There is still some good news in our North Pacific forecast…the storm-track still has enough energy for at least one more "winter-size" WNW-NW swell before really starting to close up shop. The storm that will be sending this swell is actually start to develop today but the main portion of swell generation is going to occur as the storm peaks late Saturday night and through Sunday morning. Check out the swell-height chart…it looks pretty legit as the storm finally develops and in the process sets up new swell for both Hawaii and the West Coast.
The waves from this storm will be arriving in Hawaii on Monday, eventually hitting the West Coast on Tuesday, and in Socal late Tuesday and on into Wednesday. Lets take a little closer look at this storm…but first I have to issue a weather nerd alert…if you can't deal with terms like isobars and pressure gradient (and I don't blame you) go ahead and skip past the next section.
Weather Nerd Alert
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All of these charts are showing the same time-period…Sunday Morning around 4-5am. I like to look at the Sea-Level-pressure charts (generated by the GFS weather model) to establish the wind direction and the core elements of the fetch. The isobar lines between the high/low pressures indicate a pressure gradient…and the more lines, packed tighter together, mean stronger winds. Generally winds follow almost directly along these lines…so if they line up, pointed your direction inside your swell window, it is a good thing. I use a chart like this to determine the position of the storm, the size of the fetch, the intensity of the winds, and the swell-direction spread (that you don't really get just looking at a wave model).
The second chart is the 10-meter wind forecast…basically this means that it is using the GFS model to show the forecast winds occurring along the surface (10-meters and below). Since we need wind actually blowing along the surface of the water this is pretty much the only "storm winds" that matter.
This chart isn't all that useful to me, mostly because the resolution is pretty poor (I usually look at the 10-meter winds in a much tighter view…like the COAMPS charts that I show you guys for local SoCal winds), but it is a great tool for you guys that want to do a little forecasting yourselves…if you look at the Sea-level-pressure chart and the 10-meter wind chart for the same time periods you will start to get a feel for how the lows behave, what you can expect with particular pressure gradients, and how they change at the different latitudes.
The final chart is one that most of you are pretty familiar with…it is the WavewatchIII significant sea-height chart…it is generated using the same sort of atmospheric models (the GFS/Ensemble model in this case) that are used to generate the other charts. While this is a good chart to look at by itself you can learn a lot more by looking at it in tandem with the SLP and 10-meter wind charts. One of the biggest things you can see is how the sea-state is reflective of the wind…normally, when seas are big, it is because the wind/storm is right on top of that stretch of water, occasionally though you can see a large lump of swell that has left the "storm area" and is en-route to somewhere else (hopefully Socal or your various vacation destination of choice). I use this chart and the variation where I can see the dominant swell-period (rather than the sea-height) to track the large-scale behavior of storms and swell while they are in deep water.
Anyway…I thought you guys might like to see a few of the forecasting elements that I am currently using to generate these bad boys. You can find those charts HERE… just click through the "certificate warning" to get to the charts…
End Weather Nerd Alert
Okay back on track…those charts are cool…but lets get to the most important part, which is that this storm is going to set up some healthy waves for next week. Hawaii will get the first shot of this swell…it will come in pretty "Northy" but it will have some decent 10-15' faces at the well exposed spots, despite the fact that the best part of the storms fetch was a little too far to the East for Hawaii. Nor/Central California and the Pacific NW will have this swell coming up fast on Tuesday, eventually peaking later in the afternoon and holding into Wednesday before fading out through the end of the week. This region may end up seeing the biggest surf since the storm had the PAC-NW right in its cross-hairs…at the end of the day the conditions may be a little suspect but there will still be plenty, and I mean plenty, of surf at the protected spots.
SoCal will get some waves from this one as well, though thanks to shadowing from Point Conception it will be much smaller. Look for this new WNW-NW swell (285-300 but with most of the energy up around 290-300) to start filling in later on Tuesday and eventually peaking on Wednesday/Thursday…it also looks like there might be some ok S-SW swell in the water and good weather…so it could end up being pretty fun by the middle of next week for Southern California.
The South Pacific is also starting to get a bit more active…in fact the chart above is showing a storm that has developed over the last couple of days. As you can see this storm is pretty well positioned to send a S-SSW swell (180-200) to Southern California (and Baja, and Northern Cal, and, Mainland Mex, and Central America, and Tahiti…should I go on?). It won't be massive…but it does have some decent enough wind speeds to get enough energy out there to combo the last shot of WNW swell as it hits through the middle/end of next week.
Here are the details for each of the regions…more on the sizes/periods and arrival times in the sections below…
The weekend will have surf but it will be on the smaller, sort of short-period side as most of the energy comes in the form of NE-E tradeswell and some shorter-period N swell that will slip out of a fast moving cold front that pushes close to the islands. We can still expect plenty of surf in the head high to overhead range for the weekend with some sets going a few feet+ overhead at the deepwater spots that like the shorter swell periods. These waves will back down a bit on Sunday but we can still expect some springtime fun at the well exposed spots. A new, much bigger (with longer-periods) NW-N swell 330-360 moves in late on Sunday (mostly after dark) and peaks on Monday/Tuesday. This one looks good for 10-12' of deepwater energy at 14-16 second swell periods…which means the average spots will have easy double-triple overhead faces and the deepwater spots like Sunset Beach could see triple-overhead+ sizes. Look for this swell to fade out through the middle of next week…but it looks like a following storm may push wave heights up again starting on Thursday (March 18).
A steeply angled NW swell (290-320) will move in and peak on Friday/Saturday…the periods are super long (13-14 seconds) but the swell has some ass to it. Many spots will have surf in the well-overhead range with some double overhead sets showing occasionally. Look for the standout NW facing spots to have some waves going double to almost triple overhead on the biggest sets. These waves will back down slightly as we move into Sunday…but hold onto enough energy to see overhead+ sets through the morning. The winds don't look great for the weekend, yet another cold front pushes through and we can expect S winds and rain pushing through by late Friday and then NW clearing winds coming onshore Saturday and Sunday. By Monday conditions start to improve and while we start with leftovers in the morning another, longer-period WNW-NW swell (280-320) will start to arrive late in the day…eventually peaking on Tuesday with some easily double-triple overhead faces at the average spots and some sets going triple-overhead+ at the best breaks. Deepwater spots like Mavs will have sets in 15-20'+ range with some occasional 25'+ bombs mixing in during the lower tides. Conditions look a little sketchy as another storm moves through to the North (up in the Pacific NW)…but they might not end up too bad, particularly at spots with some wind protection. These waves fade out slowly through the middle/end of the week and there isn't much on tap to replace them.
Right now we have a tightly wound low just off the coast of British Columbia that, back in the backside of the low, is setting up some WNW-NW swell (285-300) for the weekend…it will also drop a cold front down the California Coast on Saturday that will help spin up some local NW windswell (290-300) that will peak on Saturday night and hold into Sunday. Both of these swells will set up some waist-shoulder high surf for the average NW facing spots this weekend…and probably some head high+ sets at the standout NW breaks, mostly in Ventura, the South Bay, and Southern San Diego. At this point it looks like the combo of winds/position of this storm is going push a new WNW-NW swell (285-300 but with most of the energy up around 290-300) our way for early next week. We can expect the initial portion of the swell, the long-period stuff, to start arriving through the second half of the day on Tuesday (Mar 16) and then the peak of the swell hitting Wednesday/Thursday (Mar 17-18). This swell mix looks good for waist-shoulder high+ surf for most WNW-NW facing breaks…with some overhead+ sets hitting the standout NW areas (Ventura, South Bay, and South SD)…it also looks like there might be some ok S-SW swell (185-215) in the water and good weather…so it could end up being pretty fun by the middle of next week.
Next forecast will be on Tuesday, check back in for the latest update!