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 (2/27) North and Central California was getting some sloppy west-southwest windswell in the 3 ft overhead range with southeast wind on it, making it rideable at only select locations (at best). Swell #27 was on the way. Southern California was trashed with thigh high windswell and southwest winds. Hawaii's North Shore was getting smaller sideband swell from the northwest with waves 2 ft overhead ft overhead range and starting to get hacked by southwest winds. The East Shore was getting the wrap-around energy from this swell with waves shoulder to head high. The South Shore was getting no southern hemi swell but a tsunami warning was in effect from a magnitude 8.4 quake off Chile and a confirmed tsunami in the water and expected to hit the Islands at 11:19 AM HST Sat 2/27. Take precautions immediately.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for local raw Swell #27 to arrive late Saturday near 15 ft fading from 11-12 ft Sunday and 8 ft Monday. Possible new larger and longer period swell expected in on Tuesday but hacked. Southern California is to see the same pattern with swell building late up north Saturday, then 2-3 ft overhead Sunday and shoulder to head high Monday. New swell to arrive Tuesday afternoon at breaks with good northern exposure. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see fading chest high surf Sunday. Larger sideband swell expected in by 3 PM Monday at 16 ft double overhead or better fading from 10 ft on Tuesday AM. The East Shore is to see easterly windswell through the weekend in the waist high range Saturday with wrap-around swell from the North Shore likely too. The South Shore is to be quiet through the weekend and beyond (tsunami excluded).
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) continues slightly in the Active Phase and is expected to hold there into March 8. Slight enhancement of the storm track is expected (and is occurring). A gale organized on the dateline Wed with 32 ft seas then reorganized Thurs/Fri off the California coast with up 32-25 ft seas expected pushing best towards Central and Southern CA down into Baja for the weekend. This will be Swell #27. Yet another stronger storm (#28) was building behind it in the Gulf of Alaska with up to 41 ft seas forecast with another projected for Northern Gulf Tues/Wed (3/3) with 42 ft seas targeting mostly the US West Coast. And yet another is forecast for the northern dateline region Thurs/Fri (3/5) with 44 ft seas. So no lack of surf is projected though most energy is to be targeting the US West Coast with sideband swell pushing down into the Islands. Weather remains an issue for CA though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (2/27) the North Pacific jetstream was starting to split in the west but was consolidated from the dateline eastward. A decent trough was in the Western Gulf of Alaska with 170 kt winds flowing under it then quickly rising into a ridge before diving into a second trough pushing directly over the US West Coast reaching south to near Pt Conception CA. Good support for gale development in these two troughs. A ridge was over the West Pacific offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hrs the trough in the Western Gulf is to continue pushing east providing good support for gale development tracking into the Eastern Gulf by Monday (3/1) and reaching British Columbia late Tuesday dipping into Central CA Wednesday. Beyond 72 hours the split jetstream pattern is to build east reaching the whole width of North Pacific by Wed (3/3) with most energy in the northern branch running west to east up near 40-45N. Another trough to set up in the Western Gulf on Wed with up to 150 kts winds pushing into Central CA on Fri (3/5) and yet another behind it off Kamchatka with 180 kt winds Thurs/Fri (3/6). All are to continue due east likely favoring gale if not storm production but with energy focused on a very easterly course favoring the US West Coast up into British Columbia. By Sat (3/6) there's some indications that a large sloping trough is to be filling the Gulf of Alaska ramping right into Northern CA possibly setting up more gale development but also weather for the US West Coast.
At the surface on Saturday (2/27) a new storm had developed in the Western Gulf of Alaska with 50 kts winds aimed south and 45-50 kts winds aimed east. This was Storm #28 (see details below). Over the next 72 hours Storm #28 is to push east and fade in the NOrtheastern Gulf of Alaska. But a new system is forecast building at the intersection of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians Monday AM (3/1) with 45 kts west winds forecast at 49N 172E aimed mostly east towards the US West Coast (NCal 306 degrees). Monday evening this system is to be on the dateline with 55 kt west winds at 51N 180W and just barely clear of the Aleutians pushing all it's energy up the 307 degree path to NCal and shadowed from Oregon northward. 38 ft seas forecast at 50N 178E. This system is to be just almost over Aleutians and just east of the dateline on Tues AM (3/2) with 50 kt west winds forecast up at 52N 172W resulting in 43 ft seas at 50N 174W. Winds to start decaying from 50 kts at 52N 167W Tuesday PM with 46 ft seas up at 51N 167W. By Wednesday AM (3/3) winds are to be dropping from 45 kts at 53N 161W with seas still 43 ft over a decent sized area at 50N 160W. Fetch is to be gone by evening with 37 ft residual seas fading at 51N 153W. Possible sideband swell for Hawaii and more direct energy for California up into the Pacific Northwest if this materializes.
Dateline Gale/ Storm #27
On Sunday evening (2/21) a fragmented fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds developed at roughly 43N 167E aimed well down the 313 degree path to Hawaii and pretty much too far south of the 296 degree path to NCal. Seas were starting to build.
By Monday AM (2/22) a small but consolidated fetch of 45 kt northwest winds were occurring at 42N 173E taking good aimed on Hawaii down the 319 degree path. 28 ft seas were modeled at 43N 177E but only over a tiny area. It held it's ground in the evening but dropped to 35-40 kts at 42N 177E aimed best at Hawaii with 29 ft seas at 41N 180W.
This system continued there on Tuesday AM (2/23) but rejuvenated with near 45 kt northwest winds at 43N 178E. 27 ft seas from previous fading fetch were at 43N 178W pushing more to the east (296 degrees NCal and 40 degrees east of the 331 degree path to Hawaii). In the evening yet more 40-45 kt northwest winds developed at 43N 178E aimed well at Hawaii like before with 30 ft seas building at 42N 179E.
This system dropped southeast on Wednesday AM (2/24) with 40 kt residual winds at 40N 176W with 32 ft sea modeled at 40N 177W. In the evening a limited 35-40 kts west fetch held at 38N 169W generating more 32 ft seas at 40N 171W (296 NCal - 331 deg Hawaii).
Winds were fading from 30 kts Thurs AM (2/25) with seas dropping from 28 ft at 39N 164W.
Fairly decent winds and seas resulted from this one. But, since the system is forecast primarily in the dateline region and located a bit away from the US West Coast, only utility class swell to result. But Hawaii was closer (1300 nmiles away) with fetch aimed decently at them early in the gales life. This suggests decent odds of near significant class swell hitting Hawaii starting Friday (2/26) at 4 PM at 8.6 ft @ 16 secs (14 ft Hawaiian) from 313-327 degrees. Swell to push into North California Sunday AM (2/28).
This system reinvigorate itself 1200 nmiles west of Southern Oregon on Thursday PM with west winds building to 40 kts at 38N 149W (280 degs NCal). Seas building to 30 ft at 38N 150W.
On Friday AM (2/26) near 50 kt kt northwest winds were monetarily building at 37N 140W with 32-35 ft seas at 37N 142W heading directly to Central and South CA (275 degrees/290 degs). In the evening residual 40 kt northwest winds continued at 36N 132W sinking out of the Northern CA swell window but still aimed directly at Southern CA down the 287 degree path. Seas at 32 ft at 35N 135W.
Residual 35 kts northwest winds to be just off Pt Conception on Saturday AM with 28 ft seas 33N 131W.
This is to be a decent small class storm but pushing very close to the Central and SCal coast (within 819 nmiles away) which has good odds of producing larger raw swell arriving there Saturday (2/27). Given the short leads times, a preliminary forecast is being posted now. Errors could be large depending on how the storm actually forms.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Saturday afternoon with pure swell 10-11 ft @ 15-16 secs (16-17 ft faces) from 265-275 degrees. Swell quite raw.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival in Orange Co (SCal) on Sunday (2/28) at 1 AM with pure swell 10.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (17 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and 5.5 ft @ 16 secs nearshore (8.8 ft faces) from 280-285 degrees. Solid size to hold through sunrise.
A broad gale started developing just east of the dateline late Friday (2/26) with 45-50 kt north and west winds forecast at 45N 170W aimed both at Hawaii (336 degrees) and California (296 degrees NCal) and covering a rather large area generating 28-30 ft seas near 40N 170W.
This system pushed east on Saturday AM with an expanding area of 50 kt north and west fetch forecast at 45N 167W (340 degs HI, 295 NCal) generating 28-30 ft seas near 40N 170W. Seas forecast at 35 ft at 40N 173W heading towards Hawaii and to 40 ft at 43N 163W heading towards the US West Coast. In the evening the storm is to hold with 45-50 kts northwest winds at 42N 162W aimed a bit east of Hawaii down the 350 degree path and 45 degrees south of the 293 degree route to NCal. Seas forecast at 37 ft at 41N 165W heading towards Hawaii and to 40 ft at 41N 158W heading towards the US West Coast.
On Sunday AM (2/28) 40-45 kt residual northwest winds are forecast at 42N 153W in the central Gulf of Alaska aimed 35 degrees south of the 294 degree path to NCal. 35 ft seas to continue pushing mostly due east at 39N 152W pushing entirely towards the US West coast. This system is to be fading fast in the evening with residual 40 kts northwest winds at 45N 150W with 32 ft seas over a large area at 39N 151W.
Assuming all goes as forecast larger swell should be generated with sideband energy pushing into Hawaii on Monday (2/1) and maybe the Pacific Northwest late Monday down into CA on Tuesday (3/2).
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Monday (3/1) before sunrise with swell building to 8.5 ft @ 17 secs (14 ft Hawaiian) from 328 degrees with a second pulse hitting early afternoon at near mid-morning at 10 ft @ 16-17 secs (16 ft Hawaiian) from 340 degrees holding through the day. Residual on Tuesday.
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting on Tuesday (3/2) at sunrise with pure swell 9.3 ft @ 17 secs (16 ft faces) from 289 degrees. Secondary swell from the back end of the storm (same part that generated swell from Hawaii) to arrive Wednesday (3/3) just before sunrise with swell 7.5 ft @ 16 secs (12 ft faces) from 291 degrees. Regardless, local weather is to be a mess.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (2/27) a small low pressure system/weak gale was fading off Central CA while dropping southeast bringing southerly winds to Central CA with rain modeled over the entire CA coast (though not occurring in most locations), then is expected to be clearing on Sunday though moderate north winds expected over North and Central CA early driven by weak high pressure, then fading some. Another broad gale to be circulating in the Gulf Sunday pushing towards the coast with a front limping up to San Francisco mid-Monday (south winds to Pt Conception late but no rain), dissolving with another gale developing just off the CA coast Tuesday moving into the coast Tuesday evening bringing south winds an rain down into Pt Conception and continuing Wednesday through the day. More snow for the mountains. A broad strong high pressure system is forecast trying to build in behind on Thursday (3/4) but not making it with more low pressure dropping from the Gulf pushing into Central CA Friday with south winds reaching into Southern CA late and rain building to Pt Conception sweeping into Southern CA on Saturday. More snow up high.
No swell producing fetch of interest 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 yet another one is forecast behind that just off the Kuril Islands on Wed PM (3/3) with 55-60 kt northwest winds at 45N 170E aimed well down the 319 degree track to Hawaii and pretty south of any track to the mainland. This one to be lifting northeast Thursday AM (3/4) with 55-60 kts winds at 47N 175E over a large area pushing well down the 322 degree track to Hawaii and well up the 303 degree track to Northern CA. 41 ft seas forecast at 47N 176E. More 55 kt west and northwest winds forecast in the evening at 50N 180W aimed towards Ncal up the 306 degree path and Hawaii down the 333 degree path. 43 ft seas forecast at 49N 177W. Friday AM fetch is to be moving over the Aleutians with residual 38 ft seas fading at 50N 170W. If this materializes more longer period swell is expected for the US West Coast and Hawaii.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (2/27) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) appeared to be in a near neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index was positive with the Daily SOI at 10.90. The 30 day average was up to -20.83 (It bottomed out on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up slightly -11.70 (bottomed out at -13.61 on 2/15). El Nino maxed out on 2/15.It's all downhill from here.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated light westerly anomalies across the Western Pacific Ocean with weak signs of the Active Phase hanging on from Northern Australia to a point south of Hawaii on the equator. A modest area of anomalously east winds were depicted over the Western/Central Indian Ocean, a new Inactive Phase. The models project weak active Phase signals through 3/3 while the Inactive Phase pushes to Northwestern Australia into 3/11, then dies while the Active Phase dies in the Central East Pacific. A totally neutral/normal wind pattern is to take hold by 3/15 and continue thereafter. 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. We will continue 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 (where the Inactive Phase takes control).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (2/25) indicates that warmer than normal waters were consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, but still present none-the-less. 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 (and current) 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 3-4 degree warm anomalies/residuals still present from 125W dribbling into the coast there starting to sync up with a new Kelvin Wave pushing east from the dateline. 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 and officially reached 5 degrees on 2/21 at 155W, moving to 150W on 2/23-25. On 2/27 one long warm tongue was in place extending east from 155W into Central America. 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. Kinda sad.
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. A solid area of fully blowing westerly winds which started to appear pushing from the far west to almost the dateline on 1/20 covered 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 2/18-2/23 limited fully blowing west winds were still in-play with anomalies to 150W, but starting to fade. Those winds were almost gone by 2/25 but not quite and still hanging on by 2/26. This WWB is what generated the Kelvin Wave currently 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
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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table