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 Saturday (1/3) North/Central California had northwest windswell coming from the southeast Gulf of Alaska in the 2-3 ft overhead range but chopped even early with underlying energy coming from a gale that was off Japan Fri-Sun (12/29). Southern California was in the thigh to maybe waist high range at the best breaks on the sets and reasonably clean, coming from the same source as the swell up north. Hawaii's North Shore was in the chest high range on the sets with strong trades adding some texture. This swell originated from a broad gale that was just off Japan, with more coming. The South Shore was getting a little pulse of southern hemi swell and some wrap around trades wind swell. The East Shore was getting decent trade induced east windswell in the t head high plus range.
For Central California Gulf windswell is to continue Sunday but smaller then gone by Monday with lingering bits of energy still in the water originating off Japan. Modest southern hemi swell is expected in on late Sunday continuing Monday too. In all nothing very exciting expected though. Southern California is to be shadowed from most of the windswell, but southern hemi swell is to move in on Sunday (1/4) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces) fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs on Monday (3 ft faces). The North Shore of Hawaii is to continue having the only thing that passes for semi-real surf thanks to the next pulse of swell originating off Japan due in on Sunday and bouncing around in size through the week, with energy still present by next weekend.(1/10). The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any real surf. The East Shore is getting a pretty good dose of easterly windswell with more size expected on Sunday (1/4), then dropping on Monday and back to normal size Tuesday then slowly fading from there through Friday (1/9).
Longer term the jetstream remains forecast to continue consolidating first over the dateline then pushing east into the Gulf of Alaska. Gale activity which has been isolated to the far Western Pacific is to start pushing east reaching the dateline early Tuesday (1/6) but weakening while bit's of it break off and race east into the Gulf first late Sunday (1/4) then again on Wednesday (1/7) providing some wind energy and seas in the 20+ ft range, possibly providing rideable swell for the US West Coast mainly north of Pt Conception from a fairly northerly direction. But virtually nothing of significant class size is on the charts for the next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (1/3) the North
Pacific jetstream was looking much better than anytime in the past month with a solid consolidated flow of wind to near 190 kts pushing off Japan, dipping into a broad trough approaching the dateline, then arching northeast with winds still 160+ kts and forming a well defined ridge in the Gulf of Alaska before dropping south again into a weak trough and dissipating while moving over Southern CA. Decent support for gale development approaching the dateline, and good support for high pressure development at the oceans surface north of Hawaii (not a good thing). Over the next 72
hours this same basic pattern is to hold but shifting more to the east, with the Japan trough moving over the dateline and flattening out with winds still 190 kts, and the ridge pushing into the California coast while the jet moves inland over British Columbia late Monday into Tuesday (1/6). limited support for gale development over the dateline, and diminishing as the trough there flattens out. Beyond 72 hours the flow to continue flat from Southern Japan due east over the dateline on the 32N latitude then splitting slightly just north of Hawaii with the northern branch tracking up into the Gulf Thursday (1/80 and the southern branch tracking directly over Hawaii. Very limited support for low pressure on the dateline. But by the weekend a new pocket of 190 kts winds is forecast building off Japan dropping into a building trough just northwest of Hawaii, providing potential for surface level low pressure or gale development then. Maybe this will be the start of something. Whatever happens, it will be very close to the Islands.
At the surface today the second in the series of gales has pushing east from off Japan (see 2nd Japan Gale below), continuing to totally dominate the West Pacific. High pressure at 1028 mbs remained centered 800 nmiles west of Pt Conception and riding into the coast now that a front has passed through, generating moderate plus north winds along the CA coast and also generating a solid fetch of 20-25 kt east winds pushing into the Hawaiian Islands, generating decent windswell along east facing shores (seas 10 ft @ 9 secs). Over the next 72 hours the Japan system is to break up with pieces of it pushing east. Sunday (1/4) 30 kt west to southwest winds associated with one such patch are to track over the high pressure system locked off California generating a diffuse area of 20-23 ft seas near 48N 145W, good for limited swell of 6 ft @ 14 secs ( 8 ft faces) by Wednesday AM (1/7) at exposed breaks in Central CA from 305-308 degrees.
First Japan Gale
On Friday (12/27) a gale pushed off Japan with consistent fetch of 40 kt west-northwest winds indicated and seas confirmed at 31.7 ft in the AM per the Jason-1 satellite building to 32 ft in the evening at 36N 153E then fading out late Saturday with seas dropping from 28 ft at the same location late. Sunday AM (12/28) a brief resurgence of 40 kt winds occurred pushing seas to 28 ft again at 37N 153E, then the whole thing pushed east and dissipated. Swell from this system reached Hawaii Wed -Sat (1/3) and then headed on East with limited 2-3 ft @ 13-15 sec (3-4 ft faces) energy expected in to exposed breaks in Central California on Fri-Mon (1/5).
Second Japan Gale
On Wednesday (12/31) a new gale started building off Northern Japan producing a broad fetch of 35 kt west winds with an imbedded core to near 45 kts at 37N 162E aimed well down the 305 degree path to Hawaii but lifting northeast in the evening. A solid area of 29-30 ft seas were modeled in the evening at 37N 169E aimed right at the Islands. On Thursday AM (1/1) the gale started to loose organization with residual 30-35 kt west winds fragmented over the same area with a small area of 30-33 ft seas aimed briefly 30 degrees northeast of the Islands at 42N 173E, then pushing too far north in the evening. The gale is to got marginally better organized late Friday into Saturday (1/3) with 35 kt northwest winds imbedded in a broad area of 30 kt winds centered at 40N 160E producing 25 ft seas by Saturday AM at 35N 165E and holding into Sun PM with 23 ft seas at 32N 170E, then fading Monday. .
The gale is to slowly fade while drifting west, but not totally dissipating, regenerating some Tuesday PM and producing 25 ft seas at 40N 168E then reaching the dateline on Wednesday (1/7) with 30 kt winds and 23 ft seas (at 38N 173E) forecast non-stop through the period, likely generating more 14 sec period swell targeting Hawaii well down the 298-312 degree paths. Still on Thursday 20 ft seas are forecast at 35N 175E generating yet more 13 sec period energy.
A long run of moderate sized swell seems likely for Hawaii assuming the models are correct, with the initial pulse of the swell starting well before sunrise Sunday (1/4) with swell 5.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (9 ft faces) from 300 degrees, dropping some Monday then rebounding Wednesday to 6.5 ft @ near 14 secs (9 ft faces) still from 300 degrees. Additional smaller energy to continue non-stop at least into Saturday (1/10). .
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/3) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 800 mbs west of Pt Conception ridging into Northern California generating a building fetch of 20 kt north winds along the CA coast from Cape Mendocino south of the Channel Islands. The pattern to fade some on Sunday (1/4) into Monday with the tail end of a front and rain reaching Monterey Bay. Lighter winds to hold Monday into early Tuesday (1/6) as low pressure takes hold pushing into the Pacific Northwest, but a new high pressure system is to be just offshore, likely starting up the north wind machine over Pt Conception mid-Tuesday pushing up into the SF Bay Area Wednesday, stalling for a day then building more late Thursday into Friday (1/9). This high is finally expected to make a push onshore over Oregon Saturday (1/10) possibly bring offshore winds to the entire state.
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.
A storm developed in the deep South Pacific on Friday (12/26) with up to 45-50 kt southwest winds over a small area in the evening producing 32 ft seas at 55S 150W aimed well up the 195 degree path to California. Saturday AM (12/27) more 45-50 kts winds were indicated with up to 38 ft seas modeled at 55S 145W aimed like before. This system faded out in the evening with seas dropping from 37 ft at 57S 141W. Expected swell pushing into Southern California of 2.0 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Sunday (1/4) with swell to near 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Monday (1/5), fading Tuesday as period drops to 14 secs.
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 high pressure is to hold off Central CA for the next week while spin-off energy from the 2nd Japan Gale moves over it and into the Pacific Northwest. The next patch of energy is forecast congealing into a closed isobar low late Tuesday (1/6) generating near 40 kts winds at 48N 152W aimed well down the 302 degree path to Central CA and continuing east Wednesday AM generating 28 ft seas at 48N 145W 1300 nmiles out. Possible decent swell from a northerly direction being generated for exposed breaks in Central CA arriving late week if this comes to pass. All the energy from this system expected to move onshore over the Pacific Northwest Wed/Thurs (1/8) making a mess of things up there. Little to reach Southern CA given the relatively steep north angle.
Beyond the models do not depict any surface development of interest, through with the jet organizing in the upper levels, that is likely to change. Monitor the long range models.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (1/3) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still in the Active Phase, much stronger than previous estimates. The Daily SOI index has not bee updated since 12/28 but was up to 28.75 at that time. The 30 day average was down to 10.44 and the 90 day average was up some to 14.06. This and other evidence suggests that La Nina was well dug in and the MJO is making no significant headway against it. As of toady winds anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a solid area of west winds covering from south of Indian east over Indonesia out to nearly the dateline. These were associated with what appears to the new pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO. These winds are expected to push east and slowly fade, straddling the dateline by 1/12 and then dissipated by 1/22. At the same time the inactive phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean, reaching north Australia by 1/22. The active phase is supportive of development of storms in the North Pacific, specifically the gale pattern off Japan and maybe the miraculous repair of the jetstream. If will be interesting to see what storm activity develops over the next 3 weeks. Also note that warm waters that had built up off Central America starting last summer due to what appeared to be the start of an El Nino have been totally erased now and cooler than normal waters have totally taken over the equator from the dateline east to almost Ecuador. This is very much a La Nina symptom.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table