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 (4/12) North and Central California was seeing mostly local windswell producing waves in the head high to maybe 2 ft overhead range and trashed by northwest winds. Southern California was seeing thigh high northwest windswell and reasonably clean early up north. Down south waves were waist high and pretty textured. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing a little north dateline swell at shoulder up to head high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated east-northeast windswell at chest high and chopped. The South Shore was getting thigh to waist high background southern hemi swell and clean.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Wednesday (4/13) is to see local northwest windswell fading from 5.5 ft (faces) dropping from 5.5ft Thursday (5.5 ft) and 5 ft on Friday. More of the same for the weekend too with windswell 5 ft on Saturday and dropping from 4 ft Sunday.
Southern California is to see combo Aleutian swell/local windswell on Wednesday expected at waist high.cgius fading from waist high Thursday with thigh high southern hemi swell intermixed and holding near thigh high Friday. Thigh high windswell leftovers Saturday and dropping from knee high Sunday with thigh high southern hemi background swell intermixed.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see nothing rideable Wednesday and staying there though the end of the week.
The East Shore is to see east windswell at waist high.cgius on Wednesday and holding in the thigh high.cgius range Thursday and Friday. A little more east windswell at waist high expected to hold through the weekend.
The South Shore is to see southern hemi background swell fading from knee high Wednesday. Then new southern hemi swell arrives Thursday at head high holding through early Friday. Chest high leftovers Saturday dropping to thigh high Sunday.
To be short, the north Pacific is asleep and looks to be moving into full hibernation mode for the summer with no swell producing fetch of any kind forecast both short and long term. Local windswell remains the best hope. Down south a little gale developed along-side of New Zealand on Friday (4/8) pushing background swell towards mostly Hawaii for later in the workweek with far less size even for California. A stronger gale is forecast tracking mostly east under New Zealand Tues-Thurs (4/14) producing up to 41 ft seas but well shadowed by Tahiti for the US West Coast. Possible rideable swell to result. So for now it looks like winter is over with no Spring expected in-between as we move into summer-time mode.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (4/12) the jetstream was pushing off Japan and instantly .cgiitting with most energy running hard north over the Kurils and extreme Western Aleutians into the far Northern Bering Sea, then turning abruptly southeast and pushing over the Gulf of Alaska into a trough there before heading east into the Pacific Northwest. The only winds of interest were in the trough in the Gulf at 160 kts in a little pocket there offering some hope for low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the same general pattern is to hold with the trough in the Gulf holding but most energy draining into the US West Coast near Oregon by later Thursday (4/14). Some support for gale development possible there. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the Gulf is to retrograde to the dateline on Sunday (4/17) and weaken. And by Tues (4/19) the big .cgiit in the jet is to be gone, presumably fueled by the fading remnants of the Active Phase of the MJO. But suspect that is to be too little too late to do much for gale production.
At the surface on Tuesday (4/12) low pressure was circulating in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska generating 20-25 kt northwest winds blowing from the Eastern Aleutians into the Central Gulf producing 17-18 ft seas in the Northern Gulf capable of generating some windswell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, but nothing of real interest. Otherwise west winds at 30 kts associated with a cutoff low on the dateline were all aimed at Japan and of no interest to our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours that cutoff low is to eventually track east moving 1500 nmiles northwest of Hawaii maybe setting up some 20-25 kt northwest winds aimed at the Islands late Friday (4/160 generating 17 ft seas on the dateline aimed at Hawaii perhaps capable of generating windswell. But in all, a very quiet pattern is forecast indeed.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (4/12) weak high pressure at 1026 mbs was trying to ridge into Central CA generating a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds of 20-25 kts along the majority of the North and Central Coasts, with Southern CA protected. A low pressure system was nestled in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska with a front pushing up to the Washington Coast. More of the same is forecast Wednesday AM with high pressure and northwest winds in control of the Southern CA coast while the front pushes into and and washes out over Central CA, with light rain down to Monterey Bay and maybe 2 inches of snow in the Tahoe region. High pressure is to push onshore behind it and quickly track inland over Central CA. A break in the northwest wind pattern is forecast over Central CA into Saturday AM (4/16) while the remainders of low pressure in the Gulf track inland into the Pacific Northwest with rain down to nearly the Pt Reyes Area Friday into early Saturday. But by Sunday, high pressure is to again make an entrance and northwest winds build in earnest over the entire state Sunday persisting till the middle of next week.
On Thursday (4/7) a small gale developed under New Zealand tracking north up it's eastern coast generating a tiny fetch resulting in 32 ft seas in the evening at 45S 178E pushing up to 40S 179W Friday AM and holding on to the evening at 39S 170W. This was a far from impressive system, but good enough to push a decent pulse of swell towards Hawaii. Expect swell arrival there on Thursday (4/14) with swell building to 3 ft @ 16 secs late (5 ft faces) then holding at 3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft faces) into Friday AM (4/15). Leftovers for Saturday and fading. Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
Over the next 72 hours another gale is to build south of the Tasman Sea tracking east-northeast on Tues (4/12) producing a solid area of 40 kt west-southwest winds and seas building. With the Antarctic Ice Sheet at it's Fall minimum, the fetch is to get some traction on ice free waters there. By Tuesday evening the fetch is to build to 45 kts over a solid fetch area while pushing east-northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 58S 168E (a long ways from the US West Coast - 6690 nmiles away on the 212 deg track - and aimed pretty much east of the 199 deg great circle track to Hawaii). 45 kt winds to hold into Wed AM (4/13) with seas to 41 ft at 56S 178E (210 degs CA -193 degs HI), with new fetch developing a bit south of there. By Wed PM 45 kt southwest winds to be blowing generating 43 ft seas at 55S 168W (206 deg NCal - 185 degs HI). Thursday AM (4/14) a sliver of 45 kt west winds to hold generating 44 ft seas at 56S 160W bypassing Hawaii and aimed a bit east o fthe 201 degree track to CA. By evening the fetch is to be gone with seas from previous fetch at 42 ft and fading fast at 55S 151W (197 degs NCal). for the most part this system is to be be totally shadowed from CA by Tahiti and surrounding Islands and fetch aimed well east of any track going up to Hawaii. The net result is to be rideable swell at both locations, but nothing to get excited about. Just something rideable. Tahiti will do alright, but not optimal. It's something to monitor at least.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
As of Tuesday (4/12) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was up to 31.13. The 30 day average was down to 23.94 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.58.
Wind anomalies as of Sunday (4/10) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO had peaked and was heading down with modest westerly anomalies now filling the Central equatorial Pacific from the Philippines and New Guinea eastward over the dateline and pushing almost into Central America. They were having little impact on the daily SOI, a bit of a disappointment. Regardless, these anomalies are to be easing east while slowly dissipating by 4/15 and effectively gone by 4/20. At the same time the Inactive Phase is trying to rebuild in the Indian Ocean but not expected to get even moderately strong, reaching the extreme West Pacific by 4/20 then dissipate fast before reaching the dateline on 4/25 and fading out into 4/30. One would think the current Active Phase would add some support for gale development, theoretically helping to break high pressure down and pull the jetstream together. But the models show none of that. It looks like the pull of Springtime trumps anything the MJO is trying to produce, meaning that the 2010-2011 Winter season is likely over. It will be interesting to see whether the dominance of the Active Phase from February till late March will have any lasting effects, or whether the Inactive Phase will come roaring in and take control into June. Regardless, we really need to see the 30 day average SOI taking a significant dive towards neutral territory before we'll believe any real trend/bias away from La Nina is occurring (regardless of what NOAA is predicting recently).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/11) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing 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, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relating as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water was edging east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator on 3/3 and holding there though 3/22. There had been minor fluctuations in it's intensity but in all, reasonably stable. Currently those temps are down to about 1 deg above normal. There had been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm and cool anomalies and it had been blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But as of 4/4, it appears that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline. The thoughts is this normalization of subsurface waters will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (months later).
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were almost normal and any anomalies that persisted were dying to almost totally normal as of 3/27.
Remnants of what was a moderate.cgius strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. In short, it's 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, especially in summer months. 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. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch aimed well towards either Hawaii or CA is forecast. A gale is forecast in the far Eastern Pacific on Sun (4/17) producing up to 40 ft seas but all aimed due east towards Southern Chile. Swell possible up into Chile, but that's about it.
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 acco.cgiished 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