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 (3/20) Northern CA surf was head high and pretty bumped out. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were chest high and pretty clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest to head high with onshore wind. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high and fairly clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high with light onshore wind. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh high and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was chest high and clean. The South Shore was waist to chest high from a combo of windswell and small southern hemi energy. The East Shore was chest to head high.
North/Central California continued getting limited swell originating from the dateline with locally generated chop on top. Southern California was small with very limited dateline swell showing at best breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was on it's last legs with minimal dateline leftover energy limping in. Trades were in-control producing moderate windswell for the East Shore. The South Shore had minimal southern hemi swell mixing with wrap around east windswell.
Swell from a gale that was on the dateline days before was still hitting California but all but gone in the Islands. Swell to be fading too even along the California coast from that system Friday. Nothing is forecast for the Islands from the North Pacific for the foreseeable future, unless easterly trade wind generated windswell counts. Minimal background southern hemi swell was hitting the South Shore on Thurs with a slightly larger pulse forecast Tues-Thurs next week. North and Central CA to see some Gulf swell for the weekend continuing well into the following week. Southern CA to see only a taste of that Gulf swell with more small southern hemi swell expected starting next Wednesday with a second bigger pulse starting Thursday (3/27). See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (3/20) for the North Pacific continued indicating a fully split jetstream flow in-control with the split point just off the coast of Japan. The Northern branch ridged quickly north up to the Aleutians then tracked east from there, dipping only a little south through the Gulf of Alaska with winds not exceeding 100 kts. The southern branch slowly meandered southeast to the equator and east from there. It was all very un-inspirational and did not support 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 Friday into Saturday (3/22) with winds building in this trough to 140-150 kts, offering some support for surface level gale development there. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to hold moving inching slowly east and pushing to the Pacific Northwest and then totally inland by Wednesday (3/26). Limited support for gale development while the trough is in existence.
At the surface today high pressure at 1036 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles north of Hawaii ridging west to the dateline and east to Pt Conception, in control of the North Pacific. It was generating moderate trades and some easterly short period windswell pushing into the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts and an equal strength though less areal coverage area of north winds over Pt Conception. Low pressure at 996 mbs was just off Central Japan with no fetch aimed east and going nowhere. A second gale was in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska providing some potential for the Pacific Northwest and exposed north facing breaks in California (see Gulf Gale below). Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to persist if not grow in size some, though remain generally weak by winter standards. High pressure is to push east into the California coast slackening the trades over the Islands with a commensurate drop in wind wave height along East Shores though building the fetch area off Pt Conception, though aimed mostly south towards open ocean.
In the Northern Gulf low pressure started building Wednesday (3/19) with pressure 988 mb with a tiny area of 35 kt winds aimed towards the Pacific Northwest coast and building to 45 kts Thursday AM at 52N 143W with seas to 25 ft at the same location. Winds are to be fading some Thursday evening only to be joined by more energy coming from the west generating 35-40 kt winds Friday with a broader secondary fetch of 30-35 kts winds expected Saturday into early Sunday. Seas forecast to 23 ft late on Friday at 50N 143W aimed 30 degrees east of the 312 degree path to North CA focused more on the Pacific Northwest. A much broader area of 23 ft seas are forecast on Sunday at 50N 150W targeting the same areas. In general this system is to be unorganized by winter standards and positioned pretty well to the north offering some odds for 12-13 sec swell for the Pacific Northwest down into North and Central CA with luck. No energy forecast for Hawaii. Swell to arrive starting saturday and continue in varying degrees well into next week. See QuikCAST's for details.
This is the only thing depicted on the the charts.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/20) high pressure at 1036 mbs was positioned well off the coast riding into Pt Conception and generating a pressure gradient and moderate north winds at 20-25 kts centered on the point, but affecting the whole of Central CA. The high to push much closer Friday then reaching inland Saturday with northerly winds 20-25 kt still centered over Pt Conception reaching up into North CA and pushing south over the Channel Islands, but not reaching the SCal coast. More of the same is forecast Sunday into Monday (3/24) even as low pressure pushes into the northern Pacific Northwest. Lot's of bump to be expected nearshore through the period. Maybe a little break forecast Tuesday then it all starts up again late Wednesday (3/26) with a front and rain forecast for the SF Bay Area early while a new high pressure builds off the coast. Maybe a last shot at snow too for the mountains of the Central Sierra.
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 swell hit Hawaii's South Shore on Wed/Thurs (3/20).
Limited odds for some form of southern hemi swell expected in California Wed (3/26) with swell 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft faces) and starting to fade 24 hours later from 205 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 another quick gale is forecast to the northeastern Gulf starting Wednesday into early Thursday (3/27) generating 35-45 kts winds aimed basically due east into Washington and British Columbia with sideband energy likely pushing towards Central CA. Seas not forecast yet but likely some rideable swell could materialize for the following weekend over the target areas if this occurs. Otherwise a neutral pressure pattern to remain in-play over the Western North Pacific 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-play and expected to continue into 3/26, cutting off the energy supply to gales trying to form in the area. This is really no surprise given that we are in a moderate plus 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.
Another gale pushed under New Zealand on Tuesday (3/18) building just east of the dateline with winds confirmed at 50-55 kts over a small area aimed due east in the AM at 59S 175W. In the evening a solid fetch of 50-55 kts winds confirmed at 57N 170W aimed just east of the 203 degree path to California and 40 degrees off the 188 degree path to Hawaii, and just about unshadowed by Tahiti relative to CA with seas to 39 ft at 59S 179W. Wednesday AM (3/19) near 50 kt winds were confirmed at 52N 155W aimed just east of the 200 degree path to California and mostly out of the HI swell window with seas building to 41 ft near 56S 158W aimed well towards the northeast. In the evening the storm was all but gone with 40 kt winds over a broad area aimed pretty well north at 50S 145W aimed 20 degrees east of the 196 degree path to CA with seas fading from 35 ft at 52S 157W.
Decent odds for well rideable southern hemi swell for the mainland starting late Saturday (3/29) with period starting at 19 secs.
Low odds for some energy to push into Hawaii starting late Tuesday (3/25).
A calmer pattern to follow with no swell producing systems 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table