New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Thursday (8/14) Northern CA surf was waist to chest high high and a light to moderate texture on it. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were maybe knee high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was knee high and clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was knee high and glassy early. The LA Area southward to Orange County was waist high and lightly textured early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were waist high maybe rarely chest high and clean early. The North Shore of Oahu was flat. The South Shore was thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was waist to almost chest high.
North/Central California was getting the usual northwest short period windswell. Southern California was getting some bare minimal background southern hemi swell. Hawaii's North Shore was getting no swell for the summer. The South Shore was getting only the bare smallest background southern hemi swell. Limited but rideable east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California actual small swell from the Gulf of Alaska is expected for late Friday into Saturday making for something rideable and a little more. Southern CA might see just a taste of this swell on Saturday at exposed breaks with minimal southern hemi background swell filling in the holes. The South Shore of Hawaii is to remain quite quiet for the time being with only a modest pulse of background swell scheduled Sun/Mon. Tradewind generated east windswell on the East Shore is small and is expected to stay that way until Monday, then come up for a day or so before fading again. Long term the models are offering a little hint of more activity in the Gulf of Alaska mid-next week, though nothing definitive. The Southern Hemi is quiet and expected to stay that way for the next week, though occasional systems of interest do pop up on the models from time to time, only to disappear with the next run of the models. Odds low of anything resulting. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
The North Pacific jetstream has made significant progress as of late with a consolidated flow of 110 kt winds flowing off Kamchatka over the Aleutians dipping into a nice trough in the Central Gulf of Alaska then ridging hard north into Canada. Winds in the trough were also in the 110 kts range offering some support for surface level low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to try and hold on with a new infusion of winds energy expected over the weekend pushing speeds up to the 130 kts range, but the trough is to be much shallower in the Gulf then limiting it's ability to support surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hrs a good flow of consolidated energy to persist flowing just under the Aleutians with shallow trough continuing in the Gulf of Alaska perhaps supporting surface level low pressure development there. Starting mid-next week there's some indications of a weak trough perhaps forming near the dateline, but that is more of a guess by the models than anything.
At the surface today weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was over the dateline with a second high also at 1020 mbs positioned between Washington and Hawaii. A weak area of 20 kt north winds was off Oregon and Cape Mendocino providing limited opportunity for generation of short period windswell down into Central CA, but nothing of any real interest. Swell from a gale in the Gulf was pushing towards the US west coast (see details below). Otherwise no fetch of interest was indicated. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to become consolidated 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii maybe increasing trades there by late Saturday into Sunday with local windswell generation potential coming up some while the gradient off Cape Mendocino fades. A broad area of disorganized low pressure to be building off Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands Sat/Sun streaming towards the Gulf of Alaska forming a nondescript area of 25-30 kt southwest winds while it interacts with the high north of Hawaii. This is likely not good enough to generate any swell aimed towards our forecast area. Still, it's activity, and all of it is good at this time of year.
First Gulf Gale
On Monday PM (8/11) a 988 mb low formed in the Western Gulf of Alaska generating 40 kt northwest winds confirmed at 48N 165W targeting the US west coast and a little bit towards Hawaii. By Tuesday AM (8/12) winds were already settling down from 35-40 kts with up to 23 ft seas modeled at 47N 162W. By evening the low regrouped generating 35 kt west winds in the Central Gulf and sea continued at 23 ft at 45N 156W. By Wednesday morning (8/13) a small area of 30 kts winds remain aimed more towards Northern Canada with 21 ft seas hanging on at 47N 148W pushing towards the Pacific Northwest. No Jason-1 data was available due to an outage with the satellite (which has since been resolved). Limited small barely what one could consider swell is expected to result for the US west coast.
Swell from this system hit buoy 46059 starting at 6 PM Thursday with pure swell 4.7 ft @ 15 secs one hr later.
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 8 AM Friday (8/15) at 4 ft @ 15-16 secs (6 ft faces) building with period to 14 secs near 5 PM and peaking near 9-11 PM with swell 5.0-5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces) from 298-303 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/14) high pressure at 1022 mbs was centered 750 nmiles west of Pt Conception forming a mild gradient over Cape Mendocino waters generating 20-25 kt north winds there and limited north short period windswell. But winds were less than 15 kts nearshore from Pt Arena southward down into Southern CA. No change forecast through Saturday and then even the weak gradient is to fade out leaving light northerly winds over nearshore coastal waters Sunday. No chop forecast, just texture. Monday high pressure is to try and ridge into the coast generating 15 kt northerly winds everywhere other than the protected waters of Southern CA though a rather impressive display of low pressure and 30-35 kt north winds are forecast for the Gulf of Alaska. The high is to get the upper hand locally Tuesday (8/19) with 20 kt north winds and chop holding nearshore and continuing into Wednesday, then starting to fade Thursday.
On Thursday AM (8/14) tropical storm Iselle was 300 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas tracking west northwest at 7 kts with sustained winds 45 kts. No strengthening forecast with the track holding, then dying out early next week. No swell generation potential forecast.
Also tropical depression Kika was 300 nmiles south of Johnson tracking west at 14 kts with winds 25 kts and fading. No swell generation potential forecast.
On Thursday (8/14) a severely split jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific. The southern branch was flowing entirely over either the Ross Ice Shelf or over land in Antarctica. The only area of hope was a small trough just off the southern tip of South America, essentially outside the US swell window. No support for low pressure, gale or storm development. Over the next 72 hours no real change forecast with the ridge remaining in control though losing a little of it's intensity with the main flow now just over the Ross Ice Shelf but still locked down over ice. Beyond 72 hrs the flow to inch a few degrees further north, but loose all energy, and offering no support for gale development.
At the oceans surface virtually no swell producing winds of interest were occurring. High pressure at 1024 mbs was right in the middle of the storm corridor in the Southwest Pacific pushing south to 70S (over Antarctic Ice) and shutting things down there with no activity occurring in regions further west. Over the next 72 no swell producing fetch is forecast over the South Pacific relative to either Hawaii or California. The high pressure system is to move out, but no low pressure of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to hold at 1024 mbs 600 nmiles north of Hawaii while low pressure continues streaming over in into the Gulf of Alaska forming a mild gradient there with 25 kt west winds taking aim well at the PAcific Northwest into Northern CA late Monday through Wednesday (8/20) generating 15 ft seas with a small fetch to in the Gulf to 30 kts producing 23 ft seas early Tuesday near 51N 148W. Maybe some more small northwest swell to result for the PAcific Northwest down into North CA. After that a bit of a breakdown in the pattern forecast as we await more low pressure to build off Asia (though none is explicitly suggested forming).
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Thursday (8/14) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remained meandering in the neutral zone. The SOI index was at 4.13, holding generally where it has since late July. The 30 day average was 1.66 and the 90 day average was -0.78, neutral. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated the building of the Inactive phase of the MJO over Asia while a small weak area of westerly winds were moving over Central America - the totality or the Active Phase of the MJO for this go around, which is the same as none at all. We remain in neutral territory. This is not conducive to fueling an El Nino winter pattern.
Beyond 72 hrs no swell producing fetch is forecast. A cutoff low is forecast building east of New Zealand Mon (8/18) possibly producing some fleeting fetch at 40 kts aimed towards Hawaii and Tahiti, but odds remain low of that occurring. Nothing else is in the forecast.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table