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 Tuesday (9/30) North/Central California was getting minimal small background southern hemi swell to maybe waist high. Southern California was getting the same southern hemi swell with waves a little bigger at top spots, but nothing to write home about. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some small north-northeast windswell, in the head high range, but nothing much. The South Shore had no real swell, though some impulse southern hemi energy was seeping through. Thigh high windswell was hitting the East Shore.
For Central California a swell of interest is starting to materialize at the outer buoys, most just windswell off the north side of a gale that is positioned just under buoy 46006. Only 20 ft seas forecast from this one today, then fading, but it should put some swell in the water for North CA starting at sunset Wednesday and building into Thursday AM. Southern CA to flatten out Wednesday then another small background southern hemi swell is expected in on Thurs/Fri with some of the Gulf swell in the mix. The North Shore of Hawaii to get more north swell coming from the Gulf of Alaska Wed/Thurs up to 1 ft overhead. The East Shore to get some of this north swell too. The South Shore of Hawaii to remain pretty quiet with only some tiny background swell on Thurs (10/2) in the 1.6 ft @ 16 secs range and dying before Friday. From here on out were going to start focusing solely on the Northern Hemisphere, since the south has all but shut down.
A tiny gale formed in the Western Gulf of Alaska Sunday (9/28) sinking south towards Hawaii producing up to 19 ft seas fading from 17 ft Monday AM 900 nmiles north of the Islands. This swell arrived late Tuesday and to peak out on Wednesday. This system is re-energizing Tuesday off Central CA generating 20-21 ft seas aimed from San Francisco south, then is to fade Wednesday while lifting north. Swell peaking in Central CA Thursday at 6 ft @ 11-13 secs (6.5 ft faces). Beyond the models are hinting at a much stronger series of systems for the Central Gulf , one on Thursday/Friday, another weaker one Sun/Mon and another stronger one Tuesday and beyond out in the Western Gulf. In short, lot's of potential on the charts. now what we need is for there systems to build in reality. Start watching the models and keep your fingers crossed. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/30) the North Pacific jetstream was flowing energetically off Japan ridging gently to the northeast over the dateline (but still south of the Aleutians) then dipping in the Gulf into a steep trough that was digging as far south as nearly Baja, then ridging hard north into northern Canada. Winds to 150 kts were in pockets off Japan then again feeding in to the Gulf trough. It is this trough that is of most interest right now offering weak opportunity to support surface level low pressure development, but the whole flow is not to bad. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to lift north and dissolve by Thursday (10/2) while the jet in the west continues to keep on in it's energetic ways with a new gentle trough starting to build in the Western Gulf with winds near 160 kts pushing to 170 kts Friday and pushing right into the Oregon/Ca boarder. Good support for surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough in the Gulf is to hang on through Monday (10/6) but with energy levels dropping off and potential for even moderate gale development falling off some. But on Tuesday another pocket of 150 kts energy is to be building on the dateline pushing east with a trough starting to form in the Western Gulf of Alaska offering another shot a surface level gale development potential. A nice little pattern is shaping up, thanks to the Active Phase of the MJO.
At the surface today the gale that was north of Hawaii had tracked east and was positioned 1000 nmiles west of San Francisco with pressure at 992 mbs generating 35 kt northwest winds aimed mostly south rat California. 20 ft seas were modeled at 37N 142W. This gale to hang on through nightfall with 30 kts winds then die while lifting fast to the north. Small sideband swell is likely to be pushing the California coast for late Wednesday into Thurs/Fri (10/3) from a very westerly. This low really is just a primer for more energy following right behind. Swell at exposed breaks to be 5.2 ft @ 11 secs, maybe pushing 13 secs with luck (5.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 270 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours weak subtropical low pressure emanating off Japan to race east and start organizing over the dateline Wednesday then become interesting Thursday AM (10/2) in the Gulf of Alaska as pressure drops to 988 mbs with 40-45 kt west to northwest winds expected at 43N 155W 1000 nmiles west of San Francisco and sending swell energy down the 292 degree great circle path. Seas building from 20 ft. By evening winds to build to near 45 kts at 42N 149W while the low tracks east pushing swell down the 292 degree great circle path. Seas forecast at 26 ft at 43N 150W and on the increase. This low to hold into Friday AM (10/3) with 35 kt northwest winds at 40N 140W aimed down the 290 degree path. Seas forecast at 27 ft in the morning at 40N 143W fading to 25 ft in the evening at 39N 135W while the gale tracks north up and into Vancouver Island. Assuming all this comes to pass some form of well rideable utility class swell with period in the 14-15 sec range is likely for exposed breaks in Central CA with energy also pushing up in the the Pacific Northwest and down into Southern CA.
On Sunday (9/28) a broad low pressure system at 996 mbs was in the Gulf of Alaska forming a weak pressure gradient with high pressure over the dateline and generating 30 kt north winds 1300 nmiles north of Hawaii and aimed south right at them. 17 ft seas were modeled at 47N 158W falling south. The gale in the Gulf dropped south into Monday with winds still 30 kts and seas to 19 ft, then faded. Small swell from this system to hit Hawaii Tuesday AM (9/30) reaching 5.5 ft @ 11 secs (6 ft faces) late then continuing into Wednesday AM with size about the same but period down to 10 secs. Swell Direction 10-20 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/30) weak high pressure at 1016 mbs was trying to hang on off the California coast but was wedged between low pressure building off to the west rendering the high pretty much useless, severely only to help deflect the low off to the north. A light wind flow was in effect and expected to stay that way into early Friday except for northwest winds at 15-20 kts over the Channel Islands developing late Thursday and holding Friday. Up north a new vigorous (for the season) gale is to push towards the Pacific Northwest starting to impact the coast there Friday dragging a front into the San Francisco Bay Area Friday late afternoon and 20 kt south winds and rain in-effect. That to all dissipate by Saturday AM (10/4) with weak pressure pattern taking control and calm winds in effect. Another weak low pressure upper trough to push over Central CA early Sunday, with high pressure building in behind and north winds on the upswing by late Monday. So basically a calm weekend is forecast from SF south.
On Tuesday (9/30) the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Jangmi were tracking south of Southern Japan, expected to continue Wednesday AM with 35 kts winds and accelerating to the east, getting caught in the jetstream with remnants of it's energy supporting gale development in the Gulf of Alaska next week.
Tropical Storm Higos was tracking northwest through the Central Philippines with 35 kt winds and expected to continue on that heading with winds possibly reaching 60 kts pulling up to the coast of Hong Kong on Sunday (10/5). No swell generation potential for US territories.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was present aimed at US targets. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast. We have started focusing on the North Pacific exclusively and will update South Pacific activities on an exception basis.
On Thursday (9/25) a weak gale was centered east of new Zealand generating 45 kts winds and 32 ft seas at 49N 162W tracking due east. It held but over an even smaller area in the evening with 45 kts winds left and 32 ft seas at 48S 152W aimed a little more to the north. Some degree of 45 kts winds continued Friday aimed almost due north with 30 ft seas at 46S 140W in the AM and then 33 ft at 45S 130W in the evening, gone by Saturday. Some degree of decent utility class swell could push into California (unshadowed too) starting early Sat (10/4) with swell 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) late in the day dropping to 15 secs on Sunday.
A strong storm started building under New Zealand starting Thursday evening (9/25) with pressure 936 mbs and winds to 55 kts at 58S 158E aimed due east or 30 degrees east of the 215 degree path to CA and 45 degrees east of the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas from previous fetch to be 32 ft at 55S 165E.
Friday AM (9/26) winds held in the 55-60 kt range at 57S 172E generating seas to 46 ft at 57S 172E moving into the Tahitian swell shadow for CA (213 degrees). In the evening barely 50 kts winds were modeled at 59S 173W aimed due east with 44 ft seas at 59S 175W, still shadowed by Tahiti to CA, but just barely and aimed due east, or 40+ degrees the 206 degree great circle track to CA. Seas pushing almost perpendicular to the great circle paths to Hawaii (90 degrees).
Saturday AM (9/27) 35 kt winds forecast fading fast aimed east with 39 ft seas at 59S 165W with only minor obstruction from outlying Tahitian Islands suggested relative to CA (204 degrees). Winds fading out totally in the evening with 32 ft seas from previous fetch modeled at 58S 154W and unshadowed aimed 45 degrees east of the 202 degree great circle path to CA. The Jason-1 satellite confirmed seas at 31.9 ft at 4 PM Saturday at 58.5S 150.7W, on track with the models.
Hawaii to get some longer period sideband energy but most energy to be aimed well east of this target. California to have a lesser version of Hawaii's problem coupled with the usual Tahitian swell shadow during the peak of the storm.
Long period early arrivers to start hitting California on Sunday (10/5) with swell 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3.5 ft faces) and inconsistent, then 2 ft @ 17-18 secs on Monday (3.5 ft faces), and then 2.0-2.3 ft @ 16 secs Tuesday (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 204 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 hours a new fetch of 30 kt northwest winds is forecast building in the Northern Gulf Saturday/Sunday (10/5) fading Monday generating some form of 18-20 ft seas, good more continued Gulf windswell in the 11-13 secs range from a fairly northerly direction while a new strong low starts organizing on the dateline pushing east Mon/Tues (10/7) producing 45 kt west winds and 28 ft seas in the Hawaiian and California swell windows. It's way to early to tell what this will do, or of it will form at all, but the general outlook is favorable. And more energy to be behind that pushing off Japan. Looks like Fall is taking hold.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Tuesday (9/30) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) continued moving into the core of the Active phase. But the Daily SOI index had risen dramatically to 22.82 (up from -6.59 a few days earlier). The 30 day average was steady at 13.68 and the 90 day average was even at 7.90. This is no longer even neutral, but is more symptomatic of La Nina. This active phase of the MJO is trying to push these indices down, but without much luck. Winds anomalies at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) were from the west over much of the North Pacific extending from the Philippines to the dateline and extending almost to Central America. It's to drift east while slowly fading with limited anomalies through 10/12 in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. Historically this to be a fairly weak pulse of the Active Phase and is to offer only weak support for fueling the development of North Pacific storms through the middle of October. The Inactive phase is to build behind, but at this time it looks to be very weak too (a good thing).
No swell producing fetch forecast 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table