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 Thursday (12/13) Northern CA surf was a new little pulse of swell energy pushing maybe head high on the sets. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to maybe chest high. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was waist to maybe chest high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was flat. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high with rarely bigger sets. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were thigh high. The North Shore of Oahu was starting to get longer period swell in the head high range. The South Shore had some leftover southern hemi swell with waves waist high at the better breaks.The East Shore had windswell at about chest high or so.
North/Central California was getting a new little pulse of swell from the dateline generated late last weekend. Southern California was essentially getting no swell of interest. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the start of solid swell from the dateline generated by a potent by small storm with more size expected later today. Local windswell was moving into the East Shore. The last little bits of southern hemi swell was fading along the South Shore. The forecast for the US West coast looks pretty good, but Hawaii is about to get all there is late Thursday into Friday. A small but solid little storm pushed over the dateline with 50 kts winds and 32 ft seas moving into the Gulf of Alaska on Wednesday (12/12), then faded. Decent swell should result for both Hawaii and California. Another system is forecast developing right behind in the Gulf of Alaska Fri-Sat (12/15) generating 40-45 kt winds and 25 ft seas towards California and Oregon over the weekend. Another one is currently building west of the dateline expected to push into the Gulf Sat-Sun (12/16) with 35 kt winds and 25 ft seas again off the Pacific Northwest followed by one more Mon-Tues (12/18) developing right off Central Ca pushing over the coast there with 35 kts winds, 25 ft seas and lot's of rain. The state can use it. The net result is to be a fair amount of advanced class swell and maybe even something more, but winds to be a factor by early next week north of Pt Conception. Still, given that the Madden Julian Oscillation is pretty solid in the inactive phase, this is an early Christmas gift. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Thursdays jetstream charts (12/13) for the North Pacific indicated weak fragmented flow tracking from Japan ridging slowly east-northeast into Western Canada. A hint of a split was suggested north of Hawaii with some energy tracking south of the Islands on into Baja, but not too much of a factor. In all no real support for surface level gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours that same pattern is to improve and become more consolidated, with a steady flow of wind energy pushing off Japan to 150 kts ridging sharply over the dateline, the forming a solid generalized trough running through the Gulf of Alaska on into Central CA with winds up to 150 kts (on Sunday 12/16). Good support for gale development in the Gulf. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough to hold into early next week, then start moderating by Wednesday (12/19) with a more zonal flow suggested behind it. But that pesky split in the jet starting north of Hawaii is to re-emerge, but not too bad. In all limited support for gale development focused mostly in the Gulf.
At the surface today high pressure at 1032 mbs was holding off California pushing all the way to Hawaii but displaced rather well to the south and setting up a solid pressure gradient over the Hawaiian Islands generating brisk trades at 20 kts extending from off Baja all the way to the dateline. Three low pressure systems were strung west to east across the North Pacific, one over Japan, the strongest approaching the dateline and one more trying to organize in the Gulf of Alaska. These to be the primary swell sources in the coming days. Also swell from a previous dateline storm was in the water starting to impact Hawaii and bound primarily for the US West Coast (see Small Dateline Storm below). Over the next 72 hours a moderately active pattern is forecast primarily for the Gulf of Alaska. First up is the Gulf system. On Thursday (12/13) PM it is to start building in the Central Gulf with pressure 996 mbs and 40 kts winds developing in it's west quadrant at 45N 150W aimed southeast towards California aimed 30 degrees south of the 296 degree path to NCal. On Friday AM (12/14) pressure to drop to 988 mbs with a solid fetch of 40-45 kts winds terminating near 45N 143W aimed right down the 302 degree path to NCal. Seas modeled building to 21 ft at 45N 148W. In the evening 40-45 kt winds to continue tracking east at 48N 140W aimed right down the 310 degree path to NCal but pretty much out of the Southern CA swell window. 25 ft seas are modeled at 46N 142W. By Saturday AM (12/16) this system is to be fading fast and moving inland over British Columbia. 23-25 ft seas to still be in the NCal swell window at 47N 135W. Rough data suggests some form of decent north angled swell for Central CA starting Sunday (12/16) arriving near noon with period 15-16 secs and swell building to 7.4-8.2 ft @ 15 secs at sunset (11-12 ft faces). Swell Direction 307-315 degrees
Also another gale was organizing west of the dateline on Wednesday evening (12/12) with pressure 992 mbs and winds 45 kts in it's west quadrant aimed south and not at any landmass of interest. On Thursday morning (12/13) 40 kts winds were wrapping into the gales southwest quadrant at 40N 170E aimed down the 312 degree path to Hawaii. 21 ft seas were modeled at 40N 170E. In the evening the gale is to be lifting northeast over the dateline and fading with 35 kts winds at 43N 175E aimed at Hawaii down the 325 degree path. 23 ft seas are forecast at 43N 175E. No real fetch to be in it's south quadrant aimed at California. This system to fall apart Friday and track east riding over high pressure building north of Hawaii. By Saturday (12/15) it is to be getting reestablished in the Gulf of Alaska with pressure 1000 mbs and 30-35 kts winds building in it's south quadrant at 43N 153W aimed right at Central CA up the 295 degree great circle path. 21 ft seas are forecast at 45N 158W. A broader fetch of 30-35 kts winds to continue in the evening at 42N 143W pushing closer to the coast aimed like before. 23 ft seas are forecast at 43N 152W. On Sunday AM (12/16) fetch is to build in the gales west quadrant with 40 kts winds forecast at 48N 142W aimed at Central CA down the 310 degree path. 23 ft seas are modeled at 45N 140W. By the evening the gale is to be pushing inland over Western Canada with residual 30-35 northwest winds at 45N 135W barely in the NCal swell window. 25 ft seas are forecast at 46N 140W. Rough data suggests minimal swell to push in to Hawaii on Monday (12/17) and reaching Northern CA on Tuesday (12/18) with period in the 14 sec range.
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. There was 335 nmiles of straight line fetch aimed towards CA. 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. There was 360 nmiles of straight line fetch 45 kts or greater aimed towards CA, which is pretty small, and this was it's maximum extent.
On Tuesday AM (12/11) confirmed winds were indicated at 50 kts over a small area at 45N 175W aimed northeast or 10 degrees north of the 297 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 the last fading 40-45 kt winds were confirmed at 48N 166W aimed east-northeast or nearly right up the 302 degree path to NCal. 32 ft seas were modeled at 46N 170W.
On Wednesday AM (12/12) 40 kts winds were fading at 50N 160W aimed 15 degrees north of the 307 degree path to NCal. 30 ft seas were modeled at 49N 163W. In the evening seas are to be pushing well north of any path to California and essentially out of the picture.
This system was very small, even though it had 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 occurred near the storm center, so no confirmation on seas heights is available. But by using the QuikSCAT data, winds speeds appear to be better than what the models depicted. It tracked 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 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 - likely a high estimate). 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: Expect 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: Expect 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 Thursday (12/13) high pressure at 1034 mbs was still holding 750 nmiles west of San Francisco generating a weak gradient off Cape Mendocino and north winds there at 20 kts, but light over the bulk of California. Even that limited fetch is to fade out on Friday as low pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska with light winds over the state. Maybe a weak front to pass over North CA Saturday AM (12/15) but no winds are forecast behind it. More light wind into Sunday then the calm pattern is to break as a front pushes over Central CA early Monday, but falling apart quickly producing only 10 kt south winds into Pt Conception. Lot's of south wind and rain is forecast Tuesday pushing into Southern CA early Wednesday. High pressure and brisk north winds to follow, becoming produced late Thursday (12/20) over Central CA.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
A short-lived storm developed in the Southeastern Pacific Wed (12/12) generating a decent fetch of 50 kt west winds near 60S 128W fading to 45-50 kts in the evening and 40 kts by Thursday AM. Seas were modeled to 36 ft Wed PM at 59S 125W all heading almost due east. Maybe limited hope for small swell pushing into Southern CA starting Fri (12/21) with period 18 secs. Otherwise 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 another more local gale is to start developing in the Gulf of Alaska on late Sunday (12/16) with pressure 1008 mbs and 30 kts winds developing over a small area courtesy of high pressure setting up north of Hawaii forming a gradient with the gale. By Monday (12/17) winds to be 30-35 kts 600 nmiles west of San Francisco with seas on the increase pushing 21 ft late and aimed a bit south of any path to Central CA. It's all to push inland Tuesday (12/18) over North and Central CA with 35-40 kt northwest winds and 25-27 ft seas modeled just off the coast. A stormy mess likely for California. Southern CA might fare OK though.
A system is to push off Japan on Friday (12/14) tracking northeast up the Kuril Islands and basically landlocked fading over Kamchatka late Sunday (12/16) generating a limited fetch of 35-40 kt west winds through the period and 25-27 ft seas. aimed a bit north of any route to Hawaii but still probably enough to produce minimal rideable swell with luck there.
Beyond (Thursday 12/20) high pressure that had been set up north of Hawaii is to be on the move east looking to impact California for the weekend beyond. Trades from this high to continue over Hawaii through the period.
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