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 Tuesday (10/11) North and Central CA was seeing leftover north swell originating off Vancouver Island with waves chest to shoulder high and clean. Down at south facing breaks surf was effectively flat (knee high) with brisk winds outside the kelp but clean in the break zone and fog too. Southern California was not seeing much with leftover southern hemi swell and north swell mix producing waves waist to maybe thigh high and fairly clean but with some texture on top. Down south it was small at maybe thigh high and fogged in. Hawaii's North Shore was starting to stir with dateline sideband swell at 2 ft overhead on the sets and clean. The South Shore was tiny at knee to thigh high and clean. The East Shore had east tradewind generated windswell at near waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A reasonably strong but generally small system tracked east off Japan , built on the dateline over the weekend (10/9) with seas to 40 ft, and tracked through the Central Gulf on Monday (10/10) while dissipating. Moderate swell had reached Hawaii on Tuesday and was pushing towards California. A break in the action is forecast after that with high pressure already moving over the dateline and forecast tracking to the Gulf of Alaska with another one forecast right behind. Down south a gale wrapped up in the Southeast Pacific with seas to 38 ft on Thursday evening (10/6). Small swell to push into Southern California late Wed (10/13). After that no other swell producing fetch is forecast down there.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/11) the jetstream was tracking off Japan then ridging hard up into the Bering Sea over the dateline, then falling south into a trough in the Central Gulf of Alaska before turning and racing east into the Pacific Northwest with winds there at 130 kts, strongest of anywhere in the Pacific. Limited support for gale development in that trough. Over the next 72 hours that ridge is to push east and moderate leaving a somewhat fragmented flow over the bulk of the North Pacific, but the overall flow settling south some centered on the 48N latitude line. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to build over the West Pacific reaching just north of the Aleutians with a second smaller ridge over the East Pacific and a steep trough centered between the two in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sun (10/16) easing slowly east into early next week with winds 130 kts and offering only minimal support for gale development. Kinda looks like the start of an Inactive Phase of the MJO in the upper atmosphere, but it's till a bit premature for that.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/11) the remnants of the Dateline Gale were moving inland over Central Canada with 30 kts westerly fetch still in place over exposed waters off Washington and Vancouver Island generating 12-13 sec period windswell bound for those locations. Swell from the gale itself when it was over the Dateline is moving towards the US West Coast (see Dateline Gale below). High pressure at 1032 mbs was straddling the dateline and creating a pocket of dead air there, offering no swell production potential. Over the next 72 hours high pressure at 1032 mbs is to be tracking east through the Gulf of Alaska. It is to be generating minimal easterly fetch off it's southern flank at 25-30 kts generating 15 ft seas aimed somewhat at Hawaii Wed-Fri (10/14) possibly good for some northerly sideband windswell along the north shores of most Hawaiian islands. Also a cutoff low is forecast developing northeast of Hawaii on Fri-Sat (10/15) with northeast winds at 30-35 kts possibly resulting in 20-22 ft seas which could produce better windswell for northeast shores of Hawaii late weekend into early next week with luck. But no real swell production indicated anywhere in the North Pacific.
The remnants of a tropical system were starting to develop while tracking east off Japan on Thursday (10/6) and then were approaching the dateline Friday AM (10/7) with winds 35 kts in it's west and southwest quadrants with seas building from 20 ft at 40N 167E. By evening it was starting to develop solidly with winds to 45 kts in it's southwest quadrant targeting Hawaii (319 degs) and the US West Coast (297 degs NCal) with seas building from 22 ft at 40N 174E. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the core of this area at 06Z Sat and reported seas at 29 ft with one peak reading to 30 ft, beating the models 26 ft forecast. WindSAT reported winds from the west at 55 kts solid at 05Z, beating the models projection.
By Saturday AM (10/8) 50 kt northwest to west winds were modeled over a small area at 45N 178W (297 degs NCal and 328 degs HI) with seas on the increase from 28 ft over a small area at 43N 178W. WindSAT confirmed winds at 50-55 kts in the storm west quadrant aimed at Hawaii at 19Z. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the storm and reported seas at 38.1 ft with one peak reading at 40.7 ft on the 299 degree path to NCal and 2282 nmiles out, and well higher than the 28 ft projection by the models. In the evening fetch was holding at 45 kts and aimed more purely to the east with seas building to 34 ft at 45N 172W (297 degs NCal and pushing pretty well east of the 328 deg path to HI). Actually the WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 45-50 kts with a few barbs to 55 kts at 5Z. At 04Z the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the storm. Seas were modeled at 36 ft but the satellite reported average seas on the satellite track at 39.7 ft with one peak reading to 41.3 ft. All readings were at 44.3-44.5N and 165W. This was on the 296 degree track to NCal and 1975 nmiles out. All this makes perfect sense - winds and seas were higher than what the model expected.
A broad area of 35-40 kt west winds was trying to hang on Sunday AM (10/9) as the storm tracked due east with seas building to 34-36 ft at 46N 167W (aimed right up the 297 deg path to NCal and 60 degrees east of the 344 deg path to HI). Actually the WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 40-45 kts at 16Z. The fetch is to be fading in the evening with winds down to 35 kts pushing flat east aimed best at the Pacific Northwest with 34 ft seas at 46N 157W (297 degs NCal and outside the HI swell window).
The system is to be fading Monday AM (10/10) with winds 30-35 kts and seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 150W (299 NCal) pushing right at Washington. Some degree of 30-35 kt west fetch is to hold through Monday PM with seas holding at 29 ft at 45N 145W (300 degs NCal).
The gale is to be dissipating on Tuesday AM (10/11) while moving into Central Canada.
This was by no means a significant class system. but it was the strongest so far this season. Nothing remarkable, just a solid utility class swell producer. Expect some larger and longer period sideband swell could reach Hawaii with larger and rawer swell still for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. This is all likely the result of the turn from the Inactive to the Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO).
Hawaii: Leftovers forecast for Wednesday (10/12) at 5.1 ft @ 11-12 secs (6 ft faces) early. Swell Direction: 323-328 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday at noon with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Period dropping to 18 secs at 9 PM with size getting solid and starting to peak. Wednesday (10/12) at 4 AM swell to peak 8.1-8.5 ft @ 17 secs (14-15 ft faces) and hold, then start fading from noon on as period drops. Residuals on Thursday at 7.5 ft @ 13-14 secs early (10 ft faces). Swell Direction: 296-302 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wednesday (10/12) at 1 AM with period 18 secs and size small but building fast. Swell to peak near sunset to 6.9-7.4 ft @ 17 secs (11-13 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and 3.3-3.6 ft @ 17 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces) nearshore. Swell fading some overnight. Residuals on Thursday at 7.0 ft @ 14 secs early (10 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and 3.4 ft @ 14 secs nearshore (4.5-5.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 302-307 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (10/11) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was centered between Hawaii and Central CA driving a weak northerly flow over Pt Conception and trying to build northward. The remains of the Dateline Gale were pushing into the north Pacific Northwest. By later Tuesday into early Wednesday the low is to be gone and the high is to start building into the coast with north winds reaching 20 kts over a small area of outer waters between Pt Conception and Monterey bay with 15 kts winds covering the remainder up to Cape Mendocino. That fetch is to start fading Thursday (10/13) as more local low pressure starts building well off the coast and holding position, with light local winds expected Friday on through the weekend into early next week.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/1) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Southeast Pacific Gale
At the surface on Thursday (10/6) a new gale was building in the Southeast Pacific. 45 kt southwest winds were indicated over a small area with seas building from 34 ft at 55S 137W. In the evening a fragmented area of 40-45 kt southwest winds were modeled continuing generating seas to 38 ft at 50S 130W, but that seems a bit optimistic given the rather meager fetch size and strength. By Friday AM (10/7) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds persisted with seas fading from 36 ft at 45S 123W. By evening the fetch was effectively gone with residual seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 45S 115W, outside the California swell window. Theoretically another pulse of very southerly angled sideband swell could result for Southern CA with more directly energy down into Central America on to Peru with sideband energy for Chile.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (10/13) with pure swell building to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces). Swell to peak on Friday AM at 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Swell Fading Saturday from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 197 degrees
Northern CA: This swell to also arrive in Northern CA at south facing breaks on Thurs PM (10/13) to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft faces) building Friday to 3.0 ft @ 17-18 secs late (5.5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell Fading Saturday from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs early (4 ft). Residuals on Sunday. Swell Direction: 190 degrees Note: This swell likely to be overridden by larger swell coming from the dateline and Gulf of Alaska.
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 high pressure system at 1028 mbs is forecast setting up on the dateline Mon (10/17) while a small gale tries to wrap up ahead of it in the Northern Gulf of Alaska. North winds forecast to 40 kts over a small area on Mon generating seas to near 20 ft. maybe some 12-13 sec small north swell to result for mainly California southward. Otherwise and unremarkable pattern is forecast.
As of Tuesday (10/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was on the way back up at 13.60. The 30 day average was holding at 9.17 with the 90 day average down slightly to 7.50. Since the SOI is a lagging indicator, and the Active Phase of the MJO is now and has been in control of the West Pacific for a week or more, the expectation is that these numbers should continue to fall or at least hold for the next week or so.
Current wind analysis indicated light easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific over the dateline to the Philippines, with light west anomalies over Indonesia. Westerly anomalies were also over the East Pacific. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was moving from the Central Pacific into the East Pacific with the Inactive Phase perhaps already starting to move into the extreme West Pacific. The models indicate that fully easterly anomolies are to build over the extreme West Pacific a week out (10/19) extending from the dateline westward while westerly anomalies build in the East Pacific indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO pushing to the East Pacific and the Inactive Phase building in the west. In short, the Inactive phase with likely put a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reduce the probability for swell producing storm formation for the next 3 weeks (10/13-11/3). With the remnants of the Active Phase moving over the East Pacific there should be increased odds for tropical storm formation building in the Atlantic.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/10) 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, but more of a Midoki La Nina (centered south of Hawaii to the Dateline) then the usual version centered directly off Ecuador.
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 until 10/4 when it dropped to -3 C and almost -4 degs on 10/6 holding thru 10/11. 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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table