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 (7/24) North and Central California was seeing locally generated northwest windswell at thigh high with southerly wind on it early. No southern hemi swell of interest was showing. Southern California was getting maybe knee high northwest windswell early and clean up north. Down south background southern hemi swell as providing surf rarely in the thigh to waist high range and clean early. 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 thigh high background swell with maybe a stray waist high set at top breaks every now and then and glassy early with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The Northeast Pacific high pressure system had retreated from the US West Coast, centered closer to the dateline than ususal offering no northerly windswell for Central CA and only bare minimal easterly windswell for exposed shores on the Islands. The remnants of what waas Typhoon Ma-On were fading off Northern Japan and no longer of interest. Even at it's best it only got within 4002 nmiles of California (a long ways away) with seas barely 30 ft. No real hope there either. The better news is the North Pacific High pressure system is to move back to the east starting to generate north winds and windswell from Cape Mendocino by Wednesday (7/27) and continuing through the weekend. And yet another Typhoon is forecast forming and following a path similar to Ma-On late in the week. Very intersting. Down south a small but decent gale tracked east-northeast through the Southeast Pacific with seas to 38 ft on Thurs (7/21) offering some hope for small swell for California by late in the week. But small is the operative word here. Also another gale formed southeast of New Zealand Thurs-Fri (7/21-22) with 30-32 ft seas tracking northeast. Some small swell for Hawaii possible by Thurs (7/28) with much less energy for CA beyond. Beyond a series of weak gales are forecast tracking under and northeast from New Zealand by Thurs (7/28) offering a hint of more minimal background southern hemi swell beyond. But that remains jsut a forecast at this early date.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Sunday (7/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs had retrograded west and centered about 600 nmiles east of the dateline offering no northerly wind energy ridging into California with only minimal tradewind easterly fetch pushing over Hawaii at 10 kts. The remnants of Tropical Storm Ma-On were dying over the Southern Kuril Islands and of no interest. In shore, a quiet day. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to slowly start tracking back to the east eventaully impacing the West Coast of North America forming the usual pressure gradeint over Cape Mendocino by Tuesday (7/26) with winbds up to 25 kts by Wednesday. Northern windswell on the increase for North and Central CA then. Trades to start rebuilding over Hawaii by Tuesday too at 15 kts offering small windswell generation potential along eastern shores. The models suggest 2 more tropical systems to develop just east of the Philippines heading due west. This region has been very productiove this year, thoguht he storm track has not been favorable for the US West Coast in that none of them recurve to the northeast and survive the journey over the dateline, purely a function of La Nina.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (7/24) the remnants of Tropical Storm Ma-On were fading just east of the Southern Kuril Islands. Previously they over the tracking east off Southern Japan with sustained winds only in the tropical depression category (35 kts) 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 30 ft seas developed Saturday (7/23) at 37N 150E 3987 nmiles from Northern CA with all fetch aimed due north and offering only the slimest of possibilities for swell propagation into the US West Coast Fri PM (7/29) and nothing for HI. But there is potential from some small energy to result for the US West Coast from when Ma-On was south of Japan on Sun AM (7/17) and 4927 nmiles away (297 degs) arriving Mon PM (7/25) with period 17 secs. Size to hardly be noticeable though.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/24) high pressure at 1030 mbs had retrograded west and was about 1400 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii and 2000 nmiles west of Northern CA. It was not generating any significant winds along the CA coast. On Monday (7/25) the high is to start pushing east again with north winds building to 15-20 kts late along all nearshore waters, with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient again firing up late 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 north winds 25-30 kts but with an eddy flow (south winds) in-place nearshore from Pt Arena southward and this configuration holding into Thursday. Solid windswell to result for Central CA with cleaner conditions nearshore. The gradient is to hold Friday into early Saturday at 25 kts with the eddy flow nearshore, then down to barely 25 kts later Saturday into Sunday with decreased windswell and the eddy starting to fade some.
On Sunday (7/24) the jetstream was split across the width of the South Pacific but with a ridge building pretty hard to the south over the Central Pacific suppressing gale development there into the East Pacific. And no troughs were present in the West Pacific offering no support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the east is to push south into Antarctica totally shutting down potential for gale development there. But a weak trough is to try and build under New Zealand on Tuesday (7/26) maybe reaching a bit east of there into early Thursday (7/28). Limited odds for gale development there. Beyond 72 hrs a new ridge is to be building to the south over the Central Pacific late Thurs (7/28) pretty much shutting things down again with no clear signs of improvement through the weekend (7/31).
At the surface on Sunday (7/24) high pressure was in control of the upper reaches of the South Pacific at 1024 mbs pushing the wind vectors on any weather system traversing that area well to the south, towards Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours that system is to travel east and fade offering a better environment for gale development near New Zealand. A tiny gale is forecast developing just off the New Zealand coast on Mon (7/25) with 45 kt southwest winds tracking northeast into early Wed (7/27). Theoretically a tiny area of 32 ft seas are to result Mon PM at 40S 175W building to 36 ft Tuesday AM at 39S 168W then fading in the evening from 34 ft at 36S 164W. Residual fetch to continue east from there, but not offering any fetch aimed to the north. Possible small swell to result pushing northeast towards primarily Hawaii. But the tiny fetch area to be a limiting factor in whatever swell is produced.
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 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 was nearly gone in the evening at 40 kts with seas peaking (from previous fetch) at 38 ft at 43S 125W. A quick fade occurred 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 was very small and positioned in the Southeast Pacific, outside the swell window for Hawaii. Most energy was 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) at 2.7 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft ) from 187 degrees and NCal on Fri AM (7/29) at 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) from 185 degrees.
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 actually became 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 started 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 160W (181 degs HI, 204 degs NCal and 206 SCal) and becoming unshadowed but aimed less up to the north. By evening all remaining fetch was aimed due east if not southeast, offering no swell potential for US interests. 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. Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Thurs (7/28) with pure swell reaching 2 ft @ 17 secs mid-day (3.5 ft faces with sets to 4 ft) then fading on Friday from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction 190 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 the Northeast Pacific high pressure system is to hold over the Gulf of Alaska Thursday on into the weekend (7/31) generating 25-30 kt north winds into Friday and then 25 kt north winds through the weekend and offering good potential for local northwest windswell down into North and Central CA. Trades also to be building in areal coverage over and east of the Hawaiian Islands by Friday (7/29) at 15 kts with modest easterly windswell redeveloping.
As of Sunday (7/24) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping. The daily SOI was down to 1.60. The 30 day average was down to 6.41 with the 90 day average down some to 4.00. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind anomalies indicate westerly anomalies are fading in Eastern Pacific and westerly anomalies are starting to build in the West Pacific. Light easterly anomalies are sandwiched in-between. Previous easterly anomalies covered all the West Pacific in to the Indian OCean, but that trend seems to be eroding some. This suggests that maybe the Active Phase of the MJO is trying to develop in the West Pacific. A persistent patch of westerly anomalies has held for a week or more over the Philippines, helping to form Typhoon Ma-On and maybe more behind it. The models suggest that perhaps the Active Phase is developing and is to slowly push east perhaps reaching the mid-Pacific around Aug 5-10. This might help to fuel tropical storm formation there with the potential to recurve northeast.
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 a clear subsurface path no present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. The down side is there is no exceptional warm water in the west or east and nothing to force formation of the Kelvin Wave.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were about normal and just slightly above normal in the West.
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). Westerly anomalies continued in July to (thru 7/22) Easterly anomalies were isolated to a small area on the equator at 120W. 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 gale is forecast developing under New Zealand on Wed (7/27) with 40-45 kt southwest winds and 36 ft seas at 50S 173E. the gale is to be already fading by evening with winds down to 40 kts and seas dropping from 34 ft at 47S 178W. Fetch to be 35 kts and fading Thurs AM (7/28) with seas fading from 30 ft at 43S 170W. If this occurs a decent pulse of swell could result for Hawaii with less for the US West Coast even though it is not be shadowed by Tahiti (216-218 degs relative to NCal and SCal respectively) mainly because of the rather extreme travel distance (6113 nmiles NCal). Will monitor.
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".
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table