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 (12/7) North and Central California was getting residual Gulf windswell in the chest high range with some sets pushing slightly overhead and clean. Southern California was getting maybe thigh high blown out northwest windswell and hacked by wind. Down south it was maybe waist high and much cleaner. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new northwest windswell a bit bigger than expected in the head high range with sets 2 ft overhead and little bit warbled by trades, but not too bad. The East Shore report was not available. 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 larger swell from a gale that was in the Gulf on Tuesday AM is to start arriving Wednesday afternoon building to 9-10 ft (faces) with the core hitting overnight, then fading early Thursday from 14 ft with a fair amount of warble intermixed. Swell fading from 8 ft early Friday and 5 ft Saturday. Residuals at 4 ft expected on Sunday. Southern California is to see new northwesterly swell building on Wednesday to near head high late pushing 1-2 ft overhead or early Thursday at exposed breaks. Friday swell fades shoulder high dropping from near waist high Saturday AM. Knee high leftovers on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new north swell on to 13 ft mid-Wednesday then fading from 12 ft on Thursday and 2 ft overhead early Friday. North windswell rebounds Saturday to 1 ft overhead fading from head high to 1 ft overhead early Sunday. The East Shore is to see no significant easterly windswell for the next week. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
All eyes are on a broader gale that tracked southeast into the Gulf on Sun-Mon (12/6) peaking out early Tuesday with 40-45 kt northwest winds and 36 ft seas making for a taste of larger swell arriving on Wednesday for HI and late Wednesday for CA. Weather is to be an issue on Wednesday for the Central CA region. After that things are to really settle down with maybe only a weak gale forecast for the Northern Gulf on Sun-Mon (12/13) producing maybe 20 ft seas with luck perhaps pushing some swell towards the Pacific Northwest and Northern CA next week. And another equally anemic gale is expected to organize on the dateline with 30 kt northwest wind and 22 ft seas on Mon (12/13). Maybe a little sideband swell for Hawaii from this one. But we're really waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to push into the West Pacific in the not too distant future.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (12/7) the jetstream remained heavily split with the split point over Northern Japan. The main flow was pushing hard north west of the Kuril Islands tracking into the Bering Sea then turning east and southeast falling into the Central Gulf of Alaska and feeding a broad trough located 1200 nmiles west of Central CA, then ridging slightly northeast and pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest. Winds in the trough were up to 150 kts providing decent support for gale development there. A weak secondary flow was tracking flat east from Japan pushing over the dateline and about ready to impact Hawaii, but not quite there yet. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold but with the ridge pushing up into the Bering Sea getting only more pronounced, and the trough int he Gulf starting to fade with the jet gently lifting north there and reducing odds for gale development in that region. Interesting, but the energy in the secondary flow of the jet it to push hard east and join the main flow tracking into the US West Coast by early Friday (12/10). It almost looks like the split flow might be healing, a possible precursor to the coming Active Phase of the MJO. Beyond 72 hours the split jetstream pattern is to is to not head though, with some degree of winds energy getting pealed off to the north pushing well up into the Bering Sea, but with a decent flow still tracking flat east off Japan into the US West Coast. A ridge is to start building over the US West Coast reaching up to British Columbia by Sun (12/12) with only a weak trough remaining in the far Northern Gulf of Alaska. No real support for gale development indicated. But more energy is to be getting staged just inland of Japan getting ready to track east towards the North Pacific. Maybe another shot at a repair of the jetstream will be possible in the days ahead.
At the surface on Tuesday (12/7) a moderate gale was filling the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with a front pushing up to the Pacific Northwest (see Gulf Gale below). It was on it's way down and out. Another gale was just west of the dateline tracking northwest of all directions, forming a pressure gradient with high pressure at 1036 mbs over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians. It was generating east to southeast wind at 40 kts all aimed at Northern Japan on up to the Kuril Islands and of no use to the our main forecast area. Over the next 72 hours the gulf gale is to slowly dissipate with the core hanging off the coast of the US and lifting north, positioned almost over the British Columbia coast, then pushing inland on Friday (12/10). The fetch of east winds in the West Pacific is to track west moving over Kamchatka on Thursday (12/9). At that time a new little low pressure center is to set up just off the Japan coast generating west winds at 30-35 kts but of no particular interest.
A broad low pressure system dropped out of the Bering Sea into the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday PM (12/4) producing 30 kt northwest winds over a decent sized fetch area at 51N 160W with seas on the increase. The gale continued to ease southeast on Sunday AM (12/5) with 30 kt northwest winds at 45N 160W generating 19 ft seas at 47N 162W building to 20 ft and pushing to 43N 158W in the evening. Swell from this fetch was pushing well towards Hawaii down the 355 degree path. On Monday AM (12/6) the gale got re-energized with 45 kt northwest winds at 45N 152W moving to 40N 150W in the evening building seas to 36 ft in the evening (06Z) at 40N 150W pushing up the 285 degree path to NCal. The main fetch was fading on Tuesday AM though pushing east with winds down to 40 kts at 40N 145W with 34 ft seas at 38N 148W pushing towards California up the 280 degree path. In the evening the gale is to be fading out with 30 kts residual fetch and seas fading from 32 ft at 40N 141W (285 degrees NCal). In all this was not to be a particularly strong system, but it is a major upgrade from previous projections and solid compared to anything that has occurred since early the end of the first week in November. With winds at 45 kts, 15-16 sec period swell is possible with the bulk of the energy aimed towards the US West Coast and mainly California. Solid sideband swell energy might be expected for Hawaii too.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on early Wednesday AM (12/8) with swell peaking near 11 AM at 9 ft @ 14.5 secs (13 ft faces) coming from 355 degrees. Swell to hold through the day, then be fading overnight. Residual energy to be hitting Thursday AM with swell 9 ft @ 13 secs (12 ft faces) and heading down steadily from there.
North CA: Expect preliminary windswell from this system to hit starting Wednesday afternoon building to 7-8 ft @ 13-14 secs (9-10 ft) with the core hitting overnight, then fading early Thursday from 9.5-10 ft @ 15 secs (14-15 ft) with a fair amount of lesser period warble intermixed. Swell Direction: 282-287 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 (12/7) the front from a broad low pressure system that was filling the Gulf of Alaska was nestled up along the coast of the Pacific Northwest bringing south winds down to Pt Reyes CA with rain about ready to move into Oregon lined up south to north just off the coast late afternoon. On Wednesday the front is to pushing inland and draping a bit more to the south, with south winds and rain reaching down to Monterey Bay, but not making any further headway. Light rain forecast for the Central Sierras. Theoretically high pressure is to try and start developing off Pt Conception pushing the front a little further north, but not strong enough to build north winds locally. The south wind line is to be near San Francisco Bay with maybe residual rain early in the day there. By Friday high pressure is to build off Pt Conception with north winds on the increase there but not affecting Monterey Bay northward nor Southern CA. Rain is to fading out over extreme Northern CA too. The same pattern is to be holding through the weekend. The high is to be dissolving next week with a calm winds pattern forecast into mid-next week.
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 a new weak and diffuse low pressure center is to try and build
in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (12/12) producing 25-30 kt
northwest winds at 43N 155W holding and pushing more to the east on
Monday AM (12/13) with 25 kt west winds at 43N 140W. 18-20 ft seas forecast at 50N 158W initially targeting Hawaii then moving to 47N 150W targeting the US West Coast. Not a whole lot of swell to result.
Also another diffuse gale is forecast building on the dateline later Sunday holding into Monday producing 35 kt northwest winds at 36N 170W aimed more south than west. Seas of 22 ft forecast at 33N 172E Monday night pushing pretty well to the south. maybe some sideband swell to result for Hawaii with luck.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (12/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory. The daily SOI was at 32.38. The 30 day average was up at 18.96 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.02. Overall, averages remained high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (12/6) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued to indicated what we had suspected all along, that easterly anomalies were filling the North Pacific from Central America to the dateline, but were retreating off to the east. They were not particularly strong, but were present none-the-less and are clearly indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Central Indian Ocean effectively filling it with west anomalies. East anomalies (Inactive Phase) in the Pacific are to be fading out through 12/16 and gone by that time while westerly anomalies (Active Phase) start pushing east into the Western Pacific at about the same time, arriving over New Guinea on 12/11, holding through 12/16, then fading while pushing east reaching the dateline on 12/21 and fading there through 12/26. Though we suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push east into Central America into maybe the second week in January. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, if anything, the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast will be roughly over the Christmas-New Years Holidays. Then a week after the New Year the Inactive Phase will likely be coming back and shutting it all down into early February. Sometime soon after that north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (12/2) continues to indicate that 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 and not expanding their coverage. And if anything, the areal coverage of the coldest waters seems to have dissipated some. Maybe we have already reached the peak of this La Nina event, but that is likely just wishful thinking. The models suggest a second surge of this La Nina event is to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, which will likely send water temps much colder. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feed bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table