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 (8/4) North and Central California was seeing waist high northwest windchop up north with onshore winds and fog in control. Generally miserable. Down south some southern hemi swell was providing waves in the waist high range and relatively clean early. Southern California was getting thigh high northwest windswell up north and clean early. Down south a mixed of southern hemi and hurricane swell was producing waves at chest high with some bigger sets and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had head high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had a rare knee to thigh high set and glassy early with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high is to continue to ridge east into the Central CA coast producing some minimal northwest local windswell. It is also expected to continue generating easterly trades and tradewind windswell pushing into Hawaii's Eastern Shores, biggest on Sunday and slowly fading through the work week. Swell from Typhoon Muifa is to start hitting the US west coast on Tuesday, but will be so decayed and well spaced out upon arrival it might not even be noticeable. Down south one more small gale formed in the deep Central Pacific tracking east Sat-Sun (7/31) with 32-36 ft seas but very tiny in areal coverage. Small barely rideable swell possible for CA through the early workweek. Beyond one more tropical system formed in the West Pacific but nothing is expected from it relative to the US. And no southern hemi gale activity of interest is forecast. Things are quickly turning towards a 'windswell only' scenario.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Sunday (8/7) modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 1300 nmiles west of San Francisco CA ridging east some generating a weak pressure gradient along the Central and North CA coasts with north winds there at 15 kts, resulting in weak short period north windswell at exposed breaks. The high was also driving easterly tradewinds over Hawaii at 15-20 kts with resulting in modest short period east-northeast windswell there. Pretty quiet. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to ridge a bit more to the north and east forming a slightly better defined pressure gradient focused over Cape Mendocino CA on Monday (8/8) resulting in north winds there at 20 kts building to 25 kts on Tuesday generating somewhat bigger raw local short period windswell into midweek. Trades to slowly back off over the Hawaiian Islands, strongest on Monday (8/8) at 15 kts then fading and having less coverage towards mid-week with the result being a downward windswell trend along eastern shores.
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 PM (7/30) winds were 140 kts (Category 5 strength) and seas 45-46 ft through Sunday AM. It was tracking northeast at 4-8 kts during this window, or 5292-5407 nmiles from Northern CA pushing some swell up the 291-292 degree tracks towards that destination.
Tiny swell is possible arriving in NCal by late Sun (8/7) with period at 19 secs and peaking late Mon (8/8) into Tuesday at maybe 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft).
On Thursday (8/4) Tropical Storm Merbok developed 650 nmiles west-northwest of Wake Island heading west-northwest with sustained winds at 35 kts. Gradual intensification occurred while this system made a steady turn to the north Saturday (8/6) with winds just under minimal hurricane force, then turning north-northeast on Sunday (8/7) with winds to 70 kts for maybe 6 hours, before starting to fade and accelerate to the north-northeast. At this time there is no potential for swell to be generated relative to the US West coast. Will to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/6) high pressure at 1030 mbs was centered 1300 nmiles west of Central CA and was ridging east generating north winds at 15 kts over the North and Central CA coast and impacting nearshroe waters. Minimal northerly windswell was being generated. The gradient is to build some on Monday with winds to 20 kts and build Tuesday (up to 25 kts near Cape Mendo) but still impacting the entire Central CA coast, making chop and short period windswell for Central CA. Wednesday the gradient is to reorganize over Cape Mendocino (north winds 25 kts) with nearshore winds fading along the bulk of the Central CA coast, and then even the gradient is to start fading in coverage on Thursday (though still producing 20 kt north winds and limited windswell). Nearshore winds for Central CA to remain light. Southern CA to remain in a near eddy flow the entire time, unaffected by the pressure situation north of it. By Saturday (8/13) the gradient is to again fall a bit south and impact the whole of the Central CA coast with 15 kts north winds and chop, then retreating entirely by Sunday (8/14) with local low pressure theoretically forecast off the Central CA coast and the Northeast Pacific High in full retreat.
On Sunday (8/7) a same .cgiit jetstream pattern continued over South Pacific with the southern branch (the one that supports gale development) weak and ill formed. There was a bit of a trough trying to develop in it under New Zealand on Sunday with 120 kts winds feeding up into it holding out a little hope. But elsewhere in the South Pacific the southern branch was weak and useless. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to push slowly east and steady loose energy, with winds down to 90 kts on Tuesday and holding there. A weak ridge is to be in control of the Southeastern Pacific pushing into Antarctica and eliminating hope for gale development there. Beyond 72 hrs more of the same is forecast with a weak trough easing east from under New Zealand into next weekend (8/14) with it's apex falling steadily to the south and barely clearing the northern most extent of the Ross Ice Shelf. It is to build all the way east to the Southeast Pacific but so weak and so far to the south that it is effectively useless.
At the surface small barely perceptible swell from 2 previous weather systems (details below) was in the water heading north towards California. Nothing of any interest. Currently a new gale was trying to organize in an upper level trough positioned under New Zealand. Southwest winds were modeled at 40 kts with seas on the increase, forecast to reach 30 on Monday AM (8/8) at 51S 172E. But by then winds to be down to 35 kts and fading from there. Seas dropping to 28 ft in the evening at 50S 180W and dissipating from there. Decent odds for some utility class swell to result for swell for Hawaii from 201 degrees with background energy from California from 216 degrees and unshadowed by Tahiti. Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems are forecast other than a strong system forecast off Central Chile Mon-Wed (8/10) with 45 kt southwest winds and 36-42 ft seas and holding stationary near 44S 105W. Nice swell possible for Chile but well east of any great circle route into the California swell window.
Central Pacific Gale (#5)
Low pressure organized 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. Winds held in the evening while pushing east resulting in 38 ft seas at 46S 140W but most fetch was aimed east. Sunday (7/31) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds redeveloped early then fading to 40 kts later in the day. 34 ft seas were modeled Sun AM at 44S 134W holding at 34 ft in the evening at 44S 130W again aimed mostly to the east. Fetch and seas faded after that relative to California. Bare minimal background swell possible for the US mainland from 185-196 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (8/7) at sunrise with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs building to 2 ft @ 16 secs late in the day (3 ft faces). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) on Monday (8/8). Swell Direction: 196 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (8/7) at sunset with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs building to 2 ft @ 16 secs Monday AM (8/8) (3 ft faces). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) by Monday PM. Swell Direction: 192 degrees
Central Pacific Fetch
Low pressure circulated in the deep Central Pacific Tuesday-Fri (8/5) produced 30-35 kt southwest winds and a tiny area of 28-30 seas at 53S 160W Tues AM (8/2). But that quickly faded below the critical 30 ft threshold in 6 hours. No real swell to result for anywhere by Tahiti. But just for laughs the calculation suggest whatever swell was generated could arrive in CA on Thurs (8/11) near noon with period 17 secs from 201 degrees. Then on Thursday AM (8/4) it regrouped with winds again rebuilding to 45 kts and aimed due north, then faded to 40 kts by the evening. Seas again briefly hit the 30 ft mark Thurs PM at 55S 150W. Maybe another pulse of 17 secs swell could radiate north up towards California arriving Sat (8/13) from 196 degrees with period 17 secs. But size to be insignificant.
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 relative to California through late in the workweek into the early part of the weekend (Sat 8/13) with pressure 1028 mbs resulting in north winds manifest over Cape Mendocino at 20 kts (Thurs-Sat) offering hope for rideable northerly windswell pushing down in the Central CA. But by Sunday (8/14) it is to start fading with windswell heading down with it. Likewise trades are to be heading down over Hawaii and from a windswell generation perspective, are to be of no interest by later Wed (8/10) with their areal coverage and velocity (15 kts) not conducive to windswell development along east facing shores.
As of Sunday (8/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was falling some. The daily SOI was down to -7.83. The 30 day average was down to 7.95 with the 90 day average down some to 4.06. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicate modest easterly anomalies were in control over the Central equatorial Pacific pushing up the to the dateline then going slack west of there. Light westerly anomalies were over the East and West Pacific. This is no different than it has been for the past week and suggests a weak version of the Active Phase was stationary over the extreme Western Pacific/Eastern Indian Ocean near New Guinea helping to form a preponderance of tropical systems there. The models indicate that exceedingly weak westerly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to persist in this region and drifting east, perhaps reaching east of the dateline by Fri (8/12). But in all the MJO has been literally non-existent for the past few weeks. This would indicate continued formation of moderate tropical systems in the West Pacific, but none recurving significantly back to the northeast.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/4) 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 continue to look bad. 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 present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. But then as quickly as it redeveloped, it died with the cold pool re-emerging starting on 7/30 and built far stronger by 8/2 with waters -3 deg C below normal and down to -4 degs C below normal on 8/4 and holding positioned on the equator and south of Hawaii and blocking the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 125 meters and was rising while 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 a bit above normal in the Central Pacific but less than normal if not slightly anomalously westward in the East and 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 imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast with a zonal flow (flat west to east) in control. If you think it's flat now, you ain't seen nothing yet.
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".
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 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/
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