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 Saturday (7/30) North and Central California was seeing northwest windswell at chest to shoulder high with southerly eddy winds on it and not real clean at exposed breaks. At south facing breaks southern hemi swell was still in.cgiay with waves waist to chest high and clean. Southern California was getting minimal knee high northwest windswell and clean up north. Down south southern hemi swell was hitting with sets occasionally chest high and lightly textured with a light northerly breeze on it early. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist high.cgius easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had more southern hemi swell providing waist high sets at top breaks and glassy with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high was still trying to ridge east forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in northwest winds at 20 kts or so and modest northwest short period windswell. But it was about over and is to be fading through the weekend. The high was also ridging south towards Hawaii producing trades at 15 kts resulting in some small easterly windswell along east facing shores, but that too is expected to fade some through the weekend. Typhoon Muifa was inching north and positioned well east of the Philippines, stronger than previous forecast. Down south swell from the first of 4 tiny swell was hitting California but on the way down. Another gale formed southeast of New Zealand Thurs-Fri (7/21-22) with 30-32 ft seas tracking northeast. Some small swell from it started to hit Hawaii on Friday (7/29) with tiny swell expected into CA by Sun (7/31). Yet another tiny gale developed alongside of New Zealand Mon AM (7/25) tracking east-northeast with 34 ft seas slowly fading into Wednesday AM. Modest swell for Hawaii to result starting late Sunday (7/31) with minimal energy for the US West coast late Wed (8/3). And yet one more emerged under New Zealand on Wed (7/27) with 32 ft seas over a larger area lifting east-northeast, but fading 30 hrs later. More background swell for Hawaii by Wed (8/3) and less for the US West coast by late Fri (8/5). One more small system is forming in the deep Central Pacific tracking east Sat-Sun (7/31) with 32-36 ft seas but very tiny in areal coverage, with another one forecast right behind on Tues-Wed with 30 ft seas. Bare minimal swell possible for CA, Central America down to Peru and Chile. But small is the name for all of these. Better than flat.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
the surface on Saturday (7/30) high pressure at 1028 mbs was retrograding west some from a point 1300 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA and still ridging east some forming a weak pressure gradient and north winds to 20 kts over a small area over extreme Northern CA resulting in small short period north windswell pushing south into Central CA. It was also fueling slightly increased easterly tradewinds pushing over Hawaii at 15 kts with very moderate short period east windswell there. Typhoon Muifa was doing much better than forecast in the far West Pacific (see Tropics below). Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold Sunday then retreat more back to the west Mon-Tues (8/2) with the requisite decrease in north winds off Cape Mendocino (down to 15 kts) and a decrease in northerly windswell along the Central CA coast. Trades to decrease as well Sun-Mon (8/1) over Hawaii down to 10-15 kts offering decreased windswell generation potential along eastern shores. But the high is to start pushing east by Tuesday (8/2) with trades again on the increase (15 kts) with windswell on the increase along Easterly Shore of Hawaii. The high is to not make contact with Northern CA till Wednesday, so that is when local north winds and short period windswell are to start appearing down in Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression 11W formed just east of the islands of Yap on Tuesday (7/26) with winds 30 kts. It tracked northwest and built to tropical storm status on Thursday AM and was named Muifa with with winds to 45 kts positioned about 1000 nmiles west of the Central Philippines. Continued intensification occurred as it inched slowly north and by Saturday AM (7/30) winds were 115 kts and seas 28 ft and still on the increase. By Monday sustained winds are forecast to 135 kts (155 mph - or Category 5 hurricane strength) about 600 nmiles east of the northern most Philippines or 700 nmiles south of Southern Japan. Current forecasts suggest a slight turn to the northwest on Tuesday (8/2) with a slow decrease in strength starting to take effect. There is the possibility of swell being generated in this systems east quadrant pushing up the great circle tracks towards California starting Sunday PM (7/31). At that time it will be 5206 nmiles from San Francisco with energy pushing up the 291 degree path. If that were to occur some small swell with period 17 secs could arrive on Mon (8/8) at sunset. Swell also could radiate towards Hawaii up the 281 degree path (shadowed by Kauai on Oahu's North Shore) and 3687 nmiles out arriving Sat afternoon (8/6). More of an academic exercise than anything at this time.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/30) high pressure at 1030 mbs was trying to ridging east generating northwest winds at 20 kts along the North CA coast. Those winds were pulled away from the Central CA coast allowing the formation of a return eddy flow, with south winds blowing 5 kts over most of Central CA waters up to at least Pt Arena. Windswell was still in.cgiay for Central CA with textured conditions nearshore. The gradient is to hold through Sunday before collapsing Monday with fading windswell and the eddy dissipating then. The core of the gradient is to start falling south on Tuesday (8/2) with north winds 15 kts pushing into the entirety of the Central CA coast in the afternoon, building to near 20 kt later Wednesday and near 25 kts on Thursday (8/4) up near Cape Mendo and still 15-20 over all Central CA waters and making a mess of local conditions. North winds 25+ kts on Friday (8/5) focused more up towards Cape Mendocino with an eddy starting to develop on Saturday with improving conditions nearshore.
On Saturday (7/30) a .cgiit jetstream pattern continued over the West Pacific but the two streams merged over the Central Pacific forming a bit of a trough there, then pushed southeast over the far East Pacific tracking over Southern Chile. Winds were very light in the trough, at 95 kts, offering no real support for gale development down at lower levels in the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to push east and out of the picture then reform in the deep Central Pacific on Tues (8/2), but again with the weak wind problem. Beyond 72 hrs that trough is forecast to get better organized and holding it's position Wed (7/3) actually making some northern headway on Thurs-Fri (8/5) with 100 kt winds feeding up into the trough and holding into the early weekend. Limited support for gale development possible down at the oceans surface.
At the surface small swell from 3 previous systems (details below) was in the water heading north towards Hawaii and California. Low pressure was organizing in the deep Central Pacific Saturday AM (7/30) producing 45 kt southwest winds and an infinitesimal sized area of 32 ft seas at 47S 148W. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold in the evening while pushing east resulting in more 36 ft seas at 46S 141W but most fetch was to be aimed east. Sunday (7/31) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds is to redevelop early then fading to 40 kts later in the day. 34 ft seas forecast in the morning at 44S 135W holding at 34 ft in the evening at 44S 130W again aimed mostly to the east. Fetch and seas to fade after that relative to California. Bare minimal background swell possible for the US mainland from 185-196 degrees if all goes as forecast.
Weak Southwest Pacific Gale (#2)
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.
Swell has already hit Hawaii (starting Fri 7/29).
Minimal energy to move into California on Sunday (7/31) at 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 204-211 NCal/206-213 SCal.
Tiny New Zealand Gale (#3)
A tiny gale formed just off the Central New Zealand coast on Mon (7/25) with 45 kt southwest winds tracking northeast. A tiny area of 32 ft seas resulted Mon PM at 41S 176W building to 34 ft Tuesday AM at 38S 169W and holding at 34 ft in the evening at 36S 164W. Renewed fetch tried to build Wed AM (7/27) to 40 kts aimed pretty well to the north resulting in 30 ft seas at 33S 160W and moving out of the Hawaiian swell window. New fetch build south of there lifting northeast in the evening at 40 kts and seas to 29 ft at 35S 151W pushing east of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA (203 degs NCal/205 SCal). The gale was fading Thursday AM with seas from previous fetch at 29-30 ft at 34S 147W. Possible utility class swell to result for Hawaii initially and then California. Of note: Though this system was very small but positioned very far to the north, reducing swell travel distance significantly for both the Islands (3527 nmiles) and US interests (4994 nmiles), and only 1100 nmiles from Tahiti.
Possible modest utility class swell to result for Hawaii on Monday (8/1) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) and then fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) on Tues (8/2). Swell Direction: 193 degrees.
Swell arrival in California expected on Wed PM (8/3) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2 ft) continuing Thurs (8/4) at 1.6-2.0 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft) then fading 24 hours later. Swell Direction: 213 degrees
Broader New Zealand Gale (#4)
Another gale also tracked under New Zealand on Wed AM (7/27) with 35-40 kt west-southwest winds and 32 ft seas at 48S 176E. This gale was already fading by evening with winds still 35-40 kts but shrinking in coverage with seas still 32 ft at 48S 178W (214 degs and unshadowed NCal). Fetch was effectively gone Thurs AM (7/28) with seas fading from 30 ft at 46S 170W (210 degs NCal and shadowed). Another decent pulse of swell is expected to result for Hawaii with far less size for the US West Coast even though it is not be shadowed by Tahiti initially (216-218 degs relative to NCal and SCal respectively) mainly because of the rather extreme travel distance (6134 nmiles NCal).
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Wed AM (8/3) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces) holding through the day. Swell to 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces) on Thurs (8/4). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Expect swell arrival in California at sunset on Friday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) holding Sat (8/6) at 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 212-214 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 continue ridging east slowly with pressure rebuilding to 1028 mbs on Wednesday (8/3) impacting the Central CA coast resulting in a poorly organized fetch of 15-20 kt north winds blowing over nearshore waters from Pt Conception northward, and making a mess of things there. That configuration is to hold and build with the gradient eventually becoming centered up near Cape Mendocino late Fri (8/5) with north winds 25 kts and holding into the weekend resulting in modest northerly windswell pushing down into Central CA. Likewise trades are to be building just east of Hawaii Wed (8/3) at 15 kts pushing 20 kts over open waters by Thursday and holding into the early weekend with the requisite increase in easterly windswell likely there too.
As of Saturday (7/30) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding. The daily SOI was up to 5.91. The 30 day average was up to 7.60 with the 90 day average down some to 3.64. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind anomalies indicate easterly anomalies were over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies over the East Pacific. But most of the easterly anomalies in the West were attributable to inflowing wind pushing into Typhoon Muifa. Weak westerly anomalies were west of Muifa. So it hard to determine what phase on the MJO is occurring just based on winds, but just the presence of Muifa (and several other tropical system before her) suggest the Active Phase is hanging in some weak form in this area.The models indicate that exceedingly weak easterly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to persist in the West through 8/6, suggesting a near neutral phase of the MJO is to remain in control.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/28) 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 remain improved. 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. No change is indicated on 7/26 but on 7/30 there was some suggestion that cold water was again trying to develop south of Hawaii and block warm water flow. It was down at 150 meters and seemed to be gaining areal coverage.
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 co.cgied 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.cgius 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 yet one more pulse of gale energy is forecast, really a reform of the gale currently developing in the Central Pacific. A moderately broad area of 40 kt southwest winds is forecast developing just off the Ross Ice Shelf on Monday (8/1) lifting north into Tuesday and generating 32 ft seas Tues AM (8/2) at 52S 155W. But fetch is to be already on the way down at that time with seas fading in the evening from 30 ft at 50S 153W. A bit of a resurgence of this fetch is forecast Wed (8/3) with 50 kt south winds and 32 ft seas forecast at 55S 141W but fetch quickly turning to the east after that and seas fading. Maybe some more small swell to result focused mainly on CA and points south of there.
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,.cgiease 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 r.cgiaced 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 acco.cgiished 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 acco.cgiished 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