Series of storms arrives to bring large surf and questionable conditions

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Austin Gendron
(Thursday) 2.16.17

Short Range Surf Forecast Overview

The first in a series of storm systems should be passing through the region in the morning.  A large mix of W-S swell is expected to increase early and stick around through the weekend as a couple more storms work their way through Friday and Sunday/Monday.  A few smaller systems should maintain large to moderate surf and unsettled weather through at least mid-next week.  Read more for details.

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San Francisco | San Mateo | Santa Cruz | Monterey | SLO County

I’m not quite sure where to start here, so I’ll keep it simple. Thursday looks like its probably going to be a bit of a troublesome day surf wise. A large mix of W-WNW (260-290) is due to arrive early, and build to a peak in the 10-12 foot range late in the day. Conditions are expected to be a bit messy with moderate to breezy winds primarily blowing onshore. That’s going to mean, despite large surf in the overhead to double overhead+ range along the exposed coast, its likely that conditions are going to mostly be insurable. Should be entertaining though. Some standouts are expected to show size in the double to triple overhead+ range. There’s a chance that winds could let up enough late in the day that there are some surfable conditions, but you’ll just have to keep an eye on it. The second system (due Friday) looks like it could be a trouble maker. I’m going to break it down into the following parts: rain, wind and surf.

As of right now its’ expected to take a more southerly track, heading towards the Central Coast and Southern California. Tapping into a very dense moisture plume, it is expected to drop heavy rain on much of the region starting Friday morning. Some southerly facing areas are expected to see as high as 3″ to 8″ of rainfall. The rains will start to taper off though Saturday. There is currently a flash flood watch in effect from Friday morning through Saturday morning for a few areas.

Next issues is wind. Breezy E-SE prefrontal winds will start up early Friday morning. That could mean a few spots could se cleaner conditions, but again its likely to be a game time decision. As the storm gets closer through the morning the winds are supposed to ramp up, with some forecast models suggesting 20-30 mph sustained S-SE winds for a period of time, with 30-40+ mph gusts. The front is expected to push east through Saturday, bringing breezy onshores that will eventually swing WNW-NW through the day Saturday. The strong winds on top of the heavy rains will likely mean downed trees. Surf conditions are going to vary a bit spot to spot. Southerly exposures will see the worst of it, while a few places that can channel the SE winds offshore could have some potential to clean up.

Most of Friday is going to be swell leftover from Thursday. Size will start off big again, with the standout exposed coast still seeing double to triple overhead surf. Size will back off a little bit through the day, but it may not be super noticeable. We’re still expecting wave heights to be running overhead to double overhead+ for most of the exposed coast. The trailing winds from Friday’s storm are going to kick up a pretty healthy fetch for Saturday. It look like the largest seas will be off the coast of Baja, but still Central California coast is looking 10 feet of energy farther north to 17 feet near Point Conception. There will be a blend of short-period energy on top of the medium period swell. Wave heights are likely to range anywhere from overhead-double overhead for the northern parts of the region to double to triple overhead+ at a few spots along the Central Coast. Either way, with winds onshore its going to likely be a bit messy if not a total disaster. Size will ease again somewhat on Sunday with winds backing off a little bit. It probably won’t be very good, but could be a little more surfable, especially for more protected breaks that can wrap in a some of the remaining swell energy.

After the brief break Sunday, it looks like we’re going to see another system approach from the W-WSW. There’s less confidence in this one. The models are a little torn on how strong it will be, and how much of an impact it will have on Central California. GFS models are suggesting a lighter rain event, with breezy onshore winds and another round of large westerly (240-300) swell and southerly windswell mix. The NAVGEM is showing a much stronger swell situation, more rain, and stronger winds, similar to Friday’s storm. The most recent consensus is to lean towards the GFS solution, with the system sliding further north and not being as problematic for Central California… We’ll have to wait and see.

Here’s what to expect on a day-to-day basis this week:

Thursday the 16th new stormy swell mix builds through the day bringing overhead to double overhead+ surf to the exposed coast late in the day. Larger at standouts. Conditions are looking pretty messy and mixed up for southerly exposures.

Friday the 17th, the windswell/swell mix associated with the storm should peak very early, with overhead to double overhead surf+. Conditions continue to look pretty messy through most of the day, but should probably check some more protected spots. Rains look heavy, and there’s likely to be debris in the water near outflow areas.

Saturday the 18th Winds shift more onshore out of the W-NW as another pulse of swell arrives. Conditions look pretty messy again for most areas. Southerly Exposures could see some solid surf with cleaner conditions though. Wave heights expected to be running overhead to double overhead+ with potential for double-triple overhead+ sets at standouts

Sunday the 19th surf starts to ease slowly. Conditions continue to be onshore. Standout breaks expected to run overhead to double overhead+. Southerly winds start to pick up later in the day ahead of the next storm.

Monday the 13th Another storm rolls through, although this time a little more questionable about intensity. Westerly swell mix builds again. Surf should be running overhead to double overhead+. Bigger sets at standouts. Conditions will be storm dependent.

Tuesday the 14th the large swell mix is expected to back off, although still plenty of overhead-double overhead+ surf at W-WSW exposures.

Wednesday the 15th We could see another storm arrival, potentially boosting surf again.

Tropical Overview

No tropical cyclones at this time

Long-Range Surf and Swell Forecast

North Pacific Swell Forecast

Assuming we’re probably going to see another storm arrival next Wednesday with questionable results I’m going to focus the long-range on a couple system out in the NW Pac early to mid-next week.

The first storm forms SE of the Kamchatka Peninsula on Monday, strengthening near the Aleutians. It looks like most of the storms energy will be focused ENE towards Alaska, but at least some of the fetch will be aimed at California. The storm could generate 35+ foot seas, with a weaker but broad part of the fetch pointed east. The storm should generate at least a moderate sized pulse of WNW long-period swell due to arrive next Friday. It will likely be a little too steep/weak to work into Southern California, but Central California will at least see some waves.

Another low moves off the coat of Japan late Monday/Tuesday, rotating through the deep long-wave trough in the NW Pacific. This one will capitalize on the already disturbed sea state left behind from the system mentioned above. As a result it could generate 35-40+ foot seas at the core of the fetch. It also looks like more of the storms fetch will be aimed E, while at a lower latitude as well. This will mean a better chance for Socal to see long-period swell, and for Central California to see more size. Right now, arrival date looks to be around the 26th-27th.

In the end we’re keeping an eye on some long-period energy arriving next weekend/early the following week. It doesn’t look big, but should at least mean some surfable waves before the end of the month.

South Pacific Swell Forecast

Smaller background swells on tap for the next couple of weeks.

Next long-range forecast expected for Monday the 20th of February. 

Austin Gendron
Surf Forecaster