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 Sunday (9/11) in North and Central CA small northwest swell from the Gulf of Alaska was still moving in at waist to chest high and clean at select breaks. Down south Gulf swell was trying to wrap in making waves about knee high or so and clean but pretty gutless. Southern California had limited energy from the Gulf of Alaska up north at knee high and glassy. Down south that same swell was waist high with some bigger sets and textured mid-afternoon. Hawaii's North Shore still had some Gulf swell with waves pushing chest high and pretty clean at select breaks. The South Shore was still getting solid swell from New Zealand with waves pushing 2-3 ft overhead on the bigger sets though most were in the head high range and clean. The East Shore was doing OK with waves waist to maybe chest high from easterly tradewind generated windswell but with chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Another modest gale wa wrapping up in the Gulf on Sunday (9/11) setting up small swell for mid-to late week in Central California. After that high pressure is to try and make a comeback in the East Pacific with the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino scheduled for Friday and Saturday (9/17) resulting in small north short period windswell resulting for Central CA, then fading as another patch of low pressure tries to pulse into the Northern Dateline region on east to the Gulf of Alaska. No defined swell depicted in the models yet, but there is some hope. Also trades to build a little pushing over Hawaii Thurs-Sat (9/17) perhaps generating minimal easterly short period windswell there over east facing shores. Down south a modest gale developed east of New Zealand on Sat (9/3) with 32 ft seas aimed pretty well to the north for 24 hours. Larger than expected swell hit Hawaii Fri-Sat (9/10) and some of that energy is to translate into California for Mon-Tues (9/13). And a weak system is forming on the eastern edge of the California swell window on Sun (9/11) with 36 ft seas expected on Monday, but most of it's energy is to be aimed all east. Likely some energy to radiate north, but after that it looks like the southern hemi is to totally shut down. Just waiting for Fall to start in earnest now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Sunday (9/11) a new gale was building in the Gulf of Alaska (details below). Otherwise high pressure was nowhere to be found with no winds in excess of 15 kts indicated. Over the next 72 hours after the above gale and some follow-on low pressure track through the Gulf of Alaska high pressure is to again make a showing northeast of Hawaii riding into the Central CA coast setting up a building fetch of north winds to 20 kts over Cape Mendocino pushing down into Central CA waters likely starting to generate north short period windswell in that area but pretty tattered conditions with the fetch pretty much impacting the coast there. The high is to also start generating trades at 15 kts pushing over the Hawaiian Islands and short period windswell starting to take hold. But nothing remarkable for either the mainland or the Islands.
On Saturday (9/10) a new gale started building 1300 nmiles west of Oregon with pressure 992 mbs and winds building on Sunday mid-day (9/11) to near 40 kts in it's southwest quadrant aimed well at Central CA 1400 nmiles out on the 297 degree great circle path, then fading from 35 kts and lifting slowly north in the evening.18-20 ft seas forecast at 45N 148W Sunday PM aimed all to the east and holding into Monday AM (at 45N 145W). A quick fade is forecast thereafter. Possible small swell to be radiating east towards Oregon down into Central CA arriving at the latter late Wednesday with swell peaking at 4.1 @ 11 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 297 degrees. Pretty inconsequential but something to ride, assuming local conditions permit (doubtful).
Varying degrees of weak follow-on westerly fetch is forecast for the same area Tues-Wed (9/14) with 13 ft seas resulting, offering more limited 9 sec period windswell for Central CA northward into the early weekend.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/11) a neutral pressure pattern was in effect with light south winds in control of Central CA coastal waters. No change is forecast until later Tuesday (9/13) when high pressure is to start building off the CA coast and north winds start to build to 15 kts late affecting all of North and Central CA. That fetch is to build to 20 kts on Wed and still impacting nearshore coastal waters, then starting to pull away from the coast with the fetch becoming more focused on Cape Mendocino late Thursday (9/15). An eddy flow is forecast by Fri (9/16) from Pt Reyes southward continuing through the weekend.
On Sunday (9/11) a ridge was in control of the jetstream pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf under New Zealand on into the Central Pacific then slowly rising while pushing through the East Pacific. Something that almost resembled a trough was trying to build in the East Pacific with 130 kt southwest winds building there. Over the next 72 hours the models suggest that trough is to hold with 130 kt southwest winds feeding it pushing the whole trough to the east and out of even the Southern CA swell window by late Tuesday (9/13). But prior to that, there is to be some degree of support for gale development there in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours the ridge that was over the West Pacific is to build eastward totally filling the South Pacific and eliminating support for gale development there.
At the surface on Sunday AM (9/11) a 968 mb gale was building in the Southeast Pacific supported by a building trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Southwest winds were at 40 kts and expected to build in areal coverage with speeds to 45 kts in the evening while tracking east some. Seas to 32 ft forecast then at 52S 134W. 40 kt west winds to hold into Monday AM (9/12) resulting in 36 ft seas at 50S 127W, on the eastern edge of the California swell window but mainly targeting Chile with only sideband energy pushing up into California. Fetch is to be fading fast Monday PM with only 35 kt south winds in the CA swell window and seas from previous fetch 32 ft at 47S 120W and moving east out of the California swell window. This is to be 4830 nmiles south of Southern CA and could result in small sideband swell for exposed breaks in California coming from 180-187 degrees arriving late Monday (9/19) with period at 17 secs. But most energy is to be focused on South America.
No other swell producing fetch forecast over the next 72 hours.
New Zealand Gale
On Friday AM (9/2) a gale was building just southeast of New Zealand with a broad area of 35-40 kt southwest winds tracking northeast through Saturday evening. This resulted in 30 ft seas Friday PM (9/2) at 51S 178E building to 32 ft Sat AM at 46S 176W (shadowed by Tahiti relative to the US West Coast) with a second area south of it with 30 ft seas at 55S 180W. Both pushed north Saturday PM (9/3) with 32 ft seas up north at 40S 170W and 30 ft seas to the south at 53S 174W. This system was gone by Sunday AM (9/4). Small swell possible for Hawaii and less for the US West Coast. Of note: Swell that hit Hawaii on Saturday was bigger than forecast with solid overhead surf reported there with top breaks pushing double overhead on sets if not more. Perhaps some of that energy will reach CA too, but odds not in favor of it.
California (North and South): Swell swell expected to arrive on Monday (9/12) with pure swell maybe 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft) late. Swell to hold Tuesday (9/13) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (near 4 ft faces) then fading Wed (9/14) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs mid-day (3.5 ft faces) and heading down fast from there. Swell Direction: 210 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 again develop in the Eastern Pacific Wed-Fri (9/16) generating north winds at 20 kt over Cape Mendocino and trades building over Hawaii at 15 kts (by Thurs 9/15) offering limited windswell generation potential for both Hawaii's East Shores and North and Central CA. But by SUnday (9/18) low pressure is to again be building over the Northern dateline region and pushing east into the Gulf of Alaska, destroying the East Pacific high pressure system and possibly setting the stage for development of slightly more substantial northerly swell. But that is more of a guess than anything predictable at this early date. At least it's something to monitor.
As of Sunday (9/11) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising some. The daily SOI was 5.17. The 30 day average was down slightly to 4.61 with the 90 day average up slightly to 4.83.
Current wind analysis indicated light to moderate easterly anomalies blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific just making it over the dateline, then fading to neutral from there into Indonesia. Near normal winds were over the far Eastern Pacific with no anomalies indicated. This is the same pattern that has been in effect for 2 months now (neutral to light west anomalies on either side of the Pacific and light east anomalies in the the middle) and indicative of neither the Active or Inactive Phase. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to build over the entire West Pacific a week out (9/19) with light easterly winds continuing over the Central Pacific and normal winds in the East. This is suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO a week out. The long term model suggests that if anything a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is to be building in the West Pacific starting about 10 days out (9/21) and building there 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase migrates from the West Pacific into the East Pacific. It is hard to believe either model at this point. Will monitor but we suspect there is no good impact expected in relation to the North Pacific storm over the next few weeks.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/8) 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. But warmer than normal waters are not building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii, and if anything were shrinking. And that pattern as getting more pronounced as of 9/5 with eddy's of cool water starting to invade the Galapagos warm pool near 120W. 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, now reaching into Northern CA. But overall the big picture still looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things have again taken a turn for the worse. 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 8/28 those anomalies were holding at -2 C and drifting east while fading, down to -1 deg on 8/30. No change thru 9/5, but then on 9/8 they again dropped to -4 degs C only to rebound to -3 deg C on 9/11. Regardless of the fine details, this area of cool subsurface water was still blocking the normal warm flow to the east. This suggests that a weak Active Phase of the MJO in mid-August might have tried to dislodged the cool pool, at least temporarily, but then it returned with the Inactive Phase in the West Pacific the last weeks of August into September.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 9/5 were unchanged from the previous month 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 no swell producing fetch is forecast with high pressure and an unfavorable jetstream pattern expected.
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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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table