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 Tuesday (2/15) North and Central California was getting new locally generated windswell courtesy of a series of weather systems just off the coast at 1 ft overhead and pretty hacked by south winds. Southern California was getting the same swell with waves chest high and a little warbled but lined up up north. Down south waves were waist to chest high and warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover north angled windswell with waves to head high and clean with trades in control. The East Shore was getting the same swell as the North Shore at chest high 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 Wednesday calls for new Eastern Gulf windswell building to 13-14 ft (faces) and hacked holding near 11-12 ft on Thursday with real swell underneath at 12 ft. Friday westerly windswell drops from 6.5 ft then north local windswell takes over Saturday at 9 ft and fading from 7.5 ft on Sunday. Southern California is to see new Gulf swell arriving Wednesday at head high plus later, reaching 2-3 ft overhead on Thursday. Waist to chest high leftovers expected early Friday. Then new north windswell takes over Saturday at waist to chest high holding at shoulder high Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see 4 ft leftover north swell Wednesday with a little Gulf north swell moving in on Thursday pushing 2-3 ft overhead fading from 1 ft overhead on Friday. Chest high leftovers on Saturday fading from waist high Sunday. The East Shore is to see chest high east windswell Wednesday fading to waist high Thursday, Friday and dropping from there on Saturday. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A broad Gale developed in the Eastern Gulf on Mon-Wed (2/16) with up to 30 ft seas late Mon PM 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. But beyond, absolutely nothing is forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (2/15) a split jetstream pattern was in control. The jet was pushing off Japan but even fragmented there and quickly split more with most energy taking the northern route through the Bering Sea, then dropped southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with a bit of a trough present there. Decent support for gale development in that trough. The southern branch tracked southeast a little over the dateline before turning tracking back northeast and joining the main flow falling out of the Bering Sea. Over the next 72 hours the northern branch is to become better defined lifting hard north into the Bering Sea then diving hard south just off the California coast forming a decent trough off San Francisco on Friday (2/18) with up to 140 kt winds there. Some more support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to eventually pushing into San Diego on Sun (2/20) with a large ridge taking over the grater North Pacific. Another trough is to push down the interior West Coast of the US on Tues (2/22) offering cooler temps and some precipitation, but no support for gale development.
At the surface on Tuesday (2/15) high pressure was in control of the dateline at 1032 mbs with weak low pressure trapped below it generating east winds at 30 kts targeting Japan. Also a modest gale low pressure system was in the extreme Eastern Pacific just off Washington generating 30 kt northwest winds aimed at Southern Central CA (see East Gulf Gale below). Over the next 72 hours this gale is to weaken while falling southeast into the southern Central Ca coast on Wed (2/16). 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 (2/17) at 37N 138W down to 30 kts resulting in peak seas of 20 ft at 40N 137W. More raw windswell possible focused on California for late in the workweek.
East Gulf Gale
Another Gulf gale developed 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 were building at 45N 150W. The local low lifted 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 up to 28-30 ft seas building up in the Central Gulf at 45N 150W. On Tuesday AM (2/15) the fetch was moving closer to the US West coast and fading with barely 30 kt northwest winds centered at 40N 142W and 26 ft seas continuing at 42N 145W. The fetch is to continue tracking east while fading in the evening with 24 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 39N 135W.
Some degree of larger but very raw and windblown 13-14 sec period swell is expected impacting Central California starting Wed-Thurs (2/17) with a peak of real swell embedded arriving in Northern CA on Thursday AM (2/17) with pure swell 8.1 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) from 298 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/15) low pressure at 994 mbs was circulating just off Washington pushing a wet flow of west to southwest winds into the Central and North Coasts and generating light precipitation mainly north of the San Francisco. The main core of this system is to start pushing onshore Tuesday night into Wednesday with 20+ kt west-southwest winds forecast and rain at lower elevations. Up to 43 inches of snow possible in the Lake Tahoe region through sunrise Thurs. A break is possible Thursday AM as a new low wraps up off Pt Conception, with strong east winds developing over the San Francisco area but south winds at 20+ kt south of there. By Friday the core of this new low is to hang just off Pt Conception effectively stationary, driving south winds and rain into the Southern half of California, then finally pushing onshore on Saturday over Southern CA with 25 kt southwest winds there, and northerly winds over Central and North CA. A real mess. More snow from the Central Sierra southward but generally light in the Lake Tahoe region. Northwest winds to take control through the weekend.
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 the cutoff low currently stationed on the dateline is to lift
northeast and migrate into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Saturday
(2/19) offering only easterly winds (offshore flow relative to our forecast area) at 35 kts and 20 ft seas aimed back at the Asian coast. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
As of Tuesday (2/15) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained relatively low. The daily SOI was 16.52. The 30 day average was down to 15.71 with the 90 day average down slightly at 20.79.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (2/14) 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. No change is forecast through 3/6. Given the massive split 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 2/15 suggests temps down to only 2 degrees C below normal. Looks like the worst of La Nina is over.
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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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