New Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Tuesday (1/8) Northern CA surf was head high and clean early, but that quickly got hacked to pieces by the next approaching front. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were chest high and pretty bumpy. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was up to 2 ft overhead and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high and clean with best breaks up to shoulder high. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest to head high with some bigger sets at the best breaks and reasonably clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest to head high on the sets and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was waist to chest high and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was thigh high.
North/Central California was getting leftover swell energy originating from the Gulf of Alaska with more queued up out towards the dateline. Southern California was still getting a decent amount of swell from the Gulf of Alaska with rideable surf to be had if you look around. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat but expected to start seeing the first of the dateline energy late this afternoon (Tues). It was quiet with no swell on the East Shore or the South Shore. Another round of solid significant class surf is expected targeting primarily the US West Coast but Hawaii is to get some of the action too. A series of 3 storms are en route from the Dateline to the Gulf of Alaska, with the first almost completing the trek, the second about at the mid-way point, and the third just on the models. The second of these to provide Hawaii with a good dose of swell, with all targeting the US West Coast well with long period sizeable swell generation potential. And yet a fourth one is schedule for the dateline later in the week targeting only Hawaii, though local winds might be an issue during the swell arrival window. But in all, there's.cgienty of opportunity over the next 5 days for surf assuming nature follows the models projections. Stay alert and make the most of this chance. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Tuesdays jetstream charts (1/8) for the North Pacific indicated a solid jetstream flow pushing over Central Japan tracking almost due east over the Dateline then on east into North California. Winds were up to 170 kts over Japan and feeding into a nice trough over the dateline with a secondary trough with 160 kts winds poised just off the US mainland. Surface level storms were being supported by each of these troughs. Over the next 72 hours the trough currently just off the PAcific Northwest is to move inland while the dateline trough tracks east and into Canada late in the period. Yet a third trough is to develop on the dateline pushing east along a similar track. Beyond 72 hours unfortunately the jet is to loose energy and .cgiit at the dateline by late Saturday (1/12) and by Tuesday (1/15) the northern branch is to be taking a direct path into Southern Alaska while the southern branch dips south of Hawaii, .cgiits again and pushes into Central California and Mainland Mexico. A distinct loss of storm fuel is to be experienced under the area covered by this .cgiit. But strong energy is to persist coming off Japan with winds up to 180-190 kts and looking formidable. It's is too early to know whether this energy will push east and facilitate healing of the jet back into a cohesive singular flow.
At the surface today three storm systems were being tracked. Storm #12 was off the US West Coast, Storm #13 was over the dateline and the early sings of Storm #14 was pushing off Japan. Details for all these are documented below.
A weak dateline low started to coalesce into a swell producing gale Sunday AM (1/6) with 50 kt winds confirmed in it's south quadrant at 40N 170W aimed reasonably well towards Hawaii down the 336 degree path and better at California up the 292 degree path (297 SCal). Seas were on the increase. By evening pressure dropped to 968 mbs with 55-60 kt winds confirmed in it's south quadrant at 42N 165W aimed 50 degrees east of the 346 degree path to Hawaii but right down the 292 degree path to North California from it's south quadrant (297 Scal). This was very good. Seas were modeled at 35 ft over a tiny area at 43N 168W.
By Monday AM (1/7) the fetch continued in the storms south quadrant with winds confirmed at 50 kts at 42N 156W bypassing Hawaii but aimed right up the 292 degree path to NCal and 297 SCal. Seas were modeled at 40 ft at 42N 160W targeting the US West Coast well. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the back half of the storm at 19Z and confirmed seas at 32.6 ft with a peak reading to 38.4 ft. Compared to the model it was about 1-2 ft below what was expected for that area and interestingly the core of the fetch was positioned about 2 degrees south of what the wave model suggested. The storm started fizzling out in the evening with a tiny fetch of residual 40 kt winds confirmed at 42N 145W still aimed due east up the 292 degree path to NCal (297 SCal). Seas were modeled to 35 ft at 42N 152W.
Finally on Tuesday AM (1/8) the last 30-35 kt fetch was fading over exposed waters at 40N 135W with the associated front pushing onshore over Cape Mendocino with effects down into Central CA (SLO). Residual 25 ft seas were modeled at 40N 145W, about 1000 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino.
In all this looks to be a decent swell producer, though not over the top by any means. It's to offer only a glancing blow to Hawaii with swell expected arriving near Tues (1/8) with most energy directed due to the east towards Central and North CA for mid-week in the significant class range, with decent potential for Southern CA too given it's rather southerly track.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday peaking at sunset reaching 6 ft @ 14 secs (7-8 ft faces). Swell fading from 5.6 ft @ 11-12 secs early Wednesday AM (6.0-6.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 320-330 degree
North California: Expect swell arrival starting late morning Wednesday (1/9) with period at 20 secs and size on the increase quick. Swell to peak late afternoon into the early evening with swell 9.0-9.5 ft @ 18-19 secs (16-18 ft faces). Period dropping to 17 secs near 10 PM with lesser energy present by sunrise Thursday (1/10) with swell 8-9 ft @ 14-15 secs (11-13 ft faces). Swell Direction:288-293 degrees
South California: Expect swell arrival starting near 11 PM Wednesday (1/9) with period at 20 secs and size on the increase reasonably quick. Swell to peak between 4-8 AM Thursday (1/10) with swell 3.7-4.1 ft @ 18-19 secs (6.7-7.8 ft faces) and best break more. Period dropping to 17 secs near 10 AM with lesser energy present through sunset. Swell down to 3.5 ft @ 13 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) Friday AM (1/11) and fading. Swell Direction:294-299 degrees
Potential Storm #13
On Sunday AM (1/6) a stronger storm started forming from semi-tropical energy pushing east off Japan aided by the active phase of the MJO with 45 kt winds confirmed taking aim on Hawaii from across the dateline and well south at 33N 163E. By evening winds were on the increase confirmed at 50 to perhaps near 60 kts at 34N 171E aimed directly down the 299 degree path to Hawaii, and 35 degrees south of the 286 degree path to North California.
On Monday AM (1/7) winds were confirmed at 55-60 kts in it's south and west quadrants targeting Hawaii from 36N 175E aimed down the 306 degree path and directly at North CA up the 286 degree path from 35N 175E. 32 ft seas were modeled building at 34N 172E. In the evening the system jogged northeast some with a small area of 50-55 kt winds confirmed straddling the dateline at 36N 177W in the storms south and southwest quadrants aimed at Hawaii down the 310 degree path and at California up the 285 degree path. 38 ft seas were modeled at 35N 180W aimed right at Hawaii. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the trailing edge of the core of the fetch at 21Z and confirmed seas at 38-40 ft, exactly as the wave model predicted. This is good news.
The storm lost energy but gained in fetch area Tuesday AM (1/8) with 45-50 kts winds over a broader area at 37N 170W aimed east-southeast or 25 degrees east of the 328 degree path to Hawaii and 30 degrees south of the 285 degree path to NCal (290 SCal). 39 ft seas were modeled at 35N 172W. A similar sized fetch of 45-50 kt winds to continue in the evening aimed due east from 39N 165W or right up the 287 degree path to NCal (293 SCal) but mostly bypassing any route to Hawaii. 40 ft seas forecast at 37N 165W aimed due east.
On Wednesday AM (1/9) a fading fetch of 40-45 kt west winds are forecast at 40N 155W aimed at NCal up the 285 degree path. 40 ft seas suggested at 40N 160W. A secondary low to fire up offering the potential for more fetch and seas generation. In the evening 35-40 kt fetch to be fading from 41N 150W aimed at NCal up the 288 degree path. Seas forecast at 40 ft at 41N 154W aimed at NCal up the 287 degree path.
A quick fade is forecast Thursday AM (1/10) with residual seas from previous days fetch 35 ft at 43N 146W aimed down the 295 degree path to NCal (300 SCal). Seas fading in the evening from 29 ft at 44N 140W.
The models have held remarkably well so far with only a slight downgrade in the highest seas forecast but still providing 48 hours of 40 ft seas aimed well to the east and even a bit towards Hawaii early in the storms life. And we've gotten confirmation from the Jason-1 satellite that the wave models are on track - a good sign. A total of 96 hours of solid fetch and seas are projected aimed well east providing the possibility of long period significant class swell for the US West Coast. And given it's close proximity to the Hawaiian Islands, a nice but short-lived pulse of significant class swell could result there as well. The biggest concern now is how the seas are going to hold in the 40 ft range on Wed with winds dropping off. Suspect the wave models are on the high side. Will continue monitoring.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/8) low pressure associated with the remnants of Storm #12 was pushing towards the California coast, with a front producing south winds and mild but building rain over San Francisco expected to push into Pt Conception late. Southern CA looks to be spared from this one. A brief clearing is forecast Wednesday before the next front starts bring southerly winds to the San Francisco area in the afternoon with rain forecast by early Thursday pushing down into to the mid-Central CA coast by sunset. South winds to be less of an impact this time. High pressure to them take hold early Friday (1/11) providing light north to northeast winds for the state from Pt Arena southward and holds for the foreseeable future, with south winds and rain becoming a thing of the not too distant past.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
No swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 models suggest yet more activity forecast for the North Pacific. See details of Storms #14 and 15 below. Long-term though a much weaker pattern is forecast with no cohesive low pressure system forecast over the Pacific and all energy getting shunted north towards the Bering Sea as the jetstream .cgiits over the Eastern Pacific. .
Possible Storm #14
On Friday AM (1/11) a small but tightly wound up storm is to develop North of Hawaii. By the evening pressure is to drop to 980 mbs with a small area of 50-55 kt winds in.cgiace in it's south quadrant at 38N 155W aimed due east or 25 degrees south of the 285 degree path to NCal (290 SCal). These winds to get good traction on an already well agitated oceans surface with 29 ft seas forecast at 36N 158W.
On Saturday AM (1/12) pressure to drop to 968 mbs with 60 kt winds are forecast over it's entire south quadrant at 42N 150W aimed right up the 292 degree path to NCal (297 SCal) as the storm itself lifts northeast. Seas forecast building to 35 ft at 39N 150W. In the evening 50 kts winds to hold in the south quadrant at 44N 142W aimed due east or right up the 296 degree path to NCal (301 SCal). 40 ft seas forecast at 43N 143W aimed right at NCal.
On Sunday AM (1/13) this system to be on the downswing 40-45 kts winds up at 50N 138W pushing towards British Columbia and essentially out of the even the NCal swell window. 36 ft seas forecast at 47N 137W aimed 30 degree east of the 310 degree great circle path to even NCal.
Assuming all this occurs as modeled solid significant class surf could be expected for exposed breaks in Central and North CA.
Possible Storm #15 (Hawaii)
On Thursday AM (1/10) another storm is to start building off the Kuril's near the dateline. It's actually to be 2 gales that are to merge. Both to have 45 kts winds in their southwest quadrants with the closest near 39N 171E aimed southeast directly at Hawaii up the 312 degree path. In the evening most energy is to be absorbed by the southern most system with a small fetch developing with winds up to 60 kts at 42N 178E aimed towards Hawaii down the 314 degree path. A broad area of 25 ft seas forecast at 40N 175E.
On Friday AM (1/11) the fetch to reach the dateline with 55 kts winds holding at 43N 179W aimed just like before. 35 ft seas modeled at 42N 180W. In the evening a tiny fetch of 55 kt winds to be holding on and sinking southeast at 40N 175E again aimed towards Hawaii right down the 322 degree path. 37 ft seas are forecast at 40N 175W.
On Saturday AM (1/23) only the faintest area of 40 kts winds to remain at 38N 170W aimed towards Oahu down the 328 degree path. 35 ft seas forecast at 37N 170W on a head just barely east of the Islands. By evening all wind is to be gone with 29 ft seas positioned at 34N 165W sinking southeast. .
All this looks good from purely a swell generation perspective with the fetch holding it's ground and actually sinking southeast towards the Islands if it goes as forecast. But high pressure is to be right behind it possibly setting up a major north wind event about as the swell arrives, possibly shutting down the best swell of the reason relative to Hawaii. Will monitor.
Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) Update: Starting about 1/1/2008 the MJO started moving into the active phase with a strong area of reversed winds at the 850 mb level starting to encroach into the far Western Tropical Pacific and east-bound. As of Sat (1/5) the SOI remained very positive reading at 40 with no signs of dipping into negative territory just yet. But that changed by Sunday dipping to 6 and holding Monday with further drops expected. The model are clearly depicted these anomalous winds tracking east through the end of the month. We suspect this may be starting to fuel the enhanced storm pattern for for the next week, and additional activity could be expected through the end of the month.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. The season is over.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table