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 jumbled northwest windswell up north with onshore southwest winds chopping it up. Down south modest southern hemi swell was showing with waves at waist high and clean. Southern California was getting occasional waist high lined up north windswell sets up north and clean. Down south small southern hemi swell was still producing waves in the waist high range and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The South Shore was still getting southern hemi swell with waves chest to shoulder high and some bigger sets at top spots and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist to maybe chest high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high is to continue weakly ridging into the North and Central CA coast producing bare minimal northwest local windswell through the weekend into early next week. It is not doing much to generate easterly trades over Hawaii's Eastern Shores, but that situation is expected to improve somewhat by Tues (8/16). But of far more interest is a possible breakdown of the North Pacific mid-next week with the jetstream and associated surface level disturbances starting to push into the Gulf of Alaska. This is occurring right on schedule, with the normally transition starting about 8/15. Down south more minimal southern hemi swell is expected through the weekend from an area of low pressure that formed in the Central Pacific Tues-Fri (8/5) producing 26-30 ft seas. Another weak system formed under New Zealand Monday (8/8) tracking northeast with seas barely 30 ft offering possible utility class swell for Hawaii early next week (8/15) and far less for the US mainland. And some sideband swell from a storm off Chile Mon-Tues (8/9) is expected to push into CA on Tues (816) showing first at the south end of the state. And the models continue to tease regarding a semi-real storm projected just east of New Zealand Sun-Tues (8/16). Maybe the worst of summer is almost over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (8/11) weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was recentered in the Northern Gulf of Alaska barely ridging southeast generating a small pressure gradient along the North CA coast with north winds there to 20 kts, resulting in weak short period north windswell at exposed breaks in Central CA. The high, due to it's north position was not doing much to generate easterly trades over Hawaii with only a small area at 15 kts resulting in small short period east-northeast windswell there. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to fall a bit more southeast and continuing to ridge into North CA forming a slightly better defined pressure gradient on through the weekend resulting in north winds at 20 kts but centered further south, more towards Central CA generating a little more rawer local short period windswell. Trades to remain below average over the Hawaiian Islands through the weekend barely making the 15 kt mark with little windswell at best along eastern shores. Low pressure trying to migrate from the West Pacific is to impact the backside of the Northeast Pacific High on Sat-Sun (8/14) just east of the dateline, briefly generating 35 kt south winds all aimed towards the Aleutians, then itself tracking hard north. No swell to result, but it is to be the first suggestion of Fall-like activity. The traditional window for such activity is 8/15, so we're unbelievably on-track.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (8/11) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/11) high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered up in the Norther Gulf of Alaska ridging southeast generating north winds at 20 kts over the North CA coast and also reaching into Central CA nearshore waters. Weak northerly windswell was being generated. This is to hold if not expand it coverage Friday impacting the whole of the Central CA coast with 15-20 kts north winds and chop, continuing Saturday, then falling further south by Sunday (8/14) with a local low pressure system theoretically forecast moving up to the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast Pacific High in full retreat. The core of the gradient is to remain displaced near Pt Conception through Tuesday (though north winds to continue for all of Central CA), then the gradient is to start lifting north. But more low pressure is to be queued up moving towards the Gulf of Alaska.
On Thursday (8/11) a split jetstream pattern continued over South Pacific with the southern branch running flat and parallel to the northern branch over the West and Central Pacific, then riding south into Antarctica in the far Southeast Pacific. There was no support for low pressure development indicated. Over the next 72 hours an improving pattern is forecast under New Zealand with a big blast of south winds pushing north up alongside of New Zealand on Saturday (8/13) at 130-140 kts with a second blast at 140 kts on Mon (8/15) and pushing the apex of the trough well to the north, up to 40S. This suggests an improved environment for gale development if it occurs. But there is also some suggestion the trough might cut off given it' steep rise north. Something to monitor. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to slowly track east while a large ridge builds over the Tasman Sea pushing southeast into the West Pacific. A major shutdown of gale development potential is likely.
At the surface high pressure at 1028 mbs was in control of the upper reaches of the Southeast Pacific and suppressing gale development there. A small but decent gale was trying to develop under New Zealand pushing flat east and offering no swell potential radiating to the north. Over the next 72 hours that gale is to continue heading off due east and a good rate of speed with winds up to 45 kts, but again offering no energy radiating off to the north.
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.
A broad gale developed off Southern Chile starting Sun (8/7) producing 32 ft seas at 40S 115W building to 42 ft in the evening at 40S 105W and holding into Monday evening. This offered great raw swell potential for Chile up into Peru, but was well east of any great circle route to the California coast. Just the same the there is some suggestion that some degree of sideband swell from this system is to somehow push up the great circle paths to California.
Southern CA: Expect swell arriving on sunset Mon (8/15) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (t2.5 ft) building to near 3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft) late Tuesday (8/16) and holding at 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) Wed (8/17). Swell Direction 176 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arriving on sunset Tues (8/16) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) building to near 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) late Wednesday (8/17) and holding at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) on Thurs (8/18). Swell Direction 174 degrees
New Zealand Fetch
A new gale organized in an upper level trough positioned under New Zealand late Sunday (8/7). Southwest winds were modeled at 40 kts with seas on the increase, reaching 30 ft on Monday AM (8/8) at 51S 172E. But then winds were down to 35 kts and fading from there. Seas dropped to 28 ft in the evening at 50S 177E moving to 48S 170W Tues AM then dissipating from there.
Decent odds for some utility class swell to result for swell for Hawaii from 194 degrees starting Mon (8/15) with swell 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft faces) fading from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) on Tues (8/16). Background energy for California by Wed noon (8/17) from 210 degrees but shadowed by Tahiti and buried in theoretical Chilean swell.
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 North Pacific jetstream is to take a dive to the south and start flattening out tracking well to the east by late Wed (8/17) on the 45N latitude with winds at 120-130 kts. No real troughs forecast but this certainly is an unexpected turn in the models. A series of 2 small lows are to start following the stream each producing 25 kt west winds, one north of Hawaii and another just west of the dateline by Thurs (8/18). No real swell generation potential suggested, and it is doubtful it will materialize, but something to monitor. Otherwise north winds at 15 kts to continue in the North CA pressure gradient as the Northeast Pacific High gets shunted southeast by the low pressure systems (above). Trades to start building in coverage over Hawaii too by Wed (8/17) at 15= kts, offering better odds for windswell there along Eastern Shores.
As of Thursday (8/11) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued slowly rising. The daily SOI was up to 15.11. The 30 day average was down to 8.81 with the 90 day average up some to 5.48. This continues to look like a neutral if not slightly La Nina biased long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicate extremely light easterly anomalies were in control over the Central equatorial Pacific pushing up the to the dateline then going slack there and turning to easterly anomalies west of there. This remains not substantially 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 and maybe easing east a little. But it also indicates that this area was weakening. The models indicate that exceedingly weak westerly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to drift east, perhaps reaching east of the dateline by 8/17 but with easterly anomalies building strong over the far West Pacific at the same time. This suggests the Active Phase, weak as it is, is to be moving towards the Central Pacific and fading with a strong Inactive Phase building in the West Pacific. This would indicate the area conducive to formation of moderate tropical systems moving east to the Central Pacific in sync with the MJO.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/11) remains essentially 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 if not increasing their coverage slightly. 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. And those cooler waters off the US West Coast were getting cooler still. Warmer than normal waters appeared to not be building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii. 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. A cold tongue of water previously developing in the tropical Atlantic tracking west from Africa on the equator was fading. For now the big picture still looks like a La Nina.
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, down to -4 degs C below normal on 8/4 and down to -5 degs C below normal on 8/8 and nearly -6 deg on 8/11 holding position 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. This suggests the forecasted 2 year La Nina is growing roots.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 8/11 we flowing anomoulously west in the far West Pacific with a small pocket of strong easterly flow at 120W. Previously we 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 imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest a new broad gale is to start developing south of New Zealand on Sat PM (8/13) with south to almost southeast winds building to 45 kts aimed due north. 45-50 kt south fetch is to continue Sunday AM (8/14) resulting in a building area of 32 ft seas at 53S 175E. More 45 kt south fetch is to building in the evening with seas building to 36 ft at 50S 175E targeting New Zealand with a direct shot of large wave energy and also pushing well up the great circle paths to Hawaii. 50-55 kt southerly fetch to continue on Mon (8/15) resulting in a tiny area of near 40 ft seas at 46S 176E targeting Hawaii directly. In the evening fetch is to start fading from 45 kts with seas rebuilding further south at near 40 ft over an infinitesimal area at 49S 178W again aimed due north towards Hawaii. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts Tuesday AM (8/16) with 36 ft seas at 43S 178W. A quick fade forecast thereafter. This remains something to monitor (nothing over the top except for New Zealand), but no wind is yet blowing on the oceans surface.
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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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