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 Tuesday (1/11) North and Central California was really small with no swell in the water and waves waist high and clean early. Southern California was getting some residual dateline energy with waves knee high or so and clean up north. Down south it was bone flat and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting locally generated northwesterly windswell with waves 3 ft overhead or so but pretty warbled and trades still not in control. 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 is for no real rideable surf on Wednesday with waves pretty much waist high or less then new small northern dateline swell arrives for Thursday building to maybe 6 ft (faces) late. Friday that swell holds with reinforcements from a gale that was off Japan arriving to 9 ft and then windswell originating from another small gale just north of Hawaii intermixing on Saturday providing waves in the 6 ft range and about the same on Sunday (6.5 ft faces). Southern California is to see no rideable surf on Wednesday or Thursday. New swell from across the dateline arrives on Friday to 4 ft (faces) holding into Saturday with windswell from a gale that was north of Hawaii intermixing but waves dropping to thigh to waist high on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see more local northwest swell arriving Wednesday with real swell from the Kuril Islands intermixed pushing 12-13 ft (faces) and then fading from 8 ft on Thursday, 7 ft Friday and 5-6 ft on Saturday. Possible real swell from a close moving gale for Sunday pushing 14 ft. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell until Sunday and then only waist to chest high. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A generally mild weather pattern is in control of the North Pacific as things try and get ready for the last big push of the Active Phase of the MJO. Most of the activity is expected on the dateline pushing a bit east. On Saturday (1/8) a gale organized off Northern Japan producing 32-34 ft seas and held into early Sunday AM (1/9) with 30 ft seas but died before even reaching the dateline. It was a very long ways away and not very strong so only utility class background inconsistent swell is expected into the US West Coast though bigger swell for Hawaii (on Wed 1/12) . The models were teasing 180 hrs out, but current runs suggests a far more subdued pattern. A small gale is forecast north of Hawaii for Tues evening (1/11) with 24 ft seas bypassing the Islands but setting up windswell for the mainland for the weekend. And another gale is forecast forming just west of the dateline tracking east Fri-Sat (1/15) with 32 ft seas pushing well towards Hawaii and in close proximity, routing most energy there with limited utility class energy possibly for the US West Coast. A massive systems scheduled on the longer fringes of the models Tues (1/18) for the Japan->Dateline region has since petered out with only 30 ft seas forecast After that the Active Phase of the MJO is to fade and with it the storm production machine. A dusting of snow is expected for the Tahoe region later today (Tues) but later that high pressure is to be in control sending the storm pattern up in to the Pacific Northwest, typical of La Nina.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (1/11) the jetstream continued looking decent with 190 kt winds flowing flat off Japan to the dateline, then splitting heavily there with the northern branch heading due north well beyond the Bering Sea almost looping back to the northwest and the southern branch heading hard southeast into Central America. There was decent support for gale development just above the core of the jet off Japan mid-way to the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the consolidated flow is to continue pushing hard east from Japan building east of the dateline with winds to 180 kts into Friday (1/14) and reaching almost to a point just north of Hawaii with a bit of a trough starting to try and get a foothold on the dateline. Improving support for gale formation on the dateline and points east of there. Interesting, but this was previously supposed to occur by Tues (1/11) but keeps stalling. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidated jet is to hold if not get better defined with 190 kt winds pushing off Japan and reaching to the dateline Sun (1/16) and more kt winds filling in off Japan into early the following week and pushing to 210 kts with lesser energy tracking over the dateline to the split point just north of Hawaii through Tues (1/18). A respectable consolidated flow is to be pushing up into Oregon through Tues (1/18) then splitting and becoming on no interest. A bit of a semi-permanent trough is to be developing on the dateline and holding int he region between then and just northwest of Hawaii possibly supportive of solid gale formation there. This remains the best possible jetstream flow we've seen all winter if it materializes as forecast.
At the surface on Tuesday (1/11) bulletproof high pressure at 1044 mbs was locked over Utah and still trying to ridge west off the California coast while a weak wave of low pressure was pushing up the to the Oregon-Northern CA coast producing light rain and southeast winds down to Monterey Bay. A small gale was 900 nmiles north of Hawaii generating 35 kt west winds with seas forecast building to 24 ft in the evening at 33N 158W aimed 30 degree south of the 273 degree path to NCal and bypassing Hawaii. Limited windswell of 4.5 ft @ 13 secs expected to reach the CA coast on Sat AM (1/15) from 270-273 degrees. Northwesterly windswell from a previous incarnation of this gale was already hitting the Islands and expected to continue on Wed with Kuril Islands swell (see below) arriving also. Otherwise generic low pressure was over Kamchatka, but no swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours remnants of the gale north of Hawaii are to lift northeast into Wednesday PM (1/12) with winds in the 25-30 kt range generating seas at 22 ft pushing well to the east towards California up the 170 degree path at 33N 148W providing more westerly windswell expected in to CA for the weekend. A new gale is forecast developing east of Japan and targeting the Islands (see Possible Hawaiian Gale below).
Kuril Island Gale
A gale formed landlocked over the Kuril Islands on Friday (1/7) and then started to make some eastward progress by Friday evening (1/7) with near 45 kt northwest winds reaching 45N 155E and starting to become unobscured by land, getting some traction on the oceans surface. By Saturday AM (1/8) 40 kt northwest winds were becoming better entrenched there with 34 ft seas building at 37N 162E (304 degs HI & 296 NCal). 40 kt west winds continued in the evening at 40N 164E generating more 34 ft seas at 38N 162E (305 degs HI & 296 NCal). A quick fade occurred Sunday AM with no fetch left and residual seas from previous fetch at 30 ft at 38N 171E (309 degs HI). This system was by no means extraordinary, and netted out being just a basic West Pacific gale. It moved to within 2287 nmiles of Hawaii affording less swell decay and a decent shot at some near significant class swell for that location, but was 3484 nmiles away from NCal offering only the chance for inconsistent utility class swell.
Hawaii: Expect some solid utility class swell of 7.0 ft @ at 17 secs (11-12 ft) arriving at about 3 AM HST Wed AM (1/12) and holding through the day from 304-307 degs. Locally generated lesser period swell to be intermixed.
NCal: Utility class swell of 5 ft @ 17 secs (9 ft) expected in on Friday AM (1/14) from 296 degrees, fading to 14 secs by Sat AM.
Possible Hawaiian Gale
On Thursday AM (1/13) a new tiny gale is to form well off Southern Japan producing 50 kt northwest winds at 31N 160E targeting Hawaii up the 293 deg path. Seas building. In the evening 50 kt northwest winds to be falling slight to the southeast at 30N 166E producing a tiny area of 36 ft seas at 30N 166E pushing up the 292 degree path to Hawaii and well south of any route to the US West Coast. Friday AM (1/14) pure west winds to be down to 45 kts with the gale tracking flat east almost on the dateline at 29N 175E generating 32 ft seas at 28N 175E (290 degs HI). A bit of a rejuvenation is forecast in the evening with 50 kt west winds forecast building at 31N 174W pushing a bit east of the 307 degree path to Hawaii and better up the 277 degree path to NCal. Seas building from 34 ft over a tiny area at 30N 175W. Saturday AM (1/15) 45 kt west winds to continue at 35N 164W generating seas of 34 ft at 32N 168W mostly bypassing any great circle route the Islands to the east 9276 NCal). Residual 40 kt west fetch is forecast in the evening at 37N 158W producing seas of 30 ft at 35N 162W (278 degs NCal). If all goes as forecast some degree of near significant class swell could result for the Hawaiian Islands from a very westerly direction, with utility class swell for CA also very westerly. Period expected in the 17 sec range. 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 (1/11) high pressure was giving way to a front pushing into North CA associated with a weak 998 mbs low 600 nmiles off Central Oregon. Light rain was occasionally falling in the SF Bay Area with south winds over nearshore waters and light snow in the Sierra (no chain controls in effect over the summit). More low pressure is to be streaming from Hawaii into Oregon through early Thursday (1/13) with weak high pressure displaced southward off Southern CA. South winds to continue over Central CA down to maybe Morro bay through early Thurs. Finally mid-Thurs high pressure is to surge north some setting up a light northerly flow over most of CA and up to near 20 kts over Pt Conception and building northward some on Friday with 15 kt north winds moving up to near Pt Arena on Saturday into Sunday. The last of the low pressure is to push into Oregon about that time and in sync with a huge split in the jetstream out near Hawaii, high pressure is to build in strong off the entire US, Canadian and Alaskan West Coasts later Monday (1/17) reaching to 1034 mbs late Tuesday and north winds building to 20 kts from Pt Conception northward well up into Canada.
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 a large lumbering low pressure system is forecast trying to organize off Japan on Sun (1/16). though large it is to be unfocused with winds in the 35-40 kts range filling the space from Japan to the dateline. Seas building to 28 ft over a much smaller area aimed east. More of the same is forecast on Monday (1/17) with the low pushing east but winds barely gale force (35 kts) and unfocused setting up seas in the 28-32 ft range but unimpressive. The gale is to pull apart on Tuesday (1/18) with winds 30 kts and the front from it pushing over the dateline and seas on the dateline at 32 ft. In all a very poorly organized system but huge in coverage filling almost 2/3 of the North Pacific. Previous model runs were much more impressive in terms of organization and swell production potential. At this time it's still to early to know how this will turn out. Something to monitor though. Suspect this will be the last big push of this current Active MJO pulse before it washes east and eventually into the US West coast.
As of Saturday (1/8) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading back up. The daily SOI was 31.05 and was in the 27+ range the past 4 days. The 30 day average was up to 24.02 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.29. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0). The 30 day average peaked on Dec 30 at 26.79, the highest average reading in over 2 years.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (1/10) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a surge of activity with weak easterly anomalies east of the dateline and the Active Phase of the MJO was peaking out in the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the Central Indian Ocean under the southern Philippines reaching the dateline. The intensity was strong that previous indicated, but that is likely just s pulse in the historical record versus a real change. The forecast for these anomalies to start straddling the dateline 1/15 peaking 1/20 then slowly loosing power and areal coverage but still in place on the dateline through 1/30. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America around 2/7 with all data continuing to suggest this Active Phase is moving much slower than previously expected. 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 and likely till late Jan. Starting Jan 15 a weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to start building over eastern Africa pushing across the Indian Ocean, slowly tracking east and starting to enter the extreme Western Pacific on 1/30, likely shutting down gale development potential about 2/7 and continuing well into if not the whole way through February and early March as it seeps out into the West Pacific. 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 (early March).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/6) 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 solidifying it's coverage. The models had previously suggested a second surge of this La Nina event was to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, sending 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, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it 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, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through 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. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10. Current data suggests this is likely the peak of this La Nina event.
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: On 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 was expected to fall back in-line with expectations. And sure enough, data as of 1/5 indicates a full east-to-west anomaly present, typical of La Nina.
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). But for now, a La Nina dominated current is firmly in control.
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, 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.
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
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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 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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table