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 Sunday (12/18) North and Central CA was seeing residual dateline swell producing waves in the 8 ft range at exposed breaks with light offshore winds and clean conditions. Down south surf was head high to maybe 1 ft overhead and clean. Southern California was waist high with some bigger sets and well lined up by a bit textured. Down south surf was waist to chest high and pretty textured. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting residual dateline swell with waves in the head high range and clean with some warble intermixed. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at head high or so and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The storm track continues to be shoved well to the north over the Eastern Pacific thanks to a split jetstream flow aloft. A weak gale traces along the Aleutians Sat-Mon (12/19) with 24-26 ft seas all aimed mostly at Canada. Sideband swell from it to arrive in CA on Wed. On Wed-Thurs (12/22) a small but somewhat stronger Gulf gale is forecast tracking east with seas in the 32-36 ft range targeting the Pacific Northwest well, but bypassing Hawaii. Another one to follow right behind, but tracking more to the north on Fri-Sat (12/24). After that things go quiet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (12/20) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 160 kts lifting slightly northeast to the dateline, then splitting at 165W with some energy continuing on the original trajectory pushing up into Northern Canada. Perhaps up to 50% of the wind energy was peeling off the main flow at the split point falling south just west and south of Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja with yet another split pushing most of that energy the whole way south the the equator. No significant change from weeks previous with no clear cut troughs of interest indicated. There was limited support for gale development approaching the dateline and riding up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska, but the split flow continued supporting high pressure aloft over the Eastern Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with wind energy slowly fading off Japan and down to 140 kts only in pockets. Beyond 72 hours another major push of wind energy is to build over Japan to 180 kts by Sat (12/24) then easing east reaching nearly the dateline into Monday (12/26). But no troughs of interest are forecast. By late Tuesday most of that energy is to become centered on the dateline with the split point moving to a point north of Hawaii, the further east so far this season. And the amount of wind energy peeling off to the south is to dissipate considerably with a decent flow possibly starting to push into the US West Coast near the Oregon/CA boarder. Still, no defined troughs are forecast offering no clear support for gale development.
Surface - On Tuesday (12/20) residual swell from the broad dateline gale of last week continued hitting California and pushing into Hawaii, but was on the way down. High pressure at 1032 mbs remained locked off Oregon. Low pressure was tracking northeast over the Eastern Aleutians generating 35 kt southwest winds and 24 ft seas up at 53N 160W bound mainly for Alaska and Northern Canada, and of no particular interest for California or even the Pacific Northwest. Weak low pressure was also tracking over the dateline but not generating any fetch of interest yet. No other fetch of interest was occurring. Swell from a previous gale was tracking towards the Pacific Northwest and California (see North Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another gale is forecast forming 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii Wednesday AM (12/21) with 45 kt west winds over a modest area. It is to be lifting northeast in the evening with winds to near 55 kts over a tiny area resulting in 28 ft seas at 44N 165W. 45-50 kt northwest winds to hold Thursday AM (12/22) with seas to 34 ft lifting northeast at 45N 149W (299 degs NCal). Winds to fade from 40 kts Friday AM off British Columbia with seas fading from 30 ft at 46N 142W. Possible moderate swell targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA over the weekend with luck, assuming this one even forms.
North Gulf Gale
Previously on Saturday (12/17) a gale was on the northern dateline pushing east just south of the Aleutians generating 30 ft seas at 48N 170W. In the evening it faded with residual seas at 24 ft at 49N 163W. Additional energy moved into the area on Sunday (12/18) over the Gulf of Alaska generating 30-35 kt west winds and 26 ft seas at 52N 157W bound for the Pacific Northwest up into Canada, and of no particular interest for California. Secondary fetch developed late Sunday generating 24 ft seas south of the main core at 44N 155W but aimed mainly at Canada. The whole thing lifted north on Monday (12/19) with more 24 ft seas being generated, then pushing into Canada on Tuesday. In all, only limited sideband swell is expected reaching into Central California on Wednesday (12/21) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft) from 306 degrees. Nothing really for Hawaii with less than 1/2 that size for Southern CA on Thursday. (see QuikCASTs for details).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/20) high pressure a 1032 mbs was locked off the Pacific Northwest. A generally light wind pattern was in play over California coastal waters. The high is to hold if not build over the North CA coast on Wednesday with a pressure gradient developing over Cape Mendocino with north winds there at 30 kts and perhaps north winds down into Central CA at 10-15 kts. Regardless, by Thursday the gradient is to dissolve with a light wind flow again in control for all of CA. This pattern to hold into Friday (12/23) with a bit of north-northeast winds to 10+ kts on Saturday turning fully north for all of Central and North CA on Christmas then fading on Monday and holding light into Tuesday. No rain or snow in the forecast with the dividing line over south Washington (rain and snow north of there, dry south of there) then falling to South Oregon on Sun (12/25).
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 Northern Gulf on Thursday AM (12/22) with 35-40 kt west winds over a modest area lifting northeast.In the evening winds to be 45 kts from the west with seas building from 22 ft at 45N 162W. On Friday AM (12/23) winds to be 50 kts over a small area resulting in 34 ft seas up at 49N 155W (well shadowed relative to NCal) targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest. 45 kt west winds to hold Friday evening with seas peaking at 38 ft at 52N 149W aimed only at Canada. A quick fade to follow with no additional seas of interest being generated. Maybe some sideband swell targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA with luck, assuming this one even forms.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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 (12/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some to 23.51. The 30 day average was up to 20.44 with the 90 day up slightly at 13.40. No signs of an Active MJO.
Current wind analysis indicates strong easterly anomalies were over a portion of Western Pacific extending from 170W to 150E, then shifting to near normal west of there. This suggests the Inactive Phases of the MJO was still in full control of the West Pacific likely supporting the split jetstream pattern that has been the bane of this winter surf season. A week from now (12/28) the models indicate those anomalies are to fade and be replaced by strong westerly anomalies just a bit south of the equator from 140E to 180W but with weak easterly anomalies just north of the equator. this could suggest the start of the Active Phase of the MJO, but just as likely not. The longer range models are split with the supposedly more reliable one suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by Dec 25, with the Active Phase building over the dateline by 1/1. The less reliable model suggests the Active Phase holding back around 150E into early January and not really having any impact on the West Pacific with the Inactive Phase lingering and not moving one inch. The 40 day upper level model suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through January. At this point, it's anyones guess what might develop, but we're becoming less disposed to believe the Active Phase, even if it does develop, with have much impact. It's just looking like a bad year all around.
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 in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though 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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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