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 (11/19) North and Central CA was seeing swell fading out with waves waist high and clean at select breaks with wind building out of the southeast. Down south next to no swell was hitting with waves not even knee high and glassy. Southern California had limited north angled swell with waves maybe knee high up north on the sets and pretty heavily textured. Down south surf was knee high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some fun looking westerly swell with waves shoulder to head high and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at chest to shoulder high and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A somewhat more interesting gale wrapped up over the Aleutians on Sat (11/19) then fell southeast through the Gulf Sun-Tues (11/22) with mostly 24 ft seas and making better headway to the southeast, offering possible sideband swell for Hawaii and better size for the US West Coast. And slightly better one is to develop in the Central Gulf on Thursday (11/24) pushing east fast with 24-26 ft seas targeting the US West Coast again but from a slightly more northerly angle. Another is forecast tracking from Kamchatka falling to a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii Wed-Fri (11/25) with up to 27 ft seas offering the first real shot of swell for the Islands all season, then turning east and stalling well off the US West Coast with 28 ft seas. Swell for Hawaii late in the holiday weekend but not arriving along the US coast until the following week. Yet 2 more system are to follow behind that tracking over the dateline, but details are shaky at this early date. So the Thanksgiving Holiday is looking to provide snacks for everyone, though not anything too substantial. Take what you can get and be thankful.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/22) the jetstream was flowing east-northeast off Japan ridging over the dateline with winds to 170 kts tracking over the Aleutians then falling southeast into the eastern Gulf of Alaska forming a bit of a trough there before pushing inland over Southern Oregon. Decent support for gale development in the trough in the Gulf. perhaps some weak energy was peeling off the main flow near the dateline then flowing flat east over Hawaii on into Southern Baja, but far less than weeks past. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to push inland over Central CA on Wed PM while the whole jet start to fall somewhat to the south. Another trough is forecast building in the Western Gulf on Friday (11/25) with 150 kts winds feeding it then pinching off Sunday (11/27) midway between Hawaii and California. Some support for gale development from this one. Beyond 72 hours a weaker jetstream flow is forecast with a broad ill-defined trough tracking off Kamchatka and just south of the Aleutians Sat-Sun (11/27) then becoming a bit better organized in the Gulf 24 hrs later. Maybe more support for gale development. And a broad area of 160 kt winds is forecast building off the Southern Kuril Islands on Monday easing east. No defined trough yet but something to monitor.
Surface - At the surface on Tuesday (11/22) remnants of a gale were dissolving along a line starting 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii (38N) and ending along the Oregon coast and pushing east (see Gulf Gale below). Otherwise weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was located on the southern dateline 35N 175W. Another weak gale was circulating over Kamchatka with no real fetch over open waters of the Pacific but forecast to be more productive long term. Also a gale was developing in the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska (see North Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the gale that was over Kamchatka on Tuesday (11/22) is to start tracking east Wednesday with 35 kt west winds and 24 ft seas then pushing over the dateline and falling southeast moving towards the Western Gulf on Thursday PM (11/24) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas reaching 26 ft at 43N 177W aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. The gale is to be getting better organized while stabilizing in the Central Gulf on Friday AM (11/25) with 40-45 kt northwest winds getting decent traction on an already agitated ocean surface. 28 ft seas forecast at 40N 170W (335 degs HI). 45 kt northwest winds to build a bit east of the original core in the evening with 26 ft seas from the original system targeting Hawaii on the 350 deg path from 35N 160W with a tiny area of 28 ft seas building at 40N 153W targeting CCal up the 285 deg path. 35-40 kt northwest winds to be fading Saturday AM with 28 ft seas fading at 38N 149W (283 degs NCal/290 SCal). The fetch is to dissipate thereafter. Some degree of decent swell seems possible, especially for Hawaii with pure swell to 10 ft @ 14 secs first thing Sun AM (11/27) from 340-350 degs if all comes to pass as modeled.
Also another gale is to be developing the Central Gulf (see Another Gulf Gale below)
A gale wound up on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri (11/18) PM generating a small fetch of 45-50 kt west winds tracking northeast and basically over the Aleutians with the core of the low up in the Bering Sea on Saturday (11/19). On Sunday the remnants of that gale are to fall into the Western Gulf and start organizing with 35 kt winds forecast down at 45N 152W and seas building to 28 ft at 50N 162W and 22 ft as far south as 45N 160W. On Monday AM (11/21) a broad area of 35 kt westerly fetch to hold if not falling southeast with seas building to 24 ft at 43N 155W (some of that associated with seas generated up on the Aleutians). 35 kt west-northwest winds to hold while falling southeast in the evening with seas to 26 ft at 40N 148W targeting Central CA up the 287 degree path. Residual 30 kt west fetch to hold in the area Tuesday AM (11/22) with seas fading from 22 ft at 37N 140W pushing well southeast. Fetch to be fading through the day with seas dropping from 20 ft in the evening at 35N 138W.
Some degree of decent north angled sideband swell will result for Hawaii with larger but raw proto-swell for the US West Coast.
Hawaii - Expect swell arrival early Wed AM (11/23) with pure swell building to 4.2 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft faces) from 330 degrees. Swell peaking on Thursday AM at 5.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (7 ft) from 335 degrees.
Central CA: Expect swell arrival starting late in the day Wednesday (11/23) reaching 7 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft faces) then peaking overnight at 9 ft @ 13-14 secs (12 ft). Swell fading Thursday from 8 ft @ 13-14 secs early (11 ft). Swell Direction: 280-295 degrees. Swell quality raw and wind southerly early.
Southern CA: Expect swell to be peaking just after sunrise Thursday (11/24) at 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft faces) nearshore and holding through early afternoon. Swell Direction: 285-298 degrees
North Gulf Gale
Also a small gale was wrapping up in the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska Tuesday AM (11/22) with northwest winds confirmed at 55 kt per WindSAT at 54N 155W aimed down the 315 degree path to NCal . By evening winds to be down to 45 kts from the northwest resulting in 30 ft seas up at 53N 148W pushing down the 317 deg path to NCal. Seas to falling southeast to 51N 145W on Wed AM (11/23) again on the 319 degree path, then quickly dissipating.
Possible longer period swell pushing down into waters of the Pacific Northwest and Northern CA. Expect swell arrival in NCal on Fri AM (11/25) at 8 ft @ 16 secs (13 ft) from 315-317 degrees This swell to be very if not totally shadowed relative to Southern CA and totally outside the HI swell window.
Another Gulf Gale
On Wed AM (11/23) a small gale is to try and develop in the Western Gulf while tracking east with winds 40 kts and seas building. In the evening winds to be 45 kts at 45N 155W with seas building from 24 ft at 46N 157W (297 degs NCal). The fetch is to quickly push east Thursday AM (11/24) and develop off Vancouver Island with northwest winds 45 kts and seas to 26 ft at 45N 142W (302 degs NCal). The gale is to be inland by the evening with 28 ft seas lagging behind near 46N 135W (315 degs NCal). Larger raw local swell for the Pacific Northwest late Thursday into early Friday. More raw north angled swell possible for NCal Friday evening from 305-315 degrees and fading through Sat AM and mostly shadowed relative to SCal.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/22) the front associated with another gale low was impacting Oregon and trying to push down the North CA coast with south winds already in effect for Central CA. Rain was occurring from about Bodega Bay northward. The core of the low was effectively gone but the front was still trying to make southward progress. It's remnants are forecast to redevelop into a weak low off Central CA on Wednesday and fall southeast, fading off Southern CA early Thurs AM (11/24). Rain to hold in the Bodega Bay area then drop into the San Francisco area Wed PM pushing to Monterey Bay then fading there into Thursday afternoon. The net result is to be south winds for the Central CA coast on Wednesday into Thursday AM then dissipating mid-day with south winds building into Southern CA on Thursday AM through the day. No precipitation is forecast to reach Tahoe, with the weather all aligned north to south and impacting mainly the coast. Weak high pressure to try and hold thing nice for Friday with light winds for most of the state while yet another system builds off the coast. High pressure is to win the battle for California with a light wind regime in control for the week through Tues (11/29).
At the surface 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 starting Saturday AM (11/26) a new gale is to be developing over Kamchatka tracking flat to east on the 48N latitude from Kamchatka to the dateline Fri-Sun (11/27) with 35 kt winds and seas 26-30 ft. This system is to fade in the Western Gulf Mon-Tues (11/29) with seas dropping from 30 ft down to 20 ft. Maybe some swell targeting Hawaii with energy also heading towards the US West Coast.
And yet one more gale is forecast for the same region following the same track early next week.
This is likely our best shot of cross-dateline energy from the current Active Phase of the MJO, with a split jetstream and blocking high pressure forecast to dissolve for a little bit.
As of Tuesday (11/22) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 13.04. The 30 day average was down some at 8.07 with the 90 day average up some at 9.30.
Current wind analysis indicates weak easterly anomalies over the entire Western Pacific strongest near the dateline, then near neutral over the Central and eastern Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was all but gone. Other data suggests the Active Phase and it's storm enhancing western anomalies were already well entrenched in the Atlantic and heading east from there. The models indicate a week from now that easterly anomalies are to be building over from Indonesia to New Guinea over the dateline, then neutral into the Central and East Pacific. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be in firm control by then. The longer range models suggest that the Active Phase of the MJO is already in the Atlantic and pushing into the Indian Ocean with the Inactive Phase strong over the West Pacific likely putting a damper on storm development for at least the next 2 weeks. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. The Inactive Phase is to be in control 11/23-12/10, when the next Active Phase appears probably around mid December holding through Christmas with luck. The latest models suggest it is to be stronger than previously suspected, a good thing. Another Inactive Phase is expected to follow in January.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/21) 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'. And cooler waters off the US West Coast were now starting to expand. And warmer than normal waters that were over the Galapagos Islands were getting heavily eroded. 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 11/17 it was still in place under the equator at 120-140W 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.
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 during tropical/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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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