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 (4/7) North and Central California was seeing a mix of residual Gulf swell and locally generated windswell producing waves in the 2-3 ft overhead range and ragged. Southern California was seeing chest high windswell-Gulf swell mix and blown to bits. Down south waves were in the chest high range and being blown sideways down the beach. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting northeasterly Gulf swell with waves up to 1-2 ft overhead and clean with modest trades in control. The East Shore was getting the same northerly Gulf swell with waves 2-3 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.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Friday (4/8) is to have fading Gulf windswell mix at 8 ft (faces) but hacked. Saturday local windswell is to be in control at 7 ft fading to 4.5 ft on Sunday. Monday maybe some north angled Aleutian Island swell to hit later at 6 ft buried in locally generated windswell and holding at 6.5 ft on Tuesday with more local windswell on top.
Southern California is to see north angled local windswell at chest high Friday. Waist to chest high leftovers expected on Saturday dropping from thigh high early Sunday. Knee high northwest background swell Monday building Tuesday with Aleutian Island background swell taking hold to thigh high.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see a pretty flat swell state on Friday with nothing rideable. Nothing expected for the weekend. Monday Aleutians Island swell possible to head high early dropping to waist high Tuesday.
The East Shore is to see east windswell at head high to 1 ft overhead Friday. Head high east windswell expected for Saturday fading to chest high Sunday and holding there into Tuesday.
The South Shore is to see no rideable surf until late Monday when southern hemi background swell arrives at thigh high fading to knee to thigh high Tuesday.
High pressure was in control of the greater East Pacific while another very north positioned gale was tracking east through the Bering Sea with a little fetch draped south of the Aleutians generating 26 ft seas then expected to fade to the 22 ft range early Saturday as the gale fades in the Northern Gulf. Small background swell possible for the Pacific Northwest. But beyond that high pressure is to completely lock down the dateline and Gulf of Alaska regions with no indications of any real swell production indicated. A La Nina Springtime weather pattern is taking hold.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/7) a highly fragmented jetstream pattern was in play with no defined support for gale development indicated over the North Pacific. A trough in the northern branch was pushing through the Bering Sea supporting gale development there near the dateline but of no real interest to locations south of the Aleutians. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to track east and slowly drop into the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska moving towards British Columbia and perhaps supporting low pressure development there. But back to the west and weak and highly split jetstream pattern is to persist. Beyond 72 hours the split pattern is to continue with a huge split on the dateline and the northern branch tracking through the Bering Sea then falling into a deepening trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska by Wed (4/13) with 130 kts winds flowing down into the trough. Improved support for gale development possible there and holding into Thursday with the trough easing east towards the Pacific Northwest.
At the surface on Thursday (4/7) a new gale was in the Central Bering Sea producing 55 kt west winds up there but totally landlocked and not producing any swell for Pacific interests. Some fetch from this system extended south of the Aleutians providing some westerly fetch (see Bering Sea Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1036 mbs was 1100 nmiles west of North CA generating 20+ kt northerly winds pushing down the entire US West Coast and generating some modest 15 kts trades pushing up to (but not over) Hawaii offering some windswell there. Another high at 1028 mbs was off Japan tracking east and suggestive of what is to come. This is looking very much like the much anticipated and typical La Nina Springtime pattern. Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems are forecast other the the Bering Sea Gale referenced below.
Bering Sea Gale
A new gale formed over the intersection of the the dateline and the Aleutians Wednesday AM (4/6) generating 40-45 kt south winds all aimed at the Aleutians with the core of the low over the Aleutians. In the evening winds were up to 50-55 kts out of the west but all north of the Aleutians with only limited 35-40 kt westerly fetch free-and-clear at 51N 178W just south of the Aleutians generating 20 kt seas at 47N 180 west aimed towards the US West Coast (302 degs NCal). 50 kt west winds held up in the Bering Sea Thursday AM (3/7) but only 35 kt west winds south of the Aleutians generating up to 26 ft seas at 51N 172W (308 degs NCal) and bypassing any great circle route to Hawaii. The core of the gale is to be fading well up in the Bering Sea in the evening with 35 kt west winds holding south of the Aleutians and residual seas of 23 ft fading at 52N 165W (308 degs NCal). There's some suggestion the remnants of this gale may start falling southeast Friday AM (4/8) with 35 kt west wind at 52N 160W generating 27 ft seas at 51N 165W (307 degs NCal) then continuing east in the evening with 26 ft seas again at 52N 155W. 30 kt west winds to hold into Saturday AM at 51N 155W with 24 ft seas forecast at 50N 150W again aimed at the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA (310 degs). At best some small north angled swell is possible for North and Central CA stating late Sunday into Monday AM (4/11).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (4/7) strong high pressure at 1038 mbs was 1100 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino generating a persistent pressure gradient along the California coast and generating northwest winds at 20+ kts over outer waters from Southern Oregon down to Baja and chopping up the surf. This situation is to continue well into Friday. There's a hint of snow in the Sierra during the day Friday and building in the evening (5 inches accumulation). Finally the gradient is to loosen some Saturday with northwest wind down to 15 kts as the high dissipates and falls south of CA with a front trying to push into the extreme north end of the state late. Lighter winds to hold into Sunday while the front dissipates while pushing into maybe the North San Francisco Bay area. Light rain possible Sunday for North CA working it's way down to SF on Monday. Regardless, more high pressure is to be right behind with building northerly winds expected for Central and North CA by Monday afternoon holding into at least Wednesday (4/13). there's suggestions of a new gale building in the Eastern Gulf and pushing east for later in the week with local winds on the decrease, but that is far from certain at this early date.
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
Beyond 72 hrs high pressure is to remain the name of the game for the East Pacific and a stronger one to 1040 mbs building over the northern dateline region by Tues (4/12). There's some suggestion of a decent size gale building in the Eastern Gulf Wed (4/13) ahead of that high and holding if not slowly easing east into the end of the workweek, but it is still a longways off and there is considerable debate amongst the models as to whether it will occur. At least it's something to monitor. Regardless, it will take a solid instance of the Active Phase of the MJO to break up the high pressure pattern that is getting established. There's one more chance on the charts (see MJO forecast below) and after that it would be safe to declare the season over.
As of Thursday (4/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 27.33. The 30 day average was up to 23.87 with the 90 day average up to 21.73.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (4/6) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was almost peaking with westerly anomalies extending from the Eastern Indian Ocean over the dateline and moderately strong. It is to be centered on the dateline by 4/11, then easing east while slowly dissipating by 4/16 and effectively gone by 4/21. At the same time the Inactive Phase is rebuilding solidly in the Indian Ocean expected to get moderately strong by 4/11 then reaching the extreme West Pacific by 4/16 then dissipating as it limps to the dateline on 4/21 fading there into 4/26. Though the SOI index is still not indicating the Active Phase in control, a dip in those numbers should be coming in the next day or two (as the leading edge hits Tahiti). This all suggests that support for gale development should likely get enhanced as the Active Phase of the MJO gets a stronger foothold about 4/9. Theoretically high pressure should start breaking down on the dateline and the jetstream should repair it's currently split configuration. Unfortunately the models show none of that. It will be interesting to see whether the dominance of the Active Phase from February till late March will have any lasting effects, or whether the Inactive Phase will come roaring in (like it is now) and take control into June. We really need to see the 30 day average SOI taking a significant dive towards neutral territory before we'll believe any real trend/bias away from La Nina is occurring (regardless of what NOAA is predicting recently).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/7) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing 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. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relating as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had 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 and holding there though 3/22. There had been minor fluctuations in it's intensity but in all, reasonably stable. There had been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm and cool anomalies and it had been blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But as of 4/4, it appears that that wall is fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7) with a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline.
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 almost normal and any anomalies that persisted were dying to almost totally normal as of 3/27.
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 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. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
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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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table