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 Tuesday (4/26) North and Central California was seeing blown out waist high windswell and not really rideable. Southern California was seeing a mix of fading southern hemi swell and local windswell at thigh high and blown out up north. Down south mainly windswell was in the water at waist to maybe chest high with heavily textured conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was getting nice windswell with waves shoulder to head high and clean with modest trades in effect. The East Shore was getting minimal wrap around energy from the northwest resulting in waist high surf at exposed breaks and chopped. The South Shore was getting residual southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high and clean with light trades.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Wednesday is to see local windswell at 7 ft (faces) and then dropping from 4 ft on Thursday. Friday new windswell builds to near 6 ft holding Saturday at 6 ft then dropping from 4.5 ft on Sunday.
Southern California is to see local northerly windswell on Wednesday at waist to chest high fading from knee high Thursday then back to thigh high for Friday. Saturday waist high windswell continues fading from thigh high on Sunday.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see waist to chest high leftover northwest windswell early on Wednesday and then back to flat through the weekend.
The East Shore is to see east windswell dropping to thigh high Wednesday holding there Thursday pushing to waist high plus Friday holding at waist high through the weekend.
The South Shore is to see no real swell till another little southern hemi pulse arrives later Thursday at knee high holding through the weekend.
The North Pacific remains nearly dormant with only spurious low pressure development forecast resulting in seas less than 18 ft. Down south a trough is forecast in the Central Pacific Fri-Sun (5/1) possible supporting a gale producing 34 ft seas late in that window aimed well to the north. But that is likely just an optimistic guess by the models. In short, not a whole lot is forecast for now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (4/26) the jetstream was pushing off Japan riding slightly over the dateline, then falling slightly into a weak trough over the Gulf of Alaska before pushing into and over Oregon. Winds were not exceeding 110 kts over it's width and not real supportive of low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours a bit of a trough is forecast developing on the dateline late Wed (4/27) with winds up to barely 130 kts 24 hrs later then fading some. Limited support for low pressure development possible. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to hold while tracking slowly east into Saturday (4/30) then fading and accelerating east into British Columbia late Sunday (5/1). There's some opportunity for low pressure development through Saturday, then fading out. Another trough is to develop on the dateline Sunday pushing east for 24 hours then fading, with yet another trough building off the Kuril Islands behind it. But in all instances, winds are to be light and odds of low pressure development low.
At the surface on Tuesday (4/26) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging east from the dateline into California generating a pressure gradient over Pt Conception producing near 30 kt northwest winds there down into Northern Baja, with 15-20 kt northwest winds extending up to Pt Arena. 2 low pressure systems were in play north of the high, one over the dateline and another in the Gulf of Alaska, both with up to 30 kt winds. But those on the dateline were aimed only north towards the Aleutians offering no swell production potential for our forecast area. The fetch in the Gulf was minimal in coverage aimed at Oregon. No seas of interest were in-play yet. Over the next 72 hours the low in the Gulf is to ease east perhaps resulting in a tiny patch of 16 ft seas Wednesday off Oregon, good for minimal windswell radiating from Oregon down into Central CA. Also on Wednesday the fetch over the dateline is to develop with up to 35 kt west winds building near 47N 180W resulting in 18 ft seas at 45N 175W late in the evening targeting the Pacific Northwest, but likely dissipating before ever reaching there. No real windswell expected.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (4/26) high pressure at 1024 mbs was in control centered 400 nmiles off Pt Conception with northwest winds at 20+ kts focused near Pt Conception and even pushing into Southern CA in the 15 kts range and 20 kts off the Northern CA coast. Chop was the name of the game. That high is fade slightly Wednesday then be reinforced by more high pressure on Thursday with 20+ kt northwest winds in effect for all of California building to near 30 kts on Friday from Pt Arena southward. then high is to finally fade some Saturday with northwest winds down to 15-20 kts over outer waters dropping to 15 kts Sunday. in short, alot of chop and short period windswell the expected result. And yet more is forecast behind that by Monday with northwest winds near 30 kts Tuesday into Wednesday (5/4), but focused more on Central and North CA with a calmer pattern down into Southern CA. Spring is fully here now.
Currently high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned south of Tahiti driving the storm track to the southeast and shutting down gale formation potential for the Central and East Pacific. There were some fetch south of that high, but all fetch was aimed southeast towards Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours the high is to track fast to the east and out of the California swell window, perhaps opening up the storm door a little. A broad low pressure system is to start building well east of New Zealand on Friday (4/29) resulting in a fetch of 35 kt southwest winds and seas building to near 30 ft mid-day at 47S 158W tracking well up the 204 degree path to California and just barely shadowed by Tahiti. That is to be fading out by Saturday AM. Maybe some background swell to be produced with period in the 15-16 sec range if all goes as forecast.
Yet another small gale is to build in that same area lifting hard north Saturday evening into Sunday (5/1) with 50 kt south winds resulting in 32-34 ft seas over a small area at 47S 154W Sun PM (5/1) (202 degs CA and unshadowed) and 32 ft seas Monday AM (5/2) at 42S 150W (201 degs NCal unshadowed). Some odds for swell potential for the US West Coast down into Mexico. This is to all be east of the Hawaii swell window, though some sideband swell could possible reach that location.
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 be in firm control off the US West Coast resulting in steady northwest winds at 25-30 kts along the California coast through Saturday (5/30) producing local windswell. trades to remain very modest over the Hawaiian Islands with no real easterly windswell resulting. Also on Sunday a new low pressure system is to move to the dateline generating 30-35 kt west winds for 24 hours with possibly a tiny area of 18 ft seas resulting. Low odds for windswell to radiate outward to our forecast area from it. Another low is to tracing from the Kuril Island east towards the dateline early next week with 30-35 kt west winds and 18 ft seas possible. Maybe some windswell potential for Hawaii with luck.
As of Tuesday (4/26) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued relatively low, presumably from lingering effects of the Active Phase of the MJO. The daily SOI was at 18.08. The 30 day average was steady at 25.80 with the 90 day average up slightly at 21.21.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (4/25) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies in control over the far Eastern Indian Ocean on into the West Pacific indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. these anomalies are to reach the dateline on 4/30 then rapidly degenerate, with remnants pushing east into Central America by 5/10. A neutral pattern is expected to hold into the end of the forecast period (5/15).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/25) 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 slowly building in coverage. 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 another high pressure systems is forecast forming east of New Zealand on Sunday (5/1) at 1028 mbs pushing east and 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