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 Saturday (9/11) North and Central California was still getting small locally generated short period north windswell at waist to barely chest high and clean though still warbled and encased in fog. Southern California was hazy early and clean with northerly windswell waves maybe up to knee high up north and southern hemi swell pushing waist high at better breaks on those rare sets and clean too. 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 was thigh to maybe waist high on the sets and clean with minimal energy coming from the southern hemi.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small north windswell continuing on Sunday fading from 2 ft (faces) with minimal south angled southern hemi swell at 2.5 ft from 175 degrees at select breaks. Monday windswell to hold at 2.5 ft and doing about the same on Tuesday at 2 ft before fading on Wednesday (9/15) from barely 2 ft but with southern hemi background swell at 2.5 ft from the southwest and very weak. Thursday small southern hemi swell starts building late. Southern California is to see small southern hemi swell pushing near chest high on Sunday with luck from a very south direction, then dissipating by Monday from waist high with luck. Nothing forecast Tuesday or Wednesday, then southern hemi swell starts Thursday. 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 reaching thigh high on Sunday (9/12), then dropping from knee to thigh high early Monday and gone by Tuesday. Maybe some knee high windswell on Wednesday and a few inches more on Thursday. The South Shore is to see fading background southern hemi swell dropping from knee high Sunday. Nothing Monday but then swell from New Zealand is to start arriving Tuesday (9/14) hitting chest high and holding if not up a few inches on Wednesday pushing shoulder high early Thursday.
Up north the models continue suggesting a more active pattern coming with remnants of a tropical system moving into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska on Wednesday/Thursday (9/16) but winds only in the 25 kt range and seas 10-12 ft, meaning weak windswell to be the result assuming it even develops. At the same time a stronger system of tropical origin is forecast to set up on the dateline with 23 ft seas. This is still pretty far off time wise but provides a nice tease if nothing else. Weak locally generated north windswell in CA is to be fading out with the approach of low pressure during the week, though bare minimal tradewind generated east windswell should continue in HI. Down south a decent gale pushed east from under New Zealand with 36 ft seas Mon-Tues (9/7) then tried to reorganize while making a turn to the north, resulting in 30-32 ft seas aimed well to the north and unshadowed by Tahiti. Modest longer period swell from the early part of the gale is heading north with more size expected behind as the gale tracked north. But nothing else is on the charts for the greater South Pacific, through a strong system is forecast to track up in the Tasman Sea Wed-Fri (9/17) pushing solid swell towards Fiji and maybe some filtered energy eventually into Hawaii. But that's still a ways off.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (9/11) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing off the southern Kuril Islands at 100-110 kts feeding a small trough there, then lifting hard north before reaching the dateline and ridging north of even the Bering Sea. A weak secondary flow (less than 80 kts) was flowing over the Northern Gulf of Alaska. Only the trough in the west held any hope for supporting low pressure development at the oceans surface, and minimal at that. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the West Pacific is to build while pushing east courtesy of receiving and infusion of limited reinforcing energy, with winds still only 110 kts but pushing east to almost the dateline late Monday (9/13) providing a little better support for low pressure development there. But a strange ridge is to be pushing the jet well to the north over interior Alaska, then dropping hard south forming a backdoor trough off British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest Sun-Mon (9/13) perhaps offering a little support for weak low pressure development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours the backdoor trough is to hold off the Pacific Northwest continuing support for some weak low pressure development there into Friday (9/17) while another trough pushes off the Kuril Islands tracking fast to the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands on Thurs (9/16) with 110 kt winds. Perhaps another low pressure systems could be supported by it. And yet another trough looks possible pushing off the Kuril's by the weekend. In all nothing great is forecast, but the Fall transition appears to be occurring.
At the surface on Saturday (9/11) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was weakly holding control of the East Pacific while a weak low pressure system (no closed isobars) was tracking northeast off Northern Japan bounds for the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands. There were 30 kt southwest winds in it's south quadrant all pretty much aimed towards the Aleutians. Weak 15 kt north winds were blowing over Cape Mendocino CA and up to near 20 kts east trades pushing just south of Hawaii offering only bare minimal support for local windswell at those locations. Over the next 72 hours the low heading for the dateline is to race north east and be in the Bering Sea late Sunday (9/12) while high pressure in the east continues to deteriorate. By Tuesday (9/14) fragments of the low are to start reorganizing in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska producing 25 kt north to northeast winds aimed more at Hawaii than the US West Coast while a new gale starts wrapping up off the Southern Kuril Islands with 30-35 kt winds in all but it's north quadrant and aimed reasonably towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, but lifting northeast fast and a long ways away from both.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical activity of interest is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (9/11) weak high pressure at 1022 mbs was 600 nmiles west of San Francisco and only weakly pushing into North CA resulting in minimal 15 kt north winds pushing down the coast there and next to no windswell production occurring. Foggy, glassy and minimal surf was occurring. More of the same is forecast on into Tuesday (9/14) with no real winds affecting nearshore waters. Wednesday even the minimal north winds off Cape Mendocino are to die with low pressure at 1004 mbs poised just offshore (700 nmiles west of Oregon with 20-25 kt northwest winds aimed at Central CA). Light winds in control nearshore. Then by Thursday (9/16) the low is fade and high pressure is to surge east setting up 15-20 northwest winds pushing down the nearshore coast into Friday, then fading Saturday (9/18) as the remnant low pressure system still lingering off the coast starts pushing east.
On Saturday (9/11) the jetstream had a big ridge pushing hard south over the West reaching well into interior Antarctica and eliminating any odds for gale development under it. The remnants of a trough that tracked over the width of the South Pacific earlier in the week was fading in the far Southeast Pacific with no winds energy of interest feeding into it. In short, there was no real support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours Stronger winds in the southern branch of the jet are to continue sweeping east at 60S or further south, pretty much eliminating any gale development over the greater South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours a new trough is forecast building under Australia on Wed (9/15) tracking east under New Zealand by Thursday (9/16) with 150 kts winds pushing hard north up into it all the while likely setting up some degree of solid storm development potential pushing up into the Tasman Sea. This is something to watch if you live in Fiji or New Zealand. There's even suggestions remnants of this trough might hold intact into the far West Pacific on Sat (9/18) with a consolidated jetstream flow forecast. Interesting.
At the oceans surface on Saturday (9/11) high pressure at 1036 mbs was locked down east of New Zealand reaching south to almost mainland Antarctica while a remnant low pressure was fading in the far East Pacific with no swell producing winds left (30 kts or less). Over the next 72 hrs the high pressure system is to dominate the weather scene only serving to generated northwest winds all aimed towards Antarctica and offering no swell production aimed towards US interests.
South Pacific Gale
A strong gale started to wrap up under New Zealand on Monday AM with 45-50 kt west to almost southwest winds building, pushing to 50 kts solid in the evening at 60S 175E and aimed more to the northeast or 20 degrees east of the 209 degree path into North CA and barely shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Islands chain. Seas reached 34 ft at 59S 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 58S 175W now heading right up the 209-210 degree route to CA and 35 degrees east of the 188 degree path towards Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern quadrant of this system at 18Z and reported a 15 reading average sea height of 32.1 ft with a one reading max on 37.4 ft where the model suggested 33 ft seas. It appears the model was right on track. Also having the fetch track right up the same great circle paths to CA might help improve set consistency. In the evening the fetch backed off some though still covering a reasonably 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. 32 ft seas persisted at 56S 165W (202 degs CA).
By Wednesday AM (9/8) the fetch fragmented and decayed with a smaller areas of 40-45 kts southwest winds trying to hang on at 50S 154W and seas from the original fetch at 30 ft at 51S 155W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the center of the fetch at 18Z and reported average seas of 29.3 ft with one peak reading at 36.7 ft, about exactly in line with what the model projected. In the evening a new broad fetch of 40-45 kt south-southwest winds developed at 56S 170W getting traction on an already agitated ocean surface, producing more 31 ft seas back at 55S 170W with seas from the original fetch at 30 ft at 50S 149W (196 degs CA - 187 degs HI).
This fetch held at 40-45 kts and aimed pure north from 49S 154W on Thursday AM with seas to 32 ft at 49S 158W. The models suggested a tiny area of up to 40 kt south winds 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. 32 ft seas were modeled at 45S 152W.
On Friday AM (9/10) a big strong push north was forecast initially by the models with 40-45 kt south winds pushing well to the north at 42S 142W aimed right up the 196 degree great circle path to California and even with sideband energy aimed up the 169 degree path to Hawaii. Unfortunately that was a bit overblown, with only 30 ft seas resulting at 41S 146W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA. A quick fade occurred in the evening with winds dropping from 40 kts at 40S 140W but still aimed due north. Momentum from previous fetch held seas at 29 ft at 37S 140W. This extreme north position should greatly decrease swell decay.
A quick fade occurred thereafter.
In all this remains a reasonably positive scenario, with solid fetch and seas early in the storm life but a long ways away and aimed a bit east of the great circle tracks up to either Hawaii or California. The later half of this gales life did not develop anywhere near as strong as originally projected, but it did reach well to the north providing decent opportunities for our forecast area, but nothing over the top. Still, considering the complete lack of swell and fetch in the Southern Hemi, anything is a step in the right direction.
Hawaii: Expect the initial push of swell from when this system was under New Zealand to arrive starting on Tuesday (9/14) after sunrise with period 18 secs and size building steadily through the day, reaching 2 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.5 ft faces with sets to 4.0-4.5 ft). That swell to be holding in the 2 ft @ 15-16 secs range (3 ft faces) on Wednesday AM (9/15) as new swell from the second northward push of the storm arrives, building to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs near sunset (4 ft faces with set to 5 ft) then continuing at 2.3-2.5 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces with 5 ft sets) on Thursday AM (9/16) and slowly fading a period drops to 15 secs. !4 sec residuals expected on Friday and fading out. Swell Direction: 188 degrees initially turning to 1790-180 for the second half of the swell.
Southern California: Expect swell from the initial push of this storm arriving late Wednesday evening with period 20 secs. By Thursday AM (9/16) swell is to have a period of 19 secs and size tiny but building through the day, pushing to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft). Swell building some over night pushing to 3 ft @ 17 secs Friday AM (9/17) and holding (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) through the day through inconsistent. Swell from the second more northward push of the gale to start arriving late Friday midday with period at 17 secs and size building overnight, pushing 3.0 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell from the initial push to still be arriving to. Swell holding through late afternoon, then starting to fade with swell 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces with sets to near 5 ft) on Sunday (9/19). Swell Direction: Initial push from 202-210 degrees turning more towards 199-203 degrees for the second push.
North California: Expect swell from the initial push of this storm arriving Thursday AM (9/16) with period 19 secs and size tiny but building through the day, pushing to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft). Swell building some over night pushing to 3 ft @ 17 secs Friday AM (9/17) and holding (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) through the day through inconsistent. Swell from the second more northward push of the gale to start arriving late Friday night with period at 17 secs and size building, pushing 3.0 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Saturday AM (9/18) and a bit more consistency. Swell holding through late afternoon, then starting to fade with swell 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces with sets to near 5 ft) on Sunday (9/19). Swell Direction: Initial push from 200-208 degrees turning more towards 198-202 degrees for the second push.
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 gale over the dateline is to peak out on Wednesday (9/15) with 35 kt west winds in it's south quadrant positioned just shy of the Aleutians at 50N 175E and not moving any further to the north, producing 23 ft seas over a small area there (306 deg path to NCal). This system is to hold there and dissipate into early Friday, maybe easing east a little with seas dropping to 20 ft mid-Friday at 48N 172W 2200 nmiles away from NCal and 1800 nmiles from Hawaii (342 degs). If this were to occur perhaps some small 13-14 sec period swell might result, but odds are low at this early date. Also the low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska is to hold it's ground and strength into Thursday (9/16) producing 10-12 ft seas at 43N 142W possibly setting up some small 8 sec period windswell for CA and Oregon, but not much different than what is currently occurring. If this happens, at least it would be a start.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (9/11) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 17.35 and has been that way in excess of 54 days now. The 30 day average was holding at 22.77 with the 90 day average up to 16.43. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to still be in control.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (9/10) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was still in control with modest to light east anomalies covering the entire width of the tropical Pacific and pushing into Central America. A weak incarnation of the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to build over the Indian Ocean. This pattern was to continue with easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase tracking over the Eastern Pacific and pushing into Central America through 9/20 then slowly dissipating into 9/25 while a weak version of the Active Phase and it's much needed westerly anomalies are forecast to try and push into the West Pacific on 9/15, making it halfway to the dateline by the 20th then stalling there and dissipating into 9/30. This is a little better than the previous forecast and might help to build a weak Fall weather pattern over the North Pacific. Also the movement of the INactive Phase into the Atlantic might help to fuel hurricane development there through the end of Sept.
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 east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/9) 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 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 what is already an impressive 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 -6 degs below normal (getting colder). Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. And now from a historical perspective these easterly winds were anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this is a rather recent development, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. The interesting twist to all this is that the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. But trades never waiver from the normal range. 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 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 early Fall 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A transition to 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 a large high pressure system at 1032 mbs is to utterly dominate the South Pacific centered smack over the mid-South Pacific at 35S 140W driving any eastbound weather system to the south tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf and driving and fetch produced by these system to the south as well, targeting only Antarctica. In short - no swell production forecast. That said, a very solid storm remains forecast tracking under Australia pushing up towards and over New Zealand Tues-Thurs (9/16) with 45-50 kt south to southwest winds and 42-25 ft seas pushing up into the Tasman Sea Wed-Thurs with residual 36-38 ft seas into early Friday (9/17). This continues to look like a great Fiji set up, with perhaps some very filtered energy reaching up into Hawaii with luck. Still, nothing has formed just yet and it it's a long ways off.
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