaiian Islands to hold at 15 kts or so with minimal east windswell continuing.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/19) high pressure was trying to ridge into North California coast with winds at 25-30 kts off Cape Mendocino and down into the light range south of Pt Reyes to calm in Southern CA. High pressure is to start dissolving off CA on Monday then reesurging very locally on Tuesday off Oregon with a steady flow of north winds at 15 kts blanketing the entire coast down to Pt Conception and holding through the workweek, maybe letting up just a little on Friday and Saturday. Still chop looks likely for the workweek everywhere other than Southern CA.
On Sunday (7/19) no tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
On Sunday (7/19) the southern branch of the jetstream exhibited a small and weak trough pushing north under New Zealand, perhaps enough to support weak gale development. But a solid ridge was slamming its way south under Tahiti, already impacting the Ross Ice shelf and totally shutting down gale development over the Central and Southeast Pacific. A strong cutoff trough was east of Tahiti, remnants of a decent storm there 24 hours earlier. Over the next 72 hrs this same configuration is to hold with a weak trough under and southeast of New Zealand and a solid ridge pushing hard to the south under Tahiti impacting Antarctica completely suppressing gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is expected to get cut off by yet another ridge dropping hard south under New Zealand while the ridge under Tahiti slides east some. In short, not clear signs of any support for gale development.
At the surface on Sunday (7/19) the remnants of a storm that was south of Tahiti (see Southeast Pacific Storm below) was fading out in the far Southeast Pacific with no swell producing fetch left. A massive 936 low pressure system was well southeast of New Zealand over the Ross Ice Shelf and ice locked with a broad area of 30-35 kt southwest winds off New Zealand pushing up to the northeast producing a broad area of 22-27 ft seas and forecast to hold through Monday dissipating early Tuesday (7/21). 13-14 secs period swell is likely already pushing up towards Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours virtually no other swell producing weather systems are forecast with high pressure forecast to start taking control of especially the Southeast Pacific.
New Zealand Gale
On Sunday a new gale started to build just north of New Zealand producing 40 kt south winds aimed towards Fiji, producing a tiny area of 28 ft seas. By Sunday evening winds built in this gale to 45 kts over a tiny area at 34S 177W aimed 30 degrees northeast of the 224 degree path to California and 40 degrees east of the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas built to 28 ft at 33S 174W. Monday AM more 45 kt winds were modeled over a tiny area at 34S 172W aimed 30 degrees east of the 220 degree path to CA and 45 degrees east of the 195 degree path to Hawaii. 32 ft seas modeled at 34S 170W. In the evening the system continued east with 40 kt winds at 34S 165W and aimed 35 degrees east of the 216 degree path to CA (unshadowed) and 65 degrees east of the 183 degree path to Hawaii. 36 ft seas were modeled at 34S 166W. Tuesday AM (7/14) renewed 45 kt southwest winds were confirmed at 34S 163W resulting in a larger area of 37 ft seas at 34S 161W aimed 25 degrees east of the 214 degree path to North CA and just barely unshadowed and 70 degree east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. Tuesday evening 40-45 kts winds were confirmed at 34S 155W with a tiny area of 37 ft seas modeled at 33S 155W or in the heart of the Tahiti swell shadow relative to CA (208 degrees) and pushing almost totally east of the 180 degree path to Hawaii. By Wednesday AM (7/15) 40 kt winds held with 36 ft seas at 33S 148W pushing 35 degrees east of the 204 degree path to CA and emerging from the core of the Tahitian swell shadow. This system is to continue beyond but sinking southeast fast with far less energy drifting north towards the US mainland. 32 ft seas were modeled Wed PM at 33S 142W and dissipating. The only Jason-1 satellite pass over this fetch occurred at 06Z Thurs (7/160 with seas reported at 29.5 ft were the modeled suggested 30 ft seas. So the model was right on track.
Swell is expected into Hawaii by Sun (7/19) continuing and Monday at 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft faces) and then California by late Tues (7/21) at near 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft faces) and 2 ft @ 15 secs on Wed (3 ft faces).
Swell #4S - Southeast Pacific Storm
A new storm organized on Thursday (7/16) with pressure 960 mbs and a small fetch of 50 kt southwest winds at 50S 150W aimed 20 degrees east of the 198 degree path to California and partially shadowed by the east end of French Polynesia. 35 ft seas were building at 50S 151W, already mostly outside the Hawaiian swell window (179 degrees). That fetch started withering in size in the evening with 45 kts winds at 48S 149W aimed more to the east producing barely 40 ft seas at 48S 145W as a new fetch built to the northwest at 40S 160W with barely 45 kt winds trying to develop.
By Friday AM (7/17) the two fetches were joining forces forming a broad area of 40 kts winds at 33S 144W with seas quickly building to 32 ft at 35S 150W aimed almost directly up the 203 degree path to California and on the eastern edge of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, only partially obstructed. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western edge of the fetch and reported seas of 28 ft, exactly as the model projected. In the evening 45 kt south winds are to hold at 35S 140W aimed directly up the 194 degree path to California and completely unobstructed. A broad area of seas if forecast building to 35 ft at 35S 140W, outside of the Tahitian swell shadow for CA.
A small area of 45-50 kts south winds built over the same area early Saturday AM (7/18) at 31S 133W aimed right up the 191 degree path northward towards CA with 42 ft seas modeled at 31S 135W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the fetch reporting seas of 37.6 ft with one peak reading to 41.3 ft where the modeled suggested seas should be 38-39 ft. The model was right on track with reality, a good thing. In the evening a quick fade of fetch occurred with winds dropping from 40 kts but still aimed due north at 33S 130W with seas 37 ft at 29S 130W. This system dissipated after that fast with residual 32 ft seas at 30S 127W and aimed 40 degrees east of the 181 degree path to NCal (183 SCal).
This system was on the charts for a week before it formed and ultimately developed a fair bit weaker and smaller than originally modeled, but still not too bad, Confirmed data indicates is was the best fetch so far this summer relative to California, mainly attributable to it's very north position (reducing travel distance and therefore swell decay), the complete lack of any obstruction from Tahiti/French Polynesia thereby allowing the full effects of the swell to radiate north with no degradation, and the fetch angle, aimed directly up the great circle paths to the US West Coast at it's peak strength. On top of that respectable wind speeds (45-50 kts) were reported. 55-60 kts would be better, but you have to take what you can get. The fetch area was not large from any historical perspective, just what one would classify as normal. So this all looks good for the US West Coast down into Mexico and Central America (those locations not shadowed by the Galapagos Islands). Hawaii should also receive some decent sideband energy, though the bulk of the fetch is to pass well east of the Islands. Tahiti to get a good amount of size, but it's all to be sideband energy with the bulk of the size pushing east of there as well. In all, some degree of significant class surf is expected at all locations.
Hawaii: The forecast is a little tricky here given that the bulk of the storm was practically outside the Hawaiian swell window. Still, expect swell arriving late Tuesday after sunset with period at 20 secs and rideable size in by Wed AM (7/22) with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs building to 3.3 ft @ 17 secs by sunset (5.5 ft faces with better breaks 2 ft overhead and sets to 3.5 ft overhead). Solid size expected into Thurs AM (7/230 with swell 3.3 ft @ 15 secs holding all day (5 ft faces with best breaks to 1-2 ft overhead). By Friday (7/24) swell to be fading from 3.3 ft @ 13-14 secs early (4.0-.4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction 170-178 degrees
South California: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday late morning with period 21 secs and size on the increase, pushing 2.6 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (head high with top spots 2 ft overhead or better on the rare sets). By Friday AM (7/24) the swell to be getting quite solid with swell 4.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.5 ft faces with sets 4-5 ft overhead and better at top spots).Saturday AM (7/25) expect swell to hold at 4.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (7 ft faces with top spots 3-4 ft overhead or better at top spots). Still solid swell of 3.6 ft @ 14-15 secs is expected on Monday (5 ft faces or slightly better). Swell Direction: 200 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday evening with swell pushing 2.0 ft @ 21 secs at sunset (shoulder to head high with top spots 1 ft overhead on the rare sets). By Friday AM (7/24) the swell to be getting quite solid with swell 4.0 ft @ 19 secs (7.5 ft faces with sets 4-5 ft overhead and better at top spots) pushing 4.6 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (8 ft faces with double overhead sets or more). Saturday AM (7/25) expect swell to hold at 4.3-4.6 ft @ 16 secs (7 ft faces with top spots 3-4 ft overhead or better at top spots) and holding through the day. Still solid swell of 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs is expected on Monday (6 ft faces or slightly better). Swell Direction: 192 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 Northeast Pacific high pressure system is to almost completely break down as low pressure develops in the northwest Gulf of Alaska falling out of the Bering Sea at 994 mbs resulting in a small fetch of 25 kt northwest winds on Thurs (7/23) then dissipating by Friday. No swell to result. High pressure is to try and build off Washington generating 15-20 kt north winds along the coast of the Pacific Northwest with limited short period windswell the result there down into Central CA, but nothing hardly noteworthy. More weak low pressure is forecast to push east off the Kuril's to the dateline and then northeast over the Aleutian Islands through the week, but with no swell resulting. With low pressure in control and high pressure being held at bay, trades are to be minimal over the Hawaiian Islands, with east tradewinds swell very small at best.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (7/19) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained in the Inactive Phase as it has been since 6/23, 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 as up to 8.56. The 30 day average was up to 9.46 and the 90 day average was down to -1.66. The SOI index remained effectively neutral but had lost all of the ground it has gained since mid-April, the highest it's been since then. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a fading weak easterly flow was all but gone just off Central America, consistent with the end of the Inactive Phase. A weak area of westerly anomalies, the signal of a newly building Active Phase were starting to develop over the Indian Ocean, but were modeled weaker than previous estimates. The models suggest the final bits of the Inactive Phase are to push into Central America by 7/25 with the Active Phase starting to reach into the far West Pacific by 7/23, holding there and dissipating never making it to the dateline. This is a bit disappointing with what appears to be neutral conditions taking root. As of right now the big push of west winds that had been associated with consecutive instances of the Active Phase of the MJO in the Spring and early Summer have dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific. Water temps might loose a little ground off Central America in the coming weeks unless the models begin to suggest the Active Phase becoming stronger than currently indicated. Still, some form of weak El Nino might still be possible for the early part of the 2009/2010 winter. Latest sea surface temperature data as of 7/16 indicates a solid area of warmer than normal water is covering the entire width of the equatorial Pacific and concentrated off Central America pushing up into Baja Mexico into Southern CA. This looks very much like El Nino, but it remains to be seen whether it will hold for the winter. 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 breaking the surface near Central America with warmer water pooling up there. Previous episodes of the Active Phase have primed the warm water pump and are 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. Another Westerly Wind Burst appeared to be developing on 7/6, but faded by 7/12. No Kelvin Wave activity looks to have resulted. The next 2 weeks remains critical for the formation of a legitimate El Nino. One would expect to see the SOI tending back towards the negative and perhaps a new Kelvin Wave developing. The hope is that this developing El Nino will not completely loose it's legs and falter as it did last year at this time. At this point we're in 'wait and see' mode, a little more on the pessimistic side than even 3 days ago. Regardless, where we are right now is better than anything compared to the last 3 years.
Beyond 72 hours 2 small but decently strong gales are forecast forming southeast of New Zealand. The first is expected on Wed with up to 50 kts winds over a tiny area initally aimed well to the north, but quickly turning to the east while the systems sinks southeast. no seas of interst forecast pushing up into the Hawaiian and US swell windows. A better one is forecast in the exact same area on late Thurs into Friday (7/24) with 50 kts lifting slightly northeast. 36 ft seas forecast late Friday at 50S 167W. Will see hat really happens.
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