Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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 (7/20) North and Central CA had surf was chest to head high from north windswell and clean at protected breaks but otherwise kinda torn up with south winds on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high with head high sets and clean coming from the southern hemi. Southern California up north was thigh high with a few waist high sets and clean. Down south waves were chest to head high and clean even later and well lined up coming from the south. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting some leftover southern hemi swell with waves waist high with a few bigger peaks and clean with light trades. The East Shore was getting small easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no large scale swell producing weather systems of interest have occurred nor are forecast to occur, typical of the summer. North winds near Cape Mendocino were blowing at 25-30 kts resulting in moderate northerly windswell along exposed north facing breaks. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds had faded not even blowing at 15 kts with no real easterly tradewind generated windswell occurring along east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to hold in the Gulf early Sunday (7/21) then start retrograding west with the pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino fading and all but gone by Monday with north windswell dropping out over North and Central CA and not returning till late in the workweek. For Hawaii high pressure is to remain retrograded to the north and west and offering no potential to stimulate trades nor produce easterly windswell.
Swell from a modest gale that formed in the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (7/11) with seas in the 34 ft range aimed well to the northeast which then turned pure east with seas in the 30-32 ft range Friday has produced modest but rideable swell which is hitting California and expected to hold into Sunday (7/21) then start fading early in the workweek.
Beyond the South Pacific is forecast to try and wake up some if one is to believe the most recent run of the models. First up a tiny gale developed well east of New Zealand in the Central South Pacific on Wed-Fri (7/19) with 32 ft seas aimed due north towards Tahiti but very small in coverage. Small sideband swell likely for Hawaii by Tues (7/23) with better energy tracking towards the US West Coast by Thurs (7/25). Another system was building off the Ross Ice Shelf Sat (7/20) with 28-30 ft seas aimed due east but then building Sunday with seas to 40 ft but falling southeast and crashing into Antarctica 24 hours later with no real energy aimed northeast. A third stronger system is forecast forming under New Zealand hovering over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf Sun-Mon (7/22) with up to 40 ft seas, then fading only to rebuild Tuesday with seas up 38 ft and aimed better to the northeast but positioned on the edge of only the California swell window with again a pure easterly track, problematic for everywhere but Chile. And perhaps a weaker system to track under New Zealand pushing east again Wed-Fri (7/26) but it's way too early to believe it will form. At least there's some hope.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (7/20) high pressure at 1032 mbs was in the northwest Gulf of Alaska riding east forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino Ca resulting in 25-30 kt north winds and generating north windswell pushing down into exposed breaks in North and Central CA. A eddy flow was building over Central CA from San Francisco southward. Relative to Hawaii, low pressure was north of the Islands cutting the high out of the local picture. As a result trades were suppressed blowing below 15 kts, with no windswell of interest resulting.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold relative to North California with 25-30 kt north winds continuing over Cape Mendocino early Sunday (7/21), but the high retrograding west and the gradient fading steadily through the day with winds and windswell production slowly fading. The gradient and resulting fetch is to be all but gone by mid-day Monday falling below 20 kts with windswell dropping out later in the day with no return forecast for a few days.
Relative to the Hawaiian Islands high pressure is to continue to not be a factor with weak low pressure north of the Islands and easterly trades remaining below 15 kts Sunday on into at least Thurs (7/25). As a result, tradewind generated east windswell to remain below rideable levels.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (7/18) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/20) a modest eddy flow was in control of the Central coast with 30 kt north winds over North CA and still 20 kts well off Pt Conception. This pattern to hold into Sunday AM, then the gradient is to start rapidly falling apart by afternoon. Monday (7/22) the gradient to be all but gone with only 20 kts north fetch left and fading with the eddy flow slackening for Central and South CA and nearly neutral by Tuesday. 15 kt northeast winds to be pushing over South Oregon not even reaching into North CA. A light northerly flow is forecast for the CA area Wednesday pushing to 10 kts in the afternoon. Then Thursday (7/25) the gradient is to return to North CA at 25-30 kts with north winds 10-15 kts in the afternoon down into Central CA to Pt Conception. 25 kt north winds expected Friday with a light eddy flow from Pt Arena southward and holding Saturday (7/27). Southern CA to remain under a light wind flow for the duration.
Jetstream - On Saturday (7/20) the jet was fully split starting over New Zealand continuing over the South Pacific finally merging on the eastern edge of the California swell window with a minor trough trying to organize there with 120 kt winds feeding up into it, but almost pinched off. No real support for gale development was suggested. Over the next 72 hours a new pocket of 150 kt winds is to be building under New Zealand Sunday (7/21) and nudging northeastward but not really growing in coverage or strength while racing east into Monday and still displaced pretty far south. Still, something that almost looks like a trough to develop. pushing east with winds holding and feeding this semi-trough into Monday and it races east moving to 120W. Perhaps there's some odds to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours a better pocket of 130 kt winds are to be pushing well north under New Zealand on Wed (7/24) with reinforcements feeding it Thurs (7/25) at 130 kts offering some decent support for gale formation in lower levels of the atmosphere with luck. A far weaker wind pattern is forecast to follow in the upper atmosphere with decreased odds for gale development likely.
Surface - On Saturday (7/20) swell from a gale that tracked through the South Central Pacific last week (see Central Pacific Gale below) was hitting the US West coast. Fun sized but nothing more. Smaller swell from a cut off low in the Central Pacific mid-week is pushing north (see Tiny Cut-off Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a broad gale built southeast of New Zealand on Fri (7/19) producing a decent sized area of 40 kt northwest by the evening with winds all targeting Antarctica and right over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. By Sat AM (7/20) winds built to 45 kts but again all aimed mostly southwest with seas building to 28 ft at 59S 163W. In the evening winds to build to 65 kts from the southwest aimed northeast but with the fetch falling southeast towards Antarctic Ice and over ice with seas only 30 ft over exposed waters at 59S 145W. By Sun AM (7/21) 55-60 kt west winds to be barely clear of Antarctic Ice aimed due east to southeast and almost east of the CA swell window with seas to 41 ft at 62S 126W. This system to move east of the CA swell window in the evening with the core of the storm crashing into Antarctica and 42 ft seas off the edge of the Ice Shelf all moving inland at 64S 11W. Given this storms extremely easterly track and fast forward speed, and close proximity to Antarctica, little if any swell expected to radiate north. Best target in the non-frozen world to be Southern Chile. If any energy were to radiate north to California it would arrive late Mon (7/28) with period 17-18 secs.
On Sat PM (7/20) a moderately powerful storm is forecast forming under New Zealand with 50 kt west-southwest winds building and seas pushing near 30 ft at 60S 172E. By Sun AM (7/21) the storm is to be tracking flat east fast with southwest winds up to 55 kts and seas building to 37 ft at 60S 170W right off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and pushing a little to the northeast. Additional 55 kt southwest fetch to be holding in the evening aimed a little northeast with 40 ft seas expected at 59S 157W almost hitting ice. 45-50 kt southwest winds and secondary fetch to build Mon AM (7/22) but obscured by northward jutting ice with seas limited to 34 ft at 55S 150W. This system is to to continue east from there with 45-50 kt southwest fetch rebuilding over ice free waters in the far Southeast Pacific with 37 ft seas Mon PM at 55S 135W aimed pretty much east and fading from there. A broad area of 45 kt southwest fetch to be pushing out of the CA swell window Tues AM (7/23) with 39 ft seas at 55S 124W. By evening all fetch and seas to be east of the CA swell window with 38 ft seas at 55S 110W. At this time there is marginal odds of limited sideband swell energy radiating northeast towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, assuming it forms at all. Chile and Peru to be the best targets.
Central Pacific Gale
A small gale built in the Southwest Pacific on Tues AM (7/9) with pressure 968 mbs and winds to 45 kt over a tiny area aimed somewhat northeast and it turned more to the northeast in the evening resulting in seas to 28 ft at 60S 172W. By Wed AM (7/10) winds were down to 40-45 kts over a decent size area aimed well northeast resulting in seas of 30 ft at 56S 165W. By evening 40-45 kt south winds were holding pushing well north with seas building to 34 ft at 50S 161W. 45 kt south winds were pushing northeast Thurs AM (7/11) with seas to 36 ft at 47S 153W. 40-45 kt southwest to west fetch held in the evening with seas of 34 ft up at 41S 143W. 35 kt southwest fetch was fading Fri AM (7/12) with seas dropping from 32 ft at 43S 133W aimed mainly east with sideband fetch pushing northeast. In the evening the original fetch was falling southeast and of no interest to anyone but Antarctica. But a new small secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest winds was building west of the core of the old low resulting in 30 ft seas at 45S 135W. Sideband energy tracking northeast. By Sat AM (7/13) residual 35-40 kt southwest winds were holding resulting in 29 ft seas at 43S 133W. By evening this system was gone.
Swell is in the water pushing towards Tahiti with sideband swell for Hawaii. More solid direct energy is forecast pushing up into the US West Coast, Mexico and Central America. This will be nothing exceptional, just rideable surf.
Southern CA: Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Monday (7/22) swell to be 3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft) and 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft) on Tuesday. Swell Direction 198 degrees
North CA: Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft). Monday (7/22) swell dropping from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) and 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft) on.Tues (7/23) Swell Direction 195 degrees
Tiny Cut-off Gale
Hawaii: Expect tiny swell arrival early Tues AM (7/23) with period 18 secs peaking near noon at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues Wed AM (7/24) at 2.1 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday 2.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 175 degrees.
A cutoff low pressure system developed well east of New Zealand late Tuesday (7/16) producing 40 kt south winds aimed due north with seas building while traveling north. On Wed AM (7/17) 45 kt south fetch built over a small area with seas 30 ft at 43S 150W targeting mainly Tahiti. Fetch started breaking up in the evening from 40 kts over a tiny area aimed due north with seas from previous fetch peaking at 32 ft at 40S 148W targeting Tahiti and California (201 degs) with some sideband swell for Hawaii (174 degs). Fetch was fading from 35 kts Thurs AM (7/18) with seas dropping from 26 ft at 37S 147W. This system developed stronger than originally forecast but still was very small in areal coverage. In all some rideable swell expected for Tahiti with background energy for Hawaii and better energy directed at California but with small size given the tiny fetch. Expect peak size in the 16 sec period band.
Southern CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near 8 PM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday. Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
North CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs near 1 AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near noon at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday. Swell Direction: 202 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 high pressure is to start rebuilding off Cape Mendocino on Thursday (7/25) at 1028 mbs with a small area of 20-25 kt north winds developing over the North CA coast resulting in limited north windswell redeveloping for North and Central CA. North winds possibly building to 30 kts late Friday with Windswell possibly increasing some.
Relative to Hawaii high pressure is to start getting a toehold northeast of the Islands on Friday (7/26) with trades rebuilding then to 15 kts and building in coverage on Saturday possibly setting up better conditions for east windswell to develop. Nothing over bare minimal size, but that's better than where it is now.
No other swell sources projected.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Saturday (7/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 20.50. The 30 day average was down to 6.65 with the 90 day average up some at 6.66. Overall this is holding stable in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent building to moderate strength over the dateline then fading south of Hawaii and dying to neutral there to the coast of Central America. A week from now (7/28) weak easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning modest westerly over the dateline. Neutral anomalies are to be south of Hawaii into Central America. This suggests a continuation of a lightly Inactive Phase holding over the equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/19 are in agreement initially suggesting no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. Both models are in agreement suggesting a neutral MJO pattern is to hold 5 days from now. But beyond the statistic model has a weak Active Phase pushing from the West Pacific 8 to 15 days out west of the dateline while the dynamic models depicts the exact opposite, with a building Inactive Phase taking control on the same locations and time periods, and larger in coverage than the statistical model's Active Phase. The longer range model has a weak Active Phase holding into early August while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean, moving into the far West Pacific mid-August. It's anyone's guess what will happen but odds are starting to favor formation of an Inactive Phase.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (7/18) a weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator, almost gone, but not completely. In fact - a pocket of cooler water continues in control off the immediate coast of Peru with the outflow from it tracking to the Galapagos, then breaking up with pockets of cooler water radiating west almost to a point south of Hawaii. This is a step back from what we thought was the death of this pattern just last week (7/10). The anomalously cool pool off West Africa, thought to be eroding some, is still in-place and not completely dispersed. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. But as of now it's still in-play. This was a direct reflection of what previously occurred in the Pacific, an unforeseen burst of cool water gurgling up off both South America and West Africa simultaneously - a global teleconnection. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, returned in June when the cold pool emerged off Peru and Africa, but has since fully closed off with warmer than normal waters the rule for the North Pacific. That said - some signs of weakness in that warm pool are now appearing. For now cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a mainly neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact. But starting 7/16 a small pool of -2 deg C water was developing centered at 110W and down 75 meters. But as of 7/20 that had faded. This is similar to what has been going on all Spring. So no real change is occurring.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/20 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation and no significant change is forecast into April 2014. In short, a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but not anything particularly cold either. Instead the ocean is in recharge mode, with cold water dispersing and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any kinda of El Nino pattern were to occur, it would have started building in Feb-Mar. That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 if not bordering weakly on La Nina.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. But a weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina, but we're still not in a pure neutral pattern either. We're still recovering from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours and other gale is to push under New Zealand, but this time positioned a bit further north with 45 kt west-southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft late at 53S 173E. 40 kt westerly fetch to hold Thursday (7/25) with a broad area of 34 ft seas at 53S 161W late. The gale is to fade Friday. No swell producing fetch of interest 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