Updated most Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays
Sunday February 16, 2020 6:00 AM
By Nathan Cool
Surf Charts for SoCalRincon | Ventura, C-St. | County Line | Malibu | Hermosa | Huntington Beach
Trestles | Old Mans | Oceanside | Beacons | Sunset Cliffs
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Today (Sunday) we have a light mix of NW swells in SoCal, which should increase a bit over the next 48 hours. Smaller surf is on tap during the second half of the workweek, but then NW swell is due this coming weekend. Some very sizable NW wind swell is becoming likely for the 24th-25th. And a potentially good-sized NW ground swell is becoming possible for the 27th. Condition-wise: weather remains mild this week with slight rain chances at some point over the coming weekend; winds stay fair for a while but a strong wind event is possible early next week, with a potential for a major drop in air temps; tide levels swing wider as the week progresses; and water temps, which are fair right now, could drop by the middle of next week.
Early this morning, periods were primarily running 13-14 seconds from 295-310°, and 6-10 seconds from 295-300°.
Most west facing breaks were running waist to chest high. Direct south facing breaks were mostly waist high.
Swell Forecast and Schedule
Buoys in the outer waters off SoCal were running 6-7'. Nearshore buoys were running 1.9-2.4'.
Tide levels are fair today but will swing wider this week as we approach a New Moon Sunday the 23rd. Today we have a 5' high around 3:00 AM, a 0.4' low around 11:00 AM, a 2.9' high around 5:30 PM, and a 2.3' low around 10:00 PM.
Water temps were running 57-59° in most of SD and OC yesterday, although San Clemente once again checked in slightly warmer at 61°. LA was running 58-60°. VC and SB have been running 58-59°.
Swell-wise: Rays of surfable hope shine on the horizon today. However, the Pacific's pattern resembles a springtime transition, when the jetstreams/storm-tracks can change quickly and a lot can happen in the way of waves, weather and wind. The good news is that the stubborn Omega Block pattern has dissipated, but high pressure will, at times, still dominate the Gulf of Alaska, keeping the storm track at high latitudes, but not completely eliminating it. There are a number of systems in this pattern that'll be affecting not just surf but also weather and winds over the next couple of weeks. Before getting to all of that though I would like to ask that if this isn't your first time reading my report that you consider a small donation to ensure this report continues. You can give any amount you like, and there's also a monthly option as well.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
Monday the 17th (building day) into Tuesday the 18th (peak day) should see swell from a storm that recently peaked near the Aleutians, which should mix with wind swell kicked up by its final jaunt along the west coast. The wind swell portion though has been downgraded as this system is now staying more to the east than models forecast last week, which in turn won't affect weather and winds much either. All told, west facing breaks are looking at waist to chest high sets Monday, and more consistently chest high Tuesday. Note though that we'll be in a fairly wide tidal swing Tuesday, so mid tide sessions will run mid morning, with dawn patrols possibly getting shutdown from a deep high, and then a negative low around lunchtime.
This NW combo should back off Wednesday the 19th through Friday the 21st. As it does, minor southern hemi should be able to peer through, leaving most breaks in knee to waist max surf those days.
Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd are looking at moderate NW swell as a high latitude Aleutian storm marches into the Gulf, and then a cut-off low pinching off from it spins to its south, just 700 nautical miles from SoCal (see graphic here). That same cut-off low could bring rain to the region this weekend, but models can't seem to nail that down (more on that in the Weather section below). As for swell, as it stands right now, west facing breaks would be looking at chest high sets with swell angled from 300°, and periods 12-15 seconds, with Sunday the 23rd potentially being slightly bigger.
Monday the 24th (building day) into Tuesday the 25th (peak) now holds a very good chance of seeing exceptionally strong NW wind swell. Models are staying the course — run after run for the past 48 hours — showing a super strong low dropping south through the California interior, butting up against a super strong high in the Pacific (see graphic here). This would create exceptionally strong pressure gradients over the west coast, which would in turn kick up very strong NW winds. But wait...there's more: Models are also becoming progressively bullish with a very cold Arctic air mass descending in the low pressure trough, placing the upper atmosphere's freezing boundary well into SoCal. This would add fuel to the wind machine in the form of temperature gradients, increasing the potential for an extremely strong NW wind event over the outer waters (and to some degree, at times, near the coast). Upwelling would no doubt drop water temps a few degrees by Wednesday the 26th or Thursday the 27th. As for wind swell, this has potential to increase size at west facing breaks into the overhead zone by Tuesday the 25th. Calling size on wind swell this far out is a futile endeavor, but with models being so consistent from run-to-run and across the various models as well, this one earned a red pin in the charts this morning.
If for some reason that wind swell doesn't play out, then south facing breaks could see waist high southern hemi from a low latitude storm forming south of French Polynesia that's supposed to turn slightly northward once nearing the Pitcairn longitudes. NW wrap though would exceed that if the wind swell story plays out. It's more of an interesting signal of spring, showing the southern hemisphere slowly waking up.
Thursday the 27th could then see a sizable and clean NW ground swell. An otherwise innocuous low pressure system in the far northern reaches of Siberia today is expected to be driven into the Western Pacific in about four days, and then build into a monster fetch a week from now south of the Aleutians. According to some models (like the FNMOC NAV), this would be enough to send surf running head high to 2' overhead to SoCal's west facing breaks, angled from 295° and periods 16-18 seconds. BUT, other models (like the NCEP/GFS, which is used to create most automated surf charts on surf forecasting sites) show this being a minor storm with smaller size. And yet other models (like the NCEP/GWES) show something in between. Hopefully models will converge on a single scenario over the next few days. I'll keep you posted.
Here's how the day-to-day is breaking down so far:
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Monday the 17th should see swell build into west facing breaks but mostly stay waist high, bigger later in the day.
Tuesday the 18th is expected to run chest high at most west facing breaks.
Wednesday the 19th looks about waist to chest high at west facing breaks in the morning, smaller in the afternoon.
Thursday the 20th looks about knee to waist high everywhere.
Friday the 21st looks about knee to waist high everywhere.
Saturday the 22nd will likely see chest high sets at west facing breaks.
Sunday the 23rd, so far, will likely run chest high at west facing breaks.
Monday the 24th, so far, looks about chest high at west facing breaks with increasing NW wind swell.
Tuesday the 25th, so far, holds potential for very strong NW wind swell, potentially running overhead at west facing breaks.
Wednesday the 26th, so far, looks similar.
Thursday the 27th, so far, could possibly see NW wind swell fade quickly as NW ground swell comes ashore, topping out at potentially head high or slightly better at west facing breaks.
Friday the 28th, so far, looks similar.
Onshore flow today and Monday should put AM marine layer along the coast with a mid AM burn-off and max beach temps in the low 60s. Tuesday sees a bit more offshore flow as a weak but dry low passes to the east of California and high pressure builds slightly over SoCal (a minor kind of inside slider), warming beaches to the mid 60s with no AM marine layer expected. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday look clear with max beach temps in the low 60s.
Saturday has been holding a chance of precip as a cut-off low could get pinched off by the jetstream (see graphic here). This would do so over land however, keeping it mostly dry until it spreads over the Pacific at the last minute. It's a precarious position for precip, and models today have greatly downgraded rain amounts; in fact, many areas would be dry, with rain mostly affecting OC and SD. ETA right now is for sometime Saturday night into early Sunday morning. But with models all over the place with this cut-off low, I'll have to hold off for a few more days to see how things play out.
Either way, it looks like Monday the 24th would be dry, but with temps dropping and winds increasing from the NW — let's talk about that next...
Winds at 6:00 AM were light and variable most everywhere with a slight offshore element. Onshores are expected 8-12 mph. No major change is expected through Thursday.
Friday could see onshores pick up early, depending on how that forecast cut-off low behaves, which would then yield to possibly light offshore winds this weekend, but that too is up in the air (so to speak) right now as models struggle with that cut-off low.
What is looking more certain is a potentially strong NW wind event Monday the 24th into Tuesday the 25th. This would be from an exceptionally strong area of low pressure dropping south through the California interior, butting up against strong high in the Pacific (see graphic here). A cold Arctic air mass could be housed in the low's trough, thus providing strong pressure- and temperature-gradients. This could really pump up the wind machine, but with winds staying strong mostly in the outer waters, mountain areas of SoCal, and also parts of SB. Along most of the SoCal coast winds would be weaker, but this holds potential for at least 20 mph afternoon onshores. It's too early to start working those numbers today, but I'm on it...I'll keep you posted.
Until my next report (Tuesday), take care, be safe, and smile in the lineup!