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 (6/16) North and Central California was seeing 2 ft overhead locally generated northwest windswell and warbled at best early. A little southern hemi swell was underneath at near head high on the sets at protected south facing breaks. Southern California had waist high northwest windswell wrapping in up north with clean conditions early. Down south waist high windswell sets were pushing through with rare southern hemi sets in the shoulder high range with a fair amount of southwest texture early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had shoulder high plus easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had no real southern hemi swell in-play with waves knee high or so at top spots with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A strong local pressure gradient is in control over Cape Mendocino on Thursday (6/16) resulting in much local north windswell for Central CA with fragments wrapping into Southern CA. Southern hemi wise Swell #4S was hitting the CA coast, but buried in windswell at all but the most protected breaks and expected to continue providing rideable surf through Friday. A new gale developed under New Zealand then lifted northeast with seas in the 36-38 ft range Wednesday evening (6/15), then started fading Thursday while continuing northeast. Decent odds for decent swell pushing up into Hawaii with unshadowed but very modest sized swell possible for the US West Coast. Another quirky little system was building Thursday (6/16) and forecast tracking almost due north up the South American coast through Friday (6/17) with up to 38 ft seas, but of no use to US interests. Still is should send very south angled swell towards Central America, Peru and Northern Chile. Beyond that a total shutdown of the southern hemi is projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (6/16) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino ridging into the Pacific Northwest and forming a strong pressure gradient over the North CA coast with northwest winds at 30+ kts and 15 ft seas there resulting in northwest windswell along exposed breaks. This high was also driving modest trades over the Hawaiian Islands at 15+ kts and generating minimal short period windswell at exposed east facing breaks. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to back off some along the CA coast through Saturday with declining windswell expected at exposed breaks, then resurge to 25 kts on Sunday with a modest increase in windswell likely. Trades to hold over Hawaii at 15-20 kts into Friday, then back off slightly to the 15+ kt range through Sunday (6/19) resulting in more modest easterly windswell there (see QuikCASTs). No other swell producing weather systems are forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity of interest is being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (6/16) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino forming a strong pressure gradient along the Central CA coast and generating 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas at 15 ft for all of North CA waters and 15 kt northwest winds from Monterey Bay southward. By Friday the gradient is to be slowly backing off with north winds fading from 25 kts with 10-15 kt north winds and chop still over all of Central CA. The gradient is to hold in the 20 to barely 25 kt range off Pt Arena on Saturday (6/18) with 10-15 kt northwest winds in control nearshore down to Pt Conception. Sunday the gradient is to fire back up with 25-30 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino and 15 kt north winds from Pt Reyes southward to Pt Conception. The gradient is to lift north on Monday with an eddy flow filling in from Pt Arena southward and the gradient fading to 20-25 kts over the Cape on Tuesday. But by Wednesday (6/22) the gradient is to again return with 25+ kt north winds building over Cape Mendocino while an eddy flow (southerly winds) holds from Bodega Bay southward. The gradient sit continue on Thursday building with 30 kt north winds forecast and the eddy flow starting to get overtaken.
On Thursday (6/16) the jetstream had formed a bit of a pinched trough east of New Zealand that extended well to the north (40S) with 140 kt winds running up into it, still offering good support for gale development. but east of there it's outflow was pushing hard south down to 65S and expected to push further south there, pretty much shutting swell production down for the rest of the Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the trough off New Zealand is to push east with it's apex starting to fall southeast and pretty much eliminating odds for any swell producing gale to develop. A ridge is to be building behind it pushing into the West Pacific also suppressing gale formation. Beyond 72 hours a large ridge is to build pushing hard south under New Zealand on Sunday (6/19) and increasing coverage over the entire South Pacific by Tuesday (6/21) sweeping down into Antarctica, with reinforcements following a similar path and totally eliminating support for gale development through at least 6/23.
At the surface on Thursday (6/16) a solid gale was still in-play east of the New Zealand (see Storm #5S below). And a second storm was just off Southern Chile with 50-55 kt south winds aimed due north towards Peru and up into Central America at 42S 97W with seas building from 34 ft. But this system was well east of any great circle path into California. Over the next 72 hours Storm #5S is to be dissipating while falling southeast with no significant additional swell generation potential forecast (other than what is noted below). The system off Chile is to peak out through the day Thursday (6/16) with up to 39 ft seas in the evening at 37S 92W then slowly fade while drifting yet further north on Friday (6/17) with 36 ft seas in the AM at 33S 91W and then fading from 32 ft in the evening at 30S 90W. This system is to make amazing headway up into the northern reaches of the South Pacific with a solid swell likely for Chile, Peru on up to Panama and Costa Rica given it's close proximity to the coast, but not much into mainland Mexico.
Storm #5S - Hawaii
On Tuesday (6/14) a complex low pressure system was trying
to organize just southeast of New Zealand generating a fetch of 35-40
kt southwest winds just under the southern tip of NZ and getting
traction on the oceans surface. Seas were building to 30 ft at 55S 168E
(216 NCal and unshadowed, 201 HI). By evening the fetch was
better defined at 40 kts and aimed almost due north with 30 ft seas
holding at 52S 173E. By Wednesday AM (6/15) a solid fetch of 40-45 kt south winds were building just east of southern New Zealand resulting in 34 ft seas at 49S 177E pushing right up the 214 degree path to NCal (217 SCal) and well up the 197 degree path to HI. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the eastern periphery of the storm at 18Z and reported at 15 reading sea average at 28.9 ft with one reading to 34.8 where the model suggested 29 ft seas. The model was right on track. In the evening 40 kt south fetch continued pushing north with a tiny dot of 38 ft seas peaking at 48S 175W aimed right up the 214 degree path to NCal (unshadowed) 217 SCal and well up the 193 degree path to HI. Nice. Thursday AM (6/16) more 40-45 kt south fetch was blowing with a broad area of 34 ft seas at 42N 170W pushing right up the 213 degree path to NCal (unshadowed), the 215 degree path to SCal (becoming shadowed by Tahiti) and a bit east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the core of this system is to be receding while starting to falling to the southeast with all swell generation potential fading off fast. Residual seas from previous fetch to 32 ft at 40S 165W (212 degs NCal and unshadowed, 215 degs SCal and shadowed, and pushed pretty well east of the 185 deg path to HI).
At this time it seems pretty certain that a decent push of southern hemi swell could be moving towards Hawaii from (4084 nmiles away) resulting in the best size there given it's close proximity, with lesser swell pushing towards California from 5663 nmiles away.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Tuesday AM (6/21) with period 20 secs and size tiny but building through the day, with pure swell reaching 3.6 ft @ 18 secs at sunset (6.5 ft faces with sets to maybe 9 ft). Swell to peak Wednesday 9 AM with pure swell 4.1 ft @ 17 secs at sunrise (7 ft faces with sets to 9 ft) fading slightly as the day progresses and period drops to 16 secs. Swell to continue solid on Thursday though down some from it's peak, with pure swell 4.0 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft with sets to 8 ft) at sunrise and slowly setting down. Swell dropping on Friday (6/24) from 3.5 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft faces) and heading down from there. Swell Direction: 188-196 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 6 PM Thursday (6/23) with period 19 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell to slowly be building through the day Friday (6/24) with pure swell peaking late afternoon at 3.3-3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.5-6.5 ft faces with sets to 7-8 ft). Swell to continue holding on Saturday AM (6/25) with pure swell 3.3-3.5 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft), with period settling down to 16 secs late morning. Decent 15 sec energy to continue into Sunday (6/26) at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces), then fading. Swell DIrection: 213-217 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 10 PM Thursday (6/23) with period 19 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell to slowly be building through the day Friday (6/24) with pure swell peaking near sunset at 3.3-3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.5-6.5 ft faces with sets to 7-8 ft). Swell to continue holding on Saturday AM (6/25) with pure swell 3.3-3.5 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft), with period settling down to 16 secs early afternoon. Decent 15 sec energy to continue into Sunday (6/26) at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces), then fading. Swell DIrection: 211-215 degrees
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: . 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: 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 high pressure is to start fading over the Northeast Pacific by Monday (6/20) resulting in smaller windswell for both California and Hawaii. But by Wednesday (6/22) it is to again start ridging into the North CA coast resulting in more 25 kt north winds off Cape Mendocino building to 30 kts 24 hours later resulting in more moderate northwest windswell for the Central CA coast. But trades to not exceed 15 kts over the Hawaiian islands starting Tues (6/21) and holding there through the middle of the workweek with a downward trend in local easterly windswell expected. There are some indication high pressure could increase there late week with the commensurate increase in trades and windswell, but that is just a preliminary guess.
As of Thursday (6/16) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading down more. The daily SOI was down to -28.75. The 30 day average was down to 4.20 with the 90 day average down some to 10.82.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (6/15) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a tiny weak area of residual easterly anomalies off of Central America and expected to dissipate with a few days. Westerly anomalies indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO were extending from the Eastern Indian Ocean eastward to the Philippines covering only a rather small area. This are is forecast to hold and not move any through 6/25, then dissipate on 6/30 with a neutral pattern in control into 7/5. This is again a bit of a downgrade from previous forecasts but the model seems to be undercalling it, especially in light of the rather negative SIO.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/16) 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 (actually they have gotten colder the past few weeks due to the increase in the California high) 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 almost to the dateline 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. This suggest the warm waters currently pooling up off Ecuador will likely dissipate as summer progresses but at the same time, the cooler than normal horseshoe pattern over the North and South Pacific will dissipate too.
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 Remnants of Storm #5S are to track east across the Southeast Pacific over the weekend into early next week, but most fetch is to be aligned west to east aimed at Peru and Chile with little aimed north towards the US. Also seas to be below the critical 30 ft threshold. No swell to result. Once into next week (6/20) the building ridge in the upper atmosphere is to take hold with virtually no swell producing fetch forecast.
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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KICK OFF TO SUMMER PARTY at the Mavericks Surf Shop on Saturday, June 18, from Noon to 5 p.m. There will be food, drinks, live music, product giveaways, a special showing of our new women's swimwear by Toes on the Nose, and our new summer line of Mavericks gear. We hope you can join us! 25 Johnson Pier, Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay
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
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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/
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