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 (4/24) North and Central California was seeing rideable southern hemi swell producing waves in the waist to chest high range with some bigger sets at south facing breaks. Wind was westerly pretty much bumping it up at all but the more protected breaks. Southern California was seeing southern hemi swell in the waist to chest high range up north and clean but foggy. Down south that southern hemi swell was waist to chest high with bigger sets and a bit bumped up with south winds in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting minimal tradewind generated east windswell at knee to thigh high and semi clean conditions. The South Shore was getting the last bit's of New Zealand southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high and clean with light trades.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Monday is to see southern hemi swell fading from (3.5 ft (faces) and then down to maybe 2.5 ft on Tuesday with northwest windswell building to 5.5 ft. Windswell continues building Wednesday to 7 ft and then dropping from 5 ft faces on Thursday. Friday new windswell builds to near 8 ft.
Southern California is to see southern hemi swell to hang on for early Monday t waist high plus but fading, down to thigh high Tuesday. No other southern hemi activity forecast. Northerly windswell possible on Wednesday to waist high fading from knee high Thursday then back to thigh high for Friday.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see new windswell pushing chest high Monday and up to shoulder to head high Tuesday with luck. Chest high leftovers on Wednesday and then back to flat for the rest of the workweek.
The East Shore is to see knee high east windswell Monday pushing waist high Tuesday then dropping to near flat Wednesday. Thursday windswell returns at waist high pushing a few inches high er on Friday.
The South Shore is to see a new small pulse of southern hemi swell arriving at thigh high Monday fading from thigh high early Tuesday. Another little pulse is possible later Thursday at knee high holding into early Friday.
The North Pacific remains nearly dormant with only spurious low pressure development forecast resulting in seas no grater than 18 ft. Down south a trough is forecast in the Central Pacific next weekend (5/1) but not strong enough to even produce a decent low pressure systems and seas less than 28 ft. No swell is expected. In short, a nearly calm pattern is forecast for the next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (4/24) the jetstream was ridging slightly off Japan then falling into a trough over the dateline. Winds were in the 120 kts range and not real supportive of low pressure development. Front there the jet was tracking slightly northeast and pushing into Northern CA with winds to 150 kts. No support for low pressure there because no troughs were in play. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is slowly track east and dissipate with a flat and weak west to east flow forecast tracking from Japan to Northern CA by early Wednesday and winds 100 kts or less. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to be building over the dateline on Friday (4/29) with a trough in the Gulf of Alaska and both slowly easing east. Winds in the trough to be near 130 kts, offering some opportunity for low pressure development in lower levels of the atmosphere into the weekend.
At the surface on Sunday (4/24) a broad but weak low pressure system was in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska producing winds only in the 20 kts range and not capable of generating any windswell of interest. Weak high pressure was between California and Hawaii and a second high was off Japan. No swell production was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the low in the Gulf is to east east perhaps building and generating a brief fetch of 30 kt northwest winds off Oregon on Monday, perhaps resulting in a tiny patch of 18 ft seas later in the day, good for windswell radiating from Oregon down into Central CA. But that is it.
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 (4/24) weak high pressure was trying to ridge into the Central CA coast while low pressure was taking hold of the Gulf of Alaska. A generally light wind pattern was in control of the California coast. On Monday the high is to try and build in while the Gulf low pressure and associated front reach south to maybe San Francisco early in the day. No snow of any kind forecast for the Sierras, only rain. But high pressure is to get the upper hand winds northwest winds building over the entire state (including Southern CA) late in the day at 15 kts most locations but up to 25 kts over the Channel Islands. This pattern is to continue Tues (4/26) with northwest winds in control at 20+ kts focused near Pt Conception and even pushing into Southern CA in the 15 kts range. That high is to slowly fade some Wednesday with calmer winds in Southern CA as low pressure again starts pushing in the Gulf of Alaska and heading towards Oregon. It is to impact Oregon on Thursday with high pressure building right behind, resulting in 15-20 kt northwest winds for the entire US West Coast save other than protected Southern CA. A pressure gradient is to result over North and Central CA on Friday (4/29) with near 30 kts northwest winds over all coastal locations except Southern CA. The gradient is to slowly lift north and dissipate over the weekend with calm to light northwest winds for all locations by Sunday.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast in the California or Hawaiian swell windows. High pressure at 1040 mbs was positioned east of New Zealand driving the storm track to the southeast and shutting down gale formation potential for the Southwest and Central Pacific. There were two gales trying to track under the high but their fetch was aimed southeast towards Antarctica and expected to rapidly fade. Over the next 72 hours the high is to track fast to the east and be approaching Chile, shutting swell production down as it moves east.
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 models suggest high pressure is to start building over the southern dateline region at 1028 mbs and extending east to nears California while 2 low pressure systems try to track over the top of it on Wed (4/27), one just east of the dateline and a second off Oregon. This is to generate a pressure gradient between the low pressure systems and the high resulting in a decent sized fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds over the dateline and and smaller area of similar winds off Oregon. This to result in a small area of 18 ft seas off Oregon on Thursday (4/28) and seas up to near 20 ft just south of the Eastern Aleutians (48N 168W). Possible windswell for Oregon down to Central CA and also for the Hawaiian Islands. This is still a ways from forming so any particular outcome remains remote.
As of Sunday (4/24) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued relatively low, presumably from lingering effects of the Active Phase of the MJO. The daily SOI was at 12.62. The 30 day average was up slightly to 25.82 with the 90 day average up slightly at 21.07.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (4/23) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated neutral winds in control over the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. Neither the Active or the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in effect. And a neutral pattern is expected to hold through the end of the forecast period (5/13). In reality, we would not be surprised to see some degree of a weak Inactive Phase make an appearance in early May. The 2010-2011 Winter season is over.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/21) 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 had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But there had also been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there that was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently (4/19) 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. Almost +1 degrees anomalies are tracking from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W. 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 the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (6 months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though painstakingly slow.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were 'normal' with only light easterly anomalies persisting in the far Western Pacific.
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 there's indication of 2 low pressure systems starting to build in the Central South Pacific on Thurs (4/28) any joining forces. Winds to briefly reach the 40 kts range early Friday, but then starting to fade by evening. Sea are modeled in the 26 ft range Friday into Saturday (4/30), which is not enough to produce swell of interest for the US west Coast or Hawaii. Beyond and another high pressure systems is forecast forming east of New Zealand on Sunday (5/1) at 1028 mbs likely shutting down swell production again.
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