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 Thursday (10/20) North and Central CA was seeing small Gulf swell producing waves at maybe chest high on the sets and with decent form but kinda crumbled from onshore winds. Down south surf was flat (knee high sets) and clean. Southern California was seeing knee to thigh high surf up north with light winds and glassy conditions. Down south southern hemi swell was producing surf maybe up to waist high and pretty textured with onshore winds in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat with waves up to waist high and glassy. The South Shore was getting small background southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves waist high or so and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A moderate gale was pushing over the Northern dateline Thurs (10/20) with seas to 26 ft expected to track into the Western Gulf on Saturday with seas fading from 18 ft. There's improved odds now for some modest swell radiating towards Hawaii late Sunday and the US West Coast early next week. There's also continued suggestion of a smaller gale dropping into the Western Gulf starting Tues (12/25) and pushing flat east with maybe 28 ft seas but aimed mostly towards the Pacific Northwest. We continue in the Inactive Phase of the MJO which tends to suppress storm formation. It won't be till early next month when a more favorable pattern is expected to take hold.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/20) the jetstream was running flat over the dateline and into the Western Gulf of Alaska with winds 140 kts and offering some support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of wind energy over the Western Gulf is to push east and ridge some while tracking into British Columbia on Saturday with fading support for gale development. Off to the west a big ridge is forecast over the Kuril Islands with winds to 150 kts driving the jet up to Kamchatka then falling southeast tot he dateline, but loosing all energy. No support for gale development is indicted there. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to remain pretty well to the north, flowing effectively flat almost directly over the Aleutians. A weak trough is forecast tracking through the Northern Gulf though the middle of next week offering potential for maybe a small gale to develop there with another trough developing in the same location maybe next Thursday (10/27). Limited support for gale development in that area targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest.
At the surface on Thursday (10/20) a modest gale was tracking through the Bering Sea with 30-35 kt west winds extending well to the south (see Dateline Gale below). No other swell producing fetch was in play. Over the next 72 hours no fetch of interest is forecast.
On Tuesday (10/18) a new developing gale was tracking east off Kamchatka pushing into the extreme western Bering Sea with winds 30-35 kts but totally shadowed from the greater Pacific by the Aleutian Islands.No swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. On Wednesday PM (10/19) this gale dropped south to the dateline with winds at 35 kts and was starting to generate seas pushing 22 ft at 48N 170E aimed towards the US West Coast, but a long ways away. By Thursday AM (10/20) winds were holding at 30-35 kts on the dateline with seas building to 26 ft at 47N 178E (328 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). In the evening winds to be fading from 30-35 kts with seas fading from 24 ft at 45N 176W (just east of the dateline). By Friday AM the fetch is to continue east but fading in intensity down to barely 30 kts early. Seas rebuilding to 26 ft over a small area at 45N 170W aimed at Hawaii (340 degs) and the US West Coast (296 NCal) then fading in the evening from 22 ft at 44N 163W. The gale is to be gone Saturday AM with residual seas at 18 ft at 44N 158W.
At this time there is some reasonable possibility that modest northwesterly swell will result for the Hawaiian Islands and the US West Coast, but this system needs to move closer to both locations before anything real could be expected. Will monitor.
For planning purposes relative to Hawaii: Expect swell arriving Sunday AM (10/23) at 3 ft @ 16 secs building to 6.6 ft @ 14 secs late (9 ft). Swell Direction 330-340 degs
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (10/18) modest high pressure at 1022 mbs was in-place off the California coast generating a light northerly flow down outer waters of CA coast at 15 kts. Low pressure was tracking into the Gulf of Alaska but not making a dent in the high. Friday the high is to become more focused stating to ridge into Oregon with north wind to 20 kts over all of outer CA waters late. By Saturday 20 kt northwesterly winds are to be in control of outer waters from Cape Mendo down to San Francisco with and eddy flow nearshore and continuing on Sunday with winds up to 20-25 kts offshore. A full on summertime pressure gradient is forecast off Cape Mendo on Monday (10/24) with north winds 30 kts and north winds reaching down to just south of Pt Arena, with a light southerly eddy flow south of there. The gradient is to start fading later some later Tuesday (10/25) but not dissipating till Thursday when a more local gale starts to take root in the Eastern Gulf.
At the surface on Thursday (10/20) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
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 small gale is forecast developing on the northern dateline Monday AM (10/24) with a tiny area of 40 kt west winds tracking east into a developing trough in the Western Gulf . 30 kt northwest fetch is to be falling out of the Bering Sea in the evening with seas starting to build. On Tuesday AM the gale is forecast wrapping up in the extreme Northern Gulf with 30-35 kt west winds over exposed waters. Seas building to 18-20 ft at 49N 160W. Additional northwest fetch to build at near 45 kts in the evening generating seas to 22 ft near 50N 160W. By Wednesday (10/26) 40 kt west northwest fetch is to continue in the Northern Gulf targeting British Columbia and pushing seas up to 28 ft at 51N 150W (312 degs NCal). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 35 kts and the gale staring to push into Northern Canada. Seas holding at 28 ft at 52N 145W (319 degs NCal) and moving out of the Central CA swell window. Maybe some tiny sideband swell to result for Hawaii with more energy from Central CA and most focused on the northern Pacific Northwest. But it is just a projections at this early date.
Theoretically another gale is to develop in the Eastern Gulf late next workweek with 40 kt winds and at least 20 ft seas.
As of Thursday (10/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued rising at 24.49. The 30 day average was up some at 10.94 with the 90 day average up slightly to 6.87. We expect these numbers to continue to rise over the next week with the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking more control.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing from the dateline to Indonesia suggestive of the Inactive Phase moving into the extreme West Pacific. Westerly anomalies that were over the extreme East Pacific were just about fully migrated into the Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico. The models indicate that fully blowing easterly anomalies are to build over the West Pacific a week out (10/28) continuing to extend from the dateline westward while westerly anomalies dissipate in the East Pacific, indicative of the Inactive Phase taking control of the Pacific. It is already putting a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reducing the probability for swell producing storm formation for the next 2 weeks (10/20-11/4). With the remnants of the Active Phase moving over the East Pacific moving into the Atlantic, there should be increased odds for tropical storm formation building in the Atlantic. But by Nov 4 or so, there are indications of the Active Phase returning to the West Pacific and tracking east through 11/19. Something to look forward too.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/20) 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 increasing their coverage. 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 getting eroded pretty quickly on 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 in mid-Sept, holding there until early October when it dropped back down to -4 degs and then -5C mid-month. But by 10/18 it was up to -3 C and pushing east, presumably the effect of the Active Phase of the MJO that occurred in late Sept/early Oct. Regardless, 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.
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. The models project some sort of gale activity pushing under New Zealand on Tues (10/25) generating 36 ft seas. But that is only a projection.
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table