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 (1/26) North and Central CA was seeing combo dateline-Gulf swell at 12-15 ft and pretty solid, but totally encased in fog and not rideable due to lack of visibility. Down south waves were pushing 9 ft on the face and clean but completely fogged in. Southern California up north was getting the leading edge of this new swell with residual swell on top producing waves chest high and clean. Down south waves were chest high and clean with inviting conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing sideband swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting limited wrap-around sideband energy with waves should to head high and near chopped with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A split jetstream pattern was in control of the East Pacific but consolidated in the West offering decent support for gale development there. A small gale spun up on the dateline Wed-Thurs (1/26) but quickly dissipating before making any decent eastern headway. Seas were reported to 34 ft for 12 hours offering some possibilities mainly for Hawaii by the weekend. A bigger and stronger system has been on the charts for a few days now, forecast developing just west of the dateline Fri-Sat (1/28) with seas to 43 ft, but not forecast to move one inch east of the dateline. Possible better long period swell for all if this system develops. A bit of a break after that, but there continue to be signs that perhaps some smaller systems will form in the first few days of February.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/26) the jet was configured in a single stream flowing off Japan and into a broad trough then ridging slightly while tracking just over the dateline, then splitting with the northern branch diffusing some while flow northeast up into the Pacific Northwest while the southern branch fell south over Hawaii on down to the equator , pushing east from there. Winds were 170 kts off Japan then fading on the dateline. There was decent support for gale development starting to build in the trough off Japan pushing towards the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the same broad trough is forecast holding over the West Pacific making better inroads into the dateline region by Saturday (1/28) with winds holding in the 160-170 kt range and offering decent support for gale development up to the dateline. The split point is to move east to a point north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is to hold but with wind speeds fading some between Japan and the dateline (to 160 kts) offering less support for gale development. But by Wed (2/1) 1890-190 kt winds to start rebuilding approaching the dateline with the split point pushing a bit east of Hawaii. No troughs forecast though offering no clear support for gale development. Still, the amount of wind energy is to be solid and worth monitoring.
Surface - On Thursday (1/26) a gale was circulating west of the dateline while tracking southeast (see Small Dateline Gale below). High pressure at 1032 mbs was anchored over the Pacific Northwest. Weak low pressure was nestled in between the two offering no fetch of interest. A new broad gale was starting to circulate off the Kuril Islands. Over the next 72 hours the Kuril Island gale is to be the focus of attention. On Thursday evening it is forecast with pressure down to 968 mbs with 45 kt west-northwest winds building in it' south quadrant. Seas on the increase. By Friday AM it is to reach storm status with 55 kt west winds at 40N 165E with seas building from 36 ft at 41N 167E. 55 kt west winds to hold into the evening as the storm sinks a little southeast with seas building to 42 ft at 37N 170E aimed well at Hawaii and the US West Coast. The storm is to start fading Saturday AM (1/28) with 45-50 kt west winds continuing in the south quadrant resulting in 43 ft seas at 40N 172E. A quick fade is to set in by evening with winds dropping from 40 kts and seas fading from 40 ft at 40N 179E. This system is to be effectively gone by Sunday AM (1/29). If all goes as forecast solid long period swell is likely to reach the Hawaiian Islands with smaller and more inconsistent swell reaching the US West Coast, but well groomed upon arrival. Something to monitor.
Small Dateline Gale
A small low started building just east of Japan on Tues (1/240 with a small area of 45 kt northwest winds early while tracking east and fading. It was repositioned just west of the dateline Wed AM (1/25) with 40 kt westerly winds early and seas 30 ft at 39N 167E. In the evening winds held with seas to 34 ft at 38N 172E. The gale pushed east and faded Thursday AM (1/26) with winds down to 35 kts and seas at 32 ft at 37N 178E, then effective dissipating by evening with seas dropping fast from 26 ft at 35N 176W. Decent support for swell development targeting Hawaii is expected, with far smaller energy for the US West Coast with swell decay taking a good chunk out of it's size.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival near 8 AM on Sat (1/28) with swell building quickly to 7.5 ft @ 17 secs by noon (12-13 ft ) and holding decently through the afternoon. Residuals on Sunday (1/29) fading from 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10-11 ft). Swell Direction: 311 degrees.
North California: Expect swell arrival on Monday (1/30) near 8 AM with period at 17 secs near noon and pure swell peaking at 5 ft @ 17 secs (8.5 ft). Residuals on Tuesday AM fading from 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft). Very inconsistent with low wave counts. Swell Direction: 285-290 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/26) high pressure was trying to move into the Pacific Northwest, but was moving slower than anticipated, setting up a weak trough draping down into Central CA and offering warmer temperatures, little wind and dense fog along the coast. On Friday the trough is to move out and high pressure is to take control with north winds forecast over outer waters for all of Central CA but possible light northeast winds early. Light winds to be in control over Southern California. On Saturday a northeast flow to build-in as high pressure moves into the Great Basin, holding into Sunday. But more high pressure to be building offshore likely starting to make it's move east by Monday (1/30) offering the prospect for northerly winds again for North and Central CA fading some on Tuesday as low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska. Light to near calm winds forecast Wednesday turning more offshore on Thursday (2/2) with a new gale starting to build off the coast.
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 a the atmosphere is to go quiet for a few days, having expelled all it;s energy in a storm projected for the west dateline region over the weekend. But by Thurs (2/2) a modest gale is to start wrapping up off the US West Coast with seas to 22 ft while a smaller but stronger gale tries to organize on the dateline with a small area of seas to 30 ft. It's way too early to have any confidence regarding these systems this early in the game.
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 Thursday (1/26) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up hard at 41.70. The 30 day average was up slightly to 10.98 (still pretty high) with the 90 day up slightly at 15.12. It looks like whatever weak form of Active Phase MJO was in-play has vanished.
Current wind analysis indicated fairly strong easterly anomalies had built over the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 130E. Westerly anomalies were isolated to Indonesia and not making any eastern headway. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO which was in-play is gone now. A week from now (2/3) the models indicate those easterly anomalies are to hold, if not strengthen, but get beaten east some by strong westerly anomalies forecast building just south of the equator extending from 110E to 160E. It will be interesting to see if this really occurs. The longer range models continue to suggest that a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present west of the dateline (150E) and is expected to ease east for the next 2 weeks into early February. At this point, we're saying that it not likely, and if anything, the Active Phase is effectively over. We believe that a persistent and stubborn Inactive Phase of the MJO is building back in. With La Nina as firmly entrenched as it has been, it would be a miracle to see any real Active Phase activity.
The interesting thing about this years MJO cycle is that there really is no coherent cycle. Normally one can track the Active Phase as it literally circumnavigates the planet on the equator. But instead, it has been locked over Indonesia, making only slight movement east for short periods of time, then returning to it;s home base.
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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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