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.
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On Thursday (11/29) Northern CA surf was head high to 2 ft over and a bit warbled but reasonably clean and rideable early. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest to head high with a few overhead sets. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was maybe thigh high at the best breaks. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh to waist high. The North Shore of Oahu was 3-4 ft overhead. The South Shore was waist high. The East Shore was waist to chest high.
North/Central California was getting some energy from the dateline with a bigger pulse hitting the outer buoys. Southern California was getting minimal wrap around northwesterly swell from the dateline only at the best exposed breaks sown south. Hawaii's North Shore was on the back side of Swell #7, with more queued up from the dateline. For the immediate future swell from Storm #7 is expected to push into California for Friday fading into the weekend, providing the best hopes north of Pt Conception. But of more interest is Swell from Storm #8 that developed west of the dateline earlier this week, bound for Hawaii for the weekend with solid significant class size forecast. And the remnants of that storm are to merge with tropical energy getting sucked east from the Philippines, merging into a broad storm filling the Northeast Pacific late in the weekend then tracking into the Pacific Northwest early next week. The result is to to be more significant class swell for Hawaii and then a solid dose of the same for exposed breaks in California, and even possible solid surf into Southern CA due to this ones more southerly trajectory. Weather to be a possible issue for the northern reaches of CA though. In all there's some real promise, but the devil is in the details. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (11/29) for the North Pacific indicated a very strong flow ridging off Japan at near 200 kts diving south over the dateline forming a trough there, then ridging hard to the north and into the Eastern Bering Sea north of Hawaii. Good potential for surface level storm development in the trough near the dateline. A calm pattern covered the Eastern Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the strong pocket of energy is to push hard to the east reaching a point above Hawaii by Sunday (12/2) with winds fading some but still 180 kts. A bit of a trough is to persist but that nasty ridge in the east is to persist if not build actually doubling back towards the dateline. It is unsure hat affect this will have, but it could hamper storm development at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours the ridge in the east is to break down and a broad trough is to develop in the Eastern Pacific fed by 130-140 kts winds extending the width of the Pacific into Tuesday (12/4). Good support for surface level gale development. Beyond a bit of a pause in the action is forecast, then another strong pocket of wind energy is forecast protruding off JApan at 170-180 kts arching towards the dateline, possibly reactivating the gale pattern down below.
At the surface today the broad but fading remnants of Storm #8 were circulating with the core in the southern Bering Sea and weak fetch extending south over the dateline almost as far south as Hawaii. Strong high pressure at 1032 mbs remained centered off the Pacific Northwest forming an impenetrable wall blocking any eastward moving storms from proceeding into North America. Modest swell from Storm #7 was pushing east towards California. Over the next 72 hours Storm #8 is to continue fading while limping east (details below). Tropical low pressure that has been hanging over the Philippines is to be on the move to the east, being influenced by strong jetstream winds aloft. It is to race over the dateline on Saturday (12/1) and start merging with the remnants of Storm #8 as they both converge north of Hawaii. By Sunday things could get interesting (see Longterm forecast).
Swell #7 - Hawaii
On Thursday (11/22) a fragmented by broad 984 mb gale pushed off Kamchatka generating up to 40 kt northwest winds off Japan and south of even any track to Hawaii. Seas were building to 26 ft at 37N 155E up to 27 ft in the evening at 37N 158E.
By Friday (11/23) a more cohesive fetch of 30-35 kts winds was organizing midway between Japan and the dateline at 40N 160E aimed reasonably well towards Hawaii down the 307 degree great circle path and 30 degrees south of the 296 degree path to North CA. Seas continued in the 27 ft range at 37N 158-167E through the evening.
On Saturday (11/24) more of the same was occurring with 30-35 kts west winds blowing over a good portion of the West Pacific though positioned a little more to the north. 23-25 ft seas were modeled over a broad area near 37-45N 172E and continuing through the evening aimed decently towards Hawaii down the 319 degree path and towards North CA up the 302 degree path. In the evening seas were modeled at 23 ft at 45N 178E.
On Sunday AM (11/25) a second phase to this gale developed, with renewed winds in the southern quadrant of this gale and a fleeting fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds occurring at 40N 175E generating more 27 ft seas at 40N 168E aimed best at Hawaii down the 317 degree path and 35 degrees south of the 295 degree path to California. By evening seas were up to 27 ft at 38N 177E.
On Monday (11/26) the last push of this system occurred with the low finally organizing on the dateline and wrapping up, generating a short lived fetch of 45 kts winds near 47N 180W and producing up to 30 ft seas at 44N 178W aimed well at Hawaii down the 330 degree path and 25 degrees south of the 298 degree path to North CA. Seas were 30 ft again in the evening at 45N 172W, then fading.
This system was fading fast Tuesday AM (11/27) being shunted into the Bering Sea by the jetstream with lingering but fading 26 ft seas at 46N 168W aimed best at California up the 299 degree great circle path. Seas were forecast fading from 21 ft in the evening at 45N 163W.
This was not a well organized system. Still, it held on for 6 days in the dateline region generating some form of 30-40 kt fetch over the entire period producing 23-30 ft or so seas the whole tine. Not too bad. Solid minimal significant class energy seems likely for Hawaii from the second pulse of this gale due mainly to their close proximity to the fetch. California is pretty far away and not really in the main energy track, meaning less size and well-decayed swell upon it's arrival. Advanced class swell for the northern end of the state with intermediate class surf in exposed breaks in Southern CA. One point of interest: There were really 2 distinct pulses from this system, meaning 2 separate swell events. If you look at the Wavewatch III swell model, it will depict it as one event and sum the 2 swells together, making it appear to be bigger than it will be in reality.
North California: Expect swell from the first pulse of the gale to arrive near noon Thursday (11/29) with swell building to 4.5-4.7 ft @ 14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft faces). 13 sec residual energy to persist early Friday. But the second pulse of swell from this system to overtake it arriving near 5 AM Friday (11/30) building to 5.5-6.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (8-9 ft faces). 13-14 sec residuals to continue into Saturday (12/1) with swell 5.0-5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7 ft faces) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 291-297 degrees first pulse and 297 degrees from the second pulse.
South California: Expect swell from the first pulse of the gale to arrive Friday (11/30) at 2 AM with swell building to 1.9-2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) by sunrise holding through the day. 13 sec residual energy to persist into early Saturday (12/1). But the second pulse of swell from this system to overtake it arriving near 4 PM Friday (11/30) building to 2.5-2.9 ft @ 17 secs overnight (4-5 ft faces). Decent 15-16 sec energy to continue into early Saturday (12/1) with swell 2.5-2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces at best exposed breaks) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 296-301 degrees first pulse and 300-302 degrees from the second pulse.
On Tuesday (11/27) a new fetch started building well off Japan anchored in low pressure over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with pressure 976 mbs. An elongated area of 30-35 kt northwest winds were building from the Kuril's pushing to 40N 170E aimed towards Hawaii up the 312 degree great circle path and generating seas to 21 ft at 42N 155E. In the evening the low dropped to 960 mbs with a building fetch of confirmed winds at 40-45 kts winds indicated near 43N between 160E and the dateline all aimed due east or 30 degrees east of the 315 degree path to Hawaii and 15 degrees south of the 295-300 degree path to North CA. Seas built to 27 ft at 44N 160E.
The fetch pushed south east on Wednesday AM (11/24) as the gale held stationary just west of the dateline and south of the Aleutians with a moderate area of 40-45 kt west winds at 42N 172E generating 30 ft seas at 42N 165E targeting Hawaii up the 315 degree great circle path and California equally up the 297 degree path. A moderate area of 35-40 kt winds continued in the evening with 40-45 kt winds up near the gales core at 45N 178E though faltering further south aimed about like before. 32 ft seas (mostly from previous fetch) were positioned at 37N 170E aimed 30 degrees south of the 293 degree path to North CA and right down the 312 degree path to Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass right over the fetch late and confirmed seas at 28.5 ft were the wave model suggested 30 ft, a bit less than expected.
The fetch continued faltering on Thursday AM (11/29) generating only 30-40 kt winds on the dateline at 35N 180W. The net result was a broad area of 29 ft seas straddling the dateline at 35N aimed at Hawaii down the 315 degree path and barely at California up the 290-295 degree paths. In the evening this system is to be all but gone with only residual 30-35 kts winds near 45N 175W with 27 ft seas fading at 32N 175W.
The fetch is to holding into Friday AM (11/30) on the dateline at 30-35 kts aimed like before with 25 ft seas over a broad area near 30-40N 175W aimed well at Hawaii down the 320-328 degree paths and less at North California up the 292-298 degree paths. Limited 30 kts winds to be fading by evening in the same locale with 21 ft seas still holding at 33N 165W.
This was not a strong storm by any sense of the imagination, and if anything was really just a gale (no wind in excess of 50 kts). QuikSCAT satellite wind imagery was not impressive and the only Jason1 satellite pass was less than hoped for, but not too far off the mark. The model have tended to be a little overstated lately, consistent with the findings for this storm. But in all it held together for a long time and had a reasonably sized fetch area with all energy aimed almost directly at Hawaii through it's life. What's of more interest appears to be the influence of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which is starting to get good traction in the North Pacific and the storm pattern appears to be following it's lead, pushing from the West Pacific into the Central and East Pacific. In fact, a huge storm system remains forecast moving into the East Pacific forming from the remnants of this one. But for now, let's stick to what is more immediately at-hand. This system seems likely to produce a small to moderate show of significant class surf for Hawaii by Saturday (12/1) pushing smaller but still sizeable energy into California perhaps by Monday (12/3).
Hawaii: Expected swell arrival starting early Saturday (12/1) before sunrise and on the increase quickly, reaching significant class levels late morning with pure swell 7-8 ft @ 17 secs (12-14 ft faces) with combined seas to 11.5 ft. Swell to continue Sunday (12/2) at 7 ft @ 14 secs with seas to 9.7 ft (9-11 ft faces) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 307-315 degrees
California: Whatever swell is generated by this system is likely to be overrun by much larger swell developing just off the coast by possible Storm #9 (see below).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/29) strong high pressure at 1034 mbs remained off Southern British Columbia feeding a weak pressure gradient nearshore over Northern CA generating northerly winds there to 25 kts. This same basic pattern is to hold auguring into the Central CA coast Friday and holding into Saturday AM, then fading fast. Some form of short period junky north windswell is expected for North and Central CA during the period ruining whatever swell is coming from the dateline. A brief break is forecast late Saturday into early Sunday (12/2) before the leading edge of a massive front from Possible Storm #9 hits Sunday afternoon in the San Francisco area with brisk southerly winds expected down into Pt Conception by evening (but never reaching South CA). It to eventually start clearing out on Monday with light winds all locations Tuesday before high pressure returns with another bout of north winds for everywhere north of Pt Conception.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 remnants of Storm #8 are to possibly start regenerating north of Hawaii fed by tropical low pressure being swept east by the jetstream. By Saturday evening (12/1) a closed isobar low is to start circulating with pressure 984 mbs generating a small fetch of 45 kt winds at 33N 158W aimed due east, mostly bypassing Hawaii and focused on Central CA.
By Sunday AM (12/2) things are to really get moving with a broad fetch of 40 kt winds sweeping down it's west quadrant aimed right at Hawaii near 35N 162W with seas to 27 ft at 35N 165W, but very close to the Islands too. Additionally a solid fetch of 45-50 kt winds are forecast in it's south quadrant at 35N 150W aimed at North CA up the 272 degree path and South CA up the 285 degree path (most favorable). Seas building to 29 ft there at 35N 150W. This to become Storm #9. In the evening storm pressure is to drop to a very deep 948 mbs while tracking east with 50-55 kts winds near it's core at 40N 145W aimed at NCal up the 285 degree path and Scal up the 292 degree path with much 40-45 kt fetch aimed at both locales from further to the south. Seas forecast at 38 ft at 36N 143W. Sideband 40 kt fetch to be aimed at Hawaii from 33N 158W and points north down the 355+ degree path. Seas to 32 ft forecast at 33N 158W.
On Monday AM (12/3) the core of storm is to be off Northern Oregon with pressure still 944 mbs and winds 50 kts mostly in it's south quadrant at 45N 140W aimed 30 degrees north of the 302 degree great circle path and effectively out of the SCal swell window but copious 35-40 kts fetch is to still be over southern waters as far south as 32N 142W aimed at Southern CA up the 280 degree path. Seas to 45 ft modeled at 42N 138W aimed at the Pacific Northwest with a board area of 32-35 ft seas aimed towards all of CA from 35N 140W. By evening it's all to be inland with 35 ft seas pushing east over the outer buoys towards North and Central CA with 29-30 ft seas targeting Southern CA. Swell to be impacting Hawaii.
If all goes as forecast large significant class raw swell is expected to hit Hawaii late Sunday through Tuesday (12/4) and California (North and South) Tuesday and Wednesday (12/5). Wind and lot's of lump to be a factor everywhere but perhaps Southern CA.
And yet more is forecast behind that, but of a more moderate nature with one small gael wrapping up north of Hawaii tracking northeast in the the Eastern Gulf Wednesday and Thursday (12/6) with another stronger one developing off Kamchatka Tues-Thurs (12/6) fading after passing over the dateline. Winds to 55 kts with a small area of seas to 40 ft west of the dateline fading to 30 ft after passing east of the dateline early Friday (12/7). More longer period swell likely.
MJO Note: Odds for larger surf continue on the upswing with the Madden Julian Oscillation now in the Active phase and pushing across the equatorial Pacific. Anomalous west winds at the 850 mb level are well entrenched over the South China Sea and into the far West Pacific pushing out over the exposed waters to the dateline and a little beyond, expected to continue east and slowly loosing strength through December 15. This sort of pattern typically results in improved odds for storm development, improving odds for swell development. The Southern Oscillation Index dropped to the negative range (as previously expected) a few days ago at -4, the first negative reading since 15 days, but has since moved back up to 8.0. We'll see if a negative trend develops (expected). If so, a commensurate manifestation of that trend should evolve in the atmosphere pushing the storm track more from the West Pacific to the Central and East Pacific through mid-to-late December. This appears to be a relatively strong pulse of the MJO so make the most of it, because the inactive phase is sure to follow with the appropriate downturn in storm activity likely.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. The season is over.
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