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 Thursday (9/23) North and Central California was pretty much in the flat zone with waves thigh high and light winds with clear skies. Finally some sun. Southern California was getting thigh high background swell of indeterminate source up north and clean with some near waist high crumblers down south with moderate texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the next pulse of dateline swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean and looking nice for early season. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from the North Shore at chest high with lightly chopped conditions. The South Shore had nice clean Tasman Sea swell hitting at waist to chest high.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for swell from the dateline to build to maybe 4.5 ft later in the day Friday with more northerly Gulf swell arriving after dark to 7 ft. Saturday that north swell to be fading from 6 ft. Sunday that north swell is to continue fading from 5 ft on the face early and dropping from there. New possible swell from a gale scheduled for the Gulf is to arrive late night Sunday and be pretty sizeable on Monday, double overhead or more. Southern California is to see nothing rideable on Friday. Maybe some waist high north angled Gulf swell at select breaks on Saturday fading to thigh high Sunday AM. Limited southern hemi swell from the Tasman Sea to arrive Sunday at thigh high or so, pushing waist to maybe chest high at top break on Monday but very inconsistent. Better odds of seeing the Gulf swell at 1 ft overhead. The North Shore of Oahu is to see more dateline swell holding at 1 ft overhead on Friday then dropping from shoulder high early Saturday. New possible Gulf swell arrives overnight and is to be pushing 13 ft on Sunday AM then dropping from 8-9 ft faces on Monday. The East Shore is off the radar now that a Fall is setting up. The South Shore is to see swell from the Tasman Sea filtered by Fiji holding at nearly head high Friday then dropping from chest high on Saturday AM and waist high Sunday AM then thigh high Monday.
Up north a small early season gale formed on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians Sunday evening into Monday (9/20) with seas initially in the 28-30 ft range, then fading. Swell arrived as expected in HI on Thursday and is expected into NCal on Fri (9/24). Remnants of this system reorganized off Vancouver Island on Wed/Thurs (9/23) with seas to 26 ft, setting up swell for CA for Saturday, with yet a larger system forecast for the Central Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Sat (9/25). And yet more is expected behind that in the Central Gulf on Sunday with another behind that in the Northern Gulf mid-week. Fall is coming!
Down south a gale tracked into the Tasman Sea Thurs AM (9/16) with seas to 38 ft and slowly fading into Saturday AM with seas dropping below 30 ft, all focused very well on Fiji and Northern New Zealand, with limited energy expected to filter through Fiji reaching Hawaii on Thurs (9/23) with less for California maybe by Sun (9/26). But with the North Pacific expected to get active, we're tiring of writing about tiny surf.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (9/23) the North Pacific jetstream was ridging slightly northeast off Northern Japan and the Kuril Islands with winds 160 kts, then turning and dropping gently southeast into the Western Gulf of Alaska starting to form a nice trough with winds feeding into it still at 160 kts. This was providing good support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to continue to build peaking out Saturday night over the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska with 170 kt wind flowing down into it and providing more support for gale development, while a bit of a ridge sets up just over the immediate California coast providing protection there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to slowly pinch off into Monday with energy level falling across the width of the jet. But another surge is forecast on Wednesday with 160+ kt winds ridging over the dateline then falling southeast into the Gulf again forming a nice trough and providing more support for gale development there. That trough to pinch off on Thursday with things settling down, but the jet itself still tracking kinda flat over the 45 N latitude, which is a good latitude for the time of year.
At the surface on Thursday (9/23) a gale low (see Northeast Pacific Gale below) was moving out of the California swell window and dissipating while pushing into southern British Columbia. A far larger system was absorbing it's remnants and filling the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). Also Typhoon Malakas was 295 nmiles south of Japan tracking west-northwest with winds 65 kts. This is something to watch for the future. Over the next 72 hours all eyes are to be on the Gulf Gale (details below). Also another gale is forecast dropping southeast into the Western Gulf of Alaska Saturday AM (9/25) with winds to 45 kts at 45N 174W aimed well down the 335 degree path to Hawaii initially and 40 degrees south of the 297 degree path to NCal. By Saturday evening (9/25) 55 kt northwest winds forecast at 42N 162W aimed a bit east of Hawaii down the 350 degree track and the 293 degree track to NCal. 30 ft seas expected at 44N 161W. It is to track rapidly east on Sunday AM with up to 45 kt west winds forecast at 42N 151W taking aim exclusively on the US West Coast with seas to 36 ft at 43N 152W, then lifting northeast in the evening with 35 kt west winds fading at 44N 143W and 32 ft seas at 43N 143W focusing entirely on the California and Baja. It's to rapidly lift northeast and dissipate on Monday. If this occurs another nice pulse of 15 sec period north swell could push into Hawaii with northwest angled swell into California. Of course this is only modeled data with no winds actually blowing on the oceans surface yet.
Another Dateline Gale
On Sunday AM (9/19) a new gale built just south of the Aleutians and west of the dateline off Kamchatka at 976 mbs with west winds 40 kts at 50N 170E aimed well up the 308 degree path to Central CA and 30 degrees east of the 327 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 51N 172E. This held into the early evening with seas peaking out at 31 ft at 50N 176E, then faded some as winds dropped to 35 kts Monday AM (9/19) and seas faded from 30 ft at 50N 178W.
Some degree of small northwest swell is likely building into Hawaii on Thursday (9/23) pushing 4.5 ft @ 14 secs late (6.5 ft faces) holding at 4.8 ft @ 12-13 secs on Friday (6 ft faces) then heading down by Saturday. Swell Direction: 325-330 degrees
Central CA is to start seeing swell from this system Friday (9/24) pushing near 4 ft @ 15 secs mid-day (6 ft faces) and then fading into the early weekend. Swell Direction: 308 degrees
Northeast Pacific Gale
Remnants of the dateline gale reorganized about 800 nmiles west of Vancouver Island Wed AM (9/22) with pressure dropping to 992 mbs and winds to 40 kts over a tiny area at 49N 148W while tracking slowly east. This system held strength into the evening with 40 kts winds at 48N 142W and seas building 26 ft at 48N 142W and then fading from 25 ft at 48N 136W by Thurs AM. Both these readings were on about on the 312-316 degree track to NCal but focused better on the Pacific Northwest. Remnants of this gale are to push into Vancouver Island on Friday AM with decent sized 13-14 sec period raw swell pushing into the Pacific Northwest during the day Friday.
NCal: Expect some small push of 6 ft @ 13-14 sec period swell reaching into Northern CA by Friday near 11 PM and then be fading from 5-6 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft faces) early Saturday AM (9/25). Swell Direction: 315+ degrees
A new broad gale was developing over the Western Gulf on Thursday AM (9/23) with pressure 968 mbs and west winds to 40 kts building at 48N 180W with seas building from 23 ft. By evening up to 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 47N 162W on the 298 degree path to NCal and aimed 40 degrees east of the 353 degree path to Hawaii with 30 ft seas forecast at 47.5N 163W. Friday AM (9/24) 40 kt west-northwest winds are to drop to 45N 153W on the 297 degree path to NCal and pretty much east of the Hawaiian swell window with 34 ft seas at 45N 155W. Friday PM winds are to fade to 35 kts but making more southeastward progress at 42N 148W generating 31 ft seas at 44N 149W (295 degs NCal). A quick fade is forecast thereafter.
If all this comes to pass the first real legitimate utility class swell of the Fall season is forecast pushing into Hawaii on Sunday and Northern CA overnight Sunday into Monday AM. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (9/23) Typhoon Malakas was 295 nmiles south of Central Japan and tracking effectively north with sustained winds 65 kts and on the increase. A steady track to the north is forecast with more strengthening, eventually turning extratropical while turning northeast and east surviving almost in tact while tracking over the extreme northern dateline region into the Western Gulf of Alaska. See the long term forecast for details. It's still early to believe too much of this, but it remains something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/23) high pressure was all but gone other than a weak finger of it touching Pt Conception generating some north winds there at 15 kts, but calm elsewhere. Instead massive low pressure was building into the Gulf of Alaska with a front pushing into Southern Oregon. High pressure is to try and build up the CA coast some on Friday with 15 kt northwest winds over outer waters up to Pt Arena, then evaporating early Saturday, only to return in the late afternoon and holding if not building over outer waters on Sunday to 20 kts. Still nearshore looks to be pretty light 10 kts or less early. More of the same forecast Monday with the gradient finally getting establish over Cape Mendo on Tuesday (9/28) and holding there into Thursday, then slowly fading. Nearshore the picture is to be ok early. And Southern CA is to remain protected through the forecast period.
On Thursday (9/23) a broad weak gentle trough was under New Zealand with no wind energy associated with it feeding into a big ridge over the Southeast Pacific. No support for gale development was evidenced. Over the next 72 hours the trough in the west is to slowly moderate even more with the ridge in the east fading. A flat weak flow is expected generally over the 55S latitude offering nothing to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours there suggestion of a trough building under New Zealand on Wed/Thurs (9/30) with 120 kt winds flowing up into it offering some hope.
At the oceans surface on Thursday AM (9/23) a gale low was trying to develop under New Zealand with 55 kt west winds forecast over a small area on Friday at 55S 175E aimed mostly east of any great circle track to Hawaii or the US West coast. Still 40-43 ft seas are forecast in this area (53S 180W) Friday PM into Sat AM (9/25). Possible background swell for Hawaii and CA at select south facing breaks not inundated with stronger northerly swell if all develops as forecast. Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing fetch is forecast.
Tasman Sea Gale
At the oceans surface on Thursday (9/16) a broad gale built in the Tasman Sea. This system started forming south-southwest of Tasmania on Wed (9/15) with 45 kt south to southwest winds pushing mostly into Tasmania, with maybe a little reaching clear of it's south end and tracking up into the extreme southern Tasman Sea. On Thursday 40 kt southwest fetch was finally pushing free and clear of Tasmania reaching to 39S 152E early and up to 36S 165E late resulting in 37 ft seas at 39S 159E (Thurs PM). Then on Friday additional 40 kt southwest fetch built into the Central Tasman Sea near 40S 160W resulting in 33 ft seas at 40S 170E in the evening. This system faded fast on Saturday AM. Northern New Zealand is to receive the brunt of this swell though an almost equal amount of swell energy is to push up into Fiji starting on Sunday AM (9/19 GMT).
Filtered swell is expected to continue hit Hawaii at 3 ft @ 16 secs (head high) early Friday (9/24) then slowly settle down. But still swell of 2 ft @ 14 secs (waist high sets) is expected on Sunday (9/26). Swell Direction: 215 degrees.
Dribbles are forecast pushing into Southern CA on Sunday (9/26) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft faces) reaching 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) on Monday. Swell Direction: 231-235 degrees.
Another New Zealand Gale
A new storm wrapped up south of the Tasman Sea Sunday evening with 45-50 kt south winds at 56S 155E aimed directly at New Zealand. This fetch lifted northeast and starting to impact the southern tip of New Zealand Monday AM (9/20) with the core still at near 50 kts at 53S 160E (southwest of New Zealand). By evening the fetch was still at 45 kts located at 54S 168E moving into the 220 deg swell window for California. 32 ft seas were modeled at 50S 170E, perhaps pushing energy towards CA. Tuesday AM (9/21) a tiny fetch of 45 kt south winds persisted at 52S 170E resulting in near 32 ft seas at 50S 172E over a moderate area and pushing up the 216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and the 200 degree path towards Hawaii. The fetch is to be gone by evening with sea to 34 ft from previous fetch at 50S 179E. It seems reasonably to assume that a decent little pulse of southern hemi swell will radiate towards Hawaii and California, with the Islands getting the better shot of the energy just due to being closer minimizing swell decay. But with swell from the North Pacific becoming more of a reality, this swell becomes less interesting.
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii starting Tues (9/28) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction 198 degrees.
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 extratropical remnants of Typhoon Malakas are to track north
northeast off the coast of Japan on Saturday with winds at 55-60 kts at
40N 150E aimed well pushing up the 302 degree path to NCal and seas to
50 ft, then up to Kamchatka on Sunday (9/26) with winds 45-50 kts just south of the Aleutians Islands at 47N 160E (305 deg NCal) and seas fading from 46 ft, then tracking over the dateline on Monday (9/27) with west winds fading from 45 kts (on the 307 degree path to NCal) and seas 36 ft, then pushing into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska Tuesday (9/28) with winds fading from 40 kts at 50N 165W (307 NCal) and seas 30 ft. Possible small but long period swell pushing the entire way across the North Pacific to California from a rather north angle if this comes to pass. Most of this fetch is to be aimed well north of the great circle paths into Hawaii, but some swell could result just the same there too.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (9/23) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 29.00 and has been that way in excess of 66 days now. The 30 day average was up to 23.93 with the 90 day average up to 19.63. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to still be in control.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (9/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated an almost neutral (normal) wind pattern in control with only weak west anomalies pushing into Central America and weak east anomalies over the Philippines and expected to fade by early next week (9/27). After that a dead neutral pattern is expected to take hold through 10/12.
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 (9/13) indicates that downright colder than normal waters continue to expand 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 nothing of interest is indicated. It's time to be looking to the north and west.
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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Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
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Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table