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/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 Sunday (5/17) North and Central California was seeing a mix of local windswell and Gulf swell with waves 2 ft overhead and chopped. South facing breaks were up to chest high. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell mixed with some southern hemi swell but looking pretty warbled though winds were light. Down south residual southern hemi swell was waist high or so and textured with southerly winds in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some wrap around northeast windswell with waves waist high on occasion but kinda warbled. The East Shore had shoulder high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had some minimal background southern hemi swell with waves thigh high and clean with trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is still productive thanks to the last bit of the Active Phase of the MJO pushing east over the Eastern Pacific. All this activity is focused on Central CA but pretty much is bypassing Hawaii to the east and too steep or too small to have much impact down into Southern CA. Swell arrived in Central California late Saturday (5/21) from a gale that tracked over the Western Gulf Wed (5/18) with 22 ft seas. Another developed a bit north of there on Thurs-Fri (5/20) with 26-28 ft seas setting up small swell for late Mon (5 ft @ 15 secs). Another gale is forecast on Wed (5/25) with 22 ft seas with swell likely by late Thurs (6.6 ft @ 13 secs) while yet another gale developed in the Western Gulf Wed-Thurs (5/26) with 20-26 ft seas with swell arrival on Sun (5/29). And yet one more is forecast behind that. Down south a brief secondary pulse of Storm #1S developed Sat (5/14) in the far Southeast Pacific resulting in 32 ft seas and not getting much northward traction. Still, small south angled swell is expected into all of CA by late Monday (5/23) for exposed south facing breaks. Also another gale tracked over the southern tip of New Zealand and re-organize in the far West Pacific Wed (5/18) with a small area of 38 ft seas developing that held into Thursday mid-day. Some small utility class swell is expected for Hawaii on Tues (5/24) and for California on Fri-Sun (5/29). After that things to back off.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (5/22) the jetstream was ridging slightly off North Japan pushing up almost to the Aleutians then settling southeast over the dateline and pushing flat right up to Central CA, but not moving onshore just yet. Winds were 120-140 kts over it's length. Over the next 72 hours that same general pattern is to hold but with a trough developing in the Western Gulf pushing east Mon-Wed (5/25) and into Central CA late. Good support for weak gale development. Beyond 72 hours yet another trough is forecast forming on the dateline Wed (5/25) and traveling east pushing into the North CA coast on Sat (5/28) and also looking likely to support gale development. And yet one more weak trough is possible in the Gulf on Sunday (5/29). But further to the west a weaker and more fragmented pattern to follow likely due to the dissipation of the Active Phase of the MJO.
At the surface on Sunday (5/22) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 1000 nmiles west of Central CA riding somewhat into the coast and generating north winds at 20+ kts over the state except in protected waters of Southern CA. The south end of this high was also generating trades over the Hawaiian Islands at near 20 kts generating some degree of easterly windswell there. A weak low pressure system was tracking through the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska with another just pushing off the Kuril Islands but neither had any fetch of interest. Tropical Storm Sonada was 600 nmiles east of the Central Philippines. Over the next 72 hours the low in the Northwestern Gulf is to slowly becomes better organized resulting in 35 kt northwest winds falling southeast towards the Oregon and Northern CA, but dissolving before impact on Wed (5/25). Up to 22 ft seas are forecast Tuesday evening at 43N 155W moving to within 900 nmiles of the Central CA coast on the 292 degree track. Possible small 13 sec period swell to result later in the week for Central CA up into Oregon.
At the same time another gale is forecast forming on the northern dateline region pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday (5/24) resulting in 35 kts west winds over a larger area and up to 24 ft seas in the evening at 47N 175W. 30 kt west winds to continue as the gale tracks east if north falling a little southeast with up to 26 ft seas moving to 46N 163W at 18Z on Wed (5/25) then fading while continuing east with 20 ft seas making it to 46N 150W. Another pulse of 13-15 sec period swell could result for Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest for the weekend if all goes as forecast.
Previous a gale developed on the dateline Wednesday PM (5/18) with 35 kt west winds covering a fairly decent sized area and pushing east. By Thursday AM (5/19) up to 40 kt west winds were4 modeled just a bit south of the Aleutians with seas building from 26 ft at 46N 175W. In the evening 40 kt west winds held with 28 ft seas peaking at 47N 170W aimed towards the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy down into Central CA. Winds were dropping from 30-35 kts Friday AM with seas dropping from 26 ft at 48N 165W. This system is was effectively gone by the evening with residual seas at 22 ft pushing up towards Alaska from 49N 162W. Some degree of swell is in the water and pushing east, expected to reach Central CA at 5 PM on Mon (5/23) with pure swell 5.2 ft @ 15 secs (7.8 ft faces) from 304 degrees, but likely buried in locally generated windswell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (5/22) Tropical Storm Sonada was positioned 600 nmiles east of the Central Philippines. Sustained winds were 55 kts and it was moving northwest (300 degs) at 6 kts. The forecast has it continuing to move northwest over the next 5 days while slowly increasing in intensity, with winds up to 115 kts and positioned just off the northern tip of the Philippines by Friday AM (5/27). By the weekend the GFS model has Sonada turning to the north and.cgiowing directly over Central Japan Saturday night before making a turn to the northeast emerging off northern Japan Sunday night and starting to reorganize. There is some potential it could get picked up by the jetsream and start heading east beyond, but that is only a wild speculation at this early date.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday AM (5/22) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 1000 nmiles west of Central CA generating a pressure gradient along the coast and producing north winds at 25 kts nearshore making for chop and generally poor conditions everywhere other than protected breaks in Southern CA. This same pattern is to hold on Monday then finally relent later Tuesday (5/24) as low pressure moves towards the coast. South winds are possible on Wednesday as far south as Monterey Bay as this next low pressure system moves in with some sprinkles down to maybe San Francisco between 8 AM-3 PM. High pressure is to try and get a nose into Central CA (SF Bay southward) on Thursday while another low pushes into Oregon with a front down to Pt Arena. Remnants of the low are to hold off Vancouver Island Friday then falling southeast into early Saturday but weakening moving inland over Cape Mendocino. Light rain possible down to San Francisco Friday evening. High pressure is to be waiting right behind though, making it's move into the coast late Saturday into Sunday (5/29) with northwest winds back at 15 kts for the entire coast and getting stronger, to 20 kts later Sunday and again blowing things out.
On Sunday (5/22) a solid gale was tracking flat west to east through the Central Pacific generating 30 ft seas, but virtually no fetch was aimed to the north. Over the next 72 hours it is forecast to continue racing east and getting absorbed into a building 944 mbs low developing on the extreme eastern edge of the CA swell window. By Monday evening (5/23) a large area of 40-45 kt southwest to west winds is to be building in the general vicinity of 55S 130W with 32-34 ft seas building at 55S 125W. But how much of the fetch is to be aimed north remains problematic. By Tuesday AM (5/24) a large if not huge area of 45 kt southwest winds are to be in.cgiace at 54S 125W with 40 ft seas building at 54S 123W, aimed more east than north or about 45 degrees east of the 181 degree path up into California. Additional 50 kts fetch is to building in the evening at 56S 121W aimed just 15 degrees east of the 180 degree path up into California with 42 ft seas forecast at 51S 120W. That fetch is to push north-northeast on Wed AM (5/25) with 45 kt winds at 49S 112W effectively out of the CA swell window with 44 ft seas at 50S 115W targeting Peru up into Southern Central America. The fetch is to be fading fast in the evening with 42 ft seas fading at 44S 108W. Rough data suggests some degree of very south angled swell could result for California, best for the southern end of the state, with more energy down into Southern Central America but shadowed by the Galapagos Islands at select locations. Will monitor.
Secondary Pulse of Swell #1S
On Saturday (5/14) another gale organized from the remnants of Storm #1S in the deep Southeast Pacific with pressure 944 mbs and 45-50 kt south-southwest winds at 65S 140W with seas building from 28 ft near there. In the evening fetch dropped from to 40-45 kts over a solid area at 60S 130W with 32 ft seas building at 57S 135W. Fetch was retracting Sunday AM (5/15) but still 40 kts at 57S 122W with seas holding at 32 ft at the same locale (180-182 degrees relative to CA and pushing 25 degrees east of there). A quick fade of the gale occurred afterwards with residual 30 ft seas at 55S 119W and effectively out of the CA swell window.
There's some potential for decent southerly angled swell pushing up into CA starting in SCal on Monday (5/23) AM with period 17 secs near noon (swell 2.3 ft @ 17 secs - 4 ft faces from 189 degrees). NCal to see the 17 sec component of this swell starting near 8 PM (2.1-2.3 ft @ 17 secs - 3.7 ft faces from 186 degs) with longer period energy starting about mid-day. Better energy for Chile up into Central America.
New Zealand Gale
On Wednesday AM (5/18) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds was building at 52S 176E from under New Zealand. 32 ft seas were building at 52S 173E as well. In the evening a small area of 45 kt southwest winds were moving northeast to 49S 173W with 36 ft seas at 49S 174W (210 degrees NCal and just barely moving into the Tahiti swell shadow and on the 213 degree route to SCal and in the middle of the shadow - 190 degs HI). By Thursday AM (5/19) 45 kt southwest winds to barely be hanging on with 38 ft seas over a most modest area at 46S 170W (208 degs NCal and totally shadowed - 210 degs SCal and on the eastern edge of the shadow - 185 degs HI and aimed east of there). A quick fade occurred thereafter with the core of the system starting to fall southeast and no fetch left aimed northeast to US interests.
Some degree of small utility class swell is expected to push up into Hawaii starting at sunset Monday (5/23) from when this system was pushing fetch up into the Tasman Sea and building to 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs Tuesday AM (4.5 ft faces). The core of the swell is to start Wednesday AM (5/25) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) then heading down on Thursday (5/26) with swell 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 197-201 degrees.
Smaller swell is to push up into Northern CA starting at 7 PM Friday (5/27) with pure swell peaking Saturday (5/28) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) from 211 degrees.
Smaller swell still is to push up into Southern CA starting at 3 PM Friday (5/27) with pure swell peaking Saturday AM (5/28) at 2.0 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft) from 213 degrees. (Smaller because it's more shadowed than NCal).
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 yet another gale is to form on the dateline late Thursday (5/26) with west winds pushing to 40+ kts Friday AM (5/27) and seas on the increase. Winds to hold into the evening with seas building to 24 ft at 47N 165W. Fetch is to start fading by Sat AM as the gale moves into the Central Gulf with seas peaking at 26 ft at 47N 160W and holding into the evening at 47N 152W. Possible swell for the entire US west coast if one is to believe the models.
As of Sunday (5/22) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was in positive territory, but not markedly so, having hovered near 0 from May 1-20. Nice. The daily SOI was up to 15.80. The 30 day average was down to 2.79 with the 90 day average down some at 15.55. This was the lowest the monthly SOI has been since March 1 and July 1, 2010, the start of La Nina, and it was still heading down. But to put things in perspective, the whole of 2009 was mostly lower than where the 30 day average is now (but that was an El Nino year). So at least were are starting to make inroads towards neutral territory, and it looks like La Nina is just getting ripped apart from a pressure perspective.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (5/21) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO was all but gone with just a small area of westerly anomalies on the equator pushing into Central America. By the 26th these anomalies are to be all but gone. At the same time the Inactive Phase was trying to build in the Indian Ocean, but much weaker than previous indications. If anything it is expected to be fading while pushing east, never making it any further east than maybe the Philippines on 5/31 and barely discernible at that. A neutral pattern is forecast through June 10.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/19) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of HAwaii 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 in fits and spurts. 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 tracked 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 started to make a faint showing at 140W again and was holding through 5/22, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. We expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the current 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.
We did some analysis on ocean currents on the Pacific equator this year an found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through May 2011. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that co.cgied with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely to impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs.
Remnants of what was a moderate.cgius 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 the trend is for all weather system to be moving fast west to east and offering no fetch aimed up to the north towards our forecast area. The models do suggest a gale moving under New Zealand on Sun (5/29) with 40-45 kt southwest winds and near 40 ft seas aimed reasonably well to the north, but that it all fantasy at this early date.
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,.cgiease 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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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 r.cgiaced 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 acco.cgiished 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 acco.cgiished 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