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 (11/23) North and Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell in the head high range and blown to bits by clearing high pressure and west winds. Southern California was flat and blownout up north and about the same down south. Not a surf day. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting little dateline swell with waves head high with 1 ft overhead sets and clean. Looks like fun. The East Shore was getting maybe shoulder high wrap-around energy from the dateline and modestly chopped. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for north local windswell to push up to 6 ft (faces) on Wednesday then down to 3 ft Thursday. Flat on Friday into mid-Saturday. New north angled windswell moves in for Sunday pushing 10 ft and hacked fading from 7 ft Monday and 4 ft Tuesday. Southern California is to see another push of north angled windswell at waist high at exposed breaks Wednesday fading to maybe knee high Thursday then flat Friday and Saturday. New north windswell at exposed breaks likely later Sunday to chest high holding into early Monday then fading from thigh high Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see the last dateline pulse hit Wednesday at 1-2 ft overhead fading Thursday from just under head high with waist high leftovers on Friday dropping from thigh high Saturday. Nothing Sun- Mon then low odds of north angled swell at 1 ft overhead on Tuesday (11/30). The East Shore is to see no windswell until Thursday when it builds to chest high and head high or a little more on Friday and linger there into Tuesday. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
One last little gale produced 12 hours of 24 ft seas tucked up by the Western Aleutians on Sat (11/20) all aimed south maybe setting up one more small pulse of swell for Hawaii on Wed (11/24), but that's it. High pressure remains in control generating only east winds all aimed at Japan driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO with no significant changes for the next 3 weeks. A gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Friday (11/26) producing 35 kt northwest fading to 30 kts while dropping southeast and pushing into Oregon on Sat (11/27) generating 23 ft seas Friday evening, then down to 20 ft on Saturday. Maybe some smaller north angled swell to result for the US West Coast north of Pt Conception, but likely hacked by local north winds there. A stronger gale is to be building in the Gulf on Sun-Tues (11/30) generating near 45 kt northwest winds and maybe 21 ft seas aimed at Hawaii on (late Sun) and to 28 ft Tuesday aimed at the Pacific Northwest. Something to hope for but by no means guaranteed.
The good news is the classic La Nina induced backdoor coldfront machine is in full effect for the Pacific Northwest on down into the Central Sierras with a healthy dose of early season snow on the ground. And windy enough to close I-80 Tuesday AM too. High pressure and clearing conditions expected there into the Friday with another snow producers schedule for Saturday. Make the most of it. Get the 84 hr hi-res forecast here: Snowforecast
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (11/23) the North Pacific jetstream remained weak and fragmented with a split flow pushing off Asia pushing to the dateline almost coalescing into a trough there, then splitting heavily over the Gulf only the regroup into a trough focused inland over Idaho. There were fleeting pockets of wind to 120 kts, but not large enough or with enough momentum to have any affect in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the classic La Nina jetstream pattern is to become better defined, namely a single flow pushing off Japan though fragmented, then splitting heavily before reaching the dateline and tracking that way the whole way across the Pacific with maybe only a weak trough developing in the Northern Gulf capable of supporting some weak low pressure development down at the oceans surface Thurs-Fri (11/26). Beyond 72 hours that pattern is to only get more entrenched with an almost consolidated flow pushing off central Japan then splitting heavily just off the coast there and tracking in split mode with most energy pushing into the Pacific Northwest. Another modest trough to develop in the Northern Gulf on Sun-Mon (11/29) but unimpressive.
At the surface on Sunday (11/21) two high pressure systems each at 1032 mbs were in play, one off the Kuril Islands and another 800 nmiles west of Oregon. No low pressure of interest was occurring other than one over the dateline, interacting with the Kuril Island high and producing 30+ kt east winds targeting Japan and the Philippines. Over the next 72 hours the Kuril Island high is to push east and merge with the high off the US West Coast, making one contiguous block of high pressure extending from the northern dateline southeast to Central CA. On Thursday PM (11/25) a small gale is forecast to quickly drop out of the Eastern Bering Sea into the Northern Gulf of Alaska producing up to 35 kt northwest winds at 50N 150W holding into Friday AM while easing east then fading to 30 kts in the evening repositioned off the Oregon coast at 45N 135W. Seas to peak at 23 ft at 47N 143W Friday AM (11/26) possibly setting up small swell pushing into Central CA for late in the Thanksgiving weekend with luck.
Previously a little gale produced 12 hours of 24 ft seas tucked up by the Western Aleutians through first light Sat AM (11/20) at 50N 170E all aimed south. this might set up one more small pulse of swell for Hawaii arriving on Wed (11/24) mid-day at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft faces) from 320 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/23) high pressure at 1032 mbs was 750 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA ridging east while low pressure at 1000 mbs was pushing inland over Idaho, generating a bit of a pressure gradient and generating northwest winds at 20 kts over the North and Central CA coasts. These winds are to drop south pushing into the southern half of Central CA and Southern CA on Wednesday at 20 kts nearshore and lingering in Central CA. Rain is to be gone up north but still a few drops down south (San Diego early). Snow fading before sunrise in Tahoe. Clearing conditions and light winds expected for Thursday (11/25) with conditions holding through the early weekend. But another backdoor low is forecast falling south with rain possible in North CA well before sunrise Saturday (11/27) and building into Central CA just after sunrise with snow again for the mountains midday and gusty north winds along the Central CA coast as high pressure builds in behind. the front is to push down into Southern CA late Saturday. A real mess coastside Sunday as clearing high pressure and north winds take over. By late Monday winds to start slackening up nearshore over the state while yet another front pushes into Oregon. But it's effects are not expected to reach any further south than maybe Cape
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs weak low pressure stationed on the dateline is to break free and start moving northeast moving into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sunday getting fed with additional low pressure energy falling out of the Bering Sea and generating up to 40 kt north winds at 43N 162W targeting Hawaii with 23 ft seas at 40N 163W mid-morning. Possible small short period swell traveling south towards the Islands if this materializes. The low is to fade and reorganize while tracking northeast into the Northern Gulf, finally building on Monday AM (11/29) with 40-45 kt northwest winds way up at 53N 153W aimed at the Pacific Northwest holding for 24 hours while reaching farther to the east into Tuesday AM. Winds down to 35 kts at that time with seas building to 27 ft at 50N 143W. Fetch to fade Tuesday evening but not before generating more 26-28 ft seas at 48N 145W. If all this occurs some degree of mid-period swell could occur for the Pacific Northwest with energy reaching down to exposed breaks of Central CA later in the week.
Otherwise nothing but clear skies and high pressure is forecast over the greater North Pacific.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (11/23) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was on the rise. The daily SOI was up to 31.17. The 30 day average was down slightly at 13.67 with the 90 day average at 20.71 (up barely). Overall, averages remained quite high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (11/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated absolutely no anomalies with none forecast for the next 3 weeks (thru 12/12). But we continue to suspect this is an undercall by the models. Previous runs had indicated the Inactive Phase of the MJO was building in the Central Indian Ocean expected to drift east, reaching the Philippines about 11/25 and easing east from there while dissipating into 11/30, not pushing to the mid-Pacific. This pattern would suppress gale development. Both the current and previous runs of the models indicated a dead neutral pattern was expected by 12/5 with neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase in effect. But in reality, it looks very much like the Inactive Phase of the MJO is occurring, regardless of what the models display.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/18) continues to indicate that downright cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a stable grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, but are not getting any colder, but instead are expanding their coverage. A broad secondary area of clod water was extending from a point off Chile pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. And a mirror image feeder band of cooler than normal water also extending west off the US West Coast sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling 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 strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (up from the -6 degs below normal on 10/18 and -7 degs in mid- Sept). Regardless, it is not moving and is not expected to move for months. This is 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).
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is expected 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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table