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 (11/12) North and Central CA was seeing residual local swell fading from head high or so and clean early, but wind turned northwest about 11 AM and got some heavy surface texture. Still clean later though at select breaks. Down south wrap around energy mixed with occasional southern hemi swell was producing waves up to shoulder high on the sets and clean inside the kelp. Southern California was getting westerly local swell with waves shoulder high or better up north but kinda ragged in the afternoon. Down south surf was shoulder high coming from the south with intermixed northwest swell at head high and also pretty heavily textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly swell at 3 ft overhead on the sets and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same northerly swell with waves 2 ft overhead and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
High pressure is to remain the names of the game for the Central Pacific and if anything, getting heavily reinforced later in the week with more building high pressure tracking east off Japan. Around the edges 32 ft seas are forecast in the extreme northeast Gulf of Alaska and fading while falling down the coast Sun-Mon (11/14) making it to British Columbia before dissipating. A small pulse of swell for Northern CA by Tues (11/15). A better gale is forecast falling down the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coast on Wed-Sat (11/19) with up to 24 ft seas, possibly setting up swell down into Central CA on the weekend. Some form of gale activity is to try and wrap up off Japan on Wed-Thurs (11/17) generating 22 ft seas at best and providing little for Hawaii if anything. In all a pretty weak pattern is forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (11/12) the jetstream was flowing generally flat east Japan then splitting a bit west of the dateline with most energy ridging hard northeast tracking 0ver the Eastern Aleutian Islands at 170 kts then into Northern Canada. A sliver of that energy was forming a backdoor trough extending off Pt Conception CA then pushing inland over Baja. IN all there was no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the flow off Japan is to become better defined but still following the same basic outline, namely riding over the Gulf of Alaska and then falling southeast slightly pushing inland over British Columbia. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours jet more of the same is forecast but a bit of a trough trying to form off the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka and easing northeast on Fri (11/18). But it is to be short lived and pushing northeast pretty fast. Maybe some limited support for gale development in the far Northwest Pacific at best, but that's it.
At the surface on Saturday (11/12) high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked over the Southern Gulf of Alaska. East trades were blowing over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts generating small short period easterly windswell there. Gale force west winds pushing to 45 kts were pushing trough the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska expected to reach northern British Columbia late. Seas forecast to 28 ft at 55N 138W late, totally outside even the Central CA swell window. Reinforcing fetch to continue in this area pushing seas to 32 ft late Sunday, but again outside even the Central CA swell window. Maybe some sideband swell to work it's way down the coast of the Pacific Northwest into North and even Central CA Mon-Tues (11/15), but nothing remarkable. We're really dredging the bottom of the barrel.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. High pressure is to hold about 750 nmiles west of the California Coast deflecting any wind energy emanating off Japan well to the north before ever reaching anywhere near the dateline.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/12) remnants of a local gale were still circulating just off the Southern CA coast pushing southerly winds into that area while high pressure was nosing into the northern half of the state setting up north winds there. The core of that high pressure was at 1032 mbs positioned 1100 nmiles north of the Big Island of Hawaii. The remnants gale low is to push into Baja on Sunday allowing the high unrestricted access to the North and Central CA coast with north winds the expected result in the 15-20 kt range and holding into Wednesday. A new gale low is to be building and falling south along the Canadian Coast at that time while new high pressure builds in the Western Gulf falling south with the low. The high is to win the battle, nosing into North and Central CA later on Thursday basically resulting in more north winds at 15-20 kts and holding through Sat (11/19). No significant rain or snow forecast for the period. Southern CA to remain protected from all the high pressure and north winds until late Friday when the gradient moves into that area producing north winds and holds likely through the weekend (11/21). Typical La Nina.
At the surface on Saturday (11/12) 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 high pressure off California is to diffuse itself some, only to regenerate over the Western Gulf of Alaska late Wednesday (11/16) a new small gale low is to develop just west of extreme northern Canada starting to fall down the coast producing a pressure gradient between the low and high pressure building over the Western Gulf, generating 35 kt northwest winds starting Wednesday then fading from 30 kts off British Columbia and Washington on Thursday (11/17) and aimed well at Oregon. 26 ft seas modeled Wed PM at 50N 140W on the 319 degree path to Central CA but shadowed anywhere south of there. Those seas to be falling southeast dropping to the 18-20 ft range off Oregon 45N 132W (again on the 319 deg path into Central CA) Friday AM (11/18) targeting Cape Mendocino late in the day. Some degree of raw swell is likely for the Pacific Northwest down to Pt Conception if all goes as forecast. But it's very early to expect anything.
Also a patch of 30 kt northwest winds is to push off Northern Japan on Wednesday (11/16) making it barely half way to the dateline Thursday AM before dissipating. Seas forecast to 22 ft at 35N 157E mid-day Thursday on the 300 degree path to Hawaii and 2500 nmiles out. Doubtful much if any swell will result for the Islands.
Otherwise, no swell producing fetch is forecast.
As of Friday (11/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 1.78. The 30 day average was down slightly at 10.23 with the 90 day average down slightly at 8.17.
Current wind analysis indicated light westerly anomalies were blowing over Indonesia to the Philippines and New Guinea almost reaching the dateline and getting limited exposure in the far Western Pacific, better than 2 days ago. 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 out east through the Central and East Pacific. The models indicate a week from now that near neutral winds are to be in-play from Indonesia to New Guinea with weak easterly anomalies from there to the dateline, then weak westerly anomalies from there over the Central and East Pacific. This is our big Active Phase of the MJO, and it continues to look pretty meager indeed. 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 (11/25). 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 and about by early December should be over the extreme West Pacific, likely shutting swell producing storm production down through say Dec 20th (best guess).
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 11/12 it was still in place under the equator at 120W at -2 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table