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 Sunday (11/14) North and Central California was remnants of Saturdays swell from the Northern Gulf of Alaska with waves in the 2-3 ft overhead range and clean, though still a little lump was lurking underneath. Southern California was getting a portion of the swell wrapping into exposed breaks with waves waist high or a little more up north early and clean. Down south it was pushing chest high and pristinely clean. Hawaii's North Shore was tiny with waves waist high, though small long period energy from the next swell was starting to show early. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves 1 ft overhead and chopped due to increased easterly trades. The South Shore was not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for only windswell left on Monday at 6 ft or so holding Tuesday with small longer period swell from the west building to 7-8 ft late but very inconsistent. Size from the dateline swell to hold on Wednesday at 7-8 ft, then fading on Thursday from 5 ft with new very north angled swell moving in on Friday at 8 ft late. Southern California is to see waist high north swell residuals on Monday and Tuesday down to 2 ft on Wednesday but with dateline energy taking over with waves chest high fading to waist high on Thursday and knee high early Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see longer period dateline swell continuing on Monday at 14-15 ft (face height), fading from 8 ft early Tuesday. Another pulse to arrive Wednesday building to 9-10 ft late fading from 7 ft on Thursday and 5 ft Friday. The East Shore is to see east windswell at 1 ft overhead Monday and Tuesday then down to chest to shoulder high Wednesday and Thursday before dropping out from waist to chest high early Friday. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
A gale formed off North Japan on Wednesday (11/10) tracking east-southeast with winds initially 45 kts fading to 40 kts and then 35 kts with seas in the 36 ft range. It reached the dateline late Friday and then rapidly disintegrated with seas fading from 30 ft there. Some decent sized west swell is expected for Hawaii by late Sunday on into the early workweek but just utility class swell for the US West Coast, but well groomed. Another little gale was starting to spin up on the dateline Sun-Mon (11/15) producing 28 ft seas over a tiny area all aimed south at Hawaii making little eastward progress. Little if any energy from this one is to reach the US West Coast. Beyond high pressure takes over the entire Eastern Pacific out to the dateline driven by the fading Active Phase of the MJO. Maybe a small gale is to develop over British Columbia mid-week dropping south, but effectively only bringing wind and rain (and snow to upper elevations) to the US West Coast down to Pt Conception. This is looking very much like a typical La Nina pattern.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (11/14) a consolidated jetstream flow was tracking over the North Pacific diving southeast off Japan with winds to 190 kts and falling into a trough on the dateline, then ridging hard north and pushing up through the northern Gulf of Alaska before tracking inland over Northern Canada with winds in the 17 kt range. Only the trough on the dateline was supportive of gale development down in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours energy that trough is to be diverted northward as a split in the jetstream forms off the Kuril Islands with most energy taking the northerly route up into the Bering Sea if not north of there, but falling back south forming a mini-backdoor trough off British Columbia early Wednesday (11/17) holding a little hope to support gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that backdoor trough is to sag south to Oregon, then moving onshore there on Sat (11/20). The huge ridge in the east is looking to loose energy and perhaps getting ready to collapse on Sun (11/21), but over all a very weak jetstream flow is forecast over the entire PAcific with no winds in excess of 100 kts and offering no support for even low pressure development. And there's some suggestion that a split jetstream flow might be building inland over Asia, suggesting no improvement for the immediate future either.
At the surface on Sunday (11/14) swell from a gale that tracked off Japan and faded on the dateline was about to impact Hawaii (see Japan Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1036 mbs was locked 800 nmiles off Central CA and was trying to ridge into the Pacific Northwest but not quite making it. It was generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino CA and producing limited northerly local windswell pushing down into Central CA. It was also generating easterly winds pushing up to the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts over a broad area with easterly windswell impacting East Shores there. Another modest gale tracked fast off the Kuril Islands Saturday AM (11/13) then stalled on the dateline Sunday AM (11/14) as it hit that impenetrable wall of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific, generating 40-45 kt north-northwest winds Sunday Am at 37N 172E but aimed mostly all to the south bypassing even Hawaii. It is to hold there into Monday AM (11/15) at 35N 175E. On Sunday AM seas of 24 ft are projected at 35N 171E building to 28 ft in the evening at 33N 175E (303 degs Hawaii) and holding at 26-27 ft at 33N 178E (305 degs HI) into late Monday before dissipating. Some moderate 15 sec period swell is possible to result for Hawaii by Wednesday AM (11/17) with pure swell to 6.6 ft @ 15 secs (10 ft Hawaiian) from 303-305 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours that gale is to stall on the dateline and possible regenerate on Wednesday setting up a fetch of 40 kt northwest winds in the AM at 39N 168E aimed a bit south of Hawaii then turning more to the west in the evening and expanding with 35 kts winds at 37N 175E (307 degs HI) generating 28 ft seas at 37N 175E. The fetch is to hold into Thursday AM (11/18) with 35 kt northwest winds at 36N 180W (312 deg HI) with 28 ft seas expanding in coverage at 36N 178E (311 degs HI) before fading out in the evening with seas dropping from 26 ft at 34N 175W (319 degs HI). Perhaps some mid-period smaller swell to reach Hawaii for the weekend (11/21).
Also there suggestions of a small backdoor gale trying to develop just off British Columbia on Wednesday (11/17) with a fetch of 35 kt north winds at 49N 135W in the evening barely on the 319 degree path to Central CA. This fetch is to sink due south on Thursday AM (11/18) with 35 kt north winds at 47N 135W sinking to 45N 133W in the evening then effectively dissipating from a swell production standpoint. Seas wise seas of 24 ft are forecast at 48N 135W Thursday AM falling to 45N 133W in the evening and then down to 22 ft at 42N 130W (308 degs NCal) on Friday AM before fading out. Perhaps some limited very north angled 13-14 sec period proto-swell to result for North CA with luck.
A gale pushed east of Northern Japan on Wednesday AM (11/10) with 45 kt west winds near 43N 153E and tracking almost flat east. A broader area of 40-45 kt west winds held in the evening at 43N 157W pushing right down the 310 degree path to Hawaii and too far away to have any real effect relative to the US mainland. 34 ft seas were modeled at 43N 159E. On Thursday AM (11/11) 40 west northwest winds were positioned at 40N 162E (308 Hawaii) with 35 ft seas at 41N 163E and turning even more northwesterly in the evening and totally cutting off any energy to the US West coast. In the evening 40 kt northwest winds were at 38N 166E (306 HI) with 36 ft seas at 38N 168W. Fetch was down to 35-40 kts reaching almost to the dateline on Friday AM (11/12) with seas 36 ft at 36N 171E (300 degs HI). In the evening fetch effectively faded out with residual 30-35 kt northwest winds on the dateline at 34N 180W (308 deg HI) and seas dropping from 34 ft at 34N 177E.
This was your standard small little winter time dateline class gale providing about 48 hours of 40-45 kt fetch and seas in the 32-36 ft range. Most energy is to be aimed well at the Hawaiian Islands, possible providing the first real taste of direct small but decent energy of the season for there.
Hawaii: Expect small early arriving components of this swell to hit Oahu on SUnday before sunset with pure swell perhaps to 6 ft @ 18 secs, though that is likely on the high side. Peak swell to arrive at sunrise Monday morning at 8 ft @ 16-17 secs (13 ft Hawaiian) from 300-307 degrees and holding as period drops to 15 secs through the day. Remnants at 7 ft @ 13 secs expected on Tuesday (9 ft faces).
Minimal energy is to seep into Central CA starting late on Tuesday and peaking Wednesday at 4.8 ft @ 15 secs (7 ft faces).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (11/14) north winds were blowing over outer waters at 25 kts from Cape Mendocino down to Pt Conception then turning more northeast taking aim on points a bit east of Hawaii. Northwest winds were blowing in the SF Bay Area too nearshore by late morning wiping out the clean conditions of earlier in the day. This was all the result of strong high pressure at 1038 mbs positioned 800 nmiles off Pt Arena and was almost ridging into the Pacific Northwest. By Monday about the same pattern is to hold, though neashore winds from San francisco southward are looking to lighten up some, with the gradient and nearshore winds fading more on Tuesday. Finally on Wednesday low pressure is to be dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska down the Pacific Northwest coast causing the gradient and all north winds to dissipate ahead of a front perhaps reaching north CA late on Thurs (11/18) sweeping into Central CA on Friday and to Pt Conception on Saturday. No real winds is forecast till Saturday though for all of North and Central CA. Rain is to linger behind the front through the weekend. Respectable snowfall amounts in Tahoe to start early Saturday (11/20). In fact, there's still decent coverage of snow on the ground at Sugar Bowl as of Sunday AM (11/14).
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 high pressure is to hold in some fashion over the Northeastern Pacific. Virtually no swell production is forecast through Mon (11/22).
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Sunday (11/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was showing signs of heading upwards. The daily SOI was down to to 19.15. But the 30 day average was up to 16.27 with the 90 day average at 21.27. Overall, averages were quite high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (11/13) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued to indicate no easterly anomalies and a solid area of mild westerly anomalies filling the tropical Pacific. This is indicative of a mature pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO and is good for supporting gale formation in the Northern Pacific. Per the models this Active Phase is to push a little more east while slowly dissipating, reaching Central America on 11/18 then fading there through 11/28. Supports the formation of low pressure if not gales in the North Pacific, at least for another week or so. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO is depicted build in the Central Indian Ocean and is expected to drift east, reaching the Philippines about 11/23 and easing east from there pushing to the mid-Pacific into 12/3. This will suppress gale development when it materializes. Actually the global models already suggest the early signs of the Inactive Phase taking root with a split jetstream flow forecast over the North Pacific in the next few days. So we suspect the MJO forecast models are actually a bit behind reality.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/11) continues to indicate that downright cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a stable grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, but are not getting any colder, but are expanding in coverage. 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. A mirror image feeder band of cooler than normal water also extending west off the US West Coast sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive if not mature La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in over 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 strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -4 degs below normal (up from the -6 degs below normal on 10/18 and -7 degs in mid- Sept). Regardless, it is not moving and is not expected to move for months. This is 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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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