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 Sunday (6/26) North and Central California was seeing chest high locally generated northwest windswell mixed with more of Swell #5S at chest to head high at exposed south facing breaks. Light wind early. Southern California had knee high northwest windswell sets up north and clean but totally fogged in. Down south shoulder high to head high plus southern hemi sets were hitting and clean with maybe a little eddy flow south wind texture on top at some breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had waist high plus easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was small with thigh to waist high waves with maybe a few near chest high sets rolling through and clean early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
In the North Pacific a gale crossing over the northern dateline is producing 24 ft seas but so far away as to be useless. The standard local California pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino is fading and expected to disappear by the end of the day with no signs of re-activation till next weekend at best. The remnants of Storm #5S continued to circulate in the deep Central Pacific producing a second pulse of 36 ft seas on Friday PM (6/17) and yet another pulse to 34 ft on Sun AM (6/19), but mostly aimed due east. Background follow-on swell possible mainly for the US West coast on down into Mexico through early this week, then fading out. A complete shutdown of the southern hemi has occurred and expected to hold through Friday (7/1). a flurry of small and rather unorganized weather systems are forecast after that, but no seas greater than 30 ft are forecast, meaning little if any swell is to result for our forecast area.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
the surface on Sunday (6/26) high pressure at 1024 mbs was positioned further west than usual, or 700 nmiles north of Hawaii trying to ridge into Cape Mendocino CA but not really doing it, forming a weak pressure gradient over the North and Central CA coasts producing north winds to maybe 20 kts resulting in small disorganized northwest windswell along the Central CA coast. This high was also driving 15 kt trades over the Hawaiian Islands and generating some rideable short period easterly windswell at exposed east facing breaks. Also a gale was pushing over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians producing a tiny area of up to 35 kt west winds just shy of the Aleutians resulting in 24 ft seas at 50N 178E, good for maybe some swell into Central CA on Fri-Sat (7/2) at 3 ft @ 11-13 secs (3.5 ft faces). Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build but drift north having utterly no effect on either CA or HI. Local windswell which has been a staple of the diet is to die to nothing.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity of interest is being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/26) high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered 700 nmiles north of Hawaii and a long ways from Northern CA with the usual pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino faltering and north winds down to 15-20 kts. Low pressure was moving towards the Pacific Northwest at 1006 mbs. That low is to nestle up to the Oregon coast on Monday and kill the gradient with north winds fading to less than 15 kts, then gone by Tuesday. The low is to slowly dissipate on Wednesday with a light northwest flow at 10 kts forecast building in on Thursday over Central CA. The high pressure system is to reappear by Friday (7/1) with northwest winds back to 20 kts and holding into the weekend with a core of north winds at 25 kts over Cape Mendocino down to Pt Reyes then.
On Sunday (6/26) the jetstream was pushing well to the south from a point west of New Zealand forming a ridge reaching well into mainland Antarctica and then sweeping east from there, eliminating any odds for gale formation over the whole of the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours that ridge is to continue, though fading some late in the period with energy levels in the southern branch of the jet down some to 110 kts. Still it is to be running flat west to east over the northern edge of Antarctica (70S) and completely suppressing the potential for gale formation across the entire South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours something that almost resembles a trough is to start building southeast of New Zealand on Thurs (6/30), though it's really more a weakness in the ridge than a real trough. Regardless, by Friday on into the weekend (7/3) a weak trough is to start taking root under New Zealand and pushing east lifting more tot eh north, but energy/wind speeds are to be week (100 kts). There is no clear support for gale development.
At the surface on Sunday (6/26) high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked southeast of New Zealand reaching down to 63S and putting a cap on gale formation there with no fetch greater than 35 kts anywhere in the South Pacific aimed up at our forecast area. No swell generation potential was present. Over the next 72 hours that high pressure system is to track slowly east into the Southeast Pacific, but not weakening, still reaching down to 60S and still suppressing significant gale formation.
Storm #5S Reform
In the deep Central South Pacific on Friday (6/17) the remnants of Storm #5S tried to reform generating a decent sized fetch of 45 kt south winds during daylight hours resulting in the creation of a short-lived and small area of 36 ft seas Friday PM at 50S 154W. This should result in another pulse of backgrounds well pushing up into California Sunday AM (6/26) at 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 200-202 degrees.
Then again on Saturday AM (6/18) the remnants of Storm #5S were still circulating in the Central Pacific with 40 kt southwest fetch still at 51S 158W generating 29-30 ft seas at 48S 152W. Additional 40-45 kt southwest fetch built in the evening at 54S 152W resulting in more 29-30 ft seas at 52S 152W. Sunday AM (6/19) a solid fetch of 40-45 kts west-southwest winds developed at 49S 142W resulting in a tiny are of 34 ft seas at 49S 143W. By evening the fetch finally pushed fully west to east and fading with seas taking aim only on South America. Another pulse of background swell possible for California on Monday (6/27) at 8 AM down south and noon up to Monterey with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 193-195 degrees. No energy expected from this pulse into Hawaii.
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 finally start pushing east some and again starting to reactive the usual pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast on late Thursday (6/30) with winds building to 20 kts on Friday and maybe 25 kts on Sat-Sun (7/3) making for increasing northwest windswell at exposed north facing breaks. But the high is to be positioned pretty well to the north, having no effect on trades over the Hawaiian Islands with winds less than 15 kts, resulting in no easterly windswell there.
As of Sunday (6/26) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) took a little dip. The daily SOI was down to -8.72. The 30 day average was down slightly to 2.25 with the 90 day average down slightly to 10.04.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (6/25) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated winds blowing anomalously strong from the east covering from the dateline into the northern Indian Ocean suggesting the presence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. A tiny patch of westerly anomalies were over Central America and fading fast. This makes sense given the string of southern hemi storms as of late, now fading out. in short, we were in the Active Phase supportive of storm development, and have now moved into the Inactive Phase. Weak easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase is to hold on the dateline 6/30, than start dissipating on 7/5 and gone by 7/10 with a neutral pattern in place by 7/15. There's some fragments of westerly anomalies forecast then over the Philippines suggestive of the Active Phase, but exceedingly weak.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/23) 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 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. but for the most part, a subtle but steady warming of these band was in effect (6/23). 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. By 6/18 +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 in the west and east. 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 (a little weaker towards mid-June than earlier in the month). 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 high pressure is to relent in the Southwest Pacific with low pressure getting a foothold by Thurs (6/30) and some 35-40 kt southwest fetch possible south of New Zealand and tracking east-northeast. Seas building to 30-32 ft at 57S 168W on Friday (7/1) possible setting up some bare minimal background swell for Hawaii and up into CA over the long term, but that is just a highly speculative guess at best. More gale energy is forecast pushing under New Zealand after that into Sun (7/3), but all fetch is to be aimed southeast towards Antarctica. This does not look promising. A prolonged flat spell (southern hemi swell wise) looks imminent. And now that we are moving into the core of Winter in the Southern Hemi, the Antarctic Ice sheet (Ross Ice Shelf) is building to the north, decreasing the area of ice free waters and decreasing the space for fetch to get traction on clear waters.
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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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