Huge Pacific storm to bring high surf to Hawaii
Pro surfers await waves, possible tournament
A massive storm in the northern Pacific ocean, that deepened to levels equivalent to a category 4 hurricane Monday, threatens the coast of Hawaii with 30-40 foot waves. The same storm - with an incredible geographic reach - is bringing snow and gusty winds to coastal Alaska.
According to Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington and blogger, the pressure at the center of the gigantic Pacific storm dropped to 933 mb Monday. Amazingly, the pressure to the north of the storm was 1038 mb. The remarkable pressure difference has generated very high winds. Although the storm weakened as it neared the Aleutian islands yesterday, winds gusted to 77 mph in Dutch Harbor according to the National Weather Service.
Although Hawaii is too far away from the storm to experience winds of that magnitude, the storm's vast circulation is pushing a ton of water in its direction.
A huge, deep, slow moving storm like this produces very large waves, since waves depend on wind speed, fetch (length of area where winds are influencing the sea surface), and wind duration--all very large in this case.
The National Weather Service in Honolulu, in its morning forecast discussion, cautioned:
WE SHOULD SEE THE SWELL RISE IN DRAMATIC FASHION. THE SOURCE LOW IS HUGE AND NEARLY STATIONARY OVER THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC...SO SURF ONCE UP WILL REMAIN UP FOR SEVERAL DAYS. THE SWELL WILL PRODUCE WARNING LEVEL SURF STARTING THIS AFTERNOON ON KAUAI...AND SPREADING DOWN THE ISLAND CHAIN TONIGHT AND THURSDAY.
A high surf warning is in effect for a large portion of the coast across the Hawaiin islands through Friday. Peak surf height of 35 to 40 feet are expected for north facing shores, with 25 to 35 heights along west facing shores.
If big waves materialize, a premier surfing event only held when waves reach 20 feet will occur on the north shore of Oahu. CNN reports the special tournament called the "The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau" (a legendary lifeguard and surfer) has only been held seven times in 26 years due to the infrequency of adequate waves.
Some are skeptical the big waves will materialize. Professional surfer Mark Healey told Honolulu's Star Advertiser: "I try not to get too emotionally attached because the (weather) models always kind of err on the side of safety, which means they forecast swells to be bigger than they are. They go for the high end of the spectrum, so you have to take any long range forecast with a grain of salt, but I've been pretty much looking at (the incoming northwest swell) constantly for the past few days."
(Sounds like some Washingtonian snow lovers when there are predictions for flakes...)
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