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 Tuesday (6/28) North and Central California was seeing no northwest windswell but south facing breaks were getting more energy from Swell #5S at chest high with a few bigger sets and rain from Santa Cruz northward. Southern California had knee high northwest windswell sets up north and clean. Down south southern hemi swell still dominated at shoulder to head high and clean early but a little funk from the southerly eddy flow was building in later. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and textured. The East Shore had waist high plus easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was near flat with knee to thigh high sets and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
In the North Pacific a gale crossed over the northern dateline last Sunday (6/26) producing 24 ft seas but so far away and tucked up to the north as to be almost useless. Minimal swell to hit Hawaii on Thursday and then Central CA late week but buried under local windswell there. The standard local California pressure gradient is gone for a few more days but is expected to rebuild starting Friday and hold through the weekend, providing ample opportunity for windswell development pushing down into Central and maybe even Southern CA. A complete shutdown of the southern hemi has occurred and expected to hold through Thursday (6/30). But then a new gale is forecast developing under New Zealand tracking well to the northeast through Sunday (7/3) generating 36-42 ft seas aimed well to the north and offering some swell potential, if it forms as modeled (a reach at this early date). The Tahitian swell shadow will come into play though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Previously on Sunday (6/26) a gale pushed 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 for 18 hours, good for maybe some swell into Central CA starting Fri (7/1) at 3 ft @ 13 secs (4.0 ft faces) holding at 11 secs into Saturday (7/2). Swell Direction: 305 degrees.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/28) high pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned further north and west than usual, or 1500 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii. It was offering no opportunity to drive the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA nor trades of any magnitude pushing into Hawaii. And more unusual, a late season weak low pressure system was pushing into the Pacific Northwest producing and front and sending light rain down to Monterey Bay. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain at bay in the Northern Pacific, then start easing east and pushing into Oregon and North CA by early Friday (7/1) with pressure 1028 mbs and starting to set up the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino. North winds building there to 25 kts pushing to near 30 kts Saturday into Sunday (7/3) with north windswell on the rise and a local eddy starting to set up south of Pt Reyes on Saturday. Trades to remain light over the Hawaiian Islands with windswell small to non-existent.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity of interest is being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/28) high pressure at 1030 mbs was suppressed well to the west allowing weak low pressure at 1006 mbs to push into Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. A front was dangling down to the SF Bay area with light rain and light south winds down to Monterey Bay. Pretty impressive for nearly the first day of July. The forecast has the front quickly passing through with only maybe a hint of snow above 7000 ft of the Central Sierra Tuesday PM. By Wednesday light northwest winds are to be the norm (10 kts or less) continuing into Thursday AM. But later the all-too-familiar pressure gradient is to start forming signaling the return of high pressure to outer waters with windswell and chop on the increase down even to Santa Barbara County. The gradient is to build Friday into Saturday but pulling out of Southern CA and then even from most of Central CA south of Pt Reyes, with a full eddy flow taking over on Sunday (same locales). The same pattern to hold through Tuesday of next week (7/5). Windswell the expected result with improving conditions as the long July 4th weekend unfolds.
On Tuesday (6/28) the jetstream was pushing well to the south over the eastern half of the South Pacific reaching to mainland Antarctica and then sweeping east from there, eliminating any odds for gale formation over most of the South Pacific. But a small gap in the ridge was starting to develop under New Zealand with jetstream winds pushing a bit to the northeast at 160 kts, offering hints of the start of a building trough there. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to get more pronounced, lifting up to 45S by Friday (7/1) though wind speeds are to be on the decrease at the same time, down to 110 kts. Some support for gale development is possible at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours another ridge is to start building under New Zealand on Sat (7/2) pushing east with reinforcements behind it pushing well to the southeast, pretty much driving the flow into Antarctica and eliminating odds for gale development at the surface.
At the surface on Tuesday (6/28) high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked over the Southeast Pacific reaching down to 62S and putting a cap on gale formation there. Any winds present in that area were aimed distinctly towards the south and southeast and not up towards our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours theoretically the situation is to improve with a prime gale starting to form southeast of New Zealand Tues PM (6/28) with 40 kt southwest winds building, then lifting hard north Wednesday with 45 kt south winds in control. 32 ft seas forecast Wednesday PM (6/29) at 48S 168W (208 degs NCal - 210 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti - 187 degs HI) building to 36 ft over a tiny area Thursday AM at 41S 166W (210 degs NCal - 212 degs SCal and still barely shadowed - 187 degs HI) then fading in the evening with 32 ft residual seas at 36S 160W (210 degs NCal - 212 SCal and still barely shadowed - 187 degs HI). Larger utility class swell is possible for Hawaii with small background swell possible for the US West Coast. At least it's something to monitor.
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 hold, ridging into Oregon and continuing the usual pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast and producing north winds at 25-30 kts Monday then down to 25 kts and holding through Tuesday (7/5). Northwest windswell holding at exposed north facing breaks in Central CA. But the high is to still 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 Tuesday (6/28) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising slightly. The daily SOI was up to 4.71. The 30 day average was down slightly to 1.40 with the 90 day average down slightly to 9.42.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (6/27) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated winds blowing anomalously mildly from the east covering from the dateline into the northern Indian Ocean suggesting the presence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Weak easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase is to hold over the Philippines 7/2, than start dissipating on 7/7 and gone by 7/12 with a neutral pattern in place by 7/17. There's some fragments of westerly anomalies forecast then over the Indian Ocean through 7/7 suggestive of the Active Phase, but exceedingly weak and small and fading.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/27) 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 things remain unchanged from previous reports. 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 drove Kelvin Waves. 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, 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. Nothing has changed since then through 6/28. 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 a second stronger gale is forecast forming in the proposed trough under New Zealand with 45 kt southwest winds Thursday AM (6/30) building in areal coverage in the evening generating 32 ft seas over a solid area at 57S 174E. 40-45 kt southwest winds to hold Friday AM (7/1) with a new core developing resulting in 36 ft seas at 52S 178W (212 degs NCal unshadowed). 40 kt fetch to hold in the evening with winds near the core of the gale to 50 kts resulting in 38 ft seas at 44S 168W (212 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). More 45-50 kt south fetch to hold Saturday AM (7/2) but displaced east resulting in 34-36 ft seas at 42S 160W (206 degs NCal and totally shadowed). Yet more 45 kt southwest fetch forecast in the evening with 42 ft seas at 41S 152W (202 degs NCal and moving out of the shadow to the east). The gale is to be gone by Sunday AM (7/3) with 40 ft seas from previous fetch at 37S 146W (199 NCal and unshadowed). If all this comes to pass another decent pulse of significant class swell could result for both Hawaii and California. But it's still a long ways away from even forming.
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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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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