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 Tuesday (1/31) North and Central CA was seeing small west dateline swell was producing waves at 5-6 ft and clean but not real organized. Down south waves were shoulder high and chopped. Southern California up north was getting better energy from the same swell with waves waist high or so and a bit textured. Down south waves were knee to waist high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing Swell #2 with waves 14 ft and clean with light trades. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at chest high and near chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Solid Storm #2 pushed towards the dateline on Saturday (1/28) with winds confirmed at 60 kts and seas 44 ft over a solid area aimed well to the east. But it is a long ways away from the US West Coast. Hawaii received solid swell from this one and that swell is continuing. Energy to start reaching the mainland mid-week. Another far more modest gale is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska Wed-Thurs (1/2) with 28 ft seas possibly setting up more targeting the US West Coast over the weekend. And yet another gale is forecast tracking over the dateline Fri-Sat (2/4) with seas at 38 ft over a small area, fading, then reorganizing in the Gulf and off the US West Coast next week. Things seem to be moving in a more positive direction.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/31) the jet was configured in a single stream flowing off Japan at 180 kts flowing flat east over the dateline pushing to 190 kts then reaching east to a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii, splitting with the northern branch falling apart and flowing east into Oregon and Northern CA while the southern branch fell south just east of Hawaii down to the equator, pushing east from there. There was good support for gale development in the area between Japan pushing towards the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the exact same pattern is forecast with wind speeds holding and a trough beginning to build in the Gulf of Alaska on Wednesday (2/1) holding into Friday with the split point moving even further east. Decent support for gale development in that trough. Beyond 72 hours winds to build to 200 kts over the dateline pushing into the semi-permanent trough in the Gulf on Monday (1/6) offering good support for gale development. And that trough is to deepen significantly into Wednesday (2/8) due north of Hawaii with winds 170 kts feeding into it. Possible better support for gale development if one is to believe the models.
Surface - On Tuesday (1/31) swell from Storm #2 was hitting Hawaii and bound for California. A new small gale was starting to building on the dateline with west winds at 40 kts at 40N 178W aimed mainly east of Hawaii. Seas were building from 24 ft at 40N 179W. High pressure at 1020 mbs was holding off Central CA. Over the next 72 hours the new gale is to continue developing over the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday evening with winds holding at 40-45 kts pushing east with seas building to 29 ft at 39N 171W. Wednesday AM (1/1) pressure is to drop to 976 mbs with the gale lifting northeast with a small fetch of 45 kt northwest to west winds wrapping into the core of the gale in it's south quadrant targeting mainly California. Seas 26 ft at 40N 160W. Winds are to fade in velocity but increase in coverage Wednesday PM at 40 kts at 45N 160W with seas to 28 ft at 44N 160W (295 degs NCal). No real energy is to be pushing towards Hawaii all aimed east of there. If all this goes as forecast some moderate swell with period in the 14-15 sec range could result for California up into the Pacific Northwest.
Yet another tiny gale is forecast wrapping up well off the Northern CA-Oregon border on Friday (2/3) with 45-50 kt northwest winds resulting in 32 ft seas at 43N 143W in the evening aimed well down the 295 degree path to Central CA. Possible modest swell to result late in the weekend.
A new broad gale started to circulate off the Kuril Islands on Thursday AM (1/26). By evening pressure was down to 968 mbs with 45-50 kt west-northwest winds building in it's south quadrant. Seas on the increase. By Friday AM it reach storm status with WindSAT confirming west winds at 55-60 kts winds covering a 480 nmiles fetch area centered at 38N 165E with seas building from 32 ft at 40N 166E. 55-60 kt west winds were confirmed into the evening as the storm sank a little southeast with seas building to 41 ft at 37N 170E aimed well at Hawaii (307 degs) and the US West Coast (293 degs NCal/296 degs SCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the back end of the fetch and reported seas at 37-39 along it's track, before it could not read the sea heights anymore near the core, but reported a reading to 41.3 ft where the model suggested 38 ft seas. This was right on track or even a bit better than expected. The storm started fading Saturday AM (1/28) with a broad area of 40-45 kt west winds modeled continuing in it's south quadrant resulting in 44 ft seas at 38N 174E (309 degs HI/293 degs NCal/295 degs SCal). But the WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 55 kts at 37N 170E, another good sign. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the storm at 20Z and reported seas at 31-38 ft where the model suggested only 28-30 ft seas. This is very good news. A quick fade is to set in by evening with winds dropping from 45 kts and seas fading from 40 ft at 38N 177E (314 degs HI/294 degs NCal/296 degs SCal). This system is to be effectively gone by Sunday AM (1/29) with only 30-35 kt west fetch remaining and seas fading from 39 ft at 40N 177E.
If all goes as forecast solid long period swell is likely to reach the Hawaiian Islands with smaller and more inconsistent swell reaching the US West Coast, but well groomed upon arrival.
Hawaii: Residuals on Wednesday (1/1) at 9 ft @ 14-15 secs early (13 ft). Swell Direction: 307-313 degrees.
North California: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday at 9 PM with period 20+ secs and size small but building steadily. Swell to be solid on Wed AM (2/1) with pure swell 8.0 ft @ 19 secs (15 ft) and holding if not building some through the day, pushing 8.8 ft @ 17-18 secs late (15-16 ft). Swell to continue on Thursday AM at 8 ft @ 17 secs (14 ft) fading slowly through the day to 8 ft @ 16 secs late (13 ft). Residuals in Friday. Swell Direction 291-292 degrees.
South California: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday at 7 AM with period 20+ secs and size small but building steadily. Swell to be solid at sunset with pure swell 7.8 ft @ 19 secs (15 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and 3.9 ft @ 19 secs (7.5 ft faces) inside the Islands and building some through the evening. Swell up to 8.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (15 ft) just before sunrise Thurs AM outside the Channel Islands and 4.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.5 ft) inside the Channel Islands. Swell to continue through the day Thursday falling to 7.8 ft @ 17 secs (14 ft) by sunset outside the Channel Islands and 3.9 ft @ 17 secs (6.6 ft faces) inside the Islands. Swell to be declining by Friday AM fading from 7.5 ft @ 16 secs early (13 ft) outside the Islands and 3.8 ft @ 16 secs inside the Islands (6 ft). Residuals on Saturday. Swell Direction 294-296 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/31) high pressure at 1022 mbs was suppressed to the south some with a low pressure trough poised just off the North CA coast. A light wind flow was in control of all of California, except for south winds from Cape Mendocino northward. On Wednesday AM the low is to push inland over North CA with slack winds early, then high pressure is to start ridging into Central CA in the afternoon with a slack winds giving way to north winds at 10-15 kts everywhere but Southern CA. Light rain down to Maybe Santa Cruz by 9 AM and 3 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe. Thursday the high starts riding onshore over the Pacific Northwest with a light winds flow over Central CA early, pushing 10-15 kts in the afternoon, but calm in Southern CA. Light winds again on Friday with a trough moving into the Pacific Northwest and a stronger gale building well off Oregon eliminating any local high pressure and wind. A light wind flow expected Saturday for Central CA as the local low pushes northeast towards British Columbia and a huge area of low pressure builds behind it. By Sunday south winds are in the forecast from Pt Conception northwards late as that large gale low moves towards the California coast with reinforcements expected to continue that southerly flow well into the workweek. No rain of snow forecast, with local high pressure just barely deflecting a huge moisture plume off to the northeast targeting the Pacific Northwest and up into British Columbia.
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 new gale is to start wrapping up off Northern Japan on Thursday (2/2) with a building fetch of 45 kt west winds tracking towards the dateline. Seas to be pushing 38 ft Friday AM (2/3) at 42N 172E while tracking slightly north of east. 40 kt west winds to continue into the evening resulting in more 39 ft seas at 43N 177E. The gale is to reorganize somewhat on Saturday AM (2/4) with a new fetch of 45 kt west winds setting up on the dateline but repositioned somewhat to the north with seas from previous fetch fading from 36 ft at 45N 175W (298 NCal). That fetch is to fade in the evening and into Sunday AM resulting only in the large but diffuse area of 30 kt westerly winds extending from the dateline down to a point just 300 nmiles north of Hawaii and continuing into the evening. Sunday evening a broad area of 26 ft seas forecast at 35N 162W. A moderate pulse of semi-raw swell is possible pushing into the Islands late Monday (2/5).
And yet more gale energy is to try and develop in what is to become a large upper trough local in the core of the Gulf of Alaska. It's too early to know any details with confidence, but the odds for gale development in this area seem positive. At the same time the threat for winter weather moving into the US West Coast also is to be on the increase.
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 Tuesday (1/31) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down hard again to -6.21. The 30 day average was down slightly to 9.90 (still pretty high) with the 90 day down slightly at 15.03.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were in control of the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 160E. Westerly anomalies trying to make eastern headway extending from Indonesia east to 155E. This suggests that again a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is fluctuating and trying to make inroads into the West Pacific. A week from now (2/8) the models indicate those westerly anomalies are to hold, if not strengthen extending from Indonesia the whole way to the dateline feeding into a low pressure system south of the equator on the dateline. This is interesting, but not completely believable. Something to monitor just the same. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) all continue to suggest that a weak to moderate version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present west of the dateline (150E) and is expected to build east for the next 2 weeks into mid-February. At this point, we're becoming more optimistic and theorizing that the short 1 week fade of westerly anomalies on the dateline was just a break in the action, with the Active Phase again awake and continuing on it's painstakingly slow but steady easterly course.
The interesting thing about this years MJO cycle is that there really is no coherent cycle. Normally one can track the Active Phase as it literally circumnavigates the planet on the equator over a 6 week period. But instead, it has been locked over Indonesia, making only slight movement east for short periods of time, then returning to it's home base.
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