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 (1/31) Northern CA surf was 1.5 to 2 times overhead and raw with building southerly chop. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were head high and almost clean early, but that was short-lived. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was head high to 2 ft overhead and somewhat clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist to chest high at the better breaks and fairly clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist high and clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were to chest high and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was near head high and decently clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was chest high and windy.
North/Central California was getting northerly semi-real swell generated by a gale off the Pacific Northwest coast earlier in the week. Southern California was getting the leading edge of that same swell starting to push into the coast late Thursday from a very northerly angle. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last little drops of energy originating off Japan. The East Shore was getting messy northeast windswell. The South Shore was seasonally flat.
Next up is potentially solid swell from Storm #15 currently tracking east through the Gulf of Alaska focused on Central and North CA on up into the Pacific Northwest. But it's to be from a rather northerly direction, causing shadowing at the usual North CA spots. A smaller system was behind it tracking north up the dateline, offering small potential for Hawaii and California a few days out. A much larger and strong system is on the charts for early to mid-next week out on the dateline offering loads of potential, but is too far off into the future to be believable. The models suggest a slightly drier pattern setting up for the US West Coast next week, though not solidly dry with high pressure getting a slightly better foothold. And the storm track is to generally holds it's own out on the dateline. So take what you can get now even though it may not be pretty, and hope the models are right longterm. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (1/31) for this last day of January over the North Pacific continued depicting the same old fully split jetstream with the split point just west of the dateline near 170E. Winds were holding at 170 kts over Japan, with the northern branch tracking northeast from the split point but remaining south of the Aleutians moving up into the Gulf of Alaska, then dropping southeast and inland into the Pacific Northwest. The southern branch passed just south of Hawaii then east into Baja, somewhat joining the northern flow there. The area just off Kamchatka held limited potential for gale development as did the gap in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with winds in the northern branch building and ridging north again back over the far Eastern Aleutians at near 170 kts then dropping southeast off Canada, offering a bit more energy to support gale development off British Columbia. Beyond 72 hours the situation is to remain more or less unchanged, but with a better defined trough pushing northeast over the dateline offering some hope for semi-real potential there mid-week then making it a bit further east than anything in a while almost to the Northern Gulf of Alaska. The split point is to almost move east to Hawaii with it. It seems unlikely but just maybe this semi perpetual blocking high pressure pattern might just be starting to break down.
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was strung out east to west from Pt Conception to a point north of Hawaii. It almost looked like it was receding a bit from it's earlier formidable grip on the pattern. The remnants of Storm #15 were off the Pacific Northwest pushing southeast towards Central CA with rain building in there already. Another storm was over the dateline but not doing too much. No other weather features of interest were indicated. Swell from a gale that had been just off the Pacific Northwest coast earlier in the week was hitting the CA coast. Over the next 72 hours the storm on the dateline is to fade (see Dateline Storm below) and a short-lived gale is to fire up off the Pacific Northwest Saturday into early Sunday (2/3) from it's remnants generating up to 40 kts winds aimed right at San Francisco north to Oregon Sat PM, impacting the Oregon coast at that time while generating up to 26 ft seas pushing inland over Cape Mendocino first light Sunday from a real northerly direction continuing into Monday (2/4). Swell in Northern CA to be 13 ft @ 13-14 secs at it's peak (15-16 ft faces) from 305-315 degrees. Basically just storm surf with hard northwest winds in-effect.
On Tuesday AM (1/29) a new storm built in the Gulf of Alaska originating from a low that had previously passed over the dateline. Pressure was 988 mbs with 50 to near 60 kt winds confirmed over a tiny area at 48N 168W aimed due east or right up the 303 degree path to NCal (308 SCal) and totally bypassing Hawaii. Seas were on the increase. By evening 60 kts winds were confirmed solid over a small area at 50N 159W aimed due east or right at North CA up the 308 degree path and 1700 nmiles out. 30 ft seas were modeled at 49N 165W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the back edge of the storm at 06Z and confirmed seas at 35.7 ft, where the wavemodel suggested it should be 36 ft, so it was right on track.
50 kt winds were confirmed Wednesday AM (1/30) at 49N 150W aimed due east or 10 degrees east if the 308 degree path to NCal (313 SCal). 38 ft seas were modeled at 50N 158W. By evening a small to moderate area of 45-50 kt winds were confirmed at 47N 144W sinking southeast and aimed down the 303 degree path to NCal. Up to 39 ft seas were modeled at 48N 147W. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the center of the fetch and confirmed seas at 37.7 ft (15 reading average) with a singular peak reading of 40.4 ft, so the wave models were pretty much spot-on.
Thursday AM (1/31) a small area of residual 35-40 kts winds were confirmed at 45N 135W aimed like before with seas modeled fading from 36 ft back at 46N 140W. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of the fetch and reported seas at only 33.5 ft with one reading to 35.8 ft, off a foot or two from what the models suggested. Swell from this system hit buoy 46005 well off Washington at 11 Am building to 22.3 ft @ 16.8 secs at 2 PM with seas to 27.4 ft. This is right on track with expectations. Winds to be gone late with seas from previous fetch fading from 31 ft at 44N 133W.
This was a nice little compact system that held together well for about 60 hours with all energy focused well at North CA with peripheral energy expected as far south at Pt Conception and northward up into Washington. Virtual fetch is expected to come into play too adding consistency and size in the 17 sec period band. The downside is the storm moved too close the the coast to really allow the swell to clean itself up before impacting land, likely making from a rather raw swell. Large significant class swell from a north angle forecast for the North CA coast and areas north and south of there, but well shadowed in the vicinity if the Farallon Islands. Swell arrival expected mid-Friday holding into Saturday (2/2). No energy expected to reach the Hawaiian Islands from this one.
North CA: Expect swell arrival at mid AM Friday (2/1) with period 20-22 secs and size ramping up very fast. Swell to start peaking between mid to late afternoon with pure swell 10.5-11.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (18-21 ft faces) with imbedded longer period energy. Swell in shadowed areas (behind the Farallon Islands and Cordell Bank) to only be 7-9 ft at 17-18 secs (12-15 ft faces). Peak consistency to hit just before sunset attributable to virtual fetch in the 17 sec band. Swell Direction: 305-310 degrees
Small Dateline Storm
Another storm developed just west of the dateline Wednesday AM (1/30) with 45 kt winds at 40N 165E aimed right at Hawaii up the 310 degree path. Seas were 23 ft at 39N 166W. In the evening winds built to 50 kts at 43N 173E aimed 20 degree east of the 319 degree path to Hawaii and almost right up the 297 degree path to North CA (302 SCal). A small area of 30 ft seas were modeled at 42N 170E. This system held if not bloomed a little while tracking north just west of the dateline Thursday AM (1/31) with 45-50 kts winds at 46N 175E aimed due east or 40 degrees east of the 322 degree path to Hawaii but right up the 302 degree path to North CA (307 SCal). Seas built to 35 ft at 45N 176E. This one to be essentially gone by evening. 36 ft seas to be fading from 49N 180W and moving into the Aleutians.
Assuming all this is true some form of small longer period swell could be expected arriving along north facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands early Sunday with swell 3.5 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft faces) from 315 degrees or so. Maybe a little bit of swell for NCal late Monday (2/4) at 3.7 ft @ 17 secs (6 ft faces) from 302-307 degrees maybe pushing 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft faces) Tuesday AM (2/5). Nothing expected for SCal given the northerly angle.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast