Updated most Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays
Sunday May 22, 2022 6:30 AM
By Nathan Cool
Surf Charts for SoCalRincon | Ventura, C-St. | County Line | Malibu | Hermosa | Huntington Beach
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At a glance:
Today (Sunday) NW wind swell has backed off big time as moderate southern hemisphere ground swell remains in SoCal. NW wind swell picks up slightly Monday and Tuesday, but then backs off when moderate southern hemi ground swell comes ashore during the second half of the week. More wind swell is becoming likely over the coming weekend. SW ground swell is due Memorial Day. Another SW swell is being tracked for the 3rd. We might see NW wind swell on the 3rd as well. Condition-wise: short-lived weaker May Gray midweek goes full-bore by the weekend; winds remain moderate for the most part; a shallow tide is affecting morning sessions; and water temps have warmed in most spots.
Early this morning, periods were primarily running 16 seconds from 190° and 11 seconds from 315°.
Most south facing breaks were running chest high on the better sets. West facing breaks were mostly waist high.
Buoys in the outer waters off SoCal were about 7' — a major drop from the near 15' a couple days ago. Nearshore buoys were about 2.5' with most of that being southern hemisphere ground swell, and about 30% of the spectrum was NW wind swell.
Tide levels are moderate with a receding tide during the morning for the next few days. Today we have a 4.7' high around 3:00 AM, a -0.4' low around 10:30 AM, a 4.1' high around 5:30 PM, and a 2.5' low around 11:00 PM.
Water temps were running 62-64° in most of SD yesterday. OC was more varied with Huntington 60°, Newport 63°, and San Clemente 65°. LA was running 59-61°. In VC, Channel Islands Harbor reported 60° overnight. SB Harbor reported 61° this morning.
NW wind swell has taken a backseat today, allowing the recent southern hemisphere ground swell to become the dominant energy in the SoCal surf zone. SW ground swell and NW wind swell will continue to trade places — and overlap at times — through the forecast as we're still in springtime transition with the North Pacific somewhat active and the South Pacific lighting up. The timing of NW wind swells will also affect SoCal weather; for instance, here's how the North Pacific pattern will look in a couple days when high pressure peaks over SoCal (model by NOAA MAG):
A high pressure ridge (blue arrow) over our area will push the jetstream (green) to the north, helping to warm things up a bit and reduce the onshore flow for less marine layer. Troughs of low pressure (red arrows) will be far enough away from the coast that winds along the coast should stay mild to moderate; thus, very little wind swell. But then this happens by the weekend (model by NOAA MAG):
As high pressure moves west away from SoCal, a deep trough of low pressure pushes south toward SoCal, increasing the onshore flow for the weekend. Winds and wind swell ensue with a possibly notable increase in wind swell — which I'll get to in a sec. After a brief break, models show this much heftier trough moving directly into SoCal by Friday the 3rd (model by NOAA MAG):
That would result in a more robust onshore flow and heavy wind swell too. In between these trough-driven wind swell events will be southern hemisphere ground swell, with some days overlapping for combo swells. But first things first...
Monday the 23rd into Tuesday the 24th should see an ever-so-slight increase in NW wind swell as a small fetch forms off NorCal from winds centered there. Southern hemisphere ground swell will back off, so both days are looking at waist high waves at most breaks. Both swells back off Wednesday the 25th.
Thursday the 26th remains on track for moderate southern hemisphere ground swell from this system that peaked last week in the low latitudes south of Pitcairn (model generated by XyGrib from NFCENS data):
This should bring waist to chest high waves to south facing breaks Thursday the 26th with swell angled from 190-195° and periods 16 seconds. Sets will likely be sporadic with fewer waves per set and long lulls between sets. NW wind swell should be nil, leaving the SW ground swell as the dominant feature. This swell should continue Friday the 27th, and then things change for the weekend.
Saturday the 28th into Sunday the 29th will likely see a notable increase in NW wind swell as that heavy trough moves in for the holiday weekend. Being a close-proximity event makes it difficult to call this far out, but it would be reasonable to expect at least chest high wind swell at west facing breaks Saturday and Sunday, perhaps even head high at times at standouts. Swell would be angled from the wind-swell-usual 300°+ with periods 8-10 seconds. Southern hemi swell will be minimal around that time, so south facing breaks will rely on NW wrap. Bear in mind though that these wind swell events fall in a very short window to forecast, so I'll need to see how this particular one plays out on the models over the next few days.
Monday the 30th NW wind swell will likely back off as the next southern hemisphere ground swell builds into SoCal from this system that peaked yesterday east of New Zealand (model by FNMOC):
This is a slight downgrade from last week's models, which showed seas reaching 40'. Today most models agree this one peaked with 30-35' seas while staying in low latitudes. Working the numbers on that, size is coming in at chest high for most south facing breaks by Tuesday the 31st (building Monday the 30th) with swell angled from 215° and periods 16-18 seconds. Note that sets could be infrequent with few waves per set and long lulls between sets. Either way, wind swell should be much weaker Tuesday the 31st when this southern hemi peaks in SoCal.
Thursday the 2nd (building day?) into Friday the 3rd is still looking at potential southern hemisphere ground swell from a similar system near New Zealand. This is out on the 84- to 120-hour models with varying scenarios. All models show a storm with at least 30' seas — check. But there are varying projections with some showing a reform, and/or a farther trek north a few days later for better-sized surf. This could result in chest to head high sets at south facing breaks by Friday the 3rd, with swell angled from 200-210° (and periods 16-18 seconds) but it's too early to make that call right now. I'll stay on top of it and I'll keep you posted.
Here's how the day-to-day is breaking down so far:
Monday the 23rd looks about waist high at most breaks.
Tuesday the 24th looks similar.
Wednesday the 25th is expected to run knee to waist high at most breaks.
Thursday the 26th is expected to run waist to chest high at south facing breaks and knee to waist high at west facing spots.
Friday the 27th looks similar.
Saturday the 28th should run waist high at south facing breaks, but it is likely that NW wind swell will build during the day, starting out at chest high at west facing breaks in the morning.
Sunday the 29th, so far, is expected to see NW wind swell increase, likely chest to head high at west facing breaks. South facing breaks would rely on wrap.
Monday the 30th, so far, is expected to run chest high at south facing breaks with sets being somewhat sporadic. West facing breaks should see wind swell back off, but still run about chest high.
Tuesday the 31st, so far, looks about chest high at south facing breaks from ground swell and waist high at west facing breaks from diminishing wind swell.
Wednesday the 1st, so far, looks about waist to at times chest high at south facing breaks and waist high at west facing spots.
Thursday the 2nd, so far, is expected to see SW ground swell fill into south facing breaks, running about chest high initially. Wind swell has a chance of building later in the day.
Moderate high pressure builds into the region over the next few days, peaking Wednesday. Marine layer should be thinner each day with an early burn-off today through Wednesday. Beach max temps should reach the mid 60s today and Monday, and then upper 60s Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday and Friday should see a later burn-off each day with max beach temps more in the mid- than upper-60s as high pressure wanes.
Saturday should see a trough of low pressure begin to dig south into the region, more so Sunday. This should make for a thicker marine layer each day with later burn-offs (by late morning), and beach max temps in the mid 60s. Coastal eddy potential is possibly Saturday and Sunday as well.
Monday the 30th is a transition day as low pressure starts to move east and high pressure makes a comeback (by Tuesday the 31st). Monday the 30th should have a morning marine layer with mid morning burn-off and max beach temps in the mid 60s. Tuesday the 31st should then see an earlier burn-off with max beach temps in the upper 60s, possibly the low 70s.
Winds at 6:00 AM were light and variable most everywhere with a slight onshore element. Afternoon onshores should reach 8-12 mph. Monday looks similar. Tuesday's AM light and variables will likely have a slight offshore element, and afternoon onshores should reach 8-12 mph. Wednesday looks similar. Thursday's AM light and variables will likely have a slight onshore/southerly element, and afternoon onshores should reach 10-15 mph. Friday's AM light and variables look to have a more onshore westerly element, with afternoon onshores easily 15 mph.
Until my next report (Tuesday), take care, be safe, and smile in the lineup!