New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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.
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
On Tuesday (10/30) North and Central California was getting strong Swell #1 with waves 25-27 ft on the sets, but kinda sporadic with a bit of lump intermixed. Southern California was getting the leading edge of Swell #1 early afternoon up north with waves rarely pushing head high and very energetic, though inconsistent with offshore winds in effect. Down south sets were waist to maybe chest high and pristine clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Swell #1 too with waves in the 17-18 ft range (Hawaiian) and a bit warbled and raw. The East Shore was seeing wrap around energy coming from the north-northwest at double overhead or more though kinda hacked by the trades. The South Shore was asleep for the winter with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for smaller energy from Swell #1 on Wed AM at 16 ft fading to 12 ft later. Still 10 ft wave forecast on Thursday fading to 9 ft on Friday. Windswell to continue on Saturday at 9 ft dropping to 5.5 ft on Sunday. And more modest utility class swell is expected for next week. Southern California is to see the peak of Swell #1 on Wednesday AM at 10 ft fading from 6 ft Thursday AM and chest high on Friday. More shoulder high swell possible for Saturday fading from waist high plus early Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see more energy from Swell #1 at 15 ft Hawaiian on Wednesday fading from 12 ft Thursday and 9 ft Friday. Head high leftovers expected on Saturday and maybe waist high on Sunday The East Shore is to start seeing east windswell on Friday at shoulder high holding through the weekend. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
A large strong storm tracked through the Gulf of Alaska on Sat/Sun (10/31) generating 55 kt west winds and seas in the 40-47 ft range. Swell from this system has already hit Hawaii and California and is expected to slowly settle down through the workweek. Lingering winds associated with a secondary fetch from this system is currently north of Hawaii producing 30 kt northwest winds and 24 ft seas, which should result in windswell for late week into the weekend along north facing shore of Hawaii on into the US West Coast. Also another gale is forecast tracking over the dateline Thursday and into the Gulf on Saturday (11/6) resulting in 30-35 kt west winds and 23-26 ft seas, likely good for a little more swell along the US West Coast next week. but the trend is definitely down, mirroring the change from the Active Phase of the MJO to the Inactive Phase.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (12/2) a very active North Pacific jetstream pattern was in-play with a trough over Japan riding north a bit west of the dateline, then falling into an energetic trough in the Central Gulf with 200 kt winds feeding down into it, then ridging again over the US west coast with the jet tracking inland just north of Vancouver Island. There was good support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to hold together and slowly east east positioned just off the North CA coast on Friday evening. But wind energy is to be slowly fading in the trough with support for gale development also slowly waning. Behind a consolidated flow of 120-130 kt winds are to remain tracking from South Japan almost flat east to a point just off the Oregon-NCal boarder (42N). No troughs of interest are forecast though a weak indentation in the jet flow is forecast in the Gulf possibly supporting gale development there. Beyond 72 hours a broad ridge is forecast over the dateline with 160 kts winds flowing up into it from Japan and 130 kt winds fanning down from it into Northern CA by Tues (11/9). there was no clear signs of support for gale development, but nothing clearly inhibiting it either.
At the surface on Tuesday (11/2) weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was over the Central CA coast with another at 1028 mbs over the dateline. Remnant low pressure from Storm #1 was trying to reorganize north of Hawaii is a highly energetic trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere. It was generating a fetch of 30 kt northwest winds at 35N 160W aimed at Hawaii resulting in 24 ft seas there good for more windswell for the days ahead. Swell from Storm #1 was hitting Hawaii and California. Over the next 72 hours the low north of Hawaii is to rapidly wrap up and lift fast to the north producing 35 kt north winds but moving to the north just as fast, having little swell production potential. Wednesday evening it is to be in the northeastern Gulf of Alaska with 50 kt northwest winds for 6 hours before moving inland over Alaska. No swell of interest is to result. Also late on Wednesday a new gale is to start winding up off the Northern Kuril Islands with 45 kt west winds at 48N 163E reaching nearly the dateline Thurs AM at 48N 173E with winds to 40 kts and seas 28 ft fading to 35 kts in the evening at 49N 180W with 26 ft seas at 47N 174E. The fetch is to hold at 35 kts tracking east from the dateline reaching the Northern Gulf Saturday AM (11/6) with seas faded to 23 ft. Some degree of limited 13-14 sec period swell is likely for Hawaii next week with 13 sec period energy for California up into Oregon.
Large and Strong Gulf Storm #1
A large gale that was in the Bering Sea on Thursday (10/28) started drifting southeast while the jetstream built under it and tropical moisture and energy from off Japan moved over the dateline.
On Saturday AM (10/30) it all converged on the dateline resulting in a huge area of 35+ kt fetch developing with a solid embedded core of winds to 50 kts at 48N 173W and pressure 968 mbs all aimed at mainly at the US West coast with sideband energy toward Hawaii. The ASCAT satellite confirmed winds at 50-55 kts at 48N 175W and 40 kt or greater winds over a fetch area 860 nmiles long aimed at the US West Coast. At 18Z the NOAA wave model projected seas at 29 ft. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch at that time and reported a 15 reading average significant wave height at 34.8 ft with one peak reading to 40 ft, way higher than what the models projected. By evening the system was rapidly intensify with a huge fetch of 35+ kt west northwest winds with a core of 60-65 kt west winds (hurricane force) at 46N 162W aimed at the US West Coast down the 298 degree path and sideband energy aimed 70 degrees east of the 355 degree path to Hawaii. The ASCAT satellite passed over this are and reported winds of 55-60 kts at 45N 160W with 40 kt or greater winds over a 807 nmile wide fetch area again aimed all due east. Seas were modeled to be on the increase fast from 39 ft at 47N 164W (same heading as fetch above). The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch again and reported a 15 reading average at 39.6 ft with a peak to 41 ft.
By Sunday AM (10/31) 55 kt west-northwest winds were modeled at 45N 154W (down a bit from previous estimates). In reality the ASCAT satellite passed over the fetch at 21Z and reported winds down to 40-45 kts at the above location covering a 607 nmile fetch area aimed east-southeast. Seas were modeled building to 47 ft (previously forecast to 50 ft) back at 45N 157W (297 NCal) with lesser seas at 38 ft back at 43N 168W (344 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the fetch at 17Z and reported a 15 reading average of 39.2 ft with one reading to 41.3 ft where the model reported 42 ft seas for the same area. This was right on track. This fetch was targeting primarily Central CA up to the Pacific Northwest. In the evening 45 kt west winds were modeled at 45N 147W aimed at Central CA up the 297-299 degree paths. No ASCAT data was available. Seas were modeled peaking at 49 ft (previously forecast at 51 ft) at 45N 150W (297 NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western tip of the core of the highest modeled seas which were supposedly 47-48 ft and indicated actual valudes at 39.6 ft with one peak reading to 41 ft. We suspect the Jason-1 satellite sensors might max out at 41 ft because otherwise there is a pretty big discrepancy between the models and reality. A secondary fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds forecast at 45N 170W pushing 60 degrees east of the 340 degree path to Hawaii and almost right up the 297 degree path to NCal did not develop as expected, but instead got absorbed into the main fetch.
On Monday AM (11/1) a quick fade was occurring with 40-45 kt winds modeled in the storms south quadrant at 45N 144W aimed up the 306 degree path to NCal with seas 42 ft at 45N 144W (301 degrees NCal). Also 35 kt northwest winds are forecast at 42N 170W with 25 ft seas at that same location (70 degrees east of the 350 degree path to Hawaii, right up the 292 deg path to NCal), meaning more backup though smaller energy in the 14 sec range pushing on a sideways angle to Hawaii and more direct towards the US West Coast. This swell started to impact buoy 46006 well off the California coast at 6 AM Mon (11/1) with seas quickly ramping up to 33.5 ft @ 17 secs and pure swell 27 ft @ 18.2 secs from 14Z-18Z then fading slightly. In the evening the main storm is to be fading if not nearly gone with 35 kt southwest winds aimed mostly at Northern British Columbia with seas fading from 32 ft at 45N 138W and then effectively out of the CA swell window. A secondary fetch of northwest winds at 35 kts back at 44N 165W is to be producing 25 ft seas at 42N 157W.
This storm developed pretty extremely close to what was forecast for over a week previous, a significant feat for technology and NOAA. The main difference was there was more wind and swell production early in the storm life than anticipated, and less wind and seas towards it's end. There is also some concern about the variance between the models and Jason-1 significant wave height measurements at the storm peak, but we consider that more of an issue with the satellite sensors than an actual failure of the storm to produce. So in effect, this has resulted in no significant change from previous forecast regarding swell arrival times and sizes. This system held together for approximately 36 hours producing winds in the 50-60 kt range with winds in excess of 40 kts over a large 800 nmile eastward moving traveling fetch. Seas estimated at 40-48 ft for 36 hours too. And all this was relatively close to the US West Coast (1027-1655 NCal, 1349-1952 SCal, and even less for Oregon), meaning less time for swell decay but also meaning less room for shorter period elements to decay off, giving the swell a rather raw rogue character rather than completely groomed and refined. A very large raw and powerful swell is likely for the entire US West coast focused mainly from Pt Conception northward to Washington. Take action to protect property now from Monterey Bay northward.
North California: Expect 15-16 sec residual swell energy on Wednesday. Swell Direction: 296-299 degrees.
Southern CA: Swell to get more consistent as the evening wears on with peak consistency likely near sunrise Wednesday (11/3) at 11-12 ft @ 17-18 secs outside the Channel Islands (18-20 ft) and 5.5 ft @ 17-18 secs nearshore (9-10 ft). Bigger sets likely with seas pushing 17 ft @ 18 secs outside the Channel Islands. Swell Direction: 303-308 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/2) high pressure was getting at foothold up into Oregon with light winds up there and north winds at 10 kts over all of North and Central CA. A light wind regime to hold through Friday, then high pressure is to try and build stronger for the weekend only to get cut off by building low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska pushing into Oregon resulting in a generally light winds pattern for Central CA southward through Sunday (11/7). Next week high pressure is to get a foothold with increased north winds at 15+ kts forecast along the entire Central and North coasts..
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs another small low is to try and wrap up on the dateline on
Saturday (11/6) but get sucked north into the Bering Sea before getting
any real traction on the oceans surface. Remnants from it might try and
redevelop in the Gulf of Alaska on Tues/Wed (11/10), but that is a pure
guess. No other swell producing fetch is projected.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (11/2) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising again. The daily SOI was up to 25.96. The 30 day average was down to 18.72 with the 90 day average up slightly at 21.67.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (11/1) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO remained weak. Stubborn easterly anomalies symptomatic of the Inactive Phase remained pushing over the far Eastern Tropical Pacific into Central America. In the West a mild Active Phase (west anomalies) remained isolated to the eastern 50% of the Indian Ocean. No westerly anomalies existed in the Western Pacific. The Active Phase is forecast to dissipate by 11/11 in the Indian Ocean with a totally neutral wind pattern forecast and holding through 11/21.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/1) continues to indicate that downright colder than normal waters (-2 C degs or cooler) expanding their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to New Guinea. The coldest waters were on the equator, but a broad secondary area extended from a point off Chile pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of cooler than normal water continued building off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the dateline, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive if not mature La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -6 degs below normal on 10/18 (getting a little warmer than previous readings of -7 degs in mid- Sept). regardless, this is still not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. And now from a historical perspective these easterly winds were now fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this is a rather recent development, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. The interesting twist to all this is that the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. But trades never waiver from the normal range. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is expected for the remainder of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is 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. 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 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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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.
Interview with Stormsurf: Coastviews Magazine has written up a very nice article on Stormsurf in their latest edition. You can read it here: http://coastviewsmag.com/master-forecaster-mark-sponsler-and-stormsurf
Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we implemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sample, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
West Coast: http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nepac_precip
East Coast: http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=watla_precip
Stormsurf Weather Models have all been upgraded! Over the New Years break we installed all new and upgraded weather models. Also new are experimental snow models for the Southwest US. Take a look here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
Read about Eric Nelson and Curt Myers, the makers of Ride-On and other Big Wave Surf Movies here: http://coastviewsmag.com/powerlines-productions-filming-the-art-of-big-wave-surfing
Ride On! Powerlines new big wave epic is now available on DVD. Get the entire big wave story of the 2008-2009 season here: http://www.mavz.com/
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Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table