West Coast New Year’s Week SURF Forecast

I know that this forecast is starting to sound like a broken record…but it might be one of the best broken records ever…sort of like when I got Metallica’s Ride the Lightening album jammed in the tape deck (yes it was before the iPod but not that much before), where it stayed stuck for about two months. Two glorious months. I know that this probably explains a lot, but we aren’t really here to talk about my issues. For a detailed worldwide surf forecast and report go to magicseaweed.com.

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My actual car at 16…thanks Pops.

Anyway back to the forecast…so once again I get to write “There is still plenty of storm activity in the North Pacific” and “The West Coast can expect another round of overlapping WNW swells, fairly decent conditions, and a pretty good-sized looking storm forming out the back”. Yep that sounds about as good as a broken record can.

To dive a little deeper into the details…the current atmospheric set-up is a pretty good one in terms of swell-production, and for the West Coast, in particular Southern California, it is a good one for winds and weather as well. Right now we have two main features that are worth watching.

The first, is the pretty stable ridge of high-pressure that is starting to park over the southern half of California. This ridge is getting the classic winter “peanut shape” as it stretches from Southern California up towards Utah/Nevada. It has a tendency to do this as we move further into the winter and storm fronts push through the Pacific NW…the combination of geography (high deserts, mountains, and the Southern California Bight, and more importantly the temperature differences they create, helps to capture and strengthen the ridge rather than letting it get squished off to the east. With the ridge in place storms have tendency to slide north, seemly nonstop into Humboldt County for some reason, and dump a ridiculous amount of rain…but it leaves SoCal and Central California relatively protected, both in terms of weather but in terms of wind as well. When the ridge forms like this the southern regions generally get warmer air temps and some light to variable or even moderate offshore conditions.

picture-39The second feature, which to me is the most important, is a broad, yet still developing “complex-low-pressure” that is setting up shop just South of the Aleutian Islands. If you remember, a complex low, is sort of like a storm merry-go-round where a central “anchor” low-pressure will hold position in the higher latitudes and a stream of mid-to-low latitude systems will swing around the center. These secondary storms have a tendency to be better positioned within our swell window, and thanks to that positioning have a greater tendency to be more dynamic and intense. This definitely seems to be the case with this system, particularly as we move into the last part of the forecast run. Check out the video on this one…

Based on this forecast and what has formed over last few days…we can expect the current WNW swell mix to back down through mid-week, never quite dropping out completely but definitely smaller than Mon/Tues. Then new WNW-NW energy arrives on Thursday and helps to hold us in fun-size plus surf through Thurs/Friday. NorCal will also be in fun-size plus sizes (but that is relative compared to SoCal). More overlapping pulses of WNW swell hit on Saturday and Sunday and it looks like more on tap for Monday and Tuesday of next week.

What is really interesting about this latest run is the larger low-pressure that is set to form on the last frame of the animation. (I stall out the video so you can check it out). Basically it looks like the “anchor-low” in the upper latitudes swings around and scoops up a warmer low-pressure and pulls it into some extra-tropical goodness. This helps to generate a much larger and more intense system…check out how it shows on the GFS and wavewatchIII wind/swell models.

picture-48picture-54As you can see it looks like a large shot of WNW swell heading for Hawaii by mid-next week (5-6th). If you measure out the distance it looks like Socal would see this swell on the 8-10th…likely peaking more on the 9-10th but depending on how much energy is cranked out in the longer-periods. It is way too early to guess on sizes but if it lives up to even this portion of the forecast it could be good for at least some overhead+ surf at the top spots. I will keep you posted as we get closer.

South Pacific

Is this still an ocean? I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the South Pacific…the NPAC is definitely picking up all of the slack, but man it would be nice to have a bit more combo to the swell. At this point there aren’t really any sort of significant Southern Hemi swells in the water, and none on the forecast. We are mostly just going to see a low-level background buzz of SW energy that never really stops but never really does anything for us either. Long-range charts are showing a slightly better looking SW pulse (but still very shadowed and small compared to the NPAC energy) hitting around Jan 10th.

So to get more specific for each region…

Northern California

The WNW swell that is peaking right now in NorCal will be on the way down through the middle of the week…it won’t drop completely off but it will decrease in size to a more manageable should-overhead+ range for many spots and a few breaks going a few feet overhead by Wednesday. New WNW swell (280-300) moves in on Thursday as a mix of local windswell and some medium-period swell that, by the afternoon, will have most spots going several feet overhead and the top breaks pushing back into the double-overhead+ range. Look for those waves to hold strong through New Year’s morning and the drop just slightly by the afternoon. More WNW swell hits over the upcoming weekend with more double overhead surf at the standouts…and likely another round of similar sized WNW energy hitting Monday and Tuesday (Jan 3-4) of next week. Weather looks a little wetter than spots further south…but as you move south of San Francisco it looks like winds are going to be pretty good for most of the week…hitting NE-ENE-E for many spots as we head into 2010. Good times.

Southern California

SoCal will see our smaller version of WNW swell (285-300) fade on Tuesday but manage to keep rideable waves at the exposed spots through the middle of the week. By Wednesday look for most spots to be in the waist-chest high range while the standouts still range around shoulder high+. Thursday a new WNW-NW swell (285-300) moves in and strengthens throughout the day. Look for more spots to push back into the shoulder high range by Thursday midday and the top spots to start seeing some inconsistent overhead+ waves sneaking through on the afternoon’s lower tides. This next swell will hold into Friday and then fade over the weekend. Fortunately the surf won’t drop off thanks to an overlapping pulse of WNW swell (280-300) coming in from a completely different system. This new swell will help to keep the top spots around head high to slightly overhead through the weekend and yet another WNW-NW swell (285-300) will help to keep those sizes rolling through early next week. Weather looks good for the most part…winds may be a little funky on Wednesday (chance of weak showers too)…but it will both warmer, and cleaner again by the end of the week.

Have a good one…hope you guys score a few over winter break!

Adam Wright
Forecaster

socalsurf.com