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 Wednesday (12/7) North and Central CA was seeing waves waist to chest high and clean though lacking in power but making up for it with form at select breaks. Down south surf was knee high and clean. Southern California was near flat up north with waves knee high or less and chopped late. Down south surf was maybe knee high and crumbled. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting northern dateline swell with waves 2 ft overhead and clean but fading. The South Shore was getting fading background southern hemi swell with waves thigh high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at near head high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A new storm built off North Japan on Sunday (12/4) and peaked while tracking towards the dateline Monday with seas to 42 ft. Lingering fetch and seas in the 34 ft range held on the dateline Tuesday. A solid pulse of near significant class swell is expected to hit Hawaii Thursday with long period energy at 23 sec already impacting there at 11 PM Wednesday. Far less size expected for the US West Coast by the weekend. A bit of a break forecast till another system develops tracking from the dateline into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska Tues-Thurs (12/15) of next week with seas 24 ft. So again we continue waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to push into the West Pacific, hoping it will dislodge high pressure that has locked down the East Pacific and put a lid on swell production for the past several weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On early Thursday (12/8) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 160 kts tracking flat to a point about due north of Hawaii, then splitting heavily with most energy ridging hard north up into Alaska tracking east inland into Northern Canada getting no exposure on open waters of the Gulf of Alaska. A solid amount of wind energy was also peeling off the main flow falling south over Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja. Same old pattern as days and weeks past with the split point just a bit further east than earlier. There was very limited support for gale development in the flat consolidated jet energy pushing up to the dateline and virtually no support east of there with the split flow supporting high pressure aloft over the entire East Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to continue but with more energy energy building off Japan to 170 kts late Friday but not doing much in terms of trough development. The split point is to regress west some more towards the dateline with most energy taking the northern split into Alaska. No real support for gale development indicated. But there is some suggestion the southern flow might be getting sheared off. Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to hold in the 160 kt range over and extending off Japan and driving well into the Gulf of Alaska by Monday (12/12) offering a bit better support for trough development up to the dateline. If anything more wind energy is to build on the dateline to 170 kts by Wed (12/14) with the split point moving east of Hawaii and almost fading and decent energy starting to push into the Western Gulf of Alaska with a trough almost developing there. Improving support for gale development.
Surface - At the surface early Thursday (12/8) high pressure at 1032 mbs remained anchored off the Pacific Northwest and starting to ridge into British Columbia driving a north-northeast flow off Southern Oregon. The high pressure system was also driving trades over Hawaii at 15 kts producing limited east windswell along east facing shores there. Weak and fragmented low pressure was off Japan lifting hard north quick and of no interest. Swell from a storm off Japan a few days ago was already starting to send small long period energy into Hawaii (see Japan Storm below) Over the next 72 hours a large gale is forecast forming in the Northwestern Bering Sea easing east with all fetch either contained in the Bering Sea or pushing over the Western Aleutians, but nothing pushing cleanly over exposed waters of the North Pacific. Again high pressure in the upper atmosphere was driving all potential fetch northward giving it no exposure in the North Pacific.
A storm started wrapping up off Japan on Sun AM (12/4) generating 55+ kt west winds at 41N 153E and seas building just off the coast there. The storm was building in the evening with west winds confirmed via WindSAT at 55+ kts with seas building to 38 ft at 41N 158W (308 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The storm held together on Monday AM (12/5) while starting to lift slightly northeast positioned mid-way to the dateline with winds 50 kts from the west. Seas were modeled at 40 ft at 42N 168E (316 degs HI and 298 degs NCal). The system was fading by evening with residual 40 kt west wind lifting northeast with additional 40 kt fetch building south of the main center. Seas from original fetch peaked at 42 ft at 44N 172E (322 degs HI, 299 degs NCal and 303 degs SCal). The core of this system was tracking northeast nearly over the Aleutians Tuesday AM (12/6) with a broad area of 35 kt west winds pushing up to the dateline with 34 ft seas covering a solid footprint at 42-47N 175E (322 degs HI and 296-300 degs NCal). 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold at this location in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 44N 180W (325 degs HI and 296 NCal). 35 kt northwest winds to fade out Wednesday AM with seas fading from 30 ft up at 46N 176W (actually making it over the dateline but aimed due east towards the Pacific Northwest). This system is to be effectively gone after that.
This system looked impressive on the models a week before it formed but steadily deteriorated with each successive run, then stabilized at it's currently configuration. Current data suggests a decent pulse of longer period energy is expected to radiate across the Pacific. But size will be the issue due to the long travel distance and much swell decay that will occur on the journey across the dateline relative to the US West Coast. Hawaii should do better being closer, but it is a little south of the main swell vector.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival just before sunrise on Thursday (12/8) with period near 20 secs and size steadily on the increase peaking near sunset at 8.4 ft @ 16-17 secs (13-14 ft Hawaiian). Swell to hold while period drops over night. Friday AM (12/9) swell to be 9 ft @ 15-16 secs at sunrise (13-14 ft Hawaiian) fading slightly as the day progresses. Swell fading from 6.9 ft @ 13-14 secs (9 ft) on Saturday (12/10). Swell Direction: 310-320 degrees
North California: Expect swell to start showing near sunset Friday (12/9) at 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft). Swell to be solid by Saturday AM (12/10) with pure swell 6.6 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft), holding with period slowly dropping to 16 secs by sunset. Swell to continue on Sunday (12/11) at 7 ft @ 15 secs all day (10-11 ft). Swell fading from 6.5 ft @ 13-14 secs on Monday (8.5 ft). Very long wait between sets. Swell Direction: 297-300 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell to start showing before sunrise Saturday (12/10) at 2.5 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft) building through the afternoon reaching 3.2 ft @ 17 secs at sunset (5.5 ft). Swell to hold overnight with period slowly dropping to 16 secs by sunrise Sunday (12/11) and pure swell 3.6 ft @ 15-16 secs holding all day (5.5 ft). Swell fading from 3.5 ft @ 14 secs on Monday (4.5-4.0 ft). Very long wait between sets. Swell Direction: 299-303 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (12/8) high pressure at 1036 mbs was still centered 750 nmiles off Washington ridging slightly onshore into British Columbia. A modest gradient and northeast winds were blowing off the NCal/Oregon border at up to 25 kts and expected to hold through the day. A light wind regime is expected for most of California nearshore waters. Those brisk offshores to die over NCal on Friday with light to calm winds in control through Saturday. Sunday high pressure is to start ridging into the North CA coast with north winds building early down to Pt Arena at 15 kts and building southward with northwest winds to 20 kts late afternoon and up to near 30 kt over Cape Mendocino. A fully summer time pressure gradient. The gradient and north winds to hold over outer waters through Monday then start fading and effectively gone by Tuesday AM (12/13). A light wind regime to continue through Thursday (12/15).
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 the models suggest a poorly formed but large gale (really three small gales all circulating in the same upper level trough) to try and develop in the vicinity of the dateline and Westerly Gulf on Tues (12/13) with winds in the 35 kts range. All are to be lifting northeast pretty fast. Varying degrees of 35-40 kt fetch to building better in the Western Gulf Wednesday into Thursday with 24-26 ft seas on the dateline pushing east. But this is really just a guess by the models with no certain outcome likely.
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 Thursday (12/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at 23.35. The 30 day average was up to 16.20 with the 90 day average up to 12.02.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate to strong easterly anomalies were over the Central and Western Pacific, strongest on the dateline pushing to 140E near the Philippines, then abruptly shifting to light westerly anomalies west of there. Near normal winds over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West and Central Pacific and was likely putting a damper on storm development for the bulk of the North Pacific. But the Active Phase of the MJO appeared to be getting a little foothold in the vicinity of the Philippines, but not any further east. A week from now the models indicate easterly anomalies are to continue in the vicinity of the dateline holding to 140E and not making any headway. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO not giving up any ground yet. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is still peaking out on the dateline and is to slowly ease east while fading in the Central Pacific 2 weeks out. At the same time the Active Phase of the MJO is already strong over Indonesia to 150E, and is expected to start making better inroads into the West Pacific reaching well to the dateline over the next 2 weeks, peaking just west of the dateline mid-December (12/18). The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the Inactive Phase is to be in control through 12/18, with the next Active Phase appearing about at that time holding through Christmas to New Years with luck in the Pacific. This will be our next and likely best opportunity for storm production in the North Pacific for the winter season, with a secondary shot maybe late January into early February.
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
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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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