New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Sunday (8/17) Northern CA surf was waist to chest high high and fading with south wind still putting a bit of heavy texture on it. At least the fog has let up a little. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were thigh to waist high and textured. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was knee to thigh high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was knee high to thigh high, packed and and a bit textured even early. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high and clean and sunny early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high with maybe a few chest high sets and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was back down to near flat after a nice pulse a day or so ago. The South Shore was thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was waist high.
North/Central California was getting the tail end of the first north swell of the season originating from the Gulf of Alaska. Southern California was getting a slight bump of background southern hemi swell and some of the north swell from the Gulf at exposed breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with residuals of the same Gulf swell lapping in. The South Shore was getting a new pulse of background southern hemi swell. Modest east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California small to tiny remnants of swell from the Gulf of Alaska to hang on through Tuesday then fade out Wednesday before possibly another series of a swells arrives for later in the week fading through the weekend. Nice to see Gulf activity this early in the season. Southern CA to fall into the flat zone for the early part of the week then minimal background southern hemi swell expected Wednesday with maybe some energy from the Gulf of Alaska filtering in late in the week. The South Shore of Hawaii is to have just the barest of background swell through Tuesday then fading to nothing. No real tradewind generated east windswell is expected on the East Shore, though it won;t be dead flat. The North Shore to remain unrideable for the next week. Long term the models are suggesting another gale wrapping up in the northern Gulf of Alaska Mon/Tues offering another shot at well rideable utility class early season north swell for exposed breaks in North and Central CA with maybe even some energy wrapping into Southern CA, but all east of the Hawaiian swell window. And the jetstream and surface charts suggest that maybe more might show up behind that over the long haul with good energy making the route from Japan into the Gulf as it has since July. The Southern Hemi is dead though the models suggest a cutoff low generating decent seas mid-week south of Tahiti, but that seems pretty far fetched. So the pattern is definitely turning away from the south and moving to a Fall-like mode, so it's time to start thinking about packing up the longboard and fish and start dusting off the winter quiver. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream continues to look decent for the time of year with a consolidated wind flow tracking from the Kurils pushing to near 130 kts approaching the dateline then fading to the 90 kt range running flat through the Gulf of Alaska. No troughs of interest were occurring to support surface level development though. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of energy on the dateline is to push to the Gulf of Alaska and form a decent trough there early Tuesday with winds to 140 kts forecast, then pushing right into Oregon while another pocket of energy to 140 kts sets up over the dateline on Wednesday. No trough forecast on this second pocket yet, but the trough in the Gulf on Tuesday looks quite promising to support gale development. Beyond 72 hrs the dateline pocket of energy is to again push into the Gulf and form a trough with 130 kts winds late Friday (7/22) but not as good as the previous one, but likely enough to support low pressure development at the oceans surface. And by Sunday (8/24) the pattern to build yet more with a nice consolidated flow pushing further south down around 47N offering hope for the future.
At the surface today a broad low pressure system was set up off Kamchatka pushing east into the Western Gulf of Alaska with the extratropical remnants of tropical storm VonFong pushing northeast along it's southern perimeter. It was forming a weak pressure gradient with weak high pressure at 1024 mbs that was 900 nmiles north of Hawaii producing 25 kt southwest winds over a elongated area aimed mostly towards the Aleutians and of no use to us. The high was also generating modest trades pushing over the Hawaiian Islands producing weak local windswell there. Fading swell from a gale that was in the Gulf days before was pushing into the California coast, but no fetch of interest was occurring near the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours the big weather feature is to be the consolidation of all the low pressure in the northwestern Pacific in the Gulf of Alaska (see Second Gulf Gale below). But while that is occurring more generic low pressure is to be setting up off Kamchatka with a good flow of tropical moisture pushing towards the Gulf, setting the stage for possibly more development behind.
Second Gulf Gale
On Monday AM (8/18) a 984 mb low is to start forming in the Northern Gulf of Alaska while tropical energy from what was tropical storm VonFong moves in from the west. 30 kts west winds to start building at 45N 152W, getting tractions on the oceans surface and generating 17 ft seas at 46N 155W. By evening pressure is to drop to 976 mbs in the Northern Gulf with a fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds setting up at 52N 155W aimed down the 310 degree path to the San Francisco area. Seas starting to build from 20 ft over a tiny area at 53N 157W while the original fetch of 17 ft seas continues at 44N 148W.
Tuesday AM (8/19) the low to broaden with pressure 980 mbs and 35-40 kt northwest winds to continue at 49N 149W aimed well down the 308 degree path to Central CA and up into Oregon. 20 ft seas are forecast at 51N 150W. By evening the low to be sinking southeast with 30-35 kt northwest winds at 45N 140W, just 900 nmiles from San Francisco and aimed right down the 308 degree path there with the associated front from this system pushing into Oregon and Washington. 27 ft seas are forecast at 48N 143W 1000 nmiles northwest of SF.
Wednesday AM (8/20) the low to be pushing inland with 30 kt west winds fading at 45N 137W targeting Cape Mendocino. 25 ft seas forecast at 47N 136W or 900 nmiles from SF.
In all this looks pretty good on the models, but it has yet to form, so a healthy dose of skepticism is required. Assuming it develops as forecast a nice pulse of utility class swell with period in the 13-15 secs range could be expected for Washington south into Central California, bigger than the last swell but from a slightly more northerly angle.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/17) high pressure at 1026 mbs was centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii but was not ridging into the US West Coast, leaving only a weak windflow over the coast. No change is forecast Monday as moderate low pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska, holding high pressure at bay. More of the same is forecast Tuesday as the vigorous front from the gale moves into the Pacific Northwest while high pressure tries to ridge into the Pt Conception area generating 20 kt north winds isolated to a small area there making for chop locally in that area. Wednesday the low to move onshore and dissipate opening the door for high pressure to move in from Hawaii with the area of north winds trying to expand northward reaching from Cape Mendocino southward to the Channel Islands with local nearshore winds likely at 20 kts by late Thursday. Theoretically it's to consolidate over Cape Mendo early Friday morning (8/22) leaving calm winds or a slight eddy flow in it's wake from Pt Arena southward on through the weekend. Local windswell likely from the weak gradient off Cape Mendo though.
On Sunday AM (8/17) Tropical Depression Iselle was 900 nmiles south-southeast of Dana Point tracking west northwest at 3 kts with sustained winds 25 kts and fading. No swell generation potential forecast.
Also Tropical Storm 13W was 600 nmiles east of the northern Philippines tracking west-northwest at 15 kts with winds 35 kts and building, expected to turn north just outside of Taiwan on Friday with winds up to 110 kts. POssible hope to recurve northeast. No immediate swell generation potential forecast through this one is worth watching.
On Sunday (8/17) a split jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific. The southern branch continued flowing flat over the Ross Ice Shelf on the 72S latitude , weak and fragmented offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the split pattern is to become even more pronounced with parallel flows tracking west at 65S and 30S. 170 kt winds to be flowing through the northern branch with no defined troughs forecast. Beyond 72 hrs no real change is forecast with a split flow in control and no troughs of interest forecast.
At the oceans surface virtually no swell producing winds of interest were occurring. High pressure at 1036 mbs was in firm control of the Southeast Pacific ridging south to 62S, on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf totally blocking the storm corridor and shutting things down there. Over the next 72 hrs theoretically a cutoff low is to start building east of New Zealand Tuesday (8/19) producing 45 kt west winds near 40S 150W aimed towards Chile and Peru, then fading to the 40-45 kts range Wednesday into Thursday while tracking east before dissipating Friday east of Chile. 37 ft seas forecast Wednesday at 38S 142W holding while tracking east to 36S 130W late Thursday, dissipating Friday. Possible swell to result for Chile up into Peru and Central America a week or so beyond if all this goes as planned, which is more a case of wishful thinking at this early date.
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 another weak gale is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska on late Thursday (7/21) with pressure 992 ms and 30 kts west winds over a small area pushing east through Friday generating 17 ft seas aimed mostly at Oregon northward. Maybe a small pulse of background swell to result of the Pacific Northwest. A far broader area of low pressure to start building on Sunday (8/24) north of Hawaii in the Southern Gulf of Alaska extending from the dateline east to almost Oregon. More potential here, but it's way too early to know for sure.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Sunday (8/17) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was transitioning from the Active phase to the INactive phase. The SOI index was at 10.14, toggling higher the past few days but offering no signs of building there. The 30 day average was 1.55 and the 90 day average was 0.58, neutral. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated the building of the Inactive phase of the MJO over Asia (north Indian Ocean to New Guinea) though a small weak area of westerly winds associated with the fading Active Phase of the MJO continued moving from south of Hawaii into Central America - aiding the development of low pressure in the North Pacific. This is projected to continue into 8/23, then fade. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to remain very weak too, fading out by 8/31. Over the long haul there appears to be little bias either for or against the development of winter low pressure systems in the North Pacific.
Beyond 72 hrs no swell producing fetch is forecast until a gale pushes under New Zealand with 40 kts winds and 35 ft seas. This is just a fantasy of the models. Nothing else is in the 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