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 Saturday (1/8) North and Central California was getting the last of the dateline swell with waves 6-7 ft on the faces with bigger sets pushing 8 ft and clean early. Southern California was getting the same swell with waves waist to chest high and clean early up north. Down south it was about the same but with a little wind ruffle on it later. Hawaii's North Shore was getting north windswell with waves 2-3 ft overhead but pretty hacked with Konas in control. 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 swell to be fading with maybe 6 ft faces on Sunday AM and trashed by north wind. Monday westerly dateline background swell is forecast building to 5 ft late then about 4.5 ft on Tuesday. Wednesday no real rideable surf is expected but small dateline swell builds to 6 ft late Thursday. Southern California is to see dateline swell dropping from waist high early Sunday. Waist high north windswell possible on Monday with knee high dateline background swell filtering in Tuesday. Wednesday no rideable swell is forecast and about the same on Thursday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new dateline swell to 2 ft overhead later Sunday and holding into early Monday at 2 ft overhead. New dateline swell arrives Tuesday at 10-11 ft. Wednesday more dateline swell arrives and with some period pushing 12-13 ft and continuing with reinforcements to 10 ft on Thursday. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell this week. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
The North Pacific is trying to regroup after a fairly active week last week. A tiny short lived gale formed on the northern dateline on Wed (1/7) producing 24 hours of 34 ft seas aimed reasonably well up the 296 degree path to NCal, setting up the tiny swell forecast for Monday. But not much. And on Saturday (1/8) a new gale was trying to organize off Northern Japan producing 32 ft seas and expected to hold into maybe early Sunday AM (1/9). But it's a very long ways away and not very strong so only background inconsistent swell is expected for the US West Coast, but more size for the Islands due to their closer proximity to the gale center. Beyond not a whole lot is modeled, though the core of the MJO is to be over the dateline with the core of the storm machine moving just east of that. The models suggest some degree of gale activity for the dateline and areas just east of there by next weekend, but nothing too interesting is suggested just yet. If this occurs, Hawaii is to be the main focus initially. After that the Active Phase of the MJO is to fade and with it the storm production machine. Also some snow is to return to the Central Sierra during the week into next weekend providing an alternative.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (1/8) the jetstream was looking decent with 180 kt winds flow flat off Japan to the dateline, then splitting heavily there with the northern branch heading doe north well beyond the Bering Sea and the southern branch heading hard southeast into Central America. There was decent support for gale development off Japan. Over the next 72 hours the consolidated flow is to continue pushing hard east from Japan building east of the dateline with winds to 190 kts Mon-Tues (1/11) and reaching almost to a point just north of Hawaii with a bit of a trough starting to try and get a toehold in on the dateline. Improving support for gale formation on the dateline and points east of there. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidated jet is to hold if not get better defined with 170+ kt winds pushing over the dateline to a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii on late Friday (1/14) and more 190 kt winds filling in off Japan into the weekend and a respectable consolidated flow pushing east up into Oregon. A bit of a trough is to be developing just northwest of Hawaii too possibly supportive of solid gale formation there. This is to be the best jetstream flow we've seen all winter if it materializes as forecast.
At the surface on Saturday (1/8) high pressure at 1028 mbs was elongated north to south 600 nmiles off the US West Coast starting to generate north winds over outer waters and perhaps building into the Central CA coast. Weak low pressure was north of Hawaii not doing much in terms of swell generation but was pushing north Kona winds over the Islands. A broad but rather ill formed gale low was just off the Kuril Islands generating 35 kt northwest winds (See Kuril Gale below). Also 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 on Monday (1/10 - see QuikCAST's for details). Over the next 72 hours the Kuril Islands gale is to be the only systems of interest.
Kuril Island Gale
A gale formed landlocked over the Kuril Islands on Friday (1/7) and then started 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) 40 kt northwest winds were becoming 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 164E generating more 32 ft seas at 39N 167E (308 degs HI & 296 NCal). A quick fade is forecast by Sunday AM with no fetch left and residual seas from previous fetch at 28 ft at 39N 171E (310 degs HI).
If all this comes to pass some degree of decent utility class swell at 17 secs could arrive in Hawaii Wed AM (1/12) with most size later in the day at 6.5 ft @ 16 secs (10-11 ft) from 306-308 degs. Maybe swell of 5 ft @ 17 secs Friday AM (1/14) for NCal from 296 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/8) high pressure at 1034 mbs was centered in the Northern Gulf of Alaska with a ridge pushing down the Ca coast starting to generate north winds at 20-25 kts over outer waters of the state and working their way towards the coast. A bit of chop was starting to appear later in the day. North winds to continue for all of North and Central CA Sunday, then giving way mid-Monday (1/10) as low pressure centered on the dateline start pushing east with a front 600 nmiles off the Central Ca coast then. The first brush of that low pressure are to reach into North CA on Tuesday afternoon with south winds starting to show up around Pt Arena and reaching down to the SF Bay Area in the evening 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). Perhaps 8-10 inches of snow for the Tahoe area on Thursday too. No rest for the weary with another front now forecast pushing in from the west late on Friday (1/14) for the Cape Mendo area with south winds down to Morro Bay and rain pushing down there by Saturday AM. And more looks queued up off the coast.
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 from the Kuril Gale is forecast tracking over the dateline and
redeveloping in the same area as the cutoff low that was north of
Hawaii days before. Maybe a fragmented are of 30-35 kt northwest winds to result targeting Hawaii at 35N 170W with 20-22 ft seas at 35N 173W Monday AM (1/10) 800 nmiles northwest of the Islands and hanging on with 18-20 ft seas into Tuesday AM, but fading after that. This swell to mix with the Kuril Island Gale swell if all goes as forecast. 13 secs dribbles to possible migrate east into California too.
Beyond a large conglomeration of low pressure is forecast trying to organize on the dateline Thurs (1/13) fed by energy pushing off Japan and a strong jetstream flow aloft. Details are very sketchy at this time but the models suggest a series of smaller lows embedded in the macro pattern are to develop with winds in the 45 kt range aimed initially at Hawaii but then lifting northeast and targeting the US West Coast. And one more large push of low pressure energy is to be forming over Japan bound for the dateline as well. It would be nice if all of this could coalesce into one large gale, but that is not modeled at this time. Suspect this will be the last big push of this current Active MJO pulse before is washes ashore over the US West coast bringing wind and rain with snow at higher elevations.
As of Saturday (1/8) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding generally lower than weeks past. The daily SOI was up to 27.33. The 30 day average was down at 22.97 with the 90 day average down slightly at 19.71. 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 Friday (1/7) 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 was peaking out over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the Indonesia over the southern Philippines reaching the dateline. The forecast for these anomalies to be straddling the dateline by 1/12-1/17 then slowly loosing power and areal coverage but still in place on the dateline through 1/22. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America around 1/27 but this one is moving slower than we previously expected. 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 and likely till late Jan. Starting Jan 12 a 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 1/22, likely shutting down gale development potential about 1/27 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 (1/6) 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, with temps remained at -4 on 1/5-1/8. 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.
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
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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