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 (2/7) North and Central CA was seeing surf from a front pushing over the coast was creating surf in the 8 ft range with south winds and chopped. Down south waves were 2 ft overhead on the sets and chopped. Southern California up north was getting leftover Gulf swell with windswell intermixed with waves waist to chest high and chopped. Down south waves were waist high and heavily textured. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing dateline-local swell at 10 ft and blown out with southwest winds in control. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same dateline-local swell with waves 3 ft overhead and clean with offshores in control.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A solid system pushed 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 regenerated in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and 1000 nmiles off Cape Mendocino Mon-Tues with seas to 34 ft setting up larger and somewhat raw swell for the US West Coast on Wednesday (2/8). And yet another small system developed 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. Much weather is to be hitting Hawaii at the same time as swell arrival (on Wednesday). And yet another stronger gale is modeled for the Gulf over the weekend (seas to 40+ ft) with another for the dateline on Monday (2/13) with seas to 32 ft. And much more potential exists behind that as it looks like the MJO is finally starting to move into the Active Phase over the West Pacific.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/7) the jet was ridging northeast off Japan with winds 150-160 kts to the dateline then falling into a weak trough north of Hawaii before falling southeast and moving inland over southern Baja. No clear split flow was indicated. Decent support for gale development in the trough north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the trough north of Hawaii is to ease east into Friday (2/10) while weakening substantially with a pocket of stronger wind energy building off Japan and looking more cohesive with winds 170 kts on Thursday and pushing 190 kts 24 hrs later. A substantial split is to develop just north of Hawaii with much energy peeling off to the south pushing to the equator and the remaining energy pushing flat east into Central CA (Friday). Beyond 72 hours more of the same is expected with up to 190-200 kt winds pushing flat off Japan heading east to the dateline by Tuesday (2/14) splitting north of Hawaii with the southern branch pushing south just west of Hawaii and the northern branch tracking almost flat pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest and high pressure building in between the two streams down at the oceans surface. Some support for gale development north of the consolidated jet near the dateline.
Surface - On Tuesday (2/7) swell from a gale that developed off Oregon (see Oregon Gale below) was pushing towards the Central CA coast with more swell underneath from a gale that tracked from Japan to the Dateline (see Japan-Dateline Gale below). Yet a third swell was in the water bound first for Hawaii on Wednesday (2/8) and then California on Thursday (2/9) (see Hawaiian Gale below). Over the next 72 hours yet another small gale is forecast spinning up in the Central Gulf of Alaska. On Tuesday AM (2/7) winds were building from 45 kts over a tiny area aimed southeast expected to reach 50 kts by evening at 46N 150W with seas building from 30 ft over a small area at 46N 151W (299 degs NCal) and pushing 32 ft by 10 PM. The gale is to in a rapid fade by Wednesday AM (2/8) with 40 kt west wind lifting north and 30 ft seas fading from 46N 147W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest (303 degs NCal). Rough data suggest swell arrival in NCal on Thurs (2/9) at 11 PM at 8.6 ft @ 17 secs (14.5 ft) from 298-300 degrees and on the decline Friday AM with swell down to 8 ft @ 14-15 secs (11.5 ft).
There's also suggestions that the secondary Hawaiian Fetch (see details below) forecast developing north of Hawaii on Wednesday (2/8) is to possible set up 30 ft seas in the evening at 28N 151W aimed midway between Hawaii and the US West Coast, and of no particular interest from a swell generating perspective except for maybe Baja. Regardless, the storm pattern is very active.
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.
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
The remains of the Japan-Dateline gale (above) started redeveloping some 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 were in this systems southwest quadrant aimed right at Central CA with seas building from 20 ft. Fetch held 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 were peaking at 34 ft at 40N 143W (285 degs NCal and 971 nmiles out). This gale was gone by Tuesday AM with seas fading from 28 ft at 38N 137W.
Expect swell arrival in Central California on Wednesday (2/8) at 4 AM quickly ramping up peaking by 7 AM at 10-11 ft @ 16 secs (16-17 ft) from 285 degrees arriving in sync with the Japan-Dateline Swell above.
And yet another gale started 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 175W. 45 kt west winds continued Monday AM (2/6) over a tiny area 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas to 32 ft at 37N 168W. Fetch was fading from 45 kts in the evening 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas to 34 ft at 36N 161W pushing just a bit east of the Islands. The gale held on Tuesday AM 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii with winds 40 kts and seas 32 ft at 36N 154W with 20 kt west winds pushing close to the Islands. The gale is to fade in the evening with residual 26 ft seas over a small area at 37N 147W.
Swell expected for Hawaii starting late Tuesday afternoon with period 17 secs and size building, peaking Wednesday mid-day (2/8) at 13 ft @ 14 secs (17 ft) but very ragged. Residuals on Thursday AM fading from 10.5 ft @ 13 secs (13-14 ft). Swell Direction: 325+ degrees
Also expect some swell to reach the Central CA coast starting Thursday 5 AM (2/9) with period 18 secs building through the morning peaking near 7.5 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft) holding into the afternoon as period drops to 16 secs from 276-279 degrees
Secondary Hawaiian Fetch
And yet another fetch is to develop north of Hawaii on Tuesday (2/7) mainly the result of high pressure building over the dateline interacting with low pressure in the Gulf. 35 kt northwest winds are forecast aimed right at the Islands through the day Tuesday and in close proximity to the Islands pushing to within 350 nmiles on Wednesday AM with fetch pushing right over the Islands. 24-26 ft seas forecast 600 nmiles northwest of Oahu on Tuesday building to 26 ft Wednesday AM and only 375 nmiles north of Oahu. Larger raw windswell to be the result. 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, finally back to trades on Friday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (2/7) south winds were in control of the California coast all the say down to San Diego driven by the leading edge of a large area of low pressure centered north of Hawaii and extending the whole way up to Alaska. By Wednesday weak high pressure is to try and nose into California with light northeast winds in control of all of South and Central CA turning onshore in the afternoon, then repeating the pattern on Thursday as yet more low pressure pushes into the Pacific Northwest. Light northerly 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 centered mid-way between Hawaii and CA ridging into the Golden State, with north winds at 15-20 kts forecast for all of North and Central CA nearshore and holding through the weekend and well into next week, 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 just east of the dateline Friday AM (2/10) with west winds 55 kts and on the increase with seas 30 ft at 42N 172W while tracking east. 55 kt west winds to continue in the evening with seas on the increase fast pushing 42 ft at 44N 165W all aimed due east (295 degs NCal). 50 kt west winds to hold into Saturday AM (2/11) with seas building to 45 ft at 44N 157W (296 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade some in the evening with 45 kt west winds lifting northeast and seas holding at 45 ft at 46N 152W (300 degs NCal) and targeting the Pacific Northwest best. Possible nice groom long period swell to result if this system comes to pass, but it's only been on the model for 1 run as if the 12Z run Tues AM (2/7) so that is more fantasy than anything at this early date.
Any yet another broad gale is forecast developing over the dateline Sunday (2/12) with a large area of west winds at 35 kts and seas building to 30 ft at 38N 165E. Winds to reach 40 kts on Monday (2/13) with seas to 34 ft at 38N 175E fading late. Possible modest swell for Hawaii if this comes to pass.
And yet another system is forecast behind that on the dateline. No shortage of activity indeed.
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 (2/7) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 13.40 (negative 7 days in a row prior). The 30 day average was up some to 9.32 with the 90 day down slightly at 14.12. Were moving towards the same place were were last May when the SOI dramatically dropped.
Current wind analysis indicated light easterly anomalies were in control of the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 155E. Westerly anomalies were 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 (2/15) 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. Light westerly anomalies are also indicated from 160W to nearly Ecuador. 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 (160E) and is expected to hold for the next 2 weeks into late-February, holding just east of the dateline then and starting to fade slightly by 2/25. 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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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