New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (1/6) North and Central California was getting the front end of what was to be well decayed energy from Swell #3 (that produced 12-13 ft surf in Hawaii), but surprisingly was producing up to 15 ft surf groomed by a steady offshore flow. Perfect Winter surf. Southern California was sheet glass occasionally chest high up north. Down south it was chest high or slightly better and pristine though inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover energy from Swell #3 with waves 2-3 ft overhead but blownout with Konas in control but the skies were clear. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for combo swell holding well overnight with surf still 11-13 ft (faces) on Friday AM but with north wind lump intermixed. On Saturday surf is to be dropping from 10 ft and chopped, then down to 6.5 ft Sunday AM and fading while cleaning up. Monday westerly dateline background swell is forecast building to 5 ft later and then 4.5 ft on Tuesday (1/11). Southern California is to see new combo north and west swells hitting producing surf of 1 ft overhead early Friday then fading from head high on Saturday dropping from waist high early Sunday. Waist high north windswell possible on Monday with knee to thigh high dateline background swell filtering in Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to north windswell at 10 ft (faces) on Friday with 1-2 ft overhead northwest dateline swell intermixed. Saturday north windswell to be dropping from 1-2 ft overhead with new dateline swell to 2 ft overhead late and holding at 2-3 ft overhead on Sunday. Monday dateline swell drops from 2 ft overhead then possible new dateline swell arrives Tuesday to 10 ft or so. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell but plenty of north windswell at exposed breaks starting Friday at near 10 ft fading through Sunday. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A solid gale developed Sat-Sun (1/2) with 41 ft seas well west of the dateline fading as it pushed up to dateline, then rebuilding some while tracking northeast with 40 ft seas pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska Monday (1/3). Jason-1 data suggested the models overhyped it some, but swell arriving in Central CA on Thursday was solid. A local gale is producing 20 ft seas north of Hawaii Thursday and is to continue through Sunday (1/9) likely providing north windswell for Hawaii. And another broad dateline like gale is forecast pushing from Japan to nearly the dateline with seas to 32 ft into the weekend, suggesting yet more swell coming. All this is the work of the Active Phase of the MJO, and it's to continue through nearly the third week in January supportive of low pressure and gale development. After that the Inactive Phase returns about Jan 23rd suppressing gale development and is expected to hold through the end of Feb.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (1/6) the jetstream was looking like it was starting to pulse again with 190 kt winds flow flat off Japan to about mid-way to the dateline, then starting to split some and loose energy before totally disintegrating just east of the dateline. There was building support for gale development just off Japan. Over the next 72 hours a consolidated flow is to continue pushing hard east from Japan building to the dateline with winds to 180 kts, with a bit of a trough starting to try and get a toehold in on the dateline right before the jet totally splits with the northern branch heading due north up into the Bering Sea and the southern branch heading firmly southeast towards Central America. Developing support for gale formation just west of the dateline. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidated jet is to hold if not get better defined with 180 kt winds pushing almost to the dateline and a single decent looking flow holding to a point just north of Hawaii by late Thurs (1/13) then splitting, but only mildly with a decent flow tracking northeast up into Washington. A trough is to be developing just northwest of Hawaii possibly supportive of solid gale formation then and there.
At the surface on Thursday (1/6) high pressure at 1032 mbs was over the Great Basin (Utah) riding west off the coast and generating the classic La Nina offshore flow for most of California. A cutoff low was stationed 600-800 nmiles north of Hawaii generating 30-35 kt north winds and 20 ft seas aimed right at the Islands. Local north windswell is the expected result by Friday (1/7). Swell from a small gale that developed over the northern dateline region on Wed 18Z (1/5) with 50 kt northwest winds at 42N 174E and 32-34 ft seas at 42N 176E was pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, but will be buried mostly under north windswell in HI and well decayed upon arrival in CA (see QuikCASTs for details). another gale low was landlocked over the Central Kuril Islands and offering no swell generation potential. Over the next 72 hours the cut off low north of Hawaii is to continue circulating producing a second pulse of 35 kt northeast winds 900 nmiles north of Hawaii on late Friday resulting in 22 ft seas at 37N 158W Sat AM with windswell swell reaching Hawaii into Sunday (1/9).
Of somewhat more interest is to be the gale currently over the Kuril Islands. It is to make some eastward progress by Friday evening (1/7) with near 45 kt northwest winds reaching 45n 155E and starting to become unobscured by land, getting some traction on the oceans surface. By Saturday AM (1/8) 35-40 kt northwest winds are to become better entrenched there with 32 ft seas building at 38N 160E (305 degs HI & 297 NCal). 35 kt west winds to ease east in the evening at 40N 168E generating 32 ft seas at 40N 167E (310 degs HI & 297 NCal). A quick fade is forecast by Sunday AM with residual seas from previous fetch at 28 ft at 40N 173E (312 degs HI). If all this comes to pass some degree of decent utility class swell at 17 secs could arrive in Hawaii mid-next-week.
Storm #3 (Hawaii)
Another solid gale developed over Japan tracking due east. By Friday PM (12/31) it had a fragmented fetch of 40-45 kt west wind at 34N 150E with 32 ft seas building just south of there at 32N 150E (293 dregs HI & 297 NCal). A broad fetch of 40-45 kt west winds was in control Saturday AM (1/1) at 35N 156E with 36 ft seas building at 33N 154E (296 degs HI & 294 degs NCal). A surge of 45 kt westerly fetch developed in the evening at 37N 163E with seas building to 41 ft at 35N 163E (300 degs HI & 294 NCal). A fade occurred on Sun AM (1/2) with 40-45 kt west winds holding on at 39N 173E with seas from previous fetch at 38 ft at 35N 170E (303 degs HI & 289 NCal). This system faded in the evening with a small fetch of 35 kt west winds at 42N 180W. Seas backed off from 34 ft at 35N 177E (307 HI & 292 NCal). A new fetch of 45- 50 kt west winds built Monday AM at 46N 174W with 30 ft seas from previous fetch holding at 43N 175W (335 HI & 296 NCal). In the evening 55 kt west fetch held but displaced well to the north at 47N 163W with 42 ft seas at 48N 167W bypassing any route to Hawaii and pushing up the 302 degree route to NCal and the Pacific Northwest. This system is to be gone by Tuesday AM (1/4) with 40 ft seas from previous fetch up at 50N 159W (307 degs NCal). Based on this data another pulse of longer period significant class swell is expected to target Hawaii best with well decayed longer period utility class energy eventually reaching NCal, partially from the west with lesser energy from the northwest (shadowed in NCal) and inconsistent upon arrival.
Northern CA: This will be a 2 part swell for CA. The first part will arrive from across the dateline from a more westerly direction starting Thursday (1/6) at 7 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny and inconsistent but on the increase steadily through the day. Swell possibly to 7 ft @ 18 secs (12-13 ft) at sunset. More swell to continue into Friday AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft). All this swell to come from 289-292 degrees. And additional energy from the second part of the storm to arrive from a far more northerly direction (and shadowed in the SF Bay Area) starting Thursday mid-morning (1/6) and building steadily, starting to peak near sunset at 8 ft @ 17 secs (14 ft unshadowed - 8 ft shadowed). Combined swell energy to continue through Friday at 7 ft @ 16 secs (11 ft). Swell Direction: 302-307 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/6) bulletproof high pressure and true-blue conditions were in effect over the California Coast with the core of the high pressure system centered over the Great Basin creating what has been a 5 day run of offshore winds. Very nice, especially considering there was dateline swell to go with it. But north winds were in control of waters just off the coast, the result of new high pressure starting to build over outer waters (500 nmiles off Central CA on Friday). North winds to start building in later Friday AM for all of North and Central CA and expected to continue firmer into Saturday and Sunday, then giving way mid-Monday (1/10) as low pressure cored out on the dateline start pushing east. The first little hints of that low pressure are to reach into North CA on Tuesday afternoon with south winds starting to show up around Pt Arena northward and hanging on there while turning more southwest into Thurs (1/13). A chance of light rain is forecast moving into North and Central CA on Tuesday too and getting reinforced by more on Wednesday-Thurs (from SF Bay northward) But Central CA is to remain protected from south winds by high pressure - a light wind flow holding.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs remnant gale energy is forecast tracking over the dateline and
redeveloping in the same area as the cutoff low that was north of
Hawaii days before. Up to 30 ft sea are forecast over a tiny area Tues AM (1/11) at 32N 162W just 650 nmiles north-northwest of the Islands, but fading quickly there after. More possible rather raw swell for the Islands. But this is likely a bit of a reach.
Beyond a large conglomeration of low pressure is forecast trying to organize on the dateline Thurs (1/13) with a small fetch of 45 kt west winds developing just west of the dateline targeting Hawaii initially. It's way too early to even believe this, but knowing what the jet is to be doing at the same time, and assuming it actually does it, there is increased odds for perhaps a large scale weather system to evolve on or near 1/15, the last big gasp of this current Active MJO pulse.
As of Thursday (1/6) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding pretty low. The daily SOI was down to 12.919. The 30 day average was holding at 23.41 with the 90 day average down slightly at 19.79. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0). The 30 day average peaked on Dec 30 at 26.79, the highest average reading in over 2 years.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (1/5) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated no easterly anomalies in play and the Active Phase of the MJO had about peaked out over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the Indonesia south of the Philippines reaching just over the dateline. The forecast for these anomalies to be straddling the dateline by 1/10-1/15 then slowly loosing power and areal coverage. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America around 1/25. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, this remains the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast swell window through at least mid-January. Starting Jan 10 a very weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to start building in the Indian Ocean, slowly tracking east and starting to enter the extreme Western Pacific on 1/25, likely shutting down gale development potential at that time and continuing well into if not the whole way through February as it seeps out into the West Pacific. Sometime soon after that north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual (early March).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/3) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, and solidifying it's coverage. The models had previously suggested a second surge of this La Nina event was to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, sending water temps much colder, and that appears to be occurring now. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO, it seems to be pushing it east some, but temps remained at -4 on 1/5. Current data suggests this is likely the peak of this La Nina event.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11.
Looking at the Pacific equatorial current: On 12/5, it was running slightly anomalously west to east, completely contrary to it's previous flow and a bit unusual for a La Nina year. It actually started this pattern in early November. But with East winds on the rise, it was expected to fall back in-line with expectations. And sure enough, data as of 1/5 indicates a full east-to-west anomaly present, typical of La Nina.
Of note: The Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it did not waiver until Oct 2010. But trades never wavering from the normal range. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina). But for now, a La Nina dominated current is firmly in control.
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in 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 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 more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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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.
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table