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 (2/2) North and Central CA was seeing Swell #2 fading from 8-9 ft, far smaller than expected. Winds were light northwest mid-morning and coming up only slightly. Down south waves were 2 ft overhead on the sets and clean. Southern California up north was getting the meat of Swell #2 with waves waist to chest high up north and clean. Down south waves were waist high with chest high sets and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing Swell #2 fading with waves head high or so and clean with light trades. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was effectively flat and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A modest gale tracked from just east of the dateline Tuesday (1/31) with barely 30 ft seas to the Gulf of Alaska Wed-Thurs (1/2) with 26 ft seas setting up more swell targeting the US West Coast over the weekend with sideband swell down into Hawaii starting late Thursday evening. And yet another small gale is forecast wrapping up off the North CA coast on Fri-Sat (2/4) with seas in the 26 ft range aimed right at North CA offering swell for CA on Sun-Mon. At the same time a new stronger system is to be pushing off Japan tracking over the dateline Fri-Sat (2/4) with 34 ft seas aimed at both Hawaii and the US West Coast. And a potentially strong system is forecast for the dateline pushing into the Southern Gulf Mon-Tues (2/7) with up to 40 ft seas targeting Hawaii best, but with possible weather hitting too. And more potential exists behind that. Maybe the MJO is finally starting to have some positive impact.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/2) the jet was pumping solid flat off Japan with winds 180-190 kts tracking over the dateline then falling into a small trough in the Gulf and splitting hard with most energy taking the northern split up into Alaska while the southern branch tracked southeast to the equator. Good support for gale development in the Gulf trough with high pressure in between the split streams over the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours the exact same pattern is forecast but with wind speeds building to 210 kts (very strong) by Saturday (2/4) and flowing into the Gulf trough late Sunday (down to 180 kts). More gale development possible there. Beyond 72 hours all the push of strong winds is to end up in the East Pacific feeding the still-present Gulf trough and with the split pont finally pushing onshore over California on Tuesday (2/7) offering a shot at winds and rain then. At the same time the Gulf trough is to be holding if not deepening with a new push of 180 kt winds building over Japan and heading east. Yet more potential in the Gulf trough and more beyond that depending on what those winds of Japan do. Best pattern of the year so far.
Surface - On Thursday (2/2) swell from Storm #2 was fading in both Hawaii and California (see details below). Swell was about as big as forecast for the Islands but was smaller (by about 25%) than forecast for California. A broad and building gale was tracking off Japan with winds to 50 kts (see Japan-Dateline Gale below). A tiny gale was trying to wind up north of Hawaii with winds at 35 kts. And residuals from a previous gale were tracking north off the Pacific Northwest winds winds still 40 kts aimed at the US West Coast (see details below - Dateline-Gulf Gale). Over the next 72 hours the tiny gale 900 nmiles north of Hawaii is to push east on Thursday PM with winds holding at 35 kts and seas building from 22 ft at 39N 158W all aimed due east. Friday AM (2/3) winds to build to near 45 kts over a tiny area with seas pushing 24 ft at 39N 148W. In the evening the gale is to start pushing hard north with winds to near 50 kts in it's west quadrant at 44N 143W resulting in 24 ft seas up at 43N 142W aimed at North CA down the 294 degree path. Saturday AM (2/4) the gale is to stall off North Oregon with 45 kt northwest winds and 27 ft seas at 43N 142W. Possible swell for North and Central CA on Sunday (2/5) with swell 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction:285 & 296 degrees
On Thursday AM a solid gale developed off Japan producing 50 kt west winds in it's southern quadrant and tracking flat east. In the evening pressure was 976 mbs with winds 45 kts over a solid area aimed due east with seas building from 32 ft at 39N 162E (305 degs HI and 295 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold Friday AM (2/3) with seas building to 34 ft at 40N 170E (312 degs HI and 295 degs NCal).Winds to be fading some in the evening but covering a broader area at 35-40 kts aimed southeast with seas holding at 34 ft at 41N 179E (320 degs HI and 293 Degs NCal). Fetch is to be lifting north Sat AM (2/4) with winds still 40 kts just south of the Aleutians with residual seas from previous fetch at 30 ft at 40N 175W (325 degs HI and 292 degs NCal). Fetch from the Aleutians is to be fading in the evening with seas from that fetch to nearly 30 ft at 45N 175W. A steady fade is forecast thereafter. This looks like a good swell producer for Hawaii if all goes as forecast. Rough data suggest swell arrival on Monday (2/6) with swell to 8.1 ft @ 16 secs (13 ft). Swell Direction: 305-325 degrees focused at 315 degrees.
A new small gale started to building on the dateline with west winds at 40 kts at 40N 178W aimed mainly east of Hawaii. Seas were building from 26 ft at 40N 179W. This gale continued developing over the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday evening with winds holding at 45-50 kts pushing east with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 39N 171W. Wednesday AM (1/1) the gale tried to reorganize in the Northern Gulf with pressure dropping to 976 mbs with a fragmented fetch of 40 kt northwest to west winds wrapping into the core of the gale in it's south quadrant targeting mainly California. Seas from previous fetch were 26 ft at 40N 158W. Winds faded in velocity but increased in coverage Wednesday PM at 35-40 kts at 45N 160W with seas to 26 ft at 44N 160W (295 degs NCal). No real energy was pushing towards Hawaii, all aimed east of there. A secondary fetch developed off Cape Mendocino on Thursday AM with winds 40 kts at 39N 145W but quickly lifting north. In the evening seas were modeled to 24-26 ft at 39N 142W aimed at the CA coast exclusively.
This system was rather sporadic regarding fetch holding over any one area of the oceans surface for any length of time, but still was able to set up a variety sea areas of interest. The net effect is to be swell pushing towards the US West Coast targeting primarily Northern CA with sideband swell for Hawaii (Thurs PM -Fri AM 2/3). Expect swell for North CA starting Saturday AM with pure swell in the 7 ft @ 14 sec range with seas a bit higher and some longer period energy imbedded. Swell Direction:284-286 degrees
A new broad gale started to circulate off the Kuril Islands on Thursday AM (1/26). By evening pressure was down to 968 mbs with 45-50 kt west-northwest winds building in it's south quadrant. Seas on the increase. By Friday AM it reach storm status with WindSAT confirming west winds at 55-60 kts winds covering a 480 nmiles fetch area centered at 38N 165E with seas building from 32 ft at 40N 166E. 55-60 kt west winds were confirmed into the evening as the storm sank a little southeast with seas building to 41 ft at 37N 170E aimed well at Hawaii (307 degs) and the US West Coast (293 degs NCal/296 degs SCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the back end of the fetch and reported seas at 37-39 along it's track, before it could not read the sea heights anymore near the core, but reported a reading to 41.3 ft where the model suggested 38 ft seas. This was right on track or even a bit better than expected. The storm started fading Saturday AM (1/28) with a broad area of 40-45 kt west winds modeled continuing in it's south quadrant resulting in 44 ft seas at 38N 174E (309 degs HI/293 degs NCal/295 degs SCal). But the WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 55 kts at 37N 170E, another good sign. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the storm at 20Z and reported seas at 31-38 ft where the model suggested only 28-30 ft seas. This is very good news. A quick fade is to set in by evening with winds dropping from 45 kts and seas fading from 40 ft at 38N 177E (314 degs HI/294 degs NCal/296 degs SCal). This system is to be effectively gone by Sunday AM (1/29) with only 30-35 kt west fetch remaining and seas fading from 39 ft at 40N 177E.
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.
North California: Residuals in Friday (2/3) at 4.8 ft @ 14 secs(6.5 ft). Swell Direction 291-292 degrees.
South California: Swell to be declining by Friday AM fading from 7.5 ft @ 16 secs early (13 ft) outside the Islands and 3.8 ft @ 16 secs inside the Islands (6 ft). Residuals on Saturday. Swell Direction 294-296 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 (2/2) high pressure at 1022 mbs was barely hanging on over the Oregon and California coasts while a onslaught of low pressure was pushing east in the Gulf of Alaska. But for the moment, a light north flow was all that was occurring along California. High pressure is to win the immediate battle on Friday holding over the US West Coast with light north winds expected again on Friday. The high is to start pushing inland on Saturday with a light offshore flow expected but starting to turn southeast over the Pacific Northwest. A huge area of low pressure is to be building out at sea. By Sunday east winds are to continue early from Pt Reyes southward, then turning southeast to south by sunset well down into Central CA. A huge front and low pressure is to be just off the coast Monday AM with south winds in control down to Pt Conception, and starting to move onshore by nightfall. Rain moving into Monterey Bay northward by 5 PM. The front to disintegrate as it impacts high pressure over the state on Tuesday through south winds still continuing early even into Southern CA. Rain expected all day even into San Diego, the fading out Wednesday AM. UP to 11 inches of snow possible for Tahoe. By Wednesday high pressure is to be back in control with north winds over the entire state at 15 kts, easing on Thursday (2/9).
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 the residuals of the Japan-Dateline Gale are to reorganize in a broad upper trough off the US West Coast starting Sunday evening (2/5) with a broad area of 30-35 kt northwest winds building 900 nmiles west of Central CA with energy also pointed well towards Southern CA. This system is to become better organized Monday AM (2/6) with up to 45 kt west winds building off Cape Mendocino with 26 ft seas at 41N 150W and a broad swath of 22 ft seas well south of there 1500 nmiles west of Southern CA on the 285 degree path. Fetch is to start fading Monday PM with seas building to 28 ft at 40N 145W (285 degs Ncal) and 24 ft seas down to 33N 145W (290 degs SCal). The system to fade after that. Swell arrival possibly mid week, if one is to believe the models (a big reach).
And yet another gale is to try and develop on the dateline on Sunday AM (2/5) with 45 kts west winds building to 50 kts in the evening with seas building from 32 ft at 37N 180W. 55 kt northwest winds forecast Monday AM (2/6) with seas to 38 ft at 37N 175W. Fetch is to be fading from 45 kts in the evening 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas to 41 ft at 36N 169W pushing just a bit east of the Islands. The gale is to dissipate Tuesday AM just north of Hawaii with seas fading from 34 ft at 34N 160W (750 nmiles out from Kauai) with 20 kt northwest winds pushing up to the Islands likely setting up Konas there. Still, it's something to monitor.
And yet another system is to be tracking off Kamchatka Wed (2/8) pushing east just south of the Aleutians with seas in the 36 ft range pushing up to the dateline late Thurs (2/9).
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 (2/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -4.61 (-12.44 the day before). The 30 day average was down some to 8.74 with the 90 day down slightly at 14.76. Were moving towards the same place were were last May when the SOI dramatically dropped.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were in control of the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 165E. Westerly anomalies were trying to make eastern headway extending from Indonesia east to 160E. This suggests that again a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is fluctuating and trying to make inroads into the West Pacific. A week from now (2/10) the models indicate those westerly anomalies are to hold, if not strengthen extending from Indonesia to 160E with weak easterly anomalies over the dateline and giving up ground. This is interesting, but not completely believable. Something to monitor just the same. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) all continue to suggest that a weak to moderate version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present west of the dateline (150E) and is expected to build east for the next 2 weeks into mid-February, reaching the dateline then. At this point, we're becoming more optimistic and theorizing that a precious short 1 week fade of westerly anomalies on the dateline was just a break in the action, with the Active Phase again awake and continuing on it's painstakingly slow but steady easterly course. We've been waiting for this since mid-December.
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 over a 6 week period. 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
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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/
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table