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 (4/24) Northern CA surf was chest high and reasonably clean early. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were near flat and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist high and blown. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was up to thigh high at top spots and windy. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high and textured. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were maybe thigh high and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was chest to shoulder high and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was thigh high and onshore.
North/Central California was seeing minimal locally generated northwest windswell. Southern California was getting tiny bit's of wrap around windswell from the north. Hawaii's North Shore was on the leading edge of an extended bit of small but rideable northwesterly swell from a gale that was over the dateline days earlier moving north of the Islands. The East Shore had no tradewind swell of interest. The South Shore was receiving no swell of interest.
For the future the North and Central California coast to continue seeing minimal locally generated windswell, then some energy from a low that moved from the dateline into the Gulf of Alaska is to start arriving Sunday. Size to still be small though (chest high), but certainly better than nothing and hanging on for a few days. If the models are right this low is to hold in the Gulf and then bloom early next week , possibly providing something that almost looks like surf mid-next week - but odds are very low. Southern CA is in the dead zone with virtually nothing of interest forecast for the next 5 days. The North Shore of Oahu is on a small roll, with surf hitting and expected to hold for the next few days. Go get it while you can. Southern hemi swell is forecast for the South Shore starting late Monday and getting pretty good mid-week and holding through the end of the workweek. This is definitely the place to be. That same swell is to reach California next Thursday (5/1) possibly providing something decent to ride by the weekend. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (4/24) for the North Pacific indicated a cutoff upper level low pressure system 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and weak. This was the only system offering any support for surface level low pressure development. Otherwise all other energy was flowing west to east through the Bering Sea, totally landlocked north of the Aleutians and offering no hope. Over the next 72 hours the cutoff low is to tap the core of the jet, dragging it down through the Gulf of Alaska and forming a nice little trough by Saturday (4/26) holding through Monday before pushing inland over Canada. Winds forecast to 120 kts offering good surface level potential for maybe even gale development. Beyond 72 hours a weak flow is to persist over the North Pacific, further south than previous down on the 45N latitude, but very weak with winds 110 kts or so. Maybe some very limited hope, but it's late in the season.
At the surface today weak high pressure was positioned just 400 nmiles off the California coast at 1024 mbs, serving to generate limited northerly winds at 15-20 kts (more near Pt Conception) down the coast from Bodega Bay south into Baja. Trades over the Hawaiian Islands were light to almost no-existent. Of more interest was low pressure camped in the Central Gulf of Alaska at 996 mbs generating a limited fetch of 25-30 kt north to northwest winds and 18 ft seas aimed at Hawaii and California from 38N 160W. This system has actually been exerting influence over the North Pacific since Sunday (4/20) when it was moving southeast from the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with pressure at 996 mbs generating 30-35 kt north winds targeting initially Hawaii with 18-20 ft seas at 47N 180W (Sunday). 13 sec swell is already hitting Hawaii from early in the lows life.
Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low is to be the only thing of interest. It's to sit unchanged till Saturday (4/260 when it starts lifting northeast and builds in size but still only produces a broad area of 25 kt northwest winds targeting the Pacific Northwest down into California (from a steep northerly angle) and seas only 16 ft or so. Windswell possible for the targeted areas. Swell fading out along the Hawaiian North Shore by Sunday (4/27).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs was nestled up to the coast, sandwiched between land and low pressure out in the Gulf of Alaska, generating moderate northerly winds down the coast at 15 kts but pushing 25 kts over Pt Conception. Southern Ca was protected. That pattern to basically hold Friday, though slightly weaker as low pressure from the Gulf inches closer, taking some of the legs out of the high. But by Saturday (4/26) the Gulf low is to lift north and the high is to get marginally better footing with northerly winds hanging tight at 15 kts from Pt Arena and up to 25 kts over Pt Conception. Southern Ca is still to remain protected. No change forecast through mid-Monday, then the high to start building-in more with winds on the increase to near 20 kts from Pt Arena southward and holding until the low to the north moves inland late Tuesday (4/29). The high to surge inland with 20-25 k north winds Wednesday fading Thursday. Southern CA likely to see northerly winds at this time for 24 hours.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
Swell 1S (Hawaii)
A gale pushed under New Zealand on Monday (4/21) generating a diffuse area of 40 kt winds aimed north east towards Hawaii with seas to 31 ft modeled at 50S 170E. Some form of limited swell was in the Hawaiian swell window pushing north. That low re-organized just off the southeastern New Zealand coast Tuesday (4/22). 45 kt winds were confirmed over a decent sized fetch area at 48S 178E aimed 25 degrees east of the 193-200 degree great circle paths to Hawaii and right up the 216-218 degree path to California (and unshadowed by Tahiti) continuing at 40-45 kt through the day Wednesday at 46S 174W and traveling north into Thursday near 44S 174W all aimed the same headings relative to Hawaii and California. Seas were modeled to 32 ft late Tuesday at 44S 180W then to 38 ft through the day Wednesday at 48S 175W in the AM and 46S 170W in the evening, then fading from 37 ft at 42N 160W Thursday AM then slowly fading into Friday morning (to 30 ft at 41S 160W). Seas on Friday to be somewhat shadowed by Tahiti for California. The Jason-1 satellite made one pass near this fetch, on Wednesday morning and confirmed sea at 33 ft where the model suggested it should have been 35-36 ft. Other partial passes suggested a similar trend, namely that the Wavewatch III wavemodel was over-estimating sea sizes (really the GDAS model was probably overestimating winds, which in turn affected the calculated sea size. Regardless the result is the same - an overestimate).
In all this was not even a storm, but a gale. Still it held together for at least 72 hours with seas in excess of 30 ft pushing the 38 ft mark (if one is to believe the models), and aimed right at California (and unshadowed) and decently at Hawaii. But given Hawaii's closer proximity, more size is expected there.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on late on Monday (4/28) with swell to 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft faces and occasionally more). Swell building, peaking mid-Tuesday with swell 3.6 ft @ 19 secs (7 ft faces - maybe some 8 ft faces at best breaks). Swell holding solid Wednesday at 3.6 ft @ 17 secs (6 ft faces with some 7 ft sets). Swell continues Thursday (5/1) at 3.9 ft @ 16 secs (6 ft faces with a few bigger sets). Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
California (swell arrival profile same for both NCal and SCal): This swell to start arriving on Thursday (5/1) with swell building to 2 ft @ 20 secs late (4 ft faces). Swell Direction: 212-218 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 the only potential swell source of interest is to come from the low in the northern Gulf of Alaska. Monday (4/28) pressure is to drop to 992 mbs with 35-40 kt northwest winds building over a small area aimed at the Pacific Northwest as the low and associated fetch sink southeast, impacting Southern Oregon late Tuesday. 26 ft seas are forecast at 48N 138W Tuesday AM aimed down the 312 degree path to North CA and heading southeast. Residual fetch and 20 ft seas are project impacting Cape Mendocino Wednesday AM (4/30). Will believe it when it happens.
No other swell source is indicated.
No swell producing winds are 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table