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 (8/18) North and Central California was seeing waist to maybe chest high Gulf swell hitting up north with south eddy winds at 5 kts adding a bit of warble to it. Down south in Santa Cruz it was knee high with some waist high sets and clean early. Southern California was knee high up north and clean but warbled early. Down south minimal southern hemi swell was occasionally waist high and clean but a bit warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was flat. The South Shore was getting fading southern hemi background swell with waves at thigh high and clean though a slight cross warble was running through it. The East Shore had thigh high easterly tradewind generated windswell with lightly chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high remained suppressed on Thursday (8/25) but allowed a pair of gales to track east through the extreme Northern Gulf and just shy of the Aleutians on the dateline. the second of these two offers some hope for small northwest swell for the US mainland if it develops as forecast on Friday (details below). With high pressure out of the picture, no local windswell was in play for either Hawaii or the US West Coast. But by later Saturday high pressure is to try and weakly start building and be in full bloom by mid-next week with the expected local windswell in effect mainly for the US West Coast. A pair of tropical systems also is in-play over the far Western Pacific too, but all expected to stay in-place there and having no impact on our forecast area. Down south a gale that was alongside of New Zealand on Tues (8/16) produced only a small pulse of 32 ft seas with bare minimal swell expected starting to build into CA. Another gale built under New Zealand Mon (8/22) producing a short pulse of 32 ft seas but whatever swell results is to get buried by a far bigger one behind. A very strong storm developed Tues-Wed (8/24) with 50 ft seas holding nearly 36 hours tracking from under New Zealand east-northeastward. A very solid long period swell is pushing east-northeast towards Peru with nice sideband energy forecast up into Hawaii and the US West Coast. Something to look forward to.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (8/25) high pressure remained suppressed over the Northern Pacific with a weak pool at 1020 mbs elongated from the dateline to off Central CA and generating no fetch of interest. Trades remained light in Hawaii and north winds were not present along the CA coast. A new low developed in the Northern Gulf on Wed-Thurs (8/25) producing 35-40 kt south winds and 20-22 ft seas, but all targeting Alaska. Maybe some sideband swell to push into Canada. And a second low was forming behind it over the Northern Dateline. Over the next 72 hours this low is to track east and positioned just south of the Eastern Aleutians Thurs-Sat (8/27) producing 30-35 kt west winds and theoretically seas at 20-22 ft early Saturday, good for some small 13 sec period swell tracking towards the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. Maybe something decently rideable with luck. Also high pressure is to start redeveloping off the CA coast on Friday (8/26) generating a shallow flow of north winds at 15-20 kts sweeping down the entire CA coast then becoming more focused on Cape Mendocino Saturday into Sunday still at 20 kts providing some hope for locally generated windswell into Central CA then. Nothing much though.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm 14W Nanmadol was 300 nmiles east of the Philippines on Tues (8/23) with winds 45 kts tracking slowly north. By Thursday (8/25) it had inched close to the northern Philippines with winds up to 90 kts but is expected to start turning to the north while building, reaching 120 kts on Saturday (8/27) then turning slowly northeast and starting to loose strength. By Tuesday (8/30) it is to be 420 nmiles south-southwest of Southern Japan and tracking slowly northeast. Looking at the GFS model there's no indication that it will make significant progress out of the Western Pacific Basin and will instead get caught in the track of another tropical system to it's immediate north.
Tropical Storm 15W Talas developed out of low pressure in the West Pacific late Wednesday and as of Thurs AM (8/25) it was tracking north positioned 900 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan. It is forecast to slow build in strength reaching minimal hurricane force by Saturday and then holding at that strength while plodding north into early next week. The GFS model has it tracking into the southern Kuril Islands later next week and dragging the remnants of Namadol with it. No significant curvature to the northeast is forecast with no swell production likely relative to our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/25) high pressure remained missing off the Northern CA coast with no real winds nearshore or off Cape Mendocino. But by late-Thursday high pressure is to start trying to get a toehold with 15 kt north winds starting to blow over the entire CA coast. Those winds to hold if not build Friday to 20 kts up north after sunset with the core of the fetch starting to lift north, finally setting up off Cape Mendo on Sat (9/27) at 20 kts late with an eddy flow finally taking over most of Central CA down into Southern CA and continuing unchanged on Sunday. More of the same expected on Monday (8/29) but with core winds falling a bit south and the eddy dissappearing. By Tuesday (8/30) pressure off the coast is to be 1030 mbs with north winds off Cape Mendocino rebuilding to 25 kts and the eddy flow gone. Maybe up to 30 kt north winds forecast up north by Wed (8/31) holding into early Thursday but pulling away from the coast some with an eddy flow starting to build from Pt Reyes southward.
On Thursday (8/25) a semi merged jetstream pattern was in play over South Pacific with the southern and northern branches running in close proximity to each other. The southern branch still was running well to the south, just a bit north of the northern edge of Antarctic Ice across the width of the Southwest and Central Pacific with winds not even 100 kts, then diving hard south over the Southeast Pacific. A weak trough was southeast of New Zealand but not of any real interest. Over the next 72 hours that weak trough is to continue tracking east reaching the Southeast Pacific on Saturday and getting a little better defined with winds building to 100 kts and holding through the weekend. This to provide some limited support for gale development in this area. Beyond 72 hours a big ridge is forecast starting to take over the West Pacific (starting Sat 8/27) and sweeping west, reducing odds for gale development. There's suggestions of a trough building under New Zealand a week out with some decent energy associated with it, but that is just an early guess by the models.
At the surface on Thursday AM (8/25) the remnants of Storm #7S (details below) was fading while moving into the Southeast Pacific. Over the next 72 hours additional small areas of 45 kt fetch to build and dissolve in quick secession in this area resulting in a small area of 36 ft seas at 51S 135W late Friday (8/26) but all aimed due east and of no real interest to California. Maybe some swell to result for Chile though. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Strong Storm #7S
A strong storm started developing tracking under New Zealand on Tuesday AM (8/23). Southwest winds were modeled at 55 kts with a core to 65 kts (hurricane force) aimed right up the 210 degree path to California (shadowed by Tahiti) and 30 degrees east of the 197 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were on the increase fast from 32 ft just of the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. WindSat passed over the fetch and reported confirmed winds at 55+ kts. The Jason-1 satellite confirmed seas at 39.9 ft with a peak reading at 41.3 ft where the model suggested 32 ft seas. This is typical in that storms wind up faster than then GFS model typically expects and seas respond accordingly. But the Wavewatch 3 wave model, since it is fed by the GFS model, also takes longer to depict generation of high seas. A large area of 50 kt southwest winds was to be in-place in the evening with a solid core to 55 kts all aimed directly up the 208 degree path to California (and shadowed by Tahiti) and blowing 45 degrees east of the 191 degree great circle path to Hawaii. Seas were building fast to 45 ft at 57S 180W and pushing just north of flat east. WindSAT confirmed winds at 55+ kts with the Jason satellite reporting seas of 39.9 ft with a peak reading to 41.3 ft where the model reported 42 ft seas. The Jason-1 satellite maxes out at about 40 ft. Regardless, it confirmed what the model was suggesting.
By Wednesday AM (8/24) a large area of 50-55 kt southwest winds continued tracking east-northeast aimed right up the 203 degree great circle path to CA and blowing 40 degrees east of the 184 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were modeled building to a magnificent 51 ft at 55S 170W (205/207 degs NCal/SCal) and shadowed by Tahiti and 187 degs relative to HI but alot of fetch passing east of the great circle tracks heading there. WindSAT confirmed winds at 55+ kts with Jason01 reporting seas at 38.8 with a peak to 41.3 where the model was suggesting 39-40 ft seas. The model was right on track. A quick fade was forecast in the evening with a broad area of 45 kt southwest winds forecast blowing 35 degrees east of the 198 degree path to CA and effectively useless to Hawaii. Seas to be peaking at a large 52 ft at 53S 157W pushing up the 200/203 degrees path to NCal/SCal and passing out of the eastern edge of the Tahitian swell shadow. Limited sideband energy pushing up the 179 degree path to Hawaii. But WindSat confirmed winds still at 50-55 kts with Jason-1 reporting seas at 38.8 with a peak to 41.0 ft where the model suggested 40-41 ft seas. Again right on track.
This system was effectively gone by Thursday AM (8/25) but seas from previous fetch were still modeled at 47 ft at 50S 148W pushing up the 196/199 degree path to NCal/SCal and effectively unshadowed by Tahiti. Residual seas fading from 41 ft Thursday PM at 47S 139W pushing up the 191/194 degree paths to NCal/SCal.
The good news about this system is the models have done an incredibly good job of modeling this storm suggesting large if not huge seas resulting. And those winds and seas have been effectively confirmed by satellites. A total of near 36 hrs of seas in the 50 ft range have occurred, very unusual for the Southern Hemi. From a pure storm perspective, this is the strongest storm we've seen in a few years. The bad news is that the bulk of the energy is shadowed by Tahiti relative to California. And of more concern is the fetch itself was traveling far more to the east than the north, meaning only sideband energy is to reach up into Hawaii with no direct fetch pushing up in that direction. Regarding California, at least the fetch itself was pushing almost right up the great circle paths there, but the whole of the fetch was traveling almost perpendicular to the Golden State rather than following a single great circle path to the northeast. This will limit swell size, consistency, and number of waves per set. Most all direct energy is traveling up a singular great circle path towards Peru and Northern Chile. Regardless, because of the sheer size ans strength of the storm, a solid very long period swell seems likely affecting the whole of the Eastern Pacific Basin. Expect initial periods in the 22-23 sec range with rideable size. This will set alot of water moving near any coast, resulting in strong currents and rips. Initial size may not be exceptional, but the power will be obvious once you enter the water. Lesser experienced surfers take note.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (8/29) with tiny little lines building through the day with period 23 sec early falling to 22 secs late and size slowly building. Maybe rideable late with luck to 1.6 ft @ 22 secs (3.5 ft). Solid energy is forecast by Tuesday (8/30) with swell period 18-19 secs through the day, longer periods and smaller size early. Swell to peak late pushing 3.9 ft @ 19 secs late (7 ft faces with sets to 9 ft). Swell to continue near peak size early Wednesday (8/31) with pure swell 3.9 ft @ 17 secs (6.5 ft with sets to 9 ft), then fading slowly through the day. 15 sec residual energy to continue through Thurs (9/1) at 3.3-3.6 ft @ 14-15 sec mid-day (5.0-5.5 ft) with lesser energy into early in the weekend. Swell Direction: Centered on 187 degrees with energy ranging from 179-192 degrees
South California: Expect swell arriving Wed (8/31) with period 23 secs and size tiny but steadily building through the day with rideable sets by early afternoon pushing 2.3 ft @ 22 secs (5.0 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell to be solid on Thursday (9/1) at sunrise with period 19-20 secs and size still on the increase as period falls towards 18 secs. Size starting to peak noon at 3.8 ft @ 19 secs (7 ft with set to 9 ft). Swell to still be solid Friday AM (9/2) with pure swell 3.9 ft @ 18 secs (6.7 ft with sets to 8.5 ft) then fading some late. Solid swell of 3.5 ft @ 16 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7.0 ft) expected through the day Sat (9/3). 14-15 sec residuals on Sunday. Swell Direction: 202 degrees with the range being 194-210 degrees
North California: Expect swell arriving Wed (8/31) with period 23 secs and size tiny but steadily building through the day with rideable sets by sunset at 2 ft @ 22 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to start becoming solid on Thursday (9/1) at sunrise with period 20 secs and size still on the increase as period falls to 19 secs. Size starting to peak late at 3.3 ft @ 19 secs (6.5 ft with set to 8.0 ft). Swell to be solid Friday AM (9/2) with pure swell 3.8 ft @ 18 secs (6.5 ft with sets to 8.5 ft) then fading some late as period drop towards 17 secs. Solid swell of 3.5 ft @ 16 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7.0 ft) expected through the day Sat (9/3). 14-15 sec residuals on Sunday. Swell Direction: 199 degrees with the range being 191-208 degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
On Thursday AM (8/18) a modest gale was circulating in a weak trough over the Southeast Pacific producing a moderate area of south winds at 40-45 kts. Seas were on the increase. By evening 40 kt south winds held and inched just a little more to the east. 28 ft seas were modeled building at 55S 142W. On Friday AM the fetch was all but gone but seas from previous fetch reached to 32 ft at 52S 138W. Seas dissipated quickly thereafter. Another small pulse of 17 sec period swell is radiating north up the 188/190 degree paths to North and South CA respectively. It was 5254 nmiles from SCal on the 192 degree path with swell arriving Sat 9 AM (8/26) with period 17 secs, and 5476 nmiles from NCal on the 189 degree path with 17 secs period swell arriving Sat (8/26) at 6 PM. Size again to be minimal if even noticeable.
New Zealand Primer Gale (Hawaii)
On Saturday (8/27) a small but decently organized gale pushed under New Zealand with 40-45 kt southwest winds building in coverage still at 40 kt in the evening, then fading from 35 kts Sunday AM. 26 ft seas supposedly resulted at 52S 171W Sunday AM (8/28) , but faded before exceeding that height. This system mainly served to rough up the oceans surface acting as a primer for more energy that followed directly behind.
On Sunday evening (8/21) a new small gale organized south of New Zealand with southwest winds to 45 kts over a small area. That fetch pushed hard to the northeast over night with a moderately large area of 40-45 kt southwest winds forecast Monday AM (8/22) with 34 ft seas building at 55S 176E pushing up the 195 degree path to Hawaii. But the fetch faded fast in the evening with only 35 kt southwest winds remaining and seas fading from 30 ft at 50S 176W and pushing up the 186 degree path to Hawaii. This was good for swell pushing into Hawaii at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft faces) late on Sun (8/28) with pure swell to 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft) on Monday all from 191 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 continue building off California generating 20-25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino by Monday (8/29) and producing more limited north local windswell for Central CA. Fetch to push near 30 kts on Wednesday and increasing in areal coverage, likely setting up increased north windswell for Central and even South CA mid-next-week. A slight decrease is expected by Thursday (9/1).
By Saturday (8/27) the high is to be organized enough to start pushing trades over the Hawaiian Islands to 15 kts and slowly increasing in coverage into early next week, perhaps enough to set up the usual minimal easterly short period windswell over East Shores there and holding through late in the work week. But nothing remarkable is suggested.
As of Thursday (8/25) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was still low. The daily SOI was up to 1.34. The 30 day average was down to 2.45 with the 90 day average down to 4.07. These readings are lagging indicators of the Active Phase of the MJO that traversed the Central Pacific the week of 8/13-8/20.
Current wind analysis indicates light to moderate easterly anomalies were in control over the Central and Western equatorial Pacific but fading north of Indonesia. Near normal winds were over the far Eastern Pacific with no anomalies indicated. This suggests that a near neutral pattern was in effect. The models indicate that weak easterly anomalies are to hold over the Central Pacific with neutral winds over the West and East Pacific through at least 9/2 and likely much longer. This suggests a neutral pattern is in-play and will continue for a while, resulting in no effect on storm development (neither helping nor hurting) for the next 3 weeks or so.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/25) 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. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. Warmer than normal waters are not building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii, and if anything are shrinking. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres but are trying to make inroads to the east, a bit more effective in the north and in the south, almost reaching Northern CA. But overall the big picture still looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things have again made another dramatic reversal starting on 8/23. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, 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. 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 8/8 with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii through 8/18 and blocking the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 100 meters and was rising while gaining areal coverage. Then on 8/20 it looked a bit weaker, down to -4 degs below normal and by 8/23 vaporized with just residual -2 degree anomalies left behind. By 8/25 those anomalies were still fading and drifting east. Regardless it is still blocking the normal warm flow to the east. This suggests the recent Active Phase MJO pulse in mid-August might have dislodged the cool pool, at least temporarily. It will likely rebuild with the demise of the Active Phase.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 8/11 we flowing anomalously 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 High pressure is to be taking over the greater South Pacific offering no swell producing fetch. There is some signs that a gale might start developing under New Zealand a week out, but that is not worth betting on.
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, please 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 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
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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/
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