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 Thursday (2/9) North and Central CA was seeing residual Oregon Gale swell still hitting with new swell from the Hawaiian Gale building underneath making for waves in the 10 ft range and clean early pushing near 15 ft later, though a little lurpy. Down south waves were 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and beautifully clean. Southern California up north was getting solid Oregon gale swell with waves 2 ft overhead and well lined up. Down south waves were 2 ft overhead and pristine. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing raw locally generated swell at 13 ft and blown out with Konas in control. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same local swell at 2-3 ft overhead and trashed by Northerly Konas.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A 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. This swell is hitting Hawaii with much poor local weather associated with it. And large yet poorly organized gale is modeled for the Gulf over the weekend with seas 28-30 ft) possible setting up swell for next week. And another gale is scheduled for the dateline on Monday (2/13) with seas to 34 ft targeting Hawaii well initially. But all this is just projections from the models with no definite outcome confirmed. The MJO continues in a mildly Active Phase over the West Pacific offering hope for the next few weeks too.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Thursday (2/9) the jet was flowing effectively flat off Japan with winds 17 kts to the dateline then falling into a weak trough north of Hawaii before ridging northeast and moving inland over the Pacific Northwest. There was hints of a weak split peeling off to the north near the dateline, but very weak. Limited 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) and dissipate while stronger wind energy builds off Japan and looking more cohesive with winds at 180-190 kts through Sunday. A more pronounced split is to develop just north-northeast of Hawaii with some energy peeling off to the south pushing to the equator and the remaining energy pushing flat east into Central CA (Sunday). Beyond 72 hours more of the same is expected with 170kt winds pushing flat off Japan heading east to the dateline by Tuesday (2/14) with a broad trough developing there then splitting north of Hawaii with the southern branch pushing south over Hawaii and the northern branch tracking east-northeast pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest. The split is almost looking to disappear by Wednesday (2/15) with a singular flow pushing the whole way across the North Pacific centered on 35N with a mild trough still over the dateline but winds down to 140 kts. Some support for gale development north of the consolidated jet and in the trough near the dateline.
Surface - On Thursday (2/9) another small gale was circulating in the Gulf of Alaska generating 40 kt west winds at 39N 160W with seas on the increase. The gale is to be effectively gone by evening with seas from previous fetch building 24-26 ft at 39N 155-160W. Small background swell with period in the 13-14 secs range possible for the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours yet another fetch is to develop just east of the dateline Friday AM (2/10) with a tiny area of west winds 55 kts with seas 26 ft at 38N 172W while tracking east. 50 kt west winds to continue in the evening as the gale lifts rapidly northeast with seas on the increase to 30 ft at 40N 167W all aimed due east (296 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds to hold into Saturday AM (2/11) but relocated just south of the Eastern Aleutians with more fetch building behind at 45 kts resulting in seas at 28-30 ft over a large area bound by 42-50N and 180W to 158W all pushing due east. Fetch is to fade in the evening with fragmented 35-40 kt west winds remaining and seas fading from 28 ft near 44N 160W. Possible moderate size swell with period in the 15-16 sec range to be pushing towards the US West Coast for early in the week with sideband swell into Hawaii for late Sunday if all goes as expected.
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.
The bulk of this swell has already hit Hawaii.
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. Residuals on Friday.
Small Gulf Gale
Yet another small gale started spinning up in the Central Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday AM (2/7) with winds building from 45 kts over a tiny area aimed southeast reaching 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 started a rapid fade by Wednesday AM (2/8) with 40 kt west wind lifting north and 30 ft seas fading from 47N 147W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest (303 degs NCal).
Expect 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).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (2/9) a neutral wind pattern was in control of the California coast with a front and south winds poised just 450 nmiles off the coast and just barely starting to touch Cape Mendocino. The front is forecast to crumble while pushing onshore over North and upper Central CA on Friday making for modest south winds and light rain down to Monterey Bay while high pressure north of Hawaii and displaced well to the south tries to nose into Southern CA making for northerly winds over the Channel Islands late. Remnants of another disintegrating low are to be pushing up to Central CA on Saturday AM with a light flow forecast for Central CA northward, but high pressure is to hold over Southern CA with a northerly flow forecast there. Light rain down to Pt Conception with maybe 3 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe. But by Sunday that is to be all gone and high pressure is to move in taking control through still centered mid-way between Hawaii and CA. By Monday (2/13) another low is to be pushing into Oregon with a front draping south and the high off the CA coast forming a gradient with it and generating north winds at 20 kts over North and Central CA early sweeping into Southern CA late in the day and holding over the entire state on Tuesday if not building over Southern CA. A total blowout is forecast everywhere. Light rain Mon/Tues down to maybe Pt Conception with another 2-3 inches of snow for Tahoe. More of the same expected Wednesday evening as another gradient sets up for the entire state with light rain for Central CA and a couple inches of snow for Tahoe, then wind starts to settle down by Thursday (2/16) and things dry out as high pressure finally get to nose up into the Pacific Northwest.
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 broad gale is forecast developing off Japan late Sunday (2/12) with a large area of west winds at 35-40 kts and seas building from 28 ft at 37N 155E. Winds to reach 45 kts on Monday AM (2/13) approaching the dateline (2/13) with seas to 32 ft at 36N 165E and continuing over the dateline in the evening with seas to 34 ft at 35N 175E. Fetch is to start fading just east of the dateline on Tuesday AM (2/14) with 34 ft seas holding at 36N 175W, then fading in the evening from 32 ft at 37N 168W. Possible modest swell for Hawaii and less for the US West Coast if this comes to pass.
A series of small and fragmented systems to follow.
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 Thursday (2/9) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at 5.81. The 30 day average was up some to 10.17 with the 90 day up slightly at 14.18. We're moving towards the same place were were last May when the SOI dramatically dropped.
Current wind analysis indicated modest 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 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 (2/17) the models indicate no real change with westerly anomalies holding, if not strengthen extending from Indonesia to 160E with weak easterly anomalies over the dateline but not giving up any ground. Light westerly anomalies are also indicated from 140W 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 west 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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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