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 Tuesday (3/18) Northern CA surf was 1-2 ft overhead and pretty bumpy. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were chest to head high and reasonably clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest high with fog bump. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was thigh high and clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high with luck and textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were near flat and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was 1-2 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was waist high. The East Shore had 1 ft overhead windswell.
North/Central California was getting some swell originating from the dateline with locally generated bump on top. Southern California was near flat with no swell hitting, though the dateline swell was on the way. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last pulse from the same dateline swell. Trades continued in-control producing some small windswell for the East Shore. The South Shore had no swell of interest.
Swell from a gale that was on the dateline and is hitting both Hawaii and California to be the only thing left in the North Pacific. Size is to come up a little more along the West Coast but it is already fading out in Hawaii. Nothing is forecast for the Islands from the North Pacific after that though. Trade wind generated windswell is to continue on the East Shore. Minimal background southern hemi swell is expected on the South Shore on Wed/Thurs. North and Central CA to continue with dateline swell Wednesday and continuing for the rest of the week, then maybe some Gulf swell for the weekend with luck. Southern CA to see a bit of that dateline swell starting Wednesday too, but not much. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (3/18) for the North Pacific indicated a fully .cgiit jetstream flow in control with the .cgiit point just barely off Japan. The Northern branch was ridging quickly up to the Aleutians then tracking east from there through the Northern Gulf of Alaska with wind not exceeding 120 kts anywhere. Not good. The southern branch slowly tracked southeast to the equator and tracked east there. In all things looked completely unsupportive of gale development. Over the next 72 hours the only hope is the slight building of a trough dipping through the Western Gulf of Alaska starting Thursday (3/20) and looking better 24 hours later with winds building in this trough to 140 kts, offering some support for surface level gale development there. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to hold moving slowly east and pushing to the Southeastern Gulf by Tuesday (3/25) moving the core of any gale development closer to the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Limited support for gale development.
At the surface today a double barreled high pressure system was in control, with one at 1038 mbs over the dateline ridging east to a point north of Hawaii and a second 800 nmiles west of Pt Conception continuing the high pressure blockade from Hawaii into the US West Coast. This configuration was generating north winds at 20 kts down the outer California coast and trades at about the same strength over the Hawaiian Islands. Swell from a gale that was over the dateline was fading in Hawaii and building along California (see Dateline Gale below). Over the next 72 hours high pressure to remain in control moving steadily from beyond Hawaii southeast towards the California coast continuing trades over the Islands with easterly windswell there and slowly increasing north winds and windswell over the California coast by Friday (3/21).
In the Northern Gulf low pressure is forecast to build starting Wednesday (3/19) with pressure 988 mb with a tiny area of 40-45 kt winds aimed towards the Pacific Northwest coast and seas building to 28 ft on Thursday. Winds are to be fading some Thursday only to be joined by more energy coming from the west generating 35 kt winds Friday into Saturday fading out while pushing into Central Canada on Sunday (3/23). Seas forecast to barely 30 ft on late Friday at 49N 143W aimed 30 degrees east of the 312 degree path to North CA focused more on the Pacific Northwest. More 28-29 ft seas forecast on Sunday again positioned well to the north. In general this system is to be unorganized by winter standards and positioned pretty well to the north offering some odds for 13-15 sec swell generating for the Pacific Northwest down into North and Central CA with luck. No energy forecast for Hawaii. This is the only thing depicted on the the charts.
A new low was building on the dateline Thursday AM (3/13) with pressure 988 mbs and 45 kt winds aimed well at Hawaii from 40N 176E down the 317 degree path. The fetch barely held at 40-45 kts in the evening taking aim more to the east at 41N 178W aimed towards North CA down the 292 degree path (298 SCal). This fetch basically sat stationary through late Friday (3/14) pushing 40-45 kt winds directly at the Islands from 44N 180W aimed down the 325 degree paths and towards California from 43N 175W aimed 25 degrees south of the 294 degree path (300 SCal). Seas were toggling between 28-29 ft in the same region Thursday, settling down to the 26-28 ft range Friday into Saturday then fading out. This swell to push into exposed breaks in Central California starting Tuesday 3/18 reaching 6.6 ft @ 14 secs (8-9 ft faces) holding at 6.8 ft @ 13 secs Wednesday (8-9 ft faces) then slowly settling down into Friday and Saturday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/18) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned 800 nmiles west of Dana Point CA generating a weak pressure gradient and moderate north winds at 15 kts over the Central CA coast. Wednesday 15 kts winds to be isolated over Pt Conception with a hint of rain mostly north of the San Francisco Bay area, then wind to starting building from there both north and south as high pressure starts pushing solidly towards the coast. 20-25 kt northerly winds forecast over Pt Conception Friday with lesser winds up into North CA and pushing south over the Channel Islands, but not reaching the SCal coast. That fetch to build northward on Saturday (3/22) with 15-20 kt winds over outer Central and North CA waters, though not impacting the coast directly. Lot's of bump nearshore likely though. Scal to remain protected. More of the same forecast Sunday though the fetch is to push much closer to the coast. The high is to push onshore with a calming pattern forecast Monday and Tuesday (3/25) and maybe even a hint of rain then over the SF Bay area.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
A gale pushed under New Zealand Fri/Sat (3/15) generating a small area of 35 ft seas modeled at 52S 165E Saturday AM barely in the Hawaii swell window and pushing east but decaying fast, down to 29 ft in the evening. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly under this fetch at 18Z on Saturday and confirmed seas at 38.0 ft over a 15 reading average with a peak reading of 41 ft at 52.5S 174.4E, besting the models measly 32 ft estimate for that location and time. Very Interesting. This gale held with 29 ft seas tracking from 57S 170W Sunday evening (3/16) to 50S 150W (due south of Hawaii) Monday evening, then fading out. Limited odds for some form of southern hemi swell along Hawaii's South Shore starting Tuesday (3/18) with swell 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft faces) and coming up from 185 degrees.
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 a total breakdown of the greater North Pacific storm pattern is to remain in.cgiay with virtually no swell producing fetch forecast.
MJO Update: The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which is suspected in being a major contributor to pumping moisture into developing winter weather systems pushing east off Japan, has moved very strongly into the inactive phase, the strongest we've seen all year. SOI values are holding steady at +15, actually lower than one would expect, but not helpful regardless. Brisk surface easterly winds are in.cgiay and expected to continue into 3/26, cutting off the energy su.cgiy to gales trying to form in the area. This is really no surprise given that we are in a moderate.cgius strengthed La Nina. This pattern is expected to break down and move into the active phase maybe by April 2, possibly ushering in a more active storm pattern but odds are a bit low. Given the late time in the season, odds for anything interesting to develop are slim.
The models suggest another gale pushing under New Zealand on Tuesday (3/18). It was forming just east of the dateline Tuesday (3/18) AM with seas to 40 ft in the evening at 59S 179W building to 45 ft Wednesday AM near 56S 158W aimed well towards the northeast (California and Central America) then fading from 39 ft in the evening at 52S 159W. Decent odds for well rideable southern hemi swell for the mainland if this develops as forecast. Some energy to also push into Hawaii.
A calmer pattern to follow.
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