New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 Tuesday (8/24) North and Central California was getting small southern hemi swell in the waist to chest high range with local windswell at exposed west facing breaks at waist high or a little more with calm winds, glassy conditions and warm temperatures. Summer is finally here! Southern California was getting minimal southern hemi swell up north at waist high and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was chest to head high and on the increase and clean, looking classically summer like with no fog. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with a full summer sand berm on the beach. The East Shore was getting knee to thigh high tradewind generated east windswell with moderately chopped conditions. The South Shore had fading southern hemi swell with waves occasionally thigh high and clean early with light trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for new southern hemi swell to be pushing 8-10 ft on Wednesday (8/25) then dropping slightly to 7.5-9.0 ft Thursday before fading more on Friday with up to 6 ft faces. Swell angle to be very southerly at 186 degrees with northwest windswell in the waist high range during the period. swell. Beyond larger north windswell is expected by Friday at 6 ft on the face while southern hemi swell fades from 5.5 ft faces. Only moderate windswell is forecast into early next week in the chest high range. Southern California is to see southern hemi swell peaking out on Wednesday at 8-10 ft early, fading Thursday from 7-8 ft early and 5-6 ft on Friday morning. Saturday brings smaller new southern hemi swell at waist to chest high with north windswell near waist high. Southern hemi swell holds into Sunday from an extreme southerly angle while north windswell drops from knee high. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf for the next 7 days. The East Shore to see short period east windswell at thigh high Wednesday and Thursday pushing near waist high Friday and holding there on into the weekend. The South Shore is to see southwest minimal southern hemi swell on Wednesday at thigh high then dropping to knee high Thursday before going flat and staying there well into next week.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than locally generated short period north windswell for Central CA starting over the coming weekend, heading down some next week (8/30) but not out. There's even to be a weak low pressure system develop off Oregon dropping into North CA late in the weekend producing 20-25 kt northwest winds, but don't hold your breath. Down south swell from the last of three southern hemi gales is radiating north, starting to starting to tickle the CA coast. This system developed in the Southeast Pacific Mon/Tues (8/17) with up to 40 ft seas pushing due north. Significant class Swell #6 from this system is expected into the US West Coast on Tues-Thurs (8/26). Unfortunately the models have not budged one inch from previous projections with virtually no other swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days due to a strong high pressure ridge in control of the entire South Pacific. Get what you can now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (8/24) the North Pacific jetstream was gaining a little energy but still displaced well to the north, tracking northeast from a trough over the Northern Kurils ridging north of the Aleutians into the Bering Sea, then dipping southeast and troughing again over the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska before heading inland over Washington. Winds were up to 120 kts in the west, but far less over the rest of the Pacific. There was minimal support for low pressure development at the oceans surface in the troughs over the West and East Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to persist with a weak trough edging east in the West Pacific with a big ridge driving the jet up into the Bering Sea towards Eastern Alaska the falling back south with more energy building into the trough in the East and actually pushing down just off the the coast of Western Canada and the Pacific with the trough bottoming out over San Francisco on Saturday (8/28). There's some support for low pressure development in this trough. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to hold off San Francisco early Monday slowly moving east and inland with whatever low pressure forms there moving inland with it. A much weaker tough is to hold just west of the dateline making little headway east with no clearly defined bottom to the trough and offering little in terms of support surface level low pressure development.
At the surface on Tuesday (8/24) broad high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked over the Eastern Pacific centered 1300 nmiles north of Hawaii and ridging east almost to Northern California and west to almost Japan. This was generating 20 kt north winds down the the coasts of southern Oregon to almost Central CA coast generating minimal north short period windswell mainly for Central CA while also generating a broad area of easterly trades at 15 kts extending from just east of the Hawaiian Islands to a bit beyond the dateline producing limited short period east windswell along east facing shores of Hawaii, but nothing much different than days previous. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with the high ridging stronger to the east into Cape Mendocino pushing 25 kts on Thursday (8/26) and perhaps near 30 kts early Friday setting up larger windswell for Central CA perhaps pushing down into exposed breaks in Southern CA with the gradient itself starting to fall south and into the Central CA coast on Saturday (8/21) with relatively poor local conditions likely. Trades to remain unchanged over Hawaii holding at 15 kts making for minimal east windswell pushing in east facing shores there.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/24) high pressure was ridging into the coast of North CA generating the usual pressure gradient up there, but north winds were pulled away from the Central coast making for a relatively light northerly flow in the afternoon and near calm down into Southern CA. No change is forecast for Thursday either. Then on Friday (8/27) a new ridge of high pressure is to build in with north winds building to near 30 kts over Cape Mendocino with 20 kt north winds pushing down to Pt Conception, just a bit off the coast. Windswell production likely but also chop and warble expected nearshore over these locations. The gradient is to hold into Saturday then dissipate some on Sunday as low pressure drops down the coast from the Pacific Northwest. Conditions expected to clean up marginally then,and more on Monday into early next week as a new gradient sets up over Cape Mendocino but fetch from it remaining off the Central and Southern CA coasts. If anything, a light eddy flow to build in with light southwest winds the result.
On Tuesday (8/24) the well split jetstream pattern that has taken root over the Southwest Pacific continued unabated with a large divergence in the streams centered southeast of New Zealand. This was driving the southern branch to the south effectively driving in over Antarctica and sending the storm track over land as well, eliminating odds for gale development there. The jet continued gently lifting northeast over the extreme Southeast Pacific of the southern tip of South America, with a weak trough in-place there. But that trough was well east of even the Southern CA swell window offering no odds for swell producing gale development in out forecast area. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with a stronger ridge building in over the west pushing the storm track further over Antarctica and the trough gently lifting a bit southwest of the southern tip of South America offering a little gap at 125W with 130 kt winds flowing up into it and offering limited odds for surface level gale development in in the US swell window. Chile is the most likely target for anything produced here. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to pushing east and out of even the Chile swell window by Sun (8/29) with a flat southward displaced jetstream forecast to cover the entire South Pacific there after till at least Wed (9/1).
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1026 mbs was locked in just southeast of New Zealand with the effects of high pressure in the upper apparent all the way east to 130W (almost on the eastern edge of the CA swell window).No swell producing fetch was present. Off Southern Chile a broad low pressure system was present generating 30-35 kt south winds, but nearly outside even the CA swell window and mostly likely only having positive effects for Chile up into Peru. Even at that, winds were not particularly strong. Over the next 72 hrs high pressure is to dig in even stronger southeast of New Zealand, to 1028 mbs by Friday (8/27) and totally blocking the storm corridor there. Low pressure in the far Southeastern Pacific is to fade, only to regenerate on Friday producing south winds at 45-50 kts late in the day at 62S 113W lifting quickly northeast targeting Chile well with up to 36 ft seas by late Saturday (8/28). There some limited hope for background energy pushing up in to Southern CA with luck. But we expect no swell to reach most locations of the greater North Pacific.
On Monday AM (8/16) a gale produced 40-45 kt south winds at 50S 142W fading to 35-40 kts at 44S 132W on Tuesday AM (8/17) resulting in peak seas of 40 ft at 18Z on Tuesday at 43S 132W fading to 38 ft in the evening at 40S 130W. The good thing about this system is all fetch was aimed due north, directly up the 187 degree path to NCal and the 191 degree path to SCal. There even some potential for sideband swell to directionally spread west into the Hawaiian swell window up the 165-170 degree track. Significant class well is heading north towards the US west coast with this likely being the biggest swell of the summer.
Southern CA: Swell to be holding on Wednesday at 5.2 ft @ 16 secs (8.5 ft faces with sets to 10.5 ft and bigger at top spots). Swell to be settling down on Thursday with swell 4.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft faces) and fading through the day. Swell Direction: 190 degrees.
Northern CA: Swell to be maxing on Wednesday at 5.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (8.5 ft faces with sets to 10.5 ft and bigger at top spots). Swell to be settling down on Thursday with swell 4.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft faces) and fading through the day. Swell Direction: 187 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 high pressure is to hold in the Gulf of Alaska to 1032 mbs while weak low pressure drops from the Gulf down the Pacific Northwest Coast forming a weak pressure gradient with the high off to the west and producing northwest winds at 15-20 kts into early Monday (8/30) resulting in more localized north windswell for North and Central CA and maybe even Oregon too. Still unremarkable. Trades to remain in the 15 kts range over Hawaii through the weekend into early next week (8/30) and covering a bit more area, producing marginally larger though still minimal local short period windswell there.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (8/25) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solidly in the positive range. The daily SOI was holding at 21.73 and has been that way in excess of 36 days. The 30 day average was down a bit to 19.04 with the 90 day average up to 12.66. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was in full control.
Wind anomalies as of Sunday (8/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Inactive Phase was in full effect with anomalous east winds blowing modestly from the Philippines extending east to Central America. This pattern is to continue moderating with easterly anomalies fading over the same region on 8/26 and decaying steadily after that with limited east anomalies covering only the area of Central America by 8/31. By Sept 5th to the 10th a totally neutral pattern is to be in place with no signs of a much needed Active Phase developing. This is clearly a La Nina pattern.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate to moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remained of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is going to be tough for surfers on west facing short off in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though west facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/23) indicates that cooler than normal waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea. It remained downright cold just off Ecuador and then from a point south of Hawaii to just west of the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of much colder than normal water continued building off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect. Good for sea life and the food chain, bad for storm production. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (getting colder). Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, with easterly anomalies now in control of the entire Western Pacific, though normal conditions in the East. But the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing to towards South America to flowing towards the west in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around. And if anything, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through the Summer of 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours there is no indication of any swell producing weather systems forecast for the Southern Hemisphere for the next 7 days with high pressure locked in solid over the West Pacific.
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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Interview with Stormsurf: Coastviews Magazine has written up a very nice article on Stormsurf in their latest edition. You can read it here: http://coastviewsmag.com/master-forecaster-mark-sponsler-and-stormsurf
Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we implemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sample, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
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Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table