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 Saturday (2/21) Northern CA surf was 2 ft overhead and junky. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were head high and blown out. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was 1-2 ft overhead and offshore. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was chest high at the better breaks and reasonably clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist high and clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest high and rarely a little more and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was head high and dead clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was maybe waist high at top spots.
North/Central California was getting leftover swell from a gale that was off Oregon a few days before, but starting to get overrun by chop swell building in front of the next local storm. Southern California was getting a nice pulse of the same swell from off Oregon, wrapping into exposed spots. Hawaii's North Shore did not have any real swell, just leftovers from dateline energy that has been hitting all week with period down around 11 secs, but stellar wind conditions and sunshine sure made it look inviting. The East Shore was getting minimal wrap-around energy coming from the northwest. The South Shore was seasonally flat.
The big story is the expected storm swell expected to hit California on Sunday, big and ugly that is. It's building off the coast Saturday AM and will hit for Sunday. Hawaii to have a similar experience Monday into Tuesday, though not as strong with a gale moving in close proximity to the Islands. Energy from that one to eventually reach the California coast mid-week. And yet one more system is forecast for the far Western Pacific Sunday and Monday offering longer period groomed swell for the Islands Thursday/Friday with dribbles pushing into California for the weekend. Beyond the jetstream is looking to hold together well, so odds for storm development look reasonable. But the MJO is now turning towards the inactive phase, which will likely keep a cap on things for a few weeks. So for the longer term outlook: Surf - yes. Big surf - probably not. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Saturdays jetstream charts (2/23) for the North Pacific depicted a respectable flow of consolidated energy pushing generally flat t off Japan over the dateline and right into Central CA with winds 170 kts over the West Pacific dropping to the 130 kts range off California. There were two ridges and two troughs imbedded in the flow, with the troughs on the dateline and off California and the ridges in between. The most notable feature was the ridge north of HAwaii amplified a bit too much and was blowing some wind energy off north into the Bering Sea. Originally we though this might be the start of a split in the jet, but that has fortunately not materialized, but has served to knock 30-34 kts of wind energy out of the jet to the east of that point. We'll take what we can get. Storm #20 was forming in the trough off California and another gale was forming in the other trough towards the dateline. Over the next 72 hours Storm #20 imbedded in the eastern most trough is to move onshore over California while the gale in the second trough on the dateline moves close to Hawaii, though not over it while a ridge behind that blows more wind energy off towards the Bering Sea. But everything to settle down and become a bit more consolidated by Tuesday (2/26). Beyond 72 hours another ridge builds west of the dateline blowing yet more energy off to the north while a strong flow starts building behind it over Japan with winds to 190 kts. This pocket of energy to push over the dateline to a point north of Hawaii by next weekend offering good energy to work with but all flowing dead flat west to east with no obvious signs of a trough developing. Still this is way better than suffering through a bout of split flowing jet.
At the surface today 3 solid gales/storms were positioned equidistant across the North Pacific. One was off California (see Storm #20 below), one was on the dateline (see Dateline Gale below) with a third just emerging off Japan (see Japan Gale below). The three of these totally dominated the North Pacific weather pattern with nary a hint of high pressure to be found. Over the next 72 hours these systems to still be in some form of control, though not nearly a strong and fading.
Dateline-Local Gale (Hawaii)
On Thursday AM (2/21) a gale was building west of the dateline with pressure 992 mbs and winds coming up from 35 kts near 35N 155E aimed even south of Hawaii. By evening pressure was dropping with near 40 kt winds over a tiny area at 40N 160E aimed south with 35 kts winds aimed well at Hawaii up the 304 degree great circle path from 35N165E. 23 ft seas forecast at 35N 160E. This one built some on Friday AM (2/22) with 40-45 kts winds modeled at 38N 168E aimed well toward Hawaii down the 310 degree path with 27 ft seas indicated at 38N 165E, building to 45 kts solid in the evening just a few degrees north at 40N 168E, continuing into Saturday AM (2/23) while the core of the low lifted fast north and was fading. 30 ft seas were modeled Friday evening at 38N 170E targeting Hawaii well peaking near 31 ft over a small area Saturday AM (2/23) at 38N 175E while the gale itself faded fast. Nothing left by evening. Some form of solid advanced class swell is pushing towards the Hawaiian Islands expected to arrive at sunset Monday (2/25) with swell 5 ft @ 16 secs (7-8 ft faces) from 305-312 degrees then fading Tuesday AM while being overrun by new more local swell.
The remnants of this system are to try and reorganize Sunday AM (2/24) at 988 mbs generating 40-45 kt winds at 40N 173W aimed well at Hawaii down the 330 degree path. These winds to only be over a small area but get traction on swell already in the water heading towards the Islands. Fetch to continue in the evening at 40-45 kts at 35N 162W sinking south towards Hawaii and aimed like before. Seas building to 29 ft over a tiny area at 35N 161W. Residual 40 kts northwest fetch to pass just 600 nmiles north of Oahu Monday morning and fading with 28 ft seas at 32N 155W. Assuming all this occurs as forecast some form of large but raw swell is expected to impact the Islands late Monday evening with swell maybe 9 ft @ 13-14 secs Tuesday AM (2/26) producing warbled 10-12 ft faces from 320-330+ degrees. Lesser energy to eventually push into California mid-week.
Storm #20 - California
A small but strong local storm was wrapping up off Central CA Saturday AM (2/23) with pressure down to 964 mbs and winds modeled at 55-60 kts at 35N 137W aimed right at Pt Conception from just 700 nmiles out and towards San Francisco from a very westerly 262 degree direction and Dana Point up the 280 degree path. Seas building fast from 32 ft at 35N 138W. Winds to drop to 45-50 kts by evening at 35N 130W just 400 nmiles off the Central CA coast aimed right up the 260 degree path to SF and the 280 degree path to South CA. 40 ft seas forecast at 35N 133W a mere 500 nmiles off/west of Pt Conception. This system to be pushing onshore at first light Sunday (2/24) over San Francisco into Pt Reyes area. 36 ft raw seas modeled directly off all of Central CA proper with gale force 30-35 kt southwest winds impacting the coast from Monterey Bay up to Cape Mendocino. Small to moderate sized craft should stay in port. Lot's of rain forecast Saturday night into early Sunday. A real mess. Fortunately Southern CA to be saved from the bulk of the wind though a short lived bit of rain is forecast Saturday evening clearing Sunday.
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting at 4 AM Sunday (2/24) ramping up fast, with swell /seas peaking near 8 AM at 23 ft @ 14-16 secs (maybe longer periods intermixed) resulting in 30-35 ft faces from 250-260 degrees. Gale force south to southwesterly winds and pure stormsurf expected. Do not venture out into the ocean. Residuals fading overnight with period down the 12 secs Monday AM and dropping fast.
Central/Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting at 7 AM Sunday (2/24) ramping up fast, with swell /seas peaking near noon at Pt Conception at 19 ft @ 14-16 secs (maybe longer periods intermixed) resulting in 26-30 ft faces from 270 degrees. Swell to pushing into exposed breaks near Dana Point about 4 hours later at 9 ft @ 15 secs (13-14 ft faces) from 275-280 degrees. South to southwesterly winds early giving way to northwest winds 15 kts in the afternoon depending on timing of frontal passage. Raw and mostly classified as stormsurf. Residuals fading overnight with period down the 12-13 secs Monday AM and dropping fast.
A system off Japan mid-day Saturday (2/23) to generate 45-50 kts west winds for 18 hours near 35N 150-160E targeting Hawaii well down the 302 degree great circle path, then head quickly north by late Sunday afternoon bound for the Bering Sea with residual 40 kt westerly fetch fading just off Kamchatka on Monday (2/25). Seas to peak at 36 ft over a small area at 35N 162E aimed right at Hawaii mid-Sunday then rapidly fading with 29 ft seas off Kamchatka on early Tuesday (2/26). Some form of 18 sec period swell possible for Hawaii early Thursday (2/28) with swell near 7.3 ft @ 16 secs (10-11 ft faces) from 302 degrees if all this plays out as forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast