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 Thursday (1/15) North/Central California was near flat with occasional background swell at waist high coming from the Gulf of Alaska. Southern California was flat with no swell of interest occurring. Hawaii's North Shore was large and stormy with triple overhead plus surf coming from Storm #3 and hard onshore blown out conditions. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was waist high with wrap around swell from Storm #3 working it's way into select breaks.
For Central California surf is projected, but nowhere near as big as was hoped for in earlier forecasts. Storm #3 did not live up to it's billing. Regardless, some form of well rideable swell is expected for Saturday and Sunday coming from the west, with remnants into Monday then dropping out through Wednesday (1/21). Enjoy it. Southern California is to see a decent helping of surf from Swell #3 too given it's very westerly direction, especially come Sunday and beyond. Size to not much exceed head high except at the most exposed breaks, but it should be fun. The North Shore of Hawaii has already received the biggest portion of Swell #3 which unfortunately started 6 hrs later than hoped for, with winds on it then and these Kona winds expected to continue through Saturday, finally cleaning up on Sunday leaving 2 more days of smaller energy from Swell #3. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore is expected to be flat other than whatever wraparound swell from Swell #3 can make it's way in. Windswell possible starting next Wednesday (1/21) but size to be very limited.
Longer term another decent gale is forecast tracking from the Kurils east-southeast towards the dateline and fading Sat-Mon (1/19) generating 40 kt winds and 30-32 ft seas targeting Hawaii with near significant class potential, and providing decent utility class opportunities for the US West Coast. A far weaker system is to follow Wed/Thurs (1/22) on a similar track but fading before even reaching the dateline. After that this storm cycle to be over as the MJO heads towards the inactive phase and the jet start falling apart. Make the most of whatever swell you can get while the getting is good.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (1/15) the North Pacific jetstream continued most solid with 200 kt winds arching slightly off Japan then dipping just over the dateline into a slight trough just north of Hawaii before splitting heavily with the northern branch tracking straight north into Alaska and the southern branch pushing directly over Hawaii bound for the equator. Good support for gale development on the dateline with strong high pressure likely between the split flows in the east. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (1/18) the flow is to mostly hold with 190-200 kts winds still pushing over the dateline forming a modest trough north of Hawaii supportive of gale development there, and the same old split flow over the far Eastern Pacific. The split point is to mark slow but steady progress eastward making it to within 800 nmiles of the CA coast. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to start falling apart by Monday (1/19) with 150 kt winds limited to a small area north of Hawaii in the bottom of the perpetual trough there while the split point moves to within 600 nmiles of the CA coast. Low pressure development still possible in that trough at the oceans surface. A small steep trough is to try and hang on just northeast of Hawaii on Tuesday (1/20) possibly supporting gale development there, while the split point moves closer still to CA. back to the west a weak and less cohesive jetstream flow is modeled, though not split yet. Some flavor of this pattern is to hold into Friday (1/23) but with the southern branch of the jet pushing onshore over Central CA and the northern branch into Northern Canada while a weak and not so cohesive flow continues flat off Japan into outer CA waters. No clear support for any low pressure development.
At the surface today the remnants of Storm #3 were circulating in the Western Gulf of Alaska with fetch draped south to almost Hawaii, providing more limited follow-on swell generation potential for both Hawaii and the US West Coast (see details below). Otherwise high pressure at 1024 mbs was pushing into the Pacific Northwest and holding a small area of control out 800 nmiles from the coast, holding off a barrage of nasty weather from encroaching into the mainland and generating a generally offshore flow along the coast. Enjoy the warm and sunny weather while you can. Over the next 72 hours the remnants of Storm #3 are to dissipate in the Gulf and make slow headway again the East Pacific High Pressure ridge, but not shut it down, at least not yet. The next system, Possible Storm #4 is to be tracking east from the Kuril Islands and reaching the dateline by Sunday (1/18) (see details below).
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 Jason-1 satellite passed over the back edge of the fetch at 18Z and reported a 15 reading average of 31.6 ft with a peak reading of 39.7 ft where the model suggested 36 ft seas. This was about 2 ft smaller than expected. The system held in the evening with pressure at 964 mbs with fetch building some, confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite at 45-45 kts at 41N 179E aimed almost due east or 20 degree east of the 319 degree path to Hawaii and 1600 nmiles out, and 15 degrees south of the 293 degree path to NCal 2700 nmiles out (298 SCal) with 38 ft seas modeled at 35N 178E (from previous fetch) all pushing very well towards both Hawaii and California.The Jason-1 satellite passed over the far western sector of this system at 06Z reporting seas of 24.9 ft with a peak at 30.2 ft were the model indicated 23-24 ft seas. This was right on track, but a ways away from the core of the fetch.
Tuesday AM (1/13) the gale continued east from the dateline with pressure at 968 mbs and shrinking fetch of 40-45 kt west winds confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite at 41N 175W all aimed towards mainly the US West Coast now. A solid area of 36 ft seas were modeled at 37-41N 174W (328 degrees relative to Hawaii and moving out of their swell window but moving better into the the 292 degree path for Central CA and 296 SCal) 2400 nmiles out. At 18Z the Jason-1 satellite made a pass almost directly over the fetch and confirmed seas at 35.7over a 15 reading average with a peak reading at 37.7 ft where the model indicated 36-37 ft seas. In short, the model was right on track. In the evening this system started fading fast with 40 kts winds over a shrinking area at 43N 170W generating 36 ft seas at 40N 171W pushing east up the 292 degree path to Central CA (297 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 41N 164W steaming towards the US West Coast. But much 30-35 kt fetch is to remain in the area in the evening with seas of 29-30 ft forecast at 38N 155W.
As of Thursday AM the models were no longer of concern and whatever swell is going to be generated is in the water and pushing east and southeast. Yesterday the models appeared to stabilize (Tuesday), but the final (and most critical) sea height hindcast of 36 ft was less than the 38 ft forecast for that time period, meaning a little less swell was being put in the water closest to California. So that was a little disappointment piled on top of the general lackluster productivity of this storm. Hindcast seas were verified in the 36-38 ft range over this storms life as compared to original estimates of 40-44 ft, resulting in less size and period for everyone, but not a horrible downturn, just not a near over-the-top swell. This system was 1363-2552 nmiles out from the Islands. Virtual fetch was expected to have a big function in the swell for Hawaii in the 20 sec period band (the leading edge), with swell from all of Sun and Mon arriving exactly at the same time (2 PM Wed HST). Large number of waves per set expected. Unfortunately, the swell arrived about 6 hrs late and peaked about 6 hours later than forecast, resulting in little to no swell in the Islands on Wednesday during daylight hours. Looking back the one thing that was of most concern about this system (other than the decreased sea heights) is that winds never exceeded 50 kts for any duration of time. This resulted in less energy being transferred to the water, and therefore less period. So rather than the swell peaking at 20 sec (as the seas heights suggested), it peaked more at 18-19 secs (still monitoring Waimea Bay buoy (106) now to verify. Regardless, just one or 2 seconds error was the difference between the swell peaking during daylight versus during the evening.
In regards to what one should expect for California, the second half of this storm looked weaker than originally forecast, and the last seas height reading was less than expected. This system was 1576-3712 nmiles away from the West Coast. Virtual fetch should have a bit of an impact in the 20 sec period band near the leading edge of this swell, improving the wave count per set. But the big issue (if Hawaii is any indication) is whether there will be sufficient size at 20 secs to be of any concern. Suspect most size will be in the 18-19 sec range, basically duplicating the problems experienced in Hawaii, namely most swell hitting during darkness (Fri PM). With no buoys or other means to verify this immediately, it's all pure educated speculation.
In total 72 hrs of 45-50 kt fetch occurred 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 and California.
North CA: Swell to start getting solid at 9 PM Friday (1/16) with pure swell 8.0-8.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (14-15 ft faces) and period slowly fading to the 18 sec range later evening but with more consistency. Decent wave count in the sets but not great set consistency especially early since the swell is coming from so far away. Period drops to 17 secs near 3 AM Sat. Limited size of 7.0-7.7 ft @ 16 secs (11-12 ft faces) expected all day Saturday (1/17). Swell Direction: 286-292 degrees
South CA: Swell arrival indicated Friday (1/16) sunset with period 21 secs and size tiny but building fast. Swell to start peaking near 3 AM Saturday with swell 3.7-4.2 ft @ 18 secs (6.7-7.6 ft faces) and holding. Outside the Channel Islands swell to be 7.3-8.4 ft @ 18 secs (13-15 ft faces). Period to be down to 18 sec pure at sunrise Saturday (1/17) and size still solid. Period drops to 17 secs 11 AM-5 PM with swell 3.4-4.0 ft @ 17 secs (5.8-6.8 ft faces) and 7-8 ft @ 17 secs outside the Channel Islands (12-14 ft faces). 14-15 sec residuals dropping through Sunday. Swell Direction: 292-296 degrees
Storm #3 Follow-on Energy
The remnants from Storm #3 are to continue circulating in the Gulf of Alaska Wednesday through Saturday (1/17) with a generalized fetch of 30-35 kt winds in-play dropping south along the dateline producing 23-25 ft seas aimed right at Hawaii with occasional pulses of condensing winds tracking east and pushing up the southeastern sector of what is to basically be a big gale and targeting the US West Coast (though mostly passing east of Hawaii) from a very westerly direction. The best pulse is expected Wednesday (1/14) generating 40 kt east winds with seas to 29-30 ft Wednesday AM at 40N 165W, in the evening at 36N 157W, then Thurs AM at 40N 152 and in the evening at 31N 160W. The final decent reading is expected fading from 25 ft Fri AM at 30N 162W targeting primarily Hawaii.
The net result is to be continuous steady swell for Hawaii at 10 ft @ 14 secs (14-15 ft faces) Friday, 10 ft @ 13-14 secs Saturday (13 ft faces) and 9 ft @ 13 secs on Sunday (12 ft faces) from 310-320 degrees, then dropping fast on Monday.
Additional smaller utility class follow-on energy is possible for Central CA Sunday (1/18) at 6 ft @ 16 secs (9 ft faces) from 269-273 degrees.
Lesser energy to push down into Southern CA starting mid-day Sunday at 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.0 ft faces) from 275+ degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/15) high pressure at 1024 mbs was trying to hang on over the Pacific Northwest coast sagging south to nearly the equator, continuing to form a deflective storm barrier extending up to 1000 nmiles off the coast. Offshore winds were in control. The high is to continue to slowly work it's way inland through Sunday (1/18) expected to hold over local waters with light winds the norm. Perhaps some reinforcing high pressure energy is to move in on Tuesday (1/20) but should serve only to continue the light offshore wind pattern. Conditions to hold. through Wednesday (1/21) then lower pressure is modeled moving into outer CA waters Thursday with possible light south winds taking control from Monterey Bay northward.
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 reasonably active. Another solid gale (Possible Storm #4 - Hawaii) is forecast to push off the Kuril's on Friday (1/16) with up to 40-45 kt west winds over a small area in the evening producing 32 ft seas at 44 N 158E initially targeting Hawaii well.
Saturday AM (1/17) winds to be down to 35 kts in it's south quadrant with 32 ft seas at 44N165E, but that seems high. In the evening a broader fetch of 35 kt northwest winds are forecast with 27 ft seas forecast at 43N 170W targeting Hawaii.
Sunday AM (1/18) 35-40 kt westerly winds are to be getting a bit better organized producing 30 ft seas at 39N 173E. By evening 35-40 kt winds are forecast producing 32 ft seas at 38N 178E.
Monday AM (1/19) a small secondary fetch of 45 kts winds is forecast right near the gales core aimed southeast with 30 ft seas forecast at 38N 175W mainly from previous fetch. in the evening 40 kt fetch is to continue with 26 ft seas near 35N 170W and dissipating.
In all the seas heights look overestimated compared to the wind speed projection for this one. Regardless, it's close proximity to Hawaii could produce a short lived burst of near significant class surf forecast the Hawaii an Islands if this proceeds as modeled (unlikely) with utility class surf possible for the US West Coast. Something to watch if nothing else.
And yet one more gale to follow right behind, pushing off the Kuril's on Tuesday (1/20) with 45 kts winds and 30 ft seas fading before it reaches the dateline late Wednesday.
Our guess is the jetstream is being heavily influenced by the Active Phase of the MJO, which in-turn is fueling gale development and producing swell. Once the MJO fades, the whole house of cards with collapse and we'll be back in the same pattern we were in December.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (1/15) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still in the Active Phase, strongly so. The Daily SOI index was up some to 8.01 but has been hovering near 0 for 8 days now. The 30 day average was up to 13.15 and the 90 day average was down to 13.38. La Nina was still well dug-in, but the MJO was trying to make a 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 over the Solomon Islands to the dateline and reaching well north of there too. These were associated with the Active Phase of the MJO. These winds are expected to push east and hold, straddling the dateline through 1/22 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 1/30 and likely starting to suppress storm development. 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 a few more gales modeled 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
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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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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table