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 Sunday (1/11) North/Central California had new swell coming from the Gulf of Alaska in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and clean with offshore's in control. Southern California was small, with thigh to waist high waves the best to be found, still wrapping in from the Gulf of Alaska and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore still had fun sized surf coming from that never ending gale the sat between Japan and the dateline all last week with waves up to head high, but Konas looking imminent. The South Shore was near flat. The East Shore still had some trade wind generated east windswell in the chest high range.
For Central California the swell coming from the Gulf is to be slowly trickling down on Monday, but still rideable with surf in the head high range and offshore's still in control. But after that thing really drop off with next to no surf forecast by Tuesday and holding there for a few days. Southern California is to see a better portion of this Gulf swell perhaps starting at sunset Sunday up north but most hitting overnight, with decent energy still expected into Monday morning and slowly fading from there. Swell Monday about 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (waist high surf at exposed breaks). It's all down hill after that for a while. The North Shore of Hawaii is to be coming up fast starting Monday as swell from a local gale hits, reaching 8.6 ft @ 15 secs by noon (12-13 ft faces) from 347 degrees. North winds to be an issue early, but possibly clocking to trades late afternoon. This to be fading on Tuesday, but still quite rideable size wise. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore is likely to get a bit of the local gale swell too, especially on Tuesday as the angle turns more northerly still.
Longer term all eyes are to be on a broad gale that is forming off Japan right now and expected to push to the dateline by Tuesday (1/13) maybe making some headway east of there early Wednesday with up to 43 ft seas. But the models have dropped off some from previous estimates, though some form of significant class surf seems likely, especially for Hawaii. We'll be monitoring this one very carefully.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (1/11) the North Pacific jetstream was tracking pretty close to expectations with a near 180 kt singular flow of winds pushing flat off Japan reaching to the dateline, then dipping hard south into a small steep trough there positioned just north of Hawaii, before ridging back north and arching into British Columbia. Decent support for gale development in the trough just north of Hawaii, with secondary support off Japan. Over the next 72 hours that trough north of the ISlands is to be pinched off by Monday AM, with whatever surface gale is there fading fast. But winds are to get much more organized off Japan pushing near 220 kts (very strong) and raging towards the dateline, though flat with no trough immediately indicated. This flow to reach just north of Hawaii by Tuesday AM (1/13) with a trough forming there though winds to be down to 190 kts (still quite respectable) and holding, with the trough even better defined by Wednesday pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska. Certainly some form of solid gale or storm should form in the area. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to hold very solid with 190-200 kt winds continuing to push flat off Japan tracking even east of Hawaii with some degree of trough holding in the Western Gulf, likely supporting gale formation at the oceans surface there through Saturday (1/17) with 200 kt winds still indicated. Interesting, but the trough looks like it might finally push far enough east and fully consolidated to reach into the Northern Pacific Northwest late Sunday (1/18) and maybe further south in the days beyond, possibly bringing much needed moisture to California. But that's purely a guess at this time.
At the surface today two systems of interest were being tracked,. First up is a small storm north of Hawaii with 50 kts north winds suggested over a tiny area aimed right at the Islands (see Small Hawaiian Storm below). Much further to the west a large gale was organizing off Japan (See Possible Storm #3 below). Swell from a small gale that was in the Gulf was hitting the California coast (see Small Gulf Gale below). Otherwise bulletproof high pressure at 1036 mbs was ridging inland over Oregon into Idaho and off the US West Coast forming an impenetrable storm barrier west to nearly Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold over the US West Coast while the Hawaii storm fades fast and get's shunting into Alaska and Possible Storm #3 pushes east to the dateline then east into the Western Gulf and stalling there. Good odds for swell from each of these systems with the first affecting only Hawaii but the second one affecting both the Islands and the entire mainland coast.
Small Gulf Gale
On Thursday (1/8) a secondary gale was tracking northeast from it into the Gulf of Alaska generating a small area of 40 kt west winds at 47N 162W and 25 ft seas at 46N 165W. This area pushed northeast through the evening with up to 26 ft seas at 48N 159W with fetch aimed towards the Pacific Northwest and north of there, likely good for some small swell of 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8.2 ft faces) at sunset Sunday in the SF Bay Area from 308 degrees, fading from 5.2 ft @ 12-13 secs Monday (6.5 ft faces).
Small Hawaiian Storm
A new gale formed a mere 800 nmiles north west of Hawaii on Saturday PM (1/10) with 45-50 kt northwest winds covering a tiny area aimed right at the Islands and coming fairly close to Kauai, building to 55 kts over a tiny area late night Sunday AM and producing 26 ft seas at 35N 162W, holding into the evening at 36N 160W (800 nmiles out). The QuikSCAT satellite confirmed winds at 50-55 kts over a decent area aimed right at the Islands at 10 PM at 36N 165W. This is pretty close to the Islands, but not nearly as close as previously forecast. The net result is to be larger semi-raw swell for the North Shore of Oahu at 8.6 ft @ 15 secs (13 ft faces) arriving on north facing shores near noon on Monday (1/12) from 347 degrees. Residual swell of 7.1 ft @ 11 secs expected Tuesday AM (1/13) and fading fast.
Possible Storm #3 (updated Mon PM)
A new strong gale was building just off Northern Japan Saturday AM (1/10) with pressure 980 mbs and 45 kt west winds modeled trying to get footing off the coast. The QuikSCAT satellite confirmed winds to nearly 60 kts over a tiny area at 39N 148E near noon PST. In the evening winds were modeled at near 50 kts over a tiny area and confirmed at 50 kts at 36N 153E. Seas were modeled at 32 ft at 39N 150E.
By Sunday AM (1/11) pressure was 976 mbs with 45 kt west winds modeled and confirmed via the QuikSCAT satellite at 37N 157E aimed due east or 2700 nmiles from Hawaii aimed right up the 303 degree path there and 3700 nmiles from Central CA aimed up the 296 degree path. 36 ft seas were modeled at 38N 156E. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern quadrant of this system and reported seas at 30.2 ft with a single reading to 31.9 ft where the model suggested seas should be 32 ft, which was pretty close though we'd suggest the models were overstated by about 1 ft. In the evening this system held if not expanded with 45 kt winds confirmed at 37N 169E producing 38 ft seas at 36N 163E (300 degrees HI, 293 degrees NCal, 297 SCal).
Monday AM (1/12) the center of this broad gale was straddling the dateline and jogging north slightly with an holding area of 40-45 kts west winds modeled in it's south quadrant at 37N 175E pushing towards both Hawaii and California and generating up to 38 ft seas at 36N 171E aimed towards Hawaii down the 304 degree path and 20 degrees south of the 290 degree path to NCal (295 SCal). Central pressure is to be dropping to 964 mbs. The system is to hold in the evening with pressure at 964 mbs with fetch building some to 45 kts forecast at 43N 179E aimed southeast or right down the 327 degree path to Hawaii and 1800 nmiles out, and 20 degrees south of the 296 degree path to NCal 2700 nmiles out (301 SCal) with 37 ft seas at 35N 179E (from previous fetch) all pushing very well towards both Hawaii and California.
Tuesday AM (1/13) the gale is to continue east from the dateline with a broad fetch of 45 kt west winds at 41N 175W and building in coverage all aimed towards mainly the US West Coast now. A broad area of 36 ft seas are to cover a solid area at 37-41N 174W (328 degrees relative to Hawaii and moving out of their swell window but moving better into the the 290 degree path for Central CA and 295 SCal) 2400 nmiles out. In the evening this system is to start fading fast with 40 kts winds over a shrinking area at 40N 170W generating 38 ft seas at 41N 171W pushing east up the 290 degree path to Central CA (295 SCal), and mostly bypassing Hawaii.
The meat of this system is to have dissipated by Wednesday AM (1/14) with residual seas of 31 ft forecast at 40N 163W steaming towards the US West Coast. But much 30-35 kt fetch is to remain in the area with seas of 29 ft forecast at 38N 156W.
As of Monday AM the models continue shifting downward a bit over the life of this storm per the last two runs of the models (a stark reversal of direction compared to early Sundays runs). Forecast seas are now down into the 36-38 ft range as compared to earlier estimates of 40-44 ft. This will affect whatever swell will be generated relative to Hawaii (1363-2552 nmiles out). But virtual fetch is likely to have a big function in the swell for Hawaii especially in the 20 sec period band, with swell from all of Sun and Mon arriving exactly at the same time. Large number of waves per set expected. So in the end, it should be a wash between the smaller size but better number of waves per set for the Islands. The second half of this storm is also looking weaker than previously expected and is to push a little closer to the US West Coast (1576-3712 nmiles away), improving the odds slightly for more swell there. In total 72 hrs of 45-50 kt fetch looks likely all aimed well down the great circle paths towards both Hawaii and California which should result in some form of solid moderately long period significant class swell for Hawaii with decent odds of the same for California. Virtual fetch is looking a littel mroe favorable for CA too, increasing the odds for better wave counts in the sets in the 20 sec period range. Will monitor.
Hawaii: Rough estimates assuming only modeled data suggests swell arrival Wednesday (1/14) at 8 AM with period 21 secs and size coming up fast. Swell to peak near noon with swell of 8.7-9.5 ft @ 20 secs (17-19 ft Hawaiian) and excellent consistency. Period drop to 17 secs overnight (1-6 AM) with swell to 8.0-9.0 ft @ 15-16 sec early Thursday (12-14 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 301-310 degrees. Wind south 5 kts early Wednesday and building to 15 kts form the south-southwest by 2 PM.
North CA: Rough estimates assuming only modeled data suggests swell arrival Friday (1/16) early morning with period 22-23 secs and size tiny but building fast. Swell to peak at mid-AM with swell 8.0-8.7 ft @ 20 secs (14-18 ft) and holding solid all day. Decent but not great consistency since the swell is coming from so far away. Period drop to 17 secs late night .Swell Direction: 288-292 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (1/11) high pressure at 1038 mbs was sitting right over Oregon and bulging off the coast making an impenetrable storm barrier extending up to 1500 nmiles off the coast. light winds trending mostly from the east to northeast were in control. The high is to lift north to Washington by Tuesday only serving to continue the local offshore flow though litening it up some. By Wednesday to high is to almost be totally inland though lingering high pressure at 1022 mbs is expected to hold over local waters with light winds the norm. The high is to get dangerous smashed up against the coast through the remainder of the work week, as wave after wave of low pressure tried a direct frontal assault on it, but none are to penetrate, with light winds forecast holding into Sunday (1/18). Conditions don't get much better.
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.
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 the storm track is to remain active. Follow on energy from Storm #3 is to continue holding north of HAwaii with a fragmented area of 35-40 kts winds consistently holding over the same stretch of ocean surface just north of Hawaii Wednesday and Thursday (1/15) resulting in consistent seas of 25-26 ft near 30-35N 160W Thursday and Friday (1/16) likely resulting in more large local swell for the Islands through the weekend (1/18). But the local nature of the gale is likely to set up Konas starting late Wednesday on through mid Saturday and by the time the winds finally turn trades, the swell is to be on the downswing.
But all is not lost. Yet another solid gale is forecast pushing off Japan on Friday (1/16) with 45 kt winds and 32 ft seas targeting Hawaii well and tracking non-stop to the dateline and then north of the Islands while gowning with 36-39 ft seas possible through Sunday (1/18). More significant class swell expected for the Islands if this holds up. And some near significant class surf is possible for the US West coast too from a very westerly direction.
And yet more is possible behind that too. So between the jet and the Active Phase of the MJO, we're hopefully going to make up some much needed surf.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (1/11) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still in the Active Phase, strongly so. The Daily SOI index was up to 15.69 but hover near 0 for a few days previous. The 30 day average was down to 13.47 and the 90 day average was down some to 14.21. This and other evidence still suggests that La Nina was well dug-in and the MJO is making little headway against it. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a most solid area of west winds starting at Indonesia pushing east to the Solomon Islands then dribbling over the dateline. These were associated with the Active Phase of the MJO. These winds are expected to push east and hold, straddling the dateline by 1/15-20 and then fading, gone by 1/30. At the same time the inactive phase is to be building over Africa pushing east through the Indian Ocean, reaching north Australia by 1/27. The active phase is supportive of development of storms in the North Pacific, specifically the gale pattern that was off Japan late December and now Storm #3 and more behind it. 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 taken over the equator from the dateline east to almost Ecuador. And subsurface waters in the East PAcific equator have moved very negative, all very much a symptom of La Nina. Given the relative strength of this resurgence of La Nina, and the strength of this active phase of the MJO, longterm swell generation potential could be enhanced.
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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Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
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Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table