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 (9/28) North and Central California was getting leftover mixed swell from the Gulf and local windswell at head high to 1 ft overhead and clean but a bit foggy early. Southern California was getting chest high sets coming from the Gulf of Alaska up north and clean and clear early. Down south waves were chest high or so from the Gulf too but a little ruffled with modest texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting beautiful clean 10 ft faces coming from the Gulf of Alaska and just peeling at select breaks. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from the North Shore at 2 ft overhead plus with lightly chopped conditions. The South Shore had occasional head high southern hemi swell sets hitting with good form and clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for Gulf Swell #1 to continue at 13 ft on Wednesday AM then heading down from there. Swell down to 7-8 ft faces on Thursday AM. Then theoretically new swell from the northern dateline arrives on Friday building to maybe 10 ft from a more northerly direction then fading from 8 ft faces on Sat AM, and dropping from there. Southern California is to see new Swell #1 from the Gulf arriving overnight Tuesday pushing head high or so Wed AM then fading from chest high Thursday AM and waist high Friday. New swell from the northern dateline region possible late too at exposed breaks to near chest high late and holding into Saturday AM, then heading down on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see Gulf swell fading from 8 ft Wed AM and 6 ft faces on Thursday AM. New north dateline swell to reach 1 ft overhead on Friday and maybe 3 ft overhead on Saturday then fading from 1-2 ft overhead Sunday. The East Shore is off the radar now that Fall is here. The South Shore is to see more Tasman Sea swell at chest to head high on Wednesday holding into Thursday fading from waist high Friday. New Zealand swell to push in for Saturday at near waist high and fading from waist high early Sunday.
Storm #1 (really a gale) developed in the Central Gulf on Sunday with 32 ft seas pushing initially towards Hawaii then targeting the US West Coast (swell arrival late Tuesday 9/28). A extratropical system pushed north off Japan with seas at near 50 ft late Saturday (9/25) then turned east just shy of the Aleutians Sunday with 45 ft seas then tracked over the northern dateline Monday with seas down to 38 ft. It is expected to slowly fade in the Northwestern Gulf Tuesday with seas at 32 ft and out by Wed AM with seas 30 ft. Fall is here!
Down south reinforcing energy from more small gales that tracked under New Zealand is already in the water with sideband energy pushing towards Hawaii, but will likely be masked by north swell in California.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/28) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing modestly with 120 kt winds falling into a broad trough over the dateline then ridging slightly over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska pushing into Central Canada. This was providing some support for gale development there in the trough. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to deepen with winds feeding it building to 170 kts on Wednesday offering good odds to support gale development, but quickly pinching off on Thursday then easing east into the Northeastern Gulf on Friday. Still another batch of 130 kts wind are to be pushing into that residual trough, helping to redefine it and offering yet more support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue solid running over the North Pacific at 45N in one consolidated stream with pockets of 130 kt winds pushing into a semi permanent trough on the dateline extending into the Central Gulf offering some continued support for low pressure if not gale development there into Tues of next week (10/5).
At the surface on Tuesday (9/28) the extratropical remnants of what was Typhoon Malakas was centered in the eastern Bering Sea with 35 kt west winds south of the Aleutians and just east of the dateline at 50N 170W producing 32 ft seas at 50N 170W. Also swell from Storm #1 continued hitting Hawaii (and looking very good) and was moving towards Central CA. Over the next 72 hours the remnants of Malakas are to track into the Western Gulf and dissipate (see Extratropical Storm Malakas below). residual fetch from Malaksas is to continue circulating int he Central Gulf and diving a bit southeast curtosey of a trough in the jetstream there producing varying degrees of 30 kt northwest fetch and 20 ft seas at near 43N 155W and holding from Thursday Am to Friday AM (10/1). This to result in continued 12-13 sec period utility class energy radiating mainly towards the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA for Sun-Mon (10/4).
A gale developed in the far Western Gulf of Alaska Saturday AM (9/25) with winds to 45 kts at 46N 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 were modeled at 43N 162W aimed a bit east of Hawaii down the 352 degree track and the 294 degree track to NCal. 29 ft seas were modeled at 44N 163W but the Jason-1 satellite reported seas of 30.8 ft with one peak reading to 35.4 ft. This was way better than expected. It tracked rapidly east on Sunday AM with up to 45 kt west winds at 42N 152W taking aim exclusively on the US West Coast with seas modeled to 32 ft at 42N 154W but the Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the very eastern fringe and reported seas of 20.2 ft with a peak reading of 28.9 ft where the model only suggested 17-18 ft seas. Very good. Sunday evening the system lifted northeast with residual 35 kt west winds fading at 44N 145W and 32 ft seas at 43N 147W focusing entirely on the California and Baja. It's rapidly lifted northeast and dissipated on Monday.
This system was not particularly large but it was relatively close to Hawaii initially with good fetch aimed at the Islands, then swung rapidly east with all fetch aimed directly at the US West Coast.
This should result in a nice pulse of 15-16 sec period north swell could push into Hawaii late Monday afternoon pushing near 7 ft @ 15 secs likely after sunset (11 ft Hawaiian) and continuing on Tuesday at 9 ft @ 13 secs (12 ft Hawaiian) then fading from 7 ft @ 11 secs (8 ft) on Wednesday (9/29). Swell pretty north at 345-350 degrees)
Central California is to see this swell starting at sunset Tuesday (9/28) peaking just after sunset at 12 ft @ 16 secs (19-20 ft). Swell fading over night falling to 9 ft @ 14 secs early Wednesday (12-13 ft) and then dropping from there to 6.5 ft @ 12 secs (8 ft ) Thursday AM. Swell Direction: 293-296 degrees
Extratropical Storm Malakas
The extratropical remnants of Typhoon Malakas tracked north-northeast off the coast of Japan on Saturday with winds at 75 kts at 40N 150E aimed well pushing up the 302 degree path to NCal and seas to 46 ft, then up to Kamchatka on Sunday (9/26) with winds 55 kts just south of the Aleutians Islands at 47N 160E (305 deg NCal) and seas fading from 48 ft. This system tracked over the dateline and just barely clear of the Aleutians (partially obscured) on Monday AM (9/27) with west winds fading from 40-45 kts at 50N 173E (on the 307 degree path to NCal) and seas 45 ft early at 50N 174E, then pushed over the dateline in the evening with 40 kts west wind at 50N 170W with a tiny area of 38 ft seas free and clear of obstruction at 50N 178W. The gale was tracking into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska Tuesday AM (9/28) with winds fading from 35 kts at 50N 165W (307 NCal) and seas 32 ft at 50N 170W. 32 ft seas to hold into Tuesday evening at 48N 165W, then the gale is to really decay with maybe 30 ft seas left Wednesday AM (9/29) at 50N 160W.
Possible small but long period swell could push the entire way across the North Pacific to California starting Friday AM from a rather north angle (302-207) 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. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/28) high pressure was trying to hold it ground with a mini ridge pushing into Oregon setting up a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds at 15 kts well off the Central CA coast. A light flow was occurring nearshore everywhere bit extreme Northern CA. This gradient is to hold if not build some but also lift north too, with Central CA southward basically remaining in a light wind regime (less than 15 kts) through Thursday, then winds are to fade. . The models suggest a new weak gradient to develop over Cape Mendocino on Friday (10/1), but only at 15 kts and likely almost pulled away from Central CA and points south of there through the weekend meaning mostly wind free conditions. But local lump and warble is likely. Monday (10/4) a new gradient is to build in, this one strong and causing much local chop over all of North and Central CA. Southern CA should remain calm though. the good news it is to lift north fast on Tuesday with most of Central CA back in a calm if not eddy flow.
On Tuesday (9/28) no troughs of interest were occurring and none forecast for the next 72 hours. If anything a ridging pattern is expected pushing south and offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours a generally flat weak flow is expected over the 55S latitude offering nothing to support gale development.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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.
Swell to push into select Southern CA breaks on Fri (10/1) at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft faces) and continue into the weekend 910/3) at 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft faces) . Swell Direction: 220 degrees
One More New Zealand Gale
A gale low developed under New Zealand with up to 55 kt west winds over a small area on Friday AM (9/24) at 55S 175E aimed mostly east of any great circle track to Hawaii or the US West coast and continued east in the evening at 55S 177E. It was fading into Saturday AM. 35 ft seas were indicated Fri AM At 55S 170E pushing 42 ft in the evening at 55S 180W and again at 42 ft Saturday AM at 55S 172W. The issue was that though seas were large, all energy was aimed due east and not pushing up into the Hawaiian or CA swell windows.
Possible background swell for Hawaii 6 days out (Friday 10/1) with swell building to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (3 ft faces) then holding at 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft) on Saturday (10/2). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) on Sunday (10/3). Swell Direction 200 degrees.
Limited swell for Southern CA at select south facing breaks not inundated with stronger northerly swell is possible starting Monday (10/4) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft faces) continuing at 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces) on Tuesday (10/5). Swell Direction: 214 degrees.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 a series of poorly organized weather system are to try and get a
foothold in the Northeastern Gulf of Alsaka, but none is to last long
enough nor produce enough fetch to generate swell of interest. Finally
on Monday (10/4) a small gale is forecast wrapping up 1200 nmiles die
north of Hawaii with all fetch aimed due east towards the Pacific
Northwest. Winds to build to the 45-50 kts range over a small area Tuesday (10/5) while the gale lifts northeast towards British Columbia. Seas to maybe push 30 ft late in the day, but that is just an early guesss. The short of it is the gale pattern of late is to back off, with just limited remnants left in the Northeast Gulf.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): We're working to update the official El Nino forecast and it will be posted soon.
As of Tuesday (9/28) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 19.37 and has been that way in excess of 71 days now. The 30 day average was up to 24.92 with the 90 day average up to 20.28. It can;t get much higher. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is still in control.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (9/27) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a totally neutral (normal) wind pattern in control. A completely dead neutral pattern is expected to hold through 10/17.
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.
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 -7 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 slightly 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table