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 locally generated northwest windswell and totally chopped with waist high southern hemi background swell lurking underneath. Southern California had knee to thigh high northwest windswell wrapping in up north with clean conditions early. Down south maybe waist to chest high sets were warbling through on occasion. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had shoulder to head high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell at waist to maybe chest high at top spots with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is effectively asleep for the summer and we're monitoring it only on an exception basis now. Down south Storm #4S developed in the extreme Southeast Pacific Tuesday (6/7) pushing due north into early Wednesday (6/8) 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 minimally significant class 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 offering nothing more than impulse class swell for CA at best. A decent storm continues to be forecast tracking under New Zealand but not organizing from a swell production standpoint till late Thursday (6/16) and now in the Central Pacific and only providing about 18 hours of fetch and seas to near 38 ft aimed well to the north before falling hard south and dissipating. Possible swell for both Hawaii and CA. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Saturday (6/11) high pressure was in control situated 1200 nmiles west of Pt Conception forming a weak pressure gradient off the Central CA coast with northwest winds at 20 kts and also driving trades over the HAwaiian Islands and 15+ and generating short period windswell at both locations. No other swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain in control focused on the East Pacific and continuing northwest winds down the Central CA coast at 15 kts and east trades over Hawaii at 15+ kts and producing modest windswell for both locations (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 was 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 were to be down to 100 kts and fading fast. In reality, data from Saturday AM put Adrian at 15.8N 111.5W with sustained winds 60 kts, or about 1000 nmiles south-southeast of Pt Dume and in the swell window but weak enough to not be of any interest. By Sat PM it will actually move cleanly in the Dana Point swell window, but winds will be down to 45 kts, on of no swell production capacity. At very best some tiny south swell could result for Pt Dume and points west of there 58 hrs from Sat AM, or at 3 PM Mon (6/13). .
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (6/11) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 1100 nmiles west of Pt Conception forming a bit of a pressure gradient along the Central CA coast and generating 20 kt northwest winds for most of North CAn and all of Central CA. Chop was 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), maybe even a bit calmer early, then on Tuesday a new gradient is to again develop over Cape Mendocino with northwest winds there to 25 kts with 10-15 kt winds building into the entire North and Central coast. By Wednesday a full on summer pressure gradient is to be in control with 30-35 kt north winds blowing over North CA and north windswell and chop likely radiating south. More of the same on Thursday with the gradient slowly backing off on Friday (25-30 kts) with 15 kts north winds and chop still over all of Central CA. Finally the gradient is to pull away from the bulk of the Central CA coast on Saturday (6/18) with an eddy flow in control though 25 kt north winds to still be blowing 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.
On Saturday (6/11) a ridge was starting to build over the Central Pacific pushing southeast down to 60S and starting to hinder the development of low pressure there. Elsewhere winds were light with no troughs of interest occurring and not supportive of low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the ridge over the Central Pacific is to give way a little while tracking east, suppressing storm development in those locations. But by Monday (6/13) a bit of a generalized trough is to start building under New Zealand opening up the preferred Southwest Storm corridor. Winds are to be up to 150 kts feeding into this trough and building, aimed more to the north and pushing northward. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to continue pushing north, but almost getting pinched off with 130-140 kt south winds feeding up into it and reaching up to nearly 30S by late Thursday (6/16). Good support for gale development through that time. But then on Friday into Sat (6/18) the trough is to start quickly receding to the southeast with all energy diving into Antarctica with support for swell producing gale activity quickly dissipating.
At the surface on Saturday (6/11) a series of low pressure systems/gale fetches were tracking flat west to east along the 55S latitude with winds from 35-45 kts but all aligned hard west to east and offering little in terms of swell production capacity. High pressure at 1028 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 try and organize in the Southeast Pacific Fri-Sat (6/11) with 50-55 kt west winds and seas building to 38 ft (18Z Sat at 52S 120W). But with all fetch aimed due east, there are little odds for much swell pushing up into the California swell window. Chile and Peru are the best targets. Another system is forecast forming well southeast of New Zealand late Saturday into Sunday AM (6/12) with 45 kt west wind and seas to 30 ft at 50S 172E impacting the southern tip of New Zealand, then quickly dissipating. No swell to result.
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
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 Sunday (6/12) but is to stall while pushing east to the dateline and then being redirected north towards the Bering Sea by high pressure in the east on Wed (6/15), then dissipating. Only 20 kt west winds forecast offering no swell potential. High pressure is to rule supreme for the Northeastern Pacific surging while butting up against Cape Mendocino on Tues (6/14) with 25 kt north winds forecast there building to 30 kts on Wed and 30-35 kts on Thursday, then fading some on 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 and up to 20 kts by Thurs-Sat (6/18) providing modest short period easterly windswell there.
As of Saturday (6/11) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading down again. The daily SOI was down to 0.28. The 30 day average was up to 7.12 with the 90 day average down some to 12.57.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (6/10) 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 just above New Guinea into Central America. This was indicative of a mini-Inactive Phase of the MJO. It is forecast to be fading while pushing east into Central America on 6/15 and then nearly gone by 6/20. 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 6/15, moving to the dateline on 6/20 and slowly fading there through June 30. This is a solid upgrade from previous forecasts, but still only into the moderate strength category. It remains a point of interest how the model jumps around, not having a good handle on what is currently occurring. We suspect that 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. This is typically what is referred to as a horseshoe 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. Interestingly is the new emergence of a cold tongue of water in the tropical Atlantic, tracking west from Africa on the equator to nearly South America (the exact opposite of what's occurring in the tropical Pacific). For now the big picture still looks like a La Nina, though slowly fading and trying to turn neutral if not something more.
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 June 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 gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand and lifting north with winds to 40 kts early Wed (6/15) but not staying cohesive for any duration of interest. 28-30 ft seas forecast along eastern New Zealand aimed well at Hawaii, and still building. By Thursday (6/16) a decent fetch of 50-55 kts is to coalesce near 40S 158W nestled in the upper trough there aimed due north and generating 34 ft seas at 38S 157W in the evening and then 38 ft at 40S 154S on Friday AM (6/17). Some swell potential possible. But directly afterwards the whole system is to start falling hard south and dissipating. Something to monitor.
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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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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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
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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 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