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 Sunday (1/8) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 180 kts falling into a broad soft trough half way to the dateline, the ridging slightly northeast on the dateline before splitting about 900 nmiles north of Hawaii with energy levels dropping off significantly east of there in both split streams and of no interest. Limited support for gale development in the trough west of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the jetstream pattern is to remain unchanged but with winds speeds decreasing over the bulk of the jet dropping below 130 kts everywhere but near Japan. The trough west of the dateline is to ease northeast into the Western Gulf but not improve in it's potential to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours a new pocket of winds energy is to build over Japan pushing 200 kts on Sun (1/15) but is not looking to be making much eastern headway and if anything the split point is to retrograde to the dateline if not west of there. The expectation is that with the new burst of energy building over Japan, it will eventually push east and force the split point also back to the east, somewhere near Hawaii. But given what the models are dishing up, for now support for gale development will likely be confined to the far West Pacific.
Surface - On Sunday (1/8) swell from the Japan/Dateline Gale was hitting Hawaii producing solid well defined long period and groomed swell, but nothing overtly large. Small long period forerunners of that swell were starting to tickle the California coast too. Otherwise high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into Oregon while a new broad but generally weak gale was pushing towards the dateline with winds in the 40 kt range resulting in seas to 30 ft at 38N 177E. No other weather systems of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours this gale is to lift northeast eventually moving into Alaska by Wednesday (1/11). On Sunday evening (1/8) winds in the core fetch are to fade from 35 kts with seas barely holding at 30 ft at 38N 180W. By Monday AM (1/9) only 30 kt westerly fetch to remain with most fetch moving into the gales north quadrant at 40-45 kts but aimed only back at Japan. Seas fading in the original fetch from 26 ft at 37N 175W. South fetch off the front of the gale and north fetch off the back of it are to set up as the gale lifts north generating limited seas of 29 ft at 42N 172W Monday evening targeting primarily the US West Coast lasting into Tuesday AM (1/10) at 43N 167W at 27 ft. Then in the evening more 28 ft seas forecast at 47N 165W but targeting primarily only British Columbia northward. In all some limited sideband swell is expected for Hawaii arriving perhaps late on Wednesday (1/11) with limited energy for the US West Coast mainly north of Pt Conception by the weekend.
Also a weak 2 day bit of weak Kona winds (form the north) are forecast for the Islands on Thurs-Fri (1/13) driven by high pressure passing north of the area. Only 10 kts though.
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 was building 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 was just about at the dateline with 32 ft seas at 40N 175E (315 degs HI, 293 degs NCal). This fetch continued east on Friday AM at 45-50 kts with 39 ft seas at 40N 178W (324 degs HI, 291 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 37 ft over a tiny area at 40N 168W (mostly bypassing HI and aimed right up the 288 degree path to NCal (295 degs SCal). By Saturday AM (1/7) 45 kt northwest winds continued over a small area as the gale lifted northeast with seas fading from 32 ft at 44N 168W (296 degs NCal). By evening the gale was gone.
Some small longer period swell has been generated for all North Pacific locations. The swell has already hit Hawaii.
Hawaii: Residual energy expected to continue on Monday (1/9) with pure swell fading from 8 ft @ 13 secs (9-10 ft faces). Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North CA: Expect the first part of the swell generated from the fetch off Japan to arrive Sunday (1/8) at 5 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny but building steadily through the day peaking near 10 PM with pure swell maybe 5 ft @ 18 secs (9 ft faces). But that is likely a very generous estimate. Swell Direction: 300 degrees and shadowed in the San Francisco Bay area. Expect the next portion of the swell (from when the gale crossed the dateline) to arrive starting Monday (1/9) near 4 PM with period 19 secs and size tiny and slowly but steadily increasing. Swell to peak near 2 AM Tuesday (1/10) with pure swell maybe 5.5-6.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (9-10 ft faces), but given the size of the fetch area, even that is likely a generous estimate. Swell Direction 288-291 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect the first part of the swell generated from the fetch off Japan to arrive Sunday (1/8) at 3 PM with period 20 secs and size tiny and not even noticeable. Swell to peak near 6 AM Monday (1/9) with pure swell maybe 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4 ft faces) at exposed breaks nearshore. But even that is likely a generous estimate. Swell Direction: 305 degrees. Expect the next portion of the swell (from when the gale crossed the dateline) to arrive starting Tuesday (1/10) near 1 AM with period 19 secs and size tiny and slowly but steadily increasing. Swell to peak near 11 AM Tuesday (1/10) with pure swell maybe 2.6-2.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces), but given the size of the fetch area, that is likely a generous estimate. Swell Direction 294-297 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (1/8) high pressure at 1028 mbs was trying to ridge into Oregon with north winds 10+ kts pushing over Northern and Central CA waters, but nearshore mainly an offshore flow prevailed early in the day. Southern CA was under the influence of offshore winds. More of the same is expected on Monday too as light pressure moves inland into the Great Basin. A new area of high pressure and north winds is expected to move into offshore waters off the Pacific Northwest by Tuesday (1/10) with north winds at 30 kts forecast off Cape Mendocino but remaining light for Central and South CA at least early in the day then maybe turning northerly in the afternoon. But by Wednesday the high is to be pushing inland and an offshore flow (or at least calm flow) is to take over holding through Saturday. More high pressure is to be pushing east reaching the Pacific Northwest by Sunday (1/15) setting up north winds for Cape Mendocino area but possibly northeast for Central and South CA. No precipitation south of Cape Mendocino of interest forecast with all significant precipitation focused north of even the Pacific Northwest.
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 gale is to develop off Kamchatka on Thursday (1/12) with 40-45 kt westerly winds peaking near 50 kts in the evening and seas to 30 ft, maybe pushing 34 ft in Friday AM at 48N 168E but all lifting hard to the north and likely bound for the Bering Sea in 24 hours. Maybe some swell to survive the long journey east free and clear of the Aleutians on the 302-306 degree great circle paths to Central CA, but location in the Pacific Northwest to likely be shadowed by the Aleutians. Nothing of any real interest expected regardless.
Beyond another gale is to wrap up on the dateline on Sun (1/15) but be small in coverage and lifting entirely to the north with fetch getting little traction on the oceans surface. maybe seas in the 24 ft range to result at best targeting primarily the US West Coast from a very long ways away.
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 Sunday (1/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -16.86, the deepest of the winter so far since the big run-up in values started in mid-November. The 30 day average was down some to 16.74 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day down some at 14.68.
Current wind analysis indicated easterly anomalies were fading to near normal levels over the West Pacific with the strongest ones extending from 170-180W. No westerly anomalies were indicated, but near neutral conditions are better than anomalies out of the east. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make better inroads towards the dateline from the west. A week from now (1/16) the models indicate no easterly anomalies and even slight westerly anomalies are to build in patches over the entire West Pacific from 100E to 160W. This is good news.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 starting to build on the dateline and holding there if not pushing east for the next 2 weeks. 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 continuing to become more optimistic that some flavor of a weak Active Phase is developing on 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
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