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 Monday (7/11) North and Central California was seeing northwest windswell at shoulder high up north and blown out with fog and drizzle in effect. Down south southern hemi Swell #6S was head high with a few bigger sets and wind was blowing pretty hard out of the northwest making for chop over exposed waters. Southern California was getting locally generated northwest windswell up north at thigh to waist high and a bit warbled. Down south Swell #6S was hitting head high on the sets and relatively clean and well lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had chest high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was waist high southern hemi leftover sets and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is asleep for the summer. And the standard local California pressure gradient has faded with high pressure retrograded off to the northwest (well north of Hawaii) offering no real northwest windswell of interest. Swell from southern hemisphere Storm #6S is peaking out and to be heading down by Tuesday (7/12). But another system tracked flat west to east forming under New Zealand on Sunday (7/3) and moving into the southern part of the CA swell window on Tues (7/5) with seas to 38 ft has put more swell in the water with swell starting to move into Hawaii and larger swell expected for CA by Tues (7/12). Beyond another pulse of swell filtered by Fiji is expected for Hawaii from a solid storm that moved up into the Tasman Sea Fri-Sat (7/9) with up to 48 ft seas. But the US mainland is to see little from it. After that another storm is forecast forming under New Zealand and tracking somewhat to the northeast Sun-Mon (7/18) with up to 42 ft seas, if one is to believe the models. At least there is some hope.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Monday (7/11) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned in the Western Gulf of Alaska or 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and 1500 nmiles west of North CA. It was barely ridging into the North and Central CA coast generating a 15 kt northwesterly flow over exposed waters through near clam down into Southern CA. It was also generating trades at 15 kts over Hawaii making for modest easterly windswell along east facing shores there. No other swell producing fetch was in effect. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with high pressure bumping up to 1036 mbs but remaining locked in position over the Western Gulf offering limited windswell potential for Hawaii and less for Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression 08W formed on Mon (7/11) well northeast of Saipan with winds up to 30 kts heading just north of due west (290 degs). It is forecast to follow this same course building to minimal typhoon strength by Thurs (7/14) with winds to 65 kts positioned just south of Iwo To, then continuing westward with winds to 90 kts on Saturday (6/16) positioned 550 nmiles south of Southern Japan. No swell production is projected for our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (7/11) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked in the Western Gulf of Alaska and filling the East Pacific driving a modest but shallow northwesterly flow at 15 kts down the North and Central CA coast maybe pushing 20 kts off Pt Conception. Light winds if not a slight eddy flow was in control of Southern CA waters. No change is forecast through the work week and into the weekend (7/17) resulting in much nearshore warble and only very limited 6-7 sec period local windswell. There are suggestions that the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient might start to reform on Mon (7/18) with high pressure trying to ridge closer to the CA coast, but that is merely a guess.
On Monday (7/11) the jetstream was split with the southern branch almost reaching up to the northern branch over New Zealand forming a weak trough there but with weak wind speeds, then quickly falling hard to the south east of there resulting in a huge ridge over the Eastern Pacific and totally suppressing gale development there. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast with weak trough under New Zealand through Thursday 97/140 with a strong ridge controlling the Central and Eastern Pacific and totally shutting down gale potential there. Beyond 72 hrs the trough in the west is to build some with 140 kts wind feeding up into Fri-Sat (7/16) and offering some hope for gale development there. But in the east the huge ridge there is to continue building, pushing hard south into Antarctica and eliminating any potential for gale development there through Tues (7/19).
At the surface a series of storms developed with swell pushing northeast. Details below.
Second Gale - Swell #6S - Hawaii
A stronger gale formed in a trough under New Zealand Thursday AM (6/30) with 45 kt southwest winds building over the Ross Ice shelf and moving into ice free waters. This fetch built in areal coverage and took aim more to the northeast in the evening generating barely 34 ft seas at 56S 170E. 40-45 kt southwest winds held Friday AM (7/1) with a new core developing to the east of it resulting in 35 ft seas at 52S 180W (213 degs NCal - 211 degs SCal and unshadowed). 40 kt fetch held in the evening but shrinking with winds near the core of the gale to 50 kts but pulled east of the main fetch resulting in 34 ft seas at 46S 173W (212 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). The fetch was fading fast Saturday AM (7/2) from 35 kts and displaced from the core to the east of it resulting in more 32 ft seas at 43S 165W (206 degs NCal and totally shadowed) and fading. The fetch was gone by the evening with seas fading below the critical 30 ft threshold. This was a downgrade from previous forecasts, attributable mainly to the separation of the initial fetch and the secondary core. Still a decent pulse of significant class swell could result for Hawaii with modest sized utility class swell for California.
California: 15 sec residuals expected first thing Tues AM (7/12) at 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction 206-208 degrees
Swell #7S - California
Another storm developed southeast of New Zealand on Sunday AM (7/3) with 50 kt west winds in place resulting in a small area of 34 ft seas at 56S 174E all aimed due east an nothing pushing to the north. In the evening 50 kt westerly fetch was pushing east to southeast with 36 ft seas building at 56S 170W, shadowed by Tahiti relative to CA. Monday AM (7/4) the fetch was split and trying to reorganize with a small area of 50-55 kt west winds building resulting in a tiny area of 38 ft seas at 56S 155W again all pushing due east but moving out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA. In the evening the fetch was still fragmented with some starting to move over Antarctic Ice and a secondary fetch building to the west and aimed more to the northeast at 50 kts resulting in 36 ft seas at 57S 142W. The main fetch dissipated Tues AM (7/5) with 40-45 kt lingering southwest winds trying to hold on. Seas from previous fetch were at 38 ft at 55S 133W and totally unshadowed. Finally in the evening 40 kt fetch was aimed pretty well to the north, but loosing it's areal coverage with 35 ft seas at 52S 128W. 35-40 kt fetch was fading Wed AM (7/6) with 33 ft seas fading at 49S 126W.
Some very limited sideband swell is expected for Hawaii starting Tues (7/12) [see QuikCASTs for details]. Better size is forecast for California attributable mainly to the resurgence of the fetch on late Mon-early Tues (7/5) when the fetch was aimed a little bit better to the northeast with most size pushing into Southern CA. Decent significant class size to result mainly for Southern CA.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Monday (7/12) near 8 PM with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft faces) and on the increase, building to 2.6 ft @ 19-20 secs (5.0 ft faces) near sunrise Tues (7/13)t. Swell to continue upwards peaking at 3.0 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft faces with sets to near 7 ft) Tuesday evening (8 PM) and holding solid into Wed AM (7/13) even hitting 3.6 ft @ 17 secs then (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and holding into the afternoon. Swell to continue on Thursday at 3.6 ft @ 15-16 secs early (5.5 ft faces with sets to 7.0 ft or so). Swell fading from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces) Fri AM (7/15) and dropping from there. 13 sec residuals Sat AM. Swell Direction: 193-195 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tues (7/12) near 7 AM with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft faces) and on the increase, building to 2.6 ft @ 19 secs (5.0 ft faces) near sunset. Swell to continue upwards peaking at 3.0 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft faces with sets to near 7 ft) Wed AM (7/13) and holding through the afternoon. Swell to continue on Thursday at 3 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft or so). Swell fading from 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft faces) Fri AM (7/15) and dropping from there. 13-14 sec residuals Sat AM. Swell Direction: 190-192 degrees
On Thurs PM (7/8) a new storm started building under Southern Australia resulting in 40 ft seas building at 56S 130E, totally outside the US swell window but on the 212 degree route to Hawaii through totally shadowed by Fiji. The storm peaked on Friday AM (7/8) with seas hitting 48 ft at 51S 136E on the 216 degree path to Hawaii and again shadowed by Fiji. In the evening 47 ft seas moved to 47S 147E barely on the 216 degree path to Hawaii and still obstructed by Fiji. On Sat AM (7/9) residual seas of 42 ft were indicated moving up the Tasman Sea at 43S 157E on the 212 degree path to Hawaii and still obstructed. By evening this system was pushing into New Zealand with seas fading fast.
Fiji: Large swell is expected into Fiji starting Tuesday afternoon (7/11 GMT) pushing 11 ft @ 17 secs (18-19 ft) holding into Wed AM (same size) and still in the 9.5 ft @ 16 secs range (15 ft) on Thurs AM (7/14 GMT). Swell Direction: 208-210 degrees
Hawaii: Some degree of filtered energy is expected into Hawaii starting Fri (7/15) near sunrise building to 2 ft @ 19-20 secs by sunset (4 ft faces). Swell to peak Saturday (7/16) at 2.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Solid energy to continue on Sunday at 2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to near 6 ft) and holding through the day. Residuals in the 2.7 ft @ 15 secs range (4 ft faces with sets to maybe 5 ft) to continue Monday (7/18) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 212-216 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 high pressure is to hold it's position, not moving one inch with pressure at 1032 mbs. It is to continue producing north winds at 15 kts pushing down the California coast through Mon (7/18) offering only more modest 6 sec period northwest windswell and warbled conditions for exposed breaks. Trades to continue in the 15+ kt range for Hawaii offering modest easterly windswell in the 7-8 sec range. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
As of Monday (7/11) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping slightly. The daily SOI was up to 12.68. The 30 day average was down some to -0.40 with the 90 day average down some to 4.46. This looks like a real neutral long-term pattern.
Wind anomalies are not available. We have written the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to try and get the data refreshed. But based on the SOI, it is assumed a neutral-normal wind pattern is in-play.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/11) remains 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 and holding steady. The larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and 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. Warmer than normal waters continue slowly 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 have taken a turn for the worse. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator which then evaporated in late February have returned. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) has again re-established itself at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. They reach up to 65 meters from the surface too. it will take a major burist of westerly winds and a solid Kelvin wave to unlodge this blockade (unlikely). This suggests that another year of La Nina is imminent.
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 a big ridge is to remain in control of the upper levels of the atmosphere of the Southeast Pacific with high pressure lower down, offering virtually no swell producing fetch in that region. But a perpetual trough is forecast under New Zealand possibly allowing formation of a gale there by late Sat (7/16) with 34 ft seas projected at 58S 173E. This gale is to build Sun (7/17) with up to 38 ft seas forecast at 56S 177W (208 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Yet more strengthening is forecast in the evening with seas to 42 ft at 55S 169W (206 degs NCal and totally shadowed by Tahiti). Residual 40 ft seas are forecast on Mon AM (7/18) at 51S 161W (204 degs NCal and moving out of the core of the shadow). 34 ft residual seas forecast in the evening at 46S 155W and fading fast. This system is a long time still from forming and not a breath of wind is yet blowing on the oceans surface to generate swell. This is all just a fantasy dreamed up by a computer with no basis in reality.
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
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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