Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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 (1/10) North and Central CA was seeing background swell generating surf in the chest to shoulder high range with light offshores. Down south surf was waist high and clean. Southern California up north was seeing residual swell producing waves occasionally to waist high and a little textured. Down south waves were waist to shoulder high on occasion and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new Dateline-West Gulf swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead, well lined up and pristine clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same swell wrapping in with waves chest high and lightly chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
New swell is hitting Hawaii Thursday (1/10) from a gale that developed on the dateline Sunday (1/8) with 28 ft seas targeting Hawaii then pushed up into the Western Gulf on Tuesday (1/10) with seas to 34 ft targeting primarily the US West Coast. Another system is forecast evolving off Kamchatka on Thur-Fri (1/13) with peak seas to 32 ft over a small area and making no eastward progress. Limited swell to result. After that a strange system is to develop 1100 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii on Mon-Tues (1/17) with seas in the south quadrant to 34+ ft targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast, with equal fetch in it's north quadrant also aimed west at Japan. But the models have been unstable regarding this system so no firm outcome is certain.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/12) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 180 kts then splitting heavily before reaching the dateline with the northern branch pushing hard north up into the Bering Sea forming a bit of a trough off the Northern Kuril Islands and offering some support for gale development there. The remaining energy fell into the southern branch tracking over Hawaii and splitting again there, with 50% of the flow pushing up into British Columbia and the rest pushing southeast towards Baja with no support for gale development suggested from either stream due to exceedingly low energy levels/wind speeds.Over the next 72 hours the energy over Japan is to hold if not build to 190 kts with the split west of the dateline and trough off Kamchatka holding into Sunday (1/15). No real support for gale development indicated other than off Kamchatka, a long ways from our forecast area. Beyond 72 hours the split on the dateline is to continue in some fashion, feeding a near closed upper low circulation over and north of the Bering Sea reaching up nearly to the North Pole. The split point is to retrograde back to Japan by Thurs (1/19) leaving only weak energy in the remaining flow that is to be tracking more or less flat across the width of North Pacific on the 35N latitude line eventually veering northeast and pushing into Oregon and Washington. No clear support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Thursday (1/12) swell from a gale that was on the dateline and that moved to the Western Gulf Sun-Tues (1/10) with 28-34 ft seas was hitting Hawaii (see Dateline-West Gulf Swell below) and pushing towards the US West Coast.
Another broad gale was developing off Kamchatka on Thursday AM (1/12) with 50-55 kt westerly winds embedded in a broader area of 45 kt winds and on the increase, maybe pushing 28 ft late in the evening at 46N 160E but all fetch lifting hard to the north. 45 kt westerly winds to hold into Friday AM (1/13) with 32 ft seas forecast at 47N 168E pushing due east or up the 304 deg path to NCal and a bit east of the 322 deg path to Hawaii. By evening the system is to be bound for the Bering Sea with no swell production capability left for either Hawaii or the US West Coast. Maybe some swell to survive the long journey east free and clear of the Aleutians on the 302-306 degree great circle paths to Central CA, but location in the Pacific Northwest to likely be shadowed by the Aleutians and the swell is to be mostly too north for Southern CA.
Dateline-West Gulf Gale
A gale organized Sunday AM (1/8) just west of the dateline with 40-45 kt west winds over a tiny area resulting in seas to 28 ft at 37N 173E. This gale lifted northeast on Sunday evening (1/8) winds in the core fetch fading from 35 kts with seas barely holding at 26 ft at 38N 180W. By Monday AM (1/9) only 30 kt westerly fetch remained with most fetch moving into the gales north quadrant at 40-45 kts but aimed only back at Japan. Seas fading in the original fetch from 25 ft at 35N 180W. South fetch off the front of the gale and north fetch off the back set up as the gale lifted north generating limited seas of 26 ft at 43N 171W Monday evening targeting primarily the US West Coast. Tuesday AM (1/10) 40 kts west fetch held producing seas near 32 ft over a tiny area at 44N 166W. Then in the evening the gale faded while lifting northeast with only 30 kt west winds remaining producing a tiny area of 32 ft seas at at 45N 161W targeting Central CA up into British Columbia. A quick fade followed. In all some limited sideband swell is expected for Hawaii arriving perhaps late on Tuesday (1/10) with limited energy for the US West Coast mainly north of Pt Conception by Friday (1/13) into the weekend.
Hawaii: Swell fading Thursday from 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft). Swell Direction:300-305 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival from the second portion of this gale on Friday (1/13) near 8 AM with pure swell in the 4.5-5.0 ft @ 16 sec range and holding through the day (7-8 ft faces). Swell fading Saturday (1/14) from 5.5 ft @ 14 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 296 degrees
Southern CA: See Quikcasts for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/12) high pressure at 1026 mbs continued ridging into British Columbia with a light offshore flow in control of most of the US West Coast. This pattern to hold Friday then starting to turn to just pure calm winds on Saturday while a new strong high pressure system at 1042 mbs starts pushing towards the state from the Gulf of Alaska. The leading edge is to reach the Cape Mendocino area on Sunday AM with north winds building to 20 kts there and falling south through the day reaching even protected Southern CA late in the evening with north winds continuing Monday for all locations. This dry high pressure system to even squeeze a few drops of precipitation out ahead of it reaching down to San Francisco on Sunday with maybe 2 inches of snow in Tahoe in the evening. By Tuesday (1/17) the core of the high is to settle over Central CA opening the storm door for the Pacific Northwest down to maybe Cape Mendocino or Pt Arena with southwest winds becoming the norm there, but calm winds and a dry pattern is forecast for Central CA southward. Wednesday the high is to be locked-in with north winds building over Pt Conception at 15-20 kts and holding at least into Thursday (1/19). Light winds forecast for San Francisco to Point Arena. No additional precip for Tahoe is forecast with the dry-line holding just south of Mount Shasta.
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
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 another gale is to start wrapping up just east of the dateline on Sunday (1/15) and be large in coverage, but with most fetch aimed west at Japan in it's north quadrant. The models have improve the forecast some for the southern quadrant though with pressure down to 984 mbs and a small area of 45 kts west winds forecast Monday AM (1/16) with seas on the increase. Fetch is to hold if not build in areal coverage in the evening with seas building to 32 ft at 32N 170W targeting Hawaii from a very close position (315 degs and 900 nmiles out) and the 275 deg path for NCal. 40 kt west winds to hold Tuesday AM (1/17) with 34 ft seas lifting northeast at 33N 164W mostly bypassing the 336 deg path to Hawaii but still on the 275 deg path to NCal. 40 kt winds to hold in the evening with 36 ft seas up at 35N 160W targeting NCal up the 278 deg path and SCal up the 284 deg path. Fetch is to fade Wed AM (1/18) with seas from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 37N 155W (281 degs NCal and 290 degs SCal). This all seems very optimistic given the utter lack of upper level support from the jetstream. Will monitor.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jetstream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (1/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at -3.20 (7 days in a row negative). The 30 day average was down some to 15.23 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day down some at 13.89. Certainly looks like some form of Active Phase MJO push was trying to take root.
Current wind analysis indicated very weak easterly anomalies were just above neutral levels over portions of the West Pacific from 150E to 180W and neutral west of there. Westerly anomalies were isolated to Indonesia. Regardless, near neutral conditions are better than anomalies out of the east. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was still trying to make better inroads towards the dateline from the west. A week from now (1/20) the models indicate no easterly anomalies and basically neutral conditions over the entire West Pacific from 100E to 160W. This continues to be good news.The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is effectively gone with a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO starting to build on the dateline and holding there if not pushing east for the next 2 weeks, strongest 5-9 days out. All this suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through late January. At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop, but we're continuing to become more optimistic that some flavor of a weak Active Phase is developing on the dateline, offering potential to enhance the jetstream flow and ultimately support stronger storm formation in the North Pacific in January.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus 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 Spring of 2012. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance during tropical/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 of the MJO 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 imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
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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, please 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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table