New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 Saturday (2/10) North and Central California was residual waist high background swell and clean early. Southern California was getting the same swell with waves thigh high and clean early up north. Down south it was about the same with thigh to waist high lines occasionally coming in and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting reinforcing north swell energy again holding waves at 2-3 ft overhead but chopped with Konas in effect. The East Shore was the same swell as the North Shore at 2 ft overhead and chopped. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA on Sunday is for new swell coming from the Gulf of Alaska to slowly build through the day to 8 ft (faces). Monday leftovers forecast at 6 ft dropping Tuesday to 4.5 ft with south winds in control. Wednesday theoretically new Eastern Gulf swell builds to 13-14 ft and hacked holding near 11-12 ft on Thursday. Southern California is to see new Gulf swell arriving later Sunday at waist high or so then fading from about waist high early Monday. Thigh high leftovers Tuesday with larger southwest windswell in the mix. Wednesday new Gulf swell arrives at shoulder high early and building, reaching 1-2 ft overhead on Thursday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see local north raw windswell up to 8 ft on Sunday fading from 7 ft Monday dropping from 4-5 ft Tuesday. 4 ft leftovers on Wednesday with a little Gulf north swell thrown in on Thursday pushing 1 ft overhead. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell till Monday at 4 ft and 3 ft Tuesday but a portion of that local north windswell is to wrap in to the East Shore for this weekend. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A modest gale built in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (2/11) with seas 24 ft targeting the US West Coast with swell for the late weekend, and a local fetch developed 350 nmiles north of Hawaii on Fri (2/11) with 18 ft seas. A broader Gale is forecast for the Eastern Gulf on Mon-Wed (2/16) with up to 26 ft seas targeting Central CA best though local weather likely to be an issue upon swell arrival. A short follow on fetch is to develop Thursday (2/17) falling fast from the Gulf southward again targeting California with 20 ft seas. Nothing after that though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (2/12) a split jetstream pattern was in control. The jet was pushing off Japan then quickly split with most energy taking the northern route through the Bering Sea, then dropped southeast into the Gulf of Alaska though no real trough was present there. The southern branch tracked southeast a little over the dateline before turning flat then lifting northeast into the Pacific Northwest. Regardless there was no support for gale development in either branch. Over the next 72 hours the northern branch is to take control lifting hard north in the Bering Sea then diving hard south through the Gulf of Alaska forming a decent trough there by late Sunday with 120 kt winds feeding into it. That trough to hold and slowly ease east through Tuesday (2/15). Decent support for gale development in that trough. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to eventually pushing into San Francisco CA late on Wed (2/16). And right when one would think it would all be over, a short blast of reinforcing 140 kt north winds are to feed into the trough again helping it to redevelop centered 300 nmiles off San Francisco on Thursday slowly tracking inland over the weekend. Continued support for gale development in the extreme Southeastern Gulf. But after that a large ridge is looking to take hold over the entire Eastern Pacific, at least for a while.
At the surface on Saturday (2/12) high pressure was in control of the dateline at 1036 mbs with weak low pressure trapped below it. This is was and has been generating a broad fetch of 30-35 kt east winds extending from just 300 nmiles north of Hawaii to the dateline and beyond, but not as focused on the Islands as was previously hoped for. North winds tracking around the east side of the dateline high were at 20-25 kts aimed at Hawaii through likely generating windswell pushing there. Also weak unorganized low pressure was in the extreme Eastern Bering Sea seeping into the Northern Gulf of Alaska, but producing only west winds at 25 kts and of no real interest. Over the next 72 hours the fetch north of Hawaii is to hold into Saturday PM. Moderate and raw local northerly windswell is expected for the Islands through the weekend (see QuikCAST's for details).
Also a gale developed in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thursday (2/10) with 35 kt northwest winds at 48N 154W by the evening producing 25 ft seas at 45N 150W. That fetch backed off some Friday AM through still in the 30-35 kts range with more 22 ft seas modeled at 46N 157W. Fetch was gone by the evening with seas from previous fetch still 20 ft at 45N 153W. Limited sideband swell is radiating towards the Hawaiian Islands with some degree of 13-14 sec period swell pushing towards the US West Coast for later Sunday (hitting NCal at 6.0 ft @ 13 secs - 8.0 ft faces - 298 degrees).
Another Gulf gale is to become established on Monday (2/14) in the Northeastern Gulf with 35 kt northwest winds at 47N 150W extending southeast and feeding into a small weak low just off the Central CA coast. 24 ft seas building at 45N 150W. The local low is to lift quickly north in the evening setting up a continuous fetch of 30 kt northwest winds from Alaska the whole way to just off the Northern CA coast with 26 ft seas building up in the Central Gulf at 45N 149W. On Tuesday AM (2/15) the fetch is to move closer to the US West coast and fading with barely 30 kt northwest winds centered at 40N 142W and 24 ft seas continuing at 40N 144W. The fetch is to continue tracking east while fading in the evening with 22 ft seas holding on at 40N 140W. By Wed AM (2/16) the fetch is to be gone with residual 22 ft seas just off Central CA at 37N 137W. Suspect some degree of larger but very raw and windblown 13-14 sec period swell could result for California and the Pacific Northwest mid-week (see QuikCASTs for details).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/12) high pressure at 1024 mbs was barely hanging on over the California coast providing light winds and calm conditions with a large swath of unsettled weather appearing to be building in the Gulf and pushing into the the Pacific Northwest Coast. Sunday light winds to continue early while low pressure inches it's way closer to the CA coast. Then on Monday a new local low and front are to be pushing into the Central CA coast with south winds building into areas from Pt Conception northward. Rain likely too with snow developing in upper elevations. A full southwest to west wind flow in excess of 15 kts with rain and snow is forecast through Wed (2/16). Up to 3 ft of snow possible in the Sierra (Tahoe). A break is possible Thursday but then another weaker system pulls up to the Southern-Central CA coast by nightfall moving onshore with 20 kt south winds in control and more snow up high this time focused on the Southern Sierras. South winds into Southern CA on Friday then clearing high pressure builds in behind that with 20+ kt north winds in control for next weekend. As of right now we're thinking this will be a one time event with no other snow producing systems queued up behind it and the jet not favorable for more either.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs yet another fetch (not even a gale) is to form right behind and in the same area in the Northern Gulf Wed PM (2/16) with 35 kt northwest winds dropping southeast to a point just off the Central CA coast on Thursday AM down to 30 kts resulting in peak seas of 20 ft at 40N 137W mid-day Thurs (2/17). More raw windswell possible focused on California for late in the workweek.
Beyond that not a breath of swell producing fetch is forecast.
As of Saturday (2/12) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was remaining relatively low, much to our surprise. The daily SOI (not updated since Thurs (2/10) was 12.97. The 30 day average was down to 18.48 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.19.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (2/11) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a dead neutral pattern was in control. Neither the Active Phase nor the Inactive of the MJO were having an influence. Absolutely no change is forecast through 3/3. Given the massive change in the jetstream, it seems unlikely that a purely neutral pattern is in play with some bias towards the Inactive Phase more likely, regardless of the models. Gale development potential for the favored dateline region is down and expected to continue through the end of the month if not a bit longer. Also north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds-in (maybe late Feb). But that could be interrupted by occasional cold bursts of wet energy pushing down the US West Coast from the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (2/10) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond. Colder than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and even colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10-1/17. Current data as of 2/8 suggests temps still 4-5 degrees C below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. As of 1/29 these anomalies had backed off, presumable due to the influence of the Active phase of the MJO. But that should be fading shortly with easterly anomalies taking control.
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in 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 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 more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table