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 (9/9) Northern CA surf was chest to shoulder high and pretty hacked by southwest winds. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to chest high and pretty foggy even mid-day. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist to chest high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist to chest high, maybe a little more occasionally and clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist to chest high with some bigger sets and lightly textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest to head high with biggest sets 1-2 ft overhead. The North Shore of Oahu was flat and clean. The South Shore was head high and clean. The East Shore was waist high.
North/Central California continued getting a mix of local northerly windswell and decent southern hemi swell, the real focus of the day. Southern California was getting southern hemi swell originating off New Zealand producing solid surf for the contest at Trestles. Hawaii's North Shore had no swell. The South Shore was getting backside of the same solid swell from New Zealand system that was pushing energy into CA. Small but longer period easterly windswell was hitting the East Shore.
For Central California locally generated northerly windswell to continue in some form into Thursday, then smaller Friday before coming up for one last little spurt on Saturday, while southern hemi swell from 215 degrees originating under New Zealand provides good late summer opportunity for the usual southern hemi swell breaks through Thursday with some energy continuing into Friday. Southern CA to be be the center of attention for the southern hemi swell, with the contest continuing at Trestles with waves in the head high range. But things to be fading out by Saturday. No surf expected for the North Shore in the immediate future. Tradewind generated east windswell to expected to hold Wednesday on the East Shore, then getting smaller on Thursday before fading out. The South Shore of Hawaii is expected to see one more day of southern hemi southeast swell Wednesday before dissipating. Over the long term no clear signs of decent swell production forecast for the southern hemi other than 2 gales, one of which has already pushed through the very eastern edge of the CA swell window Sun/Mon (9/8) generating up to 36 ft seas, with the second expected late Tues-Thurs offering better odds. Up north a gale is forecast pushing off Kamchatka on Wed/Fri tracking to the dateline with 23 ft seas initially dropping to 20 ft offering decent odds for small swell for Hawaii if it does as it's supposed too. But no further development is suggested beyond that. So we remain locked between the end of summer and the start of Fall, just waiting for that first big low pressure system to clear out the dust and open the storm corridor to the Gulf of Alaska. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/9) the North Pacific jetstream continued having a decent flow tracking west to east under the Aleutians with winds in the 90-100 kt range. A trough was centered east of the dateline in the Western Gulf of Alaska with 130 kt winds flowing into it and offering some hope to support low pressure development while a ridge remained locked over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska as it has for weeks now. Over the next 72 hours the West Gulf trough is to quickly pinch off on Wednesday and become absorbed in the semi permanent high over the Eastern Gulf. But a new trough is to build Wednesday just east of Kamchatka with 1340 kt winds flowing into it and tracking east through Friday reaching the dateline, then building with 140 kt winds rebuilding and flowing into the trough Saturday before pinching off Saturday in the Western gulf of Alaska. This trough holds the best hope in a while of supporting surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hours the flow to become less defined, then reorganize with a nice trough forecast building over the dateline early next week with 160 kt winds flowing into it. Good odds for surface level gale development if this occurs as modeled.
At the surface today high pressure at 1024 mbs remain locked down tight 900 nmiles west of Oregon generating a modest pressure gradient just off the coast pushing south to Cape Mendocino and producing more 25 kt north winds and moderate windswell pushing into Central CA. No fetch remained aimed towards Hawaii. Weak low pressure was in the Northern Gulf almost over Alaska but was getting shunted north into the state. High pressure at 1024 mbs was centered over the dateline right smack in the middle of the North Pacific storm corridor. Low pressure was trying to get some footing oozing east off the Kamchatka Peninsula. Over the next 72 hours high pressure to continue holding off Oregon and California ridging up into Canada and pretty much shutting down the Gulf of Alaska from gale formation. 25 kt north winds and windswell are expected to result for exposed breaks in California through Saturday then fading, perhaps for good. But the low off Kamchatka to be the bigger story, becoming fully exposed into the North Pacific on Wednesday with pressure dropping to 984 mbs and a small area of 40 kt west winds getting traction on the oceans surface just barely south of the Aleutians generating seas to 23 ft late at 50N 172E. The low to track southeast into Thursday (9/11) with 30 kt winds still getting a grip on the oceans surface generating up to 20 ft seas moving to the dateline late (44N 180W - 1800 nmiles from HI), then fading on Friday with winds dropping from 30 kts and seas 20 ft at 42N 177W aimed south right at the Islands. Possible small 12-14 sec period swell pushing towards Hawaii with luck starting late Sunday (9/14) peaking on Monday..
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/9) high pressure at 1026 mbs remained 900 nmiles west of Oregon ridging into British Columbia generating a slightly enhanced pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in 25 kt north winds there and northerly windswell for breaks south of there. Winds from that fetch were pushing to the southwest just barely outside Central CA nearshore waters making for reasonably clean surface conditions, but an eddy flow has developed near the coast producing southwesterly winds and some heavy texture. The gradient is to continue through Wednesday with 25 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino and nearshore surface bump expected. By Thursday (9/11) the gradient is to begin fading with windswell fading with it, only to make a quick comeback Saturday before fading out totally on Sunday while low pressure tries to get a better foothold in the Gulf of Alaska. Wind to remain generally light nearshore through early next week, though the eddy flow might be of issue (generating southwest winds at 10 kts).
On Tuesday (9/9) Tropical Storm Lowell was 225 nmiles southwest of Cabo San Lucas tracking north with a turn to the northeast expected in 12 hours. Maximum sustained winds were near 40 kts. Lowell to turn northeast and move inland over Baja on Thursday AM with winds 25 kts. No swell producing capacity of interest forecast from this system for California or Hawaii.
Typhoon Sinlaku was 300 nmiles southeast of Taipei Taiwan with sustained winds 90 kts heading north with a turn to the north-northeast expected. This system to build to a potential 125 kts on Thursday over open ocean pushing up just off the southern tip of Japan on Sunday morning with winds fading fast over cooler waters, at 75 kts. This system is of most interest if it misses Japan while recurving northeast, hopefully interacting with a building jetstream pattern over the North Pacific to produce winds and seas as it moves towards the dateline. Will monitor.
On Tuesday (9/9) a split jetstream flow remained in control of the South Pacific with the north and south branches generally flowing flat west to east though both were very diffuse. A modest trough remained in the southern branch over the Southeast Pacific with 120 kt winds pushing slightly northeast there, not enough to support much in terms of surface level low pressure. Over the next 72 hours that same pattern is to hold with 120-130 kt winds trying to make progress into northern waters but again limited to areas east of 140W. Beyond 72 hours distinct ridging south of New Zealand to build over the Southwest Pacific shutting down surface level low pressure development potential there and migrating east, pushing over the Southeast Pacific by Tuesday (9/16) totally shutting down potential for gale development over the South Pacific.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1028 mbs was east of New Zealand ridging south to 60S suppressing gale development in that region. A new gale was building in the mid Pacific at 944 mbs generating a broad fetch of 40-45 kt southwest winds at 55S 142W aimed 25 degrees east of the 192 degree path to California and getting better traction on an already rough sea (see Southeast Pacific Gale below). By Tuesday evening (9/9) the fetch to be broad but fragmented with 40 kt southwest winds generally at 53S 127W aimed 30 degrees east of the 182 degree path to California with more energy building behind and south of it. 30 ft seas forecast at 55S 133W. On Wednesday AM (9/10) a new fetch of 40 kt west winds winds to build at 56S 140W aimed 60 degrees east of the 188 degree path to CA. Seas from the previous fetch to be 30 ft at 50S 122W. In the evening the new fetch to be at 40 kts at 52S 128W pushing to the east aimed well east of any path to CA. Barely 30 ft seas forecast at 50S 120W, then moving out of the CA swell window. Perhaps another path of 30 ft seas forecast Thursday AM at 50S 121W, then fading. If all this occurs as forecast there's some potential for small to moderate very southerly angled swell for both North and Central CA.
New Zealand Gale
A gale low began to sneak under New Zealand late Wednesday (8/27) at 976 mbs generating 40 kt westerly winds at 58S 160E.
It tracked northeast with 40-45 kts winds over an expanding area Thursday AM (8/28) at 55S 172E generating 30 ft seas at 55S 172E aimed well towards both Hawaii and CA but moving into the Tahitian swell shadow for CA (212 degrees). The Jason-1 satellite confirmed seas at 30-32 ft with a peak reading to 41 ft. Hmmm. It's continued Thursday PM with 45-50 kt winds at 53S 179W aimed northeast targeting Hawaii and California. 32 ft seas were modeled at 52S 178E hanging right on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadowed for NCal (212 degrees) and in it from SCal (216 degrees).
By Friday AM (8/29) 40 kts winds continued aimed even further to the north (aimed almost due north) at 44S 168W with 32 ft seas modeled at 46S 174W. In the evening a new fetch of 45-50 kts winds built at 47S 163W aimed north-northeast with 30 ft seas modeled at 44S 169W. All of CA was in the Tahitian swell shadow.
The fetch started fading Saturday AM (8/30) with 40-45 kt south winds at 47S 160W and 29 ft seas modeled at 43S 160W pushing north. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northern reaches of the fetch early Am and reported seas 26.7 ft with a peak reading of 35 ft. So the Wavewatch model likely is presenting a good idealized view of what is going on. In the evening the fetch tried to hang on but was loosing areal coverage with a small patch of winds confirmed at 40-45 kts at 42S 155W and barely 28 ft seas modeled at 42S 158W and shadowed from CA. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch and did one better though, reporting 33.2 ft seas at 45S 157W with a peak reading to 36 ft.
On Sunday (8/31) residual 35 kts winds were hanging on with 28 ft seas modeled at 38S 155W aimed dead for Tahiti. This system to die in the evening with seas falling below 27 ft.
This is not a particularly intense system, really just utility class by usual summertime standards, but holding on for a long time and following a directed path giving it's limited winds every ounce of traction they can get on the oceans surface. Given the limited amount of activity of late, this might actually be something to get a bit excited over, especially in Hawaii and Tahiti, but California to be basically shadowed by Tahiti for the whole thing. Still some degree of rideable southern hemi swell is expected to result. Fun but nothing more and likely a bit inconsistent with few number of waves per set for the mainland, though better for the Hawaiian Islands. Tahiti to get a good last shot at a modest tow swell (or large paddle swell) for select breaks.
California: Expect swell arrival Sunday (9/7) with swell pushing 2 ft @ 17 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft faces) from 210 degrees. Swell to build to 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs late Monday (3.5 ft faces) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs on Tuesday (3.0-3.5 ft faces).Secondary swell from the same fetch to arrive later Tuesday (9/9) peaking at 2.5 ft @ 15 secs on Wednesday (3.5 ft faces) fading from 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs on Thursday (3.5 ft faces) fading out from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs Friday (3 ft faces). Swell Direction 210 initially moving to 195+ degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale developed off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in the Southeast Pacific Sunday AM (9/7) with 40-45 kt southwest winds at 58S 136W. That gale pushed east with pressure dropping to 948 mbs Sunday evening and winds up to near 50 kts at 58S 120W aimed 45 degrees east of the 180-182 degree great circle paths to California. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 125W. Most fetch was aimed right at Chile. On Monday AM (9/8) winds were up to 55 kts at 60S 110W aimed like before and totally outside the CA swell window. 36 ft seas were modeled at 57S 113W, outside the CA swell window and targeting Southern Chile. The storm continued east in the evening with 50 kt winds at 59S 100W and fading fast, gone within 12 hrs. 35 ft seas were modeled at 55S 105W. This system was 5280 nmiles from SCal and holds only the slightest background swell generation potential for Southern CA starting Sunday PM (9/14). Most swell heading for Chile and South America.
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 the low over the dateline is to push east but be very weak with no swell producing fetch indicated initially. High pressure is to remain lodged in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska at 1024 mbs shutting down the storm corridor there but fading substantially late Monday (9/15) possibly opening up the Gulf next week. New Low pressure is to push east off Siberia into the Bering Sea Sunday tracking east with a tail dragging over exposed waters south of the Aleutian Islands possibly tapping subtropical moisture eastbound from Japan on Tuesday (9/16). But it's too early to know if anything to result from it. Still the setup looks promising. And supposedly much tropical energy to be pushing up the Kuril Island chain bound for the North Pacific behind.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (9/9) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was starting to give way to the Active phase, just barely, and if anything had re-trenched it's Inactive ways, not supportive of North Pacific storm formation yet. The Daily SOI index was stable, at 23.3. The 30 day average was up to 15.61 spiking heavily in the past few weeks and the 90 day average was up to 4.76, still neutral, but barely and up compared to weeks previous. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated east winds still firmly in-control over the entire Pacific reaching over the dateline and well into Central America. This was the most vigorous Inactive phase we've seen in a while. The peak of the Inactive Phase has passed but it's remnants are not giving up easily and if anything are intensifying over the past few days. The models suggest it's to slowly fade through 9/18 and completely gone by 9/23 while the Active Phase starts to build over Indonesia to New Guinea. Latest estimates suggest it's to be stronger than originally forecast, a good thing, though still not on par with it's polar opposite, the Inactive Phase currently in progress. It to offer minimal to moderate support for fueling the development of North Pacific storms. By 9/28 the Inactive phase is to be totally gone and the Active Phase is to be at it's peak, but that really doesn't mean much given it's relative weakness. 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 marked cool pocket now positioned 150 deep on the equator south of Hawaii, smack in the middle of the channel that normally enable warm water to flow to the east. This is not indicative of an El Nino like circulation, and if anything looks still like La Nina, thereby suggesting no enhancement to the winter North Pacific storm pattern. The relatively active tropics in the East Pacific also support the thesis that a La Nina-like global circulation pattern is in-play.
Beyond 72 hrs the models suggest high pressure east of New Zealand to drift east and a ridging pattern in the upper atmosphere to drive the storm track over the Ross Ice Shelf, totally shutting down the swell production machine. No swell producing weather systems are 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