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 Tuesday (11/29) North and Central CA was seeing swell from a gale that tracked from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii late last week continuing to arrive producing surf in the 2-3 ft overhead range and clean early but a bit warbled. Down south surf was shoulder to head high with a few 1 ft overhead sets and clean early but also warbled. Southern California was seeing some of this swell too with waves waist to chest high up north on the sets and clean early. Down south surf was chest high and pristinely clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the tail end of this swell with waves chest to shoulder high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same northerly swell with waves head high and chopped by north-northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Looking forward a small gale tracked from Kamchatka east to the dateline Sat-Mon (11/28) with 26 ft seas then surged slightly there early Tues (11/29) with up to 32 ft seas with a quick fade forecast thereafter. Small swell possible for Hawaii by Thursday and the US West coast for the early weekend. A weaker and less organized system is forecast for the Dateline and Western Gulf Fri-Sun (12/4) with 24-26 ft seas. And something possibly better is projected beyond.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/29) the jetstream was flowing east off Japan falling into a weak trough on the dateline then splitting with most energy ridging northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska and pushing into Central Canada, but a small amount of wind energy was peeling off the main flow and tracking flat east from the dateline over Hawaii and into Northern Baja. Limited support for gale development in the trough over the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to fade more while pushing east and pinch off tracking into the Western Gulf offering no support for gale development. If anything the jet is to become heavily split starting at the dateline with most energy ridging north into the Bering Sea. But a decent pocket of 170+ kt winds is to start building just east of Japan in the non-split portion of the jetstream. Beyond 72 hours the split jetstream pattern is to reign supreme over the Eastern Pacific starting Thurs (12/1) presumably from the build-up of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. But 180+ kts winds to start building off Japan reaching to the dateline and starting to build a trough on the dateline Fri (12/2) but then fading and pinching off as it moves east of there. But a second trough to follow right behind starting Sunday (12/4) with 160 kt winds covering a broad area and offering good support for gale development just west of the dateline into Tues (12/6). This pattern is looking to become well entrenched. In short, dry and calm over the East Pacific but stormy over the West Pacific.
Surface - At the surface on Tuesday (11/29) a small area of high pressure at 1032 mbs was located 600 nmiles off the North CA/Oregon border generating a modest northerly flow down the Central CA coast. It was also generating easterly trades at 15-20 kts pushing up to Hawaii but not quite reaching there yet. Of more interest was a gale that was circulating just south of the Aleutians in the Western Gulf of Alaska with west winds at 35 kts. This was the tail end of a broad low that tracked through the Southwestern Bering Sea generating a solid area of 30-35 kt west winds south of the Western Aleutians (off Kamchatka) aimed towards Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Second Kamchatka Gale below). Also a small gale was wrapping up off Vancouver Island (see Tiny Vancouver Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another small system is forecast tracking off Kamchatka easing east through the southern Bering Sea with 35 kt westerly fetch tracking south of the Aleutians resulting in 26 ft seas at 45N 166E on Friday AM (12/2) fading to 24 ft in the evening at 43N 175E. Additional 40 kt fetch is to build in the area on Saturday AM (12/3) resulting in 26 ft seas at 44N 180W (on the dateline) and holding into the evening with a slightly larger area of 26 ft seas at 45N 175W (325 degs HI and 297 degs NCal and 302 degs SCal). The fetch is to lift northeast on Sunday AM (12/4) still at 40 kts from the west resulting in 28 ft seas up at 48N 170W targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest (303 degs NCal and not aimed at HI). If all goes as forecast more steady swell to result for all forecast locations with period in the 14-15 sec range.
Tiny Vancouver Gale
Also a small gale started wrapping up 1200 nmiles west of Washington on Monday AM (11/28) with 30-35 kt west winds and tracking east, getting better organized in the evening with winds still in the 35 kt range and seas barely building to 20 ft. By Tuesday AM (11/29) 45 kt west winds were indicated just 600 nmiles west of Vancouver Island with 24 ft seas at 48N 139W (319 degs NCal and shadowed south of there). By evening the gale is to be fading while impacting the Vancouver Island coast with 30 kt northwest winds just offshore. 22 ft seas are forecast over a tiny area at 47N 134W again on the 319 degree path to NCal and 800 nmiles away from that target.
Assuming all this evolves as forecast very north angled swell is expected to arrive in Northern CA starting at 4 AM on Thurs (12/1) with pure swell 7 ft @ 13 secs (9.0 ft faces) from 319 degrees. Nothing south of there.
Second Kamchatka Gale
A new gale started developing off Kamchatka on Saturday AM (11/26) with 35 kt west winds and seas building to 26 ft at 48N 165E. This was a long way from anywhere in our forecast area. It continued pushing east in the evening making it about half way to the dateline with seas still 26 ft at 48N 170E. On Sunday AM (11/27) 30-35 kt west winds held with 24 ft seas at 47N 175E and pushing east with energy heading down the 321 degree path to Hawaii and the 303 degree path to Central CA. It tracked flat to east in the evening with winds down to 30 kts and seas still 24 ft at 45N 177E (325 degs HI and 300 degs CCal). Additional gale energy was feeding into this area on Monday AM (11/28) with west winds building to 45 kts and seas holding at 22 ft at 45N 176W (331 degs HI and 296 degs NCal) with a new fetch building directly behind. In the evening 45 kt northwest fetch held wrapping well into the gales core and getting traction on the oceans surface with seas building to 30 ft over a decent sized area at 43N 177W (327 degs HI and 296 CCal). The gale started tracking hard northeast Tuesday AM (11/29) with 45 kt west and southwest winds and seas to 32 ft targeting primarily Alaska with residual seas at 28 ft holding at 43N 170W targeting primarily Hawaii (336 degs) and up to 30 ft at 45N 170 targeting NCal (296 degrees). The gale is to fade out in the evening with all residual fetch aimed at Alaska.
Another pulse of decent swell is likely to push towards Hawaii from for the second half of the workweek from 325 degs and lesser energy for the US West Coast for early in the weekend (from 293-298 degs CCal and 298-302 degs SCal).
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival from the early part of this gale on Wed afternoon (11/30) pushing 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7 ft) from 313 degrees. Additional energy from the stronger part of the gale to hit early Thursday (12/1) with swell to 7.5 ft @ 16 secs (12 ft Hawaiian) from 325-335 degrees. Swell fading Friday from 9 ft @ 13 secs (11-12 ft).
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (12/2) at 3 PM with pure swell pushing to 6.5 ft @ 16-17 secs just after sunset (10 ft) and holding solidi through nighttime hours. Swell to remain solid at 6.0-6.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (8.5-9.5 ft) Saturday (12/3) at sunrise then slowly setting down from there. Swell Direction: 296-300 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Saturday (12/3) at 1 AM with pure swell pushing to 3.0 ft @ 16-17 secs just after sunrise (5 ft) at nearshore locations and holding solid through daylight hours with swell dropping to 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs late (4.25 ft). 13 sec residuals on Sunday (12/4). Swell Direction: 300-305 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/29) high pressure at 1032 mbs was centered 700 nmiles off Northern CA driving a modest northerly flow down nearshore waters of North and Central CA. On Wednesday those wind to build to 35 kt off San Francisco and 20 kts nearshore by late morning as the high pressure system interacts with low pressure moving inland to the north. Southern CA to remain shadowed from this wind event. By Thursday the high is to start pushing inland over Washington and winds are to turn progressively more offshore for the whole state (Santa Anna's in SCal) and then fading over the entire state on Friday. A light wind regime forecast for the weekend into at least mid-next week for all locations.
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 another gale is forecast wrapping up off Japan on Sun (12/4) tracking west towards the dateline with winds 45-50 kts, the stalling on the dateline later Tues (12/6) with winds fading from 40 kts but covering abroad area. This is something to monitor if one is to believe the models.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jetstream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Tuesday (11/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up, now to 30.79. The 30 day average was up to 12.51 with the 90 day average up to 11.08.
Current wind analysis indicates strong easterly anomalies over the Western Pacific, strongest from the dateline to the Philippines, but near normal over Indonesia. Light easterly anomalies were also over the Central Pacific but with near normal winds over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific and is likely putting a damper on storm development for the bulk of the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate strong easterly anomalies are to remain entrenched from just east of the Philippines eastward over the dateline and building into the Central Pacific indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east (as usual). The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to peak out on the dateline over the next week then fade slightly while pushing east, possible gone from the at least the West Pacific 2 weeks out (approx 12/13). A solid Active Phase of the MJO is already building strong in the Indian Ocean (11/29), and is expected to start making inroads into the extreme West Pacific about the second week of December. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting 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 to New Years with luck.
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 of the MJO 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
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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table