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 (3/13) Northern CA surf was head high and trashed. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were maybe chest high and pretty clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was head high and fairly clean early. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was chest high. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest to maybe head high and pretty textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest to head high and reasonably clean. The North Shore of Oahu was 2-4 ft overhead early and fading but clean. The South Shore was waist high, maybe a little more at top spots on the sets. The East Shore was chest high.
North/Central California was not getting any swell of interest, just leftover windswell from days previous. Southern California was getting a decent bit of southern hemi swell mixed with limited local swell originating off the Pacific Northwest. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the backside of swell that originated on the dateline and hit on Wednesday. The East Shore was getting a little wrap-around energy from the north side. The South Shore was getting minimal leftover background swell from under New Zealand.
One more swell for Hawaii and 2 more for California. Hawaii to see one more swell originating from a gale forecast for the dateline Friday and Saturday, possibly showing on the North Shore starting Sunday. Nothing epic, but it will be compared to what the surf will be like a week or so from now. Another tiny pulse of southern hemi swell is forecast for the South Shore Friday and Saturday, but not much. North and Central California to see a nice bit of the same swell that hit Hawaii on Wednesday starting Friday building into Saturday then fading out Sunday while springtime wind takes over. Southern California to see that same bit of Dateline/Gulf swell late Friday on through the weekend. The southern hemi swell was supposed to take up the slack per earlier runs of the models, but that has since backed down significantly, though Hawaii might end up with something rideable late next week with luck. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (3/13) for the North Pacific indicated a trough of energy on the dateline at 150 kts, then fading only to reorganize into another trough in the Gulf of Alaska with winds 130 kts fading and pushing into Northern CA. only these two troughs offer any potential to support surface level gale development. A completely unorganized flow was oozing off Japan offering no help whatsoever. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to fade and turn into a ridge pushing into the Gulf Sunday (3/16) while the trough currently in the Gulf fades and pushes into the Pacific Northwest. A giant split in the jet is to be building just off the coast of Japan with the northern branch meandering over the North Pacific with no energy and no potential. The southern branch is to have peeled off just off Japan tracking southeast to the equator and staying there the whole way east across the Pacific. Absolutely no support for decent gale development. Beyond 72 hours the split pattern is to hold solid with the only hope being a trough in the northern branch after it traverses the Bering Sea and dips south through the Gulf of Alaska with 130 kt winds running through it, targeting the Pacific Northwest and down into Central CA assuming a surface low forms in that trough. This look very much like how we started the winter season.
At the surface today the remnants of a gale were tracking through the Gulf of Alaska (see Hawaiian/Gulf Gale below) while another gale was trying to organize over the dateline (see Dateline Gale below). High pressure was in between the two at 1032 mbs ridging south to Hawaii and almost generating trade wind there at 15-20 kts and trying to push east to California, but being held at bay by the Gulf Gale (for now). Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to push onshore opening the door for strong high pressure behind it to start surging onshore over the PAcific Northwest and California brining brisk north wind with it. The dateline gale is to wrap up some and track northeast, moving into the Eastern Bering Sea. Behind that high pressure is to take total control with no swell producing fetch indicated.
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 Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the leading edge of the fetch at 06Z Tues and reported a 15 reading average of seas at 33.6 ft with a one reading peak to 36.1 ft where the wave model suggested 30 ft. This was better than the wave model and a good sign. 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 were to drop to 35 kts, but the QuikSCAT satellite indicated winds still near 40 kts at 40-41N 158W aimed right up the 289 degree path to NCal (294 SCal) with seas 31 ft at 41N 157W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the core of the fetch and reported seas to 28 ft where the model suggested 29 ft. This was pretty close to expectations.
The low slowly faded 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 27 ft at 40N 153W in the morning and 25 ft in the evening at 42N 147W.
On Thursday (3/13) the system is to continue plodding east towards the Pacific Northwest with 35 to barely 40 kt winds at 46N 146W aimed at NCal down the 301 degree path (306 SCal) and energy pushing also towards Southern Oregon. Seas forecast at 23 ft in the AM at 41N 142W then again at 23 ft in the evening at 42N 136W. Swell from this system arrived at buoy 46059 starting at 3 AM with period 21 secs and was steadily ticking up, reaching 5.4 ft @ 20 secs by 7 AM.
This system to dissipate off Oregon on Friday with winds 30 kts and withering. 20 ft seas are forecast pushing close to the coast in the morning (461 nmiles from San Francisco) at 40N 132W and then dropping to 19 ft at 39N 128W (266 nmiles out).
This was not a particularly impressive storm, but it has held together pretty well providing over 100 hrs of useable fetch and seas. Hawaii was closest to the core of the most intense fetch and the swell pushed into the Waimea buoy Wed AM with pure swell at 8-9 ft @ 16 secs for about 5 hours, right on-track with expectations. This bodes well for California. Relative to California this system to range from 2115 nmiles moving to within 266 nmiles away (NCal). This to make for essentially two different swells, one with longer period and low consistency generated from higher seas early in the storms life when it was 1600-2100 nmiles out, followed by a second swell with period in the 13-14 secs range generated when the system was weaker and 266-1417 nmiles out. Either way, only Hawaii to see real significant class energy, with exposed breaks in California seeing large advanced class swell at best.
Swell pushed towards Hawaii, and was 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 fading from 7 ft @ 12-13 secs Thursday AM (8.5 ft faces). Based on buoy readings this forecast was right on-track.
The outlook for California is a bit different. For North CA swell of 7.3-7.7 ft @ 16-17 secs (12-13 ft faces) seems likely arriving early Friday 3/14 (pre-sunrise) from 283-287 degrees holding in size with period dropping though 16 to 15 secs. Swell to push into Southern CA 10 hours later with swell 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft faces).
The second pulse to arrive in Northern CA near 11 PM Friday (3/14) and continuing into sunrise Saturday (3/15) with swell possibly to 8-9 ft @ 13 secs (10-12 ft faces) with 7 ft @ 14 secs energy intermixed (10 ft faces) from 288-294 degrees and quite a bit raw.
A new low was building on the dateline Thursday AM (3/13) with pressure 988 mbs and 45 kt winds aimed well at Hawaii from 40N 176E down the 317 degree path. The fetch to hold at 45 kts in the evening taking aim more to the east at 41N 178W aimed towards North CA down the 292 degree path (298 SCal). This fetch is to to basically sit stationary through late Friday (3/14) pushing 40-45 kt winds directly at the Islands from 45N 180W aimed down the 328 degree paths and towards California from 43N 175W aimed 25 degrees south of the 294 degree path (300 SCal). Seas to be toggling between 28-29 ft in the same region, setting up good advanced class swell potential for Hawaii starting Sunday (3/16) with swell 5.9 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft faces) holding into Tuesday. exposed breaks in Central California to see advanced class swell starting Tuesday 3/18. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/13) low pressure moving through the Gulf of Alaska was preparing to nestle up to the coast, a good thing considering that high pressure at 1032 mbs was right behind it and already trying to get a leg into the California area. The low to hold the high off through Friday with rain over the northern part of the state pushing south with it's remnants barely hanging on till sunrise Saturday (3/15) with lingering showers expected and pushing south into Southern CA. But the high is to roar in with 25-30 kt northwest winds in control by sunset Saturday and drying conditions pushing into even Southern CA (though slightly weaker). Sunday to be no better, and even worse with up to 35 kt north winds off Central CA, though starting to pull away from the SCal coast late. Wind to start calming down Monday but still in the 20 kt range over all of Central CA then diminishing in areal coverage but still 20 kts in Central CA on Tuesday (3/18). Southern CA to be in the lee of Santa Barbara and remain protected. Wednesday and Thursday are to be back to normal as low pressure builds in the Gulf taking the edge off the high.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
No swell producing fetch of interest forecast for the next 72 hours. Residual swell from a previous gale to be fading out in California on Friday (3/14) [see QuikCAST's].
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 until maybe (with much luck) a weak gale with 30 kt winds tries to form in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska on Thursday (3/20) targeting the Pacific Northwest on down to Central CA for the weekend.
MJO Update: The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which is suspected in being a major contributor to pumping moisture into developing winter weather systems pushing east off Japan, has moved very strongly into the inactive phase, the strongest we've seen all year. The short of it is brisk surface easterly winds are in-play and expected to continue into 3/26, cutting off the energy supply to gales trying to form in the area. This is really no surprise given that we are in a moderate plus strengthed La Nina. This pattern is expected to break down and move into the active phase maybe by the last day of the month, possibly ushering in a more active storm pattern.
The models suggest an amplifying pattern of gales pushing under New Zealand starting Saturday (3/15), in 3 day intervals but nowhere near as strong as previously suggested. Seas on the first one to reach near 40 ft for a few hours, then quickly fade thereafter. And the 2 behind it to be less. At this point some form of background southern hemi swell seems possible for Hawaii, but even that is optimistic.
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