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 (1/10) Northern CA surf was double to triple overhead and pretty much hacked by south winds. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were 1-2 ft overhead with light southeast winds. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was double overhead with northwest winds hacking it in the afternoon. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was head high to 2 ft overhead. The LA Area southward to Orange County was head high with some bigger sets at the best breaks. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were head high on the sets. The North Shore of Oahu was 17 ft Hawaiian with The Bay breaking. The South Shore was waist high. The East Shore was head high plus from wrap around swell from the northwest.
North/Central California was getting swell from the first of 2 solid dateline storms, though on the downside with the peak occurring on Wednesday PM. Southern California was getting a solid dose of that same dateline swell with energy peaking mid-morning. Hawaii's North Shore was getting significant class swell from Storm #13 which hit Wednesday Pm and continued into Thursday. Good to see some swell finally. The East Shore was getting a little wrap around energy from that same swell. Not much happening on the South Shore. The big news is Storm #13 which has produced large surf in Hawaii. That same swell is pushing east and the storm itself is still trying to hold together as it pushes into the Gulf of Alaska. 96 hours of solid fetch have already occurred with seas modeled up to 40 ft and confirmed at times by the Jason-1 satellite to 38 ft. So large swell appears imminent. A second much small system (storm #14) to back that up for the North and Central CA coasts. And yet anther storm (#150 is modeled to provide more significant class surf for Hawaii over the weekend, assuming wind doesn't blow it out. The short of it is lot's of swell on the way for now. Make the most of it. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (1/10) for the North Pacific indicated a solid jetstream flow pushing almost flat across the entire ocean from Central Japan into Oregon with winds 170 kts leading up to the dateline, fading some then back up to 140 kts pushing into the US West Coast. A mild trough was north of Hawaii but otherwise no obvious features suggesting surface level low pressure development were indicated. Over the next 72 hours a but of a trough is to develop over the dateline moving towards Hawaii Friday-Saturday ahead of building split in the dateline. Some support for gale development in the trough. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to split solidly on the dateline by Sunday (1/13) with the northern branch is to be taking a direct path into Southern Alaska while the southern branch dips over Hawaii, down into the equator virtually eliminating any odds for storm development from the split point on east. But strong energy is to persist coming off Japan with winds up to 180-190 kts but flowing flat east and not supporting storm development.
At the surface today three storm systems were being tracked. Storm #13 was fading and pushing towards British Columbia after a 96 hour run of strength, Storm #14 (really a gale right now) trying to organize and expected to produce a short duration of fetch for the the Northern half of CA, and Storm #15 was forming over the dateline taking aim on Hawaii. Details for all these are documented below.
On Sunday AM (1/6) a stronger storm started forming from semi-tropical energy pushing east off Japan aided by the active phase of the MJO with 45 kt winds confirmed taking aim on Hawaii from across the dateline and well south at 33N 163E. By evening winds were on the increase confirmed at 50 to perhaps near 60 kts at 34N 171E aimed directly down the 299 degree path to Hawaii, and 35 degrees south of the 286 degree path to North California.
On Monday AM (1/7) winds were confirmed at 55-60 kts in it's south and west quadrants targeting Hawaii from 36N 175E aimed down the 306 degree path and directly at North CA up the 286 degree path from 35N 175E. 32 ft seas were modeled building at 34N 172E. In the evening the system jogged northeast some with a small area of 50-55 kt winds confirmed straddling the dateline at 36N 177W in the storms south and southwest quadrants aimed at Hawaii down the 310 degree path and at California up the 285 degree path. 38 ft seas were modeled at 35N 180W aimed right at Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the trailing edge of the core of the fetch at 21Z and confirmed seas at 38-40 ft, exactly as the wave model predicted. This is good news.
The storm lost energy but gained in fetch area Tuesday AM (1/8) with 45-50 kts winds over a broader area at 37N 170W aimed east-southeast or 25 degrees east of the 328 degree path to Hawaii and 30 degrees south of the 285 degree path to NCal (290 SCal). 39 ft seas were modeled at 35N 172W. A similar sized fetch of 45-50 kt winds continued in the evening aimed due east from 39N 165W or right up the 287 degree path to NCal (293 SCal) but mostly bypassing any route to Hawaii. 40 ft seas were modeled at 36N 167W aimed due east.
On Wednesday AM (1/9) fetch built a little to 50 kts solid at 40N 155W aimed at NCal up the 285 degree path. 38 ft seas were suggested at 39N 161W. But the Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the fetch and reported a 15 reading average sea height of 34.8 ft with a singular reading to 38 ft. So the model looks to be reading about 2-3 ft on the high side. In the evening 35-40 kt fetch was confirmed fading from 42N 153W aimed at NCal up the 289 degree path. Seas were modeled at 40 ft at 41N 154W aimed at NCal up the 287 degree path,though we suspect that is a little on the high side. Swell from this system hit Hawaii building to 11 ft @ 18 secs at sunset.
A quick fade was in-play Thursday AM (1/10) with 35 to barely 40 kts west winds at 43N 143W aimed 20 degrees north of the 297 degree path to North CA and seas from previous days fetch 36 ft at 43N 147W aimed down the 295 degree path to NCal (300 SCal). Swell from this system was 12 ft @ 15 secs in Hawaii in the morning. Seas forecast fading in the evening from 30 ft at 44N 141W.
The models held remarkably well through the life of this storm with only a slight downgrade in the highest seas originally modeled (43 ft) but still providing 48 hours of near 40 ft seas (per the models) aimed well to the east and even a bit towards Hawaii early in the storms life. And we've gotten confirmation from the Jason-1 satellite that the wave models are on track early in the storm, though 2-3 ft off later in it's life. In all not too bad, but not ideal. A total of 96 hours of solid fetch and seas greater than 30 ft occurred aimed well east providing good odds of long period significant class swell for the US West Coast. And given it's close proximity to the Hawaiian Islands, a nice but short-lived pulse of significant class swell could result there as well (actually it was confirmed hitting there Wed PM into Thurs).
North CA: Expect swell arriving near well before sunrise Friday (1/11) with period 22 secs and size small but slowly and steadily building. Swell to start peaking from 2 PM with swell 9.5-10.0 ft @ 20 secs (19-20 ft faces) and possibly more. Peak consistency and max waves per set to hit as period drops to 17 secs at 1 AM Saturday (1/23) and holding through 7 AM with virtual fetch having it's maximum effect. Period dropping just after sunrise Saturday (1/12) with swell still 9-9.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (14-15 ft faces) and slowly settling down through the day with period moving towards 14 secs after sunset. Swell Direction: 285-294 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting at noon Friday (1/11) with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable but steadily building. Swell to hit 20 secs and becoming solid by 7 PM and peaking just before 4 AM Saturday (1/12) with swell 3.8-4.4 ft @ 18-20 secs (6.8-8.8 ft faces) during this time range. Peak consistency expected near noon as period hits 17 secs with swell 3.6-4.2 ft @ 17 secs (6-7 ft faces) and holding through sunset. 14-15 sec residuals expected on Sunday (1/13) wit swell 3-4 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5-6.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 290-298 degrees
Possible Storm #14
On Friday AM (1/11) a small gale is to develop just northeast of Hawaii with pressure 986 mbs and 45 kts winds building at 42N 149W aimed 25 degrees south of the 292 degree path to North CA. By the evening pressure is to drop to 978 mbs with a small area of 45-50 kt winds in-place in it's south quadrant at 44N 142W aimed due east or right down the 296 degree path to NCal (301 SCal). These winds to get good traction on an already well agitated oceans surface with 30 ft seas forecast at 44N 143W.
On Saturday AM (1/12) the storm to hold while pushing up to the southern British Columbia coast with 50 kts winds at 50N 137W aimed down the 320 degree path to NCal and effectively out of the swell window. Seas forecast fading from 29 ft at 45N 135W.
Assuming all this occurs as modeled a small dose of reinforcing significant class surf could be expected for exposed breaks in North CA Sunday AM on into Central CA in the early afternoon. Swell roughly 9 ft @ 15-16 secs (14 ft faces) from 297-303 degrees.
Storm #15 (Hawaii)
On Thursday AM (1/10) another storm was starting to build off the Kuril's near the dateline. It's was actually 2 gales that were merging. Both had 45 kts winds in their southwest quadrants with the closest near 39N 171E aimed southeast directly at Hawaii up the 312 degree path. In the evening most energy is to be absorbed by the southern most system with a small but strong fetch developing with winds up to 60 kts at 40N 176E aimed towards Hawaii down the 314 degree path. A concentrated area of 29 ft seas forecast at 39N 175E.
On Friday AM (1/11) the fetch to reach the dateline with 55 kts winds holding at 40N 180W aimed just like before. 35 ft seas modeled at 38N 180W. In the evening the fetch is to fade to 45-50 kts and sinking southeast at 37N 172W again aimed towards Hawaii right down the 328 degree path. 39 ft seas are forecast at 37N 175W.
On Saturday AM (1/23) only the faintest area of 40 kts winds to remain at 36N 170W aimed towards Oahu down the 330 degree path. 35 ft seas forecast at 34N 170W on a heading just barely east of the Islands. By evening all wind is to be gone with 31 ft seas positioned at 32N 165W sinking southeast.
All this continues to look good from purely a swell generation perspective with the fetch holding it's ground and actually sinking southeast towards the Islands if it goes as forecast. But high pressure is to be right behind it possibly setting up a major north wind event about as the swell arrives on Sunday (1/13), possibly shutting down the best swell of the reason relative to Hawaii. Rough data suggest swell peaking late Sunday at 17 ft @ 17 secs (25-28 ft Hawaiian). Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
As of late Thursday (1/10) high pressure was set up off Baja at 1026 mbs and forecast to take control for the next week, slowly lifting north and building a progressively stronger barrier against any incoming weather systems. It's to ridge gently into the Central CA coast by Friday offering a very light winds pattern and clearing skies with no change well into next week. North winds are the only exception off Pt Conception and southern Central CA Friday over the weekend at 15 kts. In short, light wind and clean conditions expected.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
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 hrs the models suggest a much weaker pattern is forecast with no cohesive low pressure system forecast over the Pacific and all energy getting shunted north towards the Bering Sea as the jetstream splits over the Eastern Pacific. A series of broad gales are forecast in the far Northwest Pacific Ocean, all ending up tracking north over the Aleutians offering only limited support for non-significant class surf.
Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) Update: Starting about 1/1/2008 the MJO started moving into the active phase with a strong area of reversed winds at the 850 mb level starting to encroach into the far Western Tropical Pacific and east-bound. As of Sat (1/5) the SOI remained very positive reading at 40 with no signs of dipping into negative territory just yet. But that changed by Sunday dipping to 6 and holding Monday then lifting slightly to 12 through Thursday (1/10). The model clearly depict these anomalous winds tracking east through the end of the month. We suspect this may be starting to fuel the enhanced storm pattern for for the next week, and additional activity could be expected through the end of the month.
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