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 (3/10) North and Central California was seeing more swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean early, but getting a bit ruffled later by south wind. Southern California was in the flat zone with waves knee high or so and heavily textured up north. Down south waves at exposed breaks were about the same, with a few thigh high sets and cleaner. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new sideband swell originating north-northwest of the Islands with waves up to 3 ft overhead at better breaks but a bit warbled with a northerly component to the trades. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy with waves maybe 1 ft overhead 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 for sunrise Friday is larger swell hitting pushing 12 ft (faces) but dropping fast down to 9-10 ft mid- day and fading. Surf on Saturday to be 9 ft and about the same on Sunday. Monday possible new swell arriving later at 15 ft but raw fading from 13 ft Tuesday. Southern California is to see new northwest swell Friday at 1 ft overhead early fading as the day progresses but still rideable. Saturday surf expected at head high and then shoulder high on Sunday. Monday new swell builds to waist high later and possible 2 ft overhead early Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see northerly swell fading from 6.5 ft faces on Friday. 4 ft leftovers on Saturday then new northwest swell hits pushing 7-8 ft (faces) on Sunday. A new pulse is expected in for Monday at 9 ft with a new pulse again on Tuesday to 10 ft on the face. The East Shore is to see east windswell at waist high plus Friday holding through the weekend, but wrap around energy from the North Shore is to be far more interesting. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A gale developed just south of the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Sunday (3/6) holding there into Monday with 26-28 ft seas, then dropping southeast pushing directly towards California through mid-week with seas fading from 24 to 22 ft. Sideband swell has already hit Hawaii with decent size expected for Central CA by Friday (3/11). A slightly weaker system is forecast developing in the Gulf tracking east towards Oregon Friday with 26-28 ft seas while another system builds in the Northwestern Gulf Saturday with 33 ft seas tracking fast east and fading only to reorganize off Cape Mendocino late Sunday with 37 ft seas. Yet another stronger one is forecast behind starting on the dateline Sunday (3/13) pushing east into the Gulf with up to 40 ft seas initially. After that high pressure is forecast moving into the Gulf region. The jetstream continues favorably supported by a bit of a resurgence of the Active Phase of the MJO, providing the fuel for the current spat of gales forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (3/10) the jetstream was looking the best it has for the past 5 weeks with a cohesive flow tracking almost flat off Japan with a pocket of 170 kt winds there then ridging slightly over the dateline almost splitting with just a fraction of energy peeling off to the south, with most energy tracking due east from there on into the Pacific Northwest with 2 weak troughs embedded there but wind speeds generally down in the 100 kt range. Limited support for gale development in the troughs in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf troughs are to moderate and push east into the Pacific Northwest by Friday AM providing declining support for gale development there while at the same time the pocket of energy off Japan is to build extending from Japan to the dateline and a bit further east with winds up to 180 kts and with a trough trying to organize north of Hawaii into Saturday. Some support for gale development is possible but energy level are to start moderating as the pocket of energy moves from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours the remainder of that energy is to push into the Western US through Thursday (3/17) while a split pattern again develops with the split point just over the dateline. But up to 190 kts winds to be again building off Japan with some of that energy riding over the split and falling into Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (3/18) again offering some opportunity for gale development there. In all, not too bad of a set-up for late in a La Nina Winter.
At the surface on Thursday AM (3/10) a new gale was organizing in the Central Gulf of Alaska with no closed isobars yet and 30 kt west winds at 45N 155W. Over the next 72 hours starting Thursday PM a decent sized fetch of 35-40 kt west winds are forecast in association with this gale at 43N 150W embedded in a broader fetch with 20 ft seas building at 43N 153W. Friday AM 40 kt west winds to be pushing east at 43N 141W generating 26 ft seas at 43N 146W (293 degs NCal and 1200 nmiles out). Friday evening the gale is to be veering northeast with 40 kt west winds fading at 45N 135W with 28 ft seas up at 44N 137W 9304 degs NCal). Based purely on the models all swell generation potential is to occur east of the Hawaiian Island targeting Central CA northward well, with poor weather for Oregon northward.
Also another gale is forecast building just south of the Aleutians Friday PM (3/11) with up to 45 kt northwest winds over a tiny area at 49N 175W with seas on the increase. The fetch is to hold into Saturday AM (3/12) while drifting southeast with 45 kt northwest winds at 48N 168W and seas building to 32 ft at roughly the same location. 40 kt westerly fetch to hold into the evening falling southeast with up to 34 ft seas at 47N 162W on the 298 deg path to NCal and mostly passing east of any route down the 352 degree path into Hawaii. Also a new fetch is to building in front of this area. By Sunday AM (3/13) the next fetch is to steal all the energy with up to 55 kt west winds forecast at 42.5N 140W generating up to 29 ft seas at the same locale and in close proximity to NCal. In the evening 50 kt west winds to be lifting northeast at 43N 134W (297 deg NCal) with seas to 37 ft at roughly the same location. This gale is to be inland Monday AM over the Pacific northwest. Good potential for generation of larger but very raw swell from Monterey Bay northward.
1st Gulf Gale
On Sunday AM (3/6) a broad ill defined gale was starting to set up on the dateline just south of the Aleutians with a tiny area of 40 kt west winds at 47N 178W. Seas were building. That gale dropped south some Sunday PM with winds at 40 kts at 45N 178W generating seas to 26 ft at that location. Most of this energy was pushing due east towards the Pacific Northwest down into California. That gale held it's position Monday AM (3/7) but with winds down to 35 kts and seas pushing 28 ft at 45N 173W. In the evening it regenerated some with winds up to 35 kts and the whole system starting to move east-southeast 45N 173W with seas 26 ft at 44N 170W. The gale continued falling southeast on Tues AM (3/8) with barely 30 kt northwest winds at 45N 170W with 26 ft seas at 45N 168W, continuing in the evening with barely 30-35 kt winds and seas to 24 ft at 43N 163W (1200 nmiles north of Hawaii). Wednesday AM (3/9) the gale faltered with only 30 kt west winds left and 24 ft seas at 40N 157W decaying to 22 ft in the evening at 40N 145W. But a short burst of energy from this fetch hit buoy 46006 from 2-7 PM Wed (3/9) with seas pushing 20-31.8 ft @ 13 secs with pure swell 16-20 ft @ 12.7 secs with one reading to 25.5 ft @ 12.4 secs. Statistically this is in line with model, but it will be interesting to see how much of this moves onshore into Northern CA very early Friday AM (3/11).
Sideband energy rolled into Hawaii mostly after dark Wednesday and had peaked out before sunrise Thursday AM (3/10). A pulse or larger energy is possible for NCal before sunrise Friday, but most by sunrise swell is expected down to 10 ft @ 13-14 secs and fading fast, stabilizing down at 7 ft @ 13 secs mid-AM (10 ft faces) from 285-296 degrees. Smaller energy wrapping into Southern CA (see QuikCASTs for details).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/10) another brush of light rain pushed over the San Francisco Bay Area around noon but quickly dissipated. It was associated with a weather system that has generated swell pushing into CA for Friday. Yet more low pressure systems are forecast to be queuing up bound for the Pacific Northwest, with the first Friday but having no effect other than south winds for Cape Mendo on Saturday while light winds prevail southward. And a stronger system is to be pushing up to the coast and making more headway south on Sunday (3/13) with south winds down to maybe Big Sur. Light rain possible down to San Francisco Sunday evening into Monday AM. No snow for the mountains. And yet a third system is to be moving in on Monday night (3/14) with south winds down to Monterey Bay and rain all day Tuesday pushing down to Morro Bay. Very high snow levels for Tahoe. Weak high pressure is scheduled to hold over Southern CA through this timeframe setting up northwest wind at 15 kts over the Channel Islands and a neutral pattern in the boundary in-between Morro Bay. A calming pattern Tues- Wed then more south winds Wed PM into Thursday (3/17) with heavier precipitation both coastside and at elevation.
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 another gale developing on the dateline Saturday AM with 50 kt
winds over a tiny area and building. By evening a solid fetch of 55-60
kt west winds are forecast at 41N 180W generating seas to 34 ft over a tiny area. Sunday AM (3/13) 55 kt northwest winds to track east at 41N 171W (331 degs HI) with 38 ft seas at 41N 175W targeting Hawaii well. In the evening 50-55 kt west-northwest winds to continue at 40N 160W with 40 ft seas at 40N 165W (287 degs NCal and 340 degs HI). Monday AM 45 kt northwest winds to be fading at 40N 150W and outside the Hawaiian swell window with 39 ft seas at 39N 158W mostly bypassing Hawaii (284 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold in the evening at 41N 145W generating 36 ft seas at 40N 149W all targeting NCal up the 285 degree path. Fetch is to continue off Cape Mendocino and Oregon well into Wed AM (3/160 with seas in the 36-38 ft range pushing up to but not onshore of the Pacific Northwest. Possible solid sideband swell for the Hawaiian Islands and larger raw energy for the US West coast if all goes as forecast (not likely at this early date).
As of Thursday (3/10) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some. The daily SOI was up to 20.10. The 30 day average was up some to 20.86 with the 90 day average down some to 21.30.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (3/9) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak westerly anomalies over the dateline into the mid- Pacific and pushing into Central America symptomatic of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. They are to start rapidly dissipating 3/14 and gone by 3/19 while a modest version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO builds in the Indian Ocean pushing into eh West Pacific on 3/14 and reaching the dateline 3/24,dissipating there at least through the end of the month by likely into early April. This suggests limited support for gale development through maybe 3/18, then likely falling back to a split jetstream pattern thereafter with reduced support for gale development.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/10) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from a bit west of South America westward 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. Warmer than normal water has now built near the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator there were some indication of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that has been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water was edging east from the West Pacific, up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator on 3/3, but loosing a little of it's punch. By 3/6 those temps were down to +1 degrees above normal and loosing more heat. But as of 3/10 +2 degree anomalies looked stronger but had made no eastward progress, stuck at 155W. Still, no negative anomalies were present in the East Pacific, a big step forward and suggestive that the worst of La Nina is over. Models indicate maybe a more normal pattern is trying to get established over the next 3 months, but we are moving into the Sprintime 'unpredictability barrier', so any particular outcome is far from certain.
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 anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, but not unusually so. We actually expected more from this La Nina.
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 the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. 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. Conversely, the tropical season in the Atlantic (2011) might be fairly active.
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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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table