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 Thursday (2/18) North and Central California was getting the tiny and fading reverberations from the swell of last weekend with waves head high or a little more and socked in. Southern California was also getting small leftovers with waves chest high, a bit bigger than expected with beautifully clean conditions early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more northerly angled local windswell/swell combo with waves 3-4 ft overhead and pretty tattered by Kona wind. The East Shore was getting the same wrap-around north windswell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and hacked. The South Shore was in hibernation for the winter.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for larger locally generated surf with wind and rain taking control, building to double overhead Friday and the 3-4 ft overhead Saturday and 1-2 ft overhead Sunday. Another pulse of local swell arrives for Monday near double overhead but with more poor conditions. Southern California is to not be sparred from the weather either. Friday to see thigh to waist high leftover westerly swell then building to head high or a little more early Saturday fading from shoulder high Sunday. New local swell arrives Monday to head high. Conditions to be marginal at best throughout the time period. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see fading locally generated northerly windswell near double overhead on Friday dropping to head high Saturday. New swell from the northern dateline region moves in Sunday at double overhead plus with a bit of period fading from double overhead Monday. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell. The South Shore is to have no real southern hemi swell till Monday when again another pulse arrives building to the chest high range late and holding with some form of rideable surf into the end of the workweek.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) has moved into a neutral state, better than expected considering it was to turn Inactive even 2 days earlier. And it's to hold neutral for the next month. Still suspect some degree of trade buildup to occur, which would slightly hamper storm development in the north and southern hemispheres, but nowhere near as bad as previously forecast. On the charts a decent little storm is forecast pushing from the dateline into the Gulf Sat-Mon (2/22) with up to 50 kts winds and barely 40 ft seas. Perhaps some longer period swell to result for the US West Coast and down into Hawaii if all goes as planned. Another weaker one is to follow on it's heals too. But for California, the storm track is to remain pushing right into the state brining steady light rain and southerly winds, likely making a mess of whatever swell results for at least the next week. Good potential for snow though. Maybe a better plan is to head for the mountains.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/18) the North Pacific jetstream was reasonably consolidated and flowing mostly flat east on the 30N latitude from Japan with a pocket of winds to 150 kts just west of the dateline, the fragmenting some east of there and falling into a broad trough located off California with most energy tracking south of even Baja pushing into mainland Mexico. There was some support for gale development off Central CA. Over the next 72 hrs the pocket of energy near the dateline is to ease east cutting off the trough off California and flowing flat into the state by Saturday and holding. A cutoff upper high pressure system (really a split in the jet) is to be in control of the Canadian coast stealing a little energy off the main flow just before it pushes into the US. Limited support for low pressure/gale development from Hawaii pushing eastward. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is to continue with the split in the far east fading and a series of weak troughs forming and undulating east from the dateline offering decent support for gale development in that region, but nothing exceptional. Then Wednesday (2/24) a more organized trough forms just east of the dateline with winds in the 180 kt range digging modestly deep getting ready to push right into California. A weather event is possible there. At the same time back to the west a small split in the jet is forecast off Japan. The two branches are to rejoin before reaching the dateline. not sure if this is a sign of things to come, or just a minor break driven by the deactivation of the MJO.
At the surface on Thursday (2/18) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was settling just northwest of Hawaii and pancaked west to east, not making any headway north or much east of the Islands. A series of three gales were lined up, one at the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians (see Kuril Storm below), a second a little southeast of there and the third 700 nmiles off Northern CA. All were heading east-southeast, likely bound for the US West Coast in the days ahead. Over the next 72 hours remnants of the gale off California is to limp into the state late Friday (2/19) starting the south wind machine and bringing rain with limited 30 kt westerly fetch. The second gale is to fade while tracing east too pushing into the state Sunday, while an entirely new storm starts building on the dateline Saturday AM (2/20) with 55 kt northwest winds at 43N 178E aimed well down the 315 degree path to Hawaii. Seas on the increase. In the evening 55 kt northwest winds to hold at 42N 175W aimed 25 degrees east of the 325 degree path to Hawaii and 20 degrees south of the 293 degree path to NCal. 32 ft seas are forecast at 42N 175W. On Sunday AM (2/21) 45 kt fetch is to continue at 40N 165W mostly bypassing any route to Hawaii but still pushing 20 degrees south of the 290 degree path to NCal. 38 ft seas are forecast at 40N 170W. In the evening only 35 kt westerly fetch is to left and fading. 38 ft seas from previous fetch area forecast at 39N 164W. Monday AM (2/22) no fetch is to be left with 32 ft sea at 38N 155W generated from previous fetch and decaying. Rough data suggest sizable sideband swell is to be pushing towards Hawaii for late Monday (2/22) with better energy pushing towards CA mid-week, but likely lost amongst local chop and wind.
Previously on Wednesday PM (2/17) a gale organized northeast of Hawaii with a fetch of 45 kt northwest winds building way south at 33N 145W aimed reasonably well at Southern CA up the 272 degree path with seas building to 26 ft at 31N 142W (1100 nmiles out). It was fading fast Thursday while residual winds lifted north. Good odds for 15 sec period very west swell pushing into Northern CA Friday (2/19) at 3 PM with swell 6-7 ft @ 14-15 secs (10-11 ft faces) from 260 degrees. Southern CA to see this swell by Friday near 10 PM (2/19) with nearshore locations seeing swell of 3.5-3.8 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft faces) then settling down into Saturday. Swell Direction: 270-275 degrees.
Kuril Island Storm
Also on Wednesday AM (2/17) a storm off the Kuril Islands regenerate with 55 kt west winds at 50N 168E aimed right up the 308 degree path to North CA and shadowed by the Aleutians for the Pacific Northwest. Seas building. In the evening 50 kt west fetch is to hold at 50N 172E aimed right up the 306 degree path to NCal with seas building to 37 ft at 50N 170E. Thursday AM (2/18) the storm is to start fading with a broad fetch of 40-45 kt west winds at 50N 172E aimed right up the 306 degree path to NCal with seas at 36 ft at 49N 176E (2900 nmiles out). The storm is to be down to gale status in the evening with winds 35 kts and fading fast. Residual seas of 32 ft forecast at 49N 175E and fading fast.
Sideband swell to hit Hawaii on Sunday (2/21) at 8 ft @ 15-16 secs mid-day (12-13 ft faces) heading down on Monday. That forecast might be a little on the high side though. Swell Direction: 325 degrees
Rough data suggest swell arrival in North CA late Monday (2/22).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/18) a light west flow was in effect over Central CA, but expected to start turning southerly by late evening turning fully south on Friday as a front pushes up to the coast, with rain building in North of Pt Conception in the afternoon and into Southern CA in the evening (though winds to remain light down there initially). A bit of a break from the rain and wind is forecast pushing south from North to Central CA on Saturday though west winds to be an issue in SCal. South winds and rain to start again on Sunday in Central CA building into Southern CA and continuing on Monday with yet more rain in Southern CA on Tuesday. But a light wind regime is forecast for Central CA Mon/Tues. Wednesday the next series of gales are to be building off the coast with winds fading in Southern CA and south winds and rain starting to build up north and unleashing Thurs and Friday (2/26), pushing into Southern CA later Thursday. Prepare for a generally wet and miserable week.
At the surface another small gale was tracking northeast off New Zealand with seas to 30 ft at 06Z Tues (2/16) at 55S 168W. Small southern hemi swell is expected into Hawaii starting Mon (2/22) with swell building tom maybe 2 ft @ 17 secs late (3.5 ft faces) holding at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) Tues (2/23) then heading slowly down through the later past of the workweek. Swell Direction: 185-190 degrees.
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 remnants of the Sun-Mon dateline storm are to limp into California on Tuesday (2/23) bringing more south winds and rain while yet another storm builds on the dateline Monday AM (2/22) with 45-50 kt northwest winds at 43N 173E taking good aimed on Hawaii down the 319 degree path. 28 ft seas forecast at 43N 177E. It is to hold it's ground in the evening with 45 kts winds at 44N 176E aimed best at Hawaii with 30 ft seas at 44N 178E. This system is to continue there on Tuesday AM (2/23) again with 45 kt northwest winds and 30 ft seas at 45N 175E. In the evening yet more 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 43N 178E with 30 ft seas at 44N 178E. This system is to drop southeast on Wednesday AM 92/24) with 40 kt residual winds at 40N 175W with 29 ft sea forecast at 43N 178W then fading. Good odds for a long run of 16-17 sec period swell for the Islands possibly into significant class size with utility swell for the US West Coast. Unfortunately the remains of this system are to snuggle right up off the Pacific Northwest Thursday (2/25) generating a broad fetch of 25-30 kt west winds as far south as Northern Baja and making a mess of local conditions there, with much rain possible.
And yet another broad gale is forecast developing just west of the dateline late Thurs (2/26), but that is a pure guess.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (2/18) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Active Phase in the east and moving towards the Inactive Phase in the West. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index was negative but rising with the Daily SOI at -5.09 (44 days in a row negative). The 30 day average was up to -24.52 (It bottomed out on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up slightly -13.06. This is the end of the Active Phase and the beginning of the end for El Nino with rising indicies expected.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated totally normal winds across the entire Indian and Pacific Oceans with no signs of the Active Phase left in the East Pacific but also no sign of the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean and West Pacific. Suspect this is a bit of an anomaly, with some flavor of weak Inactive Phase likely occurring north of Australia, just not being captured by the models. Previously a weak version of the Inactive Phase was pushing east to New Guinea almost reaching the dateline on 2/25, then weakly settling on the dateline 3/2-3/7. Regardless of the discrepancy, gale development will likely not be aided by the MJO. With the effects of El Nino on the atmosphere already well entrenched, that momentum will be very slow to dissipate over the coming next 6 months. In fact, we will be monitoring the MJO for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May timeframe to see if this Midoki El Nino can hang on for another year, or whether we fall back into a La Nina Pattern.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (2/18) indicates that warmer than normal waters were consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. This looks more like a Midoki El Nino than one of the classic variety. Overall the warm water signature remains non-exceptional from a historical El Nino perspective, but still in the moderate category and holding, not building. We are past the peak of this ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator things continue to surge a little thanks to the previous Active Phase of the MJO. A steady flow of warmer than normal subsurface water continues tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America as it has for months now. Two Kelvin Waves which that had been impacting the the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador coast in Jan are fading with only 3 degree warm anomalies/residuals still present from 125W dribbling into the coast there and loosing their coverage. Still, it continues fueling the warm surface anomalies associated with El Nino in the East equatorial Pacific as it continues impacting the coast there. A new Kelvin Wave started becoming obvious on 2/1 with a patch of 3 degree warmer than normal water starting to develop under the equator on the dateline and expanding some on 2/4. Anomalies to 4 deg C were indicated at 170W on 2/6 and had migrated to 165W on 2/8 holding there on 2/10 and starting to merge with the existing Kelvin Wave off Ecuador. Temps were up to nearly 5 deg C above normal on 2/18 at 150W. This is expected to fuel or at least extend El Nino symptoms into summer, but is likely the last Kelvin Wave we are going to see.
Over the Equatorial Pacific solid trades were blowing in the East and continuing north of the equator all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. Still, this looks like the Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. But a solid area of fully blowing westerly winds which started to appear pushing from the far west to almost the dateline on 1/20 were covering a larger area on 1/23, and in full bloom on 1/25-1/29, looking very much like a real Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) event. And even on 1/30- 2/15 solid Westerly Winds were occurring just south of the equator to 155W with solid anomalies to 140W. Even on 2/18 limited fully blowing west winds were still in-play with anomalies to 150W. This is what is generating the Kelvin Wave under the dateline pushing east. Regardless, at some point in the next few days (surprised it hasn't happened already) we expect the pattern of anomalously west winds to break down completely and a normal trade pattern to take over or even enhanced trades (which could result in La Nina). Previously Westerly Wind Bursts produced Kelvin Waves that resulted in the subsurface warm pool currently present in the tropical East Pacific that have formed El Nino.
El Nino is affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern at this point in time and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggest that not only will the winter and spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. This has not been a strong El Nino, more of a solid moderate one. A respectable accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warn subsurface water remains in place, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But as long as there continues to be WWB's, then warm water will be migrating east, and the warm water pattern will hold, and the atmosphere above it will respond in-kind to the change (towards El Nino). We expect this one last shot at another Kelvin Wave from the current Active Phase in-play now (Jan/Feb 2010) and then the slow degradation will begin in the ocean. But the atmosphere is already being strongly influenced by the warm water buildup over the past 6 months, and it will not return to a normal state for quite some time. This El Nino it is already larger and strong than any other in the past 12 years.
Strong El Nino's bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast along with the benefit of increased potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides that storm and swell enhancement, but more of a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. As of right now things are looking to be in the middle to high-end of a moderate event. Since anomalous water temps on the equator have not exceeded 3 degrees (nor are they forecast to) and the SOI remains unremarkable, this all suggests a modest El Nino is all we're going to see. This is clearly already enough to provide storm enhancement, and a better than average winter surf season for the North Pacific (that is already in evidence with 13 significant class storms on the record) , and still likely better than anything in the past 10 years. Better yet, if it's not too strong (as this event appears to be) perhaps it will not degrade into La Nina the year after (which typically happens after stronger El Nino's), but hold in some mild El Nino-like state for several years in a row. This would be an even better outcome.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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
Add a STORMSURF Buoy Forecast to your Google Homepage. Click Here:
Then open your Google homepage, hit 'edit' button (top right near graph), and select your location
Stormsurf Weather Models have all been upgraded! Over the New Years break we installed all new and upgraded weather models. Also new are experimental snow models for the Southwest US. Take a look here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
Read about Eric Nelson and Curt Myers, the makers of Ride-On and other Big Wave Surf Movies here: http://coastviewsmag.com/powerlines-productions-filming-the-art-of-big-wave-surfing
Ride On! Powerlines new big wave epic is now available on DVD. Get the entire big wave story of the 2008-2009 season here: http://www.mavz.com/
||Casa Noble Tequila If you are looking for an exquisite experience in fine tequila tasting, one we highly recommend, try Case Noble. Consistently rated the best tequila when compared to any other. Available at BevMo (in California). Read more here: http://www.casanoble.com/
Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
North California Surf Report Works Again: After an extended downtime we finally got the North California Surf Report working again. Thanks for your patience. See it here: http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/report/ncal.html
Shark Video: Our friend Curt Myers of Powerlines productions shot this footage of 2 great whites munching on a whale carcass off Devils Slide (south of San Francisco) on Thursday. Kind of interesting to watch. Check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4rZYEZMWQ (Fixed link)
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
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/
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
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.
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!
Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here
Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here
Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table