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 Thursday (2/14) Northern CA surf was 3-5 feet overhead and almost resembling something clean early, though much underlying lump was still present. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were 2 ft overhead and reasonably clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was 2-3 ft overhead and pretty clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was chest high and fairly clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist to chest high and almost glassy. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest high and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was booming with waves 18 ft Hawaiian and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was head high or more depending on location.
North/Central California continuing getting decent energy from Storm #18 originating west of the dateline days before but it was on the down side, though still expected to provide surf into Friday. Southern California was getting decent rideable energy from Swell #18 with many spots looking fun. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the leading edge of Swell #19 at significant class levels and expected to hold for another day. The East Shore was getting some wrap around energy from the North Shore, though much smaller. The South Shore was seasonally flat.
The jetstream flow remains in high gear but flowing flat west to east, with no strong troughs occurring somewhat hampering storm development. Energy from Storm #19 to move from Hawaii towards the California coast, providing significant class surf at many spots for the weekend. And another smaller storm is forecast to wind up off Japan Friday slowly plodding east through the weekend into next week, eventually washing onshore over Oregon 6 days later generating some form of 25-30 ft seas along the way, and possibly much more if it winds up off the Pacific Northwest later next week as modeled. That is to be the primary swell source for Hawaii and California long term. Ought to be OK if it all plays out as forecast. And with the jet still running strong and the MJO in the active phase, it seems reasonable to expect more behind that too. So winter marches on, just the way we like it. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (2/14) for the North Pacific depicted a solid consolidated flow pushing dead flat off Japan at 200 kts moving over the dateline and weakly splitting at 170W with the northern branch continuing on to the northeast with 2 imbedded troughs pushing into mid-Canada. The southern split was all but gone with just faint 40-50 kt winds peeling off and going nowhere. The first trough in the Gulf held the best support for gale development, but nothing really noteworthy. Over the next 72 hours solid consolidated jetstream energy is to continue pushing east reaching a point 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco by Sunday with winds 190 kts the whole way from that spot to Japan. Pretty impressive, though no troughs were forecast, hampering storm development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue it's eastward push, impacting San Francisco on Thursday (2/21) with 160-180 kts winds stretching across the North Pacific. A bit of a trough is forecast starting to build off Japan with a big pocket of 180 kts winds building over Japan, possibly signaling the start of a trough there, and hope for storm development in the future.
At the surface today the near non-existent remnants of Storm #19 were fading fast in the Northern Gulf of Alaska. High pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging hard into the Pacific Northwest generating brisk northerly winds down the California coast, though Southern CA was mostly shadowed from this fetch thanks to the Channel Islands. Hawaii was barely getting affects from the western flank of this high serving to only provide weak trades over the Islands, a good thing for a change. A broad elongated new gale was trying to organize off Japan but was getting heavily sheered in the upper levels by a raging jet aloft. Swell from Storm #19 was hitting hawaii and pushing towards the US West Coast.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure off the Pacific Northwest is to try and regenerate a bit on Friday, then finally push onshore Saturday leaving a calm pattern in it's wake. Light trades over the Hawaiian Islands to start giving was to a southerly flow on Saturday in-advance of the next gale system. The only weather system of interest is a gale low trying to organize on the dateline with 40 kts winds off Japan Thursday (2/14) and again near the core of the low on the dateline, consolidating some on the dateline Friday with winds in the 40-45 kts range near 44N 178E aimed due east. Seas modeled at 29-30 ft near 38N 155E (off Japan) and a secondary fetch on the dateline at 45N 180W continuing into Friday. Everything to consolidate on the dateline pushing east on Saturday (2/16) with 29-30 ft seas at 45N 175W moving to 40N 160W on Sunday (2/17). Some form of decent small significant class surf possible for Hawaii at least if this comes to pass starting on Sunday continuing into Monday (2/18).
On Monday AM (2/11) a 980 mb low was starting to build just west of the dateline with 40-45 kts winds confirmed wrapping from it's west quadrant through it's southern quadrant near 32N 175E taking aim on both Hawaii and California. Seas building. By the evening it was crossing the dateline and building with pressure down to 958 mbs with winds confirmed at 60-70 kt solid (hurricane force) at 38N 178E aimed due east or 20 degrees east of the 313 degree path to Hawaii with 50-60 kt fetch aimed directly at them, and 15 degrees south of the 290 degree path to North California (from it's south and southeast quadrants) (295 SCal). Most impressive. Seas were building from 23 ft at 33N 180W but likely much more (the wavewatch III wavemodel typically depicts it taking longer to build seas than it actually does, those this might be more a function of the weather models taking longer to build winds than what actually happens in reality).
On Tuesday AM (2/12) pressure was down to a whopping 946 mbs with 60-65 kt hurricane winds modeled and confirmed in the storms south quadrant at 38-40N 173W aimed 30 degrees east of the 319 degree path to Hawaii and directly towards NCal up the 292 degree path (297 SCal) but covering only 323 nmiles of straight line fetch aimed towards NCal. 42 ft seas were modeled at 39N 175W. Unbelievably the Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the back third of the core of the fetch and reported a 15 reading average of seas at 39.7 ft with a peak to 41 ft, where the model suggested seas at 37 ft. This is very good news with seas 3 ft better than the model. In the evening pressure was still and incredible 946 mbs with 50-55 kt winds continuing solid in the storms south to southeast quadrants aimed due east at 42N 167W mostly bypassing any route to Hawaii but aimed right at NCal up the 292 degree path (297 SCal). 48 ft seas were modeled at 40N 168W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the very back end of the fetch and reported a 15 reading average of seas at 32.1 ft where the model was depicting 29-31 ft seas, so the storm again was equaling or besting modeled projections. Very good.
On Wednesday AM (2/13) pressure was up to 956 mbs with 45 kt winds modeled fading at 44N 165W aimed 15 degrees north of the 296 degree path to NCal (301 SCal). But in reality the QuikSCAT satellite confirmed winds at only 35-40 kts at the same location. 47 ft seas were modeled at 43N 163W with most momentum pushing towards British Columbia. This is actually higher than projections 36 hours earlier, a good sign. But of interest was that the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch at 12Z and reported a 15 reading average of seas only at 39.2 ft where they should have been near 45 ft. Since we've never seen the satellite read any higher than that 39 ft number, we suspect there might be an upper limit on it's ability to accurately estimate extreme seas, and are therefore discounting it some, but it is troubling. The lower reading has been factored into the surf forecasts just to be conservative. In the evening fading 35-40 kt fetch was pushing northeast from 50N 153W aimed 35 degrees north of the 308 degree path to NCal (totally outside the SCal window) and focusing on Canada. 42 ft seas forecast at 48N 158W with 38 ft seas further south near 45N 157W and somewhat on the 296 degree route to NCal (301 SCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the far eastern edge of the fetch at 2Z and reported a 15 reading average sea height of 29.6 ft with a peak reading of 37.1 ft where the wave model suggested heights of 30-32 ft. This isn't too far off the mark.
By Thursday AM (2/14) this system was gone with residual 37 ft seas at 53N 148W and 30 ft seas at 45N 153W still on the 297 degree path to NCal. Solid swell hit Hawaii nearly as forecast with the Waimea buoy reporting pure swell of 10.0-11.2 ft @ 17-18 secs from 2-9 AM HST, actually reaching solid size a bit earlier than expected. Outer buoys off Oregon and Washington reported the first signs of swell with period at 23 secs near noon. No winds of interest to be left by evening.
This was a very intense system with 55-65 kt winds but only holding together solidly for 36-48 hrs. And if anything, actual's from the storm are suggesting it developed stronger than forecast even just 24 hours before it's formation. This is the first this has happened in a long time. The issue was it's steep northeast track, though that too moderated some from previous forecast projections. It's to only offer a glancing blow to the Islands and then focus on targets well east of there before any solid fetch get's traction on the oceans surface. California to be best situated, though the Pacific Northwest is to be well served too. Significant class surf is likely for the northern reaches of CA up into Oregon, but given the rather westerly swell angle, Southern California might fare OK too. Things are unfolding quite nice.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Thursday (2/14) at 1 AM with period 21 secs and building steadily. Period moving to 20 secs with size ramping up fast by 6 AM. Swell to really start getting most solid as period drops to the 18 secs range and peaking starting at 9 AM holding through 2 PM with swell 10-11 ft @ 17-18 secs (18-20 ft Hawaiian at best spots). Solid size to continue overnight with period down to 14-15 secs by sunrise Friday (2/15) swell slowly fading from 9 ft @ 14-15 secs (12-13 ft faces) and slow fading through the day with period approaching 13 secs by sunset. Swell Direction: 321-335 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Friday (2/15) at sunrise with period 24 secs and size tiny and slowly building through the day. Swell to transition to 20 secs near 3 PM with size starting to get more noticeable but not enough to be well noticeable. Size to become very solid just after sunset and peaking near 10 PM and holding through early Saturday as period drops to the 17-18 secs range. Swell 10-11 ft @ 17-18 secs (17-20 ft faces) with sets to 12 ft @ 18 secs (22 ft faces). Size to hold well into Saturday morning (2/16) with swell still 9.5-10.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (15-18 ft faces) with a few sets to 11.5 ft @ 17 secs (20 ft) slowly working it's way down to 9.0-9.5 ft @ 16 secs in the afternoon (14-15 ft faces). The big issue will be thick fog limiting visibility and making for marginal conditions. Not safe and likely not rideable. Swell fading out overnight with sub-significant class residuals at 14 secs Sunday (2/17). Swell Direction: 288-297 degrees
Note: This swell to be powerful, dangerous and unmerciful. Do not overestimate your skills. Do not venture into unfamiliar waters. Assume you will be caught by the biggest sets in the worst possible place. Seek protected breaks.
South California: Expect swell arrival starting at noon Friday with period 24 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Size creeping up through the afternoon into evening. Swell to start getting solid as period hits 20 secs near 1 AM Saturday. Swell to start peaking near 9 AM with swell 9-10 ft @ 17-18 secs (15-18 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and off Pt Conception and holding close to that with period dropping to a pure 17 secs near 3 PM. Inside the Channel Islands at exposed breaks swell to be 4.4-4.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.5-8.8 ft faces-pushing 10-11 ft at better more exposed breaks). Swell fading overnight down to 7-8 ft @ 15 secs at sunrise Sunday (2/17) outside the Channel Islands and near Pt Conception (10-12 ft faces) and inside the Channel Islands swell 3.6-3.9 ft @ 15 secs (5-6 ft faces). Swell Direction: 294-303 degrees
Note: This swell have more power than the usual winter swell. Do not venture into unfamiliar waters. Do not overestimate your skills. Seek familiar waters.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
As of Thursday (2/14) strong high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging hard into the Great Basin from a position 600 nmiles off Cape Mendocino, generating brisk north winds pushing down the entire coast, though tending towards the offshore direction as the day wears on. Unfortunately a secondary high is to build just off Cape Mendocino Friday, helping to reinforce the northern tendency of the fetch rather than allowing it to swing fully northeast, though winds to be very light nearshore (in the 5-10 kts range). The second high is to push north and be out of the picture on Saturday with slack winds in control through the day. Another weak high is to try and get a foothold on Sunday, maybe producing a 5 kt northwest flow but nothing too significant while a broad low pressure system starts building well offshore inching closer on Monday. On Tuesday (2/19) the storm door is to open with the jetstream pushing fully onshore in the upper levels and surface low pressure moving in behind. Wind and rain to take over reaching well into Southern CA by Wednesday with much more queued up right behind for the days ahead. Winter is not over by any means.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
No swell producing systems of interest 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 hrs additional energy to push east over the dateline and marry-up with the previously existing fetch described above already moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, consolidating into something of interest Monday/Tuesday. A 976 mbs closed isobar gale to form in the Southern Gulf and just north of Hawaii on Tuesday (2/19) generating 50 kts fetch at 38N 165W aimed decently at Hawaii and better at the US west coast. 32 ft seas building there. It's all to push east slamming into the Pacific Northwest late Wednesday with winds still 50 kts and seas pushing near 40 kts targeting Cape Mendocino from just off the coast. Large raw swell possible shortly there after with rain and wind a likely byproduct.
Another system is to be building off Japan by Thursday (2/21).
MJO Note: The active phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation was pushing fully over the Philippines and New Guinea almost touching the dateline on Thursday (2/14) and expected to seep east over the equatorial Pacific through the end of the month on into the first week of March, likely helping to fuel some degree of limited storm development through the period. SOI values remain positive in the 15 range, though down from the 25 range a few days earlier. These are still expected to drop into the negative range a week out. Will see if this one has some impact on the North Pacific storm track, though one could already implicate it in Storms #16-19.
No swell producing systems of interst are forecast.
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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Half Moon Bay Surfers - Attention: There¹s a movement afoot to dredge sand out of the Pillar Point (i.e. Half Moon Bay) Harbor and dump it just south of the jetty, so it will replenish all sand that¹s disappeared between the harbor and HMB. The guy who¹s spearheading the project, Brian Overfelt, has already received a positive preliminary reading from the local harbor commissioners. He¹s making a formal presentation to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary¹s advisory council this coming Friday (2/15) at Our Lady of Pillar church in Half Moon Bay. (It's on Kelly Ave, just east of the Coast Highway, across the street from Cunha Intermediate School.) starting at 9 AM. More details here: http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/forecast/forecast/hmb_dredge.html
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Grib File Switchover: The old grib1 format wave model datafiles that have been the mainstay of the National Weather service for years now are scheduled to be retired on 1/26. We switched over to the new grib2 files starting with the 00z run of Thurs 1/17. All appears to be running fine. There is no functional change to the content of the models, just that files we receive are now smaller due to improved compression of grib2. But this sets us up to start processing new higher resolution files and building new products in the months ahead. So in all it's a good maintenance level change.
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Submit your story to 'Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Vol. 2': DEADLINE: January 15th, 2008 Casagrande Press is seeking stories, articles, and essays on the general subject of surfing misadventure for publication in Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Volume 2. We are looking for nonfiction, first-person surf stories of bad judgment calls, pranks, comical/ironic episodes, disaster, attacking predators, misfortune, injury, loss of wit or limb, panic, critical conditions, contest meltdowns, everyday fears, surf trips gone wrong or the out-of-water episodes that surround surfing. We are looking for well-written stories that tell a good tale, reflect a culture, and develop the depth of the characters involved. We also like stories that have a tight narrative tension and a payoff at the end. Open to writers and surfers of any level. There is no fee to submit a story. We will consider previously published stories. To see more info on the first book visit www.thesurfbook.com. Submit online at www.casagrandepress.com
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table