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 Monday (3/19) North and Central CA had fading Gulf swell producing waves in the 2 ft overhead range but raw and warbled even though there was no wind nearshore early. In Santa Cruz waves were chest to head high and fairly clean. Southern California up north was waist high and lightly chopped and looking very much like windswell. Down south waves were about waist high or so coming from the north also getting a bit chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some bare minimal swell with waves waist high or so reasonably clean. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated east windswell at waist high and chopped by easterly wind.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
High pressure was locked between Hawaii and California driving the storm track to the northeast and generating minimal easterly windswell into the Hawaiian Islands. A low was trying to develop in the Eastern Gulf. Another stronger high was over the dateline with a gale west of there tracking north over the northern Kuril Islands. No swell of interest was in the water. The low in the Eastern Gulf is forecast building on Tues (3/20) with 32 ft seas just off Vancouver Island offering swell for mainly the Pacific Northwest. Beyond another small gale is forecast wrapping up off the California Coast Sat-Sun (3/25) with up to 26 ft seas, possibly generating some swell but also likely generating wind and rain for the Golden State. And another small gale to follow off the Pacific Northwest early next week. The Active Phase of the MJO remains on-track to push into the far West Pacific by 3/28, possibly improving odds for better storm and swell potential for 3 weeks to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Monday (3/19) the jetstream was pushing off Japan with winds at 170 kts but splitting heavily about mid-way to the dateline with most energy tracking hard north pushing up into the extreme western Bering Sea and offering no support for gale formation. The southern branch was pushing hard south to the equator then tracking east. A residual consolidated flow was pushing in to the Pacific Northwest and then down the interior US West Coast offering northing of interest. Over the next 72 hours the split point is to push east to the dateline but with wind speeds way down, barely to 100 kts and offering no real support for gale development. A big split is to be east of there with a persistent trough hanging off British Columbia providing limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the split point hanging mid-way between Japan and the dateline with most energy traveling northeast just shy of the Aleutians falling into a weak trough in the Eastern Gulf offering some support for gale development there. Winds building late in the period to 150 kts over the entire North Pacific in the northern branch.
Surface - On Monday (3/19) high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered midway between San Francisco and Hawaii generating limited easterly fetch at 15-20 kts positioned east of Hawaii and aimed back at the Islands. A new closed isobar low trying to wrap up in the extreme Eastern Gulf of Alaska producing northwest winds at 35 kt over a small area and starting to produce some seas of interest. Over the next 72 hours the gale is to build with winds pushing 55 kt Monday evening with seas building to 22 ft at 47N 140W (308 degs NCal). The low is to be impacting British Columbia on Tuesday AM with west winds of 45 kts and seas building to 32 ft off the coast at 48N 134W (320 degs NCal and outside the swell window) targeting only the Pacific Northwest. The gale is to be onshore in the evening. Assuming the models are accurate, some degree of limited northwest swell from early in the gales life to reach Central CA on Wed (3/21) with pure swell 7 ft @ 14 secs (9-10 ft) from 308+ degs. most energy expected for Oregon.
High pressure at 1040 mbs is to be building north of Hawaii on Wed (3/21) generating northwest winds ahead of it at 25 kts building 18 ft seas near 43N 145-150W offering prospects of 11-12 secs period windswell pushing towards the Pacific Northwest and California for the weekend. The high to also generate northerly winds at 20-25 kts pushing towards Hawaii Tues-Wed (3/21) with windswell the result by Thurs-Sat (3/24).
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (3/19) a weak weather pattern was in-play locally with high pressure just barely off the coast to the southwest and building low pressure off the Pacific Northwest. A light wind regime was finally in control of California. High pressure is to move a little closer on Tuesday while a weak front fades just north of San Francisco brining light rain from there northward and a still generally light wind pattern prevailing and holding into Wednesday. Thursday a weak front is to push down to maybe San Francisco, then dissolve with only light winds and modest rain to SF in-play. By Friday a new local low is to start falling down the Pacific Northwest Coast with south winds building to Morro Bay late and then coming in full force on Saturday (30 kts) for all of Central CA with light south winds down into Southern CA. Rain for the entire state by end of the day with up to 7 inches of snow for Tahoe by sunrise Sunday. The core of the low to fall off Pt Conception on Sunday with perhaps offshore winds north of there and south winds continuing into Southern CA, then fading and returning to calm on Monday (3/26). Rain for Monterey Bay southward on Sunday into early Monday with another 6 inches of snow for Tahoe and more south of there.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a new gale is forecast forming southeast of New Zealand just off Antarctica on Thurs (3/22) with 30 ft seas at 59S 155W lifting northeast with seas to 35 ft in the evening at 53S 145W then fading Friday AM (3/23) with 34 ft seas at 50S 140W. possible swell to result for CA with swell coming from 191-193 degs.
Another small gale developed Friday evening (3/9) producing 30 ft seas at 62S 152W traveling northeast with 32 ft seas holding at 60S 147W on Sat AM (3/10) then faded from 32 ft at 50S 141W in the evening. Small swell has hit Southern CA and is to be fading from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) early on Tues (3/20). Swell Direction: 194-197 degs.
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 local gale is to form off Oregon on Friday (3/23) generating 35 kt northwest winds and seas to 22 ft over a tiny area at 43n 134W (305 degs NCal). The gale to building with 40 kt north winds off NCal on Saturday AM (3/24) with seas pushing 26 ft at 40N 136W (287 degs NCal/300 degs SCal) then fading in the evening with winds down to 30 kts and seas 26 ft at 36N 133W (282 degs SCal) and continuing south. Possible swell for all the CA coast over the weekend, but likely accompanied by wind and rain.
Another small gale is to wrap up off Vancouver Island on Sun (3/25) with 35-40 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas at 47N 135W. Swell targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest if one is to believe the models.
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 Monday (3/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 2.30. The 30 day average was up to 5.50 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 8.23. We've been saying that this is a lagging indicator of what is happening wind-wise and that these numbers should be rising, but that should have occurred by now. This suggests that perhaps La Nina is fading.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were over the dateline/equator region extending from 140W over the dateline to 155E and loosing ground. The coverage of these winds shifted east and was fading. Westerly anomalies were strong in the Indian Ocean pushing east to 155E and displaced south slightly (5S). It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was loosing control of the West Pacific (a good thing). A week from now (3/27) the pattern is to continue with a weakening area of weak easterly anomalies forecast only up to the dateline (180W) and with westerly anomalies building from the Indian Ocean to the dateline and making easterly headway. This indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by then with the Active Phase starting to take control of the West Pacific. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) are in agreement suggesting the core of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is already east of the dateline (at 150W) and expected to continue fading and tracking east a week out and be gone 2 weeks from now (3/31) with the Active Phase of the MJO locked over the dateline and tracking east. This suggests the 'blocked' MJO pattern that has in control most of this winter is over. It also suggest that by 3/27 we will be in a more favorable environment to support gale formation in the preferred dateline region. But as of right now, the upper level models are not picking up on that change 7 days out. The thought is it will take a few days for the upper atmosphere to respond to the change in the MJO, and that the storm track will take a few days beyond that to respond. It will be interesting to see if the MJO really has any effect over the next 2-3 weeks, or whether the coming of Spring trumps everything else.
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 Spring of 2012. but after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013.
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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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