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 (10/1) North and Central CA was seeing minimal local swell coming from the Eastern Gulf in the shoulder high range with a few sets near 1 ft overhead with a modest south flow early and a little texture from it but not unmanageable. Down south the same Gulf swell was wrapping into exposed breaks producing waves up to waist high and clean. Southern California was seeing minimal Gulf swell up north with waves to maybe waist high and textured with light west winds on it. Down south the same swell was producing surf to maybe thigh high, blown out in the afternoon and junky. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more sideband Gulf windswell with waves up to chest high and clean but with a little warble intermixed. The South Shore was maybe knee high and clean. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell too at chest high or more and chopped with trades blowing it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Saturday (10/1) a little gale was fading in the Western Gulf having previous produced 20 ft seas, and is expected to reorganize off the Pacific Northwest on Sunday producing 26 ft seas just off Southern Oregon, then pushing up into British Columbia and dissipating. Another small gale is forecast right behind falling out of the Gulf towards Northern CA with up to 22 ft seas initially, but down considerably before pushing right into the coast Wednesday and offering decent potential to produce solid precipitation over all of Central CA with snow looking more possible in higher elevations. Long term the model keep teasing about a stronger and larger system developing on the dateline, but that is more of a fantasy than anything at this early date. Down south Storm #8S developed under New Zealand Mon-Wed (9/27) with 55 kt winds and up to 47 ft seas, with follow-on energy producing 36 ft seas through Thursday AM. So one last pulse of summer-time swell is expected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (9/31) the jetstream remained unchanged from the previous week with a single consolidated flow tracking off North Japan ridging over the Aleutian Islands near the dateline with winds up to 140 kts in pockets then dipping into a weak trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with winds barely 140 kts and fading before ridging hard north up into and over the Oregon coast. There was limited 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 flow of wind energy is to build over the entire jet Sunday arching over the ridge and falling into the trough at 150 kts, offering decent support for gale development in the Gulf and holding through Tuesday (10/4) but with the bottom of the trough edging closer to the US West Coast, moving into extreme Northern CA on Tuesday evening. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to ease fully over Central CA Wednesday evening (10/5), 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 until Saturday (10/8) when a trough is to start building over the dateline with winds to 130 kts indicated. Limited support for gale development indicated there.
At the surface on Saturday (10/1) a new low pressure system was trying to organize off the Central CA coast (see Second Local Gale below). Otherwise a broad area of low pressure was over Kamchatka moving into the Bering Sea and expected to dissipate. No other fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 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 in areal coverage but holding at 30 kts Tuesday AM (10/4) generating 18 ft seas at 50N 142W and unremarkable. That fetch is to fall southeast off Oregon in the evening and continue to circulate with winds in the 30 kt range through Wed AM (10/5) resulting in seas at 20 ft at 48N 140W Tuesday PM falling to 42N 135W Wed AM or 600 nmiles off the North CA coast. Fetch and seas fading in the evening to 19 ft at 39N 130W or 400 nmiles off Pt Arena (292 deg NCal). Possible moderate raw swell to result pushing into North and Central CA by Thursday (10/6) but along with some weather.
First Little Gale
On Friday AM (9/30) a low pressure system dropped southeast into the Gulf of Alaska producing 30-35 kt northwest winds and building seas. Fetch held in the evening with seas building 20 ft at 50N 160W, good for possible sideband swell radiating into Hawaii and more direct swell for the US West Coast. The fetch continued dropping southeast on Saturday AM with winds fading from 25 kts and seas at 20 ft at 48N 157W, then fetch dissipating by evening with seas fading from 17 ft at 45N 153W. 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).
Second Local Gale
Late on Saturday (10/1) new low pressure started wrapping up 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA while lifting northeast. By Sunday AM (10/2) 40 kt west winds are forecast over a little area in it's south quadrant aimed mainly at Oregon with seas building. The fetch is to hold at 40-45 kts in the evening at 43N 135W while lifting north generating 24 ft seas targeting primarily North CA up into Oregon. And more follow-on fetch at 40 kts to persist in the area generating more 22-24 ft seas pushing east through Monday before moving onshore in the evening. A batch of rather raw local proto-swell is expected for Central California starting very early Tuesday (10/4) with more size up into Oregon for the middle of the week.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (10/1) weak low pressure was moving into Southern Oregon setting up a weak southerly wind flow along the Central CA coast with what looked like a front off the North CA coast. Light drizzle was reported down to Pt Arena. Otherwise a light winds and pressure pattern was in control of the rest of CA. At the same time low pressure was building in the Gulf of Alaska with a better organized front pushing east and expected to push into Cape Mendocino late Sunday (10/2) with light rain and south winds 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 and even to Pt Conception Tuesday AM (10/4) 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. Solid snow accumulations remain projected for Lake Tahoe from this pulse continuing for 24 hours Wed Am to Thurs AM. This is starting to become more of a real possibility. Clearing high pressure to start build in over the state on Thursday with northwesterly winds forecast everywhere (including Southern CA) at 15-20 kts, fading some Friday and finally back to calm on Saturday (10/8).
At the surface on Saturday (10/2) 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 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 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).Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 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 @ 17-18 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). Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 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 the remnants of a tropical system are to start developing east of Japan on Friday AM (10/7) pushing over the dateline Saturday with winds to 40 kts in it's southwest quadrant targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast with seas to 28 ft then continuing east with winds fading to 35 kts Sunday and perhaps a small area of 30 ft seas. But for now it's all just a fantasy conjured up by the model. Something to monitor though.
As of Saturday (10/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was effectively unchanged at 18.50. The 30 day average was up at 11.64 with the 90 day average up slightly to 7.87. Since the SOI is a lagging indicator, and we believe the Active Phase of the MJO is now 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 anomalies 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 near neutral wind pattern is to push east over the Central Pacific a week out (10/9) with the Inactive Phase losing control and a weak iteration of the Active Phase trying to building into the Central Pacific for the next 2 weeks (10/15). But if anything, the Active Phase has about peaked out. 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. Beyond 2 weeks the Active Phase is to start fading with the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean likely putting a damper on storm development starting about 3 weeks out.
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
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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