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 Saturday (5/28) North and Central California was seeing local northwest windswell producing waves at chest high and pretty hacked from local winds. Minimal southern hemi swell was underneath at waist high. Southern California had waist high northwest windswell that was pretty warbled up north but no whitecaps early. Down south a southern hemi-northwest windswell mixture was resulting in waves at chest high with a few bigger sets and a bit warbled with texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore had small northwest swell with waves chest high or a little more and clean. The East Shore had head high plus easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had some utility class southern hemi swell with waves chest to shoulder high or so but with sideshore tradewind warble running through it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is starting to fade out. A gale developed in the Western Gulf Wed-Thurs (5/26) with 22-24 ft seas with swell expected into CA 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 20 ft seas possibly setting up swell for Tues (5/31). After that things to go quiet. 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 arrived in California on Friday and is to hold into Sun (5/29). But of more interest is Storm #2S that developed in the deep Southeastern Pacific Tues-Wed with up to 40 ft seas aimed mainly northeast, with some energy expected up into California but most focused on South and Central America. Swell from this system hit Chile on Saturday (5/28) with waves in the 15 ft range with a few sets to 18 ft (Hawaiian). Beyond there continues to be indications of another solid gale pushing under New Zealand on Sun-Tues (5/31) with up to 48 ft seas but all aimed well to the east. This one has been on the charts for a while and the forecast appears to be stabilizing, suggesting some fetch might result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (5/28) the jetstream was pushing flat off the Kuril Islands dipping slightly over the dateline then riding slightly over the Gulf of Alaska before falling into a building trough off the US West Coast. Winds were about 140 kts over the width of the jet. But the lack of any clear defined troughs was limited the potential to support gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the dateline is to build while the ridge in the Gulf builds as well. Winds to push 150 kts in the dateline trough offering better support for gale development there, while the ridge in the east is to shut off any odds for development there. Also the trough just off the US West Coast is to build offering better odds for gale development there through Monday (5/30). Beyond 72 hours the big ridge is to take over with the dateline trough lifting north and dissipating by Wed AM (6/1) leaving only the trough directly off the California coast, deepening and sinking to just off San Francisco. Better odds for gale development there.
At the surface on Saturday (5/28) high pressure at 1028 mbs remained centered 1400 nmiles west of Pt Conception and 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii serving to generate trades at 20 kts over Hawaii and producing easterly windswell there. It was also generating a pressure gradient centered near Pt Conception generating north winds there to 20 kts. Low pressure was in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska pushing east with 40 kt west winds and starting to generate 19 ft seas at 45N 163W aimed at the Pacific Northwest. Seas to push 20 ft in the evening at 47N 158W. Typhoon Songda was pushing north towards Southern Japan. Over the next 72 hours the gale in the Gulf is to continue pushing east riding over the top of high pressure off California and north of Hawaii on Sunday but loosing it's previous strength winds winds down to 30 kts. 19 ft seas forecast Sunday evening at 47N 144W. There's some indication it could start to develop slightly then with a larger area of 30 kt northwest winds aimed at the US West coast. It is to be just off Washington Monday AM (5/30) while falling south with northwest winds at 30 kts and seas building to 20 ft at 45N 138W. Fetch is to start fading by Monday PM as the gale falls south off the Oregon-NCal border with seas still 20 ft at 41N 137W, then dissipating while falling further south. Possible raw larger swell for the Oregon and CA coast if one is to believe the models.
Previously on Tuesday (5/24) another gale formed on the northern dateline region pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska 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 continued as the gale tracked east if not falling a little southeast with 22 ft seas moving to 47N 162W at 18Z on Wed (5/25) then fading while continuing east with 20 ft seas making it to 47N 156W at 06Z on Thursday before dissipating. Another pulse of 13-14 sec period swell (5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs) could result for Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest for later in the weekend, but buried in locally generated short period windswell for CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (5/22) Tropical Storm Songda 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. By Thursday (5/26) it had tracked northwest while slowly increasing in intensity, with winds up to a whopping 140 kts (161 mph) putting it as a Class 5 Typhoon. Impressive, especially for the time of year. It was positioned just 175 nmiles east of the northern tip of the Philippines and starting to make a turn to the north. By Saturday (5/28) it was half way between the Northern Philippines and Southern Japan tracking northeast with sustained winds down to 75 kts and accelerating in forward speed. That acceleration is to increase with sustained winds decreasing as the storm continues off to the northeast, putting it off Southern Japan (just south of Kyoto) on Sunday (5/29) with winds down to 50 kts and accelerating off to the east-northeast from there. Beyond Songda is to be moving towards the dateline on Tuesday (5/31) with winds down to 40 kts. The GFS model has it racing off to the northeast and getting sheared apart, then trying to reorganize in the Northwestern Gulf on Wednesday but moving north over the Eastern Aleutians 24 hours later and moving inland into Alaska. No swell production is forecast for US interests.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (5/28) high pressure at 1030 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii and was trying to ridge into the Southern CA area generating north winds at 20+kts along near Pt Conception down over the Channel Islands, but far lighter to the north over greater Central CA thanks to weak low pressure dropping south from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe a hint of rain for the Bay Area Saturday night into early Sunday AM as remnants of that low fall southeast and into Central CA. 5 inches of snow forecast for the Central Sierras too, for the last weekend of skiing and boarding for the 2010-2011 epic snow season. High pressure is to move in Sunday with northwest winds back at 25 kts for the entire California coast. 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, but local winds from the northwest at only 15 kts and fading as the low gets closer to CA. Winds to die down more for Central CA on Tuesday as the low pushes southeast approaching San Francisco with a hint of more rain down to Monterey Bay and south winds over Northern CA and moving south to maybe Morro Bay, with south winds down to Pt Conception on Wednesday and holding into early Thursday (6/2). More light rain down to Monterey Bay through the day Wednesday. No precip for the mountains though with all of it confined to the coast and out into the ocean. A light northwest windflow is expected for the entire CA coast on Friday (6/3) and Saturday with high pressure well off to the west, but slowly ridging east.
On Saturday AM (5/28) a new complex gale was starting to organize under New Zealand. It had 36 ft seas from fetch the previous evening at 45 kts. Those seas were positioned at 53S 174E aimed pretty well up the 215 degree path to CA and unshadowed and well east of the 199 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell likely pushing towards both locales. But that fetch is to be fading out Sat evening with residual 30 ft seas at 54S 176W. Of more interest is a new fetch forecast building directly behind with 55 kt southwest winds at 55S 164E (216 degs NCal but shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI). By Sunday AM (5/29) a tiny area of 55-60 kt southwest fetch is to move into exposed waters generating up to 42 ft seas at 57S 174E (210 degs NCal and moving into the Tahiti Swell Shadow/196 degs HI unshadowed) and building. In the evening 50 kt west fetch is to hold with theoretically 47 ft seas peaking at 58S 174W pushing due east (not good). That's 40 degrees east of the 204 degree path to NCal and in the middle of the Tahitian swell shadow, 207 degs relative to SCal and moving out of the core of the shadow, and 60 degs east of the 189 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell possibly moving towards all locations but favoring California and points south of there. Also swell pushing 40 degree east of the 203 degree path to Tahiti. This storm is to be fading on Monday AM (5/30) with 40 kt west winds dropping and seas fading from 46 ft at 58S 164W (202 degs relative to NCAl and out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, 204 degrees SCal and out of the heart of the shadow and pushing 65 degree east of the 183 degree path to HI. More 35-40 kt southwest fetch is to hold into the evening with seas fading from 38 ft at 56S 153W.
This system is now forecast on a more direct west to east track with all fetch aimed due east, limiting the amount of swell that will radiate north. Still, with seas forecast to nearly 48 ft, some degree of energy is expected to push up into Hawaii and CA, assuming the storm forms as forecast. Something to monitor.
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 pushed up into Northern CA late 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).
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 gale activity forecast until possibly Saturday (6/4) when the remnants of a tropical system try to reorganize off Northern Japan, with winds building to 40+ kts and seas to 20 ft. It's all just a fantasy though this early in the game.
As of Saturday (5/28) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) pushing up slightly. Previously it hovered near 0 from May 1-20. The daily SOI was at 15.95. The 30 day average was about bottomed out at 2.24 with the 90 day average down some to 14.74. This was the lowest the monthly SOI has been since March 1, 2010, the start of La Nina. 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 Friday (5/27) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Not really sure how that snuck in there or if it is even real, or just a fluctuation in the long term average. Either way these winds are to fade by 6/1. At the same time a new Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Indian Ocean and starting to push weakly into the West Pacific, making better headway by 6/1 and just barely reaching the dateline on 6/6 holding till 6/11 then fading through 6/16. Will be interesting to see if it actual builds stronger than forecast. Either way, the fact that yet another Active Phase is present right behind many others with no Inactive Phase in between is most interesting. That is a semi-significant event.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/26) 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 but steadily loosing coverage. the larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off Chile 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 are building over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there and continue slowly increasing 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). By 4/19 a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water started 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. On 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water started to make a faint showing at 140W and was holding through 5/26, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. But we expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the current Active Phase of the MJO. And on 5/26 it appeared more warm water was pushing through the subsurface current heading towards Central America, possible a new Kelvin Wave and the likely result of the latest 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, and getting better by the day. 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).
One note of interest, The National Weather Service long term models are now predicting slight warming of East Pacific Equatorial waters in the Summer and Fall of 2011 (about + 0.3 degs C). This would not qualify as an El Nino, but it is much better than what one would expected given being right behind a solid La Nina. Something to monitor and most unusual if it were to occur.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours a cutoff low is to form 1200 nmiles southeast of Tahiti by Wed PM (6/1) with a small area of 40 kt south winds expected lifting slightly northeast and holding into Friday AM (6/3). 28-30 ft seas are forecast near 35S 150-155W Thurs AM through Fri PM, just 900 nmiles from Tahiti, likely offering some solid swell potential for Tahiti with energy likely radiating up towards Hawaii. Something to watch.
Otherwise no other swell producing weather systems are forecast.
The Active Phase of the MJO seemed to have been an influencing factor in southern hemi swell production this past cycle, but the exact amount of that influence is not certain. Will see if storm production increases with the new pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO forecast for the coming weeks. But our guess is there will be no impact and the working theory being that only on very strong Active Phase pulses of the MJO is there any influence.
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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table