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 (5/3) North and Central California was seeing locally generated windswell at waist high or so and chopped. Southern California was near flat and blown out up north. Down south northerly windswell was knee to thigh high and warbled if not blown out. Hawaii's North Shore was maybe waist high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting easterly trade wind generated windswell at near chest high and chopped. The South Shore was getting some small background southern hemi swell with waves thigh high and clean with light trades.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Wednesday is to see semi-real windswell to 6 ft (faces) then dropping Thursday from 5.0 ft. Friday dateline windswell builds to 4 ft pushing 5 ft on Saturday then fading from 3.5 ft early Sunday.
Southern California is to see new northwest windswell arriving at near thigh high Wednesday fading to knee high Thursday holding near that size Friday before dropping below knee high Saturday and holding there Sunday.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see new dateline swell arriving at waist to shoulder high late Wednesday pushing 1 ft overhead on Thursday. Waist to chest high residuals Friday fading to flat Saturday. Possible new waist high windswell on Sunday.
The East Shore is to see east windswell at near head high Wednesday and holding from Thursday into Saturday, fading from shoulder high Sunday.
The South Shore is to see new southern hemi background swell at waist to chest high on Thursday holding Friday fading from waist high Saturday with knee high leftovers Sunday.
The North Pacific forecast suggests no swell producing weather systems forecast for the next 7 days. Previously a gale developed on the Dateline Sunday AM (5/1)and held there for 24 hours producing 25 ft seas before dissipating and starting to push east. Some decent northwest swell is expected for Hawaii Wed-Thurs with remnants reaching the US West Coast late week. Down south a weak gale tried to develop in the Central Pacific Fri-Sat (4/30) but it was falling southeast, with seas only barely reaching 26 ft at best and getting little traction pushing north. A second incarnation of this system developed Monday (5/2) in the East Pacific generating barely 26 ft seas again and aimed better to the north, but still not enough to really produce much swell. Nothing else of real interest is forecast for the next 7 days with high pressure in control east of New Zealand.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (5/3) the jetstream was tracking off Japan undulating slightly but generally tracking flat off to the east-northeast eventually moving over the coast of British Columbia. Winds were up to 130 kts over the Western Pacific, but not troughs of interest were present suggesting no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with most energy pushing east over the Gulf of Alaska but again with no troughs of interest forecast developing. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to split over the East Pacific with a solid ridge building over the dateline and tracking north up into the Bering Sea by Tuesday (5/10), likely the delayed result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. A weak consolidated flow is to persist tracking off Japan with winds int he 130 kt range, but then splitting on or just before the dateline. No support for gale development indicated.
At the surface on Tuesday (5/3) high pressure at 1036 mbs was ridging into Oregon and Washington setting up a pressure gradient over all of North and Central CA and generating north winds at 20-25 kts along the coast and up to near 30 kts over Cape Mendocino. This was generating some local short period northwest windswell. Otherwise weak low pressure was approaching the dateline with a second pocket approaching the Gulf of Alaska. But no fetch of interest was being generated from either. Over the next 72 hours both low pressure cells are to weaken and move inland over Northern Canada offering no swell production potential. High pressure off the US West Coast is to retrograde taking a position up 750 nmiles north of Hawaii on late Wednesday and holding there increasing trades tot he 20 kts range and improving the potential for easterly short period windswell there.
Previously a gale developed on the dateline Saturday evening with up to 40 kt northwest winds at 43N 175E (317 degs HI) with seas on the increase. By Sunday AM the gale was starting to fade, with a moderate fetch of 35 kt west winds at 45N 180W generating 20 ft seas at about the same locale pushing down the 328 degree path to Hawaii and the 300 degree path to NCal. 35 kt westerly fetch held into the evening at 45N 178E resulting in 24 ft seas at 45N 175E pushing to both HI and NCal as specified before. Fetch was fading from 30 kts at the same location Monday AM (5/2) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 43N 180W. 20 ft residuals left by evening at 42N 175W. Some degree of small semi swell with period in the 13 sec range is possible for Hawaii by late Wednesday (5/4) peaking on Thursday with small energy into the US West Coast maybe 2 days beyond.
Otherwise a very local gale is forecast forming off Vancouver Island on Monday (5/2) generating 18 ft seas and local raw windswell there for Tuesday.
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 (5/3) high pressure at 1036 mbs was in control centered 500 nmiles west of Oregon and ridging hard into the coast there up into Washington and generating solid pressure gradient and northwest winds at 25 kts over the North and Central CA coasts, but sparing outer waters of Southern CA. These winds are to build to near 30 kts off Cape Mendocino Tuesday evening continuing into Wednesday AM and generating short period local windswell, but also starting to pull away from the coast of Central CA. Thursday the gradient is to start fading, but not out with winds still up to near 25 kts off Cape Mendocino but also having less impact from San Francisco southward. On Friday the gradient is to start falling south with 20 kts winds pretty much taking control of Central CA nearshore waters later in the day and holding through the weekend with 15-20 kt northwest winds forecast all weekend. By Monday (5/9) a new gradient is to be building with winds up to 30 kts out of the northwest off Cape Mendocino and outer waters of San Francisco continuing into Tuesday then fading.
Currently high pressure at 1034 mbs was positioned just east of over New Zealand ridging south to nearly 65S and effectively shutting down gale production there. Over the next 72 hours it is to grow to 1036 mbs and holding control over waters down to 62S over the entire Central Pacific. There is suggestions of a storm building under it with 50 kt west winds at 65S 150W on Friday AM (5/6). But all fetch is to be aimed due east, totally bypassing any great circle route northward. it is to peak out Friday night with 55 kts winds and seas pushing 40 ft at 66S 128W by Saturday AM (5/7) but again all energy is to be pushing towards the southern tip of South America. No swell expected for US interests.
Previously a gap in high pressure allowed a small area of low pressure to build well south of Tahiti. That low resulted in a moderate fetch of 40 kt south winds Friday AM (4/29) at 52S 157W aimed well to the north. Unfortunately the core of the low was falling southeast fast though and by evening only 30 kt south winds held at 51S 155W. 26 ft seas were modeled at 50S 153W. On Saturday AM (4/30) a tiny core of 40-45 kt south winds developed at 55S 145W aimed well to the north but the whole low was continuing to fall southeast, with 25 ft seas hanging on at 49S 152W. By evening all fetch was wrapping into the gales north quadrant aimed east and down to 35 kts and the core was falling south fast. Sea were modeled to 28 ft over an infinitesimal area at 52S 141W aimed due east. Sunday AM this system was gone. A secondary flare up of fetch produced one last area of 26 ft seas at 44S 151W Sunday night , and then evaporated. At this time some minimal background southern hemi swell seems possible for the US West Coast with sideband swell pushing into Hawaii. Period to be in the 14 sec range upon arrival at those targets. Details to be posted in the QuikCASTs.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest. A weak gale is to push off the Kuril Islands Monday (5/9) perhaps generating 24 ft seas, but lifting hard north with all fetch aimed north towards the Aleutians. At best maybe some tiny impulse class swell might push towards Hawaii, but that's mostly just idle speculation.
As of Tuesday (5/3) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued relatively low. The daily SOI was down to 1.4. The 30 day average was down to 18.10 with the 90 day average down slightly at 20.52.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (5/3) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies in control over the eastern equatorial Pacific pushing into Central America and indicative of the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. These anomalies are to be pushing into Central America on 5/7 then rapidly degenerate and effectively gone then. This is expected to suppress gale development during that window. But the Active Phase of the MJO was again building in the Indian Ocean to moderate levels and pushing into the West Pacific maybe reaching the dateline by 5/7, then fading there though 5/22, hopefully increasing the odds for storm production in the Pacific. Actually the quick demise of the Inactive Phase and the forecast build-up of the Active Phase is somewhat surprising.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/2) 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 continue to slowly relent in spurts 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 but not very effectively. 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 high pressure is to hold at 1036 mbs locked just east of New Zealand and putting a cap on storm development. A system is forecast trying to form just east of it with 45 kt southwest winds on Tues (5/10) resulting in up to 34 ft seas at 55S 130W, but suspect that is just a fantasy of the models. Even if it turns out to be real, it is to be well east of Hawaii and on the astern edge of the mainland US swell window with most fetch aimed pretty well east of any great circle path headed north. 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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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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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