New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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 Sunday (1/15) North and Central California had surf 2-4 ft overhead with brisk offshore winds early and holding size decently through the day, coming from Storm #3 that was over the dateline early the previous week. Southern California was getting a nice taste of this swell to with top spots 2-3 ft overhead and less exposed breaks head high or so. Hawaii's North Shore was finally starting to cleaning up a little with surf double overhead plus (from the remnants of Storm #3) and slowly settling down. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting 1-2 ft overhead wrap-around swell from Storm #3 working it's way into select breaks.
For Central California one more day of solid surf is expected on Monday with secondary energy from Storm #3 moving in providing more surf in the 6.5 ft @ 13.5 sec range (8-9 ft faces at exposed breaks) and good conditions coming from 270 degrees. though winds trending a little more to the southeast. Residuals expected into Tuesday then the bottom falls out. Southern California is to continue seeing some of this same swell too, but size much smaller Monday with the second pulse not arriving till late afternoon with swell 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft faces) at reasonably well exposed breaks from 275 degrees. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see dropping surf Monday with swell 7.5-8.0 ft @ 12 secs (9 ft faces) and from a more northerly direction at 330 degrees with even less on Tuesday. . The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore should continue to see some portion of this swell wrap around, but with the size of the swell dropping os fast, it's likely there won't be anything more that what occurred on Sunday.
Longer term another decent gale formed on the dateline generating 45-50 kts winds and 29-30 ft seas targeting both Hawaii and California. More utility class swell from this one is expected for California late week But Hawaii can expected to see significant class surf mid-week. And yet another strong but still small system is forecast mid-week pushing up to the dateline with possibly 40 ft seas offering surf again for both California and Hawaii. And there are definite indications that the jetstream is to fall apart and the high pressure dome that has protected the US West Coast might break down, at least temporarily, offering slight odds for much needed rain in the Golden State.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (1/18) the North Pacific jetstream continued consolidated flowing flat from Japan over the dateline with 160 kt winds reaching a point just 900 nmiles west of San Diego CA, then splitting heavily with the northern branch tracking straight north into Alaska and the southern branch pushing directly south bound for the equator. Good support for gale development on the dateline pushing up to the California coast with strong high pressure likely between the split flows in the east. Over the next 72 hours through Wednesday (1/21) the flow is to start falling apart, but not before a trough digs out north of Hawaii Mon-Tues (1/20) with a weaker one off the Kurils Monday and slowly tracking east reaching the dateline. Neither is particularly strong with a definite lack of energy expected in the jet, but they might hold some hope for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue weakening and losing organization, but not totally splitting either, flowing off Japan ridging some, then diving into a weak but broad trough over the dateline before fragmenting with portions of energy seeping into Northern CA by Thursday (1/22) with a possible backdoor trough forming off San Francisco by Saturday (1/24) and continuing for at least 48 hrs, eerily reminiscent of the wet and cold weather event that occurred over Christmas. Maybe a good snow production scenario. A major shift from the jetstream pattern of late. Enjoy the warm weather in CA while you can.
At the surface today a new gale was positioned over the dateline (See Storm #4 below) with the very weak residuals from Storm #3 in the Gulf of Alaska. High pressure at 1040 mbs was locked over Idaho barely bulging 600 nmiles off the US West Coast and producing offshore winds for much of the coast, interacting well with Swell #3. Trades were trying to get a hold over Hawaii, but winds were still mostly north to north-northeast putting sideshore lump on swell from Storm #3 hitting there. Over the next 72 hours Storm #4 is to hold it's position on the dateline but fading out by late Monday (1/19). At the same time possible Storm #5 is to try and develop off the Kuril Islands pushing to the dateline while fading, with no real jetstream support, effectively gone by late Wednesday (1/21) (details below).
Storm #3 Follow-on Energy
The remnants of Storm #3 continued circulating in the Gulf of Alaska Wednesday through Saturday (1/17) with a generalized fetch of 30-35 kt winds in-play dropping south along the dateline producing 23-25 ft seas aimed right at Hawaii with occasional pulses of condensing winds tracking east and pushing up the southeastern sector of what is to basically be a big gale and targeting the US West Coast (though mostly passing east of Hawaii) from a very westerly direction. The best pulse theoretically occurred Wednesday (1/14) generating 30-35 kt east winds with seas modeled to 29-30 ft Wednesday AM at 40N 165W, in the evening at 36N 157W, then Thurs AM at 40N 152 and in the evening at 31N 160W. The final decent reading was expected fading from 25 ft Fri AM at 30N 162W targeting primarily Hawaii. But two separate Jason-1 satellite passes over these areas indicated seas were never more than 23-24 ft (good for 13 sec period swell). Clearly the Wavewatch III wave model has been way overcalling seas heights, and we suspect that is likely because the GFS weather model has been overcalling the wind speeds that are used to drive the wave model. In the end, the only thing that matters is what the real wind speeds are, and the QuikSCAT satellite is well suited to verify that fact.
Additional smaller utility class follow-on energy is expected for Central CA sunset Sunday (1/18) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft faces) from 269-273 degrees with another pulse hitting at 4 Am Monday building to 6.6 ft @ 13 secs (8.5 ft faces) overlaying existing swell still in the water.
Lesser energy to push down into Southern CA starting sunrise Monday at 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 275+ degrees. Another pulse to fill in behind that near noon at 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft faces).
Storm #4 - Hawaii
A new gale started pushing off the Kuril's on Friday (1/16) with a tiny area of 40-45 kt west winds confirmed at 45N 158E over a small area in the evening producing 26 ft seas at 44 N 158E initially targeting Hawaii well.
Saturday AM (1/17) winds were confirmed building to 45-50 kts in it's south quadrant falling to 37N 167E aimed well up the 292 degree path to CA and 306 degree path to HI. 26 ft seas were again modeled at 44N 165E, from previous fetch. In the evening a broader fetch of 40 kt west winds were confirmed with a small fetch of up to 55 kts winds at 41N 178E aimed east towards Ncal up the 292 degree path and the 319 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were modeled at 25 ft dropping to 37N 168W targeting mainly Hawaii.
Sunday AM (1/18) more 40-45 kts westerly winds were occurring at 36N 174E producing 28 ft seas at 39N 172E. By evening 35 kt winds are forecast at 40N 180W with previous fetch producing 30 ft seas at 36N 178E. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass directly over the outer fringes of the core of the fetch at 18Z Sunday reporting a 15 reading average of seas at 26.7 ft where the model indicated 29-30 ft seas. So the models were off by 203 ft, pretty typical of the models performance as of late.
Monday AM (1/19) a small secondary fetch of 40 kts winds is forecast right near the gales core aimed southeast with 29 ft seas from previous fetch forecast at 35N 175W (319 degree Hawaii). In the evening this system is to be gone with residual 25 ft seas near 34N 171W and dissipating.
In all the seas heights were a little overestimated per the Jason-1 satellite. Regardless, it's close proximity to Hawaii will likely produce a short lived burst of minimally significant class swell for the Hawaiian Islands with utility class surf possible for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Based on a mix of confirmed and modeled data, expect swell arrival starting Wednesday 2 AM (1/21) with period 16 secs and pure swell quickly ramping up to 8.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (13 ft faces Hawaiian) coming from 312-319 degrees
North California: Rough data suggest swell arrival Friday 4 AM with period 17 secs and size maxing late morning at 5.7-5.8 ft @ 16 secs (9 ft faces). Swell Direction 282-287 degrees)
Southern CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival Friday 1 PM with period 17 secs and peaking just after sunset with swell 2.4 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 287-293 degrees
Possible Storm #5 (Hawaii)
And yet one more gale is to build off the Kuril's Monday evening (1/19) with pressure 972 mbs and 50 kt west winds at 40N 153E, just east of Northern Japan. 25 ft seas to be building at 39N 154E.
Tuesday AM (1/20) a brief burst of 55 kt west winds are forecast over a tiny area at 40N 160E pushing down the 307 degree track to Hawaii and 30 degree south of the 298 degree path to North CA. This to push seas up fast to 35 ft at 40N 160E. In the evening 45 kt residual west winds are forecast at 40N 170E aimed well down the 312 degree path to Hawaii and up the 294 degree path to NCal. 40 ft seas are scheduled from that wind burst at 40N 169E.
Wednesday AM (1/21) the gale is to be approaching the dateline with 40 kts wind at 40N 178E aimed well up the 293 degree track to North CA and 35 kt fetch pushing down it's western flank well towards Hawaii down the 315 degree track. 38 ft seas are modeled at 39N 174E. In the evening 35-40 kts winds to hold at 41N 178E aimed about like before with 32 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 40N 180W (on the dateline) .
Thursday Am (1/22) the last 35 kt fetch from this system are to be at 43N 178E and fading with a solid area of 29 ft seas forecast at 40N 175W
If all this comes to pass another pulse of significant class swell can be expected for Hawaii with solid utility class swell for the US West Coast. But it's way to early to make any firm forecast yet. Period at or exceeding 20 sec could be expected with most size likely a bit below that, and the swell will be well groomed given it's rather long travel distance to both HAwaii and the mainland. A very long wait should be expected between sets for the US West Coast given a 2700-3100 nmiles travel distance.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (1/18) the last pulse of high pressure was hanging on over California, with the offshore flow now coming more from the southeast. A stormy pattern was trying to set up between Hawaii and California, perhaps a sign of changes to come. More of the same is forecast Monday with perhaps a calm winds pattern in place Tuesday as a weak gale falls apart less than 600 nmiles off Cape Mendocino. This is to be the last of the great weather. A neutral pressure pattern and no winds is forecast Wednesday, but rain from the gale that was off the coast is to move over the entire state. By Thursday clearing skies and a light south wind are forecast building into Big Sur late afternoon as a new gale builds off San Francisco, and south winds to 15 kts and rain impact the North and Central coasts Friday AM (1/23) continuing to 20 kts Saturday moving over Southern CA too as the low moves inland over the Bay area. Rain to continue for the entire state too. And a new low is to form from it's predecessors remnant sinking south off the coast on Sunday with more rain in the forecast. Winter returns.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring aimed at US targets. 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 hours virtually no fetch of greater than 25 kts is forecast for the North Pacific. This strongly suggests that whatever swell is going to be generated with occur in the next few days, than after that the North Pacific is to go dormant while the jetstream tries to sort itself out. Consistent with earlier forecasts, the decay of the jetstream is in perfect sync with the decay of the Active Phase of the MJO, which is to be effectively gone by 1/22 and replaced by an equally strong Inactive Phase pushing into the West Pacific and expected to dominate for at least the first 3 weeks of February. Better get whatever surf you can now because an extended flat spell looks likely.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Sunday (1/18) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was still strongly in the Active Phase, but for just a few more days. The Daily SOI index was down to -7.34 hovering near 0 for 12 days now. The 30 day average was down to 11.78 and the 90 day average was down to 12.86. La Nina was still well dug-in, but the MJO was trying to make a little headway against it. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a very strong area of west winds on the equator starting at Eastern Australia pushing over the dateline and reaching well south of Hawaii with lesser winds pushing the whole way to Central AMerica. The Active Phase of the MJO was filling the entire Pacific (a good thing). These winds are expected to push east and hold together reasonably well by 1/22, positioned just south of Hawaii, but the end is near. By 1/27 a fast decay is to set in as the Inactive Phase plows through the Indian Ocean, reaching north Australia by 1/27 and likely starting to suppress storm development. The Active Phase is supportive of development of storms in the North Pacific, specifically the gale pattern that was off Japan late December, then Storm #3 and Possible Storms 4 & 5. The Inactive Phase will do the exact opposite, suppressing storm development and supporting high pressure. Note that warm waters that had built up off Central America starting last summer ('08) due to what appeared to be the start of an El Nino have been totally erased now and colder than normal water has taken over the equator from the dateline east to almost Ecuador. And subsurface waters in the East PAcific equator have moved very negative, all very much a symptom of La Nina.
No swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days.
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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Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
Help Out a Fellow Mavericks Surfer: Our friend Christy Davis is going through some tough times. His 14 year old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. The prognosis is good but we'd all like to help him out with medical expenses not covered by insurance. If you would like to donate, send an email to us here or send it to Christy directly at: Chris Davis PO Box 628 Moss Beach, CA 94038
Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
STORMSURF Local Wave Models Upgraded - We significantly upgraded the local waves models on Sunday (6/8). All now utilize our newly developed high-resolution 3D shaded relief topography for mapping landmasses. Coastlines are now accurate down to the individual pixel providing near photographic realism. Mountains and hills are all shaded and accurate to within the same single pixel specification. Cities are overlaid as before, but now we've added major highways and rivers too (for many locations). Some good examples of this new technology can be viewed here:
- View the reefs north of Tahiti and notice their contribution to the 'Swell Shadow' relative to California - Tahiti
- Notice the detail of the coast in and around Vancouver Islands and Washington State - Pacific Northwest
- See the details of inland waterways of the US Northeast Coast - Virginia
- Details of the Mentawai Island and Nias
And all the local models can be found either on our homepage or from the wavemodel page (bottom half of the page).
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Mavericks Contest 2008: View all the action from the 2008 Maverick Surf Contest from Powelines Productions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5lj9CUpCc
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table