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 (9/7) North and Central California was getting small locally generated north windswell at waist to maybe chest high and hacked with west winds in control at near 20 kts. This was down from the nice little pulse of windswell we had over the long weekend. Southern California was still a bit foggy late with waves 1 ft and fairly clean up north and maybe up to thigh high on the sets down south coming out of the south with heavy southwest texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with summer sand clogging the reefs. The East Shore was getting thigh high tradewind generated east windswell with lightly chopped conditions. The South Shore had some thigh high sets coming but all presumably from eastern windswell with no southern hemi energy in the water. Conditions clean with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small windswell continuing through the week into the weekend. Wednesday north windswell to be 2.5 ft (faces) pushing 3.0 ft on Thursday and about the same on Friday (3 ft). Saturday north windswell to be 3 ft and up to 3.5 ft on Sunday (9/12). Southern California is to see barely knee high windswell on Wednesday with luck. Otherwise windswell to be knee high or less through the rest of the workweek into the weekend. There's some suggestion of small southern hemi swell forecast by Saturday at waist high pushing near chest high on Sunday with luck from a very south direction. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf for the next 7 days. The East Shore to see no real short period east windswell with waves being knee high or less through Friday (9/10) maybe coming up a notch on Saturday to maybe waist high holding Sunday (9/12). The South Shore is to see nothing rideable through at least Thursday, then with maybe some thigh high background southern hemi swell will appear at sunset Friday holding into Saturday AM (9/11) before dropping from knee high Sunday.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days though the models continue to hint at more activity in the West Pacific than weeks past. A tropical low is on the charts to pushing from Japan to the Western Gulf with seas pushing 20 ft a week out, but none of that is beleivable just yet. Realistically only weak locally generated short period north windswell is the best that can be expected for North and Central CA through the workweek and beyond. Down south a decent sized gale formed south of New Zealand on Monday (9/6) with seas to 35 ft and was tracking gently northeast expected to hold strength before getting an infusion of new energy Thursday while pushing north through the Southeast Pacific producing a small area of 38 ft seas Friday before dissipating. This system is not to be impressive, but nothing to sneeze at either with decent odds of actually doing what it is forecast too, with rideable southern hemi swell the possible result. It's all we have right now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesday (9/7) the North Pacific jetstream continued flowing generally over Northern Japan with a small trough there with 120 kts winds at it's peak, then weakening while lifting gently northeast over the dateline and into a weak ridge over the Gulf of Alaska. There was weak support for gale development in the trough off Japan, but otherwise none anywhere else. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to build slightly while pushing pretty hard to the north-northeast, never even making it to the dateline before pushing up into the Bering Sea. A weak gale could develop in the trough, but all energy will likely be directed up towards the Western Aleutians Islands. A ridge to generally hold over the East Pacific supporting high pressure at the oceans surface. A backdoor trough is to continue pushing south down the US West Coast reaching about to about San Francisco on Wednesday PM (9/8). Beyond 72 hours a generalized trough is to continue over northwest Pacific with weak winds and no support for gale development while a ridge continues in the east. Another backdoor trough is forecast off British Columbia pushing down to the Pacific Northwest next week (9/14) making for colder conditions there, but nothing that would provide swell generation potential.
At the surface on Tuesday (9/7) high pressure at 1028 mbs continued over the Eastern Pacific centered 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and retrograded back west from it's position over the weekend. This was resulting in weaker north winds over North California and no real pressure gradient and winds only 15-20 kts over open waters there resulting in no real windswell generation potential. It was having no real impact over Hawaii either with trades barely 15 kts offering no windswell generation potential there either. A low pressure system was tracking north east up the Kuril Islands producing 30 kt south winds over open waters, all aimed north towards the Western Aleutians offering no swell potential for Hawaii or anywhere east of there. In all, a pretty quiet pattern. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with high pressure weakening to 1024 mbs in the east and holding well off the CA coast making for only 15 kt north winds pushing down the coast there and maybe 15 kt trades pushing east under the high over Hawaii. In short, no windswell potential of interest is expected. Weal low pressure is to continue over and north of Kamchatka, with no fetch of interest forecast for exposed waters of the Northwest Pacific.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical activity of interest is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/7) high pressure at 1032 mbs was 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and trying to ridge east into North CA, but not making it. Residual 20 kt north winds were in position off North and Central CA. with a 10-15 kt westerly eddy flow pushing into Central CA, with south winds pushing into Southern CA. In all a pretty junky picture. By Wednesday a 10-15 kt northerly flow is to be impacting all of North and Central CA with chop and warble the expected result, though Southern CA is to remain protected. More of the same is forecast on Thursday into early Friday, with the fetch finally lifting a bit north and moderating nearshore on Friday afternoon with perhaps a light eddy flow in effect. The weekend is looking to see the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with 20 kt north winds there and a light flow nearshore though not clearly an eddy flow. By Monday (9/13) the gradient is to push into Central CA with north winds at 15 kts and chop in effect while a low pressure system builds just off the Oregon coast dropping to 1004 mbs on Tuesday evening with 30-35 kt north-northeast winds forecast in it's northwest sector, mostly aimed better at Hawaii than the Us mainland. Light north winds to continue over Central CA with Southern CA unaffected.
On Tuesday (9/7) the jetstream remained well .cgiit over the far Southeast Pacific and again over the Tasman Sea in the far West. But a convergence continued southeast of New Zealand and points just east of there with a trough building and tracking east down at 60S 150W. 140 kt west winds were blowing up into it providing some support for gale development there, and just north of the Ross Ice Shelf. A large ridge remained in control of the extreme East Pacific offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface there. Over the next 72 hours the trough southeast of New Zealand is to build firmly to the north peaking out on Thursday (9/9) with it's apex at 140W 50S with more 130 kts winds feeding up into the trough providing decent support for gale development at the oceans surface there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to slowly weaken while easing east pushing out of the California swell window on Sunday (9/12) while a solid ridge builds behind it over New Zealand with the .cgiit jet flow returning, though not as strong as well previous. The southern branch of the jet is to be tracking well south into Antarctica over the West Pacific through Tuesday 99/140 with no support for gale development indicated.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned over New Zealand while a new gale was wrapping up under it and tracking east-northeast. Over the next 72 hrs this gale (see South Pacific Gale below) is to be the only weather system of interest.
South Pacific Gale
A strong gale started to wrap up under New Zealand on Monday AM with 45-50 kt west winds building to 50 kts solid in the evening at 60S 175E aimed 20 degrees east of the 209 degree path into North CA barely shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Islands chain. Seas reached 35 ft at 58S 174E (210 degs CA and 194 degs for Hawaii).
A solid area of 45 kt southwest winds continued Tuesday AM at 57S 172W producing 36 ft seas at 57S 175W again heading right up the 209-210 degree route to CA and 188 degrees towards Hawaii. Having the fetch track right up the same great circle paths to CA might help improve set consistency. In the evening the fetch is to back off some though still covering a large area with 40 kt southwest winds at 50S 156W tracking up the 202 degree path to California, on the eastern edge of the Tahitian swell shadow and aimed well east of the 178 degree path to Hawaii. 36 ft seas to persist at 56S 164W (202 degs CA).
By Wednesday AM (9/8) the fetch is to fragment and decay with smaller areas of 45 kts southwest winds trying to hang on at 50S 152W and seas from the original fetch at 34 ft at 52S 156W. In the evening a new broad fetch of 40 kt south winds is to develop at 56S 165W getting traction on an already agitated ocean surface, producing more 32 ft seas back at 55S 170W with seas from the original fetch at 34 ft at 50S 148W (196 degs CA - 187 degs HI).
This fetch is to pick up to 45 kts and aimed pure north from 55S 150W on Thursday AM with seas to 34 ft at 52S 159W. The models suggest a tiny area of up to 50 kt south wind is to peak out Thursday PM at 50S 143W pushing right up the 195 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti with sideband energy to Hawaii up the 175 degree path. 36 ft seas are forecast at 48S 151W.
Still on Friday AM (9/10) 45 kt south winds to persist and pushing well to the north at 43S 143W aimed right up the 196 degree great circle path to California and even with sideband energy aimed up the 169 degree path to Hawaii. A small area of 38 ft seas are forecast at 45S 147W pushing almost due north. A quick fade is forecast in the evening with winds dropping from 40 kts at 40S 140W but still aimed due north. momentum from previous fetch is to hold seas at 38 ft at 40S 140W. This extreme north position would greatly decrease swell decay if it were to occur. A quick fade is forecast thereafter.
In all this remains a pretty interesting scenario, especially the later half of this gales life and considering the complete lack of swell and fetch in the Southern Hemi at present. Certainly something to continue monitoring. maybe the last blast of summer.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs the same pattern is to hold with high pressure holding over the east at 1024 mbs by Sunday (9/12) making for 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino CA next weekend resulting in only minimal local north windswell and trades continuing at 15 kts over Hawaii offering little in terms of windswell production there. There's suggestion of a tropical low developing off Japan on Thursday racing northeast fast producing 30-35 kt south winds pushing into the Aleutians by Sunday (9/12), but nothing for our forecast area. A new backdoor low is to develop off Vancouver Island on Tuesday (9/14) producing up to 30 kt north winds aimed south towards mostly open ocean. And even that is likely an optimistic assessment. So for now it looks like more of the same while we wait for the first gale of Fall to develop. But the models are pushing closer to that eventuality, though slowly.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (9/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 23.53 and has been that way in excess of 50 days. The 30 day average was up to 22.85 with the 90 day average up to 15.52. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to still be in control.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (9/6) (latest data from BOM) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was again in control with modest east anomalies over the Philippines pushing from the mid-Indian Ocean and reaching east to a point south of Hawaii or beyond. There was no sign of the Active Phase of the MJO. This pattern was to continue with easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase holding over the West Pacific reaching almost to the Central America on 9/11 then slowly dissipating into 9/26. Minimal signs of the Active Phase and it's much needed westerly anomalies are forecast over Indonesia on 9/26, but so weak as to not even be there. This does not do much for building a Fall pattern over the North Pacific.
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.cgius 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 east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/2) indicates that downright cold waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond and 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 sweeping fully to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America. This is good for sea life and the food chain (since they tend to like colder waters), but bad for storm production. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This continues the turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters has stalled in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific. This was of concern to hurricane forecasters there. But it appears residual upper level shear from El Nino has done a good job of if not chopping the tops off developing systems, at least directing then to the north. But that shear appears to be fading some as we move into the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic. Regardless of this year, next year might be a very strong hurricane producer, with the El Nino shear gone and a mature La Nina in control.
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. But from a historical perspective these easterly winds were not anomalous, only in the normal range. And this has been the case all summer. 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 (i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. .Said a different way, 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 a.cgiifying 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 early Fall 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 at 1036 mbs is to take up residence east of New Zealand and ridging south to nearly Antarctica or alt least influencing the weather pattern there well into next week. The result is to be continuous south winds over the area pushing only towards Antarctica, offering no support for swell development pushing up into North Pacific locales.
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