Monday, February 8, 2010

Southern California Long-range Surf Forecast – 2/08/2010

Forecast Overview

W-NW swell from the weekend backs down over the next couple of days but gets some reinforcement from local windswell (as well as sloppy conditions) starting Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday. Look for smaller surf on Thursday and into early Friday but then a new round of large W-NW swell and a playful sized SW swell fill in Friday afternoon and peak over the next weekend. A little rain and wind on tap for the middle of the week and then cleaner/better conditions settling in by the time we reach the weekend…just in time for the next round of swell.

Short Range (next 4 days)

Look for our mix of W-NW swell to back down on Tuesday…particularly through the morning. New building windswell will start to creep up by late in the afternoon and more as we head into sundown. Surfwise the average spots are going to see chest-shoulder high surf. The standout WNW-NW facing spots, in Ventura, the South Bay, and South San Diego, will see chest-head high surf with some overhead sets still mixing in on the lower tides. Winds/Weather: Light and variable winds on tap for the morning…with a few pockets of light texture here and there. Look for building W-WNW winds around 10-15 knots with gusts hitting 20 knots by late in the day…chance for showers and thunderstorms as well.

The swell from the weekend, the W-NW mix, will continue to back down while local WNW-NW windswell holds steady throughout the day. Wednesday is not looking particularly surfable, thanks mostly to WNW-NW winds that are forecast to hold throughout the day…there may be a few pockets of semi-rideable shape but mostly it will be pretty sloppy. Surf will hold around chest-shoulder high at the average WNW facing breaks while the standout WNW-NW facing spots see more chest-head high+ surf on the lower tides. The swell periods are going to be pretty short on most of this energy…so if you do see some sort of surf window open up locally try and check the spots that like windswells. Winds/Weather: Forecasts are calling for the last of the storm to be moving through in the morning…so a chance for showers and W-NW winds around 10-20 knots still early then clearer skies but still steady winds holding into the afternoon.

The mix of W-NW leftovers from earlier in the week and the local windswell from the last couple of days will back down on Thursday…leaving most spots with fairly small surf. Look for average W-WNW facing spots to see surf in the knee-waist high range while the standout WNW-NW breaks see some waist-chest high waves and a few shoulder high sets at the really NW exposed breaks of South San Diego. There will also be a little bit more SSW-SW swell in the water (190-215)…not a ton…but enough to put some small knee-high+ lines into SW facing breaks and maybe helping to peak up a few of the more exposed combo breaks. Winds/Weather: Winds will be light and variable for the morning with still a few areas of light onshore/variable texture at a few of the really open spots. Look for the more standard WNW-NW winds around 10-15 knots for the afternoon.

The surf will be building…but we might have to be a little patient through the morning since there won’t be a ton of new size showing yet. A new mix of long-period W-NW swell (275-300) and a new round of SW swell (200-215) will be filling in steadily throughout the day…with both swells starting up around 18-20 second periods…so your best bet is focusing on spots that like the longer-periods. Breaks around Ventura (though not Santa Barbara) will see building WNW surf sooner than other areas…while spots in OC and North SD that like the SW swell direction will also start to see some new, but inconsistent, sets creeping in early. For the morning, look for most breaks to continue to hold around knee-waist high+ with some chest-shoulder high waves pushing through inconsistently. Standout breaks, mostly the WNW facing spots in Ventura, will be more in the chest-shoulder high range with some bigger head high sets now and then. By the afternoon all spots will be starting to see more consistent chest-shoulder high sets while the WNW standouts and the excellent combo breaks see some chest-head high surf and some inconsistent overhead sets.This swell mix will continue to fill in overnight and will peak over the weekend…hell yeah combo swell! Winds/Weather: Winds look light in the morning…mostly below 10 knots…but there is another cold front expected to push close to the region and I am not sure how it will actually end up affecting us. Look for some breezier onshore flow in the afternoon…but the morning looks ok at this point.


North Pacific
As you read in the short-range part of the forecast…our current mix of W-NW swell will be slowly backing down as we move through the week but won’t drop all that fast thanks to an infusion of windswell (and sloppy conditions) that push through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Later this week is where things start to get really interesting…

There is a pretty macho looking storm forming just off to the NNW of Hawaii that is forecast to push across the mid-latitudes over the next couple of days setting up a pretty solid W-NW swell (275-300) that will begin filling in with long-period energy on Friday (Feb 12) but then peaking Saturday through Monday (Feb 13-15). NERD ALERT…skip ahead if the weather crap bores you This bad boy is really only part of the whole “interesting” thing…just the first part. What is forecast to happen behind this first low-pressure is pretty impressive. I have mentioned the term “complex” low-pressure before…well we have another strong instance of one forming. Check out the GFS model run for the next 5 days…

The first low-pressure is pulled back up just under the Aleutians into a slow spin that has the low-pressure center sort of warbling back and forth on the western edge of the Gulf of Alaska…I usually refer to this as the “anchor” low-pressure. Along the mid-latitudes we have several following low-pressures…each of them acting as sort of an embedded cold front…these lows each push along the path that the first storm paved, but stretch out that mid-latitude fetch further and further east as each new system goes through. Generally the bigger, more intense, and persistent (meaning how long it lasts timewise) an area of fetch can the bigger the surf we can expect. In the current set-up these storms establish a pretty significant stretch of fetch…several thousand miles long…with consistent winds around 25-30 knots with gusts hitting near 50+ knots at times.

What is even more impressive is that this fetch, while not always 100% aimed right toward Socal, does stick around for at least for the next 4-5 days. This means that storm1 establishes a pretty solid “sea-state”, which is usually all of the agitated water under a storm…but in this case means all of the agitated ocean that is being pushed in our general direction (IE swell+windswell+storm chop), and each successive low-pressure that trains on in behind the first storm just piles energy on top of an already existing swell. It also means that the following systems don’t need as much “total wind speed” to generate the same sort of swell that a storm moving over a neutral ocean surface would need. Check out the general up-tick in sea-heights that occurs after about 3-4 days…

That is a hell of a lot of water being thrown around…and a lot of it within Socal’s swell window...which for us generally equals awesome. END NERD ALERT

Sizewise…as the swell peaks on Saturday/Sunday and on into Monday I am expecting the average spots to see surf in the shoulder-overhead range, with some sets going a couple of feet overhead at the average spots with a little more WNW exposure. The better WNW facing breaks will be running consistently head high to a couple of feet overhead with some bigger sets mixing it up. The standout WNW-NW facing breaks in Ventura, the South Bay, and Southern San Diego, will see consistent surf going a 2-3’ overhead with some well overhead sets mixing in…possibly hitting near the double overhead range if things like the tide and wind are cooperating. The biggest days look like Saturday and Sunday…Monday will be a touch smaller but it won’t significantly drop off. Even better is that the weather is looking good for these days…likely light offshore winds through the mornings and semi-managable onshore flow for the afternoons (along with sunny skies). There will also be a decent-sizes, shoulder-head high SW swell arriving over the weekend as well…so there is a good chance of some decent combo swell shape. Hell yeah!

Further out it looks like trailing elements of the bigger storm will continue to push in overhead+ surf to the top spots through Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb 16-17) and possibly longer…basically at this point I don’t see any sort of definitive change in the NPAC storm track.

South Pacific
The SPAC is definitely starting to spin up some new activity…I have mentioned it in the last couple of forecasts...and the systems are finally in development, setting up some lovely fetch for us as I write this. Unfortunately we will still need to wait about 4-5 days for the swell to arrive, so don’t get super fired up yet. Between now and then we are going to see a mix of small background S-SW swells, none really over knee high+, that will get lost in the bigger shots of WNW-NW energy coming in.

Further out the storm down by New Zealand…but better positioned that most that form up down there…did pull together some decent fetch over the weekend so that SW swell is in the water headed our way. It wasn’t super strong…30-40+ knot winds and 30-foot seas…which are good numbers but not that good…particularly since the storm is a little shadowed by the South Pacific islands and is quite a ways away (around 5000-6000 miles off). The combo of distance and some-shadowing will shave some size off the swell…so at this point I am expecting chest-shoulder high SW swell at the average spots and some head high sets for the top breaks arriving around Feb 13-14. Remember the much larger W-NW swell will be in the water around the same time…so it looks like the weekend may end up being combo-swell-funtime at spots exposed to both swells.

Not much on tap in the forecast after the swell for Feb 13-14…but the general activity level of the SPAC is still pretty I am expecting something new to start showing on the charts fairly soon…possibly setting up some more SSW-SW swell for around Feb 18-19.

Next Long-range forecast will be posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010.

Adam Wright
Surf Forecaster

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