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 Sunday (2/5) North and Central CA was seeing swell from a series of small unorganized local gales resulting in surf in the 8 ft range with offshore's and clean. Down south waves were 2 ft overhead on the sets and clean. Southern California up north was getting the core of the first local swell with waves shoulder high or better up north and clean and lines up. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean but slow. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing sideband swell at 1-2 ft overhead and blown out with Konas in control. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was nearly head high and clean with offshore in control.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A very small gale developed off the North CA coast on Fri-Sat (2/4) with seas in the 22 ft range aimed right at North CA offering swell for CA on Sun-Mon. At the same time a new stronger system was pushing off Japan tracking east-northeast over the dateline Fri-Sat (2/4) with 32-34 ft seas aimed at bit a both Hawaii and the US West Coast but a long ways away. It is to regenerate slightly in the Gulf of Alaska and 1200 nmiles off Cape Mendocino Mon-Tues with seas to 28 ft possibly setting up moderate swell for the US West Coast mid-week. And yet another small system is forecast building on the dateline Sunday (1/5) pushing into the Southern Gulf Mon-Tues (2/7) with up to 34 ft seas but only over a tiny area targeting Hawaii best with a secondary fetch building behind it with 26 ft seas on Wed just 600 nmiles north of the Islands. But much weather is to be hitting at the same time as swell arrival is expected. Much more potential exists behind that to but tracking on a more northerly path, and not as organized. Looks like the MJO is finally starting to move into some flavor of the Active Phase.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (2/2) the jet was raging pushing flat off Japan with winds 200 kts tracking over the dateline then falling into a weak trough north of Hawaii before splitting hard with limited energy taking the northern split up into Alaska while the southern branch tracked southeast into Mainland Mexico. Decent support for gale development in the Gulf trough with high pressure lingering between the split streams over the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours that pocket of strong wind energy is to push east reaching the California coast late on Tuesday (2/7) but winds down to 130 kts. A bigger trough is to be setting up in the Gulf of Alaska at that time with 150 kts winds feeding into it offering good support for gale development. The split flow is to be effectively gone then. The Gulf trough is to get steeper into Wed (2/8) still with 140 kt winds and offering gale development support. Beyond 72 hours a new push of 180 kt winds is to be building over Japan and heading east by Thursday reaching the dateline by Sunday with winds 190 kts again and somewhat splitting north of Hawaii. Looking like more of what we've been seeing the past week or so weather wise, which isn't too bad from a storm generation perspective.
Surface - On Sunday (2/5) small swell from a gale that developed off the US West Coast was arriving in California making for more surf in the near double overhead range. Hawaii was seeing small swell but under the influence of Kona winds and rain. Swell from the Japan-Dateline Gale (see details below) was pushing towards both Hawaii and California. Over the next 72 hours remains from this system are forecast to redevelop some starting Sunday evening (2/5) 850 nmiles west of the North CA coast with pressure 980 mbs and winds building from 35 kts. By Monday AM (2/6) a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds is forecast in this system southwest quadrant aimed right at Central CA with seas building from 20 ft. Fetch is to hold in the evening with winds almost to 45 kts but some energy starting to be stolen by yet another gale moving into the area from the west. Seas are to be peaking at 30 ft at 43N 143W (291 degs NCal and 994 nmiles out). This gale is to be gone by Tuesday AM. Expect swell arrival in Central CA on Wednesday (2/8) at 4 AM at 9.5 ft @ 16 secs (15 ft) from 291 degrees assuming no change in the models and arriving in sync with the Japan-Dateline Swell below.
And yet another gale was developing on the dateline on Sunday AM (2/5) with a small area of 45 kts west winds fading to 40 kts in the evening with seas building from 30 ft at 35N 180W. 45 kt west winds forecast Monday AM (2/6) over a tiny area 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas to 32 ft at 37N 170W. Fetch is to be fading from 45 kts in the evening 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas to 34 ft at 36N 163W pushing just a bit east of the Islands. The gale is to hold on Tuesday AM 900 nmiles north of Hawaii with winds 40 kts and seas 34 ft at 36N 157W with 20 kt west winds pushing close to the Islands. The gale is to fade in the evening with residual 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 38N 149W. Swell expected for Hawaii on Wednesday (2/8) at 11 ft @ 14 secs but pretty ragged. Something to monitor.
On Thursday AM a solid gale developed off Japan producing 50 kt west winds in it's southern quadrant and tracking flat east. In the evening pressure was 976 mbs with winds 45 kts over a solid area aimed due east with seas building from 32 ft at 39N 162E (305 degs HI and 295 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds held Friday AM (2/3) with seas building to 34 ft at 39N 170E (312 degs HI and 295 degs NCal). Winds were fading in the evening but covering a broader area at 40-45 kts but repositioned to the north aimed southeast with seas fading from 30 ft at 41N 179E (320 degs HI and 293 Degs NCal). Fetch continued lifting north Sat AM (2/4) with winds still 40-45 kts just south of the Aleutians with seas redeveloping at 34 ft at 45N 180W (322 degs HI and 298 degs NCal). Fetch south of the Aleutians is to be fading in the evening with seas from that fetch to 30 ft at 45N 170W bypassing Hawaii and on the 296 degree route to NCal. A steady fade is forecast thereafter.
This looks like a moderate swell producer for Hawaii with swell arrival expected on Monday (2/6) with swell to 9.0 ft @ 16 secs (14 ft) by late morning. Swell Direction: 305-325 degrees focused at 315 degrees.
Energy also expected to reach Central California Wednesday AM (2/8) with pure swell 6.4 ft @ 17 secs (10.8 ft). Swell Direction: 296-297 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (2/5) east winds were in control of the California coast with a large area of low pressure trying to organize off the coast. This was likely the last day of beautiful weather. A large front and low pressure is to be just off the coast Monday AM with south winds in control down to Pt Conception, and starting to move onshore by nightfall. Rain moving into Monterey Bay northward by 10 PM. The front to disintegrate as it impacts high pressure over the state on Tuesday though south winds still continuing early pushing into Southern CA. Rain expected all day even into San Diego, the fading out Wednesday AM. 6-8 inches of snow possible for Tahoe. By Wednesday high pressure is to be back in control with north winds over the entire state (other than Cape Mendocino) at 15 kts, easing up north Wednesday afternoon on into Thursday (2/9) for the entire region. Light winds forecast for the state Friday even though much low pressure is to be streaming towards the coast. Stronger high pressure is to be in control by Saturday with north winds at 15 kts forecast for all of North and Central CA through the weekend, though Southern CA is to be protected.
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 yet another fetch is to develop north of Hawaii on Tuesday evening (2/7) mainly the result of high pressure building over the dateline. 35 kt northwest winds are forecast aimed right at the Islands and in close proximity pushing to within 600 nmiles on Wednesday AIM with fetch pushing right over the Islands. 24 ft seas forecast 600 nmiles northwest of Oahu building to 26 ft in the evening and only 350 nmiles north of Oahu. Sure looks like a blowout. The fetch and seas are to be pushing east of Hawaii on Thursday (2/9) and Kona winds slowly start turning more north then northeast.
And yet another system is to be tracking off Kamchatka Wed (2/8) pushing east just south of the Aleutians to the dateline into Saturday (2/11) with seas in the 30-32 ft range in short lived spurts embedded in a broad area of 26+ ft seas. Swell likely being generated pushing towards both Hawaii and the US West Coast but details worth posting are thin at this early date. Certainly no shortage of surf action.
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 Sunday (2/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -15.95 (negative 6 days in a row). The 30 day average was down some to 7.86 with the 90 day down slightly at 14.30. Were moving towards the same place were were last May when the SOI dramatically dropped.
Current wind analysis indicated light to near neutral easterly anomalies were in control of the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 160E. Westerly anomalies were trying to make eastern headway extending from Indonesia east to 160E. 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 (2/13) the models indicate no real change with westerly anomalies holding, if not strengthen extending from Indonesia to 160E with weak to moderate easterly anomalies over the dateline but not giving up any ground. Something to monitor. 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 1.5 weeks into mid-February, reaching the dateline then and starting to fade slightly by 2/20. At this point, we're becoming more optimistic that the Active Phase is awake and continuing on it's painstakingly slow but steady easterly course. We've been waiting for this since mid-December.
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
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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/
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table