Thursday, November 20, 2008

Swell Update: California's Outer Buoys on the rise

I am starting to see the first signs of the new WNW swell (280-300) hitting the buoys this things are lining up nicely for a bump in wave heights as we head into the weekend.

I have been watching the NOAA Buoy #46059, AKA the California Buoy, and it has made a pretty good jump since this morning. Currently it is running about 16.5-feet at about 14-15 seconds.

The California Buoy is a very good indicator for watching incoming WNW-NW swells. It sits about 600 miles WNW of Southern California giving us about a day's lead time on approaching surf. An average 15-17 second period swell travels about 600 miles in a day (give or take...the slower the swell period the slower the waves are going.)

Generally OC and SD will lag a little further behind in swell arrival time since they are buried a little deeper in the SoCal Bight (a little further east than SB, Ventura, and LA) if the swell is set to arrive late in the afternoon, like this one we have arriving this weekend, OC and SD won't see much of an increase in surf size until after dark...with the biggest "rideable" size arriving the next morning even if the swell is actually peaking overnight.

For this swell, if you are checking the Buoy Summary on ( ), you can see the #46059 buoy jump out pretty quickly...this is especially gratifying if you happen to be a surf forecaster waiting for a swell that you forecasted.

Hmm where is that swell?

This buoy summary is a great tool for getting the buoy's "big picture" relatively quickly by allowing you to see most of the Pacific buoys in one place. But it is important to note that this data is generally showing near current you need to establish a timeline when you see the buoys start to pop. (This buoy could have been showing increased sea heights for 12+ hours which means that the swell could be halfway here already not just a day out).

From this summary I usually drill down into the buoy data itself. (I have a whole post on buoy data here if you want to check it out)

All of the buoys show at a minimum 24 hours worth of older data...some of the NOAA buoys go back 5-days.

Just looking at wave heights for the California Buoy helps me to establish my timeline. Check it out.

If it was a smaller swell I might dive deeper and check out swell periods but this swell is pretty noticeable on this chart. So to set my timeline I would say that this swell really started to show on this buoy around 12-zulu on Thursday. (Zulu time is Greenwhich time, which is also called UTC or GMT on some charts. Depending on if we are in daylight savings we are either 7-hours or 8-hours behind Zulu time...right now it is 8-hours).

So this buoy started to see the new WNW swell around 4am PST this morning but didn't start to peak until about 1-2pm PST.

If this were a 17-second period swell I would expect to see building waves at the exposed beaches starting tomorrow morning and then the peak in the afternoon. Since the peak of the swell is actually closer to 13-14 seconds I have to move the peak of the swell back a few hours for SB/Ventura and even further back for Orange County and San Diego.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...snort...ugh, yeah, that is great Adam but what does that mean for the surf?

Basically the swell is in the water, hitting the out buoys, and will be arriving later tomorrow afternoon. I expect Santa Barbara and Ventura to start to see some slowly increasing wave heights starting after lunchtime and increasing as we head toward sundown.

Spots further south down the coast will see wave heights building in after dark.

Eventually the swell will peak overnight but will hold wave heights into Saturday. By then I am expecting most exposed WNW facing spots to have surf in the chest-shoulder high range. Standout WNW facing breaks in Ventura and San Diego will have consistent head high surf. Top breaks, mostly in San Diego, will have some sets going overhead+ on the faces.

Oh and just a random note...if you are looking for consistently larger surf...Northern/Central California are going to get some good sized surf from this swell. Lots of 6-8'+ faces at the average spots and some 10-12'+ sets at the top breaks. It peaks up there on Friday but holds strong into Saturday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AW, Unreal post, don't listen to the window lickers and dumb your stuff down. Bright minds and hardcore vets are appreciative and right on your wavelenghth, (pun intended). We comend you!! Coconutz!
PS 14 second secret, awoo.
don't strain your brain window lickers, just let it goooooooo!!