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 Friday (4/16) North and Central California was getting and small mix of Gulf swell and very southerly angled southern hemi swell with waves chest high and and clean early, but with south winds starting to push in later. Southern California was getting some wrap around windswell from the north intermixing with shadowed very southerly angled southern hemi swell at thigh to waist high or so but pushing head high to 1 ft overhead at top spots down south with good conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was getting mostly northerly windswell waves chest high and pretty torn up by north-northeast tradewinds. The East Shore was getting waist to chest high northeast windswell and chopped. The South Shore was getting no surf of interest with waves thigh high and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more chest high Gulf swell expected Saturday with waist to chest high new southwest angled southern hemi swell arriving, The Gulf swell to be fading on Sunday with southern hemi swell still near chest high, then fading to waist high on Monday. New Gulf/dateline swell expected by Tuesday, but wind is to be on it. Southern California is to see new southwest angled southern hemi swell on Saturday at near chest high continuing Sunday then dropping off on Monday to waist high and thigh high Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new locally generated north angled windswell at 2 ft overhead Saturday and fading from 1 ft overhead Sunday. A little pulse of north dateline energy is expected in later on Monday at 2 ft overhead holding Tuesday. The East Shore to see that north-northeast windswell too on Sat/Sun, then the usual east tradewind windswell is expected later Monday at waist high pushing chest high Tuesday. The South Shore is to see no swell of interest till maybe the middle of next week.
Looking at the models a gale was tracking through the Northern dateline region Thurs/Fri with up to 26 ft seas aimed well to the east but is expected to fade Sunday as it moves into the Gulf of Alaska pushing sideband energy down towards Hawaii, then regenerate on Monday in the Northern Gulf with up to 30 ft seas targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest up into Canada with sideband energy pushing down into Central CA by Wed (4/21). Down south a primer gale is forecast tracking northeast alongside of New Zealand Sat/Sun (4/18) with 29 ft seas with a stronger storm right behind it and on the same track Sun-Wed (4/21) with up to 40 ft seas. This one looks pretty nice. And a smaller one is forecast behind that. The Southern hemi continues coming on-line and the North Pacific fades out. .
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Friday (4/16) the North Pacific jet was split over it's width, with most energy in the northern branch tracking just south of the Aleutians with winds up to 180 kts on the dateline, then dipping into a bit of a trough just off the Pacific Northwest and pushing into Southern CA with winds 140 kts there. A little support for gale development in this trough. Over the next 72 hrs the energy tracking over dateline is to start feeding into the trough off the US West Coast, with 180 kts winds in the trough on Sunday (4/18) providing better support for gale development. The trough is to fully push over the Central CA coast on Tues (4/20) then dissipate. Beyond 72 hours A more consolidated flow is forecast pushing off Japan with winds 140 kts and dipping a little more to the south, while a totally split flow remains in the east. No troughs of interest are forecast though, suggesting a rather weak environment for gale development.
At the surface on Friday (4/16) high pressure at 1032 mbs remained locked over the dateline while weak diffused low pressure was positioned 800 nmiles off the California coast, forming a pressure gradient between the two and generating 30 kt north winds 600 nmiles north of the Islands and likely producing limited 10 sec period windswell pushing towards Hawaii. Up north a broad gale low was moving through the Bering Sea setting up 30-35 kt west winds just south of the Aleutians producing seas of 28 ft at 50N 175E. Over the next 72 hours the pressure gradient north of Hawaii is to shift east with winds still 30 kts into Saturday AM with seas reaching 20 ft, but aimed a bit east of Hawaii. Windswell the likely result for the Islands. Up north the gale tracking under the Aleutians is to slowly loose steam into Sat AM with winds down to 30 kts and seas fading from 25 ft at 48N 172W. Some degree of limited sideband swell is to be dropping towards the Islands arriving Monday (4/19) with more energy towards the US West coast for Tues (4/20). See QuikCASTs for details. The gale is to push east and regenerate in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on late Sun/Mon with 40-45 kt west winds forecast up at 50N 147W with seas building to 30 ft late Sunday at the same location. Most of this energy is to be traveling towards Vancouver Island and Washington, with lesser energy pushing southeast towards Central CA on Wed (4/21). But high pressure and a local pressure gradient is to be affecting the Central CA region at that time.
Also on Sunday another gale is to develop west of the dateline and further south, with up to 50 kt northwest winds over a small area at 43N 160W and tracking northeast. Seas building. In the evening winds to continue at 45 kts at 42N 170E aimed a fair bit east of the 315 degree path to Hawaii with seas reaching 26 ft over a small area. Monday AM (4/19) 45 kt west winds are forecast at 44N 178E resulting in 28 ft seas at 44N 175E. Winds to be heading down in the evening to 40 kts at 45N 175W pushing right up the 297 degree path to NCal with seas to 30 ft at 45N 178W. A quick fade is forecast on Tuesday AM with seas fading from 28 ft at 47N 170W with most energy pushing towards Canada. Limited sideband swell is possible for Hawaii on Thurs (4/22) and the US West Coast beyond.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Friday (4/16) weak low pressure was tracking northeast off California generating a light southerly flow over exposed waters. A broader low was southwest of it heading our way and a second low was in the Gulf of Alaska. By Saturday the local low is to be gone with a light wind pattern forecast and holding into Sunday while the Gulf low pressure system blooms, and sending a front into the Pacific Northwest and reaching down into far Northern CA with south winds there. But the front is to wash out maybe making it to Pt arena on Monday, with light winds holding south of there. But rain is forecast pushing as far south as Monterey Bay and to Pt Conception on Tuesday AM (4/20) and holding through the day while high pressure at 1030 mbs builds in with northwest winds on the increase everywhere (including Southern CA) with a full on pressure gradient in effect by Wednesday with 30-35 kt north winds forecast over the whole state tearing conditions apart. Snow is forecast in the mountains of the central Sierra Tues AM through Thursday. The gradient to hold up north on Thursday but relenting for Central and South CA only to start resurging on Saturday with more high pressure coming in to reinforce it and northwest winds on the rise from Pt Conception northward.
On Friday (4/16) high pressure was in control of the Southeast Pacific while a upper level trough was building east of New Zealand helping to support gale development there. Down at the surface in the evening an ill defined fetch of 35 kt southwest winds is forecast due south of New Zealand and lifting northeast, barely hitting 40 kts Saturday AM at 50S 180W with seas building to 28 ft at 51S 178E. Near 40 kts winds to hold into the evening at 44S 170W with 28 ft seas continuing at 45S 172W. The gale to fade Sunday AM (4/18) with seas fading from 26 ft at 41S 165W. If all goes as forecast some degree of rideable 14-15 sec period swell could result for Hawaii a week out from 191-196 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours a far more interesting storm is forecast developing. On Saturday evening (4/17) a storm with pressure with pressure at 968 mbs is forecast in the deep southwest Pacific just off Antarctica getting traction on the early season ice free waters down there. 50 kts southwest winds are forecast at 61S 155E aimed up the 214 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and almost shadowed by New Zealand on the 201 degree path to Hawaii. On Sunday AM (4/18) a broad fetch of 45 kt southwest winds are forecast at 56S 170E aimed right up the 214 degree path to CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and a shade east of the 200 degree path to Hawaii. 35 ft seas are forecast building at 58S 165E. In the evening 45 kts winds to continue at 55S 175E with seas building to 38 ft at 55S 172E. Monday AM (4/19) 45 kts southwest winds to continue though over a smaller area at 52S 179W aimed right up the 212 degree path to CA and just barely clear of the Tahitian swell shadow and well up the 193 degree path to Hawaii. 40 ft seas forecast at 53S 180W. In the evening more 45 kts southwest winds are forecast holding in the same general area with 38 ft seas continuing at 50S 173W pushing up the 210 degree path to CA and starting to become shadowed by the western end of the Tahitian Island chain and also up the 189 degree path to Hawaii. Tuesday AM (4/20) a large fetch of 40+ kt southwest winds is to be holding at 45S 170W with more 38 ft seas at 46S 174W again pushing up the 214 degree path to CA and unshadowed and the 193 degree path to Hawaii. The fetch is to hold in the evening but loose some coverage, still at 40 kts at 48S 170W aimed more to the north with 37 ft seas at 45S 170W aimed like before or up the 210 route to CA and a bit shadowed. This system to fade after that. Assuming all goes as forecast a rather solid sized 15-17 sec period swell could result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast. Certainly worth monitoring.
Previously a storm formed well southeast of New Zealand on Sat (4/10) with 55 kt southwest winds pushing somewhat northeast, but that system actually turned more on a west to east path providing only limited fetch aimed north. Seas did reach 40 ft at 06Z Sat (4/10) at 60S 160W. Limited swell is expected into California starting Sat (4/17) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces) from 205 degrees. Swell to continue into Sunday.
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 no swell producing fetch is indicated.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Friday (4/16) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was falling into neutral territory and symptomatic of neither the Inactive or the Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation. The daily SOI was down to 3.32. The 30 day average was up to 7.63 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -8.61 (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 completely neutral anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific, suggesting neither the Inactive or the Active Phase. This should neither feed nor hinder storm generation potential. But with Spring moving in, it's difficult to estimate exactly what the impact will be. 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). there some suggestions on models for a mild La Nina.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/15) 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 4/13 a tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 120W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal. 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.
El Nino is slowly loosing it's grip and it's affects on the global atmospheric weather pattern. Still some impact is to continue 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 indicate yet another gale forming under New Zealand on Thurs/Fri (4/23) with up to 38 ft seas, but taking a slightly more eastern course rather than the more favorable northeast course into the greater South Pacific.
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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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