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 (5/5) North and Central California was seeing locally generated windswell at chest to shoulder high and warbled but not chopped. Southern California was getting maybe knee high windswell up north and fogged in. Down south northerly windswell was maybe waist high and clean, but very weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting dateline swell with waves 1 ft overhead but kinda hacked with sideshore trades. The East Shore was getting easterly trade wind generated windswell at head high or so and chopped. The South Shore was getting bare minimal background southern hemi swell with waves maybe thigh high and clean with moderate trades.
The North Pacific forecast suggests no swell producing weather systems forecast for the next 7 days. Previously a gale developed on the Dateline Sunday AM (5/1) and held there for 24 hours producing 25 ft seas before dissipating and starting to push east. Some decent northwest swell has already hit Hawaii and is expected to reach the US West Coast for early in the weekend. Down south high pressure is in control of the South Pacific with no swell producing systems forecast. Previously a weak gale tried to develop in the Central Pacific Fri-Sat (4/30) but was falling southeast, with seas only barely reaching 26 ft at best and getting little traction pushing north. A second incarnation of this system developed Monday (5/2) in the East Pacific generating barely 26 ft seas again and aimed better to the north, but still not enough to really produce much swell. Something rideable is expected from it pushing into Hawaii and Southern CA on Mon (5/9).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (5/5) the jetstream was tracking off Japan pushing flat off to the east-northeast across the Pacific impacting over the coast of British Columbia. Winds were generally 130 kts over it's width, but not troughs of interest were present therefore offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours two ridges are to build, one west of the dateline and another in the Gulf of Alaska driving the flow nearly over land in both instances and supporting high pressure development down at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to lift well to the north by Wed (5/11) with most of the flow tracking over or near the Aleutians in the West, but with a tight little trough forming just off British Columbia in the east with winds in the 120 kts range. eventually pushing into the Pacific Northwest by late Thurs (5/13). Maybe some support for low pressure development there. But in all a pretty slack pattern is suggested as summer tries to build in.
At the surface on Thursday (5/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging into Oregon and North California setting up a modest pressure gradient over the Cape Mendocino area generating north winds at 20-25 kts resulting in local short period northwest windswell for Central CA. This high was also producing enhanced trades (east winds) over the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts resulting in modest easterly short period windswell there. Otherwise weak low pressure was tracking through the Northern Gulf of Alaska generating 20-25 kt west winds aimed north of British Columbia and offering no swell potential for our forecast area. Swell from a dateline gale was hitting Hawaii and approaching the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other that the high retreating from the US West Coast resulting in fading windswell and low pressure moving inland over Canada.
Previously a gale developed on the dateline Saturday evening (4/30) with up to 40 kt northwest winds at 43N 175E (317 degs HI) with seas on the increase. By Sunday AM (5/1) the gale was starting to fade, with a moderate fetch of 35 kt west winds at 45N 180W generating 20 ft seas at about the same locale pushing down the 328 degree path to Hawaii and the 300 degree path to NCal. 35 kt westerly fetch held into the evening at 45N 178E resulting in 24 ft seas at 45N 175E pushing to both HI and NCal as specified before. Fetch was fading from 30 kts at the same location Monday AM (5/2) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 43N 180W. 20 ft residuals left by evening at 42N 175W. Some degree of small semi swell with period in the 13 sec range hit Hawaii by late Wednesday (5/4) peaking on Thursday with small energy expected into the US West Coast late Friday into Saturday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (5/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was in control centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and trying to ridge into Oregon generating a pressure gradient and northwest winds at 25 kts over the Cape Mendocino area, but not pushing nearshore into Southern Central CA on down into Southern CA. On Friday the gradient is to start falling south with 20 kts winds pretty much taking control of Central CA nearshore waters early and holding with 15-20 kt northwest winds forecast all weekend. By Monday (5/9) a new gradient is to be building with winds up to 25+ kts out of the northwest covering the entire state (including Southern CA) then easing some Tuesday but still not out. A bit of a break expected Wednesday, especially for Southern CA with low pressure trying to get a toehold in off British Columbia, but then faltering with high pressure looking to build in beyond with more northwest winds the expected result.
Currently high pressure at 1036 mbs was positioned east of New Zealand ridging south to 60S and effectively shutting down gale production there. Over the next 72 hours it is to hold in the 1032- 1036 mb range and not moving much, continuing to lock down low pressure development own to 60S covering the entire Central Pacific.
Previously a gap in high pressure allowed a small area of low pressure to build well south of Tahiti. That low resulted in a moderate fetch of 40 kt south winds Friday AM (4/29) at 52S 157W aimed well to the north. Unfortunately the core of the low was falling southeast fast though and by evening only 30 kt south winds held at 51S 155W. 26 ft seas were modeled at 50S 153W. On Saturday AM (4/30) a tiny core of 40-45 kt south winds developed at 55S 145W aimed well to the north but the whole low was continuing to fall southeast, with 25 ft seas hanging on at 49S 152W. By evening all fetch was wrapping into the gales north quadrant aimed east and down to 35 kts and the core was falling south fast. Sea were modeled to 28 ft over an infinitesimal area at 52S 141W aimed due east. Sunday AM this system was gone. A secondary flare up of fetch produced one last area of 26 ft seas at 44S 151W Sunday night, and then evaporated. At this time some minimal background southern hemi swell seems possible for the US West Coast with sideband swell pushing into Hawaii mid-next week. Period to be in the 14 sec range upon arrival at those targets. Details to be posted in the QuikCASTs.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest. A weak gale is to push off the Kuril Islands Sunday (5/8) perhaps generating 20 ft seas, but lifting hard north with all fetch aimed north towards the Aleutians. And another is to follow right behind doing the same thing Wed-Thurs (5/12).
As of Thursday (5/5) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued relatively low. The daily SOI was at 4.84. The 30 day average was down to 16.90 with the 90 day average down slightly at 20.35.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (5/4) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies in control over the eastern equatorial Pacific starting at the dateline and pushing east into Central America and indicative of the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. These anomalies are to be pushing into Central America on 5/9 then rapidly degenerate and effectively gone then. This is expected to suppress gale development during that window. But the Active Phase of the MJO was again building in the Indian Ocean to moderate .cgius levels and pushing into the West Pacific reaching the dateline by 5/9, then fading there though 5/19, hopefully increasing the odds for storm production in the Pacific. Neutral conditions to settle in by 5/24. Actually the quick demise of the Inactive Phase and the forecast build-up of the Active Phase remains somewhat surprising.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/5) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a a good bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing 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, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific continue to slowly relent in spurts as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there and continue slowly building in coverage. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east but not very effectively. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But there had also been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there that was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently (4/19) a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies are tracking from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline. The thought is this normalization of the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (6 months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though painstakingly slow.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were 'normal' with only light easterly anomalies persisting in the far Western Pacific.
Remnants of what was a moderate.cgius 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 Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. 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, especially in 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 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. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to hold at 1028 mbs locked just east of New Zealand and putting a cap on storm development. A series of weather systems are forecast trying to form under it and rising while tracking east starting Tues (5/10) with 40-45 kt southwest winds possible. But the models have been very dynamic regarding any specific forecast, so posting of details is pointless. At least there might be something to monitor by next week.
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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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,.cgiease 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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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 r.cgiaced 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 acco.cgiished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
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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 acco.cgiished 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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table