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 (12/11) Northern CA surf was shoulder to head high and clean with good form. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were up to thigh high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was near flat. The LA Area southward to Orange County had some thigh high sets. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were maybe thigh high with luck. The North Shore of Oahu was up to head high. The South Shore had some southern hemi swell with waves waist to near chest high at the better breaks.The East Shore was waist to near chest high.
North/Central California was getting the last little reverberations of swell energy coming across the dateline but generally pretty small. Southern California was getting no swell of interest. Hawaii's North Shore was starting to get another pulse of moderate energy coming from the dateline and on the increase. Local windswell was moving into the East Shore. A sneaky little bit of southern hemi swell was building along the South Shore. The outlook has improved, especially for the US West coast. Currently a small but solid little storm is pushing over the dateline with 50 kts winds and 32 ft seas bound for the Gulf of Alaska on Wednesday (12/12), expected to fade there. Small swell should result for both Hawaii and California. Another system is forecast right behind developing in the Gulf of Alaska expected to send 30 ft seas towards California and Oregon over the weekend. Yet a stronger one is forecast forming off Oregon on Monday generating 35 ft seas very near the coast while a 4th system generates 35 ft seas off Kamchatka. This is a step up from the outlook a few days ago, and an encouraging sign given that we're in the inactive phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation. The short of this is that at least some form of swell should be in place for the weekend in California and maybe a little pulse for the Islands on Friday. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (12/11) for the North Pacific indicated a pattern similar to days past, with a decent flow pushing off Japan forming a weak trough just west of the dateline with winds 140 kts, then splitting heavily north of Hawaii with the northern branch pushing northeast into the Gulf of Alaska pushing into Canada while the southern branch meandered south of Hawaii and on to the equator. Best odds for low pressure development was near the dateline. Over the next 72 hours that same pattern is to hold, though the flow up in to the Gulf is to become less cohesive with a ridge trying to build over the dateline. No real support for storm development suggested. Beyond 72 hours the pattern is to hold with energy pushing off Japan, splitting with the north branch ridging sharply north over the dateline to the Aleutians, then tracking southeast forming a nice solid trough through the Gulf of Alaska with wind in pockets occasionally in the 140-170 kts range directing surface storm development towards the US West Coast but kinda shutting out any activity aimed towards Hawaii. The southern branch is to remain meandering more to the east now, flowing directly over the Islands joining he main flow inland over California.
At the surface today a small storm was pushing over the international dateline (see details below). otherwise moderate high pressure at 1024 mbs was between Hawaii and Canada forming a bit of a blockade to any eastward bound weather systems, but not nearly as strong as in days past. Still, it was enough to be redirecting the dateline storm to the northeast and towards the northern Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours this storm is to make it to the northern Gulf and fade, but not before stirring up some swell energy. On Thursday (12/13) a new gale is to start building on the dateline at 996 mbs tracking northeast, starting to get some purchase on the oceans surface late with 40 kts winds building in it's southwest quadrant at 49N 175W aimed towards Hawaii, starting to rough up seas there. By Friday AM (12/14) pressure to hold at 996 mbs with 40-45 kts winds firmly in-place at 49N 170W aimed 20 degrees south of the 305 degree great circle path to North CA but mostly too far east of any path to Hawaii. 21 ft seas forecast at 47N 170W. In the evening 40-45 kt northwest winds to be at 46N 160W aimed right down the 297 degree to North CA. Seas building to 28 ft at 48N 162W. On Saturday AM (12/15) the gale is to be fading with 35 kts winds near 45N 150W aimed just south of the the 295 degree path to NCal (300 SCal). Seas peaking at 29-30 ft at 46N 155W. 35 kt northwest winds to persist in the the evening at 44N 145W aimed 30 degree south of the 295 degree route to Ncal. 26 ft seas forecast at 43N 147W. Rough data suggests solid advanced class swell pushing into North CA near late Monday (12/17) with small intermediate class swell wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA Tuesday (12/18).
Also high pressure is to be set up strong north of Hawaii starting Thursday (12/13) generating brisk trades blowing over the Islands at 20+ kts and over 25 kts on Friday into early next week. Local short period windswell to result along easterly shores.
Small Dateline Storm
On Sunday PM (12/9) a small storm started building west of the dateline with confirmed winds barely 50 kts over a tiny area at 39N 168W aimed due west or right up the 293 degree path to North CA and the 310 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were building.
On Monday AM (12/10) winds were confirmed at 60 kts solid over a small area near 41N 175E aimed right at Ncal up the 293 degree path and the 315 degree path to Hawaii. In the evening 50-55 kt winds continued aimed due east at 43N 178W aimed right up the 295 degree path to NCal and 35 degree east of the 323 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were modeled at 30 ft at 43N 178E.
On Tuesday AM (12/11) no confirmed winds were available but were modeled at 45-50 kts at 45N 175W aimed due east of right up the 296 degree path to NCal and too far east of any path to Hawaii to add any value there. 32 ft seas were modeled at 43N 176W. In the evening 45 kt winds are forecast at 47N 166W aimed still due east or right up the 298 degree path to NCal. 32 ft seas modeled at 46N 170W.
On Wednesday AM (12/12) 40 kts winds to be fading at 50N 160W aimed 15 degrees north of the 307 degree path to NCal. 32 ft seas forecast at 50N 163W. In the evening seas are to be pushing well north of any path to California and essentially out of the picture.
This system is very small, even though it has good force, limiting it's footprint on the oceans surface and thereby limiting it's ability to generate seas and therefore swell. No Jason-1 satellite passes have occurred near the storm center, so not confirmation on seas heights is available, but by using the QuikSCAT data, winds speeds appear to be better than what the models were depicting. It's tracking almost right up the great circle paths relative to Northern California and Southern Oregon, offering a bit of hope for longer period small swell though positioned a long ways away (1874-3016 nmiles). The storm was closer to Hawaii (1524-2100 nmiles), and generated a decent amount of seas before turning it's energy at targets further to the east. Possible solid swell expected there, but not guaranteed.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival roughly starting at noon Thursday (12/13) with period at 17 secs and size tiny but building peaking just after sunset at 7 ft @ 16 secs (10-11 ft faces). Size holding decently into first light Friday (12/14) at 6 ft @ 14-15 secs (8-9 ft faces), then fading through the day. Swell Direction: 315-318 degrees
North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival Saturday (12/15) near sunrise with swell building to 6 ft @ 16-17 secs (9-10 ft faces). Period dropping to 14 secs just after sunset. Swell Direction: 294-299 degrees
South CA: Swell Direction: Rough data suggests swell arrival Saturday (12/15) near noon with swell building to 3.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (4-5 ft faces). Period dropping to 14 secs Sunday (12/16) at 10 AM. 300-303 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/11) high pressure at 1030 mbs was building well offshore but was out of range of California. Strong high pressure inland, the same high that generated strong north winds and cooling waters over the state for the weekend, was generating a light to moderate offshore flow. No change forecast Thursday (12/13) and then the offshore high is to push closer, generating northerly winds over Cape Mendocino and some windswell, but not pushing onshore. Reasonably clean conditions forecast. That to fade on Friday as low pressure takes hold of the Gulf with a light wind-flow forecast over the state continuing into Saturday (12/15). Sunday is the pivotal day, with a front from Gulf low pressure pushing close to the coast and south winds on the increase, mostly north of Pt Conception, being reinforced Monday and then raging Tuesday as a strong local low pushes onshore. Rain down into even Southern CA Monday and Tuesday (12/18). Winter is here.
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 hrs a new local gale is to start developing in the Gulf of Alaska on late Sunday (12/16) with pressure 996 mbs and 30-35 kts winds developing over a broad area courtesy of high pressure setting up north of Hawaii forming a gradient with the gale. By Monday (12/17) winds to be 40-45 kts with seas 25 ft aimed a bit south of any path to Central CA and on the increase, building to 45-50 kts in the evening at 41N 140W aimed almost south of Southern CA with seas to 30 ft a bit east of buoy 46006. It's all to push inland Tuesday (12/18) with 35 ft seas modeled just off the coast. A stormy mess likely for California.
A system is to push off Japan on Sunday (12/16) tracking northeast andbuilding off Kamchatka late Monday (12/17) generating a building fetch of 45-50 kts west winds into Tuesday just barely south of the Aleutians and west of the dateline producing up to 35 ft seas at 50N 175E, targeting the US West Coast better than the Islands. Will see what really develops.
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