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 Sunday (3/23) Northern CA surf was head high to a foot or so overhead and pretty jumbled. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist high and weak. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest to near head high on the sets and reasonably clean early. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high and fairly clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high and pretty clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high with a few bigger sets. The North Shore of Oahu was thigh high. The South Shore was near flat. The East Shore was waist to chest high.
North/Central California was getting swell from the Gulf of Alaska with chop on top and more in the forecast. Southern California was small with limited Gulf swell wrapping into only the best/most exposed breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. Trades were providing limited windswell for the East Shore. The South Shore was flat with no swell in the water.
Continued weak gale activity is forecast for the Gulf of Alaska through Wednesday, producing some form of generally shorter period swell for the Pacific Northwest down into exposed breaks in Central CA through Thursday. But the trend is generally downward. Fortunately swell from a storm in the South Pacific last week is pushing northeast, expected to provide a nice pulse of southern hemi activity for late in the week into the weekend, taking up the slack (at least for the time being). Nothing is forecast for the Islands from the North Pacific, though a gale is forecast for the dateline Saturday which may produce something, but we have no confidence in the models this for off into the future. Swell for the South Shore is expected starting Tuesday continuing through Friday, so there's opportunity there. But over all the season is definitely winding down with a generally quiet pattern expected for all. Welcome to Spring. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sundays jetstream charts (3/23) for the North Pacific indicated a fully split jetstream in-control with the split point now west of Japan, which is really bad. The Northern branch was tracking entirely north of the Aleutians until it moved over the Eastern Bering Sea, at which point it dipped south and was flowing through the Gulf of Alaska with winds 120 kts, offering a weak bit of potential there for surface level gale development targeting the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours the only hope remains the trough dipping through the Western Gulf of Alaska, with winds building there to 150 kts on late Tuesday (3/26), then pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest 24 hours later and totally shutting even that meager window of opportunity down. Beyond 72 hours the models are holding out some hope though, with the jetstream forecast to start repairing itself a week out and almost looking like something by Sunday (3/30) with a couple of pockets of 140 kts wind imbedded in a far more consolidated flow. So maybe all hope is not lost just yet.
At the surface today high pressure at 1026 mbs was just off the California coast with a second one at 1030 mbs falling from the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians southeast towards Hawaii. Low pressure at 996 mbs was in the Gulf of Alaska generating a broad fetch of 25 kt northwest winds targeting the Pacific Northwest and offering windswell generation potential at best. No other weather features of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low pressure system is to hold, but not strengthen and not producing winds in excess of 25 kts. 20 ft seas to persist there through Monday, then slowly back down. Limited 11-12 sec period swell to persist along the West Coast into maybe Wed/Thurs, then fade out. Nothing else is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (3/23) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception and ridging into the North CA coast generating northerly winds at 20 kts over outer water and less into the coast. Southern CA was protected with light wind in effect. That pattern to continue Monday then start dissipating Tuesday as lower pressure from the Gulf of Alaska moves into the area. New high pressure at 1032 mbs is to queue up well off the coast, but the Gulf low is to continue nosing into the area Wednesday bringing rain with it down into Monterey Bay. Thursday the high is to move in with northerly winds at 15-20 kts forecast from Pt Reyes southward and up to near 30 kts winds building over the Channel Islands down into Southern CA and Baja. More low pressure and rain is forecast by late Friday (3/29) pushing down to almost Pt Conception on Saturday with yet more forecast behind that for later Sunday, setting up more precipitation and light southerly winds for the weekend north of Pt Conception.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
Over the next 72 hours (Mon-Wed 3/26) a 960 mb gale is forecast to track under New Zealand pushing due east generating 45 kt winds aimed northeast towards Hawaii initially and then the US West coast. A persistent area of 30-32 ft seas is forecast tracking from 53S 170W to 52S 145W and building to near 36 ft there. If this occurs some form of summer time utility class swell should be pushing towards Hawaii and California. Will monitor.
New Zealand Gale
A gale pushed under New Zealand Fri/Sat (3/15) generating a small area of 35 ft seas modeled at 52S 165E Saturday AM barely in the Hawaii swell window and pushing east but decaying fast, down to 29 ft in the evening. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly under this fetch at 18Z on Saturday and confirmed seas at 38.0 ft over a 15 reading average with a peak reading of 41 ft at 52.5S 174.4E, besting the models measly 32 ft estimate for that location and time. Very Interesting. This gale held with 29 ft seas tracking from 57S 170W Sunday evening (3/16) to 50S 150W (due south of Hawaii) Monday evening, then fading out.
Limited odds for some form of southern hemi swell expected in California Wed (3/26) with swell 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft faces) and starting to fade 24 hours from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3 ft faces) from 205 degrees.
Central South Pacific Storm
Another gale pushed under New Zealand on Tuesday (3/18) building just east of the dateline with winds confirmed at 50-55 kts over a small area aimed due east in the AM at 59S 175W. In the evening a solid fetch of 50-55 kts winds confirmed at 57N 170W aimed just east of the 203 degree path to California and 40 degrees off the 188 degree path to Hawaii, and just about unshadowed by Tahiti relative to CA with seas to 39 ft at 59S 179W. Wednesday AM (3/19) near 50 kt winds were confirmed at 52N 155W aimed just east of the 200 degree path to California and mostly out of the HI swell window with seas building to 41 ft near 56S 158W aimed well towards the northeast. In the evening the storm was all but gone with 40 kt winds over a broad area aimed pretty well north at 50S 145W aimed 20 degrees east of the 196 degree path to CA with seas fading from 35 ft at 52S 157W.
Some energy to push into Hawaii starting late Tuesday (3/25) with swell 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft faces). Swell to peak Wednesday with swell 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft faces) fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs Thursday (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 180-185 degrees.
Decent southern hemi swell is expected to arrive in Southern California starting late Thursday (3/27) with swell to 1.6 ft @ 19 secs late (3 ft faces). Friday (3/28) swell building to 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft faces). Swell to continue solid at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs Saturday (4.0-4.5 ft faces) then fading from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs Sunday (3.5-4.0 ft faces). All coming from 200 degrees.
Decent southern hemi swell is expected to arrive in Northern Californiastarting Friday (3/28) with swell building to 3 ft @ 17-18 secs late (5 ft faces). Swell to continue solid at 3 ft @ 16 secs Saturday (4.5-5.0 ft faces) then fading to 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs Sunday (3.5-4.0 ft faces). All coming from 195-200 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 small gale is forecast developing off Japan on Friday (3/28) generating a short lived fetch of 40 kts and producing a tiny area of seas to 25 ft at 43N 170E on Saturday, offering a tiny bit of swell potential for Hawaii a few days beyond. But it's quite a leap of faith that this will actually occur. A weak gale is forecast in the northern most Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (3/30) producing a short lived fetch of 25 ft seas there too. But we have no confidence this will occur.
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. SOI values are starting to drop, down to + 6 from the previous steady readings of +15. Brisk surface easterly winds continue in-play and expected to continue into 3/26, cutting off the energy supply to gales trying to form in the area. This pattern remains forecast to break down shortly thereafter and move into a weak version of the active phase maybe by April 5, possibly ushering in a slightly more active storm pattern over the North Pacific. In fact the GFS model is indicating some improvement in the jetstream pattern about that time, so we'll see what happens. But given the late time in the season, odds for anything significant are low.
A calmer pattern to follow with no swell producing systems forecast.
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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Half Moon Bay Surfers - Attention: There¹s a movement afoot to dredge sand out of the Pillar Point (i.e. Half Moon Bay) Harbor and dump it just south of the jetty, so it will replenish all sand that¹s disappeared between the harbor and HMB. The guy who¹s spearheading the project, Brian Overfelt, has already received a positive preliminary reading from the local harbor commissioners. He¹s making a formal presentation to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary¹s advisory council this coming Friday (2/15) at Our Lady of Pillar church in Half Moon Bay. (It's on Kelly Ave, just east of the Coast Highway, across the street from Cunha Intermediate School.) starting at 9 AM. More details here: http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/forecast/forecast/hmb_dredge.html
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Grib File Switchover: The old grib1 format wave model datafiles that have been the mainstay of the National Weather service for years now are scheduled to be retired on 1/26. We switched over to the new grib2 files starting with the 00z run of Thurs 1/17. All appears to be running fine. There is no functional change to the content of the models, just that files we receive are now smaller due to improved compression of grib2. But this sets us up to start processing new higher resolution files and building new products in the months ahead. So in all it's a good maintenance level change.
Sharkwater: There's a new feature film called Sharkwater that is hitting theaters November 2nd. Sharkwater is an award winning documentary (22 international film awards including the UN and Cannes) that broke box office records in Canada, opening to bigger numbers than any documentary in history save Fahrenheit 911 and Supersize Me. It is a conservation film that demonstrates that the biggest influence on the air we breathe, and global warming is life in the oceans – except life in the oceans is being wiped out. Shark populations have dropped 90% in the last 30 years alone, and the oceans continue to be destroyed because nobody knows that it's happening Learn more here: http://www.sharkwater.com
Bluewater Gold Rush: The first and only chronicle of the California sea urchin dive fishery. Diving, surfing, comedy, and tragedy on and under the waves of California. "A quintessential tale of California ... dramas of adventure and loss on and under the sea" We read it and it's a great story about the bloom of the urchin diving boom in the 70's and the few lucky souls who were right there when it took off. An easy read that's hard to put down. The trials and success of a 'real' California dream right down to it's core. Check it out here: http://www.bluewatergoldrush.com
Submit your story to 'Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Vol. 2': DEADLINE: January 15th, 2008 Casagrande Press is seeking stories, articles, and essays on the general subject of surfing misadventure for publication in Surfings Greatest Misadventures: Volume 2. We are looking for nonfiction, first-person surf stories of bad judgment calls, pranks, comical/ironic episodes, disaster, attacking predators, misfortune, injury, loss of wit or limb, panic, critical conditions, contest meltdowns, everyday fears, surf trips gone wrong or the out-of-water episodes that surround surfing. We are looking for well-written stories that tell a good tale, reflect a culture, and develop the depth of the characters involved. We also like stories that have a tight narrative tension and a payoff at the end. Open to writers and surfers of any level. There is no fee to submit a story. We will consider previously published stories. To see more info on the first book visit www.thesurfbook.com. Submit online at www.casagrandepress.com
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table