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 (7/21) North and Central California was seeing residual swell from south of Fiji at knee to thigh high down south and clean early. Up north local northwest windswell was chest to shoulder high and textured. Southern California was getting waist high ragged northwest windswell and warbled. Down south southern hemi Fijian sets were waist to almost chest high and glassy. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had waist high southern hemi sets and glassy with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The Northeast Pacific was generating more high pressure that was trying to ridge into North and Central CA and Hawaii, offering minimal northerly windswell for Central CA and easterly windswell for exposed shores on the Islands. Typhoon Ma-On was trying to reorganize off Japans central coast but not expected to do much, with seas below 30 ft. Down south a small but decent gale was tracking east-northeast through the Southeast Pacific with seas forecast to 38 ft this evening offering some hope for small swell for California and points southward in the week ahead. Another gale was southeast of New Zealand with 30 ft seas and tracking northeast, expected to build to 32 ft Friday AM before dissipating. Maybe some small swell for Hawaii with even less energy for CA 9 day out. The good news is an improving pattern is forecast under New Zealand by the middle of next week (7/27) with 2 systems currently charted. The bad news is it could all be a fantasy conjured up by the model. Only time will tell.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (7/21) high pressure at 1036 mbs was positioned in the Central Gulf of Alaska 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii and 1200 nmiles west of North CA. It was retrograding west with a bit of a ridge still pushing into the North and Central CA coasts forming a mild gradient over Cape Mendocino CA with 25 kt north winds and modest northerly windswell generation potential for Central CA. Trades were also blowing at 15+ kts over Hawaii making for modest easterly windswell along east facing shores there. The remnants of Tropical Storm Ma-On were tracking east over off South Central Japan with winds 30 kts (tropical depression strength) and getting ready to stall and turn to the north. Hurricane Dora was tracking west-northwest off the Southern Mexican coast, and well shadowed relative to CA with winds to 135 kts (155 mph). Otherwise no other swell producing fetch was in effect. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to retrograde fully away from the US West Coast as low pressure drops from the Gulf of Alaska southeast decaying off Oregon late Sunday (7/24) minimizing the odds for pressure gradient formation and therefore windswell production. Trades to be fading for Hawaii by Sunday too with windswell on the decline along eastern shores. Tropical Storm Dora to be degenerating into nothingness with no swell production forecast for Southern CA. And Ma -On is to regenerated while tracking north, but not produce seas in excess of 28 ft (Sat 7/23) before dissipating. No swell from her either.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (7/21) the remnants of Tropical Storm Ma-On were tracking east off Southern Japan with sustained winds only in the tropical depression category (35 kts) and of no interest. It is to be making a slow turn towards the northeast with winds 25-35 kts Fri (7/22) and accelerating to the northeast with winds rebuilding to 45 kts Saturday (7/23). A tiny area of 29 ft seas are forecast Sat-Sun AM (7/24) all aimed due north and not offering any realistic possibilities for swell propagation into Hawaii or the US West Coast.
On Thursday (7/21) Hurricane Dora was fully maxed out with winds 135 kts (155 mph) or at Category 5 class strength, but well east of any great circle route into even the most exposed breaks in Southern CA. Dora was traveling northwest and is to continue on that path while slowly fading. Dora is finally expected to move into the Southern CA swell window (Pt Dume west) starting late Saturday (7/23) (152 degs) 825 nmiles out but winds fading fast, dying from 60 kts. Low odds of any swell reaching Pt Dume or points west by Monday early afternoon (7/25) if period were 13 secs.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/21) high pressure at 1036 mbs locked in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska and was mildly ridging to the east with a modest pressure gradient in -place over the Cape Mendocino region producing north winds there at 20 to barely 25 kts resulting in modest north windswell. But a near eddy flow was in placed nearshore from San Francisco southward. This configuration is to hold early Friday, then starting to collapse through the day Saturday as low pressure again starts moving into waters of the Pacific Northwest. A light wind flow is forecast nearshore for North and Central CA through the weekend. As the low dissipates on Monday (7/25) there indications high pressure will return with north winds building to 15-20 kts late along all nearshore waters, with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient again firing up on Tuesday with winds 20-25 kts there and up to 20 kts further south over Central CA. Finally on Wednesday (7/27) the Cape Mendo pressure gradient is to be mature with winds 25-30 kts but with an eddy flow in-place from Pt Arena southward and this configuration holding into Thursday. Solid windswell to result for Central CA with cleaner conditions nearshore.
On Thursday (7/21) the jetstream was split in the west but semi-consolidated in the far East, driving east into Central Chile. Two weak trough were embedded in the flow, one southeast of New Zealand and a second well off Chile. Both troughs offered only minimal support for low pressure or gale development. A large cutoff upper level low continued circulating over Antarctica just southwest of Chile, offering no support for surface level gale development. Over the next 72 hours the large cutoff low is to dissipate while pushing further south into Antarctica while a broad ridge starts pushing south over the Southeast Pacific, pretty much eliminating any odds for gale development. Beyond 72 hrs a new minim trough is forecast developing under New Zealand tracking northeast with a far stronger one forecast right behind it. Improved odds for gale development in the West Pacific if this pattern were to evolve.
At the surface on Thursday (7/21) two gales were in play (see details below). It is actually kinda surprising they were as strong as modeled given the jetstream configuration. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to take control of the upper reaches of the South Pacific pushing the wind vectors on any weather system traversing that area well to the south, towards Antarctica. And even at that no real gale development is forecast and therefore no swell production of interest is forecast.
Southeast Pacific Gale
A new fetch build on Tuesday evening (7/19) with a tiny area of 45-50 kt southwest winds peaking Wed AM (7/20) with 50 kts south-southwest winds holding and seas building to 29 ft at 49S 148W. This fetch is held while pushing east in the evening with seas building to 32 ft at 48S 138W. By Thursday AM (7/21) fetch was fading from 45 kts with seas up to 36 ft at 45S 130W. Fetch is to be nearly gone in the evening at 40 kts with seas peaking (from previous fetch) at 38 ft at 43S 125W. A quick fade is forecast in the evening with seas dropping from 35 ft at 39S 115w, east and outside even the Southern CA swell window targeting primarily Northern Chile and Peru. This system is very small and positioned in the Southeast Pacific, outside the swell window for Hawaii. Most energy is to be aimed towards Chile and Peru with decent energy pushing northwards to Central America. Sideband utility class energy seems likely to result for California up the 182-185 degree paths (unshadowed by Tahiti), peaking in SCal on Thurs 7 PM (7/28) and NCal on Fri AM (7/29). Details to follow.
Weak Southwest Pacific Gale
On Wednesday (7/20) a broad fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds pushed under New Zealand building in coverage even more in the evening. 29 ft seas were modeled building at 54S 180W (Wed PM). On Thursday the fetch continued tracking slightly northeast still at 35-40 kts aimed a mix of east and northeast and covering a good sized with seas building to 30 ft at 52S 178W (191 degs HI, 211 degs NCal and 213 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti). The fetch is to actually become better focused in the evening wrapping around the core of the low at 952 mbs with seas still 30 ft at 50S 170W (186 degs HI, 209 degs NCAL and 211 degs SCal and still well shadowed). The fetch is to start fading Friday AM (7/22) from 35-40 kts and taking aim all aimed west to east with a moderate area of 32 ft seas at 49S 162W (181 degs HI, 204 degs NCal and 206 SCal) and becoming unshadowed but aimed less up to the north. By evening all remain fetch is to be aimed due east if not southeast, offering no swell potential for US interests. If this system comes to pass some degree of swell is likely to push up into the Islands and the US mainland, favoring the mainland regardless of the Tahitian swell shadow mainly due to the wind vector angle.
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 be clearing out off Oregon and the Northeast Pacific high pressure system is to be rebuilding along the CA coast Tuesday (7/26) with northwest winds and windswell on the increase to 20 kts with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient developing in earnest on Wednesday (north winds 25 kts) and maybe evening a little more 24 hours later. Increasing northerly windswell expected for North and Central CA. Trades also to be on the increase over the Hawaiian Islands by Wednesday to 15 kts with some very modest easterly windswell redeveloping.
As of Thursday (7/21) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding steady. The daily SOI was down to 3.08. The 30 day average was down to 8.05 with the 90 day average down some to 4.43. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind anomalies indicate westerly anomalies are in control over the Eastern Pacific, suggestive of the Active Phase of the MJO exiting there and moving into the Atlantic (notice the formation of tropical Storms Brett and Cindy there) while easterly anomalies are building over the West and Central Pacific (and pretty strongly), suggestive of the building Inactive Phase there. The forecast as best we can decipher is for the existing pattern to hold for the next 2 weeks, with little movement in any direction. This would tend to favor suppression of storm development in the Southern Hemisphere, though the relationship between the MJO and storm formation in the Southern Hemi is not tightly coupled.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/21) 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 improved dramatically. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, but then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But then on 7/21 it vaporized, with anomalies only -1 deg C and looking to be ripped apart. Most interesting. Will see if that cold pocket redevelops in the coming week with the Inactive Phase in control.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were above normal in the West and just 'normal' in the East.
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 another pair of gales are forecast developing on Tues (7/26), one due east of New Zealand and second just south of it. Both are to track east-northeast into the Central Pacific with seas building to the low 40 ft range. Most of this energy is to be shadowed by Tahiti relative to California. And the first system is to be effective east of the Hawaiian swell window. Still, if the modeled are correct (a big 'if') it offers the hope of swell 2 weeks out. take what you can get this time of year.
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