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.
Note: We're planning on upgrading all our wave model products on Friday (2/6) to utilize new high resolution input gribs. Expect outages and/or delays.
On Thursday (2/5) North and Central California had westerly swell coming from a gale that was off the coast, having previously migrated from the northern dateline region southeast to it's current position with seas up to 26 ft. This swell actually hit Wednesday PM and swell was already fading with surf 4 ft overhead and hacked at exposed breaks. Southern California was just starting to see the leading edge of this swell at exposed breaks up north with waves chest to shoulder high and a bit warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was receiving more sideband swell from the gale that was now off the California coast mixed with locally generated north windswell with surf in the head high to 1 ft overhead range, though a bit warbled. The South Shore had a little pulse of swell coming from under New Zealand reaching waist high. The East Shore was getting the same mixture of northeast local windswell and northwest sideband swell from the above mentioned gale producing surf in the head high to 1 ft overhead range but choppy.
For Central California the first in a series of swells hit late Wednesday (after dark) and was still in the 4 ft overhead range at sunrise Thursday, originating from that gale that tracked southeast to a point 300 nmiles off the California coast with up to 45 kt northwest winds and 23-26 ft seas at it's peak. But most of that energy is tracking south of the state. Size to be fading fast by Friday with waves shoulder high. Southern California was seeing a fraction of that swell on Thursday with size on the increase, then fading out as well on Friday with waves in the waist to chest high range. The North Shore of Hawaii is to start seeing new swell on Friday coming from Storm #5, with waves pushing triple overhead from the northwest and trades blowing. This is the best swell on the charts so make the most of it. This swell to continue through the weekend, slowly settling down. The South Shore of Hawaii is to continue getting a little pulse of background southern hemi energy, peaking Friday at 3 ft on the faces (maybe a little more at top spots) then fading Saturday. The East Shore to have slightly building easterly tradewind generated windswell reaching chest high by Sunday.
Longer term relative to the US West Coast that swell that is scheduled to arrive in Hawaii on Friday is to be reaching the Central CA coast by Saturday. It was generated from a broad storm that formed off Northern Japan Saturday (1/31) then pushed northeast, reaching storm status with 50-55 kt winds and seas to 43-46 ft on Tuesday (2/3), then fading fast while moving over the Aleutian Islands. The issue with this storm is that it was positioned very far to the north with most fetch aimed east of the great circle paths to Hawaii, meaning less swell for them, and aimed almost right up the northerly great circle routes to the US mainland but a very long ways away. This northern position means less energy will track into Southern CA and even protected areas of North CA. No significant class size to result, through solid size could be expected at the 'right' exposed breaks. After that a moderate gale pattern is to re-develop off Kamchatka over this weekend on into mid-next week with seas up to 30 ft ft a short burst but mostly aimed at the Aleutians, with lesser 23 ft seas forecast through the period. Also a series of 2 short lived gales to push through the Northeast Gulf of Alaska next week, offering very north angled swell for Central CA northward and best for the Pacific Northwest.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/3) the North Pacific jetstream was tracking flat off Japan to 150 kts holding to the dateline then, fading some and splitting at 170W with the northern branch gently ridged northeast into the Gulf of Alaska with just the faintest fraction of energy splitting off and tracing southeast over Hawaii and towards Baja. The northern branch then dove into a weak secondary trough bottoming out over Big Sur CA and moving inland from there. Decent support for surface level gale development was occurring off Japan with very limited support in the trough off California. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (2/8) winds to hold off Japan if not build slightly to 160 kts and forming a trough there supporting gale development down at the oceans surface and lifting northeast. Meanwhile the California trough is to push inland while a ridge forms in the northern branch over the Gulf of Alaska, shutting gale production down there. Beyond 72 hrs the trough over the dateline is to hold in some fashion, though generally getting weaker. A new tight trough is to open up over the Northeastern Gulf on Sunday dropping southeast pushing into Central CA on Monday, offering a chance for more weather there. After that things to disintegrate over the East Pacific though something that almost looks like a trough is to try and build off Japan again by Thursday (2/12), but it's way to early to know for sure.
At the surface today a weak area of low pressure at 1008 mbs was 300 nmiles off the Central CA coast, remnants of a broader system that came from the northwest (see Gulf Gale below). Swell from this system was hitting California and the final last vestiges of swell energy was also pushing south into Hawaii. The low was fading and expected to move inland. High pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles north of Hawaii aligned north to south and generating easterly trades at 15-20 kts over the Islands, resulting in limited easterly windswell. The remnants of Storm #5 were circulating in the Bering Sea, but offering no fetch over North Pacific waters. In all, a pretty quiet day. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system north of Hawaii is to push east and form a pressure gradient as it interacts with lingering low pressure hanging over California Thursday through Saturday (2/7) generating north winds of 30-35 kts just off the coast and producing 21-23 ft seas and copious local windswell, especially into exposed breaks in Central CA. A weak gale is to form in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska Sat-Sun (2/8) generating 35 kt northeast winds targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest. Seas to 25 ft are expected mid-Sunday at 49N 142W, on the very northern edge of the San Francisco swell window. Most energy to arrive in Oregon starting Monday with some seeping south assuming this one forms.
Also a new gale is forecast forming well east of Southern Japan on Friday (2/6) with pressure 980 mbs and 45-40 kt winds building in it's south quadrant at 35N 162E aimed at Hawaii and points south of there in the evening with a tiny area of 23 ft seas forecast at 35N 161E. It's to lift fast to the northeast on Saturday AM (2/7) with 40 kts winds holding near 39N 170E and 30 ft seas at 37N 168E targeting Hawaii, then a much broader area of 40-45 kts winds in the evening at 45N 170E aimed almost due east, cutting east of the great circle paths to Hawaii and taking aim at the US West Coast from across the dateline. 23 ft seas to start taking hold over a broad at 43N 170E. Sunday AM pressure to drop to 964 mbs with 45 kt winds forecast in it's south quadrant at 49N 165E aimed exclusively at the US West Coast. 30 ft seas forecast at 48N 168E. This fetch to start fading fast in the evening while retrograding west with 30 ft seas pushing northeast towards the Aleutians at 50N 172E, pushing reasonably down the 304 degree path to the Central CA. Possible modest 14-16 sec period swell to result for the US West Coast with lesser energy pushing towards Hawaii if this develops as forecast.
Note: No Jason-1 satellite data is available for the next 5 or so days due to activity to reposition the satellite into a new orbit to integrate with the new Jason-2 satellite and to then recalibrate it.
Dateline Storm #5
Another system, this time a storm, started building off Japan Saturday (1/31) though no fetch was aimed at either Hawaii or the US West Coast, instead all to the south.
By Sunday AM (2/1) a large fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds were getting hold of the oceans surface generating 28 ft seas but still aimed well south of any great circle path to even Hawaii. In the evening the gale started lifting northeast with limited 40-45 kt northwest winds at 43N 160E aimed towards Hawaii down the 312 degree path with seas of 23-25 ft roughly at 37N 160E pushing towards the Islands.
On Monday AM (2/2) 45-50 kt west winds were confirmed setting up at 46N 164E aimed right down the 320 degree path to Hawaii and 40 degrees south of the 304 degree path to North CA. Seas were building from 28 ft at 39N 162E, mainly from previous fetch. In the evening a solid fetch of 50-55 kt west winds were confirmed at 47N 165E aimed flat east mainly up the 304 great circle path to NCal with seas building to 32 ft at 43N 167E, traveling right up the 303 degree path to Central CA and 30 degrees east of the 319 degree path to Hawaii.
Tuesday AM 50 kt west winds were steadily decaying at 47N 170E aimed right up the 304 degree path to NCal and 45 degrees east of the 322 degree path to Hawaii with seas modeled building to 43 ft at 47N 170E. By evening 45 kt west winds were fading fast at 49N 175E aimed 45 degrees east of the 324 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 306 degree path to North CA with seas theoretically peaking at 46 ft at 49N 178E, almost on the dateline and traveling down the 306 degree great circle path to NCal.
This system dissipated quickly after that with only a small area of 35-40 kt west winds left Wednesday AM and seas fading from 38 ft at 50N 175W and impacting the Aleutian Islands.
This is to be a short lived but fairly strong system with it's best asset being it's size, pushing into the large category. But winds remain forecast to not exceed maybe 55 kts limiting it's ability to generate long period energy. Relative to Hawaii this system to push most energy way east of any path into the Islands, meaning all swell to be mostly sideband energy. Still, some swell is certainly better than none at all. For California, the good news is the fetch is to be aimed right towards the state. The bad news is the storm itself is to be too far to the north to have good impact for Southern CA, and even too far north for protected breaks like Santa Cruz and others north of there. Significant class swell should result at the buoys, but only a fraction of that size to reach the beach at protected breaks.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Friday at 1 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to become decent by sunrise and continue upwards, peaking near 7-8 ft @ 17 secs (12-14 ft faces) from noon to sunset. Swell to be 7 ft @ 14-15 secs (10-11 ft faces) on Saturday and fading later. Swell Direction: 313-328 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival late Friday (2/6) afternoon with period at 20-22 secs but size tiny and slowly building. More size expected Saturday AM and building through the afternoon, reaching 8.5 ft @ 17-18 sec near sunset (15 ft faces), but 60% of that size shadowed in the SF Bay Area. Size fading Sunday AM (2/8) from 8 ft @ 16 sec (12-13 ft faces) early and heading down from there. Swell Direction: 304-306 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/5) low pressure at 1008 mbs was positioned 300 nmiles west of San Francisco while high pressure at 1032 mbs was 900 nmiles north of Hawaii generating a building fetch of 30 kt north winds between the two and setting up local windswell for the days ahead focused on Central CA. South winds were the rule over Central CA expected to push into Southern CA by Friday as the low nudges closer to the coast. Rain is to be building stronger Friday over the entire state then fading out over Southern CA on Saturday. Strong local north winds forecast over outer waters Saturday to 30 kts but possibly much less nearshore bordering on calm down into Southern CA. The pressure gradient is to dissolve on Sunday (2/8) with north winds 10-15 kts forecast for Central CA, though less into Southern CA. Yet another low is expected to be building just off Oregon, with the front pushing into the CA coast late Sunday with stronger rain potential late holding into Monday AM with snow in higher elevations through the day. High pressure to move in behind this next front Monday and Tuesday with north winds at 15-20 kts likely, strongest on Monday then giving way some on Tuesday, though still likely a blowout even into Southern CA. Yet another front is forecast pushing into Central CA Wednesday (2/11) with rain reaching into Central CA, but high pressure and north winds at 20 kts expected behind it through Friday making a mess of things for all save protected breaks in Southern CA.
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 another gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf of Alaska Mon/Tues (2/10) with a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest winds at 50N 156W Monday PM pushing to 50N 145W Tues AM generating 30 ft seas at 50N 147W building to 32 ft Tues PM at 48N 140W 600 nmiles off Washington and 1000 nmiles from San Francisco aimed reasonably well down the 318 degree path there. Another dose of northerly swell possible with period at 17 secs.
Also a secondary gale is to form off Japan Sun/Mon (2/9) generating 35-40 kt west winds and 23-25 ft seas pushing to 36N 175E and offering decent odds for more 14 sec period swell for Hawaii over the long haul.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference):As of Thursday (2/5) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was theoretically moving back into the Active Phase, much sooner than expected. The Daily SOI index was holding at 21.37. The 30 day average was up some to 8.53 and the 90 day average steady at 12.59. The SOI indicies were all still symptomatic of La Nina. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a weak area of easterly winds over Central America, typical of the Inactive Phase. But westerly wind anomalies associated with the Active Phase were pushing into the equatorial Western Pacific, a bit stronger than expected. These winds are to reach the dateline by 2/8, holding there solidly through 2/20, then start decaying beyond 2/24. This is much earlier and stronger than previously suggested and are modeled to hang there longer than usual. This incarnation of the Active Phase is likely supporting the gale pattern off Japan and should provide support for additional development through the end of the month. There's also some evidence to suggest that cooler than usual subsurface waters pooling up south of Hawaii might be starting to erode, with a large pool of warmer than normal water sitting on the dateline just waiting to surge east. Will be watching for possible signs of El Nino in the months ahead, as this is the start of the 'early window' for such activity.
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
Need Chiropractic Help? Visit our friends at Darrow Chiropractic. Not only will Dr. Darrow fix you up, he might give you some big wave surfing tips too! See more here: http://www.darrowchiropractic.com/
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table