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.
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On Tuesday (11/20) Northern CA surf was 1-3 ft overhead with wind on it. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were up to chest high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was head high to 2 ft overhead and windy. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was up to maybe waist high and that was generous. The LA Area southward to Orange County was up to waist high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist to almost chest high with luck. The North Shore of Oahu was head high to 2 ft overhead. The South Shore was thigh high. The East Shore 2-3 ft overhead and chopped.
North/Central California was in between swells, even though there was bumpy overhead waves still streaming out of the Gulf of Alaska. Southern California was pretty quiet with only limited Gulf swell trying to wrap in. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more swell from the dateline, but local winds were not favorable. The South Shore was flat and the East Shore was getting some wrap-around swell from the north, mostly windswell. Storm #5 is fading northeast of the Hawaiian Islands pushing swell south towards Hawaii and and equal dose of size pushing east towards California. Hawaii's forecast from this one is a little tricky, but we're expected reasonable odds for good sized surf for Wednesday with the Mainland getting it's share on Turkey-Day. After that there is no shortage of activity if one is to believe the models. Another storm is already blowing off Kamchatka expected to push to the dateline sending near significant class swell to Hawaii and lesser energy towards California for late in the long holiday weekend. Behind that 2 more systems are charted, offering decent hope well into the week beyond. And the Madden Julian Oscillation is in it's good phase relative to generating surf for the North Pacific through mid-December. So it's time to start seriously thinking about Fall, cause the tea leaves are as much in our favor as they're going to get. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (11/20) for the North Pacific indicated a pretty healthy batch of energy pushing off Japan with winds 160 kts reaching to the dateline then disintegrating north of Hawaii with the remnants meandering northeast into northern Canada. Decent support for gale development in the West Pacific based on this configuration. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern to hold only the winds in the west are to get better organized an blowing up to 180 kts arching slightly northeast as they push north of Hawaii, then dissolving east of there. Again the West Pacific to be the best place for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the stream to start making better eastward progress, especially by Sunday (11/25) with 190 kt winds leading the charge. A bit of a trough to set up in the Gulf of Alaska by Tuesday (11/27) with a renewed batch of 190 kts winds pushing off Japan, both supportive of surface level gale development. A bit of ridge is to be positioned between the two, but not too strong. In all a pretty good pattern is forecast for the next week.
At the surface today weak high pressure was trying to hold directly over the coast Canada, while low pressure had control of everything else. First up was the remnants of Storm #5 moving into the Central Gulf of Alaska (see details below). Also up was a storm that formed late Monday (11/20) off Kamchatka with northwest winds confirmed at 50-55 kts at 50N 165E with 40 kts winds reaching out to 46N 177E, almost over the dateline. That's a pretty good sized area. By Tuesday AM confirmed winds of 40-45 kts extended from Kamchatka all the way to and over the dateline. 30 ft seas were modeled at 48N 168E aimed well towards Hawaii down the 322 degree great circle path and 25 degrees south of the 305 degree great circle path to California. In the evening a shrinking area of 40 kt northwest winds are to continue 47N 180W aimed 25 degrees south of the 306 degree path to North CA and 25 degrees east of the 331 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building to 35 ft at 48N 173E. Wednesday AM 30-35 kt residual winds to sink southeast reaching 40N 165W with 30 ft seas pushing over the dateline at 45N 179W aimed towards 30 degrees south of the 298 degree path east to California and 20 degrees east of the 328 degree path to Hawaii. This system to be gone by the evening with fading 25 ft seas dissipating at 40N 170W, in reasonable striking distance of Hawaii. If this comes to pass some form of significant class swell (Possible Swell #6) is expected for Hawaii Friday (11/23) with advanced class swell for exposed breaks in North California on Sunday (11/25) and near intermediate class surf in Southern CA.
Storm #5 (CA and Hawaii)
On Saturday evening (11/17) the QuikSCAT satellite confirmed a tiny area of 60 kt northwest winds associated with a developing storm near the dateline. Winds in the storms southwest quadrant were at 42N 180W targeting Hawaii down the 319 degree path. Seas were building.
Sunday AM (11/18) winds were confirmed at 55 kts at 43N 176W in the storms northwest quadrant aimed right down the 336 degree great circle path to Hawaii with seas to 22 ft and 30 degrees south of the 295 degree path to North California. In the evening 50-60 kt winds were again confirmed at 42N 166W aimed a bit east of the Hawaiian Islands down the 342 degree path generating 26 ft seas at 40N 175W. Also a tiny fetch of 40 kt west winds were near 40N 165W aimed towards California with a tiny area of 29 ft seas modeled at 40N 170W up the 290 degree path. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the fetch in the south quadrant and confirmed seas at 29 ft, where the model suggested seas should have been 25-26 ft. So the storm was doing better than the model (no surprise given the QuikSCAT data). Suspect seas aimed at Hawaii are probably 32+ ft.
North to northwest winds continued strong in the area into Monday AM (11/19) at 50-60 kts near 43N 160W aimed 35 degree east of the 355 degree path to Hawaii and generating 26 ft seas at 43N 168W. Also 40-45 kts northwest winds continued aimed 35 degrees south of the 292 degree path to North California generating seas to 29 ft at 40N 162W. In the evening a consolidated fetch of 50 kts winds were centered at 46N 156W aimed more to the east or 45 degrees east of the 357 degree path to Hawaii but more at North California running 30 degrees south of the 297 degree path generating 35 ft seas at 44N 160W aimed towards North CA down the 296 degree path and about 1800 nmiles out.
On Tuesday AM (11/18) the last little push of fetch from this storm was occurring as the system pushed east of the Hawaii swell window and focused on California with 45 kt winds confirmed at 48N 152W generating a tiny area of 40 ft seas at 46N 154W aimed right at North CA down the 297-303 degree path 301-(307 SCal). By evening this system to be fading out with all energy aimed at Canada and points north.
This system moved through the northern portion of the Hawaiian swell window with most fetch not sitting on any one portion of the oceans surface for long, limiting it's ability to get traction and generate seas relative to Hawaii. Still 60 kt winds have been confirmed and the Jason1 satellite reported higher seas than projected by the models. We're going out on a limb and suggesting near significant class swell for Hawaii with period in the 15-16 sec range just due to their close proximity. But there is much uncertainty there. California had a different set of problems, with most fetch aimed south of the great circle paths to the West coast, and then when it did swing towards the state, it was only very shortlived with fetch only affecting a small area of the oceans surface. All told still some from of minimal significant class swell is likely in the North with period in the 17-18 sec range and minimal advanced class size in Southern CA.
Hawaii: Expect north angled significant class swell very early Wednesday morning with period at 18 secs, building in size by sunlight with period at 17 secs. Swell expected to peak near 7.5-8.5 ft @ 16 secs mid-day (12-13 ft faces). Swell Direction: 335-350 degrees
North California: Expect swell arriving at 1 AM Thursday (11/22) with period 20-21 secs and size on the increase fast. Swell to start peaking at 9 AM and holding through 3 PM with swell 8.3-8.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (14-16 ft faces). Period dropping to 14 sec near midnight. 13-14 sec leftovers at 7-8 ft expected first light Friday (11/23). Swell Direction: 295-302 degrees
South California: Expect swell arriving at noon Thursday (11/22) with period 20-21 secs and size tiny but on the increase. Swell to start peaking at 4 PM and holding through 2 AM Friday (11/23) with swell 3.5-4.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.0-7.5 ft faces at exposed breaks). Decent size holding into sunrise Friday with swell 3.5-3.9 ft @ 15 secs and fading to 14 secs by the afternoon. Swell Direction: 300-306 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/20) high pressure at 1020 mbs was hanging directly over the coast of British Columbia and sagging due south, providing a buffer from a wet pattern in the Western Gulf of Alaska and generating north winds at 20-25 kts over coastal waters of Central CA. By Wednesday (11/21) the core of this fetch is to lift north and and wind vector is to start pushing a bit more offshore, though northerly winds are still forecast over all of Central and North CA, up to 25 kts off Cape Mendocino and generally much less further south. The fetch is to slowly fade out Thursday into Friday with only a light northerly flow expected over exposed waters in Central CA, and likely offshore in the early hours. A near neutral pressure pattern and very light winds to follow for the weekend on into the middle of next week, with good conditions becoming the norm. The dividing line for weather systems moving through the Gulf is to be the Northern California border, with fair weather south of there.
Tropical Storm Mitag was 450 nmiles east of the Philippines pushing due west, expected to reach the islands nation Friday (11/23) with winds at minimal hurricane force. No indication of any recurvature to the north at this time.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 a new fetch is to start building off Japan anchored in low pressure over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with pressure 968 mbs. A fragmented area of 35-40 kt northwest winds are forecast Friday AM (11/23) at 45N 160E generating seas to 27 ft, pushing east in the evening with a broad area of 20+ ft seas modeled and a core at 26 ft at 43N 168E aimed well at Hawaii. The fetch to stall over the dateline Saturday (11/24) and simmer in the 35-40 kt range building seas to near 30 ft at 49N 180W aimed east equally towards Hawaii (330 degrees) and California (302 degrees). This system to slowly fade in the Western Gulf of Alaska Sunday into early Monday (11/26) while still generating 30 kt winds and seas fading from 30 ft to 20 ft along the 47N latitude. Advanced class swell for Hawaii and California likely mid to late week.
Yet another broader and strong system is forecast pushing off Japan to the dateline mid-next week possibly setting up more swell beyond.
MJO Note: Odds for larger surf are expected to increase with the Madden Julian Oscillation moving into the Active phase. Anomalous west winds at the 850 mb level are setting up over the South China Sea and pushing east into the Pacific, expected to continue east and slowly loosing strength through mid-December. This sort of pattern typically results in improved odds for storm development, improving odds for swell development. The Southern Oscillation Index remains positive (+13) but is slowly fading, and we're expected to see it falling into the negative range in the next week if the models projection on the MJO are accurate.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. The season is over.
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