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 Tuesday (8/19) Northern CA surf was thigh to maybe waist high and textured. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were flat and lightly textured. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was thigh high and chopped mid-day. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat and heavily textured. The LA Area southward to Orange County was knee high and lightly textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were knee high and lightly textured mid-day. The North Shore of Oahu was near flat and clean. The South Shore was thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was maybe knee high.
North/Central California was getting no swell of interest, just residual background northwest windswell. Southern California was effectively flat. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat. The South Shore was getting a little minimal background southern hemi swell. Tiny east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California no real surf is forecast until Thursday when a bit of windswell originating from the Gulf of Alaska hits, then being reinforced by semi-real swell on Friday from the Gulf, then fading slowly through the weekend into next week. Southern CA to remain essentially flat until minimal background southern hemi swell arrives on Wednesday with maybe some energy from the Gulf of Alaska filtering in late in the week. The South Shore of Hawaii is to have nothing by Wednesday, though a little pulse of background southern hemi swell might show Friday, fading out early Saturday. Maybe some minimal tradewind generated east windswell can be expected on the East Shore starting Friday and holding through the weekend into early next week, but not much. The North Shore to remain unrideable for the next week. A gale is in the northern Gulf of Alaska today offering another shot at well rideable utility class early season north swell for exposed breaks in North and Central CA by late in the week and hanging on through the weekend. The jetstream and surface charts suggest that the upper level flow is to remain decent for the foreseeable future though no clear well-developed low pressure systems are expected to form for the next week, though the seeds of such a system are available if all the elements would come together. The Southern Hemi is to remain dead relative to Hawaii and California, though the most recent run of the models puts a pretty strong storm just off Chile aimed due north almost a week out. but that remains just a tease at best. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream continues to look respectable for the time of year with a consolidated wind flow tracking from the southern Kuril Islands (North of Japan) arching over the dateline but still just barely south of the Aleutians at 100 kts then dripping into a moderate trough over the Gulf of Alaska with winds up to 140 kts getting ready to push onshore over Oregon. They should be receiving their first Fall blast of the season. The trough in the Gulf was supporting development of a surface level gale. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough to push onshore over the Pacific Northwest Thursday while another pocket of energy to 150 kts starts setting up over the dateline on Friday. No trough forecast on this second pocket yet. Beyond 72 hrs the dateline pocket of energy is to again push into the Gulf and form a trough with 140+ kts winds Saturday (7/23) looking every bit as good as the previous one, enough to support low pressure development at the oceans surface then pushing into the Pacific Northwest on Monday. The pattern to then fall apart with a .cgiit flow pushing off Siberia and working it's way into the Northwest Pacific for the first half of next week reducing odds of surface level low pressure development, in sync with the weak inactive phase of the MJO.
At the surface today a small but nice gale was circulating in the Northern Gulf of Alaska (see Second Gulf Gale below) while weak high pressure held just above Hawaii, but not offering anything in the way of enhanced trades or tradewind induced windswell. A second very weak low pressure system remained set up off Kamchatka pushing east into the Western Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours small and weak segments of low pressure are to ride over the Hawaiian High and follow the jetstream into the Gulf of Alaska, but none are to organize or get any traction of interest on the oceans surface other than fleeting pockets of 25 kt westerly winds here and there.
Second Gulf Gale
On Monday AM (8/18) a 984 mb low was starting to form in the Northern Gulf of Alaska while tropical energy from what was tropical storm VonFong moves in from the west. 30 kts west winds built at 45N 152W, getting traction on the oceans surface and generating 17 ft seas at 46N 155W. By evening pressure dropped to 976 mbs in the Northern Gulf with a thin small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds confirmed at 52N 152W aimed down the 310 degree path to the San Francisco area. Seas started to build from 20 ft over a tiny area at 53N 157W while the original fetch of 17 ft seas continued at 44N 148W.
Tuesday AM (8/19) the low broadened slightly with pressure 980 mbs and 35-40 kt northwest winds confirmed at 509N 147W aimed well down the 308 degree path to Central CA and up into Oregon. 22 ft seas were modeled at 51N 149W. By evening the low to be sinking southeast with 30-35 kt northwest winds at 48N 142W, just 950 nmiles from San Francisco but aimed more towards Washington and about 15 degrees east of the 312 degree path NCal with the associated front from this system pushing into Oregon and Washington. 25 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 47N 135W targeting Oregon. 21 ft seas forecast at 48N 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 Tuesday (8/19) moderate low pressure was building in the Gulf of Alaska, holding high pressure at bay as the first somewhat vigorous front of the season moves into the Pacific Northwest, associated with the Gulf low. High pressure to try and ridge into the Pt Conception area Wednesday generating 20 kt north winds isolated to a small area there making for local choppy in that area, but otherwise a relaxed winds pattern suggested. As the low moves onshore over Washington on Thursday, high pressure that has been hanging north of Hawaii to move towards California from the west with north winds trying to expand northward from the Channel Islands up to Cape Mendocino with local nearshore winds likely at 15-20 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 as another low builds in the Gulf, keeping a cap on high pressure. High pressure to find move in from Hawaii on Tuesday (8/26) with north winds and chop building from Pt Conception northward, up to 30 kts near Cape Mendo with north windswell on the upswing.
On Tuesday AM (8/19) Typhoon Nuri was just north of the northern most Philippine Island tracking west at 13 kts with winds 90 kts and building, expected to now track straight into China north of Hong Kong. No swell generation potential forecast for our forecast area.
On Tuesday (8/19) a .cgiit jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific. The southern branch continued flowing more-or-less flat over the Ross Ice Shelf on the 70S latitude, weak and fragmented offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the .cgiit pattern is to become even more pronounced with parallel flows tracking west at 67S and 35S. 170 kt winds to be flowing through the northern branch (Wed/Thurs) with no defined troughs forecast. Beyond 72 hrs no real change is forecast with a .cgiit flow in control and no troughs of interest forecast. A bit more energy is forecast moving into the southern branch, with a little nudge north in the flow under New Zealand early next week, but ice-locked.
At the oceans surface no swell producing winds of interest were occurring. High pressure at 1018 mbs was in firm control of the Southwest Pacific ridging south to 62S and basically blocking the storm corridor. A cutoff low was north of the high tracking east with 35 kts winds targeting Chile. Over the next 72 hrs theoretically that cutoff low is to continue east, building with 40 kts winds on Wednesday into Thursday then dissipating Friday east of Chile. 33-35 ft seas are forecast Thursday into Friday 2100-2800 nmiles east of Chile and all aimed due east towards South America. Possible swell there but nothing for the Northern Americas. No other swell producing fetch forecast.
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 low pressure system is forecast to try and develop in the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday (7/23) with pressure 992 ms and maybe producing up to 25 kt west winds over a small area Sunday generating only 11 ft seas aimed mostly at Oregon northward. No swell to result. A broader somewhat more impressive area of low pressure to start building on Sunday (8/24) on the dateline tracking east into the Gulf on Tuesday (8/26) but organization is to be elusive with only maybe 30 kts winds and a tiny area of 20 ft seas resulting, nothing hardly of notice.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (8/19) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was transitioning from the Active phase to the Inactive phase. The Daily SOI index was down to 3.52. The 30 day average was down to 0.42 and the 90 day average was 1.35, 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 confined to the waters just west of Central America and fading. 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. Of note - the weak MJO pattern of late has caused what was a promising flow of warmer than normal subsurface waters from the West to east Pacific to break down, with a slightly cooler pool now positioned 150 deep on the equator south of Hawaii. This is not indicative of an El Nino like circulation, thereby suggesting no enhancement to the winter North Pacific storm pattern.
Beyond 72 hrs a broad a long fetch of 40-45 kt south winds are forecast developing off Chile aimed due north Sunday/Monday (8/250 generating rather large seas pushing towards Mexico. Possible swell to result if this happens, but odds are very low at this early date. 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