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 Saturday (1/5) Northern CA surf was 40 ft with a nice long period, but trashed by south wind. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were up to double overhead and hacked by south wind. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was pushing 4 times overhead and climbing up steeply. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was head high and on the increase, though southwest wind was taking it's toll. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist high and junky early, but that is sure to change. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist to chest high and raw. The North Shore of Oahu was head high and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore had windswell pushing waist to chest high.
North/Central California was getting slammed by giant raw stormsurf from Storm #11 putting on an impressive display of nature at it's best. Southern California was in the calm before the storm, with large swell pushing down the coast poised to impact the region later today. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a little pulse of dateline energy generating something to ride, but not much more. Wrap-around swell was pushing into the East Shore. The South Shore was flat. The big story today is Swell #11 slamming California. Seas heights were up to 30 ft at near 20 secs in North CA with pure swell 25 ft @ 19 secs or greater. Unfortunately southerly winds and a horrible local seas state were rendering it unrideable. A nice 3 ft dump of snow has hit the Sierra's helping to dampen any drought worries, with much more forecast in the days ahead - with Tuesday possibly being another dumper. The Madden Julian Oscillation is now in the active state and expected to help fuel a series of storms forming near the dateline and pushing into the Gulf of Alaska over the next 7 days. If this occurs, solid surf is expected for both the Islands and the US West Coast, though any outcome at this early date is premature. Still, looks like a good start to the new year. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Saturdays jetstream charts (1/5) for the North Pacific indicated a solid jetstream flow was pushing off Japan ridging only slightly over the dateline and splitting there, with the northern branch forming a solid trough as it pushed inland over Oregon and Northern CA. Wind speed averaged about 160 kts over the jets length, which is pretty solid. The trough in the east was the source of stormy weather there the past 48 hours. The southern branch of the jet which had split off from the main flow on the dateline was tracking southeast towards the equator, but finally steering clear of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to hold over the US West Coast through Sunday (1/6) while new energy starts building over Japan pushing east over the dateline. The split jet pattern is to heal itself with a near flat flow reaching cohesively across the NOrth PAcific by Tuesday. A bit of a trough is to set up over the dateline at that time offering hope for gale development there, a first for the season. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to loose a bit of it's definition and strength, but not horribly so, with a series of trough continuing to develop near the dateline and pushing east. Decent support suggested for gale development in this region.
At the surface today the remnants of Storm #11 were circulating in the Gulf of Alaska with 30 kts winds pushing from western Alaska on into the Pacific Northwest and generating short period swell for the region on top of the already super-sized swell slamming into the California coast from this storms earlier life. Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was positioned 400 nmiles northeast of Hawaii offering a modicum of protection there, but providing no protection for the US West Coast. Low pressure was trying to organize over the dateline positioned pretty well to the south, but nothing really organized yet. Over the next 72 hours a new storm to form over the dateline and become Storm #12 of the 2007/2008 Winter Season (see details below). Between it and another one behind it (Storm #13 - see Longterm Forecast) they are to dominate the weather pattern for the foreseeable future.
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 holding near 24.8 ft @ 18.5 secs till 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.
Potential Storm #12
A weak dateline low is to slowly coalesce into a swell producing gale that could be labeled Storm #12 by Sunday AM (1/6) with 40 kt winds forecast in it's south quadrant at 41N 170W aimed reasonably well towards HAwaii down the 336 degree path and better at California up the 292 degree path (297 SCal). Seas on the increase. By evening pressure to drop to 968 mbs with 45-50 kt winds forecast in it's southwest quadrant at 44N 168W aimed well towards Hawaii down the 341 degree path and also into it's south quadrant aimed towards California down the 295 degree route (300 Scal). Seas forecast up to 30 ft over a tiny area at 43N 166W.
By Monday AM (1/7) all fetch is to move into the storms south quadrant with winds 50 kts at 43N 158W bypassing Hawaii but aimed right up the 293 degree path to NCal and 297 SCal. Seas forecast at 39 ft at 43N 160W targeting the US West Coast well. The storm to start fizzling out in the evening with residual 45 kts winds located at 41N 149W still aimed due east up the 289 degree path to NCal (294 SCal). Seas forecast at 36 ft at 42N 153W.
Finally on Tuesday AM (1/8) the last 35 kt fetch is to push onshore over Point Arena with effects down into Central CA (SLO). Residual 29 ft seas forecast at 39N 143W, about 1000 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino.
In all this looks to be a decent swell producer, though not over the top by any means. It's to offer only a glancing blow to Hawaii with swell expected near Tues (1/8) with most energy directed due to the east towards Central and North CA for mid-week, with decent potential for Southern CA too given it's rather southerly track. This is starting to look like a normal winter now.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/5) low pressure and near gale force northwest winds were pushing over outer waters in association with Storm #11 still lingering in the Gulf of Alaska pushing a jumbled sea state and west atmospheric flow towards the coast. Not much change is forecast for Sunday either with a westerly flow expected down into even Southern CA. A short break in the pattern is forecast for Monday with clearing skies and a light northwesterly wind flow forecast, maybe providing a chance for things to clean up a bit. But then on Tuesday (1/8) the remnants of Potential Storm #12 are to push onshore reaching to Pt Conception by sunset and bringing brisk onshore winds and another dousing of rain to the coast. Southern Ca looks to be immune from the wind though. That to clean up Wednesday (1/9) with a light wind pattern in play but another front to impact the coast early Thursday confined mainly to points north of Monterey Bay. After that high pressure and light winds to grace the coast on into the weekend while stormy pattern continue well out at sea.
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 stronger storm forming from semi-tropical energy forecast to push east off Japan Sunday (1/6) and organizing late with 45 kt winds taking aim on Hawaii from across the dateline and well south at 33N 168E. This to possible become Storm #13.
Potential Storm #13
On Sunday (1/6) the models suggest a stronger storm forming from semi-tropical energy forecast to push east off Japan and organizing late with 45 kt winds taking aim on Hawaii from across the dateline and well south at 33N 168E.
By Monday AM (1/7) near 60 kt winds are forecast in it's southwest quadrant targeting Hawaii from 35N 175E aimed down the 306 degree path. 29 ft seas forecast building at 33N 173E. In the evening the system to jog northeast some with 60-65 kt winds (hurricane force) set up on the dateline at 35N 178W in the storms south and southwest quadrants aimed at Hawaii down the 310 degree path and at California up the 285 degree path. 40 ft seas projected at 35N 180W aimed right at Hawaii.
The storm to loose steam by Tuesday AM (1/8) with 50 kts winds forecast at 38N 173W aimed entirely east or 25 degrees south of the 288 degree path to NCal (293 SCal).43 ft seas forecast at 36N 173W. A broad fetch of 45 kts winds to continue in the evening aimed due east from 39N 165W or right up the 287 degree path to NCal (293 SCal) but bypassing any route to Hawaii. 44 ft seas forecast at 38N 164W aimed due east.
Finally on Wednesday AM (1/9) a fading fetch of 45 kt west winds are forecast at 41N 165W aimed at NCal up the 289 degree path. 45 ft seas suggested at 41N 160W. A secondary low to fire up offering the potential for more fetch and seas generation. Seas forecast at 41 ft at 43N 153W aimed at Ncal up the 292 degree path.
A quick fade is forecast Thursday AM (1/10) with residual seas from previous days fetch 32 ft at 44N 146W aimed down the 300 degree path to NCal (305 SCal).
This is quite a reach for the models but offers a tantalizing tease fore the future. 96 hours of solid fetch and seas are projected aimed well east providing the possibility of long period significant class swell for the US West Coast. And given it's close proximity to the Hawaiian Islands, a nice but short lived pulse of significant class swell could result there as well. Will monitor.
Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) Update: Starting about 1/1/2008 the MJO started moving into the active phase with a strong area of reversed winds at the 850 mb level starting to encroach into the far Western Tropical Pacific and east-bound. As of Sat (1/5) the SOI remains very positive reading at 40 with no signs of dipping into negative territory just yet. But the model are clearly depicting these anomalous winds tracking east through the end of the month. We suspect this may be starting to fuel the enhanced storm pattern for for the next week, and additional activity could be expected through the end of the month.
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