Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swell Alert – Good sized W-WNW heading to the West Coast

A strong new W-WNW swell will start moving into the California Coast late tonight, hitting the Northern and Central California regions well after sundown and eventually peaking in those regions on Thanksgiving.

Southern California will start to see some WNW-NW (280-300) long-period energy (18-20 seconds) later Thursday afternoon…eventually peaking throughout the day on Friday and holding into the weekend.

Like most of the intense storms we have seen so far this season this latest system is another mix of extra-tropical moisture from near Japan and a colder, higher-latitude, cold-front moving off of Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. The rapid cooling of the warm-moist air-mass is helping to fuel the storm’s intensity, which has been pretty impressive…40-50+ knots of wind and 30-35 foot seas have been recorded (not just forecasted) in the key areas of fetch. Check out the latest JASON-1 satellite data…you can find this same stuff over on the website…and as usual a bit thanks to Mark Sponsler for letting me poach a couple of charts now and then. Make sure to visit his site when you get a chance.

And here is the equally impressive WavewatchIII forecast chart…as you can see the two are pretty matched up.

Anyhoo…the pictures are pretty in all…but lets talk about some surf.

Northern and Central California

The new W-WNW swell (275-315) is already showing on the SE Papa Buoy (#46006)…and actually started to hit this outer buoy around 4-5 am this morning with a sizeable dose of energy in that 18-20-second swell-period range. Check out the buoy’s historical data…

This buoy is about 600 miles west of Eureka…and is generally considered the 1-day buoy for Northern and Central California, which means that it takes a swell in the 17- to 18-second period range about 23-24 hours to actually hit the Northern/Central Cal beaches. (This buoy is usually 36-40 hours away form Southern California, depending on the swell period…)

So based on the buoy data, and the JASON-1 pass, this is going to be a pretty solid swell for the exposed spots North of Point Conception. It will peak with 12-14-feet of deepwater swell, which generally translates into consistent well-overhead to double-overhead+ surf for the average spots. Top breaks will be more consistently in the double-triple overhead range. Best deepwater breaks, like Mavericks, will see steady 14-16-foot faces with some bombs coming in around 20’+ on the face.

Winds and weather are going to cooperate on Thursday…lots of light/variable winds in the morning with some spots seeing light/moderage offshore flow through the first part of the day. NW winds build in through the evening and strengthen more into Friday…if you are surfing this area, Thursday will definitely be the cleanest and likely the most fun day of this swell.

Check out the CDIP models for the area…

Southern California

Socal is going to see some new long-period WNW-NW energy (280-300) showing in the well exposed Santa Barbara and Ventura breaks late in the afternoon/evening on Thursday. The swell will fill in more overnight and will start to peak for all areas by midmorning on Friday.

Friday Morning…

This is another one of those swells where the majority of the energy is riding in around 290-300…but with enough (more) westerly energy from (280-300) to keep waves showing at the lesser exposed spots.

As this swell peaks we can expect the average WNW facing spots to see consistent chest-shoulder high surf with sets going head high…with a couple of bigger sets mixing in. The top NW facing spots in Ventura, the South Bay, and parts of San Diego, will see consistent shoulder-overhead surf with some sets going 2-3-feet overhead…and possibly bigger at those excellent breaks that can focus the long-medium period NW energy.

Winds look good for both Thursday and Friday…mostly light and variable through the mornings (a little more offshore on Thursday)…and then only moderate onshore flow around 10-15 knots for the late afternoon. Stronger NW winds build in later Friday evening.

Overall…this is looking like a pretty good swell, particularly if you like big waves and you live up North. For SoCal though…I think it will be fun, but due to the majority of the energy coming in from 290+, there will be some shadowing issues…and if you don’t stick the best exposed spots you won’t see the larger surf. It will be rideable almost everywhere that has exposure…so you don’t “have” to drive far to get waves, but if you are looking for the overhead stuff plan on heading to the normal winter standouts.

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