SoCal Forecast
Updated most Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays

Thursday March 26, 2020 6:10 AM
By Nathan Cool

Surf Charts for SoCal

Rincon | Ventura, C-St. | County Line | Malibu | Hermosa | Huntington Beach
Trestles | Old Mans | Oceanside | Beacons | Sunset Cliffs

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Today (Thursday) there's a lot of short-period wind swell in SoCal, along with lesser southern hemi ground swell. Wind swell should peak Friday with a temporary break Saturday before another round is due. More wind swell is likely on the 1st, and there's a chance that could build during the second half of next week. Looking out on the longer range, we could see a decent sized SW ground swell around the 7th. Condition-wise: more rain in the forecast with more drier days in between; winds problematic at times; tide levels are moderate; water temps remain fair but trending lower; water contact advisories continue; and many beaches are closed.

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Early this morning, periods were primarily running 6-8 seconds from 280-300°, 12 seconds from 305°, and 16 seconds from 210°.

Most west facing breaks were running chest high and south facing breaks waist high, but wave shape is highly questionable from the wind swell.

Water Contact Warning: Recent rain has increased the risk of high bacteria levels in the surf zone from runoff. As a reminder, there is a risk of increased bacteria levels for at least 72 hours following any measurable rain-event, during which time water contact should be avoided.

Beach Closure Notices: Due to concerns of heavily occupied parks and beaches during the stay-at-home orders, California State Parks has closed vehicular traffic to many parks and beaches. These include — but are not limited to — the Malibu Pier, El Matador, Leo Carillo, Point Dume, all of Seal Beach, all of Newport Beach, all of Laguna Beach, and many beaches in San Diego like those in Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, and Solana Beach. This is only a partial list, and like most things during this pandemic, it's dynamic and constantly changing.

Swell Forecast and Schedule
Buoys in the outer waters off SoCal were running 7-8'. Nearshore buoys were running 5' with the bulk of that being very short-period wind swell.

Tide levels are fair with a 0.5' low today around 5:30 AM, a 4' high around 11:00 AM, a 1' low around 5:00 PM, and a 4.8' high around 11:30 PM.

Water temps were running 60-61° in most of SD and OC yesterday, although Mission Beach reported lower at 59° and San Clemente was warmer at 64°. LA was running 58° in many spots. VC and SB were running 59-60°. Strong outer water winds may cause some upwelling, so slightly cooler water temps are possible over the next couple of days.

Swell-wise: The primary swell energy around SoCal today is short-period wind swell driven by that cold trough that's been pushing south:

This FNMOC shows that trough rather well with the dashed blue line (with FR in it) showing the freezing boundary in the upper atmosphere, butting up against warmer air to its south. This is creating not only pressure gradients to fuel the wind machine, but also tight temperature gradients to give winds an added boost. This system took a mostly-overland track so it's fairly dry, but some precip chances are likely later today (more on that below).

Today we're also seeing southern hemi ground swell from a storm that peaked south of French Polynesia almost ten days ago. But while the FPoly swell brings waist high waves to south facing breaks, the wind swell is outdoing that at west facing breaks. In fact, west facing breaks will likely see wind swell increase a bit Friday the 27th (chest+) before temporarily backing off Saturday the 28th, which is when we should see steep angled SE ground swell from that Chilean storm I've been talking about this week, circled in this NCEP model below.

That particular storm was angled very steep for SoCal, angling swell from 165-170°, so few breaks would see this. Those that do can expect waist to at times chest high waves with periods 16-18 seconds Saturday the 28th.

Sunday the 29th into Monday the 30th is now looking at a slight increase in NW wind swell. Another low will be diving south from the Gulf of Alaska, but this time it should come closer to the west coast once it passes SoCal. This places wind swell more from LA south, with VC and SB seeing less of it. It also places question marks in the weather forecast. In any event, it looks like west facing breaks would see waist to chest high wind swell by midday Sunday, peaking early Monday morning.

Wednesday the 1st into Thursday the 2nd has a chance of seeing a combination of NW and westerly wind swell generated from this puppy:

This particular low, shown on that FNMOC model, would take a more over-water track directly south from the Gulf, which all models agree on so far. But then, some models show it taking a turn directly at SoCal. This would initially bring NW wind swell to SoCal Wednesday the 1st, but then westerly wind swell could build Thursday the 2nd into Friday the 3rd. This is too far out on the long range models to call, and models are all over the place with it. This, btw, could also bring rain if it takes that westerly course to our area. Either way it's premature to call size and such, but I'm on it, and I'll keep you posted.

The potential Pitcairn swell for the 1st, btw, has been downgraded with south facing breaks picking up waist max waves. Wrap from the wind swell may overshadow that. But something better is showing up a couple weeks out.

Tuesday the 7th could see very long-period, decently sized southern hemi ground swell from a potentially large storm that would break off Antarctica:

As this WW3 model shows, a super hefty fetch could break off Antarctica with seas in the 45' range. But, this would be at well over 5,500 nautical miles away with barely any northward nudge. That's what the 84h models say. Going out a tad further on the 120h+ models, it looks like that fetch could move slightly more northward to send something better sized to SoCal. Working the numbers this morning, this would come out to chest high surf at south facing breaks Tuesday the 7th, and then chest to head high Wednesday the 8th. Swell would be angled from 180-190° with periods 20-22 seconds. It's too early though to call it today...I'll keep you posted.

Here's how the day-to-day is breaking down so far, but first, here's an ad to help pay the bills:

Friday the 27th should see wind swell at west facing breaks in the chest high range with occasional pluses. South facing breaks should run waist high, with better size from the NW wrap at SW exposed spots.

Saturday the 28th looks about waist high everywhere with occasional chest high pluses at standouts.

Sunday the 29th should see NW wind swell build during the day, topping out at waist to chest at west facing spots. South facing breaks look smaller.

Monday the 30th will likely run waist to chest from wind swell at west facing breaks, smaller at south facing spots.

Tuesday the 31st, so far, will likely run waist to at times chest high at south facing breaks as another south of NW wind swell starts to build.

Wednesday the 1st, so far, looks about chest high at west facing breaks and waist high at south facing spots.

Thursday the 2nd, so far, looks about chest high at west facing breaks and waist high at south facing spots.

Friday the 3rd, so far, holds potential for slightly stronger wind swell at west facing breaks.

Saturday the 4th, so far, would likely see the wind swell back off.

Sunday the 5th, so far, looks about waist high everywhere.

Monday the 6th, so far, looks similar.

Tuesday the 7th, so far, holds potential for chest high ground swell at south facing breaks.

Wednesday the 8th, so far, holds potential for chest to head high ground swell at south facing breaks.

Thursday the 9th, so far, looks about chest high at south facing spots.

Weather Outlook
As the cold trough of low pressure moves through SoCal today, look for skies to cloud up and some precip chances later this afternoon into the evening. Beaches are looking at high 50s to maybe 60° max today.

Friday looks dry with beaches warming into the low 60s as the trough moves east. Skies look fairly clear. Saturday looks dry as well with beaches in the low 60s, but more clouds could start streaming overhead as the next low approaches the region.

It now looks like the next low dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska could bring precip to SoCal by Sunday afternoon. Not all models align with this, but enough are in agreement to toss a good 60% chance of light rain (trace to 0.1") across most of SoCal Sunday mid afternoon, mostly though north of SD. Beach max temps should reach the low 60s Sunday either way.

Monday and Tuesday look clear with plenty of high pressure over SoCal, warming beaches into the mid to upper 60s. Wednesday the 1st would likely be similar. But...

Thursday the 2nd could see more rain in SoCal. Some models (like FNMOC's NAV) show copious rain coming ashore from the same low bringing wind swell around that time. Yet other well-trusted models (like the CMC and GFS) kinda shrug their shoulders at it, with a 'meh sort of forecast. I pushed a red pin in the forecast charts for now, but I'll see how it goes over the next few days.

Wind Outlook
Winds at 6:00 AM were light and variable most everywhere with a northerly, mostly onshore element. NW onshores should pick up quickly and reach 20-25 mph this afternoon. Friday is looking at AM offshores 5-10 mph, but with onshores picking up late morning, reaching 15-20 mph in the afternoon. Saturday should see AM light and variables with afternoon onshores 10-15 mph. Sunday will very likely see onshores pick up early and reach 20 mph in the afternoon.


Until my next report (Sunday), take care, be safe, and smile in the lineup!


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