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 (11/16) North and Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell with waves chest high and clean early but warbled. Southern California was getting a portion of the swell wrapping into exposed breaks with waves thigh to waist high and a little textured mid-day. Down south it was maybe waist high and textured and looking pretty weak. Hawaii's North Shore was 1-2 ft overhead on the bigger sets and kinda lumpy with trades creating some cross-up. In general surf was smaller than hoped for. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves head high and chopped due to steady 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 a little more swell from the dateline building to 7 ft (faces) on Wednesday with windswell on top. This swell fades on Thursday from 5 ft with new very north angled swell moving in on Friday at 8 ft later. More of the same forecast Saturday at 8.5 ft but raw and about the same on Sunday. Southern California is to see 2 ft north windswell on Wednesday but with dateline energy taking over with waves waist chest high late fading to waist high on Thursday and knee high early Friday. Saturday new north angled proto-swell arrives to waist high plus fading from thigh high on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to another pulse of datelines well to arrive Wednesday building to 8 ft late fading from 7 ft on Thursday and 4 ft Friday. Thigh high leftovers on Saturday with new dateline swell to 7 ft on Sunday. The East Shore is to see east windswell at at chest to shoulder high Wednesday and Thursday before dropping out from waist to chest high early Friday wit nothing for the weekend. 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. Swell has already hit Hawaii but was a little smaller than hoped for. This swell is just starting to move into California, expected to peak on Wednesday. Another little gale was organized on the dateline Sun-Mon (11/15) producing 26-28 ft seas over a tiny area all aimed south at Hawaii and expected to arrive Wed-Thurs (11/18). Little if any energy from this one is to reach the US West Coast. Otherwise high pressure has taken over the entire Eastern Pacific out to the dateline driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. A small gale is still forecast to develop over British Columbia Wed-Thurs (11/28) with 35 kt winds and 22 ft seas dropping south, producing some thing for exposed break in CA for Friday into the weekend but bringing wind and rain (and snow to upper elevations) to the US West Coast down to Pt Conception. Yet more low pressure is forecast regenerating on the dateline targeting Hawaii long term, but energy levels are to be low. For now we are moving into a down phase of the MJO (Inactive Phase) and gale activity is expected to reflect this trend.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (11/16) the North Pacific jetstream was undergoing a significant transition. A pocket of solid energy was pushing off Japan with winds at 140 kts, but quickly lost energy on the dateline and was veering hard north pushing up north of almost the Bering Sea. A side stream of energy was pushing up the Kuril Islands into the Bering Sea as well. The consolidated flow then tracked east into Alaska before dropping south if not southwest, forming a backdoor trough just off British Columbia, then pushing inland over Washington. There was limited support for gale development between Japan and the dateline, and even less off British Columbia. Over the next 72 hours energy the same basic pattern is to continue, with a flow pushing flat off Japan, tracking hard north up into the Northern Bering Sea, then falling hard south into something that almost resembled a trough tracking south over the Pacific Northwest. Low pressure to continue in the same locations, towards the dateline and over the Pacific Northwest. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast, but with much less energy overall in the jet and the trough over the Pacific Northwest dissipating. This suggests only limited support for low pressure development between Japan and the dateline.
At the surface on Tuesday (11/16) swell from a gale that tracked off Japan and faded on the dateline had mostly passed Hawaii and was starting to impact California (see Japan Gale below). Also swell from Another dateline gale was about to hit Hawaii (see Another Dateline Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked 800 nmiles off Central CA and was trying to ridge into the Pacific Northwest. 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 kts but fading with easterly easterly windswell fading along East Shores there. More high pressure was dropping into the Gulf of Alaska from the Bering Sea at and bulletproof 1048 mbs. This is not a good sign. Weak low pressure at 1000 mbs was over the dateline. It was forming a gradient with the high pressure system in the Bering sea generating 30-35 kt east winds in the heart of the Aleutian Storm Corridor totally blocking the eastward progress of any 'normal' winter storms.
Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to continue stalled on the dateline regenerating on Wednesday setting up a fetch of 35 kt northwest winds in the AM at 39N 170E 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 24 ft seas at 37N 172E. The fetch is to hold into Thursday AM (11/18) with 35 kt northwest winds at 37N 178W (310 deg HI) with 26 ft seas expanding in coverage at 38N 177E (310 degs HI) before fading out in the evening with seas dropping from 24 ft at 36N 178W (319 degs HI). Perhaps some mid-period smaller swell to reach Hawaii for the weekend (11/21).
Also a small backdoor gale is still scheduled to try and develop just off British Columbia on Wednesday (11/17) with a fetch of 35 kt north winds at 50N 135-140W moving to 47N 138W 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 133W sinking to 45N 131W in the evening then effectively dissipating from a swell production standpoint. Seas wise seas of 23 ft are forecast at 50N 143W Thursday AM falling to 46N 135W (21 ft) in the evening and then down to 20 ft at 45N 130W (312 degs NCal) on Friday AM before fading out. Perhaps some limited very north angled 13 sec period proto-swell to result for North CA with luck by late Friday into the weekend..
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.
Minimal energy is to seep into Central CA starting late on Tuesday and peaking Wednesday at 4.8 ft @ 15 secs (7 ft faces).
Another Dateline Gale
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 6.0 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft faces) from 303-305 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 (11/16) north winds were blowing over outer waters at 20+ kts from Cape Mendocino down well off Pt Conception then turning east taking aim on Hawaii. Light winds were reported in the SF Bay Area early, but came up northwest mid-day, a typical high pressure induced pattern. 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 quickly dissipate ahead of a front perhaps reaching North CA early Thurs (11/18) with rain but not real winds then limping into Central CA in the evening before dissipating. A second incarnation of it is to regroup over Central CA on Friday covering the state with rain from Pt Conception northward late evening and then down to San Diego on Saturday AM Rain to persist well into Monday even down to San Diego. Interesting but no real winds are forecast till Saturday, and then a mix of south wind followed by north winds are to build for the weekend as low pressure rebuilds directly over the Northern Half of the state. Respectable snowfall amounts remain forecast for Tahoe starting early Saturday (11/20).
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. Another weak gale is to push to the dateline on Sat (11/20)
with 35-40 kt northwest winds aimed a bit south of the great circle
paths to Hawaii at 32N 180W with a tiny area of seas to 25 ft at 32N
177E. 30-35 kt west to northwest winds to hold into Sunday AM (11/21) at 32N 178W generating seas at 24 ft at 31N 178W targeting Hawaii. Limited 35 kt north fetch is to hold up at 42N 180W into Tuesday AM (11/23) generating more 20-24 ft seas aimed a bit west of Hawaii though likely still producing some degree of northerly swell for the Islands. Something to monitor, cause there certainly isn't anything else.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (11/16) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding steady. The daily SOI was at 22.14 effectively unchanged for 4 days. The 30 day average was down slightly at 15.32 with the 90 day average at 21.09 (no change). Overall, averages were quite high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (11/15) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued to indicate an area of mild westerly anomalies filling the tropical Pacific. This is indicative of a mature but weakening pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO and is still providing limited support for gale formation in the Northern Pacific. Per the models this Active Phase is to push a little more east while slowly dissipating, pushing into Central America on 11/20 then fading there through 11/25. This should provide minimal supports for 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 already building in the Central Indian Ocean and is expected to drift east, reaching the Philippines about 11/25 and easing east from there while dissipating into 11/30, not pushing to the mid-Pacific. Regardless this will suppress gale development, if it already isn't having some effect. 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. A dead neutral pattern is forecast by 12/5 with neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase in effect.
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