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.
Happy New Year!
We wish to extend our warmest wishes to you and your families over this holiday season. It's been a good year here at Stormsurf with new content and new servers up and running, with more goodies in the making. We hope you all have a great holiday with lot's of food and fun. As usual, forecasts will be updated as time permits while we too enjoy a bit of a break. Thanks again for all your support and well return with regular forecasts updates in the new year.
On Tuesday (12/28) North and Central California was getting the last leftovers of Gulf swell mixed with local windswell at head high or so and starting to get shredded by building southerly winds with light rain ahead of an incoming front. Southern California was getting waist high or so northwest residual Gulf windswell and reasonably clean. Down south exposed breaks were waist to maybe chest high and clean with light wind in the afternoon. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last pulse of the same old northerly Gulf swell with a new westerly swell building underneath early and waves head high to 1-2 ft overhead and clean with light trades in effect. 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 for Wednesday is for north windchop at 8-9 ft (faces) fading from 10 ft on Thursday and then down to 7 ft from the northwest on Friday. Residual windswell of 3.5 ft expected on Saturday and maybe some Gulf swell to 6 ft late on Sunday. Southern California is to see thigh high leftover Gulf swell on Wednesday with north windswell building on top. Thursday new north locally generated windswell is expected at near head high fading from waist to chest high Friday. Saturday north windswell drops from knee high then new Gulf northwest swell builds to waist high Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new 1 ft overhead westerly swell Wednesday fading from head high early Thursday then being reinforces on Friday pushing 2 ft overhead. That swell to be fading from 3 ft overhead Saturday while the first real swell in a very long time arrives on Sunday pushing 18 ft. The East Shore is to see waist high east windswell pushing near chest high Thursday and peaking Friday at near head high then fading to chest high by Sunday. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
On Tuesday a local gale was pushing down the US West Coast and expected to move onshore early Wednesday over CA, with strong north winds and high pressure building in behind holding into Thursday. Snow in the mountains later Tues into Wed. A weak gale is forecast just off Central CA on Sat-Sun with 20 ft seas maybe good for more windswell by Sunday. But the big story is that jetstream is starting to improve and push well to the east with 2 solid gales forecast forming off Japan tracking to the dateline, the first on Thurs-Fri (12/31) with up to 43 ft seas (well west of the dateline) and the second Sat-Sun (1/2) again with 43 ft seas well west of the dateline. Neither is to be large or broad, and both a long ways away from the US West Coast meaning swell decay will take it's toll on the size of the resulting swell. But Hawaii might be well set up to receive some good west swell. Both are still a ways off from forming, but the trend is encouraging. This is all attributable to the building Active Phase of the MJO.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (12/28) the jetstream was showing marked signs of improvement with a solid push of energy tracking off Japan at 170 kts and pushing in a solid single flow to the dateline. The jet split there with most energy taking the northern route over the Aleutians, then falling back southeast and pushing into the Pacific Northwest being joined by residual energy in the southern branch of the jet. In all a bit of a trough was trying to organize on the dateline with a weak secondary trough off the Pacific Northwest. At this time energy only the weak trough in the Eastern Gulf was supportive of surface level gale development, but the big push of wind energy west of the dateline remains most interesting. Over the next 72 hours the trough off the US West coast is to push hard inland while the eastward moving wind energy continues tracking flat off Japan at 180 kts but stalled from making any more eastward progress on the dateline Fri (12/31), but starting to provide decent support for gale development there with a trough digging out. A split flow to remain east of there. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidated jet is to make it's big push east, though tracking a bit to the northeast with the main flow reaching into the middle of the Gulf of Alaska late Mon (1/3) with winds 150 kts over it's length from Japan eastward. A bit of a trough to remain on the dateline providing improving odds to support gale if not storm formation. This is to be the best of the winter.
At the surface on Tuesday (12/28) weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was trying to organize off Northern California while a much larger gale was developing over the Northern Dateline producing 35 kts winds on the dateline and 26 ft seas at 36N 164E aimed well at Hawaii down the 303 degree great circle path. Some degree of 22 ft seas to hold at 34N 170E into evening, then dissipate. Swell arriving in Hawaii for New Years Eve. Secondary west fetch of 40 kts is to build up at 48N 175W on Wed (12/29) with seas to 30 ft over a tiny area there likely setting up small swell for the US West Coast by late in the coming weekend. See QuikCAST's for details. Otherwise a new gale was trying to organize directly over Japan. Previously a cutoff low just east of the dateline on Sun (12/26) producing 30 kt northwest winds at 34N 175W aimed a bit west of Hawaii resulting in 18 ft seas at 33N 175W. Windswell of 4.8 ft @ 11-12 secs (up to 6 ft faces) expected for Hawaii on Wed (12/29) from 308 degrees. Over the next 72 hours a pressure gradient between high pressure building into the southern Gulf of Alaska and low pressure pushing south inland over the Pacific Northwest is to generate a fetch of 30 kt northwest winds tracking down the Pacific Northwest coast resulting in 20 ft seas eventually pushing into Northern CA late Wed PM. Raw northwest windswell possible for the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA Wed-Thurs (12/30).
But of far more interest is to anticipated development of a real gale forming off Japan Wed AM (12/29) with 45-50 kt west winds at 36N 148E (300 degs HI and NCal). Seas on the increase. In the evening 45 kt west winds to continue at 37N 155E (300 degs HI & 297 NCal) with seas building to 34 ft at the same location. Thursday AM 45 kt west winds to continue at 36N 163E with seas building to 43 ft at 36N 160E (300 HI & 295 NCal). In the evening winds to be fading from 45 kts at 36N 172E with seas peaking at 43 ft at 36N 168E (300 HI & 294 NCal). A rapid decline in gale strength is forecast Friday AM (12/31) with residual 40 kts winds at 37N 180W with seas fading from 39 ft at 38N 177E (312 degs HI & 290 NCal). This system is to be gone by evening. Rough data suggest some degree of solid long period swell could be well focused on Hawaii with the core of the storm only 1800-2400 nmiles out. California conversely will be 3000-3800 nmiles away and the swell will suffer much decay on the way there. Still, well rideable swell should result. This will likely be labeled Storm #2 (Hawaii). Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/28) the next front was brewing up to the north and tracking south with much colder air behind it. a broad area of light precipitation was extending from well north of Hawaii into Oregon and Northern CA tracking south. The front is to reach the SF Bay Area Tuesday evening with south winds and rain expected and snow starting to push into the Central Sierras late. Nearly 2 ft of snow is expected into Wednesday AM in the Central and Southern Sierras as high pressure builds in right behind on Wed with 30 kt north winds forecast for Central CA and up to 20 kts over the Channel Islands pushing 30 kts there late. Additional 4 inches of snow expected in the Sierras into early evening. North winds to continue coastside Thursday for the entire state with light rain possible for North and Central CA, but not additional snow accumulation in the Sierra. High pressure is to quickly break down though as another gale builds off Oregon on Friday (12/31) with south winds taking control from Monterey Bay northward and light rain pushing into the coast overnight. New Years day a smattering of light snow is possible for the Southern Sierra while the low sinks down and just off the coast with winds turning from south to northeast over Central CA and eventually reaching Southern CA late Sunday. Modest high pressure to follow with north winds at 10-15 kts over all region from Pt Conception northward through Tuesday.
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 solid gale is forecast to develop over Japan tracking due east. By Friday PM (12/31) it is to have a moderate sized fetch of 45 kt west wind at 31N 150E with 34 ft seas building at the same location (294 dregs HI & 298 NCal). A broad fetch of 40 kt west winds is to continue Saturday AM (1/1) at 33N 158E with 39 ft seas building at 33N 152E (296 degs HI & 294 degs NCal). A surge of 45 kt westerly fetch is forecast in the evening at 34N 162E with seas building to 43 ft at 33N 161E (296 degs HI & 292 NCal). A quick fade is expected on Sun AM (1/2) with 40 kts winds barely holding on at 37N 173E with seas fading from 41ft at 36N 170E (304 degs HI & 290 NCal). This system is to be gone by evening. If all goes as forecast another pulse of longer period swell will result targeting Hawaii best with well decayed longer period energy eventually reaching NCal but inconsistent upon arrival. Will monitor.
As of Tuesday (12/28) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory. The daily SOI was up to 43.80. The 30 day average was up to 26.13 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.81. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0).
Wind anomalies as of Sunday (12/26) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that easterly anomalies still were in control of the entire tropical East Pacific, but the Active Phase of the MJO was building over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the Western Indian Ocean over the Philippines and almost reaching the dateline, then straddling the dateline by 1/5 and holding through Jan 15th, not loosing too much power or areal coverage. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America into maybe the third week in January. This forecast is an upgrade from previous forecasts and indicates the Active Phase is to have more staying power than previously indicated. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, this remains the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast swell window through at least mid-January. Starting Jan 10 a weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to start building in the Indian Ocean, likely shutting down gale development potential by later in Jan well into February as it seeps out into the West Pacific (though that is not modeled yet). Sometime soon after that north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (12/27) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, and is now getting colder and expanding or at least solidifying it's coverage. The models have suggested a second surge of this La Nina event is to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, which will likely send water temps much colder, and that appears to be occurring now. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid 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). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept and 6 degrees below normal on 10/18. But it warmed to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and was starting to move east and not getting any colder as of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th. There was some though the worst of La Nina was over, but as the models predicted, it now looks like a second pulse of La Nina is developing with colder waters the likely result.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse. This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. Looking at the Pacific equatorial current as of 12/5, it was running slightly anomalously west to east, completely contrary to it's previous flow and a bit unusual for a La Nina year. It actually started this pattern in early November. But with East winds on the rise, it will likely fall back in-line with expectations.
Of note; 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 did not waiver until Oct 2010. But trades never wavering 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). If this is true, and if the current change on the equator as of November is real, then we should start seeing signs of a faltering La Nina, with the pocket of cold subsurface water under the equator being the first piece of that puzzle. Something to monitor.
Regardless, for now a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold 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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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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table