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 Thursday (8/26) North and Central California was getting southern hemi swell in the shoulder to maybe head high range, a far cry from what was expected. And on Wednesday, when the swell was to be peaking, there were maybe 3 ft overhead waves at top spots, and not reaching near the double overhead range forecast. Jason-1 data had indicated the storm did not produce quite the significant wave heights the models had projected, but even that does not account for the disparity in the the size of the swell that actually arrived. Also on Thursday northwest windswell was waist to chest high. Southern California was getting tiny bits of southern hemi swell up north with mostly windswell hitting at thigh to waist high and clean with fog in control. Down south southern hemi swell was in control in the head high or so range with top spots doing a bit more, but northwest winds on it, or a least bump from the wind) making conditions less than ideal. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with a full summer build up of sand on the beach. The East Shore was getting thigh high tradewind generated east windswell with moderately chopped conditions. The South Shore still had a few small southern hemi sets coming through with waves thigh to maybe waist high and a bit warbled with modest trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for larger north windswell is expected by Friday at 5 ft on the face while southern hemi swell fades from 4.0 ft faces. Saturday north windswell continues at 5 ft on the face with very south angled southern hemi swell arriving at 3 ft on the face. Sunday more of the same is forecast with southern hemi swell 3 ft with windswell about 4.5 ft. Monday only the windswell remains at 5 ft dropping to 4 ft on Tuesday. Southern California is to see southern hemi swell fading from 5 ft on Friday morning with building small northwest windswell on top. Saturday brings smaller new southern hemi swell at waist 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 at best. Monday it's all north windswell at thigh high at top breaks fading from knee high on Tuesday. 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 pushing near waist high Friday and holding there into the weekend, maybe growing to near chest high on Sunday, then back to waist high Monday into Tuesday. The South Shore is to see virtually no southern hemi swell for the next 7 days.
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than building locally generated short period north windswell for Central CA over the weekend, then heading down into early next week (8/30), only to return later in the workweek. Down south the models continue to indicate no swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days with a strong high pressure ridge in control of the entire South Pacific. Fall can't come soon enough.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (8/26) the North Pacific jetstream had 120 kt winds tracking northeast out of a weak trough in the far West Pacific pushing north of the Aleutians and weakening, then fading south down along the coast of British Columbia before turning inland over Washington. No support for gale development indicated with the bulk of the jet displaced well to the north. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to persist with a weak trough edging east in the West Pacific feeding into a strong ridge driving the jet up into the Bering Sea towards Eastern Alaska before falling south into a trough over the extreme East Pacific and actually pushing down over the US West Coast to San Francisco by late Saturday (8/28). There's limited support for low pressure development in this trough, but all of that is to be over land (Pacific Northwest). Beyond 72 hours the troughs in both the west and east are to ease, with the jet sinking generally more to the south and tracking more or less flat on the 48N latitude by Tues (8/31). That position is good, but wind speeds are to be down to 85 kts, offering no support for gale development.
At the surface on Thursday (8/26) high pressure at 1032 mbs continued to be locked over the Eastern Pacific centered 1100 nmiles north of Hawaii and ridging slightly east almost to Northern California and west to the dateline. It was generating 15-20 kt north winds over outer waters of Northern CA producing minimal north short period windswell mainly for Central CA while also generating a moderate area of easterly trades at 15 kts pushing over the Hawaiian Islands while producing limited short period east windswell along east facing shores there. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure ridge is to build somewhat stronger to the east into Cape Mendocino generating up to 25-30 kt north winds there early Friday (8/27) setting up larger windswell for Central CA perhaps pushing down into exposed breaks in Southern CA, but with with the gradient starting to fall south into the Central CA coast on Saturday (8/21) and decaying with winds down to 20 kts producing less windswell and generally poor local conditions. The gradient is to reorganize over Cape Mendocino on Sunday (8/22) with 25 kt north winds again, also pushing a little more windswell south and holding into early Monday. Trades to remain unchanged over Hawaii holding at 15 to almost 20 kts through the weekend making for modest east windswell pushing in east facing shores there.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
As on Thursday (8/26) the center of Hurricane Frank was positioned 300 nmiles south of the souther tip of Baja CA just barely in the swell window for Pt Dume and points west of there. It was 1000 nmiles from Pt Dume. Winds were 80 kts and Frank barely had a eye. Projections show Frank drifting northwest at 9 kts and slowly loosing strength, below hurricane strength by late Friday evening (8/27). If any swell were to result for Southern CA, it would arrive in 72 hrs, or mid-day Sunday (8/29) with period at 12 secs.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/26) high pressure was ridging into the coast of North CA generating the usual pressure gradient up there and was building a bit south into the SF bay Area, but not as strong down into the Big Sur area. regardless, by Friday (8/27) a new ridge of high pressure is to build in with north winds building to near 30 kts over Cape Mendocino and 20 kt north winds pushing nearshore down to Pt Conception. Windswell production likely but also chop and warble expected nearshore over these locations. The gradient is to hold into Saturday then possibly relent just a nudge early Sunday as low pressure drops down the coast from the Pacific Northwest. Conditions might marginally clean up some then, but quickly deteriorate later Sunday and more into Monday as a new gradient sets up over Cape Mendocino and pushing nearshore down to Pt Conception making a mess of things then. But by Tuesday (8/31) the gradient is to pull away from the coast (though remaining solid over Cape Mendocino) with a light eddy flow building in and light southwest winds taking over through the end of the workweek. Southern CA is to remain generally protected, though the weekend has pretty good odds of warble and more bump that usual with north winds pushing well over the Channel Islands.
On Thursday (8/26) the jetstream remained in a heavily split pattern with the worse of it over the Southwest Pacific. The southern branch was displaced well to the south over mainland Antarctica sending the storm track over land as well, eliminating odds for gale development there. The jet gently lifted northeast over the extreme Southeast Pacific of the southern tip of South America, with a weak trough in-place there, but well east of the Southern CA swell window and offering no odds for swell producing gale development in out forecast area. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the ridge in the west slowly giving up some ground. The jet is to be tracking flat over the 65S latitude by Sunday (8/29) but weak and of no interest. Beyond 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with the core of the ridge slowly moving east, but not fast enough to be of any real interest yet. The southern branch is to remain locked south at 65S, totally over the Ross Ice Shelf and building steadily to the east locking down even the Southeast Pacific now. The good news is maybe as this strong ridge builds to the east, it will relent in the west. But that is pure speculation at this early date.
At the oceans surface high pressure at 1024 mbs was locked just southeast of New Zealand with the effects of high pressure continuing to be very evident over the vast majority of the South Pacific. No swell producing fetch of any kind was in evidence. Over the next 72 hrs high pressure is to build even stronger southeast of New Zealand, to 1028 mbs by Friday/Saturday (8/28) and totally choking off the storm corridor there. No swell producing fetch is forecast aimed towards the greater North Pacific.
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 surge east again in the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday (8/31) producing the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with north winds at 30 kts, then gradually fading into Thursday with the commensurate modest northwest windswell expected to result for Central CA. Trades to remain in the 15 kt range over Hawaii into Monday (8/30) producing modest east windswell there, then starting to fade as the high looks to be pushing inland over the US West Coast later in the week. Perhaps a change of seasons is preparing to set up?
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (8/26) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued rock solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was holding at 26.34 and has been that way in excess of 38 days. The 30 day average was down a bit to 18.27 with the 90 day average holding at 12.47. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was in full control.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (8/23) (sorry - no update from BOM yet) 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 (8/26) 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. the coldest waters extended 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 cooler 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 another high pressure system is to build in southeast of New Zealand at 1024 mbs by Wed (9/1) continuing the lock down of the South Pacific. There is no indication of any swell producing weather systems forecast for the Southern Hemisphere for the next 7 days.
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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Stormsurf Weather Models have all been upgraded! Over the New Years break we installed all new and upgraded weather models. Also new are experimental snow models for the Southwest US. Take a look here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
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Ride On! Powerlines new big wave epic is now available on DVD. Get the entire big wave story of the 2008-2009 season here: http://www.mavz.com/
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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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Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table