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.
On Saturday (11/27) North and Central California was getting locally generated windswell in the waist high range and blown to bits by south wind with rain and chop on top. Southern California was flat and clean up north and pushing waist high on the biggest sets down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting little dateline swell with waves chest high and glassy. Easily the most rideable of anywhere. The East Shore report was not available. 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 north angled swell generated in the Gulf of Alaska to arrive Sunday pushing 9 ft (faces) and hacked, fading from 7 ft Monday and 4 ft Tuesday. Wednesday swell bumps up a little to 5.5 ft holding Thursday (5.5 ft faces) and the down Friday from 5 ft. Southern California is to see the Gulf windswell build to shoulder high on Sunday holding at chest high into early Monday then fading from waist high Tuesday. Nothing Wednesday then thigh high north windswell on Thursday and Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see nothing rideable Sunday through Tuesday then low odds of north angled swell at shoulder high is expected on Wednesday (12/1) fading from waist high Thursday building to head high Friday. The East Shore is to see east windswell at head high or a little more on Sunday fading to head high Monday lingering there into Tuesday then down to waist high plus on Wednesday before dissipating. The South Shore is effectively asleep for the winter.
A gale developed in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Friday (11/26) producing 30 kt northwest winds while dropping southeast and pushing into Oregon on Sat (11/27) generating 21 ft seas Friday evening, then below 20 ft early Saturday. Maybe some small north angled raw windswell to result for the US West Coast north of Pt Conception on Sunday, but likely hacked by local north winds there. Anther low pressure system is to be building in the Gulf on Sun-Tues (11/30) but not generating any fetch or seas of interest. Yet another is forecast for the Western Gulf on Thursday-Friday (12/3) with 20 ft seas forecast to result, but a long ways away. Minimal swell to result with luck.
The La Nina induced backdoor coldfront machine remains in full effect for the Pacific Northwest on down into the Central Sierras with a healthy dose of early season snow on the ground and more accumulating. A good Plan B is to board or ski if the surf isn't to your liking. Get the 84 hr hi-res forecast here: Snowforecast
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Saturday (11/27) the North Pacific jetstream remained pretty much as it has of late, namely with most energy pushing northeast off Japan towards the Bering Sea then splitting heavily with a secondary weak flow tracking southeast and fragmenting pushing into Baja and event further south. A weak trough was just off the coast of the Pacific northwest supporting low pressure there. Over the next 72 hours the signature La Nina jetstream pattern is to become better defined with a single flow pushing off Japan then splitting heavily with most energy taking the northern route through the Southern Bering Sea dipping south some with a weak trough pushing through the Northern Gulf of Alaska and into Canada with a weak secondary flow pushing southeast into Central America. Now real support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours no change is forecast.
At the surface on Saturday (11/27) weak low pressure was pushing into extreme Northern CA with high pressure at 1028 mbs behind it. Another weak low was in the Western Gulf of Alaska heading northeast with high pressure behind it over the dateline. And yet a third low was off the Kuril Islands. Winds in all three low did not even reach the 35 kt threshold aimed at either Hawaii or the US West Coast, and most were only maybe 20-25 kts. In short, no swell production was obvious. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low is to build a little producing 35 kt northwest winds for 6 hrs Sunday evening (11/28) at 45N 158W aimed a bit east of Hawaii (350 deg) and better at the US West Coast. producing 20 ft seas at the same location. maybe some small 11-12 sec period north swell to result for Hawaii mid-week, and even less for the US West Coast. The gale itself (if you could even really classify it as a gale) is to pushing into Canada by Tues (11/30). No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
Previously on Thursday PM (11/25) a small gale quickly dropped out of the Eastern Bering Sea into the Northern Gulf of Alaska producing 30 kt northwest winds at 50N 150W holding into Friday AM (11/26) while easing east then fading to 25 kts in the evening repositioned off the Oregon coast at 45N 135W. Seas peaked at 22 ft at 47N 143W Friday AM (11/26). Small swell of 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft faces) is pushing towards Central CA for Sunday (11/28) from 307 degrees but will be destroyed by high pressure induced north winds then.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/27) high pressure at 1030 mbs was 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco CA trying to ridge east but being held at bay by low pressure at 1004 mbs over British Columbia and sinking southeast. This was producing rain and south winds down to Central CA and starting to result in snow in the Lake Tahoe region. Regardless, the front is to quickly push through with high pressure building in hard behind resulting in brisk north winds along the coast down into even Southern CA by Saturday evening continuing into Sunday. By late Monday winds to start slackening up nearshore over the state while yet another front pushes into Oregon. But it's effects are not expected to reach any further south than maybe Cape Mendo then holding there with rain and south winds but calm and clear south of there. A light winds pattern is to hold over Central and South CA through the workweek though light rain from the stalled front is to slowly ease south into the SF Bay Area on late Wednesday (11/30) pushing down to Pt Conception on Thursday before dissipating. A new local low pressure system is to start spinning up off Central CA on Friday with south winds into all of Central CA on Saturday (12/4).
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 another weak low pressure system is to drop out of the Bering Sea into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Thurs (12/2) producing 35 kt northwest winds over a small area as it forms a gradient with a large 1036 mb high pressure system stationed well north of Hawaii. Only 24 hours of winds in excess of 30 kt are forecast with seas reaching maybe 21 ft early Friday. Maybe some minimal background swell to result mainly for the US West Coast early the following workweek.
Otherwise nothing but clear skies and high pressure is forecast over the greater North Pacific.
See the official El Nino/La Nina Forecast using the link posted below.
As of Tuesday (11/23) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory, but not awful. The daily SOI was at 11.51. The 30 day average was up some at 15.28 with the 90 day average unchanged at 20.50. Overall, averages remained quite high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October.
Wind anomalies as of Friday (11/26) 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 12/16). But we continue to suspect this is an undercall by the models. Previous runs had indicated the Inactive Phase of the MJO was building in the Central Indian Ocean 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. This pattern would suppress gale development. Both the current and previous runs of the models indicated a dead neutral pattern was expected by 12/5 with neither the Inactive nor the Active Phase in effect. But in reality, it looks very much like the Inactive Phase of the MJO is occurring, regardless of what the models display.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/25) 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 and not expanding their coverage. Maybe we have already reached the peak of this La Nina event, but that is likely just wishful thinking. A broad secondary area of cold water was extending from a point off Chile pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. And 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 La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling 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 -5 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
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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table