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 Tuesday (1/22) Northern CA surf was shoulder to head high and clean. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to near chest high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist to chest high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was thigh high at the best breaks. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist high and heavily textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh high. The North Shore of Oahu was head high and reasonably clean. The South Shore was waist high from the southern hemi. The East Shore was waist high or so - tradewind windswell.
North/Central California was getting mostly locally generated windswell from off Cape Mendocino mixed with fading dateline energy. Southern California was effectively flat. Hawaii's North Shore was getting fading energy from the dateline with one more pulse on the way. The East Shore was getting minimal tradewind generated windswell. The South Shore was getting some wrap-around windswell, but that's all. The pattern in the upper atmosphere hasn't significantly changed other than opening up a hole for the far Eastern Gulf of Alaska to start doing something. So storm development is to follow that lead. As such, more activity is forecast for the far Western Pacific favoring Hawaii longterm. And an active pattern is now forecast for the region just off British Columbia on down into the Pacific Northwest, which will produce rather raw north angled swell for North and Central CA, but likely locking Southern CA out of the action. Fortunately rain is in the forecast, further building the Sierra snowpack and reducing the odds of drought. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (1/22) for the North Pacific continued to depict a fully split jetstream, and that it had unraveled even more to the west with the split point now near 160E, well west of the dateline. Winds were moderate at 150 kts pushing over Japan, with the northern branch tracking northeast over the Aleutians into Western Alaska then down interior Canada only to pop off the coast over North CA before returning inland. The southern branch passed just south of Hawaii then northeast into Central Baja. Only the area just off Kamchatka held any potential or gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold though the jet is to start flowing down the US West Coast building a bit more prominently into the Pacific off California, perhaps sending the storm track more down the coast with it and offering some limited hope for swell development then. Beyond 72 hours the situation is to remain the same less the retrograded bulge off California, again supporting a very northerly storm track into the US West Coast. The split point is to push back east some to 170W early next week too, but not making any moves to push further east.
At the surface today high pressure remained in-control of the Northeast Pacific with one high centered in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska at 1032 mbs and a second north of Hawaii also at 1032 mbs. Swell from one of two gales was expected to arrive in Hawaii today (see Another Dateline Gale), and both swells were still en route to California (also see Third Dateline Gale). Low pressure at 996 mbs was trying to organize a bit west of the dateline but was already heading north, likely bound for the Bering Sea. No other swell producing systems were depicted. Over the next 72 hours the new dateline low is to track due north and lodge itself north of the Aleutians over the dateline, with all it's fetch totally landlocked. On Thursday (1/24) a broad storm is to start winding up just off Northern Japan with a solid fetch of 50-55 kt winds and 35 ft seas developing at 37N 153E in it's southwest quadrant aimed a bit south of any great circle path to Hawaii. That fetch to slow fade on Friday off Japan with winds fading from 45 kts down to 40 kts but aimed better at the Islands, but making zero forward progress eastward and instead drifting north. Up to 40 ft seas forecast early at 38N 158E. 30-35 kts winds to fade on Saturday off the Kuril Islands, with seas in the 28-30 ft range, then gone on Sunday. Good potential for long period advanced class swell for Hawaii Tuesday (1/29).
Also on Thursday (1/24) a small gale is to develop of Northern Canada falling south generating 30-35 kt north winds with seas to 20 ft late. That fetch to make it to a point about 300 nmiles off Cape Mendocino CA Friday AM with winds still 30 kts and seas to 22 ft between buoys 46002 and 46059, fading there late. Larger raw windswell with period in the 11-13 sec range likely for much of California late Friday into Saturday (1/26). Size to double overhead at exposed breaks.
Another Dateline Gale
A moderate sized gale started forming just east of the dateline early Thursday (1/17) with pressure 996 mbs producing a tiny fetch of 35 kt winds building to 40-45 kts aimed Hawaii in it's southwest quadrant and northeast towards the Pacific Northwest by evening. Seas building to 20 ft at 31N 170E. On Friday AM (1/18) it hit the impenetrable wall of high pressure east of the dateline, and tracked directly north with 40 kt fetch in it's south quadrant aimed midway between Hawaii and the Mainland from 40N 172E. 25 ft seas were modeled near 37N 170E. In the evening residual fetch at 40 kts continued at 40N 178E aimed like before, but the bulk of the system was nearly over the Aleutians bound for the Bering Sea. 29 ft seas were modeled at 41N 177E aimed like the winds but favoring Hawaii due to it's close proximity. By Saturday AM just about all this system was in the Bering Sea and dissipating. Seas from previous fetch were at 28 ft at 40N 178W heading almost due east, or towards California 20 degrees south of the 290 degree path to NCal (295 Scal). By nightfall that was gone.
Swell expected for exposed breaks in Northern CA starting Wednesday afternoon (1/23) at 4.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (6 ft faces) from 290 degrees and 2.9 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft faces) in Central CA by late afternoon. Nothing of interest forecast for Southern CA.
Third Dateline Gale
Yet another similar system developed late Saturday (1/19) over the dateline with a tiny fetch of 50 kt winds in it's south quadrant at 33N 175E aimed well at Hawaii up the 300 degree path. It's was lifting fast northeast to north by Sunday AM (1/20) with 55 kt winds holding at 37N 178W aimed 35 degree east of the 330 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 288 degree path to NCal (293 SCal). 26 ft seas were modeled at 38N 179W. A tiny area of 50 kt winds held into the evening at 43N 172W aimed at NCal up the 293 degree path (298 SCal). 32 ft seas were modeled at 41N 172W. By Monday AM 50 kt winds were still present at 47N 165W but the system was lifting fast to the north with little of this energy pushing towards even the Pacific Northwest. 32 ft seas were modeled at 45N 167W. By evening it was gone.
Swell to start hitting Hawaii on Tues (1/22) peaking near 5 ft @ 15 secs late (7-8 ft faces). Swell 6 ft @ 13 secs (8 ft faces) early Wed and fading. Swell Direction: 310-315 degrees
Possible 17 sec period swell for Northern California starting Thursday (1/24) reaching 3.4 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft faces) late. Swell fading from 4.7 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft faces) early Friday (1/25). Swell Direction: 295 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
As of Tuesday (1/22) weak low pressure at 1016 mbs was centered just off Monterey Bay CA driving a weak offshore flow from there northward and a weak southerly flow from Southern CA north to Pt Conception. light precipitation even down into Southern CA depicted. This low to hold it's ground while slowly fading Wednesday into Thursday with a light wind flow continuing. Precipitation over the region on into the Sierras forecast. But late Thursday a new much stronger low to be pushing into the state from the north bringing south winds and solid rain into Southern CA late Friday followed by offshores Saturday in the Bay Area pushing south into Southern CA late in the day. Yet a much stronger one is forecast right behind that with strong south winds expect in North CA late Saturday reaching Pt Conception early Sunday then stalling there. Solid rain forecast up north reaching into Southern CA late Sunday. Yet another blast is forecast Tuesday of next week (1/29) with south wind and heavy rain reaching to Santa Barbara.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
A storm developed under New Zealand Friday PM (1/11) with winds in the 50 kt range and seas to 30 ft. This one took a easterly track with fetch aimed mostly east to east-northeast, reasonably towards the US West Coast and Central America with sideband energy towards Hawaii. The peak occurring on late Saturday into Sunday (1/13) with seas confirmed by the Jason-1 satellite at 33.6 ft at 56S 172W Sat PM and modeled up to 35 ft all day Sunday from 56S 164W moving to 53S 155W. Southern California to see tiny swell starting Tuesday (1/22) with period 18 secs peaking Wednesday with swell 2 ft @ 16 secs early (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 205 degrees.
The models are suggesting another system forming southeast of New Zealand on Wednesday (1/23) tracking east into Friday and generating 35-37 ft seas Thursday into early Friday near 53S 150W to 51S 140W aimed mostly towards Central America. Possible swell for Southern CA if this materializes as currently modeled.
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 a bit of another gale is to develop in the far northeast Gulf of Alaska Saturday (1/26) with 35 kt northwest winds starting to push south. A solid fetch of 40-45 kt north winds are forecast by evening off Canada near 50N 142W pushing down the 317 degree path to North CA. Seas building to 28 ft at 47N 138W. That fetch to push south to a point off British Columbia Sunday AM (1/17) at 45N 135W aimed about like before with seas to 32 ft at 50N 140W then wind fading in the evening while moving into Oregon. 30 ft seas forecast at 43N 133W late and fading while pushing into Cape Mendocino late Sunday into early Monday. Large raw swell possible for the North and Central CA coasts if this materializes.
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. On Sat (1/5) the SOI was very positive reading 40 with no signs of dipping into negative territory. By Monday (1/7) it dipped to 6 then lifted slightly to 12 a day later and has held there through Monday (1/14). Finally on Tuesday (1/15) it dipped to 3 and then -9 and -7 through Thurs (1/17) and holding in the 0 range through Tuesday (1/22). The models depict these anomalous winds are currently tracking east over the dateline and are expected to continue their eastbound travels while slowly fading out south over Central America on 2/5. This is actually an improvement from previous model runs. Regardless the inactive phase is to be building weak momentum right behind pushing into the far Western Equatorial Pacific near 2/10. We suspect this incarnation of the MJO fueled the enhanced storm pattern that resulted in a string of solid surf for the first half of January, but with the jetstream (upper level) now so split, odds for any additional benefits from the surface level tropical moisture pump afforded by the active phase of the MJO are low.
No swell producing systems of interst are 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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Grib File Switchover: The old grib1 format wave model datafiles that have been the mainstay of the National Weather service for years now are scheduled to be retired on 1/26. We switched over to the new grib2 files starting with the 00z run of Thurs 1/17. All appears to be running fine. There is no functional change to the content of the models, just that files we receive are now smaller due to improved compression of grib2. But this sets us up to start processing new higher resolution files and building new products in the months ahead. So in all it's a good maintenance level change.
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Submit your story to 'Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Vol. 2': DEADLINE: January 15th, 2008 Casagrande Press is seeking stories, articles, and essays on the general subject of surfing misadventure for publication in Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Volume 2. We are looking for nonfiction, first-person surf stories of bad judgment calls, pranks, comical/ironic episodes, disaster, attacking predators, misfortune, injury, loss of wit or limb, panic, critical conditions, contest meltdowns, everyday fears, surf trips gone wrong or the out-of-water episodes that surround surfing. We are looking for well-written stories that tell a good tale, reflect a culture, and develop the depth of the characters involved. We also like stories that have a tight narrative tension and a payoff at the end. Open to writers and surfers of any level. There is no fee to submit a story. We will consider previously published stories. To see more info on the first book visit www.thesurfbook.com. Submit online at www.casagrandepress.com
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table