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 Tuesday (2/14) North and Central CA was seeing preliminary northern dateline swell hitting mixed with piles of local windswell making surf in the double overhead plus range and hacked to shreds. Sure looks like the start of Spring. In Santa Cruz waves were head high or maybe a little more and clean on the surface but warbled. Southern California up north was waist to chest high and clean but warbled looking very much like windswell. Down south waves were shoulder to head high and unremarkable with texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing residual dateline swell at 7-8 ft on the faces and clean - looking fun. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same residual dateline swell at shoulder high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A large but poorly organized gale tracked over the Northern Dateline on Fri-Sat (2/11) with seas 32-34 setting up swell for CA on Wed-Thurs (2/16). Another gale developed on the Southern Dateline on Mon-Tues (2/14) with seas to 34 ft and follow-on energy into Wednesday at 26 ft targeting Hawaii well by late Wed (2/15) with some energy expected to the California by late week into the weekend. But beyond that things are to really settle down with the Inactive Phase of the MJO forecast to take control and the storm track fading and moving further to the north.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Tuesday (2/14) the jet was flowing flat off Japan with winds at 150 kts falling into a broad shallow trough on the dateline then splitting north of Hawaii with most energy ridging up into the Gulf of Alaska before falling down the California coast and pushing inland over Baja. A weak flow was peeling off the main stream falling south over Hawaii then turning hard east on the equator. Limited support for gale development in the trough on the dateline. Over the next 72 hours winds the same basic pattern is to hold into late Wednesday (2/15), but with the jet tracking into British Columbia. After that the split point moves back to almost the dateline with most energy continuing in the northern branch flowing flat east into Washington while strong winds to 190 kts start building over Japan. No real support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours energy levels are to hold over Japan pushing to the dateline at 190 kts through the weekend with the split point being just east of the dateline and most energy still flowing into the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing into British Columbia. A weak but broad trough is forecast on the dateline, offering limited support for gale development. No real change forecast through the middle of next week (2/22).
Surface - On Tuesday (2/14) of the South Dateline Gale (see details below) was fading while drifting northeast up into the Western Gulf. A new small circulation developed just south of the Eastern Aleutians from the Dateline Gale, with 45 kt west winds Monday AM (2/13) at 40N lifting hard to the north in the evening with 55 kt west winds up at 44N 170W. 32 ft seas building at 43N 170W (296 degs NCal). By Tuesday AM (2/14) winds were already fading from 45 kts at 47N 170W aimed more northeast than east with seas building from 37 ft at 47N 167W targeting the Pacific northwest up into Alaska (302 degs NCal). By evening a tiny area of 45 kts southwest winds to remain targeting the Aleutians with 34 ft seas fading over a tiny area at 48N 167W. This all suggest some degree of modest longer period swell could result for the Pacific Northwest, but will be well shadowed or too north an angled to be ideal for California south of Pt Arena. Additional follow-on west fetch to continue in the Gulf at 30-35 kts Wed-Thurs (2/16) resulting in 26 ft seas near 40N 160W. Perhaps more 14 sec energy to continue pushing into the Pacific Northwest down into California intermixed with the South Dateline Gale (indicated below).
Also a small gale is forecast tracking off northern Japan heading northeast on Thurs (2/16) with 40 kt west winds over a small area building to 45 kts in the evening on into Friday AM then fading late. Seas forecast maxing at 36 ft over a tiny area well west of the dateline Fri AM at 45N 171E (320 HI and 301 degs NCal). Will monitor.
Broad North Pacific Gale
A broad fetch started developing on the dateline Friday AM (2/10) with a tiny area of west winds to 55 kts on it's leading edge and a second fetch of 40-45 kts west winds off the Northern Kuril Islands resulting in seas to 32 ft at 47N 172E with a broad area of seas at 26 ft extending a bit off Japan to the dateline at 37N. 50 kt west winds continued in the evening on the leading edge of the gale lifting northeast with a broad area of 35-40 kts winds trailing behind with seas on the increase to 36 ft at 46N 177E all aimed due east (327 degs HI and 301 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds held into Saturday AM (2/11) but relocated just south of the Eastern Aleutians with pockets of 30-40 kts fetch extending well behind over the dateline resulting in seas of 32 ft over a large area near 45N and 178W all pushing due east (327 degs HI and 298 degs NCal) with 24+ ft seas north of 40N and filling the Central North Pacific. By evening the bulk of this system is to be gone with only 40 kt west winds holding near the dateline with 28 ft seas at 42N 177W. No significant fetch of interest to continue.
Possible moderate size swell with period in the 15-17 sec range to be pushing towards Hawaii arriving Sunday (2/12) and then towards the US West Coast.
Northern CA: Swell to continue overnight with swell still 7 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft) on Wednesday AM (2/15) and fading on Thursday (2/16) from 7 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft). Swell Direction 296-301 degrees
Southern CA: Core swell to start hitting near 3 AM Wednesday (2/15) at 18.104.22.168 ft @ 17+ secs (6.0 ft) from 300-305 degrees and buried under lesser period energy at 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft). Swell to hold through Wednesday with swell still 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft) and smaller longer period energy underneath at sunset. Swell fading on Thursday (2/16) AM from 3.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.0 ft) from 305 degrees.
South Dateline Gale
Another broad gale developed off Japan Sunday evening (2/12) with a large area of west winds at 40 kts developing and seas building from 26 ft at 37N 155E. Winds to reach 45 kts on Monday AM (2/13) approaching the dateline (2/13) with seas to 32 ft at 35N 165E and continuing over the dateline in the evening with winds still 40-45 kts and seas to 34 ft at 35N 175E. Fetch is to start fading just east of the dateline on Tuesday AM (2/14) with 28-30 ft seas mostly from precious fetch at 35N 174W, then fading in the evening from 26 ft at 35N 178E.
Moderate very westerly angled swell expected for Hawaii arriving at sunset on Wednesday (3/15) at 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.5 ft) building over night and peaking mid-Thursday (2/16) at 10 ft @ 14-15 secs (14.5 ft). residuals fading on Friday (2/17) from 8.5 ft @ 14 secs (12 ft). Swell Direction: 305 degrees
Less size and consistency for the US West Coast given the long travel distance from the dateline and the fact the the core of the storm was displaced well to the south.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (2/17) near sunrise with period 17 secs and size small but building, reaching 6 ft @ 16 secs early afternoon (9.5 ft). Swell to continue Saturday (2/18) at 6.5 ft @ 15 secs (9.5 ft). 14 sec remnants on Sunday with new north angled swell possibly intermixed. Swell Direction: 285-290 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (2/17) near sunset with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5 ft). Size building overnight reaching 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) at sunrise Sat (2/18) and holding, dropping some late afternoon. 15 sec remnants on Sunday AM at 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) and fading with new north angled swell possibly intermixed late. Swell Direction: 288-293 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/14) high pressure was locked midway between Hawaii and California and trying to ridge into the mainland but not quite making it. This was resulting in a steady northerly flow at 15 kts covering the whole coast except select shadowed locations in Southern CA. The high was far enough off the coast to enable weak low pressure system from the northern Gulf of Alaska to fall southeast into the Pacific Northwest with remnants into California. Yet another low is to be down the state late Tuesday evening and into Southern CA later Wednesday with light rain for a few hours pushing down the coast and 3 inches of snow for Tahoe Wed AM and 1-2 inches for Southern CA high elevations. North winds to be the rule Wednesday at 15+ kts (though much lighter for Southern CA). Lighter northerly winds on Thursday and Friday for North and Central CA (10 kts) while a new stronger but small gale is forecast wrapping up off Vancouver Island Friday falling southeast into the Pacific Northwest Saturday. A dusting of snow for Tahoe late Saturday afternoon. North winds to again be the rule in California (north of Pt Conception) by first light Saturday at 20 kts continuing Sunday, fading some later. Perhaps a bit of a break on Monday CA with light rain forecast down the coast to San Francisco, but high pressure is to remain locked off the coast, with north winds again forecast Tuesday and beyond.
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 high pressure is to be in firm control off the US West Coast and extending all the back to the dateline driving the storm track well to the northeast, or up into the Northern Dateline region. A series of small and fast moving gale are to follow a path leading from the dateline northeast up into the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska Sun-Tues (2/21) with seas generally below 30 ft. No obvious signs of real swell development indicated.
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 jet stream 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 Tuesday (2/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -6/15. The 30 day average was down some to 9.85 with the 90 day down slightly at 13.64.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies were building over the dateline/equator region extending from 160W over the dateline to 140E and actually pushing the whole way into the Indian Ocean down at 10S. Westerly anomalies were few and far between isolated to the Philippines. This suggests yet again that the Active Phase of the MJO is fluctuating (at a minimum) if not in full decline. A week from now (2/22) the models indicate easterly anomalies are to weaken some, but still in control of the West Pacific extending from 160W to 130E and maybe more. No signs of any westerly anomalies are indicated. This remains bad news. This suggest strongly that the Active Phase of the MJO is gone and the Inactive Phase is in control. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) continue suggesting the the Inactive Phase of the MJO is pushing east from Indonesia and 2 weeks from now is to be over the dateline. This suggests the end to the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO has been providing for the past month. It would also indicate that the 'blocked' MJO pattern that has existed most of this winter might finally be coming to and end.
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. Starting in Jan the Active Phase starting easing east, reaching near the dateline early Feb, but then rapidly declined mid-Feb. The only hope is that a regular, non-blocked, 5-6 week MJO cycle will materialize.
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