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.
On Thursday (4/1) North and Central California was getting the tail end of a multi-day raw Gulf swell event with solid 15-17 ft surf at sunrise, but fading pretty quickly as north winds started moving in. A small but nice window just the same. Southern California was getting a good dose of the same swell with waves shoulder to head high range with top exposed breaks down south to 1 ft or more overhead. Wind was on it pretty early and heavily textured up north, but cleaner in San Diego. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover sideband Gulf swell with waves up to shoulder high but looking more like east wrap around windswell than anything. Strong trades continued. The East Shore was getting head high.cgius east windswell and heavily chopped. The South Shore was getting no southern hemi swell with waves thigh high or less and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for Gulf swell leftovers expected Friday at 8-9 ft, coming up a little Saturday with new Gulf swell intermixed to 9 ft. New Gulf swell expected for Sunday at 13 ft, but south winds to be fully in effect. Swell holding into Monday AM, then fading with better local wind conditions dropping to 9 ft Tuesday. Southern California is to see surf the Gulf swell dropping from 1 ft overhead Friday and chest high Saturday with improving conditions. New local swell expected in for Sunday at 1 ft overhead but mostly for exposed north facing breaks dropping to chest high Monday and maybe up to head high Tuesday. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see nothing rideable on Friday and then maybe a waist to chest high bump on Saturday, fading away by Sunday. Nothing Monday and then maybe waist high Tuesday. The East Shore is to have steady unrelenting east windswell at 1 ft overhead or through the weekend till late Tuesday. The South Shore is to see no southern hemi swell through the weekend. Maybe some thigh high southern hemi surf Monday to waist high Tuesday.
Another system is tracking through the far Northern Gulf Thurs-Sat (4/3) with up to 32 ft seas, but well up in the 310 degree swell window for NCal and further to the north for SCal (not good). Some decent north swell possible for NCal northwards by Saturday (4/3). Another lower latitude gale is forecast Sat-Mon (4/5) with 28-30 ft seas, but with the core of the system expected to push right over Northern CA/Southern Oregon on Sun/Mon likely making a wet mess of things. The storm pattern is to break down after that, with high pressure dominating the charts for a little bit. But the Active Phase of the MJO is to start taking hold likely offering more swell production for a week or so out. A solid early season storm is circulating in the Southern Hemi too.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/1) the North Pacific jet was tracking east with a .cgiit pattern developing int he West but a single consolidated flow still present in the East. A solid trough was pushing into Nevada while an energetic ridge was over the Eastern Gulf with 170 kt winds running through it offering no gale production potential. Over Northern Japan 160 kts winds were building into a ridge there offering nothing of interest. Over the next 72 hrs the Japan ridge is to build north to the intersection of the Aleutians and the dateline with 170+ kts winds then dropping southeast into the Gulf of Alaska late Friday with 170 ks winds holding there Saturday (4/3) offering decent support for gale development in the Gulf. A final push from this trough is to track from the Gulf into Northern CA late Sunday with 130 kts winds likely supporting gale development but also offering poor local conditions. Beyond 72 hours a fully .cgiit jet pattern is to hold with the northern branch positioned pretty far to the north shutting down support for gale development through late next week (4/8).
At the surface on Thursday (3/30) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 600 nmiles north of Hawaii trying to ridge into California and starting to generate northwest winds along the coast there, while strong trades from the same high continued over the Hawaiian Islands. A new gale was tracking through the Northern Gulf, having originated on the dateline on Tuesday (3/30) tracking northeast into the Gulf with 50 kt west winds into mid-Wednesday (3/31) at 49N 170W completely bypassing Hawaii with 30 ft seas up at 48N 171W, not tracking towards anywhere but Alaska. This system stopped it's northward progress Wednesday PM and started moving due east with 45 kt west winds up at 52N 161W with seas at 32 ft at 51N 161W and pushing east. Over the next 72 hours and by Thursday PM (4/1) the gale is expected to have 40 kt west-northwest winds at 52N 150W aimed a bit east of the 315 degree path to NCal and 32 ft seas at 52N 147W targeting the Pacific Northwest best. This system is to be easing into the Pacific Northwest on Fri/Sat with gale force (35 kt) winds and 28-32 ft seas impacting the coast then but mostly outside even the NCal swell window. Some degree of north swell is still likely sliding down into NCal for late Saturday at 7.2 ft @ 15 secs (10 ft faces) from 310+ degrees with much windswell building on top.
A secondary gale is to form right behind that gale Saturday PM (4/3) with 40 kt northwest winds at 46N 141W producing 28 ft seas then pushing to 43N 138W Sunday AM (4/4) and holding strength with near 30 ft seas pushing up the 298 degree track to NCal then fading in the evening while moving right into the northern San Francisco coast. Raw larger unorganized swell to result on Sunday with wind and rain.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/1) high pressure centered just north of Hawaii was trying to ridge into California generating modest north winds along the coast. But by Friday another building weather system is to be pushing southeast from the Gulf with south winds and rain to maybe Morro Bay late, then giving way to better conditions Saturday. But a new local gale is forecast wrapping up off the coast early Sunday pushing a front down over the whole state late with south winds and rain forecast. A break is forecast later Monday ahead of another gale off Oregon with effects of that gale down to maybe San Francisco late Monday (south wind and light rain), then high pressure and light winds for Tuesday. But by Wednesday (4/7) building high pressure and northwest clearing winds forecast taking control of the entire North and Central CA coast pushing 35 kts Thurs (4/8). A hacked choppy Springtime mess likely for all but Southern CA.
A northward tracking gale developed in the far East Pacific on Thurs AM (3/25) generating 30-32 ft seas on the 120W longitude line. 34 ft seas were modeled Thursday AM (3/25) at 56S 124W moving to 53S 120W in the evening at 32 ft. This system faded out Friday AM with residual seas of 27 ft at 50S 119W. Some degree of limited very southerly angled swell could result for Southern CA down into Mexico and Central America the weekend of 4/3, but will likely be lost in larger northwest swell expected at the same time.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (4/2) with pure swell building to 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) late. Swell to hold Saturday (4/3) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) then heading down on Sunday (4/4) from 2.0-2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 188 degrees.
A storm started brewing in the deep mid-South Pacific on Tues PM (3/30) with a broad area of 45 kt southwest winds at 63S 162W aimed well up the 198 degree great circle paths to California and totally unshadowed by Tahiti. 28 ft seas were modeled at 62S 175W and the Jason-1 satellite passed right over the fetch and reported actual seas at 34.1 ft with one peak reading to 38.4 ft, well better than the model. At 06Z yet another Jason-1 pass occurred over the southern quadrant of the fetch with seas reported at 34.3 ft with one peak reading to 40.4 ft. The model only projected seas at 31 ft in this area. This system build with a large area of 40-45 kt southwest winds and up to 55 kt southwest winds were modeled Wed AM (3/31) at 63S 158W aimed right up the 196 degree path to CA with 38 ft seas at 60S 158W. In the evening 45 kt almost pure south fetch was modeled at 60S 155W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA with 41 ft seas at 60S 150W. 40 kt south-southwest fetch was holding Thurs AM (3/1) at 59S 150W resulting in 38 ft seas at 56S 150W pushing right up the 195 degree path to CA. 40 kt south fetch held into the evening at 59S 148W with more 32 ft seas modeled being generated there. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over this fetch and reported seas at 28.9 ft with one peak reading at 33.1 ft, a bit less than the 32 ft seas projected in that area. At 06Z Friday (4/2) another Jason-1 satellite pass occurred reporting seas at 25.7 ft with a peak reading to 30.5 ft where the model suggested 30 ft seas. Reality was way lower than what the models suggested.
In all it's possible some small sideband swell could result for Hawaii, though the focus will be California down into Central America. And even for California, this system was a very long ways away, mostly down south of 60S getting everything it can from the total lack of sea Ice in the area since it is still very early in the fall season down there. Also this system did not push very much to the north, somewhat limiting it's ability to push swell up in the same direction. Based on the Jason-1 satellite passes early in the storms life and then late, seas and therefore fetch was more than the wave models projected, but dropped of faster than the models. This is pretty typical in that the GFS wind model (that drives the wave model) typically is slow to ramp up wind speeds early in a storms life, then normally has winds blowing longer and harder than they do in reality. This is another case of that. Unfortunately no good solid satellite passes occurred near the peak of the storm when the really highest seas were supposedly being generated. But we will assume that the models were pretty close to reality. So the net result is that a barely significant class swell will likely push up into California, with far less for the Islands. South Mexico should do a bit better. Regardless, this is an interesting start to the summer season.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed (4/7) right at sunset with swell 1.6 ft @ 19 secs and size inching up. Swell to be peaking at 2 ft @ 17 secs early Thurs AM (4/8) with pure swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Size to hold through the day. Swell to be on the downswing on Fri (2/9) with pure swell 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 178-180 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting late on Thurs (4/8) with pure swell pushing 2 ft @ 20 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) and on the way up. Swell to continue building on Friday (4.9) pushing 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (5 ft faces with set at top spots to 6.5 ft). Swell to continue up on Saturday pushing 3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft faces with top spots to 6.5 ft). A slow decline expected thereafter. Swell Direction: 198-198 degrees.
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 a rather quiet pattern is to follow, with a weak
unorganized gale forecast for the extreme Northeast Gulf on Wed/Thurs
(4/8) with 28 ft seas at 50N 140W probably making for some raw north
angeled swell for Central CA a few days beyond.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/1) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Active Phase of the MJO, moving towards a neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) daily index was up to 15.21. The 30 day average was up to -10.01 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average down to -12.19 (bottomed out at -14.2 on 3/14). El Nino maxed out on 2/15.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated moderate easterly anomalies from the dateline pushing into Central America, a clear signal of the Inactive Phase. Models project the Inactive Phase to ease east into 4/5 over Central America and then dissipate entirely. But starting on 3/30 the Active Phase was doing better than expected, with westerly anomalies filling the Indian Ocean and reaching east to Northern Australia. It is expected to make it to the dateline by 4/8, then hold there while slowly dissipating sometime after 4/20. Since the Inactive Phase of the MJO is dominant now, it should gently suppress storm development for another few days. And then with the advent of the Active Phase by next week, again storm potential should be on the upswing. And with the effects of El Nino on the atmosphere already well entrenched, the momentum to support storm development should continue, or be slow to dissipate over the coming months. We will continue monitoring the MJO for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May time frame to see if this Midoki El Nino can hang on for another year, or whether we fall back into a La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control). But latest data from the models suggest a return to neutral conditions.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/25) indicated no dramatic change from previous weeks, with warmer than normal waters consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, almost gone off South America, but not quite. Erosion of warmer waters over the Galapagos continues, symptomatic of the fading of El Nino. In all this continues looking more like a Midoki El Nino than one of the classic variety. But regardless, we are past the peak of this ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 3/30 tongue of warmer than normal water was in.cgiace extending east from 140W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core at 5 C at 110W. This is expected to fuel or at least extend El Nino symptoms into summer, but is likely the last Kelvin Wave we are going to see.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. This looks like the normal Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. Previous, an area of fully blowing westerly winds extended from the far west to the dateline on 1/20 and continued through 3/15 generating the Kelvin Wave currently pushing east into Central America. We expect a normal trade pattern to take hold over the entire equatorial Pacific for the remainder of the Spring. Previously Westerly Wind Bursts produced Kelvin Waves that resulted in the subsurface warm pool currently present in the tropical East Pacific, resulting in El Nino.
El Nino continues affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggests that the spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. This has not been a strong El Nino, more of a solid moderate one. A respectable accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warm subsurface water remains in.cgiace, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But the atmosphere is already being strongly influenced by the warm water buildup over the past 6 months, and it will not return to a normal state for quite some time.
Strong El Nino's bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast along with the benefit of increased potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides that storm and swell enhancement, but more of a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. This was a moderate event. Better yet, if it's not too strong (as this event appears to be) perhaps it will not degrade into La Nina the year after (which typically happens after stronger El Nino's), but hold in some mild El Nino-like state for several years in a row. This would be an even better outcome and something we are monitoring for. The months of Mar-June normally are when the transition takes.cgiace.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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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Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we i.cgiemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sa.cgie, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is e.cgiicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good exa.cgies:
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Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
North California Surf Report Works Again: After an extended downtime we finally got the North California Surf Report working again. Thanks for your patience. See it here: http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/report/ncal.html
Shark Video: Our friend Curt Myers of Powerlines productions shot this footage of 2 great whites munching on a whale carcass off Devils Slide (south of San Francisco) on Thursday. Kind of interesting to watch. Check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4rZYEZMWQ (Fixed link)
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table