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 Saturday (1/1) North and Central California was getting no real swell of interest with waves waist high and south winds starting to fire up as the next front was brushing the coast. Southern California was effectively flat and clean but at least it was sunny. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the first teaser swell originating over the dateline with waves up to 2-3 ft overhead and clean from the west-northwest. More is behind. 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 (11 ft) is new local swell arriving Sunday (1/2) at 11+ ft (faces) with piles of short period south lump intermixed. Tuesday (1/4) the first real swell in a long time arrives from dateline building to 12 ft then fading Wed from 11 ft and down to 8 ft on Thursday while possibly a new swell builds underneath. That swell builds in to near 12 ft on Friday assuming the storm does what's expected of it. Southern California is to see that local northerly swell hitting Sunday at 6 ft (faces) fading Monday from shoulder high and down to thigh high Tuesday while new longer period dateline swell builds underneath pushing head high late. That swell holds at head high on Wednesday then fades from chest high Thursday. Possible new datelines well to 3 ft overhead on Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see new westerly dateline swell arriving on Sunday (1/2) peaking at sunset at 15 ft Hawaiian then fading from near 14 ft early Monday with 7 ft faces left Tuesday AM. Wednesday possibly another dateline swell arrives to 16 ft Hawaiian fading from 12 ft Thursday with 7 ft faces left early Friday. The East Shore is to chest high east windswell by Monday holding into Wednesday then fading off. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
On Friday evening (1/31) a small local gale developed off the Oregon coast sinking southeast with seas peaking at 28 ft then fading while falling south off the Central CA coast late Saturday. A short lived raw but solid pulse of swell is expected for Central CA on Sunday. Also of interest is a solid gale that formed off Japan tracking to the dateline Thurs-Fri (12/31) with up to 41 ft seas, but it faded before it even reached the dateline. Small significant class swell is expected for Hawaii on late Sunday into early Monday (1/3) and utility class longer period swell is expected for Central CA Tues-Wed with residuals into Thursday (1/6). A second similar storm is forecast Sat-Sun (1/2) again with 43 ft seas well west of the dateline and residual 40 ft seas tracking over the dateline into Monday (1/3) pushing northeast. But neither of these 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 is to receive minimal significant class west swell from both. This is all attributable to the Active Phase of the MJO. Get it while you can.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (12/28) the jetstream was flowing solidly off Japan at 180 kts then arching slightly northeast to the dateline before fragmenting into a myriad of splits, becoming very ill-defined over the Eastern Pacific. There was good upper level support for gale if not storm development in the Western Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with up to 200 kt winds expected pushing to the dateline early Sunday making better progress east with up to 140 kts winds making it into the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Monday then fading some Tuesday. This should continue to provide good support for surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidated jet is to start deteriorating east of the dateline and by Thursday (1/6) all consolidated energy is to be over the West Pacific, and totally fragmented east of there. Still decent support for gale development to continue in the west. But then by Saturday (1/8) there's signs that even that flow is to start unzippering with energy peeling off to the north before the flow reaches the dateline. Maybe back to the same old thing a week beyond.
At the surface on Saturday (1/1) a new gale was forming mid-way between Japan and the dateline (see Possible Storm #3 below). This is the second in a series of dateline gales. Swell from the first one was pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coat (see Storm #2 below). Also remnants of a local gale were falling south off the Central CA coast (see Local CA Gale below). Over the next 72 hours all eyes are to be on Storm #3.
Storm #2 (Hawaii)
A real gale formed off Japan Wed AM (12/29) with 45 kt west winds at 37N 148E (302 degs HI and NCal). Seas on the increase. In the evening 45-50 kt west winds continued at 37N 153E (300 degs HI & 297 NCal) with seas building to 32 ft at the same location. Thursday AM 45+ kt west winds continued at 36N 163E with seas building to 41 ft at 36N 161E (301 HI & 294 NCal). In the evening winds were fading from 45 kts at 36N 172E with seas holding at 41 ft at 36N 168E (303 HI & 291 NCal). A rapid decline in gale strength occurred Friday AM (12/31) with residual 40 kts winds at 37N 177W with seas fading from 36 ft at 38N 178E (313 degs HI & 289 NCal). This system was lifting feast northeast by evening with 40 kt northwest fetch getting little purchase on the oceans surface. Seas from previous fetch were 31 ft at 40N 172W (330 HI & 289 NCal).
Solid long period swell has been produced focused on Hawaii with the core of the storm only 1319-2309 nmiles out. California was 2298-3580 nmiles away, meaning there will be much decay on the way there. Still, well rideable swell should result.
NCal: Swell to continue overnight Tuesday with pure swell still 7.0 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft) sunrise Wed (1/5) then slowly heading down. Swell Direction: 289-293 degrees
Storm #3 (Hawaii) Updated Tues PM
Another solid gale developed over Japan tracking due east. By Friday PM (12/31) it had a fragmented fetch of 40-45 kt west wind at 34N 150E with 32 ft seas building just south of there at 32N 150E (293 dregs HI & 297 NCal). A broad fetch of 40-45 kt west winds was in control Saturday AM (1/1) at 35N 156E with 36 ft seas building at 33N 154E (296 degs HI & 294 degs NCal). A surge of 45 kt westerly fetch developed in the evening at 37N 163E with seas building to 41 ft at 35N 163E (300 degs HI & 294 NCal). A fade occurred on Sun AM (1/2) with 40-45 kt west winds holding on at 39N 173E with seas from previous fetch at 38 ft at 35N 170E (303 degs HI & 289 NCal). This system faded in the evening with a small fetch of 35 kt west winds at 42N 180W. Seas backed off from 34 ft at 35N 177E (307 HI & 292 NCal). A new fetch of 45- 50 kt west winds built Monday AM at 46N 174W with 30 ft seas from previous fetch holding at 43N 175W (335 HI & 296 NCal). In the evening 55 kt west fetch held but displaced well to the north at 47N 163W with 42 ft seas at 48N 167W bypassing any route to Hawaii and pushing up the 302 degree route to NCal and the Pacific Northwest. This system is to be gone by Tuesday AM (1/4) with 40 ft seas from previous fetch up at 50N 159W (307 degs NCal). Based on this data another pulse of longer period significant class swell is expected to target Hawaii best with well decayed longer period utility class energy eventually reaching NCal, partially from the west with lesser energy from the northwest (shadowed in NCal) and inconsistent upon arrival.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting at 11 PM Tues (1/4) (HST) with period pushing 18 secs and size small but coming up fast. Swell to peak about 5 AM Wed (1/5) with pure swell 8.5 ft @ 17 secs (14-15 ft). Size to hold steady through the day as period drops to 15 secs late. Residual swell of 8 ft @ 4 secs expected early Thursday and fading, likely chopped with Konas (north wind) in effect on northern shores. Swell Direction: 300-307 degrees
Northern CA: This will be a 2 part swell for CA. The first part will arrive from across the dateline from a more westerly direction starting Thursday (1/6) at 7 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny and inconsistent but on the increase steadily through the day. swell possibly to 7 ft @ 18 secs (12-13 ft) at sunset. More swell to continue into Friday AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft). all this swell to come from 289-292 degrees. And additional energy from the second part of the storm to arrive from a far more northerly direction (and shadowed in the SF Bay Area) starting Thursday mid-morning (1/6) and building steadily, starting to peak near sunset at 8 ft @ 17 secs (14 ft unshadowed - 8 ft shadowed). Combined swell energy to continue through Friday at 7 ft @ 16 secs (11 ft). Swell Direction: 302-307 degrees
Of note: The above forecasts might be a bit on the high side. Data from the Jason-1 satellite suggests the wave models overstated max sea height numbers. Also beware of building north winds off NCal starting later Thurs afternoon, imparting a defined lump into the swell regardless of local wind conditions.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On New Years Day (1/1) light snow was falling in the Central and Southern Sierra while a local low was sinking south just off the Central CA coast with winds brisk from the south and southeast. By Sunday winds is theoretically turn from south to southeast to east and eventually northeast over Central CA as the low passes south of the area but building from the southwest into Southern CA. By Monday the low is to dissipate over Pt Conception with light winds everywhere if not light east for Central CA. A light winds flow if not northeast is expected for all the state through Thursday (1/6) and then calm Friday. By Saturday high pressure is to build strong in the Northern Gulf at 1034 mbs with a ridge starting to build into the entire US West Coast with north winds on the increase to 15 kts and possibly more by Sunday.
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 decent gale is forecast to develop on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Thurs (1/6) with up to 50 kt north winds forecast at 48N 178W aimed right at Hawaii then swinging to the east targeting the US West Coast for maybe 18 hours. 30 ft seas forecast resulting in possible small mid-period swell for both locales. Another similar system is forecast just east of Kamchatka on Fri (1/7) with up to 55 kt west winds but only lasting 18 hours. Will monitor. But in general the trend is down compared to what swell is already in the water and forecast for the next few days.
As of Saturday (1/1) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was falling some. The daily SOI was down to 3.49. The 30 day average was holding at 26.07 with the 90 day average steady at 20.29. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0).
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (1/1) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that easterly anomalies had finally faded from the tropical East Pacific, and the Active Phase of the MJO had about peaked out over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the mid-Indian Ocean over the Philippines about half way to the dateline. The forecast is forecast these anomalies to reach the dateline on 1/7 then hold straddling the dateline by 1/10-1/15, slowly loosing power and areal coverage. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America around 1/25. 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 15 a very weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to start building in the Indian Ocean, likely shutting down gale development potential by the end of the month 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 (12/30) 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, expanding coverage on 12/31. 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 (on 12/31). 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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table