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 Sunday (12/2) Northern CA surf was up to head high and almost clean but warbled. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were thigh high with luck. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest high with reasonable winds early. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high only at the best exposed breaks. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh to waist high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high. The North Shore of Oahu was double overhead or a bit more and raw. The South Shore had chest high windswell with horrible conditions. The East Shore was waist high.
North/Central California was getting minimal swell energy from the dateline but with south winds building over the area. Southern California was getting minimal wrap around northwesterly swell from the dateline at only the best exposed breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting solid energy from Swell #8, but it was on it's way down. The big story is Storm #8, currently developing 700 nmiles north of Hawaii and schedule to build quickly while tracking directly towards the Pacific Northwest, likely setting up more large and unruly swell for Hawaii and much more size aimed at California from a very westerly direction, setting up possible significant class size even down into Southern CA for early week. Rain is expected in all locations as a by product, something the West Coast could use alot more of. After that a pair of gales are scheduled to develop, one just north of Hawaii pushing south almost over the Islands mid-week and another off the Central CA coast late in the week but setting up only windswell in both locations. After that a calming pattern is expected over the entire North Pacific. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sundays jetstream charts (12/2) for the North Pacific indicated a solid batch of wind energy pushing off Japan at 140 kts diving flat over the dateline and to a point north of Hawaii, then backing off to the 90 kts range but pushing onward right over Central CA. A bit of a trough was trying to organize north of Hawaii as a big ridge that was over the East Pacific is breaking down. Over the next 72 hours that trough north of Hawaii is to continue then ridging into British Columbia with winds there to 160 kts on Monday (12/3). The whole thing in the east is to break down early Wednesday though. Good support for surface level gale development north of Hawaii. A new pocket of energy is to try and set up off the Kurils too on Tuesday (12/5) with winds there to 160 kts, riding northeast almost to the dateline. Some support for low pressure development there as well. Beyond 72 hours energy is to continue streaming off Japan crossing the dateline but getting ripped apart by a very steep and weak trough forecast setting up directly over Hawaii. It is to steal energy from anything trying to organize off Japan and then the remnant flow is to proceed east dropping over California. A wet and unsettled weather pattern looks to be the most likely result at the oceans surface from Hawaii eastward in to California, but nothing real organized from a gale perspective.
At the surface today the broad and building start of Storm #9 was circulating 700 nmiles north of Hawaii with a broad fetch developing and winds on the increase (see details below). Another much smaller gale was trying to organize west of the dateline but is not expected to do anything immediately. Weak high pressure was trying to hand on over the Southern California coast, but that appears to be futile given the girth of the storm starting to fill the Eastern Pacific. No other weather system of interest were occurring. Swell from Storm #8 hit Hawaii on Saturday and is now on the downswing. Over the next 72 hours Storm #9 is to be the only game in town. Otherwise low pressure currently in the West Pacific is to migrate east setting up shop just 300 nmiles northwest of Hawaii late Tuesday (12/4) making for a strong southwesterly flow over the Islands and likely bring much moisture with it. Northerly winds at 40 kts and seas to 27 ft beyond are forecast nearly impacting Kauai by Wednesday then fading, but the core of the low is to not leave the area likely setting up a windy mess of a scenario through the work week and possibly in to the weekend.
Large Storm #9 (Updated Monday 10:45 PM PST )
The remnants of Storm #8 started regenerating north of Hawaii fed by tropical low pressure being swept east by the jetstream. On Saturday evening (12/1) a closed isobar low started circulating with pressure 984 mbs generating a rather large fetch of 45-50 kt winds at 34N 158W aimed southeast down the 347 degree path to Hawaii and east up the 273 degree path to Central CA.
On Sunday AM (12/2) things were really getting organized with a broad fetch of 40 to 50 kt winds confirmed sweeping down it's west quadrant aimed right at Hawaii near 34N 160W down the 347 degree path with seas to 30 ft at 35N 163W, within 600 nmiles of the Islands. But most fetch is to be in the systems south quadrant at 36N 155W confirmed by the QuikSCAT satellite at 55 to near 60 kts aimed at North CA up the 275 degree path and South CA up the 288 degree path (most favorable). Seas modeled building to 32 ft there at 35N 155W. Unbelievably the Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the fetch at 9:20 AM PST reporting seas at 39.6 ft averaged over a 15 reading interval with a single peak reading of 41 ft. This is completely consistent with eh wave model and right on track with expectations, a very good sign. In the evening storm pressure dropped to a very deep 952 mbs while tracking east with 50-55 kt winds confirmed near it's core at 37N 148W aimed 20 degrees north of the 275 degree great circle path to NCal and 25 degrees off the 288 degree path to SCal with much 40-50 kt fetch aimed at both locales from further to the south. Seas were modeled at 43 ft at 35N 150W, positioned a little further south than previously forecast. Sideband 30-35 kt fetch was aimed at Hawaii from 32N 158W and points north down the 355+ degree path. Seas to 36 ft forecast at 33N 158W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the tail end of the fetch at 03Z and confirmed seas average seas over a 15 reading range at 37.8 ft exactly 600 nmiles north of Oahu pushing just east of the Islands chain. Big swell is heading south likely impacting the Islands just after dark on Monday. Seas in this area were to be 35 ft, so in actuality the swell was a bit bigger than the models indicated, a very good sign. And wind speed were about as expected, another good sign.
On Monday AM (12/3) the core of storm was off Southern Oregon with pressure still 956 mbs and winds confirmed at 45-50 kts mostly in it's south quadrant at 37N 140W aimed 20 degrees north of the 285 degree great circle path to NCal and 30 degrees north of the 295 degree path to SCal, with much 30-40 kts fetch still be over southern waters as far south as 32N 142W aimed at Southern CA up the 280 degree path. Seas were modeled to 43 ft at 37N 142W aimed at Central CA and the Pacific Northwest with a broad area of 32-35 ft seas trailing behind aimed towards all of CA from as far south as 30N 150W. 40-50 kt southerly winds were confirmed impacting Oregon down into the Cape Mendocino CA region. Hawaii was getting preliminary swell at 11 AM but much larger size was lurking offshore, hitting buoy 51001 at 6 AM HST with pure swell 14-16 ft @ 14 secs with seas 17-20 ft. This is running just a few hours behind schedule. Off California buoy 46006 went offline at 1 AM, not good. Windswell from heavy south winds 300 nmiles off the California coast were registering at buoy 46059 under 37 kt south winds with gusts to 49 kts generating seas of 30 ft @ 14 secs with pure swell 23 ft @ 14 secs. but make no mistake, this is not the real swell. That has yet to hit. If 46006 was up we should start seeing some energy hit there by 10 AM or so. But we're flying blind. By evening it was all moving inland with no real fetch left over exposed water relative to California. 43 ft seas are to be pushing east directly over outer buoy 46006 at 40N 137W aimed towards North and Central CA with 30-35 ft seas targeting Southern CA from 33N 138W.
Swell started impacting Hawaii about 11 AM Tuesday with pure swell energy 15-16 ft @ 15-16 secs from 338-343 degrees, better than what we expected. The first reading of real swell relative to California started hitting buoy 46059 at 10 PM with pure swell 20.6 ft @ 19.5 secs. Though only one reading, this suggest our estimates might be a bit low again but the timing is right one the money. Proceed with much caution.
Swell Generation Potential
The models were unwavering in their projection and, if anything, actually bumped up the intensity some and put it further south than projected since even Thursday (11/29). Confirmed wind data from the QuikSCAT satellite and the seas height data from the Jason-1 satellite are totally supporting these projections. So we remain are right on-track as of early Monday morning. All this continues to bode very well for Southern CA seeing how they are to be the most protected from any ill effects of wind from this system and the further away from the fetch area. But there's even a wrinkle in that projection now (see below). But the real issue with this system is it's close proximity to most everywhere, being 696-1562 nmiles from NCal, 1021-1838 nmiles from SCal and 602-823 nmiles from Hawaii. This close proximity will ensure that the swell will be far from organized, full of short period elements, and lurchy and raw. From a surfing perspective this is far from ideal. Large significant class raw swell is expected to hit Hawaii late Sunday through Tuesday (12/4). Much larger significant class swell is expected for North and Central California Tuesday and Wednesday (12/5) with lesser significant class swell for Southern CA late Tuesday into Wednesday. Lot's of lump to be a factor everywhere, including Southern CA due to a local pressure gradient now forecast to be generating 26-28 kt northwest winds over the outer Channel Islands starting late Tuesday into Wednesday.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Monday (12/3) at 7 AM with period jumbled mix of 17-20 secs. Swell to peak near 10 AM and hold through the day at 10.0-13.5 ft @ 17 secs (17-26 ft faces) with seas to 15 ft. Swell fading overnight down to 11 ft @ 13 secs (12-14 ft faces) Tuesday AM (12/4) and steadily dropping. Swell Direction: 342-355 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (12/4) near 10 AM with period 22-25 secs and size building fast. Swell to peak from noon through sunset with pure swell 15-16 ft @ 17-20 secs (25-32 ft faces). 14-15 sec large residuals expected early Wednesday (12/5) with swell fading from 14 ft @ 15 secs (21 ft faces). Swell Direction: 274-280 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (12/4) near 7 PM with period 22-25 secs and size building fast. Swell to peak from midnight through 8 AM Wednesday (12/5) with pure swell inside the Channel Islands at 6.8-7.3 ft @ 17-20 secs (12-15 ft faces) and outside the Channel Islands at 13-14 ft @ 17-20 secs (22-28 ft faces). 14-16 sec energy to continue slowly simmering down well past sunset but still be well within significant class parameters. Swell Direction: 283-302 degrees with lesser energy well south of that.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/2) high pressure at 1024 mbs was barely holding off of Northern Baja while Strong Storm #9 was building north of Hawaii. South winds from the leading edge of this system were already starting to set up along the Northern CA coast and expected to be in full force by Monday AM reaching 40 kts from Pt Arena northward. A much lighter flow is forecast into Pt Conception, maybe in the 10 kts range and Santa Annas in effect in Southern CA. On Tuesday (12/4) high pressure is to be building back in trying to wipe out south winds even over the northern most reaches of California by late in the day, though a north winds pattern might be and issue over the Channel Islands of Southern CA. On Wednesday high pressure to be in control building over the state with north winds at 20 kts blowing by sunset everywhere north of Pt Conception, but Southern CA to be in pristine shape all day. On Thursday the next weather system approaches with winds fading to calm late then another south wind event shapes up for Friday affecting even into Baja as the gale moves onshore. A light north flow is forecast Saturday.
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 a new gale is forecast to build 1300 nmiles west of North CA on Thursday AM (12/6) generating 40-45 kt northwest winds in its southwest quadrant aimed reasonably well at Central and South CA. It to track southeast through the day and holding strength. 25 ft seas building late. The gale to be positioned just 200 nmiles off the San Francisco coast by Friday AM (12/7) with 40 kt north winds off the coast, pushing inland in the evening. Raw large shorter period swell possible for All of CA into Saturday (12/8).
Another storm is forecast to build of Japan on Tuesday (12/4) quickly tracking northeast and generating short-lived 18 hour fetch of 55 kt west winds and 33 ft seas right before it pushes into the Bering Sea late that evening. Minimal hope for any swell.
MJO Note: Odds for larger surf continue with the Madden Julian Oscillation now fully in the Active phase and pushing across the equatorial Pacific. Anomalous west winds at the 850 mb level are well entrenched over the dateline pushing almost to Central America, 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 dropped to the negative range (as previously expected) on 11/26 at -4, the first negative reading since 15 days, then rebounded back up to 8.0. Then on 11/30 it dropped negative again and is currently in the -1 to -6 range. If this continues 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 by Christmas.
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