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 (1/21) North and Central CA was seeing local junky windswell producing waves at head high and torn to shreds. Larger raw swell is on the way, moving through the outer buoys. Down south surf was chest to head high and trashed. Southern California up north was waist high or so and hacked by onshore winds. Down south waves were occasionally chest high but still torn apart by wind. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing new sideband swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting limited wrap-around sideband energy with waves waist high and chopped with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Rain and wind has arrived along the California coast while the Islands remain clean under light trades. The first and only real swell from the West Coast weather barrage is just off the coast and expected to arrive in the Pacific Northwest and California later Saturday evening holding well into early Sunday. But conditions are to be far from ideal. Limited follow-on local wind and proto-swell energy to follow into Monday while a new gale builds 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii with seas to 36 ft, but fading Tuesday. A small pulse of swell possible for all. After that nothing of real interest is forecast with a series of very small weather systems trying to push east from Japan, but not quite getting their footing as the jetstream aloft tries to reconfigure itself back to it's old split ways.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (1/21) the jet was configured in a single stream flowing flat off Japan tracking over the dateline then ridging slightly over Hawaii before falling into a modest trough that was pushing inland over Central CA. Winds were 120-130 kt over it's length and offering no real support for gale development with the exception of the trough pushing into the US West Coast. The clockwise cut off circulation over the North Pole was still present too, but not as strong as days past. Over the next 72 hours the same basic flat west to east flow is forecast for the greater Pacific but hold with the North Pole circulation starting to reattach to the North Pacific Flow causing a split just off Japan and then re-attaching itself in the Western Gulf of Alaska. Winds miraculously are to build over the width of the jet at 170 kts in pockets on Monday (1/23) with a new ridge building north of Hawaii and falling into a trough digging out just off Central CA (on Monday). Another local gale is likely for the US West Coast, but nothing elsewhere. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to be inland on Tuesday (1/24) over Nevada with a bit of a ridge building into California outer waters. By Thursday (1/26) the old familiar split jetstream pattern is forecast redeveloping with the split point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii and 180 kts winds pushing off Japan almost reaching to that split point. East of the split the northern branch is to be pushing into Oregon and the southern branch is to be diving to the equator then running due east from there. Maybe some building support for gale development on the dateline on into the weekend as winds build to 190 kts off Japan, but not much with no defined troughs forecast in that region.
Surface - On Saturday (1/21) a broad gale was pushing into the entire US West Coast with northwest winds still 35-40 kts just 600 nmiles off the coast. This was the remains of the East Pacific Gale (see details below) and was fading fast. Elsewhere another area of weak low pressure was trying to organize 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco, the next in a series of mainly weather producing systems. Over the next 72 hours the new low is to start wrapping up by Sunday AM positioned just off the Washington Coast wit winds 35-40 kts in pockets with a front pushing into the Pacific Northwest Coast and just offshore of Central CA. Seas building to 22 ft off Northern Oregon and 18 ft off North CA. ONly more raw wind driven swell to result.
Yet another fetch of 40 kt southwest to west winds are to build in association with a gale on the dateline Sunday AM (1/22) near 35N 180W with seas on the increase. In the evening west and northwest winds are to build to 45-50 kts over a tiny area with seas building from 20 ft at 37N 171W. 45 kt west winds to hold 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii on Monday AM (1/23) with seas building to 34 ft out at 40N 167W (340 degs HI). This system is to east steadily east in the evening with winds building to 55 kts targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest coast with seas peaking at 36 ft at 40N 158W (296 degs NCal). Tuesday AM (1/24) fetch is to be on the decline and racing east bound for and just offshore of British Columbia with winds 45 kts and seas dropping from 34 ft at 46N 144W (303 degs NCal). Fetch in the evening is to be onshore over Canada with seas 34 ft at the same location all bound for the Pacific Northwest and point northward. Something to monitor at best mainly for Central CA northward. Sideband swell likely for Hawaii.
East Pacific Gale
On Thursday (1/19) an 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 congeal 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. On Thursday evening that low pressure built some tracking east with winds to near 50 kts in it's south quadrant with seas building from 28 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 38N 150W. Those winds to move to within 300 nmiles of Oregon in the evening with seas fading some to the south at 260 ft at 38N 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 450 nmiles off Cape Mendocino at 25 ft (40N 131W - 296 degs NCal) with seas from the secondary fetch at 28 ft up at 45N 139W (308 degs NCal) focusing mainly on the Pacific Northwest. By evening swell energy 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.
In Central CA swell to be 11 ft @ 14-15 secs (15-16 ft) in the early morning hours of Sunday (1/21) holding till sunrise, then starting to fade. Conditions extremely poor. Swell Direction: 285-296 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 (1/21) the second in a series of progressive local weather systems had hit the North and Central CA coasts with westerly winds and clearing skies building into the area. Snow accumulations at Lake Tahoe were in the 8 inch range as of Sat AM and snow was continuing to fall with an additional 10 inches forecast before finally stopping near 8 PM. On the coast wind turns back to south on Sunday down to Pt Conception late with rain building to San Francisco by 9 AM and down to Pt Conception by 4 PM. Snow starting to build Tahoe by 1 PM. Monday another small local gale is now on the charts bringing more south winds 15+ kts early reaching into Southern CA, then turning hard north as the low moves onshore over Monterey Bay mid-day. Rain continuous through 4 PM up north and even pushing into Southern CA all day. Another 20 inches of snow accumulation expected for Lake tahoe through Monday at 1 PM, then starting to dry out. Total accumulation for the entire event expected in the 40-50 inch range at higher elevations. High pressure tries to build in over the state Tuesday with north winds forecast everywhere at 15- 20 kts except Southern CA. Perhaps a lighter northerly flow in North CA on Wednesday but for Pt Reyes southward 10-15 kts likely and up to 20 kts near Pt Conception and continuing on Thursday on into the weekend 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 a pair of very small gales are to try and develop on Wed-Thurs (1/26), one on the dateline and one right behind. Winds up to 40 kts and seas to 30 ft on the leading one Thurs AM at 38N 180W. But they are to quickly fade. Maybe a small pulse of swell for Hawaii with luck. Beyond a broad area of low pressure is to start building on the dateline next weekend. No clear support for swell development initially, but there is potential longterm.
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 (1/21) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up again to 28.18. The 30 day average was down some to 11.83 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day up slightly at 13.65. It looks like some weak form of Active Phase MJO was trying to develop.
Current wind analysis indicated dead neutral if not weak westerly anomalies extending from Indonesia to 140E but easterly anomalies had built east of there over the critical dateline region from 140W to 160E. This continues to suggest a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was still trying to make inroads towards the dateline from the west, but was at least temporarily getting beaten back. A week from now (1/29) the models indicate a better situation with neutral winds holding over the entire area from 160W to Indonesia and even westerly anomalies over Indonesia. Easterly anomalies over the Central Pacific are to fade completely. The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present west of the dateline (140E) and is expected to ease east east for the next 2 weeks into early February. At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop because the models have been hinting at this for a month or more now, and it's never really developed except for short periods of time, only to get beaten back to the west by a persistent and stubborn Inactive Phase of the MJO. In reality, with La Nina in control, it would be a miracle to see any Active Phase activity.
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
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table