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 (10/16) North/Central California was getting a weak bit of windswell coming out of the Gulf of Alaska making for rideable surf with nice conditions, but nothing more. Southern California was getting a mix of weak northern windswell at exposed northern breaks and small southern hemi background swell in the waist high range at top exposed breaks down south. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with only some waist high leftover swell trickling through. The South Shore was small with background southern hemi swell mixed with wrap around east windswell in the thigh high range. Waist to chest high east windswell was pushing into the East Shore.
For Central California minimal Gulf windswell with period in the 10-11 sec range to continue through the weekend into early next week. Nothing to exciting but not flat either. Southern CA to see a fraction of that northwest Gulf windswell only at the most exposed breaks with southern hemi background swell returning late Sunday (optimistic estimate) and then continuing in the waist high range through the week, while we wait for something better. The North Shore of Hawaii to get a tiny pulse of background swell from off Kamchatka Fri-Sun, then flattening out. The South Shore of Hawaii is expected to start seeing a fairly decent pulse of southern hemi swell starting late Friday and continuing into Saturday and Sunday (10/19), fading Monday. The East Shore to have some form of modest east windswell continuing well into next week. Long term a series progressive series of gales are forecast to start building in the far northeasterly Gulf of Alaska. The first is forecast starting Saturday (10/18) generating 20 ft seas aimed at the Pacific Northwest, with a second on Monday (10/20) generating 23 ft seas aimed better south towards CA, then a much stronger system forming Tues/Thurs (10/23) with 35 ft seas 1500 nmiles off California and some energy aimed towards Hawaii. And yet another with nearly 30 ft seas is scheduled out on the dateline Thurs/Fri (10/24) targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast. So the models look promising, but it's far from certain. 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 Tuesday (10/14) the North Pacific jetstream continued flowing steadily west to east along the 45N latitude with winds of up to 140 kts ridging over the dateline dropping into a small trough in the Western Gulf with wind speeds fading, then arching again into another ridge pushing into British Columbia. Only weak support for surface level low pressure development was suggested in the trough in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to flatten out some, with energy that was on the dateline pushing east and trying to form some thing that almost looks like a trough in the Gulf late Saturday with 160 kt winds flowing into it offering a little support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hrs the Gulf trough is to push into British Columbia on Monday (10/20) while a new more energetic trough sets up behind it near the dateline with 150 kt winds feeding into it and pushing east, offering pretty decent odds for surface level gale development. That trough to push through the Gulf through Thursday (10/230 while yet another trough starts building on the dateline. Better odds for gale development suggested. In all, a somewhat promising pattern is suggested.
At the surface today weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was north of Hawaii ridging east into the Pacific Northwest, generating 15 kt trades over the Hawaiian Islands and offering small easterly windswell there, and also generating 20 kt north winds off Central CA, making only very short period windchop mostly bypassing the coast. Weak low pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska setting up 20-25 kt westerly winds pushing windswell into the Pacific Northwest eventually bound for Northern CA too. Another weak low was over the dateline generating 30 kt winds, but of no interest yet.
Over the next 72 hours a progressive series of gale is forecast pushing through the Gulf. The first to form from the low currently over the dateline, building to 992 mbs with 35-40 kt west winds Fri-Sat (10/18) generating 20 ft seas Saturday AM at 50N 150W tracking northeast and almost out of the CA swell window by evening with 23 ft seas at 53N 143W, 1200 nmiles out from San Francisco. Good odds for some modest 12-13 sec period swell for the US West Coast starting Tuesday AM (10/21). All this energy is forecast to bypass the Hawaiian Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/16) high pressure at 1024 mbs was trying to hold on off the Central California coast generating a small fetch of 15-20 kt north winds dangling south from Cape Mendocino, but pretty anemic. Those winds to try and hold into Friday, then fade almost completely Saturday and Sunday, though a northerly flow is still expected, just below 15 kts. Southern CA to remain in a near calm state. By Monday (10/20) low pressure is to be taking over the Gulf, but not reaching far enough south to shunt out the local high pressure. The net result is to be a northwest winds at 15 kts over outer waters on Monday pushing 20-25 kts Tuesday then 15 kts Wednesday into Thursday (10/23). These winds to be isolated to Central and Northern CA, and should be pulled away from the coast in the mornings, helping to minimize their impact nearshore, but lump from the fetch will still be pushing into the coast, likely even into exposed breaks in SCal .
On Thursday (10/16) no tropical activity of interest was occurring.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring aimed at US targets. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
On Friday (10/9) a diffuse fetch of 40 kt west-southwest winds pushed under New Zealand aiming more to the northeast on Saturday (10/10) and fading from 40 kts early generating 32 ft seas Friday night at 55S 167E and then a more solid area of 32 ft seas Saturday AM at 55S 175E fading from 30 ft at 55S 178W in the evening. These were on the 201-193 degree paths to Hawaii and 215-210 path for California (unshadowed by Tahiti). Small swell is likely for Hawaii starting late Friday (10/17) with swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.4 ft faces) building to 2.6+ ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) Saturday the fading from 2.3-2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs on Sunday (3.5 ft faces) coming from 195-200 degrees. Maybe the US West Coast to see some swell starting Sunday PM (10/19) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft faces) building to 2 ft @ 16 secs on Monday (3 ft faces) with reinforcing energy Tuesday (10/21) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces). All from 210-215 degrees.
On Tuesday PM (10/14) a new 948 mb gale was building over the northern edge of the Ross Ice shelf generating 45 kt southwest winds into Wednesday AM, then fading. Theoretically it produced 35 ft seas Tues PM at 62S 172W building to 38 ft seas at 60S 155W Wed AM, then fading from 36 ft at 56S 145W Wed PM. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the core of the fetch Wednesday Am (10/22) and confirmed seas at 34.9 ft, 3 ft less than the 38 ft forecast by the model. So the models were a little optimistic. This should be good for background swell pushing into exposed breaks in California starting Thurs (10/23) with swell 1.6 ft @ 19 secs (3 ft faces) and heading up some from there in the days beyond coming from 195 degrees.
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 similar gale is forecast to form from the residuals of this gael in the Northern Gulf on Sunday (10/19) generating a moderate sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds and producing 20 ft seas, building to 35 kts on Monday AM with 23 ft seas at 50N 145W 1200 nmiles out from NCal. This ought to be good for another dose of modest 13 sec period swell by Wednesday PM (10/22).
Of far more interest is a strong gale forecast to build in the Central Gulf on Tuesday (10/22) with pressure 976 mbs generating 50-55 kts northwest winds in the AM lifting gently northeast through Wednesday AM and holding strength with seas modeled at 30 ft Tues PM at 42N 150W (bypassing Hawaii) , then 35 ft Wed AM at 45N 148W and then 38 ft in the evening at 49N 141W moving out of the NCal swell window. Possible large somewhat raw swell pushing east. This is a nice tease but way too early to bet on it's formation.
And yet one more gale is forecast to start wrapping up just south of the Aleutians and on the dateline Wednesday (10/22) generating 40 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii and California into Thursday with seas forecast up to 30 ft Thurs PM just east of the dateline. Swell possibly heading towards Hawaii from this one.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (10/16) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving into the Inactive phase. The Daily SOI index was steady at 18.82. The 30 day average was up to 12.63 and the 90 day average was holding at 9.95. This is symptomatic of a weak La Nina. Winds anomalies at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a modest area of normal west winds extending from the equatorial dateline over the Philippines and into Java. This was symptomatic of the inactive phase of the MJO. This to slowly fade out through the last week in October, offering no enhancement for surface level low pressure development. This incarnation of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is basically 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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Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table