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 Tuesday (5/24) North and Central California was seeing swell from the Gulf was producing waves at 1 ft overhead and kinda jumbled even though winds were light onshore. There was some minimal southern hemi swell underneath as well resulting in surf at south facing breaks in the waist to chest high range. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell-southern hemi mixture and warbled though winds were light. Down south the southern hemi-northwest swell mixture was resulting in waves at waist to chest high and warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had chest high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had some background southern hemi swell moving in with waves waist high and clean with brisk trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific remains productive but all activity is focused from Central CA northward and bypassing Hawaii to the east. A gale was tracking southeast towards Central CA on Tues-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 20-22 ft seas with swell arrival on Sun (5/29). And yet one more is forecast behind pushing up to the Oregon-Northern CA coast on Mon-Tues (5/31) with 18 ft seas. Down south 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 was moving into Hawaii on Tues (5/24) and moving into California on Fri-Sun (5/29). Another large gale is developing in the deep Southeastern Pacific Tues-Wed with up to 42 ft seas aimed mainly northeast, with some energy expected up into California but most focused on South and Central America. Long term there's suggestions of another solid gale pushing under New Zealand on Sun-Mon (5/30) with up to 46 ft seas aimed a bit to the east. But it's too early to know anything for sure just yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (5/24) the jetstream was ridging slightly while pushing off Japan tracking just south of the Central Aleutians then falling into a trough that was pushing up to the Northern CA coast. Winds were 140 kts near the dateline then again in the trough off CA offering some support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the trough off CA is to push inland over Southern Oregon on Wed (5/25) providing support for weak gale development. The pocket of energy on the dateline is to ease east into the Gulf, but with no clearly defined trough forming, limiting gale development potential there. Beyond 72 hours things are to change with a steep trough building on the dateline and another forming just west of Oregon by Mon (5/30) through winds generally not very strong in either trough. Still some support for gale development expected in each. A big ridge is forecast in-between and starting to take over the East Pacific beyond.
At the surface on Tuesday (5/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 700 nmiles north of Kauai and elongated stretching to a point just off Pt Conception in the east to the dateline and beyond in the west. This was serving to generate trades at 15+ kts over Hawaii and producing easterly windswell there. A pair of gales were tracking over the top of it, one on the dateline and another well off the Pacific Northwest both winds 35 kt westerly winds and seas 20 ft. Typhoon Sonada was 300 nmiles east of the Central Philippines. Over the next 72 hours the low in the Northeastern Gulf is to hold strength with 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 142W moving to within 900 nmiles of the Central CA coast on the 292 degree track. Possible small 13 sec period swell to result for Central CA on Thursday (6.6 ft @ 13 secs - 7 ft faces) with lesser energy up into Oregon.
At the same time another gale was 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 not falling a little southeast with 22 ft seas moving to 46N 163W at 18Z on Wed (5/25) then fading while continuing east with 20 ft seas making it to 48N 154W at 18Z on Thursday before dissipating. Another pulse of 13-14 sec period swell could result for Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest for later in the weekend if all goes as forecast.
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. By Tuesday (5/24) it was positioned 300 nmiles off the Central Philippines with winds to 75 kts. It is to move northwest over the next few days while slowly increasing in intensity, with winds up to 115 kts and positioned just off the northern tip of the Philippines Thursday (5/26). After that a gradual acceleration in forward speed is forecast with sustained winds decreasing while the storm turns north and then northeast, ending up just off Southern Japan on Sunday (5/29) with winds down to 55 kts. Beyond the GFS model has Sonada moving to a point off Northern Japan, stalling and dissipating. This is not encouraging for swell production for US interests.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (5/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 700 nmiles north of Hawaii and was trying to ridge into the Southern CA area generating north winds at 15-20 kts along all the Central and Southern CA down into Baja. But low pressure was moving from the Gulf of Alaska east and already breaking up the high off the Pacific Northwest coast resulting in slack winds there, and likely getting ready to do the same for CA. Slack winds if not 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 and 4 inches of snow in the upper Central Sierra. High pressure is to try and get a nose into Central CA (SF Bay southward) on Thursday with north winds returning to the Pt Conception area southward, while another low pushes into Oregon with a front down to Pt Arena. Light rain maybe down to San Francisco mid-day Friday. Remnants of the low are to hold off Vancouver Island Friday then falling southeast into early Saturday but weakening while moving inland over Cape Mendocino while high pressure at 1032 mbs builds out at seas. Light rain possible down to San Francisco Friday evening. High pressure is to be in control making it's move into the coast late Saturday into Sunday (5/29) with northwest winds back at 25-30 kts for the entire coast and getting stronger, to 30-35 kts Sunday and again blowing things out. Weak low pressure is to be off Washington on Monday (5/30) setting up a gradient with the high producing 30 kts fetch aimed at Central CA, and local winds from the northwest at 15 kts. Winds to die down some for Central CA on Tuesday as the low pushes southeast and inland over the SF Bay Area with a hint of more rain there, but it looks like strong high pressure and much north winds are to be right behind.
On Tuesday AM (5/24) a solid 948 mb gale was in-place over the deep Southeast Pacific. This was Storm #2S (see details below) and labeled as such mainly for Central America. some limited significant class size could move up into Southern CA if all develops as forecast. Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to rule supreme over the greater South Pacific driving the storm track well to the south with no swell producing fetch of interest forecast.
Storm #2S (updated Wed PM 5/25)
On Monday evening (5/23) a large area of 40-45 kt southwest to west winds was building in the general vicinity of 55S 130W with 34 ft seas building at 55S 132W. But how much of the fetch was aimed north was problematic. On Tuesday AM (5/24) a large if not huge area of 45-50 kt southwest winds were in-place at 57S 130W with 40 ft seas building at 52S 127W, aimed a little more east than north or about 45 degrees east of the 182 degree path up into California. The Jason-1 satellite made a good pass near the core of the fetch confirming sea at 38.7 ft with one peak reading to 41.0 where the model suggested 40 ft. This was right on track. A second pass occurred at 18Z with seas confirmed at 35.0 ft with one reading to 39.1 ft while the model suggested 38 ft seas at that location. Again, right on track. Additional 45 kt fetch built in the evening at 56S 121W aimed just 15 degrees east of the 180 degree path up into California with 40 ft seas modeled at 49S 122W. That fetch pushed north-northeast on Wed AM (5/25) dropping to 40 kts at 49S 112W effectively out of the CA swell window with 36 ft seas at 43S 118W targeting Peru up into Southern Central America. The fetch was fading fast in the evening with 36 ft seas fading at 41S 109W.
All this 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 Northern South America and Southern Central America but shadowed by the Galapagos Islands in North and Central Costa Rica. Relative to California, the big issue is the storm was on the very edge of the swell window, meaning the best size will be pushing a bit east of the great circle tracks up into North and Central CA but focused a bit better at Southern CA, but still not optimal. This one will be smaller than Swell #1S, though not so much in Southern CA.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (5/31) before sunrise with period 20 secs and size building from near 3 ft @ 20 secs (6 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft) and building at sunset to near 4.0 ft @ 19 secs (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Swell to hold well overnight and be solid by Wednesday AM (6/1), peaking from sunrise to 11 AM with pure swell 4.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.0-8.0 ft faces with occasional sets to 9.5 ft). Swell to hold on Thursday (6/2) but down a bit with pure swell 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8.0 ft early) and period and size slowly backing off with period down to 15 secs late afternoon. 14-15 secs residuals on Friday. Swell Direction: 182-188 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (5/31) near 5 PM with period 20 secs and pushing near 2.8 ft @ 19 secs by sunset (5 ft faces with maybe a 7 ft set or two). Swell to build overnight and be solid by Wednesday AM (6/1), peaking from noon to 7 PM with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.0-6.5 ft faces with occasional sets to 8 ft). Swell to hold on Thursday (6/2) but down a little with pure swell still 3.6 ft @ 16 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft early) and period and size slowly backing off with period down towards 15 secs late. 14-15 secs residuals on Friday. Swell Direction: 180-185 degrees
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 were barely 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. 14 sec residuals forecast through early Mon AM (5/30) at 1.6 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft).
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). 14 sec residuals forecast through Sunday sunset (5/29) at 1.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft).
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 just east of the dateline Friday (5/27) only to falter, and move east, trying to regroup just off Oregon Sunday evening (5/29) while falling south with northwest winds at 30-35 kts and seas building. Winds to hold Monday (5/30) with seas building to 19 ft at 45N 132W. Fetch is to start fading by Monday PM as the gale falls south just off Cape Mendocino with seas still 19 ft at 42N 130W then dissipating while falling further south. Possible raw swell for the Oregon and CA coast if one is to believe the models.
As of Tuesday (5/24) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was in positive territory, but not hard, having hovered near 0 from May 1-20. The daily SOI was at 14.27. The 30 day average was down to 2.34 with the 90 day average holding at 15.56. 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 Monday (5/23) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO was gone with neutral/normal winds in control of the entire equatorial Pacific. A neutral pattern is forecast to continue through June 12 indicating neither the Active or the Inactive Phase of the MJO. .
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/23) 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 coupled 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 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 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 Sat PM (5/28) with 50-55 kt west winds and 34 ft seas at 54S 170E, tracking due east with seas building to near 42 ft Sunday AM (5/29) at 56S 179E then holding in the evening with seas building to 44 ft at 58S 175W (in the middle of the Tahitian Swell shadow relative to NCal 206 degs but free-and-clear for SCal on the 208 degree path) aimed mostly due east. A slight turn to the northeast is forecast Mon AM (5/30) with 45 kt winds lifting northeast and seas building to 47 ft at 57S 167W and becoming unshadowed for both NCal and SCal). 42 ft seas to hold into the evening at 55S 158W (200 degrees NCal/202 SCal and unshadowed for both). But at this early date this all is still a fantasy.
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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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table