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 (1/19) North and Central CA was seeing localized westerly windswell at near head high with reasonably clean conditions early. Down south surf was knee high and clean. Southern California up north was effectively flat and clean. Down south waves were occasionally waist high and clean coming from the north. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing residual waist to chest high dateline sets and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was flat and clean with south winds in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The new weather pattern that has been expected for days for the East Pacific is starting to take effect. Low pressure is building in the Gulf of Alaska and still expected to spin a series of low pressure pulses if not outright gales on a path from north of Hawaii into the US West Coast targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA with rain and snow in higher elevations. The Pacific Northwest has been seeing this for day already and the first bit of rain is schedule to move into Central CA on Thursday. Swell wise nothing so far has had any real winds and therefore swell production capacity, but that is to change. A gale is forecast Fri-Sat (1/21) tracking up to Cape Mendocino with 30 ft seas, followed by a second Sunday moving into the same area with 30 ft seas with a third developing north of Hawaii on Mon-Tues (1/24) with up to 32 ft seas but fading before moving too close to the mainland. The net effect is to be mostly raw wind driven swell for the US West Coast north of Pt Conception and sideband swell for Hawaii.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/19) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 150 kts over it's width pushing mostly flat across the Pacific and into Oregon. A separate circulation was still rotating clockwise over the North Pole and down into the Bering Sea. No real troughs of interest were occurring offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold with the North Pole circulation also still in-place. A pocket of wind energy to 180 kts is forecast building off the US West Coast on Friday (1/20) with a small trough forming there offering some support for gale development, with a second very similar trough forming on Sunday (1/22) with the same result. Beyond 72 hours another trough is forecast north of Hawaii on Tuesday (1/24) offering some potential as well. But by Thursday (1/26) the old familiar split jetstream pattern is forecast redeveloping with the split point on the dateline suggesting high pressure is to again build over the East Pacific.
Surface - On Thursday (1/19) a broad area of unorganized low pressure was circulating almost filling the entire North Pacific with it's core just east of the dateline. A small more organized low was starting to build within that broad circulation located 1100 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii with 35 kt west winds building in it's south quadrant resulting in 24 ft seas at 34N 169W. Over the next 72 hours that low pressure is to build some tracking east with winds to near 50 kts Thursday evening (1/19) in it's south quadrant with seas building from 26 ft at 38N 158W pushing mostly east of the 350 degree path to Hawaii and up the 283 degree path to NCal and the 289 degree path to SCal. By Friday AM (1/20) a fetch of 50 kt west winds are to be set-up in the lows south quadrant 1100 nmiles off Northern CA generating 30 ft seas at 39N 148W. Those winds to move to within 300 nmiles of Oregon in the evening with seas building to 30 ft at 39N 139W (284 degs NCal and 292 degs SCal). The fetch is to be moving onshore over Oregon on Saturday AM (1/21) with a secondary fetch building off the Canadian coast with winds still 45 kts up there and seas 300 nmiles off Cape Mendocino at 28 ft (40N 131W - 296 degs NCal) with seas from the secondary fetch at 32 ft up at 45N 139W (308 degs NCal) focusing mainly on the Pacific Northwest. By evening this is to all be moving onshore from Central CA up to the Pacific Northwest. Much wind and weather to be hitting in conjunction with what will likely be a very raw and unrefined swell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/19) the first is a series of progressive local weather systems was hitting the North and Central CA coast with south winds and rain down to Monterey Bay by sunset and Point Conception late night and snow (9 inches) developing at Lake Tahoe by 2 AM Friday. The leading edge of the next storm is to impact the Central California coast more directly starting Friday (1/20) with south winds in control near sunset and rain non-stop through the day and building in solid by evening. 1 inch of snow during the early morning hours then fading only to return as rain in the afternoon into early evening Finally turning to snow by 1 AM Saturday. A bit of a break from south winds Saturday during daylight hours but wind none-the-less from the west and northwest hacking things up pretty well all the way down into Southern CA. Rain fading coast side. But heavy snow forecast for the Sierra with 1-2 ft expected. Wind turns back to south on Sunday down to Pt Conception late with rain building to Pt Conception by 10 PM. Snow starting to build Tahoe late night. Monday a bit of weak high pressure tries to build in over the state with light winds forecast everywhere but Pt Conception (north there at 20 kts) and holding Tuesday. Rain fading north of Pt Arena. Perhaps an offshore flow building in Wednesday into Thursday with no rain in the picture.
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 pulse of gale like energy is to wrap up off the Pacific Northwest Saturday PM (1/21) with 35-40 kt west winds 1500 nmiles north of Hawaii resulting in building seas. Fetch to continue into Sunday AM (1/22) with winds up to 55 kts 1200 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino with seas building to 28 ft at 41N 145W. Fetch is to be racing east Sunday evening down to 45 kts and 500 nmiles west of San Francisco with seas building to 32 ft at 39N 137W (282 degs NCal and 289 degs SCal). The fetch is to be moving onshore Monday AM (1/23) with seas fading from 24 ft at 38N 130W, ready to impact Monterey Bay northward to Cape Mendocino directly. More pure raw wind driven swell to result for that area.
Yet another fetch of 40 kt westerly winds is to build 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Monday AM (1/23) with seas building to 26 ft out at 38N 168W (336 degs HI). This system is to east steadily east in the evening with winds building to 45 kts targeting the Islands better and seas peaking at 32 ft at 38N 162W. Tuesday AM (1/24) fetch is to be on the decline fast with winds dropping from 40 kts aimed exclusively at the US West Coast and seas dropping from 30 ft over a tiny area at 40N 152W (286 degs NCal and 291 degs SCal). Fetch in the evening is to be racing northeast just off British Columbia with seas down to 26 ft at the same location all bound for the PAcific Northwest and point northward. Something to monitor at best.
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 (1/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at 11.64. The 30 day average was down some to 11.84 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day down slightly at 13.56. Certainly looks like some form of Active Phase MJO push was trying to take root.
Current wind analysis indicated dead neutral if not weak westerly anomalies extending from 170W to Indonesia but with easterly anomalies east of there. 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 (1/27) the models indicate more of the same with neutral winds holding over the entire area from 160W to Indonesia. Easterly anomalies over the Central Pacific are to fade. The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present on the dateline and is expected to holding there if not pushing east for the next 2 weeks. 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 per the models one would think that some flavor of a weak Active Phase is developing on the dateline. that said, the actuality of it suggest that the dateline region is being skipped and instead a more typical late Active Phase pattern is setting up, just driving local storms into the US West Coast.
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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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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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/
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