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 Tuesday (1/3) North and Central CA was seeing new southern Gulf swell producing surf in the 12-14 ft range and clean early from a rather westerly direction. Down south surf was 1-3 ft overhead an clean with just a little texture on it later. Southern California up north was starting to see the Gulf swell as well with waves head high or slightly more and a bit warbled with the onshore flow picking up. Down south the swell was just starting to show with waves chest high and sheet glass. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Gulf sideband swell with waves to head high and clean with trades on the light side. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same sideband swell with waves chest high or so and and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Swell from the first of 2 stronger and broader gales that tracked east from the dateline has hit California. The second one built on Sunday (1/1) west of the dateline with 34 ft seas, faded some, then regenerated north of Hawaii with 35-36 ft seas , and is to then fade while pushing towards CA through Wed (1/4). Possible moderate sideband swell for Hawaii with significant class swell for California and from a very westerly direction, providing the first real swell for Southern CA of the season if all continues as forecast. Another smaller system is forecast tracking from Japan across the dateline and into the Western Gulf Tues-Sat (1/7) with seas in the 36-38 ft range just east of the dateline. More smaller swell to result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/3) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 140 kts, fading on the dateline then redeveloping with a bit of a trough north of Hawaii with 170 kt winds building into that trough, then ridging north and pushing into British Columbia and also splitting just east of the trough with the split energy falling southeast of Hawaii and down to the equator. Decent support for gale development in the trough (supporting Storm #1 - see below). Over the next 72 hours the trough pattern north of Hawaii is to evaporate while a new pool of wind energy builds over Japan at 170 kts and starts pushing east reaching over the dateline by Fri (1/6). The split point is to ease east as this new energy pool pushes east to near Hawaii (again). No troughs of interest are forecast offering no real support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the energy extending from Japan to the dateline is to hold at150 kts with a bit of a broad soft trough building just west of the dateline by Sun (1/8) then slowly fading into Tues (1/11). Limited support for gale development there. The split point is to hold near 150W, or 900 nmiles north of Hawaii.
Surface - On Tuesday (1/3) swell from the East Pacific Gale (see below) was hitting California. The remnants of Storm #1 (really a broad gale) were circulating northeast of Hawaii covering a broad area and effectively filling the Gulf of Alaska and nudging up to British Columbia (see details below). Another gale was developing off Japan (see Japan Gale below). Over the next 72 hours Storm #1 is to dissipate while the Japan gale falters off Japan, then tries to reorganize on the dateline pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska.
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:
Northern CA: Swell arrived on Tuesday (1/3) near 1 AM with period 18 secs and size ramping up fast. Swell peaked 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 day 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
On Sunday AM (1/1) the real storm of the season started winding up on the dateline. A broad area of 40 kt west winds were building in association with a broad but poorly organized 980 mb gale. 32 ft seas built at 37N 168E. In the evening fetch built to barely 45 kts in the gales southwest quadrant generating seas to 34 ft at 37N 176E targeting primarily Hawaii down the 309 degree path. The fetch consolidated more 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 30-32 ft seas at 35N 170W (325 degs HI and 279 degs NCal/286 SCal). 45 kt fetch held in the same area in the evening and maybe expanded it's east-west coverage with seas building to 35 ft at 35-39N 163W (340 degs HI, 283-288 NCal, 290-295 SCal). The fetch faded some on Tuesday AM (1/3) with winds 40 kts and covering less area with seas from previous fetch peaking at 36 ft at 35N 160W (277 degs NCal, 285 SCal, 350 degs HI). The gale is to be effectively gone by the evening with only 35 kts westerly fetch remaining and seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 35N 152W. (269 degs NCal, 282 SCal). Additional fetch is to continue around the gales core up in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Tues PM into Wed AM at 45 kts generating a small area of 34 ft seas Wed PM at 48N 140W targeting the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver Island, but too far to the north to be of interest to California and outside the Hawaiian swell window.
If all goes a forecast solid sideband swell is expected to push into Hawaii with significant class swell reaching CA.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (1/3) at sunset with swell to 9 ft @ 16 secs (14.5 ft) late and on the increase. Swell to peak near 3 AM Wed (1/4) at 13 ft @ 15-16 secs (20 ft) fading from 12.5 ft @ 15 secs (18-19 ft) through daylight hours. Swell to continue on Thurs (1/5) from both the west and north at 7 ft @ 13-14 secs (9.5 ft each).Swell fading on Friday (1/6). Swell Direction: 320-325 initially, then additional energy from 350-360 degs.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (1/5) near 10 AM with period 17 secs and size on the increase, building to 10 ft @ 16 secs near sunset (16 ft). Swell to continue increasing through the nigh peaking near 1 AM Friday (1/6) with pure swell 11 ft @ 16 secs (18 ft) and then slowly fading through the day from 10.5-11.0 ft @ 15 secs (16-17 ft). Swell Direction: 271-278 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (1/5) near 7 PM with period 17 secs and size on the increase, building to 5.5 ft @ 16 secs near 5 AM (8.8 ft) Friday (1/6). Swell to hold to near noon with pure swell 5.7 ft @ 16 secs (9.0 ft) and then slowly fading through the afternoon from 6.5 ft @ 15 secs (8.0 ft). Swell Direction: 282-292 degrees Residual energy continuing into Saturday (1/7) from 3.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (5 ft).
On Monday PM (1/2) a new gale started wrapping up off Northern Japan with 55 kt northwest winds over a small area and seas on the increase. Tuesday AM (1/3) 50-55 kt west winds continued with seas building to 41 ft over a tiny area at 41N 157E (308 degs HI, 301 NCal). The gale was making no eastward progress. In the evening winds are to be fading from 40-45 kts aimed well to the west winds seas fading from 39 ft at 41N 162E (309 degs HI, 298 NCal). By Wednesday AM (1/4) winds are to be down to 30-35 kts with seas from previous fetch fading to 30 ft at 40N 168E (311 degs HI, 296 NCal). In the evening a new fetch is to build southeast of the original fetch pushing towards the dateline but winds only 40 kts. No seas of interest yet being generated. On Thursday AM (1/5) a new tiny fetch of 55 kt west winds is to be building just west of the dateline with seas on the increase. In the evening a tiny fetch of 50 kt west winds is to be just about at the dateline with 36 ft seas at 39N 175E (315 degs HI, 293 degs NCal). This fetch is to continue east on Friday AM at 50 kts with 36 ft seas at 40N 176W (323 degs HI, 291 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade out in the evening with seas from previous fetch peaking at 37 ft at 41N 168W (mostly bypassing HI and aimed right up the 291 degree path to NCal (295 degs SCal).
If all this comes to pass some small longer period swell might result for all North Pacific locations.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/3) a large gale low was circulating well east of California effectively filling the Gulf of Alaska. Weak high pressure was trying to hold on to it's grip of outer California waters, just barely deflecting the low off to the northeast resulting in light winds for Central CA early but then coming up from the north by afternoon. Wednesday is looking to be a repeat but with northwest winds to 15 kts building over Pt Conception and nearby areas late in the day. Thursday the low pressure off the coast is to dissipate and high pressure at 1034 mbs is to start raging with northwest winds 15-20 kts pushing over Northern and Central CA by afternoon. A weak possible eddy flow to form nearshore Central CA on Friday AM, but that is more wishful thinking than anything. Still, some nearshore break in the winds is possible for Central CA early. Southern CA to be protected from these winds at least early. By Saturday the high is to start ridging into the Pacific northwest with light winds back in control for South and Central CA, though north winds still 15 kts for the Cape Mendocino area. A light winds regime finally take control on Sunday for the entire state and good through Monday. More high pressure and north winds likely by Tuesday (1/10) though. No precipitation of interest forecast south of Pt Arena for the week. A drought pattern is well dug-in.
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 another broad but poorly organized gale is to be circulating west of the dateline Saturday (1/7) easing up to the dateline Monday but not gaining any organization. Seas projected in the 24-28 ft range possible. Otherwise 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 Tuesday (1/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up slightly to 8.20. The 30 day average was down some to 21.54 (through overall still very high) with the 90 day down some at 14.66.
Current wind analysis indicates light westerly anomalies were easing east into the West Pacific extending from 100E to 150E. Weak easterly anomalies were east of there and much weaker than weeks past.This suggests a weak version of the Inactive Phases of the MJO was fading on the dateline and the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make better inroads. A week from now (1/11) the models indicate very weak easterly anomalies or near neutral anomalies are to remain over a small area from 170W to 150E. 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 just west of the dateline easing to the dateline by 1/8 and pushing east of there for 2 weeks to follow. The 40 day upper level model suggests some flavor of the Active Phase holding on the dateline for the next 40 days. That's hard to believe. 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