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 Saturday (9/24) North and Central CA was seeing swell coming from the Gulf but down considerably from the day before, in the 1-2 ft overhead range with fog in the picture and south winds back too. Down south Gulf swell was wrapping into exposed breaks producing chest high sets and clean but a bit warbled. Southern California was seeing solid Gulf swell with waves chest high or maybe rarely better up north, well lined up and clean. Down south the same swell was producing surf in the chest high range and clean but with a little texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting sideband Gulf windswell with waves pushing head high on the sets and clean, though most were chest high. The South Shore was knee high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell too at chest high with some wind bump on it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Thursday (9/29) a rather quiet pattern was in-play over the North Pacific. Not dead, but just not anything of real interest occurring. A decent little gale is forecast to wind up in the Western Gulf Friday producing 22 ft seas, fading, then reorganizing off the Pacific Northwest on Sunday and stalling off the coast there with 25 ft seas, helping to suck in another system that is to develop off Oregon and North CA early next week. But it's too early to tell if it will result in any decent seas though. this season continues to have potential to produce solid precipitation over all of Central CA starting late Monday through Thursday (10/6) with snow looking more possible in higher elevations. But that's still a long ways from being real. Down south Storm #8S has done it's thing under New Zealand with 55 kt winds and up to 47 ft seas, and still producing up to 36 ft seas through Thursday AM. One more pulse of summer-time swell is already pushing northeast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (9/29) the jetstream exhibited a single consolidated flow tracking off Kamchatka flowing over the Aleutian Islands with winds 120 kts then dipping into a malformed trough in the Central Gulf of Alaska with lesser winds before ridging hard north up into and over the Central Canadian coast. . There was limited fleeting support for gale development in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold, with a ridge in the west and a trough in the Gulf. A decent push of winds energy is to push off Japan on Saturday arching over the ridge and starting to fall into the trough late Saturday into Sunday (10/2) at 150 kts, offering decent support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to east east into extreme Northern CA starting Tuesday and continuing for 2 days, increasing the likelihood for precipitation for the US West Coast. But back to the west the jet is to get a bit disorganized with no obvious support for gale development indicated. But it is to remain consolidated with decent wind energy and several areas exhibiting potential to develop into troughs over the long haul.
At the surface on Thursday (9/29) low pressure was off the Pacific Northwest tracking hard northeast bound for British Columbia if not Central Canada. High pressure was in control behind that extending almost the whole way to Japan other than a fading tropical system languishing off the coast there. Limited windswell was being generated by the interaction of the high and low off the US West coast, possibly setting up something rideable for the weekend for Central CA, but nothing more. Also low pressure as tracking east over the Central Aleutians. Over the next 72 hours the low is to drop southeast into the Gulf of Alaska Friday AM (9/30) producing 35 kt northwest winds and building seas. Fetch is to hold in the evening with seas building 22 ft at 50N 160W, good for possible sideband swell radiating into Hawaii and more direct swell for the US West Coast. The fetch is to continue dropping southeast on Saturday AM with winds fading from 30 kts and seas at 22 ft at 48N 157W, then fetch dissipating by evening with seas fading from 18 ft at 45N 152W. Possible modest swell mainly for the US West Coast but it is to become obscured by a new system building just off North CA from it's remnants on Sunday (10/2).
Late on Saturday (10/1) new low pressure is to start wrapping up 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA while lifting northeast. By Sunday AM (10/2) 45 kt west winds are forecast over a little area in it's south quadrant aimed mainly at Oregon with seas building from 20 ft. The fetch is to fade to 40 kts in the evening while lifting north generating more 24 ft seas targeting primarily Canada with 17-19 ft seas pushing cleanly towards North CA. And more follow-on fetch to persist in the area generating more 16 ft seas pushing east through Monday. In short, a bunch of rather raw local windswell is possible for California with more size up into Oregon for the middle of the week.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Saturday (9/24) Hurricane Hilary was tracking due west positioned 370 nmiles southeast of Cabo San Lucas with sustained winds 115 kts. Hilary continued on this heading while slowly loosing strength, moving pretty well west of Mexico before making a turn to the northwest on Tuesday (9/27) evening. Winds were down to 95 kts with seas 28 ft and a steady fade continued as Hilary fading below hurricane force Wednesday PM (9/28) at 65 kts and out in the open ocean. Hilary did not turn hard north as expected heading for Southern CA. No swell generation potential is forecast relative to the US West Coast.
On Thursday Typhoon Nesat as tracking just north of Taiwan bound for North Vietnam with winds 65 kts. There is no indication it will turn back to the northeast and have any impact on the North Pacific.
Also Typhoon Nalgae was well east of the extreme northern Philippines with winds 70 kts tracking west and expected to graze the north most Philippine Island late Friday with winds 100 kts, then continuing on a westerly track. There is no indication it will turn back to the northeast and have any impact on the North Pacific.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/29) high pressure was not in the local picture and instead a weak eddy flow (south winds) was in-place for most all of Central and North CA. No change forecast Friday with a weak front well off the coast with high pressure behind it easing it east. Saturday the front is to try and push into the coast but disintegrating before making it. Light drizzle for the Central Coast down to Monterey Bay. At the same time low pressure is to be building in the Gulf of Alaska with a better organized front pushing up to Cape Mendocino late Sunday (10/2) with light rain there. That gale is to push into the Pacific Northwest with a weak wind pattern for Central CA southward on Monday through rain is to be pushing south to San Francisco and Monterey Bay late while a stronger gale builds well off the coast. By Tuesday another bout of near gale force weather is to be building off the Pacific Northwest with a front, south winds pushing down to San Francisco late in the day and then to Pt Conception on Wednesday. Solid to heavy rain to reach south to San Francisco Wednesday AM and to Pt Conception and even Southern CA late. Snow now possible for Lake Tahoe from this pulse continuing for 24 hours Wed Am to Thurs AM. Will believe it when it happens. High pressure to start trying to build in over the state on Thursday with light northerly winds forecast everywhere (including Southern CA).
At the surface on Thursday (9/29) the remnants of Storm #8S were fading east of New Zealand. Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Starting Monday AM (9/26) a solid storm started developing southwest of New Zealand with southwest winds confirmed at 55-60 kts coverage a moderate area and expanding with seas building fast from 36 ft at 57S 155E (216 degs NCal and unshadowed and up the 203 deg path to Hawaii but shadowed by New Zealand). In the evening 55 kt southwest winds were confirmed holding at 55S 170E resulting in 41 ft seas at 56S 165E (214 degs NCal and unshadowed and moving into the Hawaii swell window at 201 degs).
Tuesday AM (9/27) 50-55 kts southwest winds were modeled 57S 178W and confirmed via WindSAT resulting in a solid area of 43 ft seas at 56S 175E (211 degs NCal and barely unshadowed and 195 degs HI). In the evening southwest fetch was fading from 40-45 kts but still large in areal coverage with seas peaking at 47 ft at 56S 174 W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 30 degs east of the 188 deg path to Hawaii). A new fetch of 50-55 kt southwest winds was building at 55S 173E.
The new smaller fetch of 50-55 kt southwest fetch built Wed AM (9/28) embedded in the fading larger fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds with 40 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 55S 164W (203 degs NCal and just barely shadowed and aimed pretty well east of the 184 deg path to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southern edge of the fetch at 18Z and reported seas at 30.1 ft with a peak top 38.4 ft where the modeled suggested 34 ft seas. This suggest the model was just a little bit on the high side. In the evening the storm was starting to fade though a patch of 45-50 kt southwest winds persisted lifting northeast with seas dropping from 40 ft seas at 50S 170W (209 degs NCal and barely shadowed by Tahiti and 35 degrees east of the 191 degree path to Hawaii. WindSAT confirmed a small area of south winds at 60S 172W near 7Z.
By Thursday AM (9/29) all fetch of interest was gone with seas from previous fetch at 36 ft at 47S 162W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 184 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the fetch and reported seas at 31.4-32.3 ft with peak readings to 36.7 ft where the model suggested 35 ft. this was about right, maybe modeled just a bit on the high side again.
Both WindSAT and Jason-1 satellites confirmed this storm forming pretty close to modeled expectations with winds to 55+ kts and seas to 47 ft. This is impressive. But the storm did not grow as large as Storm #7S about a month prior, and it tracked a bit more flat west to east, meaning more of the swell was shadowed relative to the US West Coast. And a little less energy was aimed up at the Hawaiian Islands. Just the same 36 hours of seas greater than 40 ft were produced from the initial fetch, and a smaller secondary fetch developed adding a smaller amount of 40 ft seas behind that. The net result is to be significant class swell for most breaks in the North Pacific (and of course Tahiti).
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Monday AM (10/3) with period 22 secs and size tiny but building. Pure swell to reach 2 ft @ 2 0 secs late in the day (4 ft faces). Swell to continue upwards on Tuesday AM (10/4) with pure swell 3 ft @ 19 secs (5.5-6.0 ft with sets to 7+ ft) and pushing 3.3 ft @ 18 secs late in the day (6 ft faces with sets to 8 ft). Swell to hold Wednesday (10/5) at 3.6 ft @ 17 secs through most of the day (6 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft). A slow decline to set in on Thursday (10/6) with swell fading from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 sec early (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Residuals on Friday at 3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 190-201 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wed (10/5) near 3 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs and sunset (3 ft with sets to 4 ft). More size to build on Thurs (10/6) with swell 2 ft @ 19-20 secs early (4 ft) building to 2.6 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft). Swell to peak on Friday mid-morning (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Swell Direction: 208-213 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wed (10/5) near 5 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs and sunset (3 ft with sets to 4 ft). More size to build-in on Thurs (10/6) with swell 2 ft @ 19-20 secs early (4 ft) building to 2.6 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft). Swell to peak on Friday mid-day (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Swell Direction: 206-211 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 another weak but somewhat larger fetch of 30 kt northwest winds is forecast falling into the Central Gulf on Monday PM (10/3) building to 35 kts Tuesday AM 910/4) generating 20 ft seas. that fetch is to stall off Oregon and continue to circulate with winds in the 30-35 kts range resulting in seas at 20-22 ft about 600 nmiles off the North and Central CA coast. Possible moderately larger but raw swell to result along with some weather.
There's some suggestion of a strong system developing east of Japan pushing towards the dateline late next week, but nothing believable just yet.
As of Thursday (9/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 20.27. The 30 day average was up at 10.47 with the 90 day average up slightly to 7.55. Since the SOI is a lagging indicator, and we believe the Active Phase of the MJO is in control of the West Pacific, the expectation is that these numbers should be falling shortly.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies were blowing from the Eastern equatorial Pacific to a point just over the dateline (150E) then fading east of there with real westerly beyond and reaching to Indonesia. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was perhaps moving east some but still in control of most of the Central Pacific while the Active Phase has edged east some, getting exposure in the West Pacific. The models indicate that a weak easterly anomaly pattern is to persist over the Central Pacific a week out (10/7) with the Inactive Phase still holding control there. But a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is to hold control over the West Pacific but making no more headway than it already has and holding for the next 2 weeks (10/13). If anything, it has peaked out at this time. This pattern seems likely to support a continuation what we've already being seeing, that is tropical systems developing in the extreme West Pacific with their remnants tracking over the Aleutians and dropping into the Gulf of Alaska and occasionally developing some.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/29) 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. Embedded were pulses of cooler water still pushing from east to west. Cooler than normal waters were also 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 any over the Galapagos Islands, and if anything were shrinking as trades increased there with a defined but thin cool patch now evident on the equator extending from the Galapagos into Central America. Overall the big picture looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things are unchanged. 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 early August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii blocking the warm water flow eastward. It weakened some in late August then reappeared in early Sept and dropped to -4 degs C slowly rebounding to -2 deg C on 9/13, holding there ever since. Regardless of the details, this area of cool subsurface water was blocking the normal warm flow to the east and suggests that overall a pattern biased towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control. there's some hope this developing Active Phase might help to dislodge it some, but it will likely have no staying power.
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 Spring of 2012. 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.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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
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