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.
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On Saturday (3/24) North and Central CA had northwest windswell producing waves in the 1 ft overhead range and a bit lumpy but not too bad conditions. In Santa Cruz surf was shoulder high and looking pretty lumpy. Southern California up north was maybe thigh high and clean but a little warbled. Down south waves were near flat and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting north windswell with waves head high and a bit clean with tradewind texture intermixed. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at 2-3 ft overhead and chopped by enhanced northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Modest high pressure remained north of Hawaii while a series of gales were tracking over it with the first falling south off the US West Coast with seas 28 ft. Small swell to result for California with most energy tracking due south and missing the coast. The second is scheduled off the Pacific Northwest on Monday (3/26) with seas in the 26 ft range and the third the day after and about producing the same result. And yet another forecast by the weekend (3/30) a bit closer to Oregon and a bit broader too, but also with seas in the 24-26 ft range. All energy is to be aimed at the US West Coast and mostly bypassing Hawaii, but also likely producing weather for the mainland too. The MJO remains on track and is turning Active consistent with previous projections.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Thursday (3/22) the jetstream was pushing off Japan with winds at 120 kts and not real cohesive, then splitting heavily on the dateline with most energy tracking hard north up into the Bering Sea before doing a hard turn to the southeast and falling into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska before pushing inland over North CA. Limited support for gale formation off the Pacific Northwest. The southern branch was pushing hard south to the equator then tracking east. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the split point retrograding west slightly and more energy tracking through the northern branch at 160 kts and not pushing into the Bering Sea, but instead falling southeast through the Gulf of Alaska starting in the middle of the Aleutians. Support for gale development still limited to the Gulf of Alaska focused mainly off North CA and Oregon. Beyond 72 hours the split is to become less pronounced with the focus remaining the Northeastern Pacific, but the whole northern branch of the jet is to be slowly but steadily sinking south. And more wind energy is to be building in the Gulf with winds to 160+ kts by Thurs (3/29). Maybe a change for the better is to start taking shape (or maybe the models are just teasing us).
Surface - On Thursday (3/22) high pressure at 1034 mbs was centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii while weak low pressure at 1000 mbs was falling south just off the Central Canadian coast. It was starting to generate a fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds on it's western flank aimed at the US West Coast. Another low was tracking north into the Bering Sea being blocked from a more easterly path bu the high north of Hawaii. In all, the split jetstream was driving the storm track pushing everything to the north except where is was falling southeast off the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours a
local close isobar gale is to form in the fetch off Oregon on Friday (3/23) generating 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas to 22 ft over a tiny area at 39N 139W (285 degs NCal). The gale to building with 40-45 kt north winds off NCal on Saturday AM (3/24) with seas pushing 24 ft at 40N 138W (287 degs NCal/300 degs SCal) then fading in the evening with winds down to 40 kts and seas peaking at near 30 ft at 36N 137W (285 degs SCal) and continuing south while fading. Possible swell for all the CA coast over the weekend, but likely accompanied by wind and rain. See QuikCASTs for details
Another small gale is to wrap up well off Vancouver Island on Sun (3/25) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and by evening seas to 22 ft at 46N 150W. The gale is to push southeast into Monday AM (3/26) with 30 kt northwest winds and seas to 24 ft at 43N 145W (296 degs NCal) then fading in the evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 43N 139W(296 degs NCal). Possible 13-14 sec period swell targeting primarily Southern Oregon down into Central CA if one is to believe the models.
High pressure at 1040 mbs was building north of Hawaii on Wed (3/21) generating easterly winds over it's southern flank at 20 kts expected to hold through the weekend (3/24) and pushing towards Hawaii. Easterly windswell to continue for the Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/22) high pressure was locked north of Hawaii with a weak but building weather system trying to form east of it and pushing towards the California coast. A finger from the high was trying to get into Central CA generating brisk north winds locally, but Southern CA was protected. By Friday the building local low is to start moving into North CA waters with south winds on the rise reaching down to Pismo Beach in the afternoon. South winds are to be in full force late Friday into early Saturday (30 kts) for all of Central CA but rapidly fading after sunrise. Rain North CA by late Friday pushing down to Morro Bay by sunset Saturday. The core of the low is to be circulating just off Pt Conception on Sunday AM and moving east with offshore winds north of there and strong south winds into Southern CA. Rain for the entire Central coast by 10 AM Sunday and then into all of Southern CA by 4 PM with snow building in Tahoe accumulating to 10 inches by 4 AM Monday. A moderate westerly flow forecast for the entire state Monday (3/26) while the next system sets up offshore. Rain fading early for the entire state with another 3-4 inches of snow for Tahoe early. South winds to hit the north end of the state late Monday building south to Pt Conception on Tuesday evening holding into Wednesday. Rain to hit the north end of the state Monday PM building south to Monterey Bay Tuesday mid-day and reaching to Morro Bay Wed AM but no further south progress forecast. Rain holding into Thurs AM. Maybe 6 inches of snow fro Tahoe but with high snow levels. And yet anther larger system expected for the Gulf of Thursday starting to impact the north end of the state with rain and south winds by Friday (3/30).
At the surface in the South Pacific a new gale formed southeast of New Zealand just off Antarctica on Thurs AM (3/22) with 45 kt south winds and 35 ft seas at 57S 155W lifting northeast with more 45 kt south winds and seas to 36 ft in the evening at 53S 148W. The gale held Friday AM (3/23) while tracking east with 45 kt south winds and 39 ft seas at 50S 141W. In the evening winds were fading from 40 kts with seas 36 ft at 49S 138W and residuals holding into Sat AM (3/24) with seas at 34 ft at 46S 133W. Another pulse of decent southerly swell to result for CA with swell coming from 188-197 degs.
Southern CA: expect swell arrival starting Friday AM (3/30) with period to 19 secs a 11 AM and size tiny (2 ft @ 19 secs (3.8 ft) but building and well rideable by sunset as period falls to 18 secs (3 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft). Swell to start peaking on Saturday AM (3/31) with pure swell 4.1 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft with sets to 8.5 ft). Swell to hold decently on Sunday (4/1) with swell 3.8 ft @ 16 secs (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and falling off late as period drops to 15 secs. Swell Direction 188-197 focused on 194 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 yet another fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds is to develop in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska on Fri-Sat (3/31) producing 24 ft seas near 42N 145W and tracking east possibly setting up larger raw local swell for the PAcific Northwest down into Central CA. But that's a long ways from now and much could change.
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 (3/24) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some to -2.30. The 30 day average was down to 5.81 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 6.51. We've been saying that these numbers should be rising due to the previous pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO, but that never materialized. This suggests that perhaps La Nina is fading.
Current wind analysis indicated weak easterly anomalies were all east of the dateline now (a good thing) extending from 140W to the dateline (180W) and continuing to loose ground. The coverage of these winds shifted east and was fading. Westerly anomalies were moderate in the Eastern Indian Ocean pushing east to 160E and building more directly over the equator rather than displaced south. It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was continuing to loose control of the West Pacific. A week from now (3/29) the pattern is to continue with a weakening area of weak easterly anomalies hovering between 180W and 160E but nowhere else and with solid westerly anomalies building from the Indian Ocean to 160E 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) run on 3/23 are in agreement suggesting the core of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is already effectively gone with the Active Phase of the MJO locked just west of the dateline (165E) and tracking east. It also suggests 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 quite picking up on that change. 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 and high pressure continues to rule supreme. Regardless the Inactive Phase is already building in the Indian Ocean and expected to push east into the West Pacific by 2-3 weeks from now.
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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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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.
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!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table