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 (12/16) Northern CA surf was double.cgius overhead and raw, jumbled and not well organized with building winter weather pushing in. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were head high to 2 ft overhead. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest high and on the increase. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was up to waist high at the best breaks. The LA Area southward to Orange County was thigh high. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were near waist high. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was flat other than wrap-around trade winds swell. The East Shore had head high windswell.
North/Central California was getting a solid dose of locally generated swell from the Gulf of Alaska focused just off Oregon. Southern California was getting a bit of long period swell from the dateline, though size was small. Hawaii's North Shore was essentially flat with only local tradewind windswell wrapping in from around the northern point of the Island. Local windswell was dominating the East Shore. The South Shore was flat in regards to any real swell, with only easterly windswell wrapping in. The storm pattern is isolated to the Eastern Gulf of Alaska focused on North and Central California and the Pacific Northwest. A series of small local gales are forecast to develop daily off Oregon pushing right into North CA through Friday generating some sizeable almost-swell with period in the 12-13 sec range but pretty raw and disorganized. Far from optimal local conditions likely too. Rain is in the forecast north of Pt Conception. Longer term the models are teasing about some sort of a real storm system developing over the dateline during the weekend with a possible nother one behind it offering Hawaii some action too, but that is just a guess. Looks like the Pacific is far from asleep. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sundays jetstream charts (12/16) for the North Pacific indicated cohesive flow pushing off Japan with winds to 140 kts ridging northeast near the dateline and almost .cgiitting with the northern branch pushing up to almost the Aleutians before diving south in the Eastern Gulf off the Pacific Northwest, offering best odds for surface level storm development there. The southern branch was pushing directly over Hawaii flowing flat into Baja Mexico. Over the next 72 hours that same pattern is to hold but with the ridge over the dateline becoming much less pronounced and the overall flow looking much flatter, while the separate flow over Hawaii slowly withering away. This is good news overall. The Gulf remains the best area for gale development, but it looks to be loosing it's edge. Beyond 72 hours all the energy that has been holed up over Japan by the .cgiit flow to the east it going to get a chance to produce something, once the .cgiit repairs itself mid-week. 160 kt winds to be on the move reaching the dateline Thursday (12/20) pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska Friday with a small but decent-enough trough setting up in that area very much supportive of surface level storm development. That trough to push east to almost the US West Coast by Sunday (12/23) while lesser but still decent winds at 170 kts remain on the dateline, but covering a small area. This is starting to look like the sort of jetstream pattern we look for this time of year.
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was in position just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii generating brisk easterly trade wind there and generating local short-period windswell. A gale (the second in the series) wa at 984 mbs and was building just off British Columbia with rain and snow already pushing into the coast up there and expected to extending its way south into Northern California by this evening. Swell from a previous gale was impacting the North and Central California coast with waves to 12 ft in the San Francisco area. Over the next 72 hours this same pattern is to continue with wave-after-wave of low pressure developing in the Eastern Gulf and and pushing inland over the same track. The first gale developed Fri/Sat (12/15) with 35-40 kts winds and 25 ft seas creating the swell arriving today (Sunday 12/16). The second gale developed Sat/Sun (12/16) generating 35 kts winds and 23-25 ft seas just off Oregon. That swell to arrive in North CA Monday (12/17) with swell to 10 ft @ 13 secs (11-13 ft faces) from 295-300 degrees. The next gale to develop Mon/Tues (12/18) with again 35 kt winds and 23-25 ft seas pushing into Cape Mendocino CA. Swell expected in NCal on Tues (12/18) in NCal at 10 ft @ 13-14 secs (11-13 ft faces) from 295 degrees. Yet one more is forecast on Tues/Wed (12/19) with a smaller area of 35 kt winds and a 25 ft seas. That swell to hit NCal on Thursday (12/20) at 10 ft @ 13 secs (10-12 ft faces) from 305 degrees. These systems are so numerous and so fast moving the exact details are not worth posting. Suffice it to say that there will be lot's of moderate period, somewhat raw and warbled surf pushing into North CA with decent size expected reaching into Central CA, from a more northern angle, and only remnant energy aimed down any great circle path to South CA due to the extreme northern swell angle. All these system are to develop east of Hawaii, offering no hope for that location.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/16) high pressure was fading off the coast with south winds already starting to build in locally. That front to push through and fade over Monterey Bay late Sunday with light winds forecast early Monday remaining calm through the day. But more south winds are forecast over outer waters moving in firmly Tuesday down to maybe Pt Conception. South winds again forecast for North CA on Wednesday making it to Big Sur before high pressure starts to get a little foothold Thursday and Friday with 15 kts winds possible. Another front is forecast pushing into Cape Mendocino Saturday stalling near Pt Reyes then generating light south winds maybe to Big Sur on Sunday. But really any projection this early is almost folly. But it's enough to provide a general sense of what might happen. .
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 swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces) period 17-18 secs fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs on Saturday (12/22) with 2.5 ft faces. Swell Direction 190 degrees.
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 a new storm is to start building over the dateline on Wednesday PM (12/19) with pressure 976 mbs and winds to 55 kts at 46N 179E. Seas building to 35 ft at 47N 178E. Thursday (12/20) it's to be joined by more energy pushing off the Kuril's producing a moderate fetch of 45-50 kts winds on the dateline late at 45N 176W aimed generally east towards North California up the 296 degree path but with peripheral energy at Hawaii down the 330 degree path. Seas up to 40 ft early at 47N 178W early. The fetch to build in size Friday (12/21) with 40-45 kts winds at 40-48N 165W aimed best at NCal up the 290-297 degree paths (295 SCal) with sideband energy at Hawaii up the 335 degree path. Seas still 40 ft at 43N 168W. This system to fade in intensity Saturday (12/22) with 40 kts winds holding at 47N 157W aimed exclusively at California up the 300 degree path (305 SCal). Seas 36 ft early at 42N 157W. Nothing to be left on Sunday with seas dissipating and swell hitting Hawaii and poised just off the California coast late. Of course this is all just a projection by the models and means nothing till winds starts blowing over the oceans surface. A nice tease though.
Yet anther storm is forecast to start winding up over the dateline late Saturday/early Sunday (12/23) with 45-50 kts winds acting on an already agitated surface quickly generating 30 ft seas aimed a little better towards Hawaii this time.
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