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 Thursday (10/14) North and Central California was getting fun sized windswell coming out of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with surf head high and clean. Southern California was getting Gulf windswell with waves to chest high up north and pretty textured. Down south southern hemi swell was hitting in the waist high.cgius range and a little textured, but not as bad as up north. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat with rare thigh to waist high sets and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at chest high with chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting waist high and fading southern hemi sets with clean conditions.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more small Gulf windswell at 3 ft (faces) Friday turning to pure windswell on Saturday at 4 ft holding about the same on Sunday. More small southern hemi swell expected in on Friday too at 3.5 ft holding there Saturday then fading from 3.0 ft on Sunday. Monday local windswell continues at 4.5 ft and then down to 4ft on Tuesday (10/19). Southern California is to see no northerly windswell on Friday then building to knee high for Saturday, Sunday Monday and Tuesday. Also new southern hemi swell is expected in on Friday at chest high holding Saturday then dropping from waist to chest high on Sunday with waist high leftovers on Monday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no swell of interest till maybe Wednesday (10/20). The East Shore is to see tradewinds generated east windswell fading from waist high or so Friday, then nothing through for the weekend on into early next week. The South Shore is to see some very south angled background swell fading Friday from waist high and then knee high on Saturday, gone on Sunday. Perhaps a small push of knee to thigh high southwest swell on Monday dropping to knee high Tuesday.
No real swell producing fetch has occurred or is forecast till a decent gale drops from the Bering Sea into the Northwestern Gulf on Monday setting up 28 ft seas then fading to 20 ft while pushing into the Central Gulf late Tuesday. Possible mid-period swell to result pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coast if all goes as forecast. Another weaker one is to follow tracking over the northern dateline Thursday (10/21) with 20 ft seas.
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 Southern CA. A small gale that was forecast for the Southeast Pacific Thurs-Fri (10/15) with 30-32 ft seas has been downgraded with sea only in the 29 ft range now. No real swell expected to result even for Southern CA. This systems is to reorganize well east of the Southern CA swell window Sun-Mon (10/18) but only of interest to Chile. Nothing else to follow. At this point we're just waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to kick into gear.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/14) the North Pacific jetstream was weak ridging off the Kuril Islands over the dateline in the Bering Sea, then falling weakly down into the Northern Gulf of Alaska with no winds energy of interest there, then ridging northeast into British Columbia. There was no evidence of any support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours a pocket of building winds to 140 kts is forecast ridging off Kamchatka then dipping south forming almost a trough in the Gulf of Alaska by Sun (10/17) with some of the wind energy in the west stating to push into that trough, though not quite making it yet. Improving odds to support gale development in the Gulf if this occurs. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the Gulf is to hold and get marginally better infused with wind energy to 140 kts on Monday while more energy building into the jet off the Kuril Islands (at 180 kts) ridging over the dateline and fall into the trough in the Gulf by Thurs (10/21) offering good support for gale development then. possibly signaling the start of a more favorable upper pattern for the long term future.
At the surface on Thursday (10/14) weak generic low pressure was in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska and of no real interest. High pressure at 1032 mbs remained in control pushing through the Central Gulf of Alaska almost reaching the Pacific Northwest. Winds were light over Central CA with no pressure gradient in.cgiay and therefore no source for windswell generation and trades were light over Hawaii with no east windswell being generated. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to be easing into the PAcific Northwest and British Columbia setting up the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA Fri-Sun (10/17) producing north winds there to maybe 25 kts making for short period north windswell for Central CA for the weekend. But the high is to be tracking to far to the north with respect to Hawaii to produce trades or east windswell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/14) a light wind pattern was in.cgiay over Central CA with a neutral pressure pattern over waters out nearly 600 nmiles. By Friday (10/15) high pressure is to be building into the PAcific Northwest setting up another new mild gradient over Cape Mendocino generating 25 kt north winds there pushing to 15 kts down over outer waters of the Central Coast but not reaching nearshore. More of the same is forecast Saturday and Sunday with winds to 20-25 kts but remaining off the coast from Pt Arena southward, then the gradient itself is to start dropping southward later Monday and Tuesday, but still not hitting the coast. Still, a fair amount of warble is likely to be reaching all Central CA breaks by then. Regardless, by Wednesday (10/20) the gradient is to be dissolving as low pressure moves closer to the coast, almost enough to set up south winds maybe Friday. But that is likely just a fantasy of the models. But it certainly suggests that a Fall pattern is trying to get better established if all goes as forecast.
Snow that fell in British Columbia at Whistler on Tues (1012) has started melting off. Also snow has been reported in upper elevations of Colorado. Looks like the board season is trying to get started.
On Thursday (10/14) a rather energetic ridge was pushing south well over the Ross Ice Shelf (Southwest Pacific) and building eastward offering no potential to support gale production. For the next 72 hours that ridge is to continue tracking east, but forming a bit of a trough ahead of it and starting to dig out decently off extreme southern Chile late Saturday (10/16) possibly supporting gale development, but well east of any great circle track up into the US West Coast (much less Hawaii). Beyond 72 hours that trough is to push into Southern Chile on Tues (10/19) offering no support for gale development pushing into US waters. Otherwise a weak trough is to start building under New Zealand mid-next week, but it is not likely it will have enough wind energy to support surface level gale development.
At the oceans surface on Thursday (10/14) no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours a new low pressure system is to be building in the extreme Southeast Pacific on Sun (10/17) with a broad fetch of 40-45 kt winds aimed all at southern Chile. No swell to result pushing even into Mexico.
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 Sat-Sun (10/17) with 35 kt northwest fetch starting to fall south of the Aleutian Islands mid-Sunday at 50N 170W aimed best at the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy aimed at Hawaii from a very northerly angle. This fetch is to be fading fast on Monday PM, down to 30 kts at 50N 160W then dissipating. 24 ft seas to result Sun PM at 50N 170W building to 28 ft Monday AM (10/18) at 48N 165W then fading Monday PM from 26 ft at 47N 160W. Possible swell targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband energy reaching south towards Hawaii with luck. At least it's something to monitor. More low pressure is to be building west of the dateline on Wed (10/20) with winds at 30-35 kts and pushing over the dateline early Thurs generating seas at 20 ft or so. Maybe some minimal 13 sec period swell to result. Also the models had been suggesting that a tropical system, currently a bit east of the Central Philippines is to be building on Fri-Sat (10/16) stalling just east of there then lifting north and northeast, just barely east of Southern Japan on Wed (10/20). That looks to not be the case now, with the more logical westward track favored. Will monitor just in case.
See the official El Nino/La Nina forecast now posted at the link below
As of Thursday (10/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued dropping, the third day in a row and the start of a decent trend. The daily SOI was at 9.15 ending a 86 day positive reading run. The 30 day average was down to 22.81 with the 90 day average peaked at 21.51 though incrementally falling.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (10/13) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO continues 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 was holding on 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 ever seen. Likewise an equally strong Active Phase (west anomalies) was filling the Indian Ocean and inching into the far Western Pacific with the core now over the Philippines. The Inactive Phase is forecast to quickly exit east over Central America through 10/18 and be gone by 10/21 with the Active Phase starting to reach solidly over the dateline on 10/18, and then moderating while filling the Pacific though 10/28 and slowly decaying through 12/2. This is looking 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 (into the first week in November). 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 (10/14) continues to indicate 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 a.cgiifying 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.cgius 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