Swell Breakdown: Late January XXL

Swell NotesThe FNMOC’s (Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center) model from today shows current wave heights. That size of the red blob shows the fetch associated with this storm, having 30′ seas this morning.

It’s going to be big. Really big. Scary big. Dangerously big. With the heaviest swell of the season seething in the North Pacific, the opportunity for some XXL surf is as glaring as the red monster you see in the model above. Thirsting for knowledge, we spoke with Mr. Cool himself, Nathan from SURFING Magazine’s forecast section to learn more about this swell. We asked him what was going on in this volatile little atmosphere of earth’s and he did tell. Dig in.

NATHAN COOL: A series of powerful storms have been coming out of the Western Pacific this week, positioned at low latitudes and directing swell at Hawaii and California. The North Pacific jet stream is to thank for this — however, high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska has been blocking these incoming systems from making it into or past the Hawaiian longitudes. (That same “blocking high” in the Gulf has also been responsible for the continued drought in California.) Recently, the high pressure has shifted to the east. So while California still remains under a portion of that high pressure dome, less of it is dominating the Northern Pacific, allowing the jet stream to extend eastward and guide swell-making storms into and past the Hawaiian longitudes.

Over the past week, California has seen west-northwest swell from this recent series of storms. The storms have been strong enough to throw surf at the west coast and traverse further east along fairly low northern Pacific latitudes. In just the past couple days, one system in particular took an interesting turn. With approximately 40′ seas when it peaked northwest of Hawaii, this system temporarily shifted south, directing a major amount of surf at the north shores of Hawaii. At about 3:00 AM (HST), the National Data Buoy Center’s buoy station 51101 went off with seas over 25′, increasing to nearly 30′. With periods between 17-19 seconds — a powerful groundswell — breaking wave heights could nearly double that. In fact, the National Weather Service in Hawaii has issued high surf advisories warning of 40-50′ surf on the north facing shores of Oahu, Molokai, and Maui — with special wording warning that approaching the shoreline could result in significant injury, or death.

This swell from this system should arrive Friday AM in Northern California, and later in the day in Southern California. Although this system was nearly smack-dab on top of the north shores of Hawaii, the bulk of it is expected to dissipate within 1500 nautical miles of California. This would still bring double-overhead surf to west facing breaks in Southern California, with waves potentially reaching 20′ in Northern California. This could mean a go for the Maverick’s Invitational.