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 (10/12) North and Central California was getting decent locally generated north windswell with surf 1-2 ft overhead and pretty clean but with warble intermixed. Southern California was getting local windswell with waves chest high on the sets up north and a little textured but not too bad, Down south southern hemi swell was the primarily wave source with sets in the chest high range and clean with a slight texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal background northwest windswell at chest high on the sets and pretty clean but with some warbled intermixed. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east east windswell at near chest high with chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting infrequent waist high southern hemi sets with clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for local north windswell fading from 5.5 ft on Wednesday and 4.5 ft on Thursday. Small southern hemi swell is to continue underneath at 3 ft Wednesday then fading from 3 ft on Thursday. Friday more small windswell expected at 5 ft (faces) pushing 5.5 ft on Saturday and then down to 4.5 ft on Sunday. More small southern hemi swell expected in on Friday at 3.5 ft holding there Saturday then fading from 3.0 ft on Sunday. Southern California is to see thigh high north windswell Wednesday dropping to knee high Thursday. Southern hemi background swell is to be chest high on Wednesday before fading from waist to chest high on Thursday. More northerly windswell is expected at knee high Saturday and Sunday. And new southern hemi swell is expected in on Friday at chest high holding Saturday then dropping from waist to chest high on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no swell of interest for the next week. The East Shore is to see renewed tradewind generated east windswell at head high or more Wednesday then fading from chest high Thursday and waist high or so Friday. Nothing through for the weekend. The South Shore is to see some very south angled background swell at thigh high on Thursday and Friday fading from knee high on Saturday then gone Sunday.
A pair of small fast moving local gales tracked through the northeastern Gulf Sun-Tues (10/12) all aimed at Central Canada with limited sideband swell seeping south towards CA for Wed-Thurs. And another is forecast tracking into Central Canada on Wed (10/13). At this point we're just waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to take over to help jump start the swell production machine, but that might be another week.
Down south more background energy is pushing north from a flurry of short lived fetch areas between New Zealand and the Central Pacific Sat-Tues (10/5) but only of interest for the South Shore and Southern CA. A small gale is forecast in the Southeast Pacific Thurs-Fri (10/15) with 30-32 ft seas, possible setting up a little more southern hemi swell for South CA into Mexico, but that's it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/12) the North Pacific jetstream was extremely weak though cohesive ridging northeast off Japan to the dateline then falling southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with a small steep trough there, but quickly ridging northeast into Central Canada. Winds were maybe 90 kts over the majority of the jet, but up to 130 kts in the ridge pushing into Canada. Only the weak trough in the Gulf was providing any support for limited gale development, and at that only focused on Northern Canada. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the Gulf is to be pushing northeast into Central Canada and of no real use. A second trough is to form in the exact same area, but with winds less than 90 kts and useless at supporting gale development. Beyond 72 hours the same basic configuration is to hold but with more energy building into the jet off the Kuril Islands (at 130 kts) ridging over the dateline with that energy starting to fall into the semi-permanent trough in the Gulf by Tues (10/19) offering decent support for gale development then. And by Wed (10/20) up to 170 kt winds are to be building on the dateline looking to fall into the Gulf, possibly signaling the start of a more favorable upper pattern.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/12) low pressure was pushing into Northern Canada with up to 40 kts winds all pushing into the coast and outside of the swell window for anywhere but maybe the Pacific Northwest, and even then only a glancing blow. High pressure at 1032 mbs was in control of the dateline ridging up into the Bering Sea. A fast fading pressure gradient was dying over Northern CA with 20 kt north winds and limited windswell production capacity. trades were blowing at 15-20 kts over the Hawaiian Islands producing some easterly windswell there. But otherwise no swell production was occurring over the greater North Pacific. Over the next 72 hours another small and quickly lived gale is to wrap up off Oregon on Wednesday (10/13) producing 30 kt west winds lifting fast to the northeast and inland just north of Vancouver Island late that evening. Maybe some background windswell is to work it's way down into exposed breaks in Central CA, but size to be minimal (see QuikCASTs for details) with most energy pushing into Washington and points northward. High pressure is to be right behind forming the usual pressure gradient over extreme Northern CA Fri-Sat (10/16) with winds to maybe 25 kts making for short period north windswell for Central CA. But the high is to be tracking to far tot he north with respect to Hawaii, with trades falling below the 15 kt range on Wed (10/13) and windswell falling accordingly.
Previously two waves of low pressure pushed through the Northeastern Gulf supported by a trough in the upper atmosphere holding over the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. But both were steered northeast by strong high pressure off the Central and North CA coast Sunday through Tuesday (10/12). The first low had 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 central CA on Wednesday. And a second pulse developed with up to 35 kt southwest winds starting Monday PM (10/11) at 44N 148W tracking hard northeast with 35 kt southwest to west winds off Central Canada by Tuesday AM. Seas reached 23 ft, but only as this system was already impacting the Central Canadian coast late Tuesday. Swell likely for the Pacific Northwest late Wednesday (10/13), but there's little odds for much reaching south of Cape Mendocino. In short - small background northwest windswell for Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/12) a light if not offshore wind pattern was in-play over Central CA though high pressure and the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino was generating north-northeast winds at 25 kts off the Central CA coast. Light winds are to be the norm by Wednesday and hold for 24 hours. Then on Friday (10/15 another new mild gradient is to set up over Cape Mendocino generating 25 kt north winds there pushing to 15 kts down the Central Coast. More of the same is forecast Saturday with winds to 20-25 kts on Sunday and starting to push well down over the Channel Islands putting Southern CAs normally clean conditions at risk. The core of the gradient is to not lift north, but instead remain locked over Central CA. There's hints of a little break on Monday as low pressure builds in the Gulf, but the gradient is to be stubborn and not relent even on Tuesday as a front starts bearing east pushing to within 600 nmiles of San Francisco.
Of interest, snow is already starting to accumulate (thinly) in British Columbia at Whistler. During a La Nina winter, this region down into Central Oregon is expected to be hit often and hard.
On Tuesday (10/12) a generally weak flat-flowing and southward displaced jetstream pattern was in control of the entire South Pacific offering no potential to support gale production. For the next 72 hours a bit of a trough is to try and start digging out over the Southeast Pacific with 120 kt winds flowing up into it on Thurs (10/14) offering a bit more opportunity for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours more reinforcing winds to 180 kts are to start pushing up into the trough as it eases east Sat (10/16). But by that time it is to be out of even the Southern CA swell window.
At the oceans surface on Tuesday (10/12) 30 kt northwest winds were blowing east of New Zealand aimed only at Antarctica and offering no swell producing fetch for our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours a new low pressure system is to be building in the far Southeast Pacific on Wed (10/13) with a defined fetch of 40-45 kt southwest winds taking root on Thursday PM (10/14) at 51S 135W pushing to 48S 128W Friday AM before rapidly dissipating. 32 ft seas are forecast at 48S 130W on Friday AM fading from 29 ft in the evening at 44S 123W. These seas are to be pushing up the 185-187 degree path to California and well east of the Tahitian swell shadow. Will monitor.
Previously remnants of a gale tracking east from under the Tasman Sea produced 30 ft seas for 12 hrs at 55S 170E Sat AM (10/9). Maybe a little background energy is to push up towards Hawaii a week out.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs a broad gale is to start building in the Eastern Bering Sea on Sunday (10/17) with 30 kt northwest fetch starting to fall south of the Aleutian Islands later Monday at 52N 163W aimed best at the Pacific Northwest and fading fast. 20 ft seas to result at 50N 160W and not of any real interest. But more low pressure is to be building west of the dateline and likely bound for the Gulf of Alaska in the days ahead possibly suggesting a busier swell production period ahead. Also the models suggest a tropical system is to be building just northeast of the Philippines on Fri-Sat (10/16) stalling there then lifting north and northeast, just barely east of Southern Japan on Wed (10/20) and looking like it will make the re-curve track to the dateline in the days ahead. It's way to early to know for sure, but a more active pattern is looking to be setting up.
We're updated the official El Nino forecast and it is now posted at the link below.
As of Tuesday (10/12) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was actually dropping, the first reading below 20 in months. The daily SOI was at 8.12 but had previously been 20 or greater for 86 days. The 30 day average was at 24.33 with the 90 day average peaked at 21.89.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (10/11) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO has just raging, likely signaling the end of El Nino's last vestiges aloft and suggesting the La Nina Fall season has indeed started. A very strong easterly anomaly extended from the dateline into Central America over the equator, clearly indicating the Inactive Phase of the MJO. This remained the strongest easterly anomaly we've every seen. Likewise a very strong Active Phase (west anomalies) was filling the Indian Ocean and inching into the far Western Pacific. The Inactive Phase is forecast to slowly push east into Central America through 10/18 and be effectively gone by 10/21 with the Active Phase starting to reach the dateline on 10/16, and then moderating while filling the Pacific though 10/26 and slowly decaying through 10/31. This is to be the first real Active Phase of the MJO 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 continuing 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 (10/11) 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table