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 Thursday (1/5) North and Central CA was seeing new Dateline-Gulf Swell #1 trying to edge up producing surf in the 13 ft range and clean on the surface but rather lumpy early and from a very westerly direction. Down south surf was head high to 2 ft overhead and clean and well lined up. Southern California up north was seeing early fragments of Swell #1 with waves shoulder to head high and well lined up but heavily textured. Down south the swell was showing a bit better with set waves head high plus, well lined up and sheet glass. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband energy from Swell #1 but fading fast from 10 ft on the face and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same sideband swell with waves head 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 second of 2 stronger and broader gales has already passed Hawaii and is starting to hit California. This gale (Storm #1) 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 then faded while pushing towards CA through Wed (1/4). Moderate significant class sideband swell hit Hawaii on Wed (1/4) with significant class swell scheduled for California from a very westerly direction by Friday. This to provide the first real swell for Southern CA of the season. Another smaller system developed off Japan with 40 ft seas, faded, then is forecast to track across the dateline and into the Western Gulf Fri-Sat (1/7) with seas in the 40 ft range just east of the dateline, but covering only a tiny area. More smaller longer period swell to result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/5) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 180 kts, fading and splitting as it pushed over the dateline with energy levels dropping off to below 90 kts in both split streams and of no interest. No troughs of interest were present offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to remain solid with 160-180 kts winds flowing flat off Japan pushing east and consolidated to a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii before splitting and with a bit of a trough trying to develop on Sunday (1/8) just west of the dateline. Improved support for gale development forecast for this region then. Beyond 72 hours the dateline trough is to quickly push northeast and out of the picture by Tues (1/10) with winds levels dropping back down and the split point moving back to a point just west of the dateline. Decreased support for gale development if any at all by that time.
Surface - On Thursday (1/5) swell from Storm #1 was fading in Hawaii and just starting to affect the North and Central California coasts with the meat of it still well offshore (see Storm #1 below). Residuals from Storm #1 were in the Northern Gulf of Alaska producing no real fetch aimed at anywhere than Alaska. Remnants of a storm that was off Japan were still circulating there with a portion of it pushing east towards the dateline (see Japan Gale below). Over the next 72 hours the Japan gale is to reorganize on the dateline then fading while pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska. Another broad gale is to try and organize on the dateline on Sun (1/8) but only resulting in 30 kt westerly winds and 22 ft seas.
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 was 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 continued 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.
Solid sideband swell pushed into Hawaii with significant class swell reaching CA on Friday (1/6).
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 @ 15-16 secs (16-18 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 were fading from 40-45 kts aimed well to the west winds seas fading from 39 ft at 40N 162E (308 degs HI, 297 NCal). By Wednesday AM (1/4) winds were down to 30-35 kts with seas from previous fetch fading to 32 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 45 kt west winds was 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 32 ft seas at 40N 175E (315 degs HI, 293 degs NCal). This fetch is to continue east on Friday AM at 50 kts with 41 ft seas at 41N 177W (324 degs HI, 292 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade from 45 kts in the evening with seas from previous fetch peaking at 41 ft over a tiny area at 41N 169W (mostly bypassing HI and aimed right up the 292 degree path to NCal (296 degs SCal). By Saturday AM (1/7) 45 kt northwest winds to continue over a small area as the gale lifts northeast with seas fading from 32 ft at 41N 162W (293 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be gone.
If all this comes to pass some small longer period swell might result for all North Pacific locations.
Hawaii: For the portion of the storm that developed off Japan, expect swell arrival on Friday (1/6) at 4 PM with period 20 secs and swell maybe 2.5 ft @ 20 secs (5 ft faces). Swell building pushing 6.5 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft faces) at 7 AM Saturday (1/7) holding through the day as period drops to 16 secs late. Swell Direction 308 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/5) high pressure at 1032 mbs was starting to ridge into Oregon with northwest winds 15-20 kts pushing over Northern and Central CA by afternoon after a fog front pushed through. Northerly winds to continue firmly through the day Friday nearshore for North and Central CA (maybe only in the 8-10 kts range during morning hours) but certainly 15 kts by the afternoon. Southern CA to be protected from these winds at least early. By Saturday the high is to still be ridging into the Pacific Northwest but not moving onshore yet likely continuing a brisk northerly flow for North and Central CA while Southern CA remains protected. A light wind regime finally takes control on Sunday for the entire state and good through Monday. More high pressure and north winds likely for Northern CA by Tuesday (1/10) but remaining light for Central and South CA through Wednesday. No precipitation of interest forecast.
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 the broad but poorly organized gale circulating on the dateline Sunday (1/8) is to easing up into the Western Gulf by Monday with winds to 40 kts wrapping into it's southern quadrant and repositioned just south of the Eastern Aleutians but seas forecast only in the 24-26 ft range aimed mainly at the Pacific Northwest on Tues (1/10). Another far broader and stronger gale is to develop off Kamchatka on Thus (1/12) with 50-55 kt westerly winds and seas to 30 ft, but all lifting hard to the north and likely bound for the Bering Sea in 24 hours. Maybe some swell to result but nothing of any real interest. In short, activity is forecast, but nothing that gets our attention.
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 Thursday (1/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down slightly to 2.31. The 30 day average was down some to 20.09 (through overall still very high) with the 90 day down some at 15.05.
Current wind analysis indicates light westerly anomalies were easing east into the West Pacific extending from 100E to 160E actually making more eastern headway. Modest easterly anomalies were east of there from 160W to 160E. 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 towards the dateline from the west. A week from now (1/13) the models indicate no easterly anomalies if not neutral anomalies are to grow over the entire West Pacific from 100E to 160W with perhaps stronger westerly anomalies west of there. 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 on 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
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table