New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (1/27) North and Central California was getting new swell from a gale that was on the dateline with waves back up to double overhead and clean early. Southern California was also getting the same dateline swell with waves shoulder high up north and clean. Down south it was pushing head high but with a north texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the same residual dateline swell with waves pushing 3 ft overhead on the sets and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for this swell to be fading on Friday from 7-8 ft (faces) and then Saturday at about 7 ft. New swell expected in for Sunday at 12 ft fading from 10 ft early Monday and 5 ft on Tues. Southern California is to see more of this dateline swell at shoulder high Friday and nearly chest high Saturday. New swell possible later Sunday to 1 ft overhead fading fading to nearly head high Monday with waist high leftovers on Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see this same dateline swell fading from 7 ft (faces) Friday then new dateline swell starting building in late with 10-11 ft faces on Saturday fading from 7-8 ft early Sunday. Possible larger swell on Monday from a close moving gale then stepping down on Tuesday. The East Shore is to see no real easterly windswell through the coming weekend. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
The Active Phase of the MJO is quickly fading while tracking from the dateline eastward. A split in the jetstream is expected to develop a week or two out with a downward trend in storm formation as the Inactive Phase takes control of the North Pacific by 2/5. A modest gale developed on the dateline on Wed pushing east to Thursday AM making a little more eastward headway than anything previous with seas in the 34 ft range (down much from earlier projections). Utility class swell is expected for late in the weekend. A very local gale is forecast just off the NCal coast at the same time with 24 ft seas, possibly generating alot of local 13 sec period swell. Longerterm there's suggestions of another similar gale forming just east of the dateline on Saturday (1/29) dropping southeast towards Hawaii into Monday with up to 36 ft seas. Maybe a good shot of swell for the Islands but most energy traveling south of any great circle path to the US West Coast. One more gale is modeled behind that on the northern dateline Mon-Tues (2/1) with up to 38 ft seas, but making little eastward progress. Maybe some more utility swell if one is to believe the models .
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (1/27) the jetstream continued pushing solidly east in a single consolidated flow flat off Japan at 170 kts reaching to a point just north of Hawaii before splitting with the northern branch tracking hard north into Alaska while the southern branch peeled due south towards the equator. Decent support for gale development continued over the dateline and parts just east of there. Over the next 72 hours a batch of 190 kt winds are forecast developing on the dateline on Sat (1/29) tracking east and forming a bit of a trough reaching to a point north of Hawaii on Sunday. Good support for storm development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to pinch off north of Hawaii while another pocket of 190 kt winds are to develop off Japan tracking east on Monday (1/31) with a new broad trough forming on the dateline by Thursday (2/3) and holding nicely. Continued support for gale development possible.
At the surface on Thursday (1/27) 50-55 kt west winds associated with a new gale just east of the dateline were generating swell (See Another Dateline Gale below). High pressure at 1020 mbs was nestled up along the Central CA coast ridging north to Washington providing protection and light winds for the entire US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours a local gale is forecast to wrap up off Oregon on Friday PM (1/28) with up to near 40 kt northwest winds for a few hours at 43n 140W tracking east-southeast directly into the SF Bay are on Sunday AM resulting in 24 ft seas moving to 41N 133W 9directly over buoy 46006) on Saturday PM. This is to possibly dump a bunch of short period raw swell into the North and Central CA on Sunday (1/30).
Of more interest to Hawaii is to be the formation of another gale on the dateline on Friday evening (1/28) with 40 kt west winds at 38N 179W (positioned well south - 319 HI). This system is to simmer at that locale until Saturday PM (1/29) evening with a tiny area of up to 30 ft seas building at 40N 175W. At that time a new fetch of 45 kt northwest winds are to build again at 39N 180W falling southeast. By Sunday AM (1/30) a moderate fetch of 40 kt northwest winds at to be at 34N 170W targeting Hawaii down the 319 degree path and 40 degrees south of the 279 degree path to NCal. Sea building to 32 ft at 34N 170W. In the evening 40 kt winds to continue falling southeast at 33N 162W with up to 36 ft seas at 34N 164W targeting Hawaii directly up the 331 degree path. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Monday AM (1/31) with seas fading from 34 ft at 30N 169W, or a mere 550 nmiles north of Hawaii. Possible larger but raw swell for the Islands if all goes as forecast.
Another Dateline Gale
A new gale was developing on Tuesday AM (1/25) while pushing off Japan, following the jetstream track aloft while being fueled by it. In the evening pressure dropped to 984 mbs with a small area of 40 kt west winds building at 35N 165E. Seas building. On Wednesday AM (1/26) the gale was lifting northeast and starting to get more organized with pressure down to 964 mbs. 45 kt winds were building in the gales southern quadrant at 40N 180E (317 degs HI & 293 degs NCal) with seas up to 28 ft at 34N 168E aimed mostly at Hawaii. 55 kt winds were blowing Wed PM at 42N 173W resulting in 34 ft seas at 42N 173W aimed 30 degrees east of the 328 degree path to Hawaii but right up the 293 deg path to NCal. Thursday AM (1/27) the gale still had 55 kt west winds but displaced tot h northeast at 47N 170W resulting in 34 ft seas at 44N 167W aimed right up the 295 degree path to NCal and well east of the 344 degree path to Hawaii. In the evening this system is to be dissipating and lifting north fast at 48N 168W resulting in 30 ft seas at 47N 161W all pushing east towards the US West Coast and Pacific Northwest.
Based on confirmed data a decent pulse of larger utility class swell is expected for US West Coast with sideband swell for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect sideband swell of swell with period 16 secs and size small starting to arrive on Oahu Friday just after sunset building to 7 ft @ 14 secs (10 ft faces) first light Saturday AM (1/29). Swell to be on the way down by noon with residual at 6 ft @ 12-13 secs early Sunday AM. Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday near 9 AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft faces). This swell to possibly get swamped by locally generated lesser period windswell. Swell Direction 293-295 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/27) high pressure at 1024 mbs was barely hanging on centered 600 nmiles southwest of Pt Conception and ridging slightly into the coast, providing more of the same rather calm and warm local wind pattern and glassy conditions. With the collapse of the high a light northwest flow is forecast starting Friday, then possible backing off some Saturday as low pressure approaches the North CA coast late, pushing into the Cape Mendo to SF Bay area on Sunday AM (1/30). Wind details are likely to be very changeable as the low pushes into the Central CA coast through the day into Sunday evening. Rain expected for all of Central CA with maybe 2 inches of snow in the Central Sierra. By Monday (1/31) the fornt is to push through Southern CA with limited rain abd then a weak version of a clearing high is to take root with north winds at 15 kts even reaching into Southern CA. Then finally by Wed AM (2/1) an offshore flow is to return holding into Friday.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs a moderate sized but short lived storm is forecast wrapping up
in the dateline at 45N 180W generating 55 kt west winds for 12 hours
and 38 ft seas for even less at 45N 178W aimed due east towards the US West Coast. One last pulse to monitor. At some point is is believed the jetstream will fall apart and the storm track dissolve in sync with the dispersal of the Active Phase of the MJO (see below).
As of Thursday (1/27) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping. The daily SOI on 1/27 was -0.61, down a little from days previous. The 30 day average was down to 18.69 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.18. Overall, averages remained high, just barely below the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0). The 30 day average peaked on Dec 30 at 26.79, the highest average reading in over 2 years.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (1/26) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO had peaked out and was on a fast decline with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) straddling the dateline and lesser anomalies easing east the whole way to Central America. They are forecast to be fading fast with weak anomalies hold just east of the dateline into 1/31 and fading, then loosing power and areal coverage into 2/5 and totally dissipating with remnants pushing east into Central America. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, some degree of gale development is forecast through that window, but steadily declining, with a steady decrease in swell potential taking root. At the same time a vigorous version of the Inactive Phase is building over the Eastern Indian Ocean and expected to enter the extreme Western Pacific on 2/2, likely starting to shut down gale development potential and peaking on 2/15 as it straddles the dateline. This pattern to hold through at least 3/3 as it tracks east across the tropical Pacific. But that remains just a guess with the models only extending to 2/15. Also somewhere in the middle of that, north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual (mid-late Feb).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (1/20) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, and solidifying it's coverage. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10-1/17. Current data as of 1/23 suggests temps still 4 to almost 5 degrees C below normal.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11.
Looking at the Pacific equatorial current: On 12/5, it was running slightly anomalously west to east, completely contrary to it's previous flow and a bit unusual for a La Nina year. It actually started this pattern in early November. But with East winds on the rise, it was expected to fall back in-line with expectations. And sure enough, data as of 1/5 indicates a full east-to-west anomaly present, typical of La Nina.
Of note: The Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it did not waiver until Oct 2010. But trades never wavering from the normal range. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina). But for now, a La Nina dominated current is firmly in control.
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in 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 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 more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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Jacob Trette Is Conscious (1/24 9:30 PM) David Westdorfer reported that he just got off the phone with Jacob Trette's brother John and that he asked David to pass along some terrific news to the Mavericks clan. Jacob is alert, talking and recovering nicely. He remains at Stanford but will paddle on to many more swells.
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table