Wednesday, January 4, 2012

North Pacific Swell Alert – Large WNW swell forecast for Later this Week


Unless you were living in a sea-cave being raised by your evil dolphin family…you probably already know that there has been a strong storm forecast to brew up in the North Pacific and that it will be sending us some swell relatively soon. I have been watching this storm for the last 7+ days and have had it in the long-range forecast but have been staying on the conservative side in terms of size and conditions. Computer models are fine and all that, but if they get bad data in…bad data comes out. So I like to wait till I get some actual measurements from the various satellites, ship reports, or buoy data if the storm is close enough to a platform.

 Well I got some of the first real data back today…from the WindSAT, which measures…wait for it…wait for it…wind, (it actually measures a combination of water vapor in motion using “the first space-borne polarimetric microwave radiometer.” For an even more nerdier answer additional information on WindSat, please visit STAR WindSat web site. (psst I suggest only looking at this if you are an insomniac and/or going on Jeopardy in the near future.)


Anyway…here is a zoomed in version of those winds just to the N-NE of Hawaii…still moving towards us.

And this, just for fun, is an overlay of those winds on top of the wavewatchIII swell model…so you can see why the angry red/purple/white blob is being generated. Keep in mind that this storm is also following in the wake of the system that set up the new WNW swell for Tuesday/Wednesday…so it gets to add a sort of “drafting affect” to the swell it is generating, adding in more energy on top of already active seas aimed toward the west coast. Basically it takes less energy to get the water moving the right way, so it’s more intense winds don’t have to work as hard and still produce a bigger swell.


 If that wasn’t enough, another satellite, the JASON-1, went right over the storm, so not only are we confirming that there have been 40-50 knots of wind in the key areas of fetch, the sea-state in the core of the storm has been about 28-32’ feet (even if you knock off about 10-12 feet of those seas as messed up short-period chop, you are still looking at 18-20 of deepwater swell about 2000-2500 miles from the West Coast. OK enough snoozeville…lets get to our actual surf. The West Coast, mostly California from Point Conception up through Southern Oregon, are going to have this W-WNW swell (275-300+) hit with long-period energy on Thursday, peaking overnight into Friday. Most average breaks in the region will be running consistently double-triple overhead on sets with a few of the deepwater big-wave spots, like Mav’s going 4-5 times overhead…maybe even bigger if the tides and wind cooperate. Check out the spot specific forecast 
for Maverick’s here.


There is enough W-WNW swell (275-300 but strongest 285-300) in the mix that a good chunk is forecast to make it into Socal, peaking on Friday and into Saturday with about 6-7 feet of deepwater swell @ 17-18 second swell periods…which you can see on CDIP nearshore forecast for Friday. 6-7’ feet may not seem like a lot at first, but remember this is deep water energy…and certain breaks will take that size energy and multiply it into a much bigger breaking wave. Right now, I am expecting W-NW facing spots in Socal (that aren’t shadowed by the nearshore islands) to see surf in the overhead to well overhead range on the sets…with the top spots in Ventura, the South Bay, and especially San Diego, seeing waves hitting close to double-overhead and possibly even a little bigger if the storm holds together for another half a day before breaking off to the NE. Anyway…make sure to keep an eye on our spot specific forecasts if you want to know how this swell will affect your favorite break (a quick hint, click the 7-day swell forecast tab under the red “advanced tools” section…it will break the swell down into 3-hour blocks, and showing the wind and the tides associated with that time, as well as the surf size and the top three swells in the mix…it is pretty cool.)


  Here is the one for Mav’s if you are curious. Keep checking it too…the model updates every several hours, so you may see different wind/swell data if things change. Oh and I think we should all personally thank my good friend Clint for planning back to back business trips during the next couple of weeks and Mother Nature likes to send good swell to Socal when he goes out of town. So thanks good buddy…have fun in Boston and Canada! If this keeps happening, I think we may start a "Send Clint out of SoCal" fund to keep the wave machine on.