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 Saturday (1/14) North and Central CA was seeing residual swell from the dateline and Western Gulf of Alaska with surf in the 2-3 ft overhead range early and pristine clean. A beautiful summer day for the dead of winter. Down south surf was waist to chest high and clean but texture outside the kelp Southern California up north was seeing Gulf swell too at waist high and clean with a few bigger sets. Down south waves were waist to chest high and occasionally bigger and perfectly clean. Hawaii's North Shore was in a Kona flow with northerly windswell head high to 2 ft overhead and pretty blown out. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same windswell waves head high and chopped by north wind.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The surf trend is downwards for a while while supposedly a new weather pattern takes hold. No more high pressure and calm winds for the US West Coast. Instead high pressure is to take control of the Bering Sea driving a series of modest gales towards the Pacific Northwest with rain and wind down into Central CA and snow in upper elevations with luck. A . A small gale developed off Kamchatka on Thur-Fri (1/13) with peak seas to 32 ft over a small area and making no eastward progress. Limited if even noticeable swell to result for California and less for Hawaii. No real swell producing weather systems expected till Friday (1/20) when a gale is supposed to form 1200 nmiles west of North CA building while tracking east impacting Oregon with 36 ft seas on Saturday. A raw wet and windy mess would result down into Central CA if one is to believe the models with possible real snow for the Sierra.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (1/14) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 190 kts splitting heavily just off the coast there with the northern branch pushing hard up into Kamchatka and the Western Bering Sea before turning east while tracking north of the Aleutians then re dropping southeast off the Canadian coast and inland over Washington. The southern branch continue east-southeast off Japan bee lining over Hawaii and then towards the equator. No support for gale development was indicated in either branch. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the split point moving east some to the dateline, but the lions share of the energy is to continue being sucked north towards the North Pole. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours a full closed circulation is forecast developing up towards the North Pole fed by energy split off and still being fed by the Pacific jet with the split point near Japan. The southern branch is to continue running almost flat across the width of the Pacific with winds building to 180 kts by Friday (1/20) extending from the dateline into Northern CA and supposedly fueling a local gale pattern off the US West Coast.
Surface - On Saturday (1/14) no organized swell producing weather systems were in-play. A broad but unorganized area of low pressure was off the Kuril Islands with another north of Hawaii while weak high pressure was trying to hand of off California. Another strong high at 1040 mbs was over the Eastern Aleutians ridging southeast towards the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to try and develop northwest of Hawaii by Tuesday (1/17) but all fetch is to be in it's north quadrant producing 35 kt winds aimed only back at the Kuril Islands. No fetch of interest is forecast in it's south quadrant aimed at Hawaii or the US West Coast.
Previously a broad gale was developed 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, with seas maybe pushing 28 ft late in the evening at 46N 160E but all fetch lifting hard to the north. 45 kt westerly winds held into Friday AM (1/13) with 32 ft seas modeled 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 this system was 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 locations in the Pacific Northwest to likely be shadowed by the Aleutians and the swell is to be mostly too north for Southern CA. Swell of 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft) to possibly result for Hawaii starting late Monday (1/16) from 310-315 degrees, then fading on Tuesday from 6 ft @ 13 secs (8 ft) from 320 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/14) neutral pressure was nearshore with a light wind pattern in effect. But a new strong high pressure system at 1042 mbs starts pushing towards the state from the Gulf of Alaska. The leading edge of the high (in conjunction with very weak low pressure over British Columbia) 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 Pt Conception after sunset. Even protected Southern CA is to see north winds from this high by Monday AM and those winds to continue for all locations through the day. 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 to the north for the Pacific Northwest down to maybe Cape Mendocino and 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 off Southern CA while a full local gale low nestles up to Oregon with south winds in control down to San Francisco and holding into Thursday while a storm builds north of Hawaii pushing hard east. Rain building to SF on Wednesday with up to 1 ft of snow in Tahoe on Thursday. The leading edge of the next storm is to impact the Central California coast starting Friday AM (1/20) with continued pulses into Saturday and likely Sunday. Southern CA to remain mostly protected as of the latest run of the models. Rain starting in San Francisco Friday and continuing through the weekend, heavy at times. An Additional 33 inches of snow possible in Tahoe. Looks like winter might finally be making an entrance if one is to believe the models.
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 the gale forecast northwest of Hawaii is to receive reinforcements in the form of another small gale traveling east from Japan. By Thursday (1/19) that gale is to be wrapping up while lifting northeast and positioned 600 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with winds building to 45+ kts over a small area and seas building to 26 ft at 35N 160W in the evening. The gale is to hold with 45 kt west winds continuing in it's south quadrant lifting gently east-northeast and positioned off 1100 nmiles off the Oregon-California broader Friday AM (1/20). Seas to be building from 30 ft at 39N 148W. In the evening the gale is to start impacting Oregon with 50 kt northwest winds forecast well off the coast there aimed at Northern CA. 34 ft seas building at 41N 137W. Saturday AM the gale is to be moving inland over Washington with seas from previous fetch at 38 ft just off Oregon and well north of the swell window for Central California. Much weather to be moving into the coast from there northward too.
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 Saturday (1/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up barely at 3.16. The 30 day average was down some to 13.57 (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 dead neutral anomalies extending from 160W to Indonesia with westerly anomalies over Indonesia. This continues to suggest 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 (1/22) the models indicate easterly anomalies rebuilding some from the dateline to 150E. It is unknown whether that is going to become a trend or just a short term change. The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is gone with a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO building on the dateline and holding there if not pushing east for the next 2 weeks, strongest perhaps 2 weeks 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
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table