New Swell Classification Guidelines
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 Wednesday (1/2) Northern CA surf was waist high and week. a bit more size was starting to show late. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to maybe chest high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist to chest high. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was thigh high at the best breaks. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh to waist high. The North Shore of Oahu was 2 ft overhead and messy. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore had windswell pushing 1 ft overhead.
North/Central California was not getting any swell of interest today, but the outer buoys were indicating something percolating and coming from the Gulf. Southern California was not getting any swell of interest. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some raw sideband swell originating from a gale that was in the Gulf pushing swell energy towards California too. Windswell was pushing into the East Shore. The South Shore was flat. Swell from the Gulf of Alaska was hitting Hawaii and starting to work it's way into the North CA coast. This is just a little tease though compared to what is in-store this weekend on into early next week for the Central and North CA coasts. But conditions to be exceeding raw with the bigger attention being paid to what could become a major snow event for the Sierras. So the short story is wind and copious rain for the US West Coast in the immediate future, with surf more the side-story with poor conditions in control. Just the same, precipitation of any kind is good news for the Golden state. La Nina is in control, continuing to drive storm production close to the Pacific Northwest coast and holding the favored international dateline swell production region well at bay. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Wednesdays jetstream charts (1/2) for the North Pacific a solid jetstream flow was pushing off Japan ridging decidedly northeast to the dateline, minimizing storm development potential there, then diving southeast to a point midway between Hawaii and San Francisco with winds to 180 kts from the dateline eastward. No organized flow existed east of the point described above but a decent trough appeared to be developing from the dateline east, and is to be the source of much weather energy in the days ahead. Over the next 72 hours a solid trough is to build just off the Oregon and california coasts with winds to 200 kts feeding into late Friday then slowly fading Saturday while pushing onshore Sunday. Good support for surface level storm development just off the coast there. Beyond 72 hours a big ridge is to be building north of Hawaii Sunday pushing east into the Pacific northwest Tues (1/8) while a weak zonal (flat) flow sets up behind it. Gale development potential fading. The models are hinting at another batch of stronger energy building over Japan mid-next week, offering up hopes for more storm development in the days ahead. But any specific outcome is far from clear at this early date.
At the surface today high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered at a point just east of the dateline and 400 nmiles north of Hawaii driving the storm track northeast over the dateline and then into the US West Coast. Low pressure at 972 mbs was in the far northeastern Gulf of Alaska off Northwestern Canada. No significant winds were blowing over the North Pacific, though a closed isobar low was starting to build south of the Aleuatins and just east of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the big story is to be the development of a major winter storm forming from the low identified above. This to likely become Storm #11 (see deatils below) and is to dominate the weather picture..
Storm #11 (updated Fri PM)
On Thursday AM (1/3) a closed isobar low developed with pressure dropping to 972 mbs with 50 kt northwest winds confirmed at 45N 157W aimed 20 degree south of the 296 degree great circle path to North CA. Seas building from 21 ft. In the evening an impressive fetch of 55-60 kts winds were confirmed at 41N 144W aimed right down the 292 degree path to North CA (297 SCal). Pressure was 960 mbs. Seas were modeled at 30 ft at 43N 147W.
On Friday AM (1/4) pressure held at 960 mbs with a solid fetch of 50-55 kt winds positioned at 39N 135W aimed right down the 285-292 degree paths to NCal (292 SCal) and in close proximity to the coast (600 nmiles away from San Francisco). 36-46 kt west winds were already working their way over buoy 46059, another 300 nmiles to the east. 40 ft seas were modeled at 41N 139W, in-step with the fetch. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the back end of the fetch and reported seas at 27 ft, exactly in-step with the WW3 wavemodel. Buoy 46059 reported pure swell up to 27 ft @ 18.5 secs at 2 PM, suggesting our forecast could be a bit too low with the peak of the swell arriving a bit earlier than projected. Also the Jason-1 satellite made a pass right over the leading edge of the fetch and reported seas at 39.5 ft where the model projected 38 ft, so actual data was suggesting higher seas than what was modeled, a good sign.In the evening the core of the storm was just off Vancouver Island with 45 kt winds as far south at 42N 130W aimed down the 308 degree path to NCal and just 400 nmiles out. 40 ft seas forecast at 40N 133W aimed right at the SF Bay Area. Buoy 46059 reported pure swell up peaking at 6 PM at 27.5 ft @ 18.5 secs and holidng near 24.8 ft @ 18.5 secs teill 8 PM. This is a pretty impressive spike. Forecast has been updated accordingly.
By Saturday AM (1/5) the storm is to be fading fast with all fetch pushing right over Oregon and Washington and much 20 kt fetch reaching down into the San Francisco Bay area with 30 kts winds still filling the Gulf of Alaska aimed right at Central CA. 30 ft seas pushing into Pt Arena from 38N 125W.
Though this storm is strong, it remains very close to the coast, providing only more raw and unrideable swell slamming into the Pacific Northwest coast on down into Central CA. Southern CA to possibly be better suited to capture this swell due to it's more protected position behind the Channel Islands, but the impending weather byproducts from this system remain likely have a negative impact there as well (wind and chop). Only minimal sideband windswell to push into Hawaii (See QuikCAST's for details).
North CA: Expect large and exceeding raw stormsurf to push into Northern CA on Saturday (1/5) with swell 15-17 ft @ 17-19 secs (25-32 ft faces), seas to 23 ft and rogue sets with swell pushing 21 ft @ 19 secs mid-morning generating 40 ft faces. Swell to fade from 11 ft @ 14 secs (16 ft faces) Sunday AM (1/6) and seas 14-16 ft. Swell Direction: 285-295 degrees
Central/South CA: Expect large and raw stormsurf to push into Central CA peaking late on Saturday (1/5) with seas 19 ft and pure swell 12-14 ft @ 17-19 secs (20-27 ft faces). Swell pushing into exposed breaks in Santa Barbara right before sunset near 6.0-6.8 ft @ 17-19 secs (10-13 ft faces). On Sunday AM (1/6) in Central CA seas to fade from 14 ft and swell 9.6 @ 15 secs early (14 ft faces) and 5.0-5.5 ft @ 15 secs (7.5-8.0 ft faces) at exposed breaks over all of South CA (bigger down into San Diego early). Swell Direction: 290-300 degrees CCal - 301-304 SCal.
A 982 mb gale developed in the Gulf of Alaska on Monday (12/31) generating a fetch of 30 kt winds near 40N 155W aimed midway between Hawaii and California wit sideband energy aimed towards the Islands. In the evening the gale held position with winds building to near 40 kts at 45N 155W aimed like before or 30 degrees south of the 300 degree path to NCal and 30 degrees east of the 358 degree path to Hawaii. 27 ft seas were modeled at 44N 155W. On Tuesday (1/1) the fetch took aim more to the east with 40 kts winds continuing at 46N 147W aimed well down the 305 degree path to NCal (310 SCal). 27 ft seas continued at 43N 150W. This gale started fading in the evening with 30 kt winds hanging in the same area and dissipating. 27 ft seas from previous fetch continued at 46N 142W fading fast by Wed AM.
Hawaii: Expect swell of 7 ft @ 11-12 secs (7-8 ft faces) expected peaking Wed (1/2) coming from 355+ degrees, and fading.
North CA: Swell of 6 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft face) expected to be peaking first light Thursday AM (1/3) coming from 297-303 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Wednesday (1/2) neutral pressure was in control trying to hold back a building low pressure pattern in the Gulf. But by all estimates that to be a loosing proposition with south winds building into the area north of Pt Conception by Thursday pushing to near 40 kts by Friday and reaching into Southern CA in the 20 kt range. Wind turning southwest more on Saturday but still 15-20 kts over most of the region continuing into Sunday, though there are hints of something less depending on the model one uses. High pressure to finally make a comeback Monday switching the winds to northwest but rebuilding it to 20 kts even into Southern CA. More south winds forecast for North CA Tues and Wed (1/9) though most of Central and Southern CA to settle into a calmer
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
No swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 the models suggest a calmer pattern taking hold as a ridge builds in the upper atmopshere over the Northeastern Pacific. Some form of ill-defined gale is modeled for the Western Gulf starting Sunday (1/6) drifting east with winds in the 35 kt range aimed southeast rarely pushing 40 kts through Tuesday (1/8) before dissipating off the Pacific Northwest generating a small area of 25-28 ft seas, maybe good for 14 sec period swell pushing into Hawaii on Wednesday (1/9) and the US West Coast near Thursday (1/10). An even weaker system is forecast for the dateline behind it offering intermediate class potential for Hawaii beyond.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. The season is over.
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