Swell Classification Guidelines
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 Thursday (6/9) North and Central California was seeing shoulder high northwest windswell and pretty warbled with better energy from Swell #3S still in the the near head high range at better south facing breaks with light wind conditions early. Southern California had waist high plus windswell/southern hemi combo swell with clean conditions up north. Down south Swell #3S was still producing chest to shoulder high sets and reasonably clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had shoulder high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was still getting more of Swell #3S with occasional waves at chest high at top spots with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
he North Pacific produced a small gale just west of the dateline on Tues-Wed (6/8) with 20 ft seas, good for a tiny pulse of background swell for Hawaii, but nothing for the US West Coast. Down south swell from Storm #3S is hitting the CA coast but expected to be fading over the weekend. A gale developed in the extreme Southeast Pacific Tuesday pushing due north into early Wednesday (5/8) resulting in 36 ft seas pushing pretty well towards the US West coast, then turning east providing a better shot of energy aimed at Chile. This is to result in a modest pulse of very southerly angled swell for CA starting Wed (6/15) peaking 24 hours later. On the charts a series of small gales are forecast tracking flat west to east through the Southeast Pacific over the weekend, offering nothing more than impulse class swell for CA at best. But a decent little storm is forecast tracking under New Zealand Sun-Mon (6/13) with seas to possibly 38 ft offering a shot of swell for both Hawaii and CA with another lesser system moving into the same area Tues-Thurs (6/16). Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (6/9) remnants of the dateline low (see details below) were fading over the dateline with barely 25 kt westerly fetch still trying to hang on. Sea were 18 ft at 43N 180W and fading. Otherwise modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was 700 nmiles west of Central CA generating a modest 15 kt north flow for all location other than protected Southern CA and up to 20 kts off Cape Mendocino and surrounding areas. Easterly trades for Hawaii were up too as a result of the high pressure system, at 15+ kts pushing into Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to be the name of the game holding at 1028 mbs off the CA coast producing northwest winds at 20-25 kts on Friday centered off Cape Mendocino with lesser winds pushing down the Central CA coast and moderating slightly over the weekend but still good for local northwest windswell production. Trades to continue over Hawaii, increasing in areal coverage some on Friday but still in the 15-20 kt range through Saturday, then down to 15 kts on Sunday. More easterly windswell expected to result (see QuikCASTs)..
Dateline Low Pressure
On Tuesday (6/7) a decent sized low pressure system was organizing west of the dateline with pressure 980 mbs resulting in a fetch of 30 kt west winds at 43N 170E aimed at bit east of the great circle paths into Hawaii. It held in strength and areal coverage while moving east setting up more 30 kt west winds reaching almost to the dateline by Wed (6/8) afternoon resulting in a decent patch of 19-20 ft seas through the day Wednesday AM near 43N 174E-177E, good for some minimal windswell pushing down towards Hawaii for late in the weekend. Swell to be 3 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.4-4.0 ft faces) on Sun (6/12) fading from 3 ft @ 10-11 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) early Monday AM. Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Adrian was located in the Tropical East Pacific 1200 nmiles south-southwest of Southern CA and well east of any exposed route to the US mainland. Sustained winds were 120 kts in the evening with strengthening to 125 kts forecast by Friday AM (6/10), but still located well east of any great circle route into the US. It is not forecast to move into the Southern CA swell window until Saturday AM, and then only for Point Dume and exposed locations west of there and by then winds will be down to 100 kts and fading fast. Maybe by Sat PM it will actually move cleanly in the Pt Dume swell window and the Dana Point swell window 12 hours later. But by the winds will be down to 85 kts or less and quickly dissipating. With luck some small south swell could result. Will monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (6/9) high pressure at 1028 mbs was slowly building into the coast providing a modest northwest flow from Pt Conception northward. A small summer-like gradient was over the Cape Mendocino area by with north winds there to 20+ kts, generating local short period windswell pushing down the Central CA coast. The gradient is to increase some Friday to 25 kts falling a bit south and centered off Pt Arena then backing off only slightly but filling in closer to the coast, impacting all of Central CA Saturday with 20 kt northwest winds. Chop is to be the name of the game. A lighter northwest wind pattern is forecast for Sunday (6/12) with winds down to 15 kts and the gradient itself gone, but still not anything near calm. Things to hold about the same on Monday (6/13), then on Tuesday the gradient is to again develop over Cape Mendocino with northwest wind there to 25 kts and 15 kt winds building into the entire North and Central coast. By Wednesday 30 kt north winds to be in control with north windswell and chop likely radiating south. Then on Thursday the gradient is to pull away from the bulk of the Central CA coast with an eddy flow in control though 35 kt north winds to be howling over Cape Mendocino with much north windswell pushing south. No rain is in the forecast and it looks like the wet Spring pattern that has been so dominant is finally over. Regardless, the damage is done. Mammoth Mountain remains open and Squaw is expected to reopen for the 4th of July weekend with the snowpack the highest it has ever been in June above 6500 ft.
On Thursday (6/9) a zonal (flat west to east) jetstream flow was in control of the West and Central Pacific with windspeeds no even 100 kts, and incapable of supporting gale development. A decent trough was off Chile with 150 kts winds flowing into it, but all aimed right at the southern tip of Central America. Decent support for gale development there but of no use to anyone but Chile. Over the next 72 hours jet stream energy is to be falling southeast over the Central Pacific creating a defined ridge pushing towards Antarctica and suppressing storm formation there. But by the 72 hour mark and beyond a bit of a trough is to start building under New Zealand opening up the preferred Southwest Storm corridor with winds to 140 kts feeding into it. This is to be just the primer. A far stronger trough is forecast building into the area on Tues (6/14) with 160 kt south winds in control of the upper atmosphere pushing to near 190 kts that evening and continuing into Wednesday, but getting more pinched off and offering less area for development, before cutting off entirely late on Thurs (6/16). Still, good upper support for possible storm formation down at the surface.
At the surface on Thursday (6/9) a series of low pressure systems/gales were tracking flat west to east down at 60S with winds mostly in the 35 kts range and offering no swell producing fetch. High pressure at 1032 mbs was locked south of Tahiti, pushing the SOI higher (see MJO/ENSO forecast below) and driving that zonal flow. Over the next 72 hours one of these gale is to tray and organize in the Southeast Pacific Fri-Sat with 59-55 kt west winds and seas building to 40 ft (18Z Sat at 55S 120W). But with all fetch aimed due east, there are little odds for any swell pushing up into the California swell window. Chile and Peru are the best target, assuming this system even forms. Another teaser system is forecast forming well southeast of New Zealand late Saturday into Sunday AM (6/12) with 50 kts west wind and seas to 40 ft at 60S 156W, but again the due east wind direction will severely limit whatever swell migrates north. For now were expecting no real swell to result, assuming the system even forms. But more is to be behind it (see Longterm forecast).
Storm #4S - Southeast Pacific
On Tuesday AM (6/7) remnants of a cutoff low previously south of Tahiti were in the deep Southeast Pacific. This low actually first started organizing Monday AM (6/6) resulting in a modest fetch of 40 kt southwest winds at 62S 143W and starting to take aimed more due north. By Monday evening southwest winds at 45 kts were lifting to 59S 141W with seas starting to build from 28 ft in that area (58S 140W). Tuesday AM (6/7) a small fetch of 40 kt south winds were lifting north at 60S 132W resulting in 28 ft seas at 57S 135W. By evening that fetch intensified with 45 kt south winds at 53S 129W resulting in 32 ft seas at 54S 129W pushing up the 186 degree path to Central CA and the 188 degree path to Southern CA. That fetch pushes more to the northeast and started fading Wed AM (6/8) from 45 kts resulting in 36 ft seas up at 48S 124W (182 degs NCal/184 SCal) while a secondary fetch of 45 kt south winds built under it. By evening the fetch was starting to wrap into the northern quadrant of the storm all aimed to the Northeast and east (Peru-Chile) and moving out of the CA swell window. A small area of 34 ft seas were modeled at 45S 117W. Maybe some more swell was pushing up the 180 degree path to SCal, with not much for Central CA (178 degs). Thursday AM (6/9) 45 kt fetch was pushing due east towards Chile at 42S 117W with 37 ft seas at 44S 110W, totally outside the CA swell window and effectively only aimed at Peru southward. More 45-50 kt west fetch and seas in excess of 30 ft pushing near 40 ft to continue into Friday evening pushing into Southern Chile. This system has good chances of generating a small significant class swell pushing up into CA on down into mainland Mexico, with better odds for moderate to larger swell targeting Chile and Peru.
Southern CA: Expect swell to arrive Tuesday (6/14) just after sunset with period 20 secs. Swell to become rideable by Wednesday sunrise (6/15) with swell 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5 ft faces) and size on the increase and starting to peak, reaching 3.6 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8.0 ft). Swell to continue building with period 16-17 secs Thursday AM and peaking early near 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft with sets to 8.0 ft), then backing off later in the day. Swell to be fading on Friday (6/17) from 3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5 ft). 14 sec residuals on Sat (6/18). Swell Direction 182-187 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell to arrive on Wednesday sunrise (6/15) with period 19 secs and size on the increase, reaching 2.3 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (3.5 ft faces). Swell to continue building with period 17 secs Thursday AM then peaking in the afternoon near 3.6 ft @ 16 secs (5.5-6.0 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Swell to be fading on Friday (6/17) from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft). 14-15 sec residuals on Sat (6/18). Swell Direction 180-184 degrees
Minimal Storm #3S
On Saturday AM (5/28) a new complex gale started organizing 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. That fetch was fading out Saturday evening with residual 30 ft seas at 54S 176W.
Of more interest was a new fetch 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 was moving into exposed waters generating up to 44 ft seas at 57S 175E (210 degs NCal and moving into the Tahiti Swell Shadow/196 degs HI unshadowed) and building. In the evening 50 kt west fetch was holding with 46 ft seas peaking at 58S 172W pushing due east (not good). That's 40 degrees east of the 205 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 was fading on Monday AM (5/30) with 40 kt west winds dropping and seas fading from 40 ft at 55S 165W (203 degs relative to NCal and out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, 205 degrees SCal and out of the heart of the shadow and pushing 65 degree east of the 183 degree path to HI. Secondary 40 kt southwest fetch held into the evening with seas fading from 40 ft at 50S 165W.
This system was on a very 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 47 ft, some degree of energy is expected to push up into Hawaii and CA.
Southern CA: 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 207-218 degrees
Northern CA: 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 205-216 degrees
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 low pressure is to try and pushing east off the Kuril Islands over the weekend, but is to hit a brick wall of high pressure and dissipate before making it to the dateline on Tues (6/14). High pressure is to rule supreme for the Northeastern Pacific, backing off some Mon-Tues (6/14) then surging while butting up against Cape Mendocino on Wed with 25 kt north winds forecast there building to 30-35 kts on Thursday and holding into Friday. Increased odds for northerly windswell for Central CA if this comes to pass. trades to hold at 15 kts or so pushing into Hawaii through next week providing just modest short period easterly windswell there.
As of Thursday (6/9) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI was down some at 14.41. The 30 day average was up to 5.81 with the 90 day average down some to 13.25.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (6/8) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a broad but weak area of easterly anomalies stretching over the width of the Pacific from the Philippines into Central America, larger than previous indicated. This was indicative of a mini-Inactive Phase of the MJO. Regardless, it is to be fading while pushing east into Central America on 6/13 and then nearly gone there by 6/18. All the while a new but modest instance of the Active Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean weakly pushing into the extreme West Pacific on 6/23 and quickly fading with a dead neutral pattern in control of the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean Basin by 6/28. interesting how the model jumps around, not having a good handle on what is currently occurring. Assume it is not sensitive enough to 'notice', subtle changes in the atmosphere. Or maybe the historical record is just spiky, causing the sudden emergence of anomalies, through they've been there in reality all along.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/9) is effectively 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 that built in over both hemispheres in the winter 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. Regardless, 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. Still the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though slowly fading).
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 an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. Then 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 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 6/5, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. 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. +1 degree anomalies covered the entire subsurface current other than one little break at 140-150W with up to 2 degree anomalies embedded in the larger flow. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters in the east, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline, and continuing to get 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 slow evolving.
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 if not 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 a series of gales are forecast tracking under New Zealand with decent fetch and seas exceeding the 30 ft threshold. The first is to form under th Tasman Sea on Saturday PM (6/11) with 45-50 kt southwest winds generating building seas at 32 ft at 56S 158E. This system is to be racing northeast with 45 kt southwest fetch tucked right up under New Zealand on Sunday AM (6/12) resulting in 38 ft seas at 51S 168E (218 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti - 201 degs HI). The fetch is to track northeast into the evening dropping to 40 kts with 38 ft seas moving to 48S 177E (216 degs NCal and unshadowed, 218 SCal and unshadowed - 198 HI). 40 kt southwest fetch to continue Monday AM (6/13) with 32 ft seas moving to 45S 174W (214 degs NCal unshadowed - 217 SCal and barely unshadowed - 193 HI). A secondary fetch is forecast forming in the evening near the original fetch at near 50 kts, but aligned more west west to east. 36 ft seas forecast at 48S 170W and moving into the Tahitian swell showed relative to all CA locations and aimed well east of any great circle paths heading up to Hawaii.
Yet another system is to follow close behind tracking up the eastern coast of New Zealand Tues-Thurs (6/16). But that's a long time from now and much can change, so no details are worth providing at this time. Monitor via the models if you have a moment to look.
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
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