On Sunday (3/11) Northern CA surf was head high to 2 ft overhead. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to maybe chest high. Central California surf was chest high and clean. Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was flat. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high on the sets at the best breaks. Southward from Orange County into San Diego best breaks were waist high with maybe a few bigger sets. The North Shore of Oahu was head high. The South Shore was chest high and clean. The East Shore was head high to 1 ft over.
North/Central California had relatively weak but rideable surf. Southern California was mostly out of the swell window expect for spots well down south, where rideable surf could be had. Hawaii was getting both north, northwest and south swell providing something rideable for all locations. The big story is the expected development of a late season Storm #18 just northwest of Hawaii through late Monday. This system is to provide a solid dose of significant class swell for the Islands and small to moderate size utility class swell from a very westerly direction for California. Make the most of it cause it's getting late in the season and the odds for more are dropping fast. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sundays jetstream charts (3/11) depicted a generally fragmented flow pushing east off Japan reaching to the dateline then trending northeast and pushing over British Columbia. Winds were up to 150 kts right over Japan and again over British Columbia, but were down in the 120 range in between. The big ridge that was pushing north of the Bering Sea appears to have dissipated, but there still is signs that the jet wants to return to that path. The only notable feature was a big ridge starting to build over California, sending the jet hard north there. The jet was also pushing directly over Hawaii, making for a mixed weather pattern there. Over the next 72 hours through Wednesday (3/14) the pattern to remain similar, but with the big ridge pushing north of the Bering Sea trying to get re-established and sucking some energy from the main flow pushing west to east on the 30N latitude. A little trough is forecast over the dateline late Sunday into early Monday, but then the Bering Sea split pattern is to take hold destroying whatever could have been. Limited support for surface level gale development in this trough, then fading. Beyond 72 hours the Bering Sea ridge is to fade by Friday (3/16) but it's to be replaced by another split in the jet starting at the dateline and unzipping over the width of the North Pacific through the weekend. No support for surface level gale development.
At the surface today two high pressure systems at 1020 mbs were in control of the East Pacific, one just off California ridging into the North end of the state and a second just north of Hawaii. Weak lo pressure was in the far North Gulf of Alaska. There was no swell producing fetch associated with any of these systems. Of more interest was the development of low pressure over the dateline. This one is expected to turn into Storm #17 (see details below). Another mass of low pressure was trying to develop directly over Japan. Over the next 72 hours through Wednesday (3/14) only Storm #17 is expected to provide any fetch of interest as it drifts east from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii. Otherwise the Japan low is to fade away without moving any further east with it's fetch remaining essentially landlocked. High pressure is to hold in the east retaining control off California and redirecting any wet weather pushing east off to the north towards British Columbia if not further north.
Storm #18 (Hawaii)
A small storm was developing over the dateline early Sunday (3/11). Winds were estimated at 50-55 kts at 35N 179E over a moderate area aimed 30 degrees south of the 305 degree great circle route to Hawaii, with nothing aimed at California. Seas were building. In the evening winds are forecast up to 55 kts over a broader area at 34N 175W aimed more to the east or right down the 310 degree path to Oahu and 45 degrees south of the 282 degree path to NCal (287 SCal). Seas building to 32 ft at that location.
On Monday AM (3/12) 45-50 kt winds to be all positioned in the storms south quadrant at 33N 172W aimed due east or 35 degrees east of the 315 degree path to Hawaii and 15 degrees south of the 282 degree path to NCal (287 SCal). Seas building to 38 ft at 33N 174W. In the evening this system to be heading down with only 35-40 kts winds remaining at 33N 168W aimed 40 degrees east of the 328 degree path to the Islands and 15 degrees south of the 279 degree path to NCal (285 SCal) and fading. 35 ft seas forecast at 32N 168W.
By Tuesday AM (3/13) this system to be essentially dead with only a faint area of 35 kt west winds forecast at 33N 164W aimed east of the Islands and aimed right up the 277 degree path to Ncal (283 SCal). Seas fading from 32 ft at 33N 164W. By evening this one to be gone entirely.
This storm to be a good swell producer for Hawaii given it's close proximity (1000 nmiles) and the fact that it's peak winds to be aimed right at them. Of course the big issue with this sort of configuration is that the resulting swell with be lumpy and raw given the fact the lesser period components won't have time to decay away and the high probability the the associated front from this system will push over the Islands dragging unfavorable winds with it (which appears to be the case). So large raw significant class surf with moderately long period looks to be the expected result. Conversely California to be much further away so whatever swell will be well groomed upon arrival, but the strongest winds winds will be aimed a bit too far south of the state to provide optimum swell generation potential. The result is likely to be small to moderate sized utility class swell with long period.
Detailed Surf Forecast to be issued once this system forms, but for planning purposes expect swell arrival in Hawaii early Wednesday (3/14) and in California Friday through Saturday (3/17).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Sunday (3/11) a pair of new high pressure systems at 1020 mbs were off the coast providing a blockade to any eastward moving weather systems and keeping wind and rain at bay. No significant change forecast through Tuesday, then the low to coalesce just off Oregon Wednesday with pressure up to 1026 mbs. In response to that building pressure pattern north winds to start picking up over Cape Mendocino at 20-25 kts pushing down into Pt Reyes. But that to be short-lived as the low pushes inland Thursday and a generally mild wind pattern returns, holding through the weekend.
A batch of gale energy pushed under New Zealand generating 27-29 ft seas (3/1) through Sunday (3/4) pushing up to near the 30 ft mark into Monday (3/7) good for another extended duration of small background swell pushing mainly into Hawaii's South Shores (and Tahiti) starting Saturday (3/10) through Wednesday (3/14).
The gale pattern that has been present near New Zealand and providing swell potential for Hawaiian and Tahitian pushed east out of their swell window while still producing 27-30 ft seas Wed/Thurs (3/8), providing weak potential for background southern hemi swell mainly for Southern CA Monday through Wednesday (1/14) but also reaching up into North CA at exposed south facing breaks.
Also the models are suggested development of another gale low well south of Tahiti Monday (3/12) tracking east while producing 27 ft seas spraying north towards the Islands for a short period before moving east of that swell window. This system to reorganize Wednesday (3/14) on the southern edge of the California swell window possibly generating up to 35 ft seas Thursday targeting Southern CA and all locations south of there before pushing east of the swell window and dissipating. Possible small to moderate southern hemi swell action especially for Southern CA from 180-185 degrees the following week.
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 the remnants of Storm #18 to dissipate while fading into the Gulf of Alaska late in the workweek. At the same time low pressure is to try and develop over Japan but is to get re-directed north towards the Bering Sea driven by the jetstream. Theoretically some fetch could develop west of the dateline off the Kuril Islands late Thursday (3/15) producing a bit of 30 ft seas targeting mid-way between HAwaii and California, but odds low. Another little low is modeled to form due north of Hawaii on Saturday (3/17) tracking east pushing towards California, but at this time maybe only 25-30 kts winds are forecast aimed at the state, and even that is a reach. Another low is to push off Japan next weekend too (3/18) holding out a tiny morsel of hope and likely supported by the MJO (see below). Otherwise weak high pressure is to be taking control of waters over Hawaii late Friday with trades returning then. Light winds to hold off the California coast for the weekend. It's starting to look pretty bleak.
Looking at the ENSO tools, we find any sign of warmer than normal waters that were associated with El Nino this past winter have all but totally dissipated in the past week, with strong trades blowing over the tropical Eastern Pacific. The MJO is definitely entering the active phase and it's effects are pushing well over the Western Pacific, but we suspect this beneficial activity is probably a case of too-little too-late. Regardless, it is to continue it's eastward push through about 3/20, possibly helping us to eek out a few last little gale pulses during that window before the North Pacific shuts down for the winter.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is indicated.
Details to follow...
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table