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 (8/5) North and Central California was getting thigh high high locally generated short period north windswell with warbled/textured conditions and minimal thigh high southern hemi swell underneath. Southern California was effectively flat up north and warbled with some stray thigh to waist high sets coming from the southern hemi at better breaks down south and a little cleaner. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and a little warbled. The East Shore was getting waist high plus tradewind generated east windswell with moderately chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting occasional nice southern hemi sets at head high to 1 ft overhead and clean with light trades.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more locally generated north windswell Friday at thigh 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 holds at chest to shoulder high with southern hemi swell waist high or a little more, dropping Monday to thigh high with windswell holding at shoulder high. Southern California is to see no real windswell anytime soon. Southern hemi background swell is to build to chest high later Friday holding at chest high solid on Saturday into early Sunday (8/8) then dropping to waist high Monday and fading out from there. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf for the coming weekend and beyond. The East Shore to see east short period windswell at thigh high Friday, Saturday and Sunday then a little less on Monday. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell fading to the waist high Friday, thigh high Saturday and knee high Sunday (8/8), then flat after that.
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 past the middle of next week (8/12). Down south a 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 that has already hit Hawaii and is starting to move into California late Thursday (8/5) and expected to hold into the early weekend. Beyond that absolutely nothing of any interest is projected on the charts for the next 7 days meaning no rideable real surf is likely through mid-August (8/20) or later .
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (8/5) the North Pacific jetstream was building in the west tracking over Kamchatka and pushing east over the Aleutians a bit past the dateline. A weak trough was west of the dateline but had no well defined winds associated with it over exposed waters of the North Pacific suggesting no odds to support low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours this same basic pattern is to hold with the jet building east to almost Alaska but all winds energy effectively over the Aleutians offering nothing to support gale development there. Beyond 72 hours a new pocket of 120 kt winds energy is to push off Kamchatka on Monday (8/9) helping to form a new trough pushing towards the dateline into the Western Gulf later Wednesday (8/11) actually looking like it might be capable of support low pressure development at the oceans surface. But it's to be loosing power along the way with winds down to 80 kts by Wednesday. But another pulse of reinforcing winds energy is forecast behind that. Maybe a hint of Fall is starting to build into the extreme North Pacific if the models projection pans out.
At the surface on Thursday (8/5) a broad area of high pressure remained in control of almost the entire North Pacific centered 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii with pressure at 1028 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. It was also generating 15 kt easterly trades on it's southern flank pushing over Hawaii providing limited support for easterly windswell generation there. Over the next 72 hours much of the same general pattern is expected but with the high shifting a little to the east with trades subsiding slightly over Hawaii (with windswell fading there) while the pressure gradient over extreme Northern California starts to build some on Friday (8/6) resulting in 20 kt north winds being generated there pushing 25 kts 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.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Northern CA and was barely ridging into the coast generating north winds at 15 kts off the coast and producing minimal short period northwest windswell. These winds were also producing nearshore warble. The gradient is to slowly build over Cape Mendocino by late Friday (8/6) with winds reaching the 25 kt range on into early Sunday offering better odds for windswell generation while not impacting the coast there reducing the odds for nearshore chop. But by later Sunday (8/8) the gradient is to fade some with windswell generation potential faltering but fetch still staying away from the Central CA coast. Then Tuesday (8/10) the gradient is to reform up at Cape Mendocino at 25 kts for 18 hours with winds pulled away from the coast and conditions improving. Some windswell to result. Then a complete failure of the Northern Ca pressure gradient is expected by Thurs (8/12) with windswell dissipating. Southern CA is to remain generally protected over the next week.
On Thursday (8/5) the southern branch of the jetstream was flowing firmly flat on the 60-65S latitude with winds up to 110 kts offering no troughs of interest. The jet was tracking over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf effectively sending the storm track over ice bound waters. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with little variation and no troughs of interest forecast. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the main energy flow on or south of 60S, with no troughs pushing northward. On Thursday (8/12) a pocket of 130-140 kt winds is to build under New Zealand down at 65S with a bit of a trough forecast forming just east of it, possibly providing some support for surface level gale development down at the oceans surface. But that is nothing more than a wild guess by the models at this early date. Expect something less.
At the oceans surface a gale was forming over the extreme Southeastern Pacific with 55 kt south winds blowing at 63S 123W just barely north of Antarctic Ice. Perhaps it is getting some traction on ice free waters there. Another cutoff low was circulating just east of New Zealand with 45 kt south winds forecast at 48S 170W by nightfall aimed well at Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours both these systems are to rapidly deteriorate and by mid-Friday they are to be gone, not generating any seas pushing well up into our forecast area. The one over the Southeast Pacific is to generate 36 ft seas Friday evening at 54S 110W, all tracking towards Chile, but nothing towards US interests. Beyond no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast, though high pressure is to not have as much of a dominant role at the oceans surface, perhaps opening the door a little long term.
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 be fading from 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 a decent low pressure system is to track through the Bering Sea Sat-Mon (8/9) generating 25 kts winds with a little of that fetch hanging south of the Aleutian Islands aimed mostly up towards Alaska. No swell for US interests expected. By Monday (8/9) the big controlling high pressure systems is regenerate a little causing the pressure gradient over North CA to rebuild with 25 kt north winds and some windswell being generated pushing down into Central CA through Tuesday, then fading. Trades are also forecast to rebuild over the Hawaiian Islands in the 15-20 kt range Tues (8/10) holding into the end of the workweek, likely increasing the likelihood of modest easterly windswell there. But otherwise no real swell producing fetch is forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (8/5) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was creeping up some. The daily SOI was up to 2.31. The 30 day average was down to 18.24 with the 90 day average down to 9.56. This looks like the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make some headway but not much.
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (8/5) 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 8/24.
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 a gale is forecast forming in the extreme West Pacific Wed AM (8/11) with 45 kt west winds projected free and clear of Antarctic Ice at 57S 170E moving fast east and building with 55 kt southwest winds forecast in the evening at 56S 158W, then dropping southeast from there on Thursday. Little odds of swell generation expected giving it's fast forward speed (limiting the winds ability to get traction on the oceans surface) and then it's fast fall to the southeast quickly moving over Antarctic Ice later Thursday. The issue with this time of year is the Antarctic Ice sheet is effectively covering 50% of the normal storm track now that winter down there is just past it's peak.
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