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 (11/27) Northern CA surf was waist to near chest high and clean. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were thigh high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist high. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat. The LA Area southward to Orange County was up to maybe thigh high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh to maybe waist high on the sets. The North Shore of Oahu was head high to one foot overhead and on the increase. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was near flat.
North/Central California was in-between swells with only limited and fading energy limping in from the dateline and on the way down. Southern California was near flat with no swell of interest hitting. Hawaii's North Shore was coming up with the first pulse of swell energy originating on the dateline starting to build, but slower and smaller than expected. The main story for the near-time is the expected arrival of Swell #7. The first leading edge of it is building in Hawaii and expected to push east to the US West Coast late Thursday (11/29) up north and pushing into Southern CA early Friday. But of more interest is to be the second pulse, arriving in Hawaii late Wednesday (11/28) and into California on Friday (11/30). And of more interest is the expected development of a very broad an marginally better organized gale forecast pushing off Japan Wednesday (11/28) then lumbering east across the bulk of the North Pacific over the weekend, reorganizing in the Gulf of Alaska early next week pushing much raw swell energy into California. Improving odds for larger swell at that time, but conditions to be problematic if it plays out as forecasts. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (11/24) for the North Pacific indicated a very strong flow of winds pushing off Japan at near 200 kts almost dipping a bit south as the crossed the dateline, then ridging hard to the north and into the Eastern Bering Sea near Hawaii with a weak secondary flow pushing into the Pacific Northwest. Good potential for gale development in the West Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold gently pushing east but not making much progress with winds near the dateline holding at 190 kts dropping into a weak trough just east of there then ridging hard to the north into the Bering Sea with a weak and fragmented secondary flow limping into the Pacific Northwest. Good odds for gale development over the dateline. Beyond 72 hours the ridge is to break down in the east on Sunday (12/2) and the jet is to surge into Northern California, but loosing energy and turning zonal (flat), loosing much of it's ability to support surface level gale development. And a weird east to west flow is to set up just north of it over the Aleutians, likely shearing off anything that tries to form down at the surface. No change forecast into the middle of next week.
At the surface today a broad and poorly organize gale remained in-control of the Northwest Pacific. It actually consisted of two components, one being a fading gale in the far Western Gulf (See Swell #7 below) and the second being a new gale developing off the Northern Kuril Islands (See Possible Storm #8 below). It is this new system that is to be of most interest for the future. Otherwise strong high pressure at 1032 mbs remained lodged off Oregon setting up a generally calm pattern over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. The high was trying to build a trade-wind pattern just east of the Hawaiian Islands, but most of the fetch was aimed south of there. No other features of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours the gale in the Northwest Pacific is to be the only system of interest while Swell #7 impact the beaches of Hawaii and California.
Swell #7 - Hawaii
On Thursday (11/22) a fragmented by broad 984 mb gale pushed off Kamchatka generating up to 40 kt northwest winds off Japan and south of even any track to Hawaii. Seas were building to 26 ft at 37N 155E up to 27 ft in the evening at 37N 158E.
By Friday (11/23) a more cohesive fetch of 30-35 kts winds was organizing midway between Japan and the dateline at 40N 160E aimed reasonably well towards Hawaii down the 307 degree great circle path and 30 degrees south of the 296 degree path to North CA. Seas continued in the 27 ft range at 37N 158-167E through the evening.
On Saturday (11/24) more of the same was occurring with 30-35 kts west winds blowing over a good portion of the West Pacific though positioned a little more to the north. 23-25 ft seas were modeled over a broad area near 37-45N 172E and continuing through the evening aimed decently towards Hawaii down the 319 degree path and towards North CA up the 302 degree path. In the evening seas were modeled at 23 ft at 45N 178E.
On Sunday AM (11/25) a second phase to this gale developed, with renewed winds in the southern quadrant of this gale and a fleeting fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds occurring at 40N 175E generating more 27 ft seas at 40N 168E aimed best at Hawaii down the 317 degree path and 35 degrees south of the 295 degree path to California. By evening seas were up to 27 ft at 38N 177E.
On Monday (11/26) the last push of this system occurred with the low finally organizing on the dateline and wrapping up, generating a short lived fetch of 45 kts winds near 47N 180W and producing up to 30 ft seas at 44N 178W aimed well at Hawaii down the 330 degree path and 25 degrees south of the 298 degree path to North CA. Seas were 30 ft again in the evening at 45N 172W, then fading.
This system was fading fast Tuesday AM (11/27) being shunted into the Bering Sea by the jetstream with lingering but fading 26 ft seas at 46N 168W aimed best at California up the 299 degree great circle path. Seas were forecast fading from 21 ft in the evening at 45N 163W.
This was not a well organized system. Still, it held on for 6 days in the dateline region generating some form of 30-40 kt fetch over the entire period producing 23-30 ft or so seas the whole tine. Not too bad. Solid minimal significant class energy seems likely for Hawaii from the second pulse of this gale due mainly to their close proximity to the fetch. California is pretty far away and not really in the main energy track, meaning less size and well-decayed swell upon it's arrival. Advanced class swell for the northern end of the state with intermediate class surf in exposed breaks in Southern CA. One point of interest: There were really 2 distinct pulses from this system, meaning 2 separate swell events. If you look at the Wavewatch III swell model, it will depict it as one event and sum the 2 swells together, making it appear to be bigger than it will be in reality.
Hawaii: Expect energy from the first pulse of this swell to arrive Monday (11/26) after sunset with size building getting decent on Tuesday (11/27) near 8 AM with swell possibly to 5.3-5.7 ft @ 14 secs (7.5-8.0 ft faces) with 13 sec energy in control by Wednesday AM (11/28). The main pulse of swell is expected to start Wednesday (11/28) at sunset with swell 6.8-7.2 ft @ 17 secs (11-12 ft faces). Solid size to hang on through Thursday (11/29) with swell 6.5-7.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (9-10 ft faces) before fading to the 13 secs range late in the day. Swell Direction: 302-307 first pulse and 313-337 degrees on the second pulse.
North California: Expect swell from the first pulse of the gale to arrive near noon Thursday (11/29) with swell building to 4.5-4.7 ft @ 14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft faces). 13 sec residual energy to persist early Friday. But the second pulse of swell from this system to overtake it arriving near 5 AM Friday (11/30) building to 5.5-6.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (8-9 ft faces). 13-14 sec residuals to continue into Saturday (12/1) with swell 5.0-5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7 ft faces) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 291-297 degrees first pulse and 297 degrees from the second pulse.
South California: Expect swell from the first pulse of the gale to arrive Friday (11/30) at 2 AM with swell building to 1.9-2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) by sunrise holding through the day. 13 sec residual energy to persist into early Saturday (12/1). But the second pulse of swell from this system to overtake it arriving near 4 PM Friday (11/30) building to 2.5-2.9 ft @ 17 secs overnight (4-5 ft faces). Decent 15-16 sec energy to continue into early Saturday (12/1) with swell 2.5-2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces at best exposed breaks) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 296-301 degrees first pulse and 300-302 degrees from the second pulse.
Possible Storm #8
On Tuesday (11/27) a new fetch started building well off Japan anchored in low pressure over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with pressure 976 mbs. An elongated area of 30-35 kt northwest winds were building from the Kuril's pushing to 40N 170E aimed towards Hawaii up the 312 degree great circle path and generating seas to 21 ft at 42N 155E. In the evening the low is to drop to 960 mbs with a building fetch of 40-45 kts winds forecast near 43N between 160E and the dateline all aimed due east or 30 degrees east of the 315 degree path to Hawaii and 15 degrees south of the 295-300 degree path to North CA. Seas building to 29 ft at 44N 160E.
The fetch is to push east on Wednesday AM (11/24) as the gale holds stationary just west of the dateline and south of the Aleutians with a broad area of 40-45 kt west winds at 42N 172E generating 32 ft seas at 42N 165E targeting Hawaii up the 315 degree great circle path and California equally up the 297 degree path. Solid 40-45 kts winds to continue in the evening with up near the gales core at 45N 178E though faltering further south aimed about like before. 35 ft seas (mostly from previous fetch) to be positioned at 38N 174E aimed 30 degrees south of the 293 degree path to North CA and right down the 312 degree path to Hawaii.
The fetch to continue faltering on Thursday AM (11/29) generating only 30-35 kts winds on the dateline at 35N 180W but 40-45 kt northwest winds continuing in the lows core at 47N 175E. The net result is to be a broad area of 29 ft seas straddling the dateline between 35-45N aimed at Hawaii down the 315 degree path and at California up the 290-295 degree paths with a core to 32 ft at 35N 180W targeting only Hawaii. In the evening this system is to be all but gone with only residual 30-35 kts winds near 45N 175W with 27-29 ft seas fading at 32-42N 175W.
The fetch is to holding into Friday AM (11/30) on the dateline at 30-35 kts aimed like before with 25 ft seas over a broad area near 30-45N 175W aimed well at Hawaii down the 320-328 degree paths and less at North California up the 292-298 degree paths. Limited 30 kts winds to be fading by evening in the same locale with 27 ft seas still holding at 42N 175E.
A new fetch is to try and develop pushing well east of the dateline Saturday AM (12/1) north of Hawaii at 35N 160W pushing to 35N 155W in the evening acting on seas already pushing east from the previous days fetch and getting good traction, with seas building to 27 ft at 40N 176W, a mere 600 nmiles from Hawaii and much closer to California than anything in a long time but aimed in the channel between the two, sort of bypassing both.
On Sunday (12/2) a new fetch to possibly build in this area targeting primarily California, and if it develops will be considered a whole new storm system though in reality is would just be an incarnation of the existing gale, just repositioned east.
This is just a very preliminary forecast based purely on what the models are serving up, but provides a good sense of what might be starting to occur in the days ahead - namely that the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is starting to get good traction in the North Pacific and that the storm pattern is following it's lead, pushing from the West Pacific into the Central and East Pacific. In fact, a huge storm system is forecast moving into the East Pacific forming fro the remnants of this one. But for now, let's stick to what is more immediately at hand. This system seems likely to produce a very solid show of significant class surf for Hawaii by Saturday (12/1) pushing smaller but still sizeable energy into California perhaps by Monday (12/3). This is far from certain with the models depicting in one run, then literally wiping it off the charts the next run, so any outcome is possible (or maybe none at all). But it's fun to watch the models try and deal with the indirect impacts of the MJO.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/27) strong high pressure at 1034 mbs remained just off Southern Oregon starting to build a pressure gradient nearshore and generating building northerly winds over outer waters, similar to the usual summer-time pattern for this area. By Wednesday north winds are to continue over outer waters of North and Central CA at 25 kts but not quite reaching the coast, likely making for nearshore bump just the same. This basic pattern is to hold through Saturday with the gradient becoming best defined late Thursday into Friday with winds to 30 kts off Cape Mendocino, generating some form of short period north windswell for Central CA. By Sunday (12/2) it's to evaporate as broad low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska then starts impacting the North CA coast late, with south winds and possible rain affecting the area down to Monterey Bay, but not any further south into early Tuesday (12/4). South wind chop to be the issue during this timeframe.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
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 the remnants of possible Storm #8 are to regenerate in the Gulf of Alaska starting Sunday 912/2) with pressure 980 mbs with fragmented winds to 35-40 kts just off the Central California coast pushing due east. A broad area of 29-30 seas are modeled aimed right at South CA. A second pulse of wind energy is forecast Monday into early Tuesday (12/4) at 40-45 kts aimed the same way generating seas to 32-35 ft at 38N 150W, placed pretty well to the south, then fading out on Wednesday. If this occurs some form of raw significant class swell seems likely California with even some real size possible for protected spots in Southern CA. Sideband energy also possible for Hawaii coming from a more northern direction.
MJO Note: Odds for larger surf continue on the upswing with the Madden Julian Oscillation now in the Active phase and pushing across the equatorial Pacific. Anomalous west winds at the 850 mb level are well entrenched over the South China Sea and into the far West Pacific pushing out over the exposed waters to the dateline and a little beyond, expected to continue east and slowly loosing strength through December 15. This sort of pattern typically results in improved odds for storm development, improving odds for swell development. The Southern Oscillation Index just dropped to the negative range (as previously expected) at -4, the first negative reading since 15 days. We'll see if that turns into a negative trend (expected). If so, a commensurate manifestation of that trend should evolve in the atmosphere pushing the storm track more from the West Pacific to the Central and East Pacific through mid-to-late December. This appears to be a relatively strong pulse of the MJO so make the most of it, because the inactive phase is sure to follow with the appropriate downturn in storm activity likely.
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