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 Thursday (11/16) North and Central California was getting locally generated northwest windswell with waves head high and a bit blown with northwest wind on it. Southern California was getting a portion of that windswell wrapping into exposed breaks with waves maybe waist high and blown out mid-day. Down south it was pretty much the same story. Hawaii's North Shore was still a foot or so overhead at top breaks on the sets and clean, but energy levels way down. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves nearly head high and chopped due to steady easterly trades. The South Shore is 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 very north angled swell moving in on Friday at 7-8 ft (faces) later. More of the same forecast Saturday at 7.5 ft but raw and up to 10 ft on Sunday and a jumbled mess. Swell fades Monday from 7-8 ft faces and down to 4 ft on Tuesday. Southern California is to see 2.5 ft (thigh high) north windswell moving in later Friday pushing waist to chest high Saturday and up to head high on Sunday. North swell fades from chest high Monday and knee high Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see dateline swell fading from 4.5 ft (faces) Friday. Thigh high leftovers on Saturday with new dateline swell to near 8 ft later on Sunday fading from 1 ft overhead Monday and chest high Tuesday. The East Shore is to see east windswell dropping out from waist to chest high early Friday wit nothing for the weekend and Monday. Maybe some waist high plus east windswell moving in for Tuesday. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
A little gale organized on the dateline Sun-Mon (11/15) producing 26-28 ft seas over a tiny area all aimed south at Hawaii and was already fading there on Thurs (11/18). Little if any energy from this one is to reach the US West Coast. But the big story is high pressure has taken over the entire Eastern Pacific out to the dateline driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. A small gale developed just off British Columbia Wed-Thurs (11/28) with 35 kt winds and 22 ft seas dropping south, producing something for exposed break in CA for Friday into the weekend. It's to redevelop off Cape Mendocino on Saturday producing more 20 ft seas from a very north angle setting up raw swell for Central CA for Sunday. But wind and rain (and snow to upper elevations) is expected for the US West Coast down to Pt Conception at the same time. Yet more weak low pressure is forecast regenerating on the dateline targeting Hawaii long term, but energy levels are to be very low. We are moving into the Inactive Phase of the MJO with gale activity expected to drop off significantly.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (11/18) the North Pacific jetstream was very fragmented with a pocket of decent energy pushing off Japan with winds up to 140 kts, but then turning hard north on the dateline ridging up into the Northern Bering Sea, before sinking south over interior Canada, edging west a little off the coast there before pushing hard east into the Pacific Northwest. Limited support for low pressure development just west of the dateline and again int he mini backdoor trough off British Columbia. Over the next 72 hours energy the same basic pattern is to continue, with the trough west of the dateline becoming more defined but loosing alot of energy with winds down to maybe 110 kts at their peak, with the trough off BC falling southeast and moving inland. Maybe limited support for low pressure development in both locations with luck. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast, with the jet splitting even further to the west now, off Japan but with the big ridge that was pushing up into the Bering Sea settling down some, with a almost real trough possibly setting up int he Gulf on Thurs (11/25). Maybe some limited support for low pressure development there for the long Holiday weekend, but not guaranteed. High pressure looks to be setting up for the dateline too.
At the surface on Thursday (11/18) a weak gale was just off the coast of Washington dropping south (see Backdoor Gale below). Another broader but weak weather system was hanging over the dateline (see Dateline Gale below). Another weak low pressure system was just off the coast of Central Japan and unimpressive. High pressure at 1040 mbs was over the extreme Eastern Aleutians sagging south into the Central Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt east winds in the core of the Aleutian Storm Corridor, and offering the exact opposite of fetch aimed towards our forecast area. Not good. Over the next 72 hours that high is to drift south and form a gradient with the backdoor low repositioned just off the Pacific Northwest Coast generating north winds at 30-35 kts near 41N 135W producing 22 ft seas Saturday evening (11/20) at 40N 130W aimed towards Central CA. Larger raw short period swell expected to hit the coast on Sunday from 312+ degrees.
Low pressure regenerated 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 held into Thursday AM (11/18) with 30 kt northwest winds at 40N 178W (310 deg HI) with 26 ft seas expanding in coverage at 40N 177E (309 degs HI) before fading out in the evening with seas dropping from 24 ft at 37N 179W (319 degs HI).
Some smaller swell to reach Hawaii Sunday building to 6 ft @ 13 secs late (7.5 ft faces) from 310 degrees.
Backdoor Gale (US West Coast)
A small backdoor gale 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 sank due south on Thursday AM (11/18) with 30 kt north winds at 47N 133W sinking to 45N 131W in the evening then effectively dissipating from a swell production standpoint. Seas of 23 ft occurred at 50N 143W Thursday AM falling to 46N 141W (21 ft) in the evening and then down below 20 ft at 45N 133W (310 degs NCal) on Friday AM before fading out.
Limited very north angled 13 sec period proto-swell to result for North CA by late Friday into the weekend at 7 ft @ 11-12 secs (7.5 ft faces) from 310+ degrees (See QuikCASTs for details).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/18) a light northwest flow was blowing over outer waters bumping a bump on most breaks in Central and South CA. Low pressure was dropping down the Pacific Northwest Coast setting up a modest weather event for the weekend. A front was over North CA with rain but no real winds. This front 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 and continuing through Sunday. Rain to persist over Central CA in patches on Monday through breaking up. Winds of 15 kts or great are forecast into the coast on Sat and Sunday including Southern CA. Respectable snowfall amounts (total accumulation of 2+ ft) remain forecast for Tahoe region starting later Friday through Monday (11/22).
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 over the Northeastern
Pacific at 1032 mbs with a new high pressure system building off the
Kuril Islands tracking east at 1032 mbs too. By Monday high pressure is
to totally fill the North Pacific suppressing development of any swell
producing low pressure systems into Thursday (11/25). Not what we'd
like to see.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Thursday (11/18) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping some. The daily SOI was at 5.21. The 30 day average was down slightly at 14.69 with the 90 day average at 20.76 (down barely). Overall, averages were quite high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (11/17) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated absolutely no anomalies with none forecast for the next 3 weeks (thru 12/7). Suspect this is an undercall by the models. The previous run had indicated an area of mild westerly anomalies filling the tropical Pacific just 2 days previous. The previous forecast indicated the Active phase 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 into early next week. 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