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 (7/22) North and Central California was getting chest locally generated north windswell at exposed west facing breaks and residual southern hemi Swell #6 at chest to head high at south facing breaks with light eddy winds in the 3-5 kt range. Southern California was getting mostly southern hemi Swell #6S at exposed breaks with waves up to the shoulder high range and clean. Down south Swell #6S was still in the head high range with top spots seeing a foot or two more and clean early. Not too bad. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high tradewind generated east windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore was tiny with waves in the thigh to waist high range and pretty clean early with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for local windswell to be dominating. Friday windswell is to chest high with southern hemi swell dropping out from waist high. More windswell is expected on Saturday at waist high with maybe some limited southern hemi swell underneath at waist high or so, with both fading on Sunday from thigh and waist high respectively. Waist high plus windswell is expected on Monday. Southern California is to see a little more southern hemi swell Friday rebuilding to waist high late from a southerly angle pushing waist high plus on Saturday, then dropping to less than waist high on Sunday going dead flat on Monday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the weekend with no change forecast anytime soon. The East Shore to see small east tradewind generated windswell at waist high Friday, thigh high Saturday then fading out Sunday. maybe some thigh high dribblers for Monday. The South Shore is to see no real rideable southern hemi swell Friday or Saturday. There's low odds of maybe thigh high background energy on Sunday holding into Monday.
Up north the usual quiet summertime weather pattern is forecast to continue offering no potential for swell production over the next 7 days. Down south a gale has formed under New Zealand lift gently east-northeast and generating up to 38 ft seas just southeast of New Zealand Thursday AM. But it has about maxed out and is forecast to be fading into early Friday. Limited sideband swell is likely for Hawaii a week out and shadowed background swell for California 10 days out. Nothing else is on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (7/22) the North Pacific jetstream continued tracking gently east over the 45N latitude in the west with winds well below 100 kts, then strengthening while ridging some as it passed over the dateline almost reaching the 140 kt mark as it passed into British Columbia supporting only modest high pressure at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the entire jet is to disintegrate with winds below 100 kts everywhere and no consolidated flow of interest indicated offering no support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with a weak and non-consolidated flow projected.
At the surface on Thursday (7/22) high pressure remained locked about 1200 nmiles west-northwest of Cape Mendocino California at 1032 mbs ridging some into the Pacific Northwest generating a small area of 25 kt north winds positioned just off the extreme NCal coast and producing small to moderate north angled crumbly windswell reaching down into exposed breaks of Central CA. The high also continued generating limited 15 kt east trades pushing over eastern shores of the Hawaiian Islands resulting in barely waist high easterly windswell there. Over the next 72 hours much of the same is forecast with a steady area of north winds holding over Cape Mendocino perhaps building to near 30 kts early Friday (7/23) but covering only a tiny area resulting in a little more northerly windswell tracking down into Central CA, then winds are to fade back to the 25 kts range on Saturday and down to 20 kts on Sunday. Windswell likely to be fading in sync with the drop in wind speeds. Trades at 15 kts are to continue over the Hawaiian Islands through early Saturday, then start fading with windswell fading with it.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/22) high pressure at 1034 mbs remained positioned 1200 nmiles northwest of Cape Mendocino and was ridging modestly into the US West coast over Oregon forming the usual pressure gradient and north winds over the North CA coast at up to 25 kts. Weak low pressure was over Central CA generating a weak eddy flow there (south winds at 5 kts). This general pattern is to hold into early Wednesday (7/28) of next week, then the gradient is to drop south a little, before returning to it's extreme northern position with an eddy flow back in control by Thursday (7/29). Light if not eddy winds to remain in control down into Southern CA too.
On Thursday (7/22) the jetstream remained fully split with fragments of energy traveling between the two split flows. The southern branch has a weak bit of a trough tracking southeast under New Zealand with it's apex up to 63S, just barely clear of the Ross Ice Shelf. Winds were 120 kts pushing up into this trough, which wasn't a whole lot. Limited support for surface level gale development possible. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to track east and southeast, effectively moving south on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and provide no support for swell producing low pressure at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours a semi real trough remains forecast tracking under New Zealand on Monday (7/26) with 140 kt southwest winds pushing well up it's western flank and slowly moderating into Thurs (7/29) while moving towards the Central Pacific. Decent support for gale development possible though the surface models don't buy into that outcome yet. They tend to lag though.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1032 mbs in control of the Southeast Pacific pushing all fetch towards Antarctica and offering no swell potential. But in the west a gale was in control> It started on Wednesday (7/21) at 936 mbs forming well inland over the Ross Ice Shelf tracking east but with fragments of 40 kt winds extending north over ice free waters, with a secondary fetch developing back west from it. By Thursday AM (7/22) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled at 57S 180W. 38 ft seas were modeled at 58S 180W pushing reasonably well up the 208 degree track to California. In the evening fetch is to fade to the 40-45 kt range but lifting northeast to 52S 164W generating 36 ft seas at 54S 170W. This is to still be in the heart of the Tahitian swell show relative to California at 205 degrees. The fetch is to be dropping to 35 kts on Friday AM at 50S 151W with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 51S 160W. Possible swell pushing northeast with sideband potential for Hawaii but mostly shadowed by Tahiti relative to California.
Over the next 72 hours a secondary gale is to track south of New Zealand late Friday into early Saturday (7/24) but almost all of its fetch is to locked over the Ross Ice Shelf. A little fetch is to extend north possibly generating up to 32 ft seas at 60S 162W, but mostly tracking due east with little energy pushing north. This system is to hold together and survive the journey across the width of the South Pacific, possibly lifting a little northeast on Sun AM (7/25) with up to 33 ft seas forecast at 52S 125W, perhaps putting a little swell up into the CA swell window with luck. Will monitor.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs high pressure at 1028 mbs is to hold it's ground off the Northern CA coast ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating a modest sized area of 20 kt north winds into Tuesday (7/27) offering minimal odds for local short period windswell production there and that windswell pushing down into exposed breaks in Central CA. Trades to remain below windswell generation levels into Tuesday over Hawaii. But then on Wednesday (7/28) the high is to surge a bit closer to North CA with the gradient redeveloping some producing up to 30 kt north winds, but only over a tiny area. Windswell perhaps regenerating some then. Trades are to rebuild over Hawaii too at near 20 kts, increasing the odds for east windswell along exposed shores.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (7/22) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was at 15.02 and has been positive for 28 days running. The 30 day average was up to 13.55 with the 90 day average inching up to 8.00. This continues looking like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (7/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a very strong area of east anomalies continued in control from eastern Africa across the Indian Ocean to the dateline reaching almost to southern South America with the core over the Philippines. The coverage of this area was huge and a very clear signal of a building Inactive Phase of the MJO. The Inactive Phase and these strong east anomalies are to hold through 7/26, then slowly give up a little ground on 7/31 but continuing to hold on well into early August (8/8) before dissipating on 8/10. This is a very bad sign for later this winter.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are trying to linger in the upper atmosphere for a while longer. But in reality, they are almost gone. The expectation is that we'll fall back into some form of a moderate La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for later 2010 into 2011. NOAA seems to support that plan too per the latest ENSO update last week.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/21) indicates that cooler than normal waters have developed over a moderate strip on the equator from South America drifting west to the dateline and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea now. It was downright cold just off Ecuador, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of colder than normal water were developed pushing off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -3 degs below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, but only in the normal range. But there has begun to be some signs of slight easterly anomalies developing, which is to be expected given all the other data. This is typical for this time of the year but is likely to change towards an increased easterly flow as Fall approaches symptomatic of La Nina. Previous we have believed that easterly anomalies usher in La Nina, but this has not been apparent in any data we have seen to date. But the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing to towards South America to flowing towards the west in mid-March, right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. This suggest trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around. Something to study in the years ahead.
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact is to continue through the Summer of 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours a broad but generally weak gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Sunday (7/25) building some into late Monday and Tuesday (7/27) . But winds are now forecast only reaching the 35 kts range, though over a good sized area and aimed well to the northeast. An additional fetch in the 50 kt range is forecast tracking under New Zealand and lifting northeast Wed/Thurs (7/29) offering better odds for swell production. But this is still a long ways off and much can between now and then. For now this remains only a curiosity for those who like to be teased by weather models.
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