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 (1/20) North and Central California had surf 2-3 ft overhead on the bigger sets with a light offshore flow and more stellar conditions, with the swell coming from the last fading remnants of Storm #3 that was north of Hawaii last week. Southern California was still getting a nice piece of Swell #3 with top popular spots chest to maybe head high. Hawaii's North Shore was blown to bits with junky small surf to maybe head high. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore report was unavailable.
For Central California one more day of decently rideable surf is expected on Wednesday with swell 5.5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft faces on the sets) and then it's over. Southern California is to continue seeing some of this same swell too on Wednesday, but size much smaller with swell 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft faces) at reasonably well exposed breaks from 275 degrees. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see new marginal Swell #4 hitting Wednesday Am at 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft Hawaiian) but Konas in control, with size fading Thursday while wind turns to trades. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore should start seeing some weak windswell on Thursday building to 6.6 ft @ 7 secs Friday (4.5 ft faces) as trades build in.
Longer term swell from marginal Storm #4 (Hawaii) to continue pushing east past the Islands, generated on the dateline over the weekend. There was nothing remarkable about this one other than it's relative close proximity to Hawaii, making for barely significant class swell there in on Wednesday fading Thursday. Regardless rideable swell is expected into California Friday into Saturday, providing something more to ride. And yet another small system is pushing towards the dateline today with 35 ft seas offering surf again for both California and Hawaii. But after that the jetstream remains forecast to fall apart with the high pressure dome that has protected the US West Coast temporarily breaking down for a few days offering slight odds for much needed rain into the Southwestern US. Beyond more high pressure is now depicted on the models and virtually no swell producing fetch.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (1/20) the North Pacific jetstream remained barely consolidated flowing flat from Japan over the dateline with only 100 kt winds and pockets to 140 kts reaching a point just north of Hawaii, then splitting with the northern branch tracking straight north into Alaska and the southern branch ridging a little and taking aimed at Central CA, but then heading south bound for the equator before reaching the coast. A weak trough was just north of Hawaii offering minimal support for low pressure development there. Over the next 72 hours through Friday (1/23) the flow is to further degenerate with the split point un-zippering back to the dateline while the southern branch finally pushes into Central CA with a trough setting up just off the coast, good for some rain but not swell generation. But a decent broad trough is expected to build over the dateline Thurs/Fri (1/23) with 130 kts winds feeding into it, offering some odds for surface level low pressure development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to hold on the dateline into Sunday (1/25) but getting more pinched, likely dooming it while the split flow gets even more pronounced over the Eastern Pacific. A possible backdoor trough is still expected to weakly push over San Francisco down to Southern CA Mon/Tues (1/27) offering some chances for wet and cold weather and maybe some snow production. And by Sunday solid consolidated jetstream energy is to start building over Japan with winds to 170 kts but pushing northeast forming a ridge and offering no support for gale development. That ridge is to be short-lived as is the wind energy, with the whole thigh slowly tilting back towards a flat flow Tuesday (1/27) reaching to the dateline before splitting heavily again. Will be interesting to see if moves towards supporting low pressure at the surface by mid-next week. Still, the theme for this winter clearly looks like a consolidated flow pushing off Japan, then splitting with high pressure holding strong off the US West Coast, typical of La Nina. Be prepared for water rationing this summer in CA.
At the surface today the remnants of Storm #4 (Hawaii) were fading in the Western Gulf of Alaska with no swell producing fetch indicated while another gale was tracking towards the dateline with 45 kts westerly winds. See details of each below. Generic weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was in control from Hawaii northwards on into the mainland up to and including Canada. A second smaller and more southern placed high was one the dateline and west of Hawaii driving Kona west to northwest winds into the Islands modeled at 20-25 kts and making a mess of things there along northwestern shores. Over the next 72 hours the new dateline gale is to dissipate while pushing over the dateline while the high pressure system west of Hawaii tracks east turning winds to trades later Wednesday. After than virtually no swell producing weather systems are forecast with high pressure in control with limited weak spurious low pressure systems forecast and getting no traction on the oceans surface, resulting in no swell with period of 12 secs or greater. In short, a flat spell is coming.
Storm #4 - Hawaii
A new gale started pushing off the Kuril's on Friday (1/16) with a tiny area of 40-45 kt west winds confirmed at 45N 158E over a small area in the evening producing 26 ft seas at 44 N 158E initially targeting Hawaii well.
Saturday AM (1/17) winds were confirmed building to 45-50 kts in it's south quadrant falling to 37N 167E aimed well up the 292 degree path to CA and 306 degree path to HI. 26 ft seas were again modeled at 44N 165E, from previous fetch. In the evening a broader fetch of 40 kt west winds were confirmed with a small fetch of up to 55 kts winds at 41N 178E aimed east towards Ncal up the 292 degree path and the 319 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were modeled at 25 ft dropping to 37N 168W targeting mainly Hawaii.
Sunday AM (1/18) more 40-45 kts westerly winds were occurring at 36N 174E producing 28 ft seas at 39N 172E. By evening 35 kt winds were confirmed at 36N 178W with previous fetch producing 30 ft seas at 36N 178E. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the outer fringes of the core of the fetch at 18Z Sunday reporting a 15 reading average of seas at 26.7 ft where the model indicated 29-30 ft seas. So the models were off by 2-3 ft, pretty typical of the models performance as of late.
Monday AM (1/19) a small secondary fetch of 40 kts winds was modeled (no QuikSCAT data available) right near the gales core at 45N 175W aimed southeast with 29 ft seas from previous fetch forecast at 35N 175W (319 degree Hawaii). In the evening this system was gone with residual 25 ft seas near 34N 173W and dissipating.
In all the seas heights were a little overestimated per the Jason-1 satellite. Regardless, it's close proximity to Hawaii will likely produce a short lived burst of minimally significant class swell for the Hawaiian Islands with utility class surf possible for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Wednesday 2 AM (1/21) with period 16 secs and pure swell quickly ramping up to 7.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (12 ft faces Hawaiian) coming from 312-319 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival Friday 1 AM with period 17 secs and size maxing late morning at 5.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (8.5 ft faces). Swell Direction 282-287 degrees)
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival Friday 1 PM with period 17 secs and peaking near 9 PM with swell 2.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 287-293 degrees
Another Dateline Gale (Hawaii)
One more gale built off the Kuril's Monday evening (1/19) with pressure 972 mbs and 45-40 kt west winds confirmed at 40N 153E, just east of Northern Japan. 25 ft seas were modeled building at 39N 154E.
Tuesday AM (1/20) 40-45 kt west winds were confirmed at 40N 165E pushing down the 307 degree track to Hawaii and 30 degree south of the 298 degree path to North CA. Seas were modeled up to 32 ft at 40N 160E. In the evening 40 kt residual west winds are forecast at 40N 170E aimed well down the 312 degree path to Hawaii and up the 294 degree path to NCal. 35 ft seas are scheduled from that wind at 40N 168E.
Wednesday AM (1/21) the gale is to be stationary west of the dateline and fading fast with 35 kt west wind at 40N 170E aimed well up the 293 degree track to North CA and pushing down the 315 degree track to Hawaii. 30 ft seas are modeled at 40N 172E. In the evening a tiny fetch of 35 kt winds to hold at 41N 175E aimed about like before with 26 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 39N 174E (approaching the dateline) .
Thursday AM (1/22) the last 35 kt fetch from this system are to be at 41N 175W and fading with 23 ft seas forecast at 37N 178E.
If all this comes to pass another pulse of utility class swell can be expected for Hawaii with small utility class swell for the US West Coast. But it's way to early to make any firm forecast yet. Period at or exceeding 17 sec could be expected with most size likely a bit below that, and the swell will be well groomed given it's rather long travel distance to both Hawaii and the mainland. A very long wait should be expected between sets for the US West Coast given a 2700-3100 nmiles travel distance.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/20) generic high pressure was hanging off California at 1020 mbs with offshore flow still in play, but just barely so. A patch of moisture associated with weak low pressure was southwest of the state pushing northeast, perhaps a sign of changes to come. A neutral pressure pattern and no winds is forecast Wednesday, but rain from the gale that was off the coast is to move over the Central Coast late building south. By Thursday rain remains expected over the state but with light winds. Friday AM (1/23) lingering shower are forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area, but clear elsewhere into Saturday and no wind of interest expected. Sunday and Monday (1/26) north to northwest winds to take over all the state with rain/snow in the Sierra associated with a backdoor upper level trough forming a gradient with high pressure off the coast, and maybe some rain into Southern CA too. But by Tuesday (1/27) things to clear out with a calm wind pattern back in control as high pressure starts ridging into Oregon.
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 virtually no fetch of greater than 25 kts is forecast for the North Pacific. This strongly suggests that whatever swell is going to be generated with occur in the next few days, than after that the North Pacific is to go dormant while the jetstream tries to sort itself out. Consistent with earlier forecasts, the decay of the jetstream is in perfect sync with the decay of the Active Phase of the MJO, which is to be effectively gone by 1/22 and replaced by an equally strong Inactive Phase pushing into the West Pacific and expected to dominate for at least the first 3 weeks of February. Better get whatever surf you can now because an extended flat spell looks likely.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference):As of Tuesday (1/20) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still strongly in the Active Phase, but for just a few more days. The Daily SOI index was holding at -6.59 hovering near 0 for 13 days now. The 30 day average was down to 11.36 and the 90 day average was down to 12.51. La Nina was still well dug-in, but the MJO was trying to make a little headway against it. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a very solid area of west winds on the equator centered on the dateline with lesser winds reaching east to Central America and into the Atlantic. The Active Phase of the MJO was filling the entire Pacific (a good thing). These winds are expected to push east and hold together reasonably well by 1/22, positioned just south of Hawaii, but the end is near. By 1/29 a fast decay is to have set-in as the Inactive Phase plows through the Indian Ocean, reaching north Australia and likely starting to suppress storm development (more than it already is). The Active Phase is supportive of development of storms in the North Pacific, specifically the gale pattern that was off Japan late December, then Storm #3 and Possible Storms #4 and the gale to follow it. The Inactive Phase will do the exact opposite, suppressing storm development and supporting high pressure. The Inactive Phase is to reach the dateline on 2/8 with residual effects likely for at least 2 weeks after that. Consider most of February a write-off. Note that warm waters that had built up off Central America starting last summer ('08) due to what appeared to be the start of an El Nino have been totally erased now and colder than normal water has taken over the equator from the dateline east to almost Ecuador. And subsurface waters in the East Pacific equator have moved very negative, all very much a symptom of La Nina.
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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Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table