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 (3/8) Northern CA surf was maybe pushing head high and pretty junky. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to chest high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest high and textured. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist to maybe chest high and crumbly. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist to chest high and textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high and reasonably clean. The North Shore of Oahu was head high to 1 ft overhead and glassy. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was flat.
North/Central California was getting a little shorter period background swell from the dateline region, but not much. Southern California was getting a weak bit of from the southern hemi mixed with tiny background energy coming from the west. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last bit's of swell from west-northwest and heading down. The East Shore was essentially flat. The South Shore was flat.
Hawaii to continue in the slow lane, with only a marginal increase into early next week while the storm track tries to rebuild from the dateline towards the Gulf, with swell possibly arriving mid-week with some size then pushing east headed for the mainland late week. North and Central California to see a slight upward push of surf Sunday while a new gale supposedly starts forming just off the coast increasing odds for semi-real swell early week with the Hawaiian swell behind it. Southern California to see some fraction of that same pattern, but generally in the small to very small size range. Southern hemi swell is in the forecast for California mid-next week in the 3 ft range, but nothing more. It looks a bit more likely that we're going to get a little flurry of fun sized surf over the next week, with supposedly more on the charts but any specific outcome is far from certain. In general, the pattern is looking to be settling down with no significant increase suggested. Get what you can now. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Saturdays jetstream charts (3/8) for the North Pacific indicated a decent consolidated flow of wind pushing off Japan peaking in strength while flowing flat over the dateline at 180 kts then splitting slightly northeast of Hawaii, with most energy ridging slightly then pushing into Central CA while a weak flow pushed south over Hawaii and then into Baja. Plenty of energy was present to support gale development, but there were no troughs to help give it any form. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to steadily loose energy through start to undulate a little. One weak trough is to form and push into the Pacific Northwest with a second one developing in the West Gulf of Alaska, with both offering some potential for surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to hold into Wednesday (3/12), then the jet is to split on the dateline Thursday with a second split occurring over Japan with the whole pattern falling apart. Energy levels to be weak too with winds down to 130 kt only over one pocket off Japan. Support for gale development to really drop off.
At the surface today a weak and poorly organized low pressure system was pushing towards the Northern Gulf of Alaska with all fetch aimed towards Northern Canada. No hope here. Another low was trying to organize off Japan (see Long Term forecast). High pressure at 1024 mbs was off California producing a light northerly flow there, and ridging southwest over Hawaii, but not strong enough to produce any trades. No other systems of interest indicated. Another weak low was off Japan tracking east.
Over the next 72 hours another low to pop up 1000 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino generating up to 45 kt winds late, and lifting northeast. Monday AM (3/10) 50 kt northwest winds and 27-29 ft seas are forecast near 40N 135-138W aimed right at Northern CA sweeping through the 298 to 315 degree swell windows before impacting the Washington and British Columbia coasts late. Some hope for raw swell in North and Central CA near Tuesday (3/11) if this occurs.
Gulf Gale (California)
On Wednesday (3/5) light moisture streaming over the dateline from Japan was coalescing into something north of Hawaii. Pressure to 984 mbs with 35 kt southwest winds building on the leading edge of the low 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and targeting the Pacific Northwest. By Thursday AM (3/6) pressure was down to 980 mbs with 40 kt southwest winds building at 42N 150W aimed towards the Pacific northwest and Canada with sideband energy aimed at NCal down the 292 degree path and 1500 nmiles out. 20 ft seas building at 40N 150W. No fetch was aimed at Hawaii. In the evening the low lifted north with 45 kts winds aimed at Alaska but nothing to the east. 18-20 ft seas were modeled at 42N 143W. By Friday AM (3/7) the gale was gone with 16 ft seas pushing east towards the US West Coast. Some form of rather mild swell at 6 ft @ 12-13 sec (7-8 ft faces) is pushing towards exposed breaks in California for Sunday (3/9). See QuikCAST's for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
As of Saturday (3/8) weak high pressure at 1026 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest setting up a northerly flow along the coast at 15 kts. The high to get displaced south on Sunday as a new gale start building off the coast with a light northerly flow in-place locally, then almost turning south in the Bay Area Monday with rain possible late in the day into evening down to Monterey Bay, but light north wind elsewhere as the gale moves inland over the Pacific Northwest. Stronger high pressure to build right behind setting up brisk north winds Tuesday afternoon through Thursday (3/13) from Cape Mendocino down to Pt Conception, though Southern CA to remain mostly protected. More high pressure to be moving in right behind setting up northerly winds for Friday into next weekend too. Looks like Spring.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
An interesting storm built in the mid-South Pacific Monday AM (3/3) with pressure 952 mbs generating a decent fetch of 50-55 kt south to southwest winds confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite near 55S 155W aimed 20 degrees east of the 198 degree path to CA and tracking northeast through late Tuesday with winds slowly fading to 35 kts at 50S 135W. This fetch generated 37 ft seas Mon PM at 51S 145W holding at 37 ft Tuesday AM at 49S 140W then fading from 32 ft at 45N 136W in the evening. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the fetch Tuesday AM and confirmed seas at 37 ft, exactly on-track with the wave models projections. This is good. Some form a decent southern hemi swell is in the water pushing towards California and Central America.
Expect swell arrival in California starting Tuesday (3/11) with period 20 secs and size probably not even noticeable building into Wednesday and peaking Thursday AM (2/13) as period drops to 17 secs. Swell Direction: 191-198 degrees
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 another gale is pushing off Japan tracking steadily east Saturday (3/8) generating a tiny area of 40 kt winds aimed a bit south of Hawaii. It's to get better organized on Sunday (3/9) generating 45 kts winds and 27 ft seas near 37N 180W aimed at Hawaii down the 310 degree great circle tracks. The gale to hold Monday (3/10) with 45 kts winds and barely 35 ft seas over a tiny area near 38N 170W aimed towards Hawaii down the 327 degree path then moving northeast out of the swell window and focusing more towards California. Winds to fade from 35 kt range with seas dropping from 30 ft Tuesday AM (3/11) near 39N 160W aimed towards North CA up the 289 degree path (294 SCal). The low to slowly fade in the Gulf Wednesday (3/12) with seas fading from 23 ft at 43N 151W.
Possible a bit larger swell for Hawaii late Wednesday into Thursday (3/13) with some luck. Maybe some semi decent intermediate class potential for CA over the weekend.
Beyond two more gales are forecast for the Western Pacific starting mid-next week (3/13) but both are to be poorly organized and not making any headway over the dateline with little fetch aimed tot eh east towards either Hawaii or California.
No swell producing systems of interest are forecast. But the models do suggest a series of gales pushing under New Zealand and offering up a remote hope for building some seas, though it's way too early to have any confidence in that outcome.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table