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 Thursday AM (10/7) North/Central California was getting piles of locally generated northwest windswell and chop. Southern California was starting to get a portion of this windswell too up north, but wind was a factor. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and glassy with no swell. The South Shore had a few stray thigh high peaks coming through, but really there was no swell. Knee high east windswell was lapping into the East Shore.
For Central California local northwest windswell to be the name of the game for the next few days thanks to a continuation of the pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino generating 30-35 kt north winds and overhead windswell. Southern CA to see a bit more of this windswell too through Saturday. But no southern hemi swell is in sight. But very south angled swell from Hurricane Norbert looks likely starting later today and continuing on through the weekend. The North Shore of Hawaii to stay quiet until late Sunday when north swell from the dateline theoretically starts to arrive peaking on Monday and Tuesday and providing well rideable surf. The South Shore of Hawaii is effectively over for the season. The East Shore to continue calm for a few more days, then on Sunday trades to kick up and east windswell to be on the menu on through all of next week. The topic of most interest remains a gale forecast to build over the dateline Fri/Sat generating 40 kts winds and 27-30 ft seas aimed towards both Hawaii and California from a more northerly direction for both. This still is just a 'projected' weather system though fetch is starting to build and get traction down at the oceans surface as of this morning. Nothing else of real interest is on the charts behind it. If you want to know what the projection is for the winter, take a look at the El Nino forecast. More details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/9) the North Pacific jetstream was in a increased amplitude pattern centered generally on the 45N latitude with a nice trough building on the dateline with 150 kt winds running under it, then arching north into a big ridge over the Gulf of Alaska (though with only 100 kts winds), then dipping back south again with a trough pushing into Oregon. The trough in the gulf had the most promise for supporting surface level gale development. Certainly looks like Fall. Over the next 72 hours the high amplitude pattern to get even more excited the trough pushing east though most winds energy to be tracking up it's eastern flank not doing much for support surface level low pressure development with fetch aimed towards the US West Coast, feeding into what is to become a huge ridge in the eastern Gulf of Alaska Friday continuing to support high pressure development just off the US West Coast. The trough to continue east and slowly weaken while the ridge tries to hold on in the east, but gets displaced well up into o Northern Canada, with a return flow looping back over California Saturday in the form of a backdoor trough theoretically reaching almost down to the Southern CA coast. Expect changes in the weather there on up into Central CA. The dateline trough is to make it to the Gulf and hold there into Sunday (10/12) before dissipating. Next week more energy is forecast building on the dateline by Monday with winds to 170 kts, tracking slowly east and fading some, but possibly setting up a bit of a trough in the Gulf of Alaska late week providing some support for surface level low pressure development there. But overall a return to a flat less energetic flow is forecast moving into next weekend (10/17).
At the surface today high pressure at 1036 mbs was centered off Oregon draping down the California coast and pushing into the Pacific Northwest while lower pressure was trying to set up inland over Nevada, forming a solid pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino down into Central CA and generating 30-35 kt north winds there and producing raw local windswell. Seas were reported up to as high as 18 ft from several Central CA nearshore buoys this morning, with period in the 10-11 sec range. Of course these buoys were in the core of the fetch, and seas heights were not representative of surf heights nearshore. Of more interest is the development of a gale that has been on the charts for days now over the dateline. See Dateline Gale below for details. Trades were light over the Hawaiian Islands offering no windswell potential Eastern Shores, but fetch from the California high pressure system was building west towards the Islands at 15 kts, offering some hope for the near future. Over the next 72 hours the Dateline Gale to be the main focus of swell potential for the future. But gale force gradient north winds to continue off Central California Friday at 35 kts and 30+ kts early Saturday before withering away later in the day. This to result in steady and somewhat sizeable windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA with some degree of energy working it's way into South CA as well. Some limited degree of this fetch to wrap around the south side of the high pressure taking aim on Hawaii's East Shore too, with windswell the likely result. See QuikCASTs for details.
A semi-tropical low pressure that was off Japan tracked north and joined forces with a cold core low pushing through the Bering Sea on Wednesday (10/8), generating a small fetch of 30-35 northwest winds over the dateline and barely south of the Aleutians generating 20 ft seas late at 49N 172E. On Thursday AM (10/9) pressure dropped to 976 mbs with the core of the gale in the Bering Sea but with a broad fetch of 30-35 kt west winds straddling the dateline at 47N 180W generating 23 ft seas at 47N 175E. The fetch to build some in the evening at 40 kts over a solid area near 46N 175W aimed a bit more south than before generating seas to 27 ft at 46N 178W aimed down the 300 degree path to NCal and the 331 degree path to HI. Friday AM increased winds of 40-45 kts blowing from the northwest are to continue tracking east at 46N 170W with barely 30 ft seas forecast at 45N 172W aimed 30 degrees east of the 342 degree path to HI and almost right down the 297 degree path to NCal (301 SCal). By evening this system to be fading fast with only 30-35 kt winds remaining and 29 ft seas from previous fetch at 45N 165W aimed exclusively towards NCal down the 297 degree path (301 SCal). This system to dissipate thereafter.
If all goes as planned some form of moderate period swell (15-17 secs) in the intermediate class size range could push into Hawaii late Sunday (at 6.6 ft @ 15-16 secs - 10-11 ft faces) and into exposed breaks in Central California early the following week (peak swell maybe 6 ft @ 16 secs well before sunrise Tues - 9 ft faces). Still, it's way too early to know anything for sure.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/9) high pressure at 1036 mbs was centered 600 nmiles off Oregon ridging into the coast there generating 35 kt north winds expected to hold into Friday centered generally off San Francisco but covering pretty much all the Central CA outer waters. 18 ft seas were being observed. Full chop was in effect over all of Central CA extending south over the Channel Islands, but not reaching the SCal coast. More of the same is forecast Friday then fading some saturday, but chop still to be in effect. Finally Sunday the high is to shift it's axis more offshore, with winds responding in kind, and local nearshore conditions improving everywhere except up towards Cape mendocino, where north winds to still prevail. Light offshores forecast Monday in to early Tuesday (10/14), but more high pressure and north winds are to be building over Cape Mendocino Tues-Thurs (10/16) in the 25 kt range, likely generating more local windswell and mixed conditions. Water temps to be plummeting as a result of all this north wind.
On Tuesday (10/7) Hurricane Norbert was located 500 nmiles south-southeast of Cabo san Lucas with with sustained winds of 70 kts tracking northwest at 7 kts. Seas were to 21 ft. Norbert was barely in the 152 degree swell window for Pt Dume northward to Pt Conception and 1200 nmiles out. Some degree of southerly swell up to 3 ft @ 11-13 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) is likely to be generated pushing into exposed breaks in Southern CA starting late Thursday (10/9).
As of Thursday (10/9) Norbert was positioned at midway between the islands of Clarion and Socorro south of Baja or 900 nmiles south-southwest of San Diego with sustained winds up to 100 kts and seas to 26 ft. tracking northwest, pushing swell into the Scal swell window. Swell of up to 4 ft @ 13-14 secs (5 ft faces) is possible tracking up the 160 degree great circle path to Pt Dume/158 San Diego arriving by mid-Saturday.
Norbert to continue northwest through Friday AM with 100 kt winds likely pushing swell into SCal at least through Sunday, then turning northeast, moving out of the swell window while fading and accelerating, bound for impact over Southern Baja mid Saturday with winds still 75 kts.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was present aimed at US targets. Over the next 72 hours the models are rumoring of a fetch pushing under New Zealand Saturday (10/10) with 32-35 ft seas aimed northeast, possibly setting up some swell for Hawaii and maybe the US West Coast. Will monitor. We have started focusing on the North Pacific exclusively and will update South Pacific activities on an exception basis.
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 another strong 1036 mb high pressure system is to track over the dateline Saturday (10/11) starting to generate 25 kt north winds off it's southeastern quadrant aimed at the Hawaiian Islands into Sunday. And by Monday low pressure to join the frey from the south creating a bit of a gradient with 30-35 kt north winds forecast at 33N 155W likely generating 19 ft seas 600 nmiles north of the Islands with large raw windswell possible for exposed north facing beaches (7 ft @ 13 secs - 9-10 ft faces). This conglomeration of high pressure to force the normal North Pacific storm track up through the Bering Sea, shadowing any swell generating fetch behind the Aleutians Islands. Perhaps some energy to start spilling southeast in the the Gulf of Alaska late next week (Thurs/Fri 10/17) but that's a guess at best.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (10/9) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the core of the Active phase. The Daily SOI index was way up at 27.78. The 30 day average was down a little at 10.27 and the 90 day average was up a notch at 8.98. This is symptomatic of a weak La Nina. Winds anomalies at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated no anomalous winds either from the west or east, symptomatic of a neutral phase of the MJO. No change is forecast through the end of the month, offering no support for surface level low pressure development. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was supposed to be trying to build in, but it now looks like a non-event offering no enhancement or detriment to North Pacific storm development.
No swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days.
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