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 (8/31) North and Central California was getting locally generated short period north windswell at thigh to waist high and pretty warbled. Southern California was getting maybe 1 ft windswell up north and reasonably clean but foggy with little southern hemi swell occasionally pushing through down south to maybe waist high with textured if not warbled conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with summer sand clogging the reefs. The East Shore was getting thigh to waist high tradewind generated east windswell with moderately chopped conditions. The South Shore had some thigh high small new southern hemi sets coming through with clean conditions with modest trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more local northwest local windswell on Wednesday at 3 ft (faces) and up to 4 ft on Thursday with minimal very south angled (172 degree) southern hemi swell underneath at 2.5 ft both Wednesday and Thursday. More local windswell is to hang on for Friday at 3 ft building Saturday to 4 ft and Sunday to 5 ft. Southern hemi swell to be 3 ft on Friday fading to 2.5 ft on Saturday again from near 170 degrees, then gone. Southern California is to see small southern hemi swell on Wednesday at thigh to waist high dropping to thigh high Thursday then rebuilding to waist high or a little more Friday before fading from thigh high Saturday (at best). Swell angle to be very southerly (175 degrees). Maybe some knee to thigh high north windswell for exposed breaks on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf for the next 7 days. The East Shore to see short period east windswell at knee high Wednesday then gone Thursday.Friday more knee high plus east windswell is expected dropping Saturday only to return on Sunday. The South Shore is to perhaps see some knee to thigh high southern hemi swell on Wednesday fading Thursday and then nothing rideable into at least early next week.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than locally generated short period north windswell for North and Central CA holding well into the weekend (9/4) if not building for early next week. We're also watching a typhoon pushing towards Japan that has some potential to regenerate as it tracks northeast away from there. Down south the models suggest a small gale forming just east of New Zealand on Saturday (9/4) with seas to 36 ft late, then quickly degenerating. At least there's something on the models to stare at. Still, it's to be small in total areal coverage.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (8/31) the North Pacific jetstream had it's usual more or less flat flow tracking over the 50N latitude with a little pocket of energy inland over southern Siberia and a strong 120 kt pocket tracking flat through the Northern Gulf of Alaska pushing into Vancouver Island. But if anything, the flow into the British Columbia was associated with a ridge (high pressure) rather than a trough (low pressure) not offering anything in terms of support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the trough in the east is to push inland while the energy over Siberia pushing into the West Pacific forming a bit of a trough almost reaching the dateline with winds to 120 kts, but not particularly strong looking overall. Maybe some support for low pressure forming there. In the east wind speeds are to be very weak with a tight ridge building over the dateline and another just over the US West Coast offering nothing but likely high pressure down at the oceans surface through Friday (9/3). Beyond 72 hours the trough in the west is to weaken and make no eastward progress, stalling on the dateline while a big ridge builds in the East reaching north to Alaska while drifting east offering only high pressure at lower levels. No support for gale development forecast.
At the surface on Tuesday (8/31) high pressure at 1032 mbs continued locked in over the Eastern Pacific centered 1000 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii and gently ridging east almost to Northern California and west to the dateline with a second high at 1028 mbs off Kamchatka pretty much locking down the entire North Pacific. Weak low pressure was in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska trying to nudge high pressure out of the way, but making zero progress. 15 kt north winds were flowing down the Northern CA coast and trades at the same speed were wafting over the Hawaiian Islands, but neither was producing windswell of much interest. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to push a bit to the east setting up a weak pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino generating 20-25 kt north winds there Wed-Thurs (9/2) perhaps nudging the windswell up a bit for Central CA, then totally faltering by Friday. The high is to be to far north to have any effect on trades over Hawaii, and if anything trades are to drop below the 15 kt threshold, with east windswell starting to fade out. Low pressure is to push off Kamchatka and set up over the Western Aleutians by Friday (9/3) generating 20 kt west winds over exposed waters of the Northwest Pacific, but that's to be of no use to anyone. Maybe it's a start.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (8/31) Typhoon 08w (Kompasu) was located approximately 115 nmiles southeast of Kadena Japan, and was tracking northwestward at 11 knots. Maximum sustained surface winds were estimated at 95 knots gusting to 115 knots. It is expected to continue tracking northwest out of the greater Pacific and west of Japan, then recurving northeast tracking back into the Pacific over Northern Japan on Friday (9/3) and reorganizing as an extratropical low moving up into the Northwest Pacific on Sunday (9/5). No real swell production likely even then, but it bears watching. .
No other tropical systems were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/31) high pressure at 1030 mbs was trying to ridge into the coast of Central CA generating the usual pressure gradient and producing northwest winds at 15 kts over nearshore waters resulting in light chop and warble. This gradient is to get more pronounced on Wednesday resulting in 25 kt north winds over outer waters of Central and North CA but a light eddy flow is expected nearshore. Warbled conditions at worst. The gradient itself is to fade on Friday with this same scenario continuing nearshore into Saturday AM, while a new gradient builds over Cape Mendocino with north winds building into nearshore waters Saturday afternoon with chop the likely result over all of North and Central CA. The gradient is to hug the coast through Tuesday (9/7) resulting in poor conditions through that time. But Southern CA is to remain mostly protected from these conditions through the period.
On Tuesday (8/31) the jetstream remained heavily split with the core of the split locked in just southeast of New Zealand. This continued displacing the southern branch of the jet to the south over the Ross Ice Shelf which was at it's winter maximum (north reaching) with the storm track following an ice bound route there eliminating odds for well producing gale development. The jet gently lifted northeast over the extreme Southeast Pacific but was still mostly tracking over ice bound waters, before heading hard south into interior Antarctica offering no odds for swell producing gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with the trough in the east fading. But a weakening in the ridge is forecast pushing under New Zealand Friday (9/3) with an almost-trough developing just east of there later in the day. Some of this trough is to even be over ice free waters too. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to hold east of New Zealand with up to 150 kt southwest winds pushing into the trough offering decent odds to support gale development at the oceans surface Sat-Sun (9/5), then weakening. Possible gale in this trough down at the oceans surface. But a new ridge is to be building in behind that pushing the jet again well to the south for the days beyond shutting off any hope to support gale development then.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1024 mbs was locked southeast of New Zealand with the effects of high pressure in the upper atmosphere continuing to be evident over the majority of the South Pacific. No swell producing fetch of 3-+ kts was indicated. Over the next 72 hrs the same basic pattern is to hold with no 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 hrs an extra tropical low pressure system (the remnants of Typhoon Kompasu) is to push off the Southern Kuril Islands and jump start the low pressure pool in the West Pacific by late Saturday (9/4) generating a 980 mb closed isobar gale with 35 kt winds wrapping around it's core for maybe 24 hours, then lifting slowly northeast and north of the Aleutians mid Monday (9/6) as winds drop below 30 kts. No swell to result, but it looks kinda nice. And more low pressure is to be tracking up Japan and the Kurils bound for the same general area. Maybe a little mini-cycle might take hold, with much thanks to the building Active Phase of the MJO. A Fall pattern might try to get some legs.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (8/31) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued rock solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was holding at 23.25 and has been that way in excess of 43 days. The 30 day average was down a bit to 17.09 with the 90 day average holding at 12.47. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared to be in full control.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (8/28) (latest data from BOM) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was fast fading over the East Pacific with easterly anomalies extending over a thin area from south of Hawaii into Central America while the Active Phase was peaked out over the Philippines, with it's flow starting in the Indian Ocean (westerly anomalies) extending half way to the dateline. This pattern is to continue with easterly anomalies fading over the East Pacific into 9/2 while westerly anomalies build in the West Pacific reaching almost to the dateline a the same time, then fading slowly into 9/12, with a neutral pattern in control after that. The Inactive Phase pushing into the Atlantic is likely helping the burst of hurricanes there. And with the Active Phase getting a toe hold in the Pacific might help the onset of a Fall weather pattern (with luck).
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate to moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remained of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though west facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/26) indicates that cooler than normal waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator 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. the coldest waters extended from a point south of Hawaii to just west of the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of cooler than normal water continued building 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 -5 degs below normal (getting colder). 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 El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to ease to the east opening up a window directly south of New Zealand area late Thursday (9/2) with low pressure developing in the area by Friday AM. A small area of 45-50 kt west-southwest winds are to develop at 54S 165E pushing to 55 kt later in the day and lifting northeast with a small area of 50 kt southwest winds still holding Saturday AM at 50S 175W. The models suggest seas building to 36 ft Saturday evening at 46S 170W as the fetch itself dies. If all this happens some degree of small swell could result, best for Tahiti and Hawaii but amazingly not to badly shadowed by Tahiti (still west of the core of the shadow) for the US West Coast. Certainly something to monitor. The models also suggest another storm forming in Monday night/Tuesday AM (9/7) in the same general vicinity (52S 160W) with winds building to 55 kts. Fetch area is to be small, but at this point we'll take anything. So if one is to believe the models, perhaps a little relief is in sight.
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