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 Sunday (4/17) North and Central California was seeing locally generated windswell producing waves in the shoulder high range and warbled by nearshore northwest winds and a little southern hemi swell in the knee to thigh high range underneath. Southern California was seeing weak thigh high northwest windswell up north with clean conditions early. Down south waves were maybe up to waist high and clean but socked in. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing windswell in the waist to chest high range and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated east windswell at waist high and maybe a little more and clean. The South Shore was getting waist to maybe chest high background southern hemi swell and clean early.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Monday is to see northwest windswell at 2.5-3.0 ft (faces) and then 4 ft on Tuesday (4 ft faces) with southern hemi swell 3 ft both days at exposed breaks. Wednesday windswell drops to 2 ft with southern hemi swell again 3 ft. Thursday windswell fades with new southern hemi swell moving in at 2.5 ft. Windswell bumps up on Friday to near 3 ft with new semi real southern hemi swell to 3.5 ft.
Southern California is to see no windswell of interest. But southern hemi swell is to be thigh to waist high Monday bumping up Tuesday to waist to chest high and waist to chest high again Wednesday. Swell fades to waist high Thursday with new southern hemi well arriving Friday at near chest high.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see northwest windswell at head high Tuesday fading to shoulder high early Wednesday and waist high or less Thursday.
The East Shore is to see east windswell at waist high plus Monday on Friday. A little more east windswell at waist high or so fading out Tuesday with nothing else through the week.
The South Shore is to see new southern hemi swell at thigh high Monday building to waist high plus Tuesday. Better southern hemi swell arrives for Wednesday at almost 1 ft overhead fading from shoulder high plus early Thursday and chest to shoulder high Friday.
The North Pacific is effectively asleep now and expected to stay that way with only remote hope for a gale moving into the Gulf on Thurs-Fri generating maybe 20 ft seas targeting the US West Coast. Swell from a previous minor gael on the dateline is expected to hit Hawaii on Tues (4/19). Down south a decent gale pushed under New Zealand Tues-Thurs (4/14) with 40-42 ft seas but shadowed by Tahiti. Swell from it is expected into Hawaii late on Tuesday and for the US West Coast near the weekend. Otherwise it's remnants are pushing flat east towards the southern tip of South America with no swell being generated for our forecast area and nothing else forecast for the next 7 days.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (4/17) the jetstream was pushing off Japan running almost flat to the east over the dateline and then on into Oregon. Winds were weak, generally not exceeding 100 kts other than a small pocket of 130 kts winds pushing into something that almost looked like a trough on the dateline. The good news is the split jetstream pattern of the past few weeks has abated. The bad news is it's late in the season and energy levers are low and fading, meaning support for gale development is low. Over the next 72 hours energy levels are to remain low, at least initially. But by Wednesday a decent sized pocket of 180 kts winds are to build off Japan reaching almost to the dateline, though not trough are forecast forming yet. At least these some wind energy. Beyond 72 hours that winds is to push east and slowly decay, but winds to still be 150 kts early Friday as the pocket moves under the Gulf of Alaska with something that almost looks like a trough trying to organize there, providing some support for low pressure development down at the oceans surface. That trough is to push into British Columbia on Sunday (4/24) but 140 kts winds to hold out over the Gulf with a weak trough on the dateline. Maybe limited support for low pressure development expected in this region with luck.
At the surface on Sunday (4/17) nothing of real interest was occurring. Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was centered 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception barely ridging into Central CA generating some northwest winds at 20 kts or so focused on Pt Conception. No trades of significance were blowing over the Islands with no high pressure near there. Low pressure at 996 mbs was over the northern dateline region generating up to 25 kt northwest winds. There were up to 30 kt winds late on Saturday (4/16) generating 18 ft seas at 37N 174W, good for northwest windswell in the 11-12 secs range for Hawaii on Tues (4/19). Otherwise a calm pattern is in control. Over the next 72 hours the remnants of low pressure over the dateline are to slowly ease east while additional weak low pressure migrates east off Japan. No swell producing fetch is forecast from it just yet.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday AM (4/17) weak high pressure at 1022 mbs was trying to ridge into Central CA generating a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds of 20 kts centered over Pt Conception. Weak low pressure was 600 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino pushing east. The low is to track southeast into and over the San Francisco Bay area on Monday (4/18) with modest south winds at 10 kts expected down to Monterey Bay and winds backing off some from the northwest down at Pt Conception. Rain is forecast through the day in to the evening from Big Sur northwards, with rain in Tahoe too. But by Tuesday high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska is to try and move back in clearing things out, only to fail due to another weak low setting up off Central CA and moving into the entire region on Wednesday (4/20). South winds forecast down to Pt Conception at 10 kts. Very light rain later Wednesday for the SF Area and continuing through the evening pushing south to maybe Pt Conception and 7 inches of snow for Tahoe. On Thursday (4/21) weak high pressure is to take over clearing things out with northwest winds 10 kts or so expected over the entire CA coast pushing 20 kts on Friday. But again a large area of low pressure is to be moving into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska by the weekend reducing the pressure gradient and perhaps reducing northwest winds from Pismo Beach northward and then an even more winter-like pattern might take root beyond as waves of low pressure move towards the Pacific Northwest.
Over the next 72 hours remnants of the New Zealand Gale (details below) are to continue tracking flat east pushing into the southern tip of South America. But the very west to east alignment of the fetch along with it's movement out of the California swell window late Sun (4/17) will severely limit the northward propagation of any swell. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
New Zealand Gale
Another gale built south of the Tasman Sea tracking east-northeast on Tues (4/12) producing a solid area of 40 kt west-southwest winds and seas building. With the Antarctic Ice Sheet at it's Fall minimum, the fetch was getting some traction on ice free waters there. By Tuesday evening the fetch built to 45 kts over a solid fetch area while pushing east-northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 58S 168E (a long ways from the US West Coast - 6690 nmiles away on the 212 deg track - and aimed pretty much east of the 199 deg great circle track to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southeast quadrant of this system and reported average seas at 28.4 ft with one reading to 32.8 ft where the model indicated 32 ft seas. This was about right on track. 45 kt winds held into Wed AM (4/13) with seas to 40 ft at 56S 178E (210 degs CA -193 degs HI), with new fetch developing a bit south of there. By Wed PM 45 kt southwest winds were blowing generating 42 ft seas at 56S 170W (205 deg NCal - 185 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system again and reported average seas at 31.1 ft with one reading to 34.4 ft where the model indicated 31 ft seas. This was right on track. Thursday AM (4/14) 45 kt west winds continued to hold generating 44 ft seas at 55S 161W bypassing Hawaii and aimed a bit east of the 201 degree track to CA. By evening the fetch is to be fading fast and aimed due east with seas from previous fetch at 42-43 ft and fading fast at 54S 151W (197 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system are reported average seas at 28.8 ft with one reading to 36.4 ft where the model indicated 30 ft seas. This was again right on track.
This system developed right on track with the models and the models were well correlated to the readings coming off the Jason-1 satellite, though most of those readings were from the outer periphery of the systems rather than over it's core. For the most part this system was totally shadowed from CA by Tahiti and surrounding Islands and fetch aimed well east of any track going up to Hawaii. The net result is to be rideable swell at both locations, but nothing to get excited about. Just something rideable. Tahiti will do alright, but not optimal.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting at sunset Tues (4/19) with period 20 secs and size likely no noticeable, but building overnight. Swell to be 2.6 ft @ 18 secs sunrise Wed (4/20) with sets near 5 ft (face) and holding through the day. Swell to hold solid Thurs (4/21) with swell 3 ft @ 16 secs early (5 ft faces with bigger sets), then starting to fade some later in the day. Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft faces) on Fri (4/22) and fading. Swell Direction: 185-195 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving later Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 205-210 degrees
Northern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving late Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 203-208 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 the various weak low pressure systems are forecast to coalesce in the Western Gulf starting Thursday pushing east into Friday (4/22) generating a modest fetch of 30 kt west winds 1200-1500 nmiles north of Hawaii. Theoretically 20 ft seas are forecast under this fetch tracking due east or roughly well off Oregon. Some degree of 13 sec period swell might result off the US West coast if all goes as forecast.
As of Friday (4/15) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued in the positive range. The daily SOI was up at 30.57. The 30 day average was up to 23.99 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.42.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (4/16) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was fading fast with modest westerly anomalies holding just over the dateline and neutral conditions east of there. They were having little impact on the daily SOI. These anomalies are to be slowly dissipating on the dateline 4/21 and gone by 4/26. At the same time the Inactive Phase is trying to build in the Indian Ocean but remains very weak, and is to be dissipating while tracking east, not even getting out of the Eastern Indian Ocean by 4/21 then dissipated by 4/26. A neutral pattern is forecast after that and holding through 5/6. Finally there's some evidence that the current Active Phase is adding some support for gale development, with the jetstream expected to repair it's split pattern. But not a whole lot is to result from that down in lower levels of the atmosphere. It looks like the pull of Springtime trumps anything the MJO is trying to produce at this point, meaning that the 2010-2011 Winter season is likely over. Longterm, we really need to see the 30 day average SOI taking a significant dive towards neutral territory (0.0 readings, or at least a 30 day average of 10.0) before we'll believe any real trend/bias away from La Nina is occurring.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/14) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a a good 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 relenting some 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, previously 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. Currently those temps are down to about 1 deg above normal. 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 was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some into 4/13. 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. The thought is this normalization of subsurface waters will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (months later). So all this is a step in the right direction.
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 aimed well towards either Hawaii or CA 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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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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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