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 (11/10) North and Central CA was seeing residual swell at waist high and groomed to perfection up north. As the day progressed larger windswell started building in pushing 3 ft overhead on the sets. Down south wrap around energy was waist high with maybe a few stray chest high sets and clean. Southern California was small and basically unrideable (knee high or less) up north with clean conditions. Down south surf was effectively flat (knee high) and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell at chest to head high and pretty warbled. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell with waves chest high and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A larger local gale developed off North CA on Wed-Thurs (11/10) with seas near 29 ft seas but aimed mostly south of the Golden State. Still some moderate westerly angled sideband raw protoswell is expected into the US West Coast, focused mainly on Central CA overnight Thursday into Friday with energy down into Southern CA for the weekend. Also one small pulse of gale energy developed on the dateline on Friday with 18 ft seas, maybe setting up bare rideable windswell for Hawaii with luck. A broader system is forecast off Japan Tues-Wed (11/16) with 20 ft seas, offering really nothing for anyone. But the big issue remains high pressure locked north of Hawaii and off the US West Coast basically driving the storm track through the Bering Sea. The Active Phase of the MJO is supposedly kicking in, but so weakly as to have no positive affect on the storm track. Welcome to the second winter of La Nina.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (11/10) the jetstream was flowing generally flat east Japan then splitting a bit west of the dateline with most energy ridging hard northeast tracking above the Aleutian Islands through the Eastern Bering Sea before falling south into a ragged almost cutoff low/trough centered off the Central California before pushing inland over Southern CA. The southern branch was tracking east generally on the 35N latitude to the dateline, then falling southeast tracking over over Hawaii and then up into Baja. A large area of upper high pressure continued controlling the storm track, nestled in between the two split streams and centered just north of Hawaii - classic La Nina. Over the next 72 hours the trough off California is to slowly east east pushing inland over Southern CA on Sunday (11/13) while a huge ridge with 190 kt winds and high pressure holds if not builds over the Eastern Pacific basically reinforcing the existing pattern. No real trough of interest forecast. Beyond 72 hours the split point for the jet is to ease east some while high pressure in the East fades, with a trough starting to build off Kamchatka and pushing east. Maybe some support for gale development in the far Northwest Pacific, but that's it.
At the surface on Thursday (11/10) high pressure at 1032 mbs was over the Central Gulf of Alaska. East trades were blowing over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts generating small short period easterly windswell there. Of most interest (relatively speaking) was a moderate sized gale tracking south off the North CA coast with winds to 35-40 kts (see Cutoff Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the Cutoff Gulf Gale is to fade and push into Southern CA and Baja through Sat (11/12) (details below). Also weak undefined low pressure is to be tracking off Japan to the northeast and trying to organize. On Thursday AM (11/10) it had 30 kt winds trying to build in it's south quadrant holding at 30-35 kts in the evening getting some traction on the oceans surface. 18 ft seas forecast at 37N 174E perhaps targeting Hawaii with minimal background swell energy. By Friday AM (11/11) it is to be disintegrated as it starts racing over the top of the semi permanent East Pacific high pressure system.
Cutoff Gulf Gale
A new gale was falling from the the extreme Eastern Bering Sea into the Gulf of Alaska Tuesday AM (11/8) with 45 kt north winds modeled generating 20 ft seas up at 47N 158W and falling southeast. In the evening 40 kt north winds continued falling southeast into a new developing low pressure center wrapping up just off the Washington Coast. Seas 20 ft at 45N 151W. Wed AM (11/9) a full broad gale was circulating with 30-35 kts north winds 600 nmiles off the coast of Oregon and Cape Mendocino per the models, but confirmed by WindSAT at 50-55 kts in the AM. Seas 22 ft and building at 39N 146W (286 degs NCal/295 degs SCal). 40 kt north winds built in the gales north quadrant (off Oregon) Wed PM with 22 ft seas building there (35-45N 142W) (same swell directions as before). The gale and fetch was falling south on Thursday AM with most fetch 750 nmiles off Oregon at 40-45 kts aimed south with seas to 29 ft tracking down the outer coast at 39N 138W (45 degs south of the 285 deg path to NCal/50 degs south of the 298 deg path to SCal). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 35 kts but falling due south with 29 ft seas at 36N 1390W targeting no land mass. Friday AM (11/11) residual 30 kt westerly fetch is to finally wrap into the gales south quadrant targeting South CA with 26 ft seas from previous fetch at 33N 134W (275 degs SCal but tracking well south of those paths).
The most likely outcome is raw sideband swell for the Central CA coast with maybe some energy wrapping into Southern CA.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs (11/10) at 10 PM with swell ramping up to 6 ft @ 17 secs maybe pushing 8.5 ft @ 15 secs 2 hrs before sunrise (13 ft). A slow decline expected through the morning hours with swell dropping from 7-8 ft @ 14 secs (10-11 ft). Swell Direction: 280-290 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting at sunrise with period 16 secs and size tiny but on the increase fairly fast, starting to peak late AM at 4.0-4.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5-6.5 ft faces) at exposed breaks (nearshore). Swell starting to fade mid-afternoon. Swell Direction 285-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/10) a moderate sized local gale was circulating off North CA with 40 kt north winds tracking just west of buoy 46006 (720 nmiles off Northern CA) with southeast winds at 15 kts starting to move into the North and Central CA coasts. The core of the low is to fall south well off Monterey Bay late Thursday with southeast winds at 15-20 kts just off Central CA and continuing into Friday AM, then turning offshore for the SF bay Area northward as the core of the low passes south of the area, but still south for Pt Conception and building into Southern CA. Hi res models suggest a more easterly windflow for the SF Bay area down to Santa Cruz Friday. Light rain/sprinkles pushing into the Central CA coast Friday mid-AM and holding through the day. no real precip forecast for the Sierras. Friday night the low is to turn east and start pushing into Southern CA with south winds 15 kts late afternoon and building while an offshore flow takes hold for Central CA. Rain building into Southern CA. By Saturday AM (11/12) high pressure is to be well off the coast, but not reaching nearshore with an offshore flow for all of Central CA but south winds at 15 kts for all of Southern CA as the core of the low approaches from the west. Rain continues for southern CA early. The low is to dissolve while falling south off Baja on Sunday (11/13) with an offshore flow possible for Southern CA while high pressure and north winds dominate North and Central CA. Light rain to continue early for Southern CA. By Monday the low is to be gone and weak high pressure is to be in control again for North and Central CA with north winds there at 15 kts and lighter down into Southern CA. North winds holding if not building to 20 kts over Central CA into Wed (11/16).
At the surface on Thursday (11/10) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is 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 hrs another gale is to push northeast fast from Japan Sat-Mon (11/12) towards the Aleutians. little fetch is to get traction on the oceans surface with no seas being generated aimed at our forecast area.
Beyond a far larger and stronger system is forecast developing over the Kuril Islands on Wed-Thurs (11/17) but making little eastern headway with upper level high pressure holding a lock over the Eastern Pacific all the way back to at least the dateline. Maybe 20 ft seas forecast pushing towards Hawaii, but from a long ways away.
As of Tuesday (11/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down slightly at 9.10. The 30 day average was up slightly at 10.86 with the 90 day average down slightly at 8.22.
Current wind analysis indicated light westerly anomalies were blowing over Indonesia to the Philippines and New Guinea almost getting exposure in the far Western Pacific. Dead neutral winds were from there to the dateline with weak east anomalies over the Central Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to build over the extreme West Pacific with the Inactive Phase pushing east through the Central and East Pacific. The models indicate a week from now that moderate westerly anomalies are to be in-play from the Philippines into Indonesia with modest easterly anomalies over the Central Pacific into New Guinea. This is our big Active Phase of the MJO and it looks pretty meager indeed. All the longer range models suggest that the Active Phase of the MJO is already well entrenched (starting about 11/7) in the West Pacific and is to move over the Central Pacific 2 weeks out (11/23). The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. At the surface, this Active Phase already looks like a bust, and this window is our best shot at swell, until the next Active Phase appears probably around the later half of December. In between a strong burst of the Inactive Phase is forecast starting about early December over the extreme West Pacific, likely shutting swell producing storm production down.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/10) continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Southern CA 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. There were some fluctuations but by late July it remained locked in place and held strong in August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii. It lost a little strength in September and October but not much. As of 11/7 it was still in place under the equator at 120W at -3 C below normal and stalled. 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 of interest 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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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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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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