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 Tuesday (11/25) North/Central California had surf in the 1-3 ft overhead range for a weak gale off the coast over the weekend, though a little warbled but not too bad. Southern California was near flat though small bits of swell coming from around Pt Conception and generated from the same gale above starting to hit late afternoon up in Santa Barbara. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a new pulse of northwest swell originating over the northern dateline region in the head high range. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore report was not available.
For Central California the long run of building swell is forecast over the coming week or more. Residual gale swell is expected into Wednesday at 5 ft @ 11 secs, then swell from the Northern Gulf arrives for Thursday (7-8 ft face) with larger swell from a gale organizing over the dateline today expected for Friday. Southern CA to see a little more of the Gulf gale swell on Wednesday in the waist high plus range fading out on Thursday. New north angled swell expected for Friday with far more behind that. The North Shore of Hawaii is starting to see some modest swell with alot more scheduled behind through mid-Friday, all being almost undiscernable from each other and originating from a string of gales passing quickly west to east over the dateline bound for the Gulf of Alaska. The South Shore of Hawaii is flat with no change forecast. The East Shore to see a little east windswell through Thursday to head high. Longterm the models and some actual observations suggest that things are on the edge of picking up, and possibly very strongly by mid week. A gale developed in the Northern Gulf with seas to 29 ft Monday (11/24) targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. A second gale is building over the dateline expected to push east into the Pacific Northwest Wed/Thurs with 28-30 ft seas. Then the much heralded monster storm is forecast building on the dateline Wed/Thurs (11/27) with up to 48 ft seas targeting the US West Coast best but with sideband energy at up to 35 ft targeting Hawaii decently. Possible large swell to result in both locations if the models are right, but that remains a fantasy as no winds are actually blowing on the oceans surface yet. Watch the models.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (11/22) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing lazily through the Gulf of Alaska, actually splitting some with one branch pushing into British Columbia and the other into Southern CA. But of far more interest was what was occurring in the West, with a solid area of 170 kts winds pushing over Japan and and other smaller patch of 150 kt winds over the dateline and both exhibiting small troughs associated with them. Decent support for gale development suggested. Over the next 72 hours the leading trough is to continue pushing east-northeast into Thursday before impacting the Canadian coast with winds at 140 kts all the while and continuing to dig out a small tough, offering decent odds for gale development. But of far more interest is the monster trough forecast building behind it with 210 kt winds falling into a huge trough on the dateline Friday (11/28) and likely fueling storm development from the dateline east down at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to moderate some and hold it's position then get refueled with more with 170 kt winds building into it's western flank likely supporting storm development at the ocean surface. That trough to moderate some through Tuesday (12/2) through still not dissipating with 160 kt winds and a trough still forecast over the dateline pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska. Gale development likely. This is the best pattern we've seen in several years.
At the surface today high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered 600 nmiles northeast of Hawaii offering trades over the Islands at 15-20 kts but not reaching into the Californian coast. A gale was building over the dateline (see Gulf Gale below) and a larger gale was right behind it (see Storm #2 below). Weak low pressure was off the California coast at 1023 mbs not offering any wind of interest.
Over the next 72 hours the two gales mentioned above are to take center stage blasting up into the Gulf, the second with much gusto. At the same time the high pressure system above Hawaii is to track east eventually ridging into the Pacific Northwest on Friday offering protection from the storm track and setting up a tiny gradient over Cape Mendocino late Friday (11/28) possibly setting up some north winds for Central CA then, but quickly turning the flow offshore for the weekend.
Of interest was a fragmented but large gale that filled the Bering Sea with western fetch dropping south over the Aleutians generating a broad area of 19-21 ft seas Sunday (11/23) extending almost from the Kuril Islands to east of the dateline (160W) centered near 43N 175E on Sunday. Background swell possible for Hawaii expected Tues (11/25) at 3.7 ft @ 14-15 sec (6.7 ft faces) dropping to 3.1 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.0 ft faces) Wed (11/26) and up to 4.2 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft faces) Thurs (11/27) holding into Friday from 320 degrees.
But what it did more was rough up the oceans surface, allowing any other system that followed to get good traction and better swell generating grip.
On Monday AM (11/24) a secondary low pressure formed from the Bering Sea low pushing east generating a fetch of 35-40 kt westerly winds and 29 ft seas at 51N 165W 2000 nmiles from North CA at pushing down the 306 degree path continuing at 29 ft Mon PM at 50N 157W 1600 nmiles from NCal aimed somewhat down the 308 degree path.
15 sec period swell to reach exposed breaks in North CA Thursday (11/27) afternoon with swell 6.3-6.9 ft @ 15 secs (9-10 ft faces) from 306-310 degrees (shadowed in San Francisco).
Gulf Gale (updated Wed PM using 00Z Thurs model data)
Another gale is forecast building just east of the dateline Tuesday AM (11/25) with pressure 984 mbs and up to 45 kt winds over a small area in it's south quadrant expected by evening at 44N 163W aimed due east or right up the 294 degree path to NCal (298 SCal).A small area of 29 ft seas are forecast at 43N 167W 2000 nmiles from NCal.
Wednesday AM (11/26) pressure is to drop to 980 mbs in the Central Gulf of Alaska with 45 kt west to northwest winds continuing at 45N 155W aimed right down the 296 degree path to NCal (301 SCal). 28 ft seas were modeled at 44N 156W 1600 nmiles from NCal. By evening this system to be fading fast, getting most of it's juice stolen by the much stronger Storm #2 behind it. Winds to be 35 kts and fading. Seas from previous fetch were modeled at 27 ft at 45N 146W aimed at NCal down the 296-297 degree paths and 1200 nmiles away (302 SCal). .
Residual seas of 23 ft are forecast Thursday AM (11/27) at 45N 140W targeting NCal down the 302 degree path 900 nmiles out.
This is to be a small and not well organized system, but relatively close to the US mainland moving right at it. No swell is to result for Hawaii but rough estimates suggest swell of 6.5-7.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (10-11 ft faces) expected to push unshadowed into North CA from 296 degrees starting at sunset Friday (11/28).
Limited swell from this system to reach Southern CA at 1 AM Saturday with period 16 secs. By sunrise swell to be 3.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (5 ft faces) and drifting down through the day, to be replaced by much stronger swell late. Swell Direction: 300-302 degrees
Storm #2 (updated Wed PM using 00Z Thurs model data)
On Tuesday AM (11/25) a moderate sized gale was organizing off Japan with pressure at 984 mbs generating a decent sized fetch of winds modeled at 40-45 kt in it's south quadrant at 37N 155E aimed mostly at Hawaii up the 298 degree path but also sending some energy up the 296 degree path to North CA (300 SCal). But the QuikSCAT satellite passed over the area confirming winds at 65-70 kts aimed due east. A far cry from the models abilities. And a previous pass Monday night confirmed winds at 50 kts, so this one had legs way before the models though it would. Seas were modeled building from 22 ft at 36N 153E Tuesday AM. But again the models were off. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch at 19Z (11 AM PST) and confirmed seas at 35 ft at 37N 162E with a peak reading already at 38 ft. 19 sec period swell is already in the water. In the evening things were to start moving into gear with pressure dropping to 968 mbs with a small area of 55-60 kt winds at 37N 167E aimed both at Hawaii up the up the 303 degree path and at North California up the 293 degree great circle path (297 SCal). 30 ft seas were modeled at 37N 167E but suspect it was more like 38 ft in reality.
By Wednesday AM (11/26) pressure had dropped to 954 mbs with a solid fetch of 60-65 kt winds modeled in the storms southwest quadrant on the dateline at 40N 180W aimed 15 degree east of the 319 degree great circle path to Hawaii and 20 degrees south of the 292 degree path to North California (297 SCal). Seas were on the increase, theoretically at 37 ft at 38N 178E though we suspect it was higher. The Jason-1 satellite passed almost directly over the fetch at 17Z confirming seas at 39 ft where the model suggested seas at 37 ft. And the spread of seas 30 ft or greater covered a slightly larger area than that suggested by the models. This is encouraging new again. By evening pressure is to drop to an unbelievable 948 mbs with 60-65 kt west winds positioned in the storms south quadrant just over the dateline at 43N 170W all aimed due east directly up the 293 degree path to North CA (298 SCal) and 45 degrees east of the 336 degree path to Hawaii, effectively terminating the fetch for that location. Seas were modeled building from 41 ft at 41N 173W. These winds are to be getting extremely good purchase on the oceans surface courtesy of much roughness previously generated by the small storm there 24 hrs earlier (see Gulf Gale above).
By Thursday AM (11/27) the storm is to start fading in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska with pressure up to 950 mbs and winds dropping from 50-55 kts at 45N 167W aimed directly up the 296 degree path to NCal (301 SCal) but seas from previous fetch reaching near 48 ft in the far Western Gulf of Alaska at 44N 166W all aimed due east. By evening the storm, or what is left of it, is to still be producing 45-50 kt west and northwest fetch at 46N 157W aimed at NCal down the 300 degree path (shadowed) (304+ SCal) with seas peaking (from previous fetch) at a whopping 49 ft at 46N 160W in the 296 degree window for NCal (301 SCal)) pushing due east.
By Friday AM (11/28) a rapid fade is forecast with winds down to 45 kts and lingering 36 ft seas lingering at 45N 152W (in the 298 degree NCal window) with up to 44 ft seas pushing towards the Pacific Northwest. This system is to be effectively gone relative to anyone but British Columbia northward by evening as the fetch and seas movie into Alaskan nearshore waters.
This is shaping up to be a powerful storm, capable of generating very long period swell theoretically up to 26 secs targeting primarily the US West Coast up into British Columbia, though sideband energy is likely to push well south into Hawaii. But we need to get well into Thursday before this becomes a total reality. On the plus side we already have confirmed winds and seas via QuikSCAT and Jason-1 and they have beat the model projections by a good margin. But to be fair, the model (GFS weather model and therefore the WW3 wave model) have a history of being slow projecting the initial strength of storms the first 12-24 hrs, and then typically hold the strength longer than what occurs in reality. So what has happened so far is not unexpected. Another point of concern is it appears the QuikSCAT satellite is either down or there are data processing problems, because no data has been posted since Tuesday afternoon. So we're flying blind. Hope the Jason-1 makes a lucky pass over the fetch area. But since this system has been on the models since last Thursday (11/20) with little change in strength, and it's forming according to that script so far, odds are favorable for a decent outcome.
Hawaii: This forecast is a bit problematic due the 'glancing blow' nature of this swell relative to the Islands. But the one thing in favor of the Islands is the higher than expected seas heights early in the storms life when it was well in the swell window for Hawaii. Expect swell arrival on Friday morning (11/28) just past sunrise with size building fast and period at 22 secs. Swell to reach 10 ft @ 17-18 secs at sunset (18-20 ft Hawaiian on the larger sets at top spots). Swell moderating overnight, but far from out on Saturday AM with swell 9.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (16 ft Hawaiian at top spots). Reinforcements coming fro Sunday too with swell 9.7 ft @ 13 secs (16 ft Hawaiian at top spots) then fading on Sunday. Swell Direction: 320-325 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival late Saturday near sunset (11/29) with period 22+ sec and size stacking up fast, hitting 10.5-12.0 ft at 22-23 secs (23-28 ft with sets to 30 ft). Size building as the sun sets Swell peaking just after sunset but hardly going anywhere through the evening. Period down to 20 secs near 9 PM. Sunday swell to still be very solid, at 10.5-11.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (18-21 ft), drifting down with period to 16 secs late. Still on Monday swell of 8.6-10.0 ft @ 15 sec likely, holding through the day (13-15 ft). Swell Direction 295-297 degrees
Southern California: Expect swell arrival starting at sunset Saturday (11/29) at exposed breaks up north with period at 23 secs. Swell maybe 3 ft @ 23 secs (7 ft faces) with long waits between sets. Swell building overnight as period drops. Swell to start peaking near 4 AM Sunday (11/30) or a little later in San Diego with pure swell still 5 ft @ 18-19 secs (9-10 ft faces) with top exposed spots to maybe 7 ft @ 18-19 secs (13 ft faces). Swell size holding as period drops to 17 secs through the day. Swell to continue on Monday at 5 ft @ 15-16 secs (7.5-8.0 ft faces) with bigger surf at near 7 ft @ 16 secs at exposed breaks down south (11 ft faces). 13 sec residuals on Tuesday. Swell Direction: 297-301 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/25) weak low pressure at 1026 mbs was 600 nmiles west of San Diego generating a weak southeasterly flow along the Central and South CA coasts. That low to move inland over SCal on Wednesday with minimal impact other than much needed rain Tuesday PM into Wednesday from Monterey Bay southward into San Diego. Weak high pressure northeast of Hawaii is to edge east all the while making an impact Friday and generating a northerly flow at 15 kts over Central CA, chopping things up a bit. But it's to be ridging onshore over the Pacific Northwest Saturday with light winds everywhere other than Cape Mendocino and even maybe northeasterly there. Beyond, a slack wind pattern is expected at least through mid-next week.
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 models are dishing up more gale activity. Hard to believe. A broad low pressure system is to be pushing off Northern Japan on Saturday with a small area of 45 kt est winds pushing towards the dateline targeting primarily Hawaii with up to 36 ft seas by evening at 40N 168W. This fetch to continue pushing east Sunday with winds settling down into the 35-40 kts range mainly aimed southeast towards the Islands with seas holding in the 35-36 ft range, reaching 37N 175W by nightfall. Monday the gale is to stall well north of the Islands and start to be influenced by yet another gale pushing east off the Kuril Islands, stealing some of it's energy. Seas fading from 30 ft at 35N 170W early and mere 1000 nmiles away from Oahu pushing down the 325 degree path there.
It's too early to say but that second low off the Kurils is to push east over the dateline and becoming absorbed into the main low north of Hawaii on Tuesday (12/2), genreating more 40 kts fetch with seas starting to build to 29 ft tracking over the dateline and targetting Hawaii well. The net result is some larger swell with solid period is expected to reach the Isalnds with a little luck.
This looks like the real start of winter.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (11/25) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was trying to move into the Active Phase. The Daily SOI index was back up to 23.47 with nary a negative reading in sight over the past 30 days. The 30 day average was heading back up to 14.78 and the 90 day average was up a notch to 14.92, and new high for the past 30 days. This remains symptomatic of a weak La Nina. Winds anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated east winds hanging on over the Eastern equatorial Pacific from the dateline into Central America and not giving up any coverage just yet. But the leading edge of the Active Phase of the MJO was pushing decently over the Philippines making headway almost to the dateline. This active phase is expected to continue now into the second week in december (12/14) seeping east over the dateline then, then continuing east and weakening with minimal energy moving to Central America by 12/9-14. This is stronger than any previous model run and does much to explain what's going on over the dateline now. The Active Phase is to slightly enhance storm development in the Northern Pacific through the second week in December. Latest data suggests no indication of the Inactive Phase building behind it for late December/early January.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table