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 (10/9) North and Central California was getting minimal locally generated north windswell with surf waist to maybe shoulder high and clean. Southern California was effectively flat up north and clean. Down south it was flat too (ok - maybe some knee high sets) and pristinely calm and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal background northwest windswell at waist high with luck and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around northwest windswell from the North Shore at thigh high with heavily textured conditions. The South Shore was getting knee to thigh high sets with luck and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for new local semi-swell building in on Sunday to 6 ft (faces) and up to 7 ft on Monday with another local Gulf semi-swell building underneath late pushing 7 ft on Tuesday then fading from 6 ft on Wednesday (10/13) with still some 5.5 ft energy left on Thursday. Also small southern hemi swell is to be underneath on Tues at 3 ft continuing Wed then fading still from 3 ft on Thursday. Southern California is to see maybe waist high north windswell arriving later Sunday dropping to thigh high plus on Monday and being reinforced with local Gulf windswell up to waist high Tuesday. More northwest swell to pushing in for late Wednesday at thigh high or and holding into Thursday. Southern hemi background swell at thigh to waist high possible Monday too moving to waist high solid on Tuesday and maybe even chest high on Wednesday before fading from waist to chest high on Thursday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new northwest windswell to head high on Sunday fading from waist high Monday with thigh high leftovers on Tuesday. Nothing else to follow. The East Shore is to see new tradewind generated east windswell at waist high on Sunday pushing chest high Monday and shoulder high Tuesday and Wednesday then fading from chest high Thursday. The South Shore is to see waist to maybe chest high background southern hemi swell on Sunday holding into early Monday and then thigh high Tuesday before fading out. Maybe more very south angled backgrounds well at thigh high on Thursday.
On the charts a small local gale wound up just 800 nmiles off the California-Pacific Northwest coast later Friday into Saturday (10/9) with 35-40 kt northwest winds aimed pretty well at Central CA and points north but lifting north fast and not getting much traction with seas barely 18-20 ft. Minimal swell expected for CA on Sun-Mon with poor conditions. Another pair of small fast moving local gales are to track through the northeastern Gulf Sun-Tues pretty much all aimed at Central Canada with limited sideband swell seeping south towards CA for Wed-Thurs. But out to the west high pressure is to be taking over the dateline and moving east shutting down swell production for a while.
Down south nothing of any interest is forecast. Background swell from a flurry of short lived fetches between New Zealand and the Central Pacific Sat-Tues (10/5) is to work it's way north, but only likely of interest for the South Shore and Southern CA, and then only marginal. Beyond virtually no swell producing fetch of interest is indicated.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (10/9) the North Pacific jetstream was ridging over Kamchatka slightly then falling southeast over the dateline into a modest trough in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. Winds were 130 kts over the length of the jet offering limited support for gale development focused in the Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the Gulf is to be pushing east into Central Canada with winds up to 150 kts on Monday (10/11) back over the Northern Gulf but positioned more in the eastern part of the trough, pushing surface winds more up towards Northern Canada. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to deepen just a bit while loosing wind energy Wed (10/13) and then moving inland over Canada. No real support for gale development indicated. Beyond a new patch of consolidated wind energy at 150 kts is forecast building over and off Northern Japan Saturday (10/16) making out to the dateline but with no clear signs of a trough or support for surface level low pressure development is projected.
At the surface on Saturday (10/9) low pressure was poised 600 nmiles west of the Northern CA in the Eastern Gulf generating 30 kt southwest and west winds (see details below). Otherwise high pressure at 1024 mbs was wedged into the Central CA coast generating 15 kt north winds over Pt Conception. Trades were being generated off the south side of this high too, but most energy was located well south of the Hawaiian Islands pretty much eliminating odds for easterly windswell development. High pressure at 1024 mbs was covering the Western Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours two more waves of low pressure are to be pushing through the Northeastern Gulf supported by a trough in the upper atmosphere holding over the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. But both are to be steered northeast by strong high pressure building at the same time just off the Central and North CA coast Sunday through Tuesday (10/12). The first low is to have 35 kt west-southwest winds at 47N 155W mid-Sunday generating 20-22 ft seas at the same locale targeting mid-Oregon northward and quickly fading in the evening. Maybe swell into the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday (10/12). And a second pulse is forecast with up to 40 kt southwest winds starting Monday PM (10/11) at 44N 148W tracking hard northeast with 40 kt southwest to west winds off Central Canada by Tuesday AM. Seas are to reach 30 ft, but not till this system sis ready to impact the Central CA coast later Tuesday. Swell likely for the Pacific Northwest late Wednesday (10/13), but there's little odds for much reach south of Cape Mendocino.
Of more interest to Central CA and Hawaii is the projected development of high pressure at 1032 mbs later Sunday (10/10) off Central CA ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino building through the day Sunday with up to 35 kt north winds on Monday (10/11) likely making for chop and local windswell along the Central and North CA coasts. This high is to also be sweeping just north of the Hawaiian Islands by Sunday generating 15 kt easterly trades and building easterly windswell pushing near 20 kts on Monday. Regardless, the gradient is to quickly be in decline by Tuesday with windswell over Central CA and easterly windswell in HAwaii heading down, with the gradient gone by Wednesday.
Eastern Gulf Minimal Gale
The first in a series of two weak low pressure systems developed 800 nmiles off the southern Oregon coast early Friday (10/8) after sweeping east past Hawaii then lifting northeast generating 35 kt northwest winds Friday AM at 42N 142W aimed well at Central CA , then up to 40 kts in the evening off of Washington. Seas were modeled to 20 ft in the evening at 44N 135W 800 nmiles northwest of Central CA pushing somewhat down the 308 degree path there, but mostly serving to only rough up the oceans surface some. Of more interest was a second low developing right behind with 35 kt northwest winds Friday evening at 38N 158W targeting Hawaii well initially with seas in the 15-16 ft range (Friday PM). Then it tracked east out of the Hawaiian swell window with 30 kt northwest winds Sat AM (10/9) at 39N 144W lifting fast to the north. Near 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 46N 134W in the evening. 18 ft seas are forecast in the Central CA swell window Sat PM at 43N 134W then pushing into northern Vancouver Island Sunday AM (10/10). Possible raw windswell to result Sunday evening into Monday in Central CA but intermixed with building local windswell. In all quite unremarkable. See QuikCAST's for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (10/9) a light wind pattern was in play with weak high pressure over the Central Coast with a gale in the Gulf was trying to push east into it, but getting deflected northward. But the high pressure system is to be building southwest of Southern CA, with the first isobars from it reaching Pt Conception late Saturday then building into all of Central and North CA Sunday with a pressure gradient and north winds setting up over nearshore waters at 15 kts pushing 20_ kts by sunset. Finally by Monday (10/11) a full-on pressure gradient is expected to be in-play with north winds at 35 kts forecast over Cape Mendocino pushing down the outer Central CA coast, but maybe pulled away from nearshore waters south of Pt Reyes mid-morning and local winds settling down by afternoon, with the gradient fully dissipating by Tuesday AM (10/12) and light winds in control for all but extreme Northern CA. Light winds to hold through Friday (10/15). A very mild gradient is to set up over Cape Mendocino on Sat (10/16) generating 20 kt north winds there, but only 10-15 kts down the Central Coast.
On Saturday (10/9) a weak trough was exiting east out of the extreme Southeast Pacific and no longer of interest for any Pacific locations. A ridge was pushing firmly to the south over the Southwest and Central Pacific into Antarctica proper offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface. This pattern is to persist for the next 72 hours with the ridge taking control of the entire South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours the ridge in the west is to hold if not gain in energy over the South Pacific, eliminating odds for gale development.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was in-play. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast. Remnants of a gale tracking east from under the Tasman Sea is to produce 30 ft seas for 12 hrs at 50S 170E ending Sun AM (10/10). Maybe a little background energy is to push up towards Hawaii. Otherwise no swell production is expected with a late Spring pattern in control of the southern hemi.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs strong high pressure is to be setting up over the dateline on Tuesday (10/12) at 1032 mbs totally blocking the storm track east from Japan and the Kuril Islands and hindering swell production there. This high is to track fast to the east and be in the Central Gulf by Thurs (10/14) and dissipating fast. There's even hints of low pressure starting to build behind it on the dateline and into the Northern Gulf by the weekend (10/16) so it's now looking like this high pressure event will be of not so much concern.
We're updated the official El Nino forecast and it is now posted at the link below.
As of Saturday (10/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 21.92 and has been that way in excess of 81 days now. The 30 day average was at 24.26 with the 90 day average up to 21.89 and still inching upward. But at this point it will be very difficult for it to get much higher unless the daily SOI redlines about 27 for the next 30 days. Regardless, the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in firm control.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (10/8) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO has roared back to life, likely signaling the end of El Nino's last vestiges aloft and suggesting the Fall season has indeed started in earnest. A very strong easterly anomaly extending from the dateline into Central America over the equator, clearly indicating the Inactive Phase of the MJO. This was the strongest easterly anomaly we've every seen. A building equally strong Active Phase (west anomalies) was organizing in the Indian Ocean reaching into the far Western Pacific. The Inactive Phase is forecast to slowly push east into Central America through 10/18 and be effectively gone then, with the Active Phase starting to reach out into the West Pacific hitting the dateline on 10/13, and then moderating while filling the Pacific though 10/23 and nearly gone by 10/28. This is to be the furthest east the Active Phase has progressed since the early Spring (a good sign). This is the first Active Phase of any substantial strength so far this Fall, and offers at least a tease of some potential fuel to support formation of North Pacific gales starting 10/18 and for a few weeks thereafter. It is pretty typical for MJO Phases to be not well defined during summer months or during El Nino years, and to then become much more apparent as Fall develops, with the effects at the surface more obvious then too. The swing from Active to Inactive and back to Active becomes more pronounced too during La Nina years. So this is not unexpected. We'll be following the phase shifts much more closely this Winter because only during the active Phase will there be good potential for storm development.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/7) indicates that downright colder than normal waters (-2 C degs or cooler) 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 off South America pushing gently northwest towards 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. 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 -5 degs below normal (getting a little warmer than previous readings of -7 degs in mid- Sept. but this is still 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 now fully 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. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remainder 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. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is 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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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