Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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 (5/1) North and Central CA had northwest windswell was producing surf near head high and wind was on it early making things pretty warbled and sloppy. In Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist to maybe chest high and clean. Southern California up north had surf at near waist high and clean. Down south waves were chest to head high and a bit textured but definitely coming from the south. Hawaii's North Shore had small rare northerly swell at waist high or so and clean. The South Shore was minimal with waves thigh high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting small east tradewind generated windswell with waves chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
For at least the next week if not much longer no gale formation is expected in the North Pacific. North winds to persist along the California coast producing local north windswell. Time to focus down south. Swell from a gale that formed in the South Pacific under New Zealand on Friday (4/20) producing 32 ft seas into Saturday (4/21) has already passed Hawaii and is peaking along the US West Coast. One of a pair of tiny gales produced 32 ft seas in the extreme Southeastern Pacific on Sat (4/28). Small south angled swell expected for Southern CA by Sat (5/5) late. A larger one developed late Sunday (4/29) in the deep Southeast Pacific and barely in the California swell window with up to 37 ft seas. Some very south angled swell to result for CA by Tues (5/8). A tiny system was tracking north just east of New Zealand with 32 ft seas on Tues (5/1). Possible small swell for Hawaii a week out. There continues to be rumors of a larger gale tracking under New Zealand late in the week (5/5) with 38 ft seas with a weaker gale following in the same area on Mon (5/7) with 32 ft seas. But those are still a long ways from forming. No shortage of activity down south though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - Forecasts for this area will be posted on an exception basis through the summer.
Surface - On Tuesday (5/1) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 1200 nmiles west of Pt Conception driving 15 kt easterly trades over the Hawaiian Islands and generating 20 kt north winds down the California coast resulting in windswell for both locales. Over the next 72 hrs high pressure is to retreat to the northern dateline region while a small gale develops off Southern Oregon on Wed-Thurs (5/3) with up to 30 kt northwest winds and 15 ft seas forecast right be fore impacting land. No swell of interest to result. High pressure to move quickly from the dateline to the usual place off the CA coast by Friday with the usual north wind gradient starting to build again.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (5/1) high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked 1200 nmiles west of Pt Conception generating a brisk northerly flow down the North and Central CA coasts at 20 kts. Southern CA was protected. More of the same Wednesday then the north wind event is to fade Thursday AM as a modest gale moves up and into the Pacific Northwest down to Northern CA. But then clearing high pressure and northwest winds are to rebuild for Friday (5/4) reaching 20-25 kts off Morro Bay late then migrating up to Cape Mendo later Saturday and building to 30 kt Sunday with some odds of an eddy flow developing over Central CA on Sunday. The gradient is to fade some on Monday (25 kt north winds) and fading more Tuesday (5/8) with the fetch falling south into the Central CA coast.
et stream - On Tuesday (5/1) the southern branch of the jetstream was ridging hard south under New Zealand then turning hard north up along the New Zealand coast perhaps supporting gale development there, then falling hard south again and continuing southeast over the remainder of the South Pacific and offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to be pushing weakly west to east down at 62S over the width of the South Pacific offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a energetic trough is to develop southeast of New Zealand in the deep Southwest Pacific by Sun (5/6) with 140 kt winds flowing into and tracking steadily east-northeast into Tues (5/8) supporting gale development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (5/1) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locking down the Central Pacific. Swell from a gale that developed southeast of New Zealand on Thurs (4/19) was pushing into California. Also swell from a micro gale in the Southeast Pacific was pushing towards California, Mexico and Central America (see Micro Gale below). Also small swell was pushing through the Tasman Sea window en route to Hawaii (see Tasman Sea storm below). And yet another swell from a storm south of California is pushing towards Souther CA (see Southeast Pacific Storm below). Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
A small push of small background swell is expected radiating up into Southern CA arriving on Sat (5/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft) pushing to 2.0-2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces) on Sun (5/6). But don't expect much size though given this systems extremely small footprint. Swell Direction 180-185 degrees
The second in a pair of micro gales tracked through the extreme Southeast Pacific on Friday AM (4/27) with 45 kt south winds building into the evening to 50 kts with 28 ft seas developing over a tiny area at 48S 130W. The gale faded some but tracked northeast Sat AM (4/28) with 45 kt south winds and seas to 32 ft at 44S 122W holding at 32 ft in the evening and pushing to 42S 116W, then dissipated.
Tasman Sea Storm
A broad storm with 45-50 kt south winds winds was pushing up into the Southern Tasman Sea on Fri PM (4/27) with 38 ft seas starting to push under Tasmania. Saturday AM (4/28) the system was fading in the Southern Tasman Sea with winds dropping from 45 kts and seas 36 ft seas reaching to 45S 152E targeting Fiji well, then faded in the evening from 34 ft at 44S 154E with perhaps some filtered energy eventually reaching up into Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (5/6) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 16 secs late (2.5 ft) maybe pushing 2 ft @ 15 secs Monday AM (3.0 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 215 degrees
Southeast Pacific Storm
On Sunday AM (4/29) a new storm started building in the deep Central Pacific with 55 kt southwest winds and seas 34 ft at 66S 135W and on the increase. By evening this system had southwest winds fading from 45 kts with the core of the system starting to track more northeast rather than flat east. Seas peaked at 37 ft at 64S 124W, on the eastern edge of the California swell window. Fetch was fading from 40 kts Monday AM at 59S 120W with seas fading from 34 ft at 59S 119W effectively out of all but the extreme Southern CA swell window, but lifting better to the northeast. This system is to be fading while lifting northeast and outside the CA swell window by the evening, merging with a developing complex storm poised just off the extreme southern coast of Chile.
Possible longer period but modest sized very southerly angled swell for California.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tues (5/8) building to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs late (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft) and building some. Swell Direction: 180 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 be building in strong ridging into the Northern CA coast by Sat (5/5) with north winds 25 kts over Cape Mendocino pushing 30 kt by Sunday with north windswell on the increase for Central CA. The gradient is to fade to 25 kts on Mon-Tues (5/8) but not fade out, with more windswell expected pushing down into Southern CA. East trades to continue over Hawaii at 15 kts generating modest east windswell.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Tuesday (5/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained low at -14.15. The 30 day average was rising at -5.75 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to -0.99.
Current wind analysis indicated dead neutral anomalies over the equator over the entire West Pacific. Neutral winds were east of there with a few barbs indicating westerly anomalies extending into Central America. This indicates that neither the Active nor Inactive Phase of the MJO was occurring. A week from now (5/9) dead neutral anomalies or perhaps a hint of east anomalies are to take hold of the West Pacific extending eastward into Ecuador indicative of a completely neutral MJO. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/30 suggest a weak Inactive Phase was over Indonesia and expected to hold or ease just slightly east. The Dynamic model actually has an weak Active Phase building over the dateline and holding for the next 2 weeks. Regardless, none of this suggests any real benefit to the North Pacific storm track, but it could help support the migration of warm water into the equatorial east Pacific setting p a better pattern for the Fall of 2012. In fact warmer than normal water is starting to accumulate off Ecuador and a pocket of blocking cold water that was under the equator south of California has evaporated with warmer water trying to push east into it (possible Kelvin Wave). This activity was the result of the last pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO (early April) and is not un-typical for this time of year, but also suggests that La Nina is continuing to disintegrate. And the horseshoe cool water pattern that has dominated the entire Pacific for the past 2 years appears to be in steep decline (a good thing).
Momentum from a moderate La Nina event that occurred over the past 2 years is expected to hold well into early Summer of 2012. But after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013. We're almost there - it's been a long 2 years.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours a fairly solid gale is forecast developing under New Zealand on Friday AM (5/4) with 45 kt west-southwest winds over a good sized area building in coverage with seas modeled to 36 ft in the evening at 62S 175W (188 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and on the eastern edge of the Tahiti swell shadow). Fetch is to fade from 40 kts still over a good sized area Saturday AM (5/5) just southeast of New Zealand with seas 38 ft at 60S 163W (182 degs HI, 199 degs NCal and only partially shadowed). Fetch is to fade from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 58S 160W. Theoretically the fetch is to rebuild under New Zealand on Sunday evening (5/6) with more 40 kt west-southwest fetch and seas building from 30 ft at 59S 165W. Fetch holding Monday AM (5/7) with seas 32 ft at 55S 155W migrating Tuesday AM (5/8) to 51S 145W. Possible sideband swell for Hawaii with more direct but partially shadowed swell for California. Will monitor.
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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Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
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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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