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 Saturday (4/10) North and Central California was getting locally generated north windswell at 2-3 ft overhead with southern hemi swell at head high underneath, but all encased in south winds and local chop. Not pretty. Southern California was getting some wrap around windswell from the north intermixing with southern hemi swell at shoulder to head high up north and 1-2 ft overhead at top spots down south. Conditions a bit raw up north but clean early down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some limited swell up to chest high and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high plus easterly windswell and chopped. The South Shore was getting some leftover southern hemi swell with waves waist high on the sets and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for fading windswell/southern hemi swell combo on Sunday at torn apart by south winds, with local Gulf swell in the mix on Monday to double overhead but still pretty much ripped apart. Tuesday that Gulf swell is to be fading from 1 ft overhead with improving conditions and a little more Gulf swell arriving on Wednesday at 1 ft overhead. Southern California is to see more a fading mix of Gulf windswell on Sunday with southern hemi swell in the head high plus range waist high range, then more Gulf swell to chest high Monday with shoulder high southern hemi swell. Tuesday a mix of waist to chest high southern hemi swell and Gulf swell to continue holding into Wednesday is not building slightly. The North Shore of Oahu is to not see any real surf till Tuesday when limited dateline swell arrives at 3 ft overhead fading from 2 ft overhead on Wednesday. The East Shore to see more tradewind generated windswell at chest high through Sunday then dropping out. But possible northeast swell to arrive from the Gulf on Tuesday to head high fading from shoulder high on Wednesday. The South Shore is to not see anything of interest till Wednesday when some thigh high background southern hemi swell arrives.
A small gale was regenerating in the Eastern Gulf on Saturday (4/10) with 26 ft seas forecast by evening aimed mid-way between Hawaii and California, possibly setting up a little pulse of energy from both. Otherwise high pressure had a pretty good grip on the core of the North Pacific, but might relent some by Friday (4/16) allowing another system to form on the northern dateline (really over the Aleutians) possibly setting up a small pulse of swell mainly for the US West Coast. Down south the storm pattern is all aligned west to east, mostly not allowing any swell energy to radiate north. Kinda quiet for now while we wait for the Active Phase of the MJO to dig in possibly one last time.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (4/10) the North Pacific jet was split in the east with the northern branch ridging up into Alaska with a bit of a backdoor trough diving south along the US West Coast, offering a chance for gale development off the Pacific Northwest. In the West a laconic pattern was in play with no wind energy of interest. Over the next 72 hrs the trough in the east is to push inland over Central CA bringing wind and rain there while over the rest of the Pacific the dominant northern branch tracks northeast just under the Aleutians offering no trough and no odds for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a good solid push of 190 kt winds are to build over the dateline on Fri (4/16) starting to dig out a bit of a trough and pushing towards the Gulf of Alaska with a legitimate trough developing on Sat (4/17) and holding . Decent odds for gale development then.
At the surface on Saturday (4/10) strong high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked over the core of the Western Pacific driving any eastward bound gales off Japan to the north, into the Bering Sea. A gale was positioned in the Northeastern Gulf producing a small area of 40-45 kt north winds at 46N 140W and falling south with 35 kt north winds in the evening at 40N 142W resulting in 27 ft seas at 43N 140W. Possible sideband swell pushing into North and Central CA by Mon (4/12) at 8 ft @ 12 secs (9 ft faces) and Northeastern Shore of the Hawaiian Islands late Tuesday (4.5 ft @ 13 secs - 6 ft faces) if this comes to pass. The low itself is to be pushing into Central CA at the same time (Monday). Otherwise high pressure in the West PAcific is to east east and slowly loose organization.
A gale was situated just east of the dateline on Wednesday (4/7) producing 45 kt west wind at 43N 175E aimed due east or right up the 297 degree path to NCal. Seas were on the increase, building from 30 ft at the same location. Wednesday evening winds in this gale were fading from 40-45 kts at 45N 178W aimed like before with seas peaking at 32 ft at 45N 178W. Thursday AM (4/8) the gale started turning and falling southeast with winds down to 35 kts and seas fading from 30 ft at 46N 170W. Remnants of this system continued tracking east-southeast through the later part of the week.
Some degree of longer period swell should arrive in Northern CA late Sunday (3/11) with pure swell 6.2-6.5 ft @ 17 secs (10-11 ft faces) from 297 degrees. Local weather to be a real issue though.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (4/10) local low pressure was 600-800 nmiles west of the US West Coast while an tiny secondary low was pushing directly over Cape Mendocino down to San Francisco. South winds and nearly rain were in effect. By late Saturday south winds from the main low are to start building in hard from Morro Bay northward. Sunday these south winds are to reach down into Southern CA and hold up into Cape Mendo, pushing near 30 kts in many location. Rain over most of the state with snow accumulations building in the mountains late. By Monday (4/12) the low is to move inland with weak high pressure and light northwest winds in control late over all coastal waters. Rain and snow fading well after sunset. Winds to back off everywhere Tuesday (4/13) as another very weak Gulf gale eases into the North Coast with south winds maybe down to Central CA late. Rain in the lowlands north of Pt Conception late with some snow accumulations starting from Tahoe north through the day Wed. By Wednesday weak high pressure is to take over with northwest winds to 15 kts building later Thursday mainly over Pt Conception and Cape Mendo, and lighter everywhere else. Light winds continuing into next weekend (4/18).
On Saturday (4/10 no real swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring. Previously the models had suggested a storm forming well southeast of New Zealand with 55k southwest winds pushing somewhat northeast, but that has since faded from the charts, or actually it turned more on a west to east path providing limited if no fetch aimed north. No swell of interest expected to result. Seas did reach 40 ft 06Z Sat (4/10) at 60S 160W. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
A storm started brewing in the deep mid-South Pacific on Tues PM (3/30) with a broad area of 45 kt southwest winds at 63S 162W aimed well up the 198 degree great circle paths to California and totally unshadowed by Tahiti. This system build with a large area of 40-45 kt southwest winds and up to 55 kt southwest winds were modeled Wed AM (3/31) at 63S 158W aimed right up the 196 degree path to CA with 38 ft seas at 60S 158W. In the evening 45 kt almost pure south fetch was modeled at 60S 155W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA with 41 ft seas at 60S 150W. 40 kt south-southwest fetch was holding Thurs AM (3/1) at 59S 150W resulting in 38 ft seas at 56S 150W pushing right up the 195 degree path to CA. 40 kt south fetch held into the evening at 59S 148W with more 32 ft seas being generated there. The focus will be California down into Central America. An interesting start to the summer season because this look like possible Storm #2S.
Southern CA: Swell to be fading from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs on Sunday (5 ft faces) and 3.0-3.3 ft @ 14 secs on Sunday (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195-197 degrees
Northern CA: Swell to be fading from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs on Sunday (5 ft faces) and 3.0-3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs on Sunday (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 194-196 degrees
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 take up a now familiar position north of Hawaii at 1036 mbs generating strong trades there by Thurs (4/15). A gale migrating northeast off the Kuril Islands Wed (4/14) is to be approaching the dateline on Thursday with 40-45 kt west winds just barely south of the Central Aleutians and producing 28 ft seas at 47N 168E early pushing to 50N 178E in the evening then fading on the dateline Friday with winds over a large area but down to 35 kts and seas 26 ft at 50N 175W all aimed due east up the 305 degree great circle path to Central CA and mostly bypassing Hawaii.
No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (4/10) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Inactive Phase of the MJO, moving towards a neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) daily index was down to 5.91. The 30 day average was up to 1.82 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -10.28 (bottomed out at -14.2 on 3/14). El Nino maxed out on 2/15.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated moderate westerly anomalies over Indonesia and reaching east to the dateline, a clear sign of the Active Phase of the MJO. It is expected to hold on the dateline through 4/16, then slowly dissipating while easing east into Central America to 4/21. A neutral pattern is expected after that into 4/29. This should gently feed storm generation potential. But with Spring moving in, it's difficult to estimate exactly how much of a positive impact that will actually have. At this point were monitoring the MJO more for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May time frame (versus monitoring for storm support) to see if this Midoki El Nino can hang on for another year, or whether we fall back into a La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/8) indicated no dramatic change from previous weeks, with warmer than normal waters consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, but not gone from South America and if anything, building slightly (likely the result of a recent impact by a Kelvin Wave). Erosion of warmer waters over the Galapagos is expected, symptomatic of the fading of El Nino.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 4/9 a tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 120W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core at 4 C at 110W. This is expected to fuel or at least extend El Nino symptoms into summer, but is likely the last Kelvin Wave we are going to see.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. This looks like the normal Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. We expect a normal trade pattern to take hold over the entire equatorial Pacific for the remainder of the Spring.
El Nino continues affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggests that the spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. This has not been a strong El Nino, more of a solid moderate one. A respectable accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warm subsurface water remains in place, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But the atmosphere is already being strongly influenced by the warm water buildup over the past 6 months, and it will not return to a normal state for quite some time.
At this point were mainly monitoring to determine whether this El Nino will degrade into La Nina (which typically happens after stronger El Nino's), or whether it will hold in some mild El Nino-like state for several years in a row. This would be the best outcome, but far from expected. The months of Mar-June normally are when the transition takes place.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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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Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we implemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sample, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
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Read about Eric Nelson and Curt Myers, the makers of Ride-On and other Big Wave Surf Movies here: http://coastviewsmag.com/powerlines-productions-filming-the-art-of-big-wave-surfing
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Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
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Shark Video: Our friend Curt Myers of Powerlines productions shot this footage of 2 great whites munching on a whale carcass off Devils Slide (south of San Francisco) on Thursday. Kind of interesting to watch. Check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4rZYEZMWQ (Fixed link)
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
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Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table