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 Monday (1/23) North and Central CA was seeing local swell still producing waves at near triple overhead and hacked with strong northwest winds. Down south waves were head high or a little more and hacked by westerly winds. Southern California up north was getting local swell at head high or better and torn apart by onshore winds. Down south waves were maybe shoulder high and chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing fading sideband swell with waves chest high 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
The last of the rain and snow was moving out of California as high pressure was moving in and taking control, with the all too familiar split jetstream pattern forecast back in full effect over the Greater Pacific in a few days. A new gale was building 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii with seas to 37 ft, but fading Tuesday while racing northeast. A merest pulse of swell possible for all. After that the models are hinting of perhaps another tiny system spinning up on the dateline Wed-Thurs (1/260 but quickly dissipating before making any decent eastern headway. A weak system to follow in the same area, then quieter still.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (1/23) the jet was configured in a single stream flowing flat off Japan tracking over the dateline and falling into a weak trough, then ridging slightly just north of Hawaii and tracking up to the Pacific Northwest before falling into a trough pushing inland over Central California. Winds were 170 kts over Japan fading some on the dateline, then rebuilding to 160 kts off the US West Coast. The clockwise cut-off circulation over the North Pole was still present too, but now smaller than before and sucking some energy off the jet near Japan and returning those winds in the Western Gulf. In all there was limited support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours the same basic flat west to east flow is forecast for the greater Pacific with winds holding at 180 kts over Japan and with the North Pole circulation fading out and the split flow becoming far more pronounced north of Hawaii. The southern branch is to flow right over Hawaii bound for the equator with the northern branch tracking weakly up into British Columbia. No clear support for gale development indicated except for maybe right on the dateline. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is to become well entrenched by Saturday (1/28) with 190 kt winds over Japan then fading while pushing east to the split point which is to be relocated a tad to the east and just north of Hawaii, with the same old split flow east of there. No change expected into the middle of next week either. no real support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Monday (1/23) a small gale was wrapping up just east of the dateline and heading east (see Dateline Gale below). Residual disturbed weather was fading fast just off the Central CA coast while moving inland there and of no interest. High pressure at 1024 mbs was displaced to the south mid-way between Hawaii and Pt Conception starting to set up a local pressure gradient and northwest winds just off Pt Conception and nearby areas. A malformed low pressure area was over Japan and the Southern Kuril Islands and of no interest. Over the next 72 hours the Dateline Gale is to be of most interest, but with only a short life. Another low is forecast building behind just west of the dateline starting Wed (1/25) with 40 kt westerly winds early building to 45 kts in the evening with seas to 34 ft at 38N 174E. The gale is to push east and be fading Thursday AM (1/26) with winds down to 40 kts and seas peaking at 36 ft at 37N 180W, then effective dissipated by evening with seas dropping fast from 28 ft at 37N 172W . decent support for swell development targeting Hawaii initially and then the US West Coast, but with swell decay taking a good chunk out of it's size. All this assuming the models are on track.
A fetch of 30-35 kt southwest to west winds built in association with a gale on the dateline Sunday AM (1/22) near 33N 180W with seas on the increase. In the evening west and northwest winds built to 45 kts over a tiny area with seas building from 20 ft at 37N 171W. 50-55 kt west winds built 1100 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii on Monday AM (1/23) with seas building to 36 ft out at 39N 168W (340 degs HI). This system is to east steadily east in the evening with winds fading from 45 kts targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest coast with seas peaking at 38 ft at 40N 162W (295 degs NCal). Tuesday AM (1/24) fetch is to be rebuilding at 45 kts while racing east bound for British Columbia and seas dropping from 34 ft at 46N 154W (299 degs NCal). Fetch in the evening is to be just offshore Vancouver Island at 55 kts with seas 34 ft up at 46N 140W (307 degs NCal) and all energy bound for the Pacific Northwest and point northward. Something to monitor at best mainly for Central CA northward. Sideband swell likely for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival maybe right at sunset on Tues (1/24) with swell to 6 ft @ 14-15 secs (8.5 ft). Swell to continue on Wed (1/25) at 8.1 ft @ 13 secs (10-11 ft) early and fading as the day continues. Swell Direction: 310 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (1/23) low pressure was moving quickly onshore over Central CA with high pressure and northwest winds over outer waters focused mainly off Pt Conception. By Tuesday high pressure starts ridging northeast into Central CA with north winds forecast off Pt Conception at 15-20 kts and less into North and South CA. Perhaps a lighter northerly flow in North and Southern CA but still up to 20 kts near Pt Conception and continuing on Thursday, with north winds building northward up into Cape Mendocino later in the day. Friday north winds forecast from Pt Conception northward into Oregon at 20 kts over outer waters though less nearshore. On Saturday a northeast flow to possibly build-in a high pressure moves into the Great Basin, holding into Sunday. But more high pressure to be building offshore likely starting to make it's move east by Monday (1/30) offering the prospect for northerly winds again for Central CA.
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 broad but unorganized low is to try and develop just west of the dateline starting Fri (1/27) with pressure 984 mbs. Winds forecast to 40 kts in fragmented area with seas to 24-26 ft in two discrete areas aimed generally west. The system is to become more cohesive on Saturday (1/28) with a consolidate westerly fetch of 40-45 kts resulting in seas of 26 ft at 35N 175E holding into the evening and easing northeast. On Sunday AM (1/29) fetch is to be fading with seas from previous fetch to 30 ft up at 45N 172W (297 degs NCal) and then dissipating. Some small longer mid-to-longer period swell possible for both Hawaii and the US West Coast.
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 Monday (1/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down slightly at 23.32. The 30 day average was down some to 10.89 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day up slightly at 14.11. It looks like some weak form of Active Phase MJO was trying to develop, but weak is the operative word.
Current wind analysis indicated easterly anomalies had rebuilt over the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 140E. Westerly anomalies extended from Indonesia to 140E. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO which was in-play is getting eroded/beaten back. A week from now (1/31) the models indicate those easterly anomalies are to fade some, but still be in-place from 170W to 130E but not as strong as today. Westerly anomalies to holds west of 110E. The longer range models suggest 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, we're saying that it not likely, and if anything, the Active Phase is effectively over. We believe that a persistent and stubborn Inactive Phase of the MJO is building back in. With La Nina as firmly entrenched as it has been, it would be a miracle to see any real 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