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 (5/10) North and Central California was seeing locally generated northwest windswell producing waves at chest high and mushy with south eddy wind early creating some modest chop. Southern California was near flat and blown out in the afternoon up north. Down south windswell was maybe waist high on the sets, very weak and pretty hacked up. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at chest high and chopped. The South Shore was getting more background southern hemi swell with waves waist high and sets to maybe chest high and clean with modest trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific has no real swell producing weather systems forecast for the next 7 days. There continues to be suggestions that a low pressure system will build in the Gulf pushing up to Washington on Thursday with 16 ft seas, then falling down the outer coast through the weekend. Small windswell possible for the US West Coast. Down south high pressure remains in firm control of the Southwest Pacific. But the models continue suggesting a gale might start organizing on the very eastern edge of the California swell window starting Wed with seas pushing to 40 ft into late Thursday, but most of that energy is to be aimed northeast towards South and Central America with a little energy pushing up into the great circle paths aimed north. Certainly something to monitor. And a series of gales are forecast now pushing up into the Tasman Sea over the weekend into early next week, so Fiji might get some swell.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (5/10) the jetstream was pushing off Japan and splitting with the northern branch ridging hard north over the dateline pushing well up into the Bering Sea, then turning south and forming a trough in the the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with maybe 120 kt winds flowing through it, offering some limited potential for low pressure development there. Over the next 72 hours the ridge on the dateline is to remain and push slightly east, while the tough in the Gulf builds and falls south just off the US West Coast holding through the weekend (5/15) offering some support for low pressure development there and then moving inland over California early next week. beyond 72 hours the entire jet is to fall south, and flatten running from Japan east into Central CA with winds near 130 kts. No troughs forecast meaning no low pressure systems of interest, but clearly the effects of a building Active MJO are to start becoming manifest.
At the surface on Tuesday (5/10) strong high pressure at 1040 mbs was positioned just south of the Eastern Aleutians and totally blocking the flow of low pressure from the West Pacific to the east. A weak area of low pressure at 1006 mbs was off the Northeastern Canadian coast generating 20-25 kt northwest winds, with a little windswell possibly starting to be generated. A weak cutoff low was just north of Hawaii, interacting with the high to the north and generating up to 30 kt east winds all aimed at Japan. Another low was off the Kuril Islands tracking north with all fetch aimed to the north too and of no interest to anyone but Kamchatka. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to continue to dominate the picture in the east at 1032 mbs through later Friday (5/13). The gradient just north of Hawaii is to continue producing east winds aimed at Japan into Wednesday, then fade (still of no interest). Also the weak area of low pressure is forecast building in the extreme Northeast Gulf of Alaska dropping southeast along the Canadian coast with winds to 25 kts over a tiny patch positioned 500 nmiles off Vancouver Island by late Wednesday (5/11) generating a tiny area of seas to 16 ft and continuing to fall south from there, moving to 600 nmiles off the California coast by the weekend with seas up to 16 ft still. Possible small windswell to result for the Pacific Northwest coast down to maybe Central CA. Period expected at maybe 10 secs.
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 (5/10) high pressure at 1040 mbs was in control well north of Hawaii and trying to ridge into the Central CA coast generating a slight pressure gradient and northwest winds at 20 kts over the Cape Mendocino area with 15 kt northerly winds down to Baja, but not pushing nearshore into Southern CA. By Wednesday the gradient is to fade as low pressure builds in the Eastern Gulf and falling south. Light winds forecast through Thursday AM then high pressure is to try and edge into the Central CA coast some with northwest winds again up to 15 kts late holding into Friday. But by Saturday low pressure is to move into outer CA waters and calm if not south winds are to start getting a foothold continuing through the weekend. Rain possible into Ventura County by Sunday with maybe 6 inches of snow in the Central Sierra. Southern CA to remain protected from any southerly winds through. Theoretically another front is building behind it suppressing winds and a full-on front might hit the Central CA area on Tuesday (5/17) with south winds rain.
On Tuesday (5/10) high pressure at 1032 mbs was still locked-in positioned east of New Zealand ridging south to near 62S and effectively shutting down gale production over the entire Western Pacific. But is has backed off some in the east allowing a gap to develop in the Southeast Pacific, with low pressure starting to get a foothold Tuesday AM at 63S 137W at 948 mbs. A broad fetch of 40+ kt west-southwest winds were developing at 59S 150W and seas were building. Over the next 72 hours by Tuesday evening up to 45-50 kt south-southwest winds are forecast taking hold at 60S 133W aimed 20 degrees east of the 187 degree great circle path up to California. This is to all be well east of any path to Hawaii. Seas building to 32 ft at 58S 142W. On Wednesday AM (5/11) the fetch is to be moderating some but still patches of 45 kt southwest winds are forecast in the general area of 52S 123-140W with seas building to 38 ft at 52S 131W pushing 30 degrees east of the 186 degree path to California. In the evening a secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest fetch is to take hold at 48S 130W with 42 ft seas from previous fetch forecast at 48S 130W aimed pretty well up the 187 degree path to California. By Thursday AM (5/12) 45-50 kts winds to be fading while pushing northeast at 48S 128W with 38 ft seas at 43S 122W pushing 30 degree east of the 181 degree path to California. By evening most fetch is to be pushing out of the California swell window and fading with residual seas of 38 ft hanging near 45S 120W. In all, some degree of decent sized but very southerly angled swell seems possible for California if this system comes to pass. But better potential is likely for Peru and Chile extending up into Panama. Will monitor.
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 that low pressure moving off Japan on Friday (5/13) is to track fast to the east maybe developing some 30 kt west winds while passing over the dateline just south of the Aleutians on Sunday (5/15) with seas pushing 18 ft, then fading early next week while moving into the Gulf. maybe some small windswell for the Pacific Northwest.
As of Tuesday (5/10) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued very low - a good thing. The daily SOI was at -14.92 (6 consecutive days in the negative). The 30 day average was down to 9.51 with the 90 day average down some at 18.54. This was the lowest the monthly SOI has been since July 2010, the start of La Nina.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (5/9) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies pushing into Central America and fading. This was indicative of the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. These anomalies are to be gone by 5/14. Of far more interest was the building Active Phase of the MJO. It remained strong and filling the the Eastern Indian Ocean and pushing into the West Pacific reaching the dateline. It is expected to move more solidly over the dateline by 5/14 then fading while filling the Pacific 5/19, then dissipating near 5/24. At the same time the Inactive Phase is to be again building in the Indian Ocean starting 5/14 (actually the wrap around remnants of the previous Inactive Phase traversing the Atlantic) nd starting to seep east into the far West Pacific on 5/24 reaching the dateline of 5/29. These oscillations are forecast to be fast moving.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/9) 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 continue 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 by 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 as of 5/1. But on 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water was starting to make a faint showing at 140W again, presumably driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. We expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the building Active Phase of the MJO. 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 2 more gales are forecast, this time for the extreme Southwest Pacific. The first is forecast Sat-Sun (5/15) with 45-50 kt southwest winds tracking up into the Tasman Sea generating 40-42 ft seas pushing reasonably well to the north, targeting Northwestern New Zealand on up into Fiji. Filtered energy possible for Hawaii. A second but weaker gale is to follow the same path on Mon-Tues (5/17) generating 40 kts southwest winds and up to 38 ft seas. more swell possible for Fiji with limited and well filtered swell possible for Hawaii too if all comes to pass.
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table