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 Tuesday (3/11) Northern CA surf came up fast, from chest high early to triple overhead late morning and heavily textured. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were 1-2 ft overhead and foggy. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist high and junky early coming up to the 8 ft range late. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest to head high and clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist to chest high and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was head high and glassy. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was thigh to waist high.
North/Central California was getting a solid dose of swell from Storm #20 making for significant class surf at top spots. Southern California was getting a weak bit of southern hemi swell with longer period southern hemi swell building underneath. Hawaii's North Shore was getting what was essentially windswell from the dateline. The East Shore was effectively flat. The South Shore was getting background swell from under New Zealand.
Hawaii to get a little pulse of swell Wednesday from the dateline, with a larger pulse right behind from a storm passing north of the Islands today (Tuesday). A tiny pulse of southern hemi swell is hitting the South Shore, and is to be fading out on Wednesday. North and Central California to see Swell #20 fading on Wednesday and smaller still the day after, though the storm currently pushing north of Hawaii is to move into the swell window offering hope for early in the weekend. Southern California to see a chunk of Swell #20 on Wednesday, then fading while southern hemi swell takes up the slack through the rest of the week. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (3/11) for the North Pacific indicated a consolidated flow pushing off Japan peaking at 160 kts before reaching the dateline, then almost falling apart before reorganizing north of Hawaii and ridging slightly with winds to 120 kts pushing into Northern CA. Best support for surface level development was in the almost-trough pushing north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to track east pushing into the Pacific Northwest Friday (2/14) while another trough tries to set up on the dateline, with a tiny pocket of 160 kts winds flowing under it, but not making any eastward progress. Beyond 72 hours a strong ridge is to build over the Gulf of Alaska shutting it down for business. And by early next week a massively split flow is to take over, pretty much shutting everything down.
At the surface today a gale was tracking north of Hawaii (see Hawaiian gale below) while weak high pressure sat just off the California coast making a light northwest flow there. No trades of interest were occurring over the Hawaiian Islands. No other weather systems of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours the Hawaiian Gale is to push east and into the Pacific Northwest late Friday (3/14). Theoretically a new low is to build on the dateline Thursday (3/13) with pressure 988 mbs and 45 kt winds aimed well at Hawaii from 40N 178E and is to basically sit stationary there pushing 40-45 kt winds directly at the Islands from 45N 180W aimed the 319-328 degree paths. Seas to be toggling between 26-30 ft in the same region, setting up good advanced class swell potential starting Sunday (3/16) and for multiple days following.
Storm #20 (California)
On Sunday PM (3/9) a new storm developed 1000 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino generating confirmed winds at 50-55 kts late at 41N 143W aimed well at the San Francisco area down the 286 degree great circle path and also towards points north of there. This storm was lifting northeast. Seas were building. On Monday AM (3/10) 50 kt northwest winds were confirmed at 43N 135W with seas modeled at 28 ft at 42N 139W aimed right at Northern CA down the 295 degree path. . The gale to impact the Washington and British Columbia coasts late. Seas forecast at 29 ft at 43N 135W aimed towards North CA down the 304 degree path and also at targets well up into Oregon.
This is a very small and short-lived system, positioned just 653-798 nmiles from the Central CA coast. Still it's expected to get just enough traction to stir up near 30 ft seas pushing well to the east, favoring areas from Monterey Bay northward up into Southern Oregon. But given it's close proximity, the swell will have little time to have the lesser period elements decay off, meaning whatever hits will be a bit jumbled and raw, with poorly organized sets. But given the time of year, anything is a plus.
Raw swell pushed into North CA near Tuesday (3/11) near 9-10 ft @ 14-16 secs, with some 17 sec intervals intermixed early with surf 13-16 ft from 286-293 degrees. Some energy to push into the Pt Conception area overnight and into Southern CA by Wednesday sunrise (actually earlier). Swell to be fading up north by then though. See QuikCAST's for details.
A gale pushed off Japan tracking steadily east Saturday (3/8) generating a tiny area of 40 kt winds aimed a bit south of Hawaii. It got 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 held Monday (3/10) (actually it was a storm) with 50 kt winds confirmed at 39N 171W and barely 28 ft seas over a tiny area near 39N 175W in the AM aimed towards Hawaii down the 327 degree path and Ncal up the 286 degree path then down to 45 kts in the evening at 38N 168W with seas up to 35 ft at 39N 168W. The gale moved east-northeast out of the Hawaiian swell window and focused more towards California thereafter.
On Tuesday AM (3/11) 40 kt winds were confirmed at 40N 165W still aimed a bit towards Hawaii but mostly towards California, though aimed 25 degrees south of the 290 degree path there. 35 ft seas were modeled at 39N 162W. In the evening winds to drop to 35 kts at 40N 158W aimed right up the 289 degree path to NCal (294 SCal) with seas 31 ft at 41N 157W.
The low to slowly fade in the Gulf Wednesday (3/12) with 30-35 kt west winds near 40N 150 aimed directly at NCal up the 285 degree path (290 SCal) and seas fading from 30ft at 42N 153W in the morning and 27 ft in the evening at 42N 147W.
On Thursday (3/13) the system is to miraculously regenerate off the Pacific Northwest with 40 kt winds at 45N 143W aimed at Ncal down the 302 degree path (307 SCal) and energy pushing also towards Southern Oregon. Seas holding at 26 ft in the Am at 42N 143W then to 27 ft in the evening at 43N 136W.
This system to dissipate off Oregon on Friday.
Swell is already in the water and pushing towards Hawaii, expected to arrive late Wednesday (3/12) reaching 8 ft @ 16-17 secs (12-14 ft faces, and bigger at top spots). Swell Direction 326 degrees. Swell to be fading from 7 ft @ 12-13 secs Thursday AM (8.5 ft faces).
The outlook for California is much more dependent upon what the gale does over the next several day, and especially if it regenerates as expected on Thursday (3/13). For North CA some form of swell at 7 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft faces) seems likely arriving early Friday 3/14 (pre-sunrise). Swell to push into Southern CA 10 hours later with swell 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft faces).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/11) high pressure at 1030 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest setting up a northerly flow along the coast at about 15 kts. The high to build a little more on Wednesday with north winds holding at 15 kts the fading some Thursday as low pressure pushes into the picture off the Pacific Northwest. Chance of rain in Northern CA with northwest winds 10 kts. More of the same expected on Friday including light rain before the low moves inland. Then strong high pressure at at 1034 mbs to take over the Gulf and the California coast Saturday with rain early and north winds forecast building to 20-25 kts and reaching up to 30 kts on Sunday. Even Southern California to get the full brunt of these winds both days of the weekend. Things to let up some on Monday, but still be pretty inhospitable, though less so in Southern CA. Finally a calming pattern expected Tuesday (3/18).
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 a total breakdown of the North Pacific storm pattern is forecast in sync with the splitting of the jetstream. No swell producing systems are forecast.
The models suggest an amplifying pattern of gales pushing under New Zealand starting Saturday (3/15) with seas near 40 ft (or more) offering up the possibly of perhaps almost real southern hemi swell for Hawaii. This all seems a little far fetched, but not totally out of the question. Guess it's time to start watching this area more closely, especially if the North Pacific shuts down.
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