Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Saturday (12/31) North and Central CA was seeing Dateline swell producing surf in the 3-4 ft overhead range and clean early with many nice lines pushing in. Down south surf was shoulder high to 1 ft overhead on the sets and clean. Southern California up north was shoulder to head high and clean but socked in by fog. Down south surf was head high to 1 ft overhead later and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was small with waist to chest high surf and fairly clean but trades pretty brisk. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east tradewind generated windswell at waist high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The models are focused on a series of 2 gales forecast building just east of the dateline pushing towards California. The first developed Saturday AM (12/31) with 36 ft seas positioned north of Hawaii expected to fade into early Sunday. The second is to build on Sunday (1/1) west of the dateline with 34 ft seas, fading, then regenerating north of Hawaii with 40 ft seas fading while pushing towards CA through Wed (1/4). Possible moderate sideband swell for Hawaii with larger swell for California and from a very westerly direction, providing the first real hint of swell for Southern CA if all goes as forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (12/31) the jet was flowing more or less flat off Japan at 180 kts falling into a bit of a trough north of Hawaii and splitting there with most energy lifting northeast from the trough up into southern British Columbia. The split energy was falling south over Hawaii and down to the equator. Limited support for gale development in the trough. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with broader trough developing north of Hawaii with 160 kts winds flowing under it through early Tuesday (1/3) then fading while pushing east, but not reaching the US West Coast. Beyond 72 hours all energy is to fade east of the dateline by Wednesday (1/4) but with 160 kts winds continuing pushing flat off Japan if not sinking south more, down to 33N by Sat (1/7). No troughs of interest are forecast with no support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Saturday (12/31) a solid gale was tracking east from a point 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii (see East Pacific Gale below). Another gale was starting to wind up off Japan tracking east as well (See Potential Storm #1 below). These two systems were effectively filling the North Pacific with fetch aimed mostly to the east. Over the next 72 hours these two gales are to continue to provide the main focus of our attention. A third gale is forecast trying to wind up over Japan on Mon (1/2) but is to make no eastward progress with up to 45 kt west winds limited to the area immediately off Northern Japan generating 32 ft seas at 42N 157E late Tuesday (1/3) and offering only limited 17 secs period swell potential for Hawaii with luck.
East Pacific Gale
On Friday PM (12/30) a 980 mb gale started developing 1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii and east of the dateline with northwest to west winds 40-45 kts targeting Hawaii. Seas were building from 26 ft at 39N 170W (332 degs HI). On Saturday AM (12/31) 40-45 kt northwest fetch continued pushing east with seas building to 32 ft at 37N 162W. Sideband energy was aimed at Hawaii down the 338 degree path and at NCal down the 282 deg path (SCal 290 degrees). In the evening more 40 kt northerly fetch is to continue resulting in supposedly 36 ft seas at 36N 153W bypassing Hawaii but aimed a a bit south of the 276 deg path to NCal and better down the 285 degree path to SCal). Fetch to be fading from 30 kts on Sunday AM (1/1) with seas fading from 30 ft at 34N 148W mostly bypassing North CA (267 degs) but aimed better down the 280 degree path to SCal. Secondary fetch to the north at 45 kts to be generating 32 ft seas up at 41N 150W targeting NCal down the 288 degree path.
If all goes as forecast some degree of near significant class well could result for Central CA with decent sized swell for Southern CA and sideband swell for Hawaii. Here's a rough forecast:
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival at sunrise on Sun (1/1) with size building to 9 ft @ 15-16 secs late in the day (14 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading overnight with residuals fading from 9 ft @ 13 secs (11-12 ft) early Mon (1/2). Swell Direction: 332-338 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (1/3) near 1 AM with period 18 secs and size ramping up fast. Swell to peak near 4 AM with pure swell 8.5 ft @ 17 secs (14-15 ft) undercover of darkness. Swell fading from 8.0-8.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (11-13 ft) through the day. Swell Direction: 276-282 degrees with secondary energy from 288 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 5 AM Tuesday (1/3) with period 18 secs and size building steadily through the early sunrise hours, peaking around 10 AM at 4.7 ft @ 16-17 secs (7.5-8.0 ft faces) at exposed breaks. Swell to hold solid through the ay with period fading to 15 secs late. Residuals on Wednesday (1/4) fading from 4.0 ft @ 13-14 secs early (5.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 280-290 degrees
Possible Storm #1
On Sunday AM (1/1) the first possible real storm of the season is to start winding up on the dateline. A broad area of 40 kt west winds are to be building in association with a broad but poorly organized 980 mb gale. 32 ft seas are to be building at 37N 168E. In the evening fetch is to build to 45 kts in the gales southwest quadrant generating seas to 32 ft at 36N 173E targeting primarily Hawaii down the 307 degree path. The fetch is to get more consolidated just east of the dateline on Monday AM (1/2) with 45+ kt west- and northwest winds building resulting in a far broader area of 32 ft seas at 37N 170W (329 degs HI and 283 degs NCal/289 SCal). 45 kt fetch is to hold in the same area in the evening and maybe expand it's east-west coverage with seas building to 37 ft at 37-40N 165W (340 degs HI, 283-288 NCal, 290-295 SCal). The fetch is to fade some on Tuesday AM (1/3) with winds 40 kts and covering less area with seas from previous fetch peaking at 41 ft at 37N 161W. The gale is to be effectively gone by the evening with only 35 kts westerly fetch remaining and seas from previous fetch fading from 36 ft at 36N 150W.
If all goes a forecast solid sideband swell is expected to push into Hawaii late Tuesday (1/3) near sunset with solid swell reaching CA possibly by later Thursday (1/5). Will Monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (12/31) weak high pressure was trying to ease north ridging into the Pacific Northwest with offshore winds to result over much of California. But a very large area of low pressure was just off the coast (400 nmiles out) and extending almost to the dateline. By Sunday the high pressure system is to be on it's last legs with a southeast flow starting to take control down to almost Point Conception. Monday the front associated with the gale off the coast is to fade with a light wind regime in control, but with high pressure starting to reassert control later in the afternoon. Tuesday weak high pressure is to hold while another gale tries to take a bite out of it, with just northwest winds at maybe 10 kts forecast for North and Central CA and repeating on Wednesday but with northwest winds to 15 kts building over Pt Conception and nearby areas. Thursday the low pressure off the coast is to dissipate and high pressure is to start raging with northwest winds 15-20 kts pushing 25 kts over Northern CA. A weak possible eddy flow to form nearshore Central CA on Friday, but that is more of a guess. No precipitation of interest forecast south of Pt Arena for the week. A drought pattern is well entrenched.
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs remnants from the Japan gale are to eventually break free and move east-northeast, ill-defined at first as the cross the dateline Fri-Sat (1/7) with seas in the 26-28 ft range, then eventually coalescing into a more defined gale in the Northern Gulf later Saturday (12/7) with seas in the 34 ft range but aimed all to the northeast targeting only Alaska. Maybe some limited 14-15 sec period swell to be generated on the dateline resulting in swell for primarily Hawaii late next weekend, but that only a guess. No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jetstream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Saturday (12/31) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 1.92. The 30 day average was down some to 22.60 (through overall very high) with the 90 day down some at 14.68.
Current wind analysis indicates light easterly anomalies remain entrenched over the West Pacific extending from 170W to 150E but much weaker than weeks past, then shifting to near normal west of there.This suggests a weak version of the Inactive Phases of the MJO was still in control of the West Pacific supporting a split jetstream pattern. A week from now (1/8) the models indicate very weak easterly anomalies or near neutral anomalies are to remain over a small area from 170W to 140E. The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is effectively gone with a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO building west of the dateline easing to the dateline by 1/8 and holding there till mid January. The 40 day upper level model is inconclusive and not in agreement with the previous models. All this suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through late January. At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop, but we're becoming a bit more optimistic that some flavor of a weak Active Phase is starting to push towards the dateline, offering potential to enhance storm formation in the North Pacific in January. ,
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Spring of 2012. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance during tropical/summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase of the MJO gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
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Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
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Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine! Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor. The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas. The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages. The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table