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 Tuesday (7/28) North and Central California had descended into the abyss with weak background southern hemi swell at thigh high and waist to maybe chest high locally generated short period north windswell on top. Conditions were pretty textured. Southern California was small with a few thigh high north windswell sets up north and decently clean conditions and down south southern hemi background swell was still hitting the waist high.cgius range and a bit textured. Hawaii's North Shore had a few shoulder high sets, windswell coming from the dateline. The East Shore had limited thigh to waist high east windswell with onshore winds. The South Shore was getting the tail end of another pulse of background southern hemi swell originating east of New Zealand with waves up to waist high and fairly clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for limited north local windswell in the waist high range by Wednesday and slowly fading into the end of the workweek, with a touch of background southern hemi swell expected in on Wednesday at thigh to waist high and fading out from thigh high on Thursday. This background swell is coming from a gale that formed just east of New Zealand Sat-Mon (7/20) with 25-27 ft seas aimed well to the north. Southern California is to see the same pattern with that new southern hemi background swell moving in for Wednesday at thigh to waist high, then down a little Thursday before descending into flatness. The North Shore of Hawaii is to have just a touch of smaller windswell on Wednesday, then back to flat. The East Shore is to see more short period east windswell on Wednesday/Thursday in the waist high range, pushing near chest high for the weekend. The South Shore to to have limited thigh high fading background southern hemi swell on Wednesday dropping more on Thursday.
Beyond another pulse of utility class swell is expected in to Hawaii by Friday (7/31) from a new small gale that formed just southeast of New Zealand on Fri/Sat (7/25) generating up to 35 ft seas aimed reasonably well to the north. Head high surf is expected there for the weekend then heading down early next week with a smaller version of that same swell eventually reaching CA for Mon-Wed (8/5). After that things to really settle down with only a quick fetch of gale force winds aimed north and positioned northeast of New Zealand occurring late Sunday (7/26) but gone by late Monday maybe sending some energy towards Hawaii but small. Nothing else has occurred and northing of interest is on the charts for the next week. The Tasman Sea is to be active though, so make a run to Fiji.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs remained stuck off British Columbia generating north winds at 15-20 kts pushing down the coast of the Pacific Northwest, but dissipating over Northern CA producing only small short period north windswell for the region. This high was also starting to generate east-northeast tradewinds pushing into the Hawaiian Islands, setting up small short period east windswell for Eastern Shores there. Weak low pressure was in the Western Gulf of Alaska generating 25 kt southwest winds there all aimed towards Alaska and of no use to our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours this same pattern is to hold but with the low in the Gulf heading north into Alaska and dissipating, and north winds off the Pacific Northwest Coast fading as high pressure there dissipates. Trades at 15 kts to hold over the Hawaiian Islands producing more limited east short period windswell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/28) high pressure at 1030 mbs was ridging into Alaska generating and area of north winds at 15-20 kts mainly off the Pacific Northwest terminating off North CA resulting in limited small short period windswell into Central CA. SCal remain protected as usual. High pressure is forecast to slowly fade into Thursday (7/30) with a calmer local wind pattern taking root on through the weekend into early next week. This to enable local water temps to warm some. A small area of northwest winds to hold over Pt Conception, but that's it.
On Tuesday (7/28) no tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
On Tuesday (7/28) the northern branch of the Southern Hemi jetstream was in total control, with all wind energy there flowing flat west to east on the 30S latitude. A weak ridge in the southern branch of the jetstream was pushing south under New Zealand with remnants of a previous ridge east of there pushing south over the Ross Ice Shelf and offering no support for gale development anywhere in the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hrs the exact same pattern is forecast, but with the northern branch actually pushing a bit towards the southeast (towards Southern Chile). The weak ridge in the southern branch is to hold in the West offering no support for gale development there, though some weakness in the ridge is suggested in the Southeast Pacific, but winds speeds are to be so weak it's almost inmaterial. Beyond 72 hours no change is forecast with the only area of even remote interest being the development of a very weak trough in the far Southeast Pacific, almost out of even the Southern CA swell window.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/28) remnants of a gale that formed over the weekend north of New Zealand was fading while tracking east offering no fetch aimed northward. High pressure had a lock on the Southeast Pacific. A nice little storm was tracking just south of the Tasman Sea pushing 50-55 kt south winds up towards New Zealand and Fiji generating 30+ ft seas, but nothing yet in the US swell window. Over the next 72 hours the greater South Pacific is to remain.cgiacid. The storm under the Tasman Sea is to build with up to 45 kt west winds forecast at 51S 160E on Wednesday AM (7/29).cgiacing 40 ft seas at 51S 162W or just barely in the California swell window aimed directly up the 119-220 degree paths and totally unshadowed by Tahiti but 6600 nmiles away. This fetch is to also be pushing right up the 218 degree path to Tahiti. All energy is to be totally shadowed relative to Hawaii by New Zealand. Maybe some swell will result for the aforementioned targets. But this system is to tally dissipate by Wednesday PM.
Another weaker system is to push more directly up into he Tasman Sea on Thursday (7/30) with 35 ft seas, but offering northing aimed at US or Hawaiian targets.
Follow-On New Zealand Gale
On Sat PM/Sun (7/19) 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 22-28 ft seas at 43S 180W and holding into Monday AM (7/20) producing more 26-27 ft seas at 50S 170W all aimed well to the north and northeast. It was up to 4270 nmiles from the Islands. Generic 14-15 sec period swell is likely already pushing up towards Hawaii and Tahiti.
California: Limited background swell from this system is expected into Southern California starting late Tues (7/28) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) fading to 2 ft @ 15 secs on Wednesday (waist high) and fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs (thigh high) on Thursday. North CA to see the same swell pattern, delayed about 8 hours.
New Zealand Gale
A broad but diffuse area of low pressure was organizing just southeast of New Zealand on Thursday AM (7/23), but winds were only up to 30 kts. That low pressure system got better organized reaching gale status Thurs PM generating a small area of 45 kt south winds at 52S 177W with seas building.
By Friday AM a building fetch of 45-50 kt south-southwest winds were modeled at 50S 173W aimed 15 degrees west of the 209 degree path to CA and just barely in the Tahitian swell shadow and right up the 190 degree path to Hawaii. 27 ft seas were modeled building at 52S 175W. In the evening more 45-50 kt southwest winds were modeled at 50S 169W aimed right up the 208 degree path to CA and totally shadowed and 30 degrees east of the 187 degree path to Hawaii generating 32 ft seas at 50S 170W.
Saturday AM (7/25) residual 40-45 kt winds were blowing from the southwest to almost west at 48S 160W and 35 degrees east of any route to CA and perpendicular to any route to Hawaii and fading fast. 35 ft seas were modeled at 49S 163W pushing energy towards both Hawaii and CA. 32 ft seas from previous fetch were still holding Saturday evening at 48S 154W but focusing more to the east, targeting only Central and South America while fading.
Some degree of limited swell is forecast pushing northeast towards Tahiti and Hawaii, with some energy possibly for the US West Coast, though filtered by French Polynesia. .
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Friday (7/31) with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs late (shoulder high with sets to near 1 ft overhead). Saturday swell to continue at 3 ft @ 15 secs (shoulder high with sets to almost 1 ft overhead). Swell continuing on Sunday at 3 ft @ 14-15 secs (chest to head high with 1 ft overhead sets at top spots) and slowly fading. Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 13 secs on Monday (waist to chest high) and fading. Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Southern CA: Expect the first small signs of this swell should appear late late Sunday (8/2) reaching 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft faces). Swell to peak on Monday at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (thigh to waist high). Still swell of 2 ft @ 15 secs (waist high) is expected on Tuesday (8/4), then fading on Wed. Swell Direction: 205 degrees
Tiny New Zealand Gale
On Sunday AM (7/26) northeast of New Zealand a 988 mb cutoff low was building generating a small area of 40 kt winds at 38S 172W aimed a but more west than north, not even aimed at Hawaii yet. By Sunday evening winds in this gale were up to near 50 kts over an infinitesimal area at 38S 171W aimed due north, or up the 193 degree path to Hawaii. A tiny area of 25 ft seas were modeled at 36S 172W. Monday AM (7/28) that fetch quickly swung into the gales north quadrant aimed east with residual winds of 35-40 kts aimed north towards Hawaii at 34S 169W. 27-28 ft seas from previous fetch were modeled at 34S 172W pushing towards Hawaii. This fetch dissolved by evening with 25 ft seas fading at 32S 168W.
Some small background or impulse class swell is expected pushing into Hawaii on Saturday (8/1), lost in the swell documented above.
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 try and get another foothold 1500 nmiles northeast of Hawaii continuing to generate trades there at 15 kts through the weekend with perhaps tropical low pressure south of the Islands feeding the local pressure gradient early next week with trades to 20 kts and large local windswell possible. No windswell is forecast for the US West Coast with northerly winds less than 15 kts into early next week. There's some suggestion of tropical activity in the far Western Pacific migrating north and then turning northeast bound for the dateline, but no defined swell producing fetch is apparent.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (7/28) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still trying to move into a weak version of the Active Phase, the first since 6/23 when the last of three consecutive Active pulses took control starting April 20th. But it's been a struggle. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained neutral. The Daily SOI index was down to -6.09, hovering at near zero since 7/15. The 30 day average was down to 5.28 and the 90 day average was up slightly to -1.59. The SOI index remained effectively neutral but had lost all of the ground it has gained since mid-April, though starting to dip down again. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a tiny area of weak easterly winds were still barely hanging on over Central America but effectively gone, consistent with the end of the Inactive Phase. A weak area of westerly anomalies, the signal of a newly building Active Phase were pushing from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific. The models suggest the final bits of the Inactive Phase are to gone by 7/31 with the Active Phase holding it's position in the far West Pacific about mid-way to the dateline and locked there through 8/5, then dissipating and never even making it to the dateline. This is a bit disappointing with what appears to be near-neutral conditions taking root. We have been thinking that as of right now all the momentum associated with consecutive instances of the Active Phase of the MJO in the Spring and early Summer of 2009 have almost dissipated, and with it the mechanism that has been pushing warm water from the West to the East Pacific (more below). But the latest Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/27) indicates that a solid area of warmer than normal water extends over the equator from at least the dateline east getting solid under Hawaii and building into Central/South America with temps to 2.5 deg C above normal. This is highly suggestive of a moderate El Nino. These warmer waters are pushing north up the coast of Baja Mexico into Southern CA. Interestingly, much cooler than normal waters are in the same location streaming off Africa and building while pushing east, and have now reached South America. This is highly suggestive of a burst of perhaps southeasterly winds building across the equatorial South Atlantic. Looking back in the records, exactly the same flow developed during the big El Nino of 1997. So this is not unfamiliar territory (there is a reverse teleconnetion between the Pacific and the Atlantic from a surf perspective i.e. whats good for the Pacific hampers the Atlantic, and visa versa). This is likely to completely suppress Atlantic hurricane actively due solely to the frigid water temps. There were two tiny pockets of cooler water starting to show embedded in the core of the warm pool off Central America, in mid-July, the likely result of the weakening of the overall MJO pattern. But those have dissipated. And looking at water temp anomalies since June to now (7/27) there has been no degradation and if anything a slight increase in the building warm anomaly. This is what one would expect of a building El Nino. 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 just below the surface there at 3 deg C. Previous episodes of the Active Phase had primed the warm water pump and were feeding the warm regime in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Previous Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB) associated with the Active Phase of the MJO had generated Kelvin Waves resulting in the movement of warm subsurface water to the 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. So all looks good at a glance, but the lack of any clear symptoms of the Active Phase of the MJO has become a problem. But interestingly, another bout of westerly winds appear to be taking root extending from New Guinea almost to the dateline since 7/21 and became more pronounced on 7/25 and even moreso on 7/28. In fact, fully blowing westerly winds were in charge almost reaching to the dateline (not just anomalies). This is clearly a sign of a developing Westerly Wind Burst. And 150 meters down under the equator, warmer water is definitely starting to build and drifting east, so the warm water pump is not shut off and, if anything, is getting reinforcement. Models show another 3 days of westerly wind in the area too, more good news. The next 2 weeks remains critical for the formation of a legitimate El Nino. If a real El Nino were to occur, one would expect to see the SOI tending back towards the negative and perhaps a Westerly Wind Burst and a new Kelvin Wave developing (that appears to be happening as of 7/28). The hope is that this developing El Nino will not loose it's legs and falter like last year at this time, and all data seems to be more supportive of the positive outcome as compared to a few weeks ago. Still we're in 'wait-and-see conservative mode', but are getting more optimistic. Regardless, where we are right now remains miles better than anything the Pacific has seen in at least the last 3 or more years.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure at 1024 mbs is to be controlling waters east of New Zealand creating a decidedly southward push to and fetch into Friday (7/31). But in the east a moderate gale is forecast centered near 50S 120W on the eastern edge of the CA swell window producing 45 kt south winds aimed due north holding into the evening. A tiny area of 32 ft seas are forecast at 49S 120W on Friday evening (7/31), but then westerly fetch to blow all remaining seas well off to the east towards Chile. Maybe something to result for Southern CA with luck.
Otherwise a string of storms are forecast tracking from under Australia up into the Tasman Sea, some with gusto (up to 42 ft seas on one Tues 8/4) offering good potential for Northwestern New Zealand and Fiji. But all are to be shadowed from the greater US and Hawaii. No other swell producing fetch 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