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 (8/3) North and Central California was getting chest high locally generated short period junky north windswell with warbled conditions and minimal thigh to waist high southern hemi swell underneath. Southern California was getting thigh high wrap around northwest windswell and about the same size coming from the southern hemi at exposed breaks and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was waist high with some bigger sets and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and a little warbled. The East Shore was getting chest high plus tradewind generated east windswell with chopped conditions. The South Shore was l getting occasional nice fresh southern hemi swell with sets in the head high range and clean though most were at waist high plus (older swell).
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more locally generated north windswell holding Wednesday at waist high with southern hemi background swell at maybe thigh to waist high. Thursday only windswell is expected at waist high coming up on Friday to chest high with new southern hemi swell building to chest high too, holding at that size Saturday with more windswell on top at 4.5 ft on the face (shoulder high) Sunday (8/8) windswell drops down to thigh high with southern hemi swell waist high or a little more. Southern California is to see no real windswell other than maybe on Thursday at knee high (2 ft faces) and again on Saturday at thigh high. Southern hemi background swell is to continue in thigh high range on Wednesday then being replaced by new southern hemi swell late Thursday at thigh to near waist high pushing chest high later Friday and chest high solid on Saturday into early Sunday (8/8). The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the week into the coming weekend. The East Shore to see east short period windswell at chest high Wednesday and Thursday dropping to waist high Friday and then thigh high Saturday and Sunday. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell holding at chest high solidly into Wednesday then slowly fading to the waist to chest high range Thursday, waist high Friday, thigh high Saturday and knee high Sunday (8/8).
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than local generated short period windswell for Central CA holding well into the weekend. Down south one more weak gale developed under New Zealand Tues/Wed (7/28) with seas in the 37 ft range initially, then faded some with limited 30-32 ft seas continuing into early Friday (7/30). This has resulted in another pulse of modest southern hemi swell for Hawaii expected to peak on Wed. California to see some swell from this one too starting Thurs (8/5) holding into the early weekend. But beyond that nothing of any interest is projected on the charts for the next 7 days meaning no rideable real surf is likely through mid-August. Make the most of what you can get now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (8/3) the North Pacific jetstream was practically non-existent over the East Pacific but trying to regroup in the west with 110 kt winds present there, but positioned well north running effectively through the Bering Sea (north of the Aleutians) and of no use to support surface level gale development in the greater Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with the jet building over Siberia and running out over the Bering Sea making some progress into open waters of the Northern Gulf of Alaska by Friday (8/6). but still not enough to support gale development there. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to flatten out and track directly over the Aleutians by Sun (8/8) with winds up to 120 kts and looking almost interesting, with a legitimate trough forecast building off Kamchatka on Tues (8/10) with again 120 kt winds flowing into it. Perhaps some support for surface level low pressure development west of the dateline if all goes as planned. But all that energy is to be rising into a mild ridge in the east over the Gulf of Alaska, possibly supporting high pressure down at the oceans surface. That's no real surprise given the time of year and with La Nina building.
At the surface on Tuesday (8/3) a broad area of high pressure remained in control of almost the entire North Pacific centered 1200 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii with pressure at 1032 mbs mildly grazing the Pacific Northwest and Central CA coast generating a 15 kt northerly flow there offering minimal northerly short period windswell for exposed breaks there, but more focused on it's southern flank generating 15-20 kt easterly trades pushing from a starting place a good bit east of Hawaii tracking over the Islands on west of the dateline before fading substantially. This was providing decent support for easterly windswell generation pushing into east shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Over the next 72 hours much of the same general pattern is to hold, but shifting focus more to the east with trades gradually subsiding over Hawaii (with windswell fading with it later Thursday (8/5)) while the pressure gradient over extreme Northern California starts to stir some (on Thursday) with 20 kt north winds being generated there holding into Saturday (8/7) generating a slight increase in northern windswell for exposed breaks on the Central CA coast. Still, nothing of real interest is expected since winds are to not hit the critical 30 kt threshold. No development of interest is projected in the tropics.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/3) high pressure at 1034 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Oregon and was barely ridging into the Pacific Northwest and Northern CA, generating north winds at 15 kts off the coast there and producing minimal sort period northwest windswell. These winds were also pushing a bit into Central CA producing nearshore warble if not chop. The gradient is to slowly build over Cape Mendocino into Thursday with winds reaching the 20 kt range perhaps pushing 25 kt later Friday (8/6) into early Saturday but not impacting the coast south of there, offering better odds for windswell generation while reducing the odds for nearshore chop. But by Sunday (8/8) the gradient is to fall apart with the fetch itself falling south and impacting the entirety of the Central CA coast into Monday with warble and chop the norm again. Tuesday theoretically a new gradient is to form up at Cape Mendo at 20-25 kts with winds pulling away from the coast and conditions improving. Southern CA is to remain generally protected in the mornings through the workweek and the coming weekend. No guarantees on the afternoons though.
On Tuesday (8/3) the southern branch of the jetstream was flowing firmly flat on the 60S latitude with winds 120 kts with no troughs of interest depicted and likely none to be forming anytime soon. The jet was tracking just north of the Ross Ice Shelf effectively sending the storm track over Ice bound waters over the width of the South Pacific. This configuration was minimizing the odds for development of low pressure at the oceans surface over ice free waters. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with little variation. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the main energy flow on or south of 60S, with no troughs pushing northward, leaving the storm track displaced well to the south over Antarctic Ice and offering no support for surface level low pressure development in ice free waters.
At the oceans surface a modest gale was tracking over the Southeastern Pacific with 40-45 kt northwest winds blowing into and over Antarctic Ice with no fetch pushing north. No swell generation potential was indicated. High pressure at 1032 mbs was locked in north of it, supporting a very southerly storm track. Over the next 72 hours a new vigorous storm is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific late Wednesday (8/4) with a good sized are of 55-60 kt southwest winds forecast by Thursday, but located down at 63S 120W, moving fast out of even the California swell window and mostly encased over Antarctic Ice getting no traction on ice free waters. It is to quickly fade later Thursday in to Friday AM (8/6) while moving just north enough to generate maybe 36 ft seas at 59S 117W all tracing east towards Chile at best. No swell expected pushing up into our forecast area.
Another New Zealand Gale
On Monday (7/26) a broad gale started tracking under New Zealand while building. Monday AM a decent area of 40 kts southwest winds were modeled at 54S 165E aimed up the 216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and also up the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were building. By evening winds faded to 35-40 kts at 55S 172E pushing up the 213 degree track to CA and the 196 degree track to Hawaii. with stronger winds building west of there. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 172E.
Tuesday AM (7/27) that fetch moved into the swell window at 45-50 kts blowing from the southwest at 56S 164E tracking well up the 216 degree path to California and clear up the 201 degree track to Hawaii. 34 ft seas were modeled at 55S 167E. In the evening more southwest winds are to be in play in the 40-45 kt range at 51S 180W aimed more a bit more to the east but still pushing up the great circle tracks as before. 37 ft seas were modeled at 52S 175E.
Wednesday AM (7/28) a decent fetch of 40 kts southwest winds was at 50S 169W pushing up the 207 degree track to California and somewhat shadowed and a good bit east of the 186 degree path to Hawaii with more fetch behind that. 33 ft seas were modeled at 50S 175W. By evening a new fetch of 45 kts southwest winds was trying to develop over a small area at 52S 173W pushing up the 209 degree path to California and a bit shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Island chain and up the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas were modeled holding at 49S 167W. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of this area reporting average seas of 27 ft with one peak reading to 34.4 ft, a bit lower than what the model suggested.
Thursday AM this fetch was fading some with only 40-45 kt winds over a tiny area at 50S 162W aimed more to the west than north pushing barely up the 203 degree path to California and pretty well shadowed by Tahiti and 60 degrees east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. 29 ft seas were modeled rebuilding at 51S 167W. 40-45 kt west fetch was fading in the evening at 50S 150W but starting to fall to the south fast. 32 ft seas are modeled at 50S 155W then decaying from there.
Residual seas remained in the mid-Pacific Friday AM (7/30) at 32 ft at 48S 151W pushing up the 198 degree path to California, then dissipating in the evening as the fetch that generated it fell south and dissipated.
Some degree of moderate southern hemi swell is likely already pushing northeast towards the usual locations of the South and North Pacific. This system is lasting longer than originally anticipated, though not necessarily strong. This could result in a nice long pulse of smaller minimally rideable sized surf if all goes as planned. Still it is to be a long ways away and much swell decay is to be expected. And Tahiti will be in the way for CA, resulting in some loss of consistency. Still, it's better than nothing (cause that's what's in the forecast behind it).
Hawaii: Swell to peak on Wed (8/4) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft faces) with best spots doing better on occasion.Swell to be on the downswing on Thursday (8/5) dropping from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft faces) on down to 2.3 ft @ 13 secs (3.0 ft faces) by late Friday (7/6). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft faces) and slowly heading up some. Swell to start peaking late Friday (8/6) at 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5+ ft faces) then peaking out on Saturday (8/7) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces). Swell to slide down slowly on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 209-215 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft faces) and slowly heading up some. Swell to start peaking late Friday (8/6) at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (3.5+ ft faces) then peaking out on Saturday (8/7) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces). Swell to slide down slowly on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 207-214 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 hrs something that almost looks like a gale (but is really to
just be a low pressure system) is to track through the Bering Sea
Sat-Mon (8/9) generating 25 kts winds with a little of it
draping south of the Aleutian Islands aimed mostly up towards Alaska. No swell for US interests expected. By Sunday (8/8) the big controlling high pressure systems is retrograde west a little causing the pressure gradient over North CA to fade and trades to rebuild over the Hawaiian Islands in the 15-20 kts range through Tues (8/10), likely increasing the likelihood of modest easterly windswell there while decreasing the odds for windswell along the CA coast. No other swell producing fetch is indicated.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (8/3) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) finally dropped into negative territory. The daily SOI was down to -6.43 after a positive run of for 36 days. The 30 day average was up to 18.73 with the 90 day average down to 9.62. This looks like the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make some headway.
Wind anomalies as of Tuesday (8/3) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a dead neutral pattern over the entirety of the equatorial Pacific, with no change forecast through 8/22.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. 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.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/2) indicates that cooler than normal waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator as compared to even a few days earlier covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea. It was downright cold just off Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii and again in a pocket just east of the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of colder than normal water continued developing 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 and upwelling is in full effect. Good for sea life and the food chain, bad for storm production. 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, with easterly anomalies now in control of the entire Western Pacific, though normal conditions in the East. 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 (2010), 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 suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around. And if anything, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might 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 another gale is forecast forming in the extreme south-Central Pacific Sat-Mon (8/9) with 45-50 kt southwest winds projected just barely free and clear of Antarctic Ice (59S). If it forms some swell producing fetch could be possible, but not likely at this early date. Another broader fetch is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Tues-Wed (8/11) with 45 kt southwest winds located over ice free waters there, offering some hope for swell production if all comes to pass as projected. Seeing how this has been on the models for just one run, there is no likelihood of it actually developing. We're in the doldrums of summer.
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