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 Saturday (2/25) North and Central CA was seeing local windswell and residual Gulf swell hitting producing waves at up to 1 ft overhead and blown to bits by howling north wind. In Santa Cruz waves were waist to maybe chest high and clean early. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high and clean but very weak. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was head high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist to chest high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A quiet and only getting more silent pattern continues to settle over the North Pacific as the Inactive Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation takes control. A rather modest gale developed west of the dateline and south of the Aleutians on Wed-Thurs (2/23) with 31 ft seas offering something for mainly Hawaii by Sunday (2/26) and much less for the the US West Coast beyond. A small gale developed just off the Oregon-Washington Coast on Saturday (2/25) with up to 24 ft seas (but only 20 ft in the Central CA swell window), providing stormy conditions up north and very steep and shadowed swell possible down into Central CA on Sunday but with poor conditions likely. And another gale developed west of the dateline Fri-Sun (2/26) with up to 34 ft seas all pushing to the northeast, targeting mostly the Pacific Northwest with remnants expected to track east over the dateline and just south of the Aleutians eventually falling southeast through the Gulf of Alaska Mon-Tues (2/28) and down the US West Coast Wednesday with seas in the 24-26 ft range. This to result in another shot of small moderate period swell for the Islands and larger but very raw north angled swell for the US West Coast. After that a total shutdown is expected with no swell producing weather systems forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Saturday (2/25) the jet was flowing weakly off Japan with winds to 120 kts in a few patches splitting heavily before reaching the dateline with most energy ridging northeast to the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians then turning east-southeast and pushing into Oregon. A far weaker flow was peeling off the main stream falling southeast well west of Hawaii then turning hard east on the equator. No real support for gale development was evidenced. Over the next 72 hours a bit more energy is to try and surge off Japan with winds there to 160 kts late Monday (2/27), but the split point is to retrograde even further west to a point mid-way between Japan and the dateline with the northern branch pushing hard north up into the Bering Sea, tracking east, then falling southeast into the Northern Gulf and again pushing into Oregon. Limited support for gale development over the Kuril Islands (and not moving east) and maybe in the Northern Gulf. Beyond 72 hours energy levels to drop off with the split point pushing back to the dateline by Thurs (3/1), then retrograding again back to a point off Japan as energy level back off. Maybe another small push of 150 kts winds forecast off Japan on Sat (3/3) but the whole flow is looking to be lifting northward offering minimal support for gale development at best and confined to the Kuril-Kamchatka area.
Surface - On Saturday (2/25) strong high pressure at 1036 mbs was centered off the Pacific Northwest driving a brisk northerly flow down the entire US west coast other than Southern CA, which was basking in light wind and nice conditions while just north of Pt Conception a full north wind event was in-play. A small gale was moving onshore over Washington with swell down to Oregon (see Local Washington Gale below). Swell from a previous gale was pushing towards Hawaii (see Modest Dateline Gale below) with yet another gale and small swell behind that (see Another Dateline Gale below). Over the next 72 hours the current dateline gale (Another Dateline Gale) is to be the only system of interest tracking over the northern dateline and then southeast through the Gulf of Alaska and towards California. Some swell likely to result.
Modest Dateline Gale
A modest gale developed off Northern Japan on Wed (2/22) with 45 kt northwest winds aimed well at Hawaii. In the evening seas were 31 ft at 42N 168E. The gale lifted northeast on Thurs AM (2/23) and held in coverage, with seas still in the 30 ft range at 45N 168-173E. This system faded by evening with seas down to 28 ft at 46N 173E, then dissipated.
Limited swell for Hawaii with swell arriving on Sunday (2/26) peaking late AM at 5.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (8.5 ft faces) coming from 310-315 degrees.
Local Washington Gale
A gale organized just off Washington Thurs PM (2/23) with north winds building from 40 kts. Friday AM (2/24) north winds held at 40 kts with seas starting to build. By evening 45 kt north-northwest winds were just off the Washington coast with seas building to 22 ft at 48N 138W and barely in the North CA swell window (315 degrees). By Saturday AM (2/25) the gale was moving onshore over Vancouver Island with winds still 35 kts just off the coast there and 20-24 ft seas at 45-48N 135-137W and mostly outside all but the Cape Mendocino swell window.
Expect swell moving into the Cape Mendo area at sunset Saturday and into Central CA at 7-10 AM Sunday (2/26) at 7.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (10 ft) but well shadowed in the San Francisco Bay area with less size nearshore.
Another Dateline Gale
On Thursday evening (2/23) a gale was pushing off Japan with north winds building to 55 kts aimed south of even Hawaii. By Friday AM (2/24) 55 kt west-northwest winds were moving into the gales south quadrant with seas building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 40N 160E targeting Hawaii reasonably. By evening the gale was lifting northeast with 50 kt northwest winds holding targeting Hawaii with seas building to 34 ft at 42N 168E, but the gales forward speed to limit the fetchs traction on the oceans surface. By Saturday AM (2/25) the gale was over the central Aleutians near the dateline with westerly fetch fading from 45 kts and seas peaking at 36 ft at 46N 175E (322 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). The gale is to be moving into the Bering Sea in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts south of the Aleutians and seas fading from 32 ft at 48N 170W (on the dateline) (331 degs HI, 304 degs NCal). 35 kt westerly winds to hold south of the Aleutians Sunday AM (2/26) with seas fading from 30 ft over a tiny area at 50N 174W. Remnants of the gale to travel east through the Northwestern Gulf on Monday (2/27) with seas at 26 ft in the evening at 50N 150W (309 degs NCal) and starting to fall into the Central Gulf of Alaska Tues AM (2/28) with winds 30 kts and seas to 26 ft at 47N 143W (310 degs NCal) and then in the evening to 45N 137W with seas 24 ft over a larger area and 800 nmiles northwest of Central CA (308 degs). Wednesday AM (2/29) the fetch is to move right up to and over Cape Mendocino with seas fading from 20-22 ft (302+ degs San Francisco).
Possible sideband swell for Hawaii starting maybe late Monday (2/27) and peaking early Tuesday at 4.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (7 ft) from 312 degrees
More size but less quality expected for the US West Coast later in the workweek with most energy from 308-310 degrees. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/25) high pressure and strong north winds at 20+kts were in control of the entire US West Coast (20 kts) other then protected Southern CA. Actually low pressure was enhancing the gradient over the Pacific Northwest, moving inland over Washington while high pressure was pushing in from the west. Regardless high pressure is to be holding off the coast Sunday with north winds still 15+ kts for North and Central CA, with Southern CA still protected. Maybe a hint of rain for the Central Coast late Sunday as remnants of the low/front fall down to Pt Conception into early Monday AM. But by Monday (2/27) even Southern CA is to be impacted by the strong northerly flow with all the state being a windblown mess. Light rain into Southern CA ahead of the front. Maybe 2-3 inches of snow for Tahoe. Sure looks like a La Nina enhanced Springtime pattern in-play. A bit of a break is forecast on Tuesday as another patch of low pressure falls southeast out of the Gulf of Alaska, possibly setting up southerly winds down to San Francisco and a hint of weather for the Central Coast. Wednesday the high is to retreat some as low pressure moves in with a weak front maybe reaching to Pt Conception and north winds filling in behind up in the north. Solid snow remotely possible for Tahoe during the day and into the evening, with totals nearing 1 ft. Wind to drop below 15 kts up north for North and Central CA on Thursday with northwest wind at 15-20 kts expected for Southern CA. A bit more of a back off for the whole state other than Pt Conception possible Friday too. But by the weekend high pressure to possibly again start taking control for North and Central CA.
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 a double-barreled high pressure configuration is to set up over the North Pacific by Wed (2/29) with one at 1032 mbs off Japan and a second at 1028 mbs filling a larger area from the dateline to the US West Coast. There is literally to be no clear space for gale development. The Japan high is to move rapidly east through the late workweek only reinforcing the already dominant high off California and possibly setting up a bout of northeast winds for the Islands by late in the weekend (3/4). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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 Saturday (2/25) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down slightly at -1.01. The 30 day average was down to 0.36 with the 90 day down slightly at 11.59. This is a lagging indicator of what is happening wind-wise and these numbers are expected to start rising. Interestingly, the 30 day average has dropped significantly since December, reaching neutral territory, if it can hold.
Current wind analysis indicated light to moderate easterly anomalies over the dateline/equator region extending from 180W over the dateline to 100E and pushing the whole way into the Indian Ocean. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control. A week from now (3/4) solid easterly anomalies are to regenerate and in control of the West Pacific extending from 160W to 110E. No signs of any westerly anomalies or even neutral anomalies are indicated. This remains bad news and indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to remain in control. We expect the SOI to start rising solidly. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) are mixed in their output,. with the statistical model suggesting the the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to push east from New Guinea reaching the dateline 12 days from now and fading. Conversely the dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to hold on the dateline and budge only slightly. We suspect the Dynamic model has a better handle on the situation based on past months experience. Regardless, this marks the end of the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO had been providing (Jan into mid-Feb). If one believes the statistic model it would also indicate that the 'blocked' MJO pattern that has existed most of this winter might finally be coming to an end. But that see not likely. Both models project building of the Active Phase of the MJO under India and slowly pushing east. But the exact timing of it's entry into the West Pacific (if at all) remains up for debate. For now no coverage is expected in the West Pacific during the forecast window.
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, possibly setting up another opportunity for the Active Phase in mid March.
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
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