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 (12/13) North and Central CA was seeing fading dateline swell though still fun at head high or so and clean. Down south surf was thigh high and textured. Southern California was maybe waist high up north and clean early but pretty weak. Down south surf was waist high plus and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was small but reasonably clean with waves waist to maybe chest high at top spots. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A gale tracked through the Bering Sea Sunday (12/11) driving some fetch south of the Aleutians near the dateline with seas to 24 ft, but very short lived resulting in minimal swell for the US West Coast near Thursday an bypassing the Islands. A stronger gale developed just west of the dateline on Monday with seas briefly to 28 ft in the evening, then evaporated. Some small longer period swell expected for Hawaii by Thursday and the mainland by Saturday. A broader system is forecast for the dateline Wed-Thurs (12/15) with 29 ft seas pushing almost to a point north of Hawaii. This might result is better swell for all locations but nothing over the top. After that another gale is forecast over the northern dateline Sun-Mon (12/19) with 34 ft seas, but that remain just a guess by the models. If the Active Phase of the MJO is to materialize in any capacity, it would start next week and hold till the end of the month. But there is little data to suggest any significant shift in the storm pattern.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (12/13) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 170 kts tracking flat to a point just east of the dateline, then splitting with most energy ridging northeast up into the Central Gulf of Alaska pushing inland over British Columbia. hard south down the coast of the Pacific Northwest before turning east and moving inland over Pt Conception CA. A decent amount of wind energy was also peeling off the main flow falling south over Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja. In short, no big change though the northern branch east of the split point was further south than weeks past. There was limited support for gale development in the flat consolidated jet section 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 hold but with more wind energy building off Japan to 190 kts later Tuesday with signs of a trough trying to set up on the dateline and easing east into Thursday offering decent support for gale development in that area. The split point is to move east some too positioned about north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to rebuild to the 150-160 kt range extending off Japan driving to the dateline if not slightly east of there with the split point holding north of Hawaii. But no clear signs of trough development in this region indicated suggesting less support for gale development. That said, all the basic building blocks are to be present other than a trough. But with wind speeds remaining solid, that could easily change.
Surface - On Tuesday (12/13) two swell were in the water, with one heading for the US West Coast (See First North Dateline Gale) and another for both Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Second Dateline Gale below). Neither was of particular interest during a normal winter, but because pickens are so slim, they are now worthy of discussion. On Tuesday another batch of winds energy was migrating off Japan bound for the dateline.
Over the next 72 hours another gale is to start wrapping up right behind on Tuesday AM (12/13) midway between Japan and the dateline with 40 kt west and northwest winds. Seas on the increase from 22 ft. In the evening a solid sized fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds are forecast on the southern dateline at 40N 178E with seas building to 26 ft back at 39N 176E targeting Hawaii well down the 311 degree path. The gale is to intensify some Wednesday AM (12/14) with 35-40 kt west winds wrapping the core. 29-30 ft seas holding at 38N 175W (320 degs HI and aimed 30 degree south of the 287 deg path to Central CA). The gale is to lift north in the evening with 55 kt west winds approaching the Eastern Aleutians in the Western Gulf with 29 ft seas forecast at 40N 177W (318 degs HI and 290 degs NCal). By Thursday the storm is to be in the Bering Sea with residual seas from previous fetch fading from 26 ft at 40N 172W (bypassing Hawaii and on the 287 degree path to NCal). Possible larger swell for both Hawaii and the US West Coast if this develops are forecast. Will monitor.
First North Dateline Gale
On Saturday (12/10) a gale wound up in the Western Bering Sea producing 30-35 kt west winds positioned just south of the Aleutian Islands resulting in 24-26 ft seas up at 50N 180W holding till Sunday AM. Small 14-15 sec period swell has been generated likely pushing mostly to the east.
Small background swell expected for North California on Thursday AM (12/15) with pure swell 4.5 ft @ 15 (6 ft) from 304-306 degrees
Second Dateline Gale
On Sunday (12/11) a small gale was trying to organize west of the dateline with 35 kt westerly winds and a non-closed circulation. By Monday AM (12/12) 40 kt west winds were building on the dateline between 40N-45N all aimed due east. Seas on the increase from 20 ft. In the evening a tiny fetch of up to 45 kt west winds were building resulting in 29 ft seas at 43N 177W and up to 29 ft by 10 PM at 44N 172W (334 degs HI and 294 degs NCal). This system lifted hard north Tuesday AM (12/13) with the core hitting high pressure to the east and moving into the Bering Sea. 45 kt west wind held just south of the Aleutians producing seas of 34 ft up at 50N 172W (306 NCal) aimed due east with 28 ft seas hanging down at 45N 172W (298 NCal). No additional fetch or seas of interest forecast with the system moving into the Bering Sea fully.
Some degree of moderate period swell is expected to result - sideband energy for Hawaii by Thursday (12/15) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft from 320 degrees) and more direct but more decayed energy for North CA by Saturday (12/17) at 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (6-7 ft) from 294-297 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 (12/13) high pressure at 1026 mbs was well off the Southern CA with a building low off Oregon. A pressure gradient off the Central CA coast was fading. As a result a weak wind pattern was in play along the CA coast. A light wind regime to continue Wednesday through the early morning hours of Thursday (12/15). But then low pressure is to be moving into the Pacific Northwest with a front draping down into Central CA with rain down to Pt Conception later Thursday and 3-4 inches of snow for Tahoe. High pressure is to be directly behind it setting up north winds at 15+ kts over Central CA expected down to Pt Conception then fading slowly on Friday. Back to calm for the weekend though south winds are possible from San Francisco northward starting Sunday as low pressure approaches well offshore. The low is to fall south with an offshore flow expected Monday into Tuesday for Central and North CA but near clam to light offshores expected for Southern CA.
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 forming in the extreme Northwest Pacific over the weekend with it's remnants falling southeast and trying to organize again on the dateline Sunday (12/18) pushing northeast up into the Western Gulf on Monday (12/19). Seas forecast in the 32-34 ft range but mainly just south of the Aleutians. Will monitor.
Perhaps some follow-on energy to coalesce in the Gulf mid-next week too.
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 (12/13) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up again to 20.97. The 30 day average was up to 16.27 with the 90 day up slightly at 12.56.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies were over only a portion of Western Pacific pushing to 160E, then shifting to calm if not light westerly anomalies west of there. This suggests the transition point is holding steady near 160E and not making any more eastward headway. Near normal winds over the East and Central Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading but holding it's ground between 160E and 160W. We were hoping this was the start of the Active Phase of the MJO encroaching into the West Pacific helping to ultimately fuel storm development for the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate little change with modest easterly anomalies holding at 180W to 160E, slowly giving up areal coverage, but it's a fight. Dead neutral winds to be east of there into Central America and west of there into Indonesia. This is indicative of not necessarily the Active Phase, but certainly not the Inactive Phase of the MJO either. Maybe just a slow death of the Inactive Phase. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by Dec 16, with the Active Phase building over the dateline by 12/18 and looking decent by 12/25. At the same time a strong pulse of the Inactive Phase is to be building south of India raging there by Christmas. Best guess is the Active Phase is to appear on 12/18 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
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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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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