New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Tuesday (2/3) North and Central California had background surf in the waist high range and clean, but weak. Offshore winds were in control. Southern California was basically flat with clean conditions. Best spots were up to waist high on the rare sets. Hawaii's North Shore was receiving sideband swell from the gale that was now off the California coast mixed with locally generated north windswell and hacked with high pressure generating northeast winds, not quiet turning to trades yet. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same mixture of northeast local windswell and northwest sideband swell from the above mentioned gale producing surf in the head high or so range but hacked.
For Central California the first in a series of swells is expected in very late Wednesday (after dark) reaching near 4 ft overhead, originating from a gale that is tracking southeast well off the California coast with up to 45 kt northwest winds and 23-26 ft seas. But most energy is tracking south of the state, with only sideband swell expected to hit. By daylight Thursday size to be in the 2-3 ft overhead range and fading from there while the outer fringes of the gale contact the shore. Pretty messy. Southern California is to see a fraction of that swell too on Thursday but southerly winds to be in effect, pretty much blowing it out. The North Shore of Hawaii to still have a little bit of sideband energy from this same gale on Wednesday into Thursday with trades finally coming into effect, especially later in the day Wednesday. At least it will be rideable. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore to still have north swell on Wednesday to head high or so with equal sized northeast windswell intermixed and stabilizing there through Thursday, then dropping slowly but not out through the weekend.
Longer term and of more interest is a broad storm that formed off Northern Japan Saturday (1/31) then pushed northeast, reaching storm status with 50-55 kt winds and seas to 43 ft today pushing 46 ft tonight. The issue remains that it is very far to the north with most fetch aimed east of the great circle paths to Hawaii, meaning less swell for them, and aimed almost right up the northerly great circle routes to the US mainland and a very long ways away. The more northern position will mean less energy coming into Southern CA and even protected areas of North CA. No significant class size to result, but it should be fun sized at the right exposed breaks. Now another similar system is on the charts for the coming weekend over the northern dateline region. But it to share a similar fate (i.e. too north a swell angle to the US West Coast and only sideband energy for Hawaii) and that assumes it even forms. After that things drop off some.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (2/3) the North Pacific jetstream was tracking off Japan to 140 kts feeding into a broad trough centered near the dateline, then ridged north into the Western Gulf of Alaska with a tiny fraction of energy splitting off and tracing southeast towards the equator. The northern branch then dove into a very steep trough that bottomed out 900 nmiles off Pt Conception CA, then tracked due north up into the Central Canada coast. Decent support for surface level gale development was occurring in the trough over the dateline and limited support in the steep pinched trough in the Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours through Friday (2/6) the dateline trough is to moderate in steepness though more winds are to be flowing through it, to 150 kts reaching to the dateline. Decent support for gale development there. Meanwhile the Gulf trough is to drift east and try to reorganize, opening up some on Friday as it moves over the Central CA coast improving the chances for weather (rain) there but little hope for swell production. Beyond 72 hrs that building pocket of energy over the dateline is to get even better organized, with a well defined trough forecast there by Sunday (2/8) with 160 kt winds flowing through it providing decent support for gale or storm development. A new tight trough is to open up almost over the California coast too offering more odds for weather there into Monday (2/9). But overall the split pattern is to hold from just north of Hawaii eastward likely supporting high pressure development between the split streams.
At the surface today a broad gale at 960 mbs was in-control of the northern dateline region centered over the Aleutian Islands (see Dateline Storm below). A much weaker gale at 1008 mbs was 900 nmiles west of Central CA (see Gulf Gale below). High pressure at 1028 mbs was 600 nmiles north of Kauai generating northeast winds at 20-25 kts and producing short period northeast windswell impacting northeast facing shores there. Over the next 72 hours the Dateline gale is to fade out while drifting east over the Aleutians while the Gulf Gale slowly fades more while pushing over Central CA, likely generating much needed rain. The high pressure system north of Hawaii is to push east bringing trades to the Islands by later Wednesday but should also server to form a pressure gradient as it interacts with the California low Thursday into Friday (2/6) generating north winds of 30-35 kts just off the coast and pushing windswell especially into exposed breaks in Central CA through Saturday.
Note: No Jason-1 satellite data is available for the next 5 or so days due to activity to reposition the satellite into a new orbit to integrate with the new Jason-2 satellite and to then recalibrate it.
A gale developed on the dateline late Friday (1/30) with a limited fetch of 40 kt wind over a tiny area at 46N 180W and seas to 25 ft late at 46N 179W, dropping southeast. Additional energy tried to become assimilated into this system from the west Saturday, but only served to pull it apart with 35 kt northwest winds and 23 ft seas at 43N 173W late. The low continued dropping southeast Sunday AM (2/1) with 30 kt northwest winds and 20 ft seas at 40N 169W. By evening it started reorganizing with 35 kt north winds at 42N 159W aimed more to the south with 20 ft seas holding at 39N 159W. By Monday AM (2/2) 45 kt northwest winds were covering a small area at 42N 152W with 23 ft seas building at 45N 153W. By evening 40 kt northwest winds were building at 42N 148W with 26 ft seas modeled at 42N 149W, all aimed southeast towards Mexico. Fetch was fading while pushing southeast near 35 kts and aimed even more to the south on Tuesday AM with seas from previous fetch modeled at 25 ft at 40N 145W. Swell was starting to impact buoy 46006 at 13.4 ft @ 14.5 secs at noon. In the evening fetch was fading with 23 ft seas forecast at 37N 142W aimed towards Mexico.
A steady decay to follow after that with the system pushing up to the Central CA coast then inching over land Thursday.
Possible moderate 15 sec period swell to be generated pushing towards the US West Coast arriving in Central CA Wednesday evening after dark. Swell to peak at 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft faces) from 285-291 degrees but likely down from that by sunrise Thursday, and weather from this system to be in control of nearshore waters by then. Swell to be 6 ft @ 13-14 secs (8 ft faces) mid-AM and fading from there.
Sideband energy hit Hawaii about as expected on Tuesday (2/3) at 5.2 ft @ 13 secs (8 ft faces) from 332 degrees. .
Dateline Storm #5
Another system, this time a storm, started building off Japan Saturday (1/31) though no fetch was aimed at either Hawaii or the US West Coast, instead all to the south.
By Sunday AM (2/1) a large fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds weas getting hold of the oceans surface generating 28 ft seas but still aimed well south of any great circle path to even Hawaii. In the evening the gale started lifting northeast with limited 40-45 kt northwest winds at 43N 160E aimed towards Hawaii down the 312 degree path with seas of 23-25 ft roughly at 37N 160E pushing towards the Islands.
On Monday AM (2/2) 45-50 kt west winds were confirmed setting up at 46N 164E aimed right down the 320 degree path to Hawaii and 40 degrees south of the 304 degree path to North CA. Seas were building from 28 ft at 39N 162E, mainly from previous fetch. In the evening a solid fetch of 50-55 kt west winds were confirmed at 47N 165E aimed flat east mianly up the 304 great circle path to NCal with seas building to 32 ft at 43N 167E, traveling right up the 303 degree path to Central CA and 30 degrees east of the 319 degree path to Hawaii.
Tuesday AM 50 kt west winds were steadily decaying at 47N 170E aimed right up the 304 degree path to NCal and 45 degrees east of the 322 degree path to Hawaii with seas modeled building to 43 ft at 47N 170E. By evening 45 kt west winds to be fading fast at 49N 175E aimed 45 degrees east of the 324 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 306 degree path to North CA with seas theoretically peaking at 46 ft at 49N 178E, almost on the dateline and traveling down the 306 degree great circle path to NCal.
This system to dissipate quickly after that with only a small area of 35-40 kt west winds forecast by Wednesday AM and seas fading from 38 ft at 50N 175W and impacting the Aleutian Islands.
This is to be a short lived but fairly strong system with it's best asset being it's size, pushing into the large category. But winds remain forecast to not exceed maybe 55 kts limiting it's ability to generate long period energy. Relative to Hawaii this system to push most energy way east of any path into the Islands, meaning all swell to be mostly sideband energy. Still, some swell is certainly better than none at all. For California, the good news is the fetch is to be aimed right towards the state. The bad news is the storm itself is to be too far to the north to have good impact for Southern CA, and even too far north for protected breaks like Santa Cruz and others north of there. Significant class swell should result at the buoys, but only a fraction of that size to reach the beach at protected breaks.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Friday at 1 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to become decent by sunrise and continue upwards, peaking near 7-8 ft @ 17 secs (12-14 ft faces) from noon to sunset. Swell to be 7 ft @ 14-15 secs (10-11 ft faces) on Saturday and fading later. Swell Direction: 313-328 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival late Friday (2/6) afternoon with period at 20-22 secs but size tiny and slowly building. More size expected Saturday AM and building through the afternoon, reaching 8.5 ft @ 17-18 sec near sunset (15 ft faces), but 60% of that size shadowed in the SF Bay Area. Size fading Sunday AM (2/8) from 8 ft @ 16 sec (12-13 ft faces) early and heading down from there. Swell Direction: 304-306 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/3) low pressure at 1006 mbs was positioned 600 nmiles west of Monterey Bay while high pressure at 1032 mbs was over Nevada, generating a east to southeast flow at 10 kts over Central California waters and up to 15 kts from the southeast over Northern CA. Southern CA was calm. South winds to take over the entire coast Wednesday pushing to near 20 kts in Central CA late. South winds to continue on Thursday into Friday as the low nudges closer to the coast. Light rain possible starting late Wednesday in Central CA covering the entire state Thursday and building stronger Friday then fading out over Southern CA on Saturday, though snow levels likely to be high as this is to be a warm core system. Strong local north winds forecast over outer waters on Friday at 35+ kts as high pressure at 1034 mbs tries to build in behind the low forming a pressure gradient, but never quite moves onshore. Light north winds forecast Saturday into early Sunday (2/8) while yet another low builds just off Oregon, with the front pushing into the CA coast late Sunday with stronger rain potential late holding into Monday AM with snow in higher elevations through the day . High pressure to move in behind this next front Monday and Tuesday with north winds at 15-20 kts likely, strongest on Monday.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring aimed at US targets. 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 hours a new gale is forecast forming well east of Southern Japan on Friday (2/6) with pressure 980 mbs and 45 kt winds building in it's south quadrant at 32N 155E aimed at Hawaii and points south of there. A tiny area of 29 ft seas forecast at 33N 162E by evening. It's to lift fast to the northeast on Saturday (2/7) with a much broader area of 40-45 kts winds forecast building to 50 kts in the evening at 47N 169E aimed almost due east, cutting east of the great circle paths to Hawaii and taking aim at the US West Coast from across the dateline. 23-25 ft seas to start taking hold over a large area in the evening at 42N 172E. Sunday AM pressure to drop to 960 mbs with 55 kt winds forecast in it's south quadrant at 49N 170E aimed exclusively at the US West Coast. 37 ft seas forecast at 48N 172E. This fetch to start fading in the evening while tracking east while seas start peaking at 45 ft at 50N 178E, pushing down the 307 degree path to the Central CA. Residual 35 kt fetch and 32 ft seas to remain into Monday. Possible longer period swell for the US West Coast with lesser energy from Hawaii if this develops as forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference):As of Tuesday (2/3) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving to the Inactive Phase. The Daily SOI index was holding at 21.95. The 30 day average was up some to 8.05 and the 90 day average was up to 12.51. La Nina remained well dug-in. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a weak area of easterly winds over the dateline and Central America, suggestive that the MJO was in a weak Inactive state. This is consistent with projections as much as a month earlier. At the same time the next incarnation of the Active Phase was building in the Eastern Indian Ocean and starting to ooze into the equatorial Western Pacific. It is is expected to start pushing into the far Western Pacific by 2/5 and reaching the dateline by 2/12, holding there and slowly decaying through 2/22. This is much earlier than previously suggested. This supports the gale pattern forecast for the Northern Pacific over the next week.
No swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days.
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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Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
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- Details of the Mentawai Island and Nias
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table