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 Sunday (1/25) North and Central California had surf in the chest to head high range and ripped apart from northwest winds. Southern California was getting another pulse of dateline energy with wave waist to chest high, maybe a little more at top spots on the largest sets, but with northwest wind on it early. Hawaii's North Shore was reasonably clean with surf 2 ft overhead, originating from the last gale on the dateline Sun-Mon (1/19). The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated east windswell pushing chest high.
For Central California the last swell from the dateline is getting ready to push in, hitting the outer buoys and expected to be visible by sunset today with decent energy in the 17 sec range. Swell to peak out overnight and be heading down though the day Monday with period at 15 secs and surf up to 3 ft overhead. North winds to be a real issue though. That swell to continue decaying mixed with windswell into mid-week, then it goes flat. Southern California is expected to follow the same pattern but with the last dateline swell peaking out Monday AM and northwest winds in full bloom there too (20+ kts), blowing it to bits. After that a steady decline in size is forecast through Wednesday. The North Shore of Hawaii is already on the last leg of this dateline swell, with period on this swell dropping to 12 secs on Monday and then out. Local windswell expected in on Tuesday maybe pushing the size up a notch, but quality is to be way down. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore is expected to go flat on Monday and Tuesday, but then trades to return and a bit longer period easterly windswell is expected to move in for the middle of the week.
Longer term we had been talking much doom and gloom, with the jetstream totally falling apart. Well for the most part that is still the case, but the models are starting to tease about a series of small gales forming in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska pushing northeast into Northern Canada. These are not to be strong systems by any stretch of the imagination with 26 ft seas on one and maybe 32 ft seas on the second and covering only a small area, but could provide rideable surf for the US West Coast by next weekend. Suspect Hawaii will be outside the swell window though. The first is to not even form till Wednesday (1/28) so there's much opportunity for that to erode between now and them. At least there's something to watch.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (1/25) the North Pacific jetstream had a solid flow of 150 kt winds ridging firmly off Japan almost up to the Aleutians, then dipping hard south over the dateline into a small steep trough only to split heavily with the northern branch ridging hard north through the Gulf of Alaska then down the US West Coast while the southern branch tracked flat over Hawaii then up into Southern CA, where it rejoined the northern branch and proceeded as one into the interior US. Only the steep trough over the dateline held any hope for gale development, and that was limited. Over the next 72 hours through Wednesday (1/28) the trough on the dateline is to quickly pinch off/wash out early Tuesday while the ridge off Japan flattens out. The result is to be a weak flow pushing flat off Japan, splitting on the dateline with the two branches pushing northeast and southeast respectively. There's limited odds for a weak trough starting to form at the split point later Wednesday supporting gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough on the dateline is to ease northeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska pushing into Canada on Friday (1/30) while a new weak and broad trough tries to form on the dateline by Saturday following the same route but with up to 170 kt winds feeding into it. In both case there's limited odds for the trough to support gale development at the oceans surface, and better odds on the second one. High pressure is likely to setup between the split branches of the jet brining dry conditions again to California TUesday and beyond with all moisture deflected up into the Pacific Northwest.
At the surface today High pressure at 1032 mbs was building 800 nmiles west of San Francisco fueling north winds along the coast from Oregon southward down into Southern CA and Baja. This high was also starting to generate easterly trades at 15 kts over the Hawaiian Islands. Otherwise 2 very weak low pressure systems were in the North Pacific, one off Kamchatka and the second in the Western Gulf of Alaska, but neither had winds of interest from a swell generation perspective. On Monday (1/26) a weak low is to start forming 400 nmiles north of Hawaii reaching 1008 mbs late producing a fetch of 30 kt north winds and 17 ft seas taking aim on the island chain, perhaps setting up windswell for Tuesday (1/27). But the low is to disintegrate by them. Also a new weak gale is forecast starting to build over the Central Aleutians late Tuesday tracking east perhaps producing 40 kt northwest winds by Wednesday near 50N 170W with 23 ft seas in play there too. Limited odds for 14 sec period swell pushing towards mainly the US West Coast. This gale to continue east into Thursday with westerly winds holding at 35-40 kts and seas building to 26 ft at 50N 150W in the evening, increasing odds for swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, then the gale is to push on into North Canada by Friday (1/30).
Last Dateline Gale
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. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the trailing edge of this system at 18Z and reported seas of 30.1 ft with a peak to 34 ft where the model indicated only 28-29 ft seas, so the model was right on if not a bit behind. Not too bad. 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 were modeled from that wind at 40N 168E.
Wednesday AM (1/21) the gale was 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. 29 ft seas are modeled at 40N 172E. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the leading edge of this system at 18z and reported seas of 26.9 ft where the model suggested 26 ft seas, so it was right on track if not better. In the evening a tiny fetch of 35-40 kt winds was at 41N 175E aimed about like before with 26 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 39N 174E (approaching the dateline). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the leading edge again and indicated 22.4 ft seas where the model suggested 24 ft seas, about 2 ft over stated on the part of the model.
Thursday AM (1/22) the last 35-40 kt fetch from this system was at 41N 175W and fading with 25 ft seas modeled at 37N 178E.
Another pulse of utility class swell can be expected for Hawaii with small utility class swell for the US West Coast. Max period projected at 18 sec could be expected with most size likely a bit below that in the 15-16 sec range, 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 2757-3492 nmiles travel distance, but a bit better for the Islands since they are only 1579-2398 nmiles away.
North/Central CA: Expect swell arrival starting Saturday near 10 PM with period at 19 secs and size tiny. Swell to peak Sunday late afternoon/early evening at 5.2 ft @ 17 secs (8.0 ft faces) then heading down into Monday from 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (7.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (1/25) high pressure at 1034 mbs was anchored 800 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino and ridging east making headway into California generating northerly winds along the coast at 15+ kts. Residual weak low pressure remained inland with potential for precipitation forecast for the mountains pushing down the coast by evening south to Pt Conception, mostly just showers. By Monday (1/26) northwest winds are to be firmly entrenched over the state at 20-25 kts with only protected breaks of Southern CA experiencing less wind. By Tuesday the high is forecast to start ridging into Southern Oregon with winds possibly turning offshore from Pt Reyes southward and continuing into Wednesday, though a little more northeasterly than pure east. Thursday a summer time pressure gradient is to form over Cape Mendo with north winds there at 25 kts likely generating a short spurt of short period windswell but with light winds locally down into Southern CA. That is to dissolve with a light offshore wind flow expected Friday, then more high pressure and north winds forecast for next weekend.
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 a new gale is modeled to try and develop on the dateline Thursday (1/29) with winds reaching near 40 kts in the evening at 40N 180W, up to 40-45 kts Friday AM at 42N 172W all aimed due east towards the mainland. Seas forecast to 25 ft. Winds modeled to build to 45 kts solid over a small area in the evening at 45N 164W with seas to 28 ft, then tracking northeast into Saturday with seas peaking at 32 ft over a tiny area at 46N 160W. Possible small 17 sec period swell pushing towards the US West Coast.
Yet anther small and similar gale is forecast building in the Western Gulf on Sunday (1/1) with up to 50 kt winds at 42N 162W targeting Hawaii initially and then likely the US West Coast. At the same time a broad gale is to be building off Japan with 45 kt west winds. Maybe long term the outlook isn't as dire as we had initially projected.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (1/25) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Active Phase. The Daily SOI index was holding at 4.81 hovering near 0 for 18 days now. The 30 day average was down to 9.84 and the 90 day average was down to 11.90. La Nina was still well dug-in, with the MJO trying to make headway against it, but without much luck. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a fading weak area of west winds on the equator south of Hawaii limping into Central America then into the Atlantic. The Active Phase of the MJO was essentially dead with it's remnants now affecting the Atlantic. These winds are expected to push east and out of the Pacific by 1/28 as the Inactive Phase emerges moderately into the Pacific from the Indian Ocean at the same time and likely suppressing storm development. The Inactive Phase is to continue east reaching the dateline on 2/1 pushing east from there but holding control of that region till at least 2/12 and likely to 2/21. We continue to expect most of February to be a write-off, but the strength of the Inactive Phase now is not as robust as previously forecast, perhaps opening a tiny crack for gale development.
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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Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table