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.
On Sunday (3/16) Northern CA surf was double overhead.cgius and blown out. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were chest high and warbled. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was 1-3 ft overhead and blown out. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was head high and white capped early. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest high and nearly chopped early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest to head high and even more at top spots but highly unorganized and windy. The North Shore of Oahu was chest high and coming up. The South Shore was near flat. The East Shore was chest to head high.
North/Central California was in the middle of a windswell event, with hard northwest wind in control. Southern California was also getting sizeable northwest windswell with poor conditions everywhere. Hawaii's North Shore was on the leading edge of a pulse of energy coming from the dateline and expected to hold for a while. Trades were in control producing some small windswell for the East Shore. The South Shore effectively had no swell of interest.
Swell from the dateline to be the name of the game for the most of the week. First up is to be Hawaii, with energy already starting to hit on Sunday and expected to continue through Wednesday before fading out. Literally nothing is forecast for the Islands from the North Pacific after that. Trade wind generated windswell is to continue on the East Shore and actually getting semi sizeable for the first 2/3 rds of the week. Little southern hemi swell is expected on the South Shore on Wed/Thurs. North and Central CA to continue with some form of windswell for the early part of the week with fun sized dateline swell showing up Wednesday and continuing for the rest of the week. Southern CA to see a fraction of that windswell and a little of the dateline swell too, but not much. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Sundays jetstream charts (3/16) for the North Pacific indicated a fully .cgiit jetstream flow in control .cgiitting on the dateline with a weak trough trying to organize in the northern branch in the Western Gulf of Alaska feeding in to a strong ridge pushing into the US West Coast. There was no energy of interest in the jet other than in the big ridge in the east. Over the next 72 hours things are to get even worse with the jet .cgiitting much more, with the .cgiit point peeling back to just off Japan and virtually no energy in either the north or southern branch. Very disheartening. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a trough is forecast developing in the northern branch starting over the Western Gulf and dipping through the Gulf pushing into the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday (3/19). That trough to continue into the late week and next weekend with more energy building, with winds reaching 170 kts by Saturday and providing decent support for some form of surface level low pressure, perhaps even a gale tracking east through the Gulf through the weekend. No other areas of interest were indicated.
At the surface today strong high pressure at 1036 mbs was 900 nmiles off the Central CA coast generating a strong pressure gradient along the coast and producing 30 kt northwest winds raking the coast from Cape Mendocino southward to Pt Conception and even wrapping into Southern California at near 25 kts. Messy windswell was in effect. The high also extended west just about to Hawaii generating brisk trades there at 20-25 kts and making for easterly windswell there. Weak low pressure was in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska, remnants of the Dateline Gale (see details below) and fading fast. Over the next 72 hours high pressure to remain in control, with the one off California slow working it's way inland Monday with a secondary one holding there into Tuesday then fading, with winds on the way down over the coast then. But a new strong one is to set up north of Hawaii Tuesday with pressure 1040 mbs ridging over the Islands and making for brisk trades there continuing into Friday (3/21). East windswell likely.
A new low was building on the dateline Thursday AM (3/13) with pressure 988 mbs and 45 kt winds aimed well at Hawaii from 40N 176E down the 317 degree path. The fetch barely held at 40-45 kts in the evening taking aim more to the east at 41N 178W aimed towards North CA down the 292 degree path (298 SCal). This fetch basically sat stationary through late Friday (3/14) pushing 40-45 kt winds directly at the Islands from 44N 180W aimed down the 325 degree paths and towards California from 43N 175W aimed 25 degrees south of the 294 degree path (300 SCal). Seas were toggling between 28-29 ft in the same region Thursday, settling down to the 26-28 ft range Friday into Saturday and offering up good advanced class swell potential for Hawaii starting Sunday (3/16) with swell 4.4 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft faces) holding into Tuesday with swell 5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces). This swell to push into exposed breaks in Central California starting Tuesday 3/18 reaching 6.6 ft @ 14 secs (8-9 ft faces) holding at 6.8 ft @ 13 secs Wednesday (8-9 ft faces) then slowly settling down into Friday and Saturday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (3/16) high pressure was in control at 1034 mbs located just 800 nmiles off Monterey Bay generating a pressure gradient and strong north winds at 25-30 kts over the entire coast, even pushing into Southern CA. Wind to start calming down Monday and even retreat some from Southern CA early, but still in the 20 kt range over all of Central CA. Winds to continue fading over Central CA on Tuesday (3/18) at 15-20 kts while Southern CA remains protected in the lee of Santa Barbara. Wednesday and Thursday are to be back to normal as low pressure builds in the Gulf taking the edge off the high. Friday (3/21) high pressure is to be at 1030 mbs trying to push into California but getting di.cgiaced well south by low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska, putting the usual pressure gradient aimed right in to Southern CA with 20 kt northwest winds forecast nearshore continuing into Saturday and starting to build up into the Pt Conception area.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
A gale pushed under New Zealand Fri/Sat (3/15) generating a small area of 35 ft seas modeled at 52S 165E Saturday AM barely in the Hawaii swell window and pushing east but decaying fast, down to 29 ft in the evening. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly under this fetch at 18Z on Saturday and confirmed seas at 38.0 ft over a 15 reading average with a peak reading of 41 ft at 52.5S 174.4E, besting the models measly 32 ft estimate for that location and time. Very Interesting. This gale is modeled to hold with near 30 ft seas forecast tracking from 54S 170W Sunday evening (3/16) to 50S 150W (due south of Hawaii). Limited odds for some form of southern hemi swell along Hawaii's South Shore a week out.
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 total breakdown of the greater North Pacific storm pattern is expected in-sync with the .cgiit jetstream pattern. But with the development of the trough in the Gulf mid-week a 988 mb low is forecast developing in the Northern Gulf Wednesday with a tiny area of 45 kt winds aimed towards the Pacific Northwest coast and seas building to 32 ft on Thursday. But winds are to be fading some Thursday only to be joined by more energy and coalescing into something of semi interest by the weekend (Sunday) with seas pushing 25 ft. In general this system is to be unorganized by winter standards but in-close proximity to the coast offering some odds for 13-14 sec swell generating for the Pacific Northwest down into North and Central CA with luck. This will be the only thing to watch in the coming days.
MJO Update: The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which is suspected in being a major contributor to pumping moisture into developing winter weather systems pushing east off Japan, has moved very strongly into the inactive phase, the strongest we've seen all year. The short of it is brisk surface easterly winds are in.cgiay and expected to continue into 3/26, cutting off the energy su.cgiy to gales trying to form in the area. This is really no surprise given that we are in a moderate.cgius strengthed La Nina. This pattern is expected to break down and move into the active phase maybe by the last day of the month, possibly ushering in a more active storm pattern. But given the late time in the season, odds for anything interesting to develop are getting slim.
The models suggest an a.cgiifying pattern of gales pushing under New Zealand. The one of most interest is to form just east of the dateline Tuesday (3/18) with seas building to 45 ft late Wednesday near 52S 152W aimed well towards the northeast (California and Central America) then fading through the day Thursday (3/20). Decent odds for well rideable southern hemi swell for the mainland if this develops as forecast.
More are forecast to follow suggesting that the Southern Hemi winter storm track is starting to wake up. And with the Antarctic Ice sheet well retreated at this time of year, this improves the odds for every bit of fetch to get traction on the oceans surface and contribute to any potential swell.
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