New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (2/8) North and Central California was getting new west swell originating just north of Hawaii a few days before pushing 1 ft overhead and clean early with bigger sets. Southern California was getting the leading edge of that same swell with waves 2 ft with a little winds on it early up north. Down south it was about the same or maybe a little smaller with a bit of texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last bit of swell from that same storm with waves 5 ft (faces) and reasonably clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from the North Shore at chest to shoulder high and chopped. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA on Wednesday is for westerly swell fading from 5 ft (faces) early Friday. Saturday swell drops to 3 ft then new northwest local swell builds Sunday to 8 ft. Monday leftovers fade with 6 ft faces dropping to 4.5 ft on Tuesday with south wind and windchop on the increase. Southern California is to see west swell fading from waist high early Friday. No rideable surf expected Saturday then new Gulf swell arrives later Sunday at waist high or so then fades from about waist high early Monday. Knee high leftovers Tuesday with southwest windswell in the mix. The North Shore of Oahu is to see reinforcing swell arriving late Friday to 1 ft overhead late. Saturday local north raw windswell to be up to maybe 10 ft (faces) and 9 ft on Sunday. Leftover forecast at 7-8 ft Monday dropping from 4 ft Tuesday. The East Shore is to see no easterly windswell till later next week but a portion of that local north windswell is to wrap in to the East Shore for this weekend. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
We've moving into a storm pattern where high pressure controls the North Pacific with the only real hope being that storm energy tracking through the Bering Sea will drop southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska and down the US West Coast. Following that pattern a modest gale built in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (2/11) with seas 24 ft targeting the US West Coast, and a local fetch is forecast just 350 nmiles north of Hawaii on Fri (2/11) with 18 ft seas. There suggestions of a broader Gale in the Eastern Gulf on Mon-Wed (2/16) again with 24 ft seas targeting Central CA best (though local weather likely to be an issue).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/10) the jetstream had completed the transition from a dateline dominated pattern to one favoring only the Gulf of Alaska. The jet was pushing off Japan but quickly split with most energy taking the northern route up into the Bering Sea, then dropping southeast through the Gulf of Alaska with a bit of a trough there and 130 kts winds down at it's bottom. Limited support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to fade, only to get infused with more energy by Sunday (1/13) and 120 kts winds again taking hold there forming a new trough positioned a little closer to the US West Coast. Decent support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to slowly track east, eventually pushing into extreme Northern CA on Wed (2/16). And right when one would think it would all be over another batch of 140 kt north winds are to feed into the trough again helping it to redevelop centered 600 nmiles off Cape Mendocino on Thursday slowly tracking inland. Continued support for gale development in the Southeastern Gulf.
At the surface on Thursday (2/10) high pressure was in control of the dateline at 1036 mbs with weak low pressure trapped below it. This is was starting to generate a broad fetch of 30 kt east winds extending from just 300 nmiles north of Hawaii to the dateline and beyond. Also low pressure at 988 mbs was building in the Northern Gulf with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds building at 45N 157W aimed mid-way between Hawaii and the California Coast. Over the next 72 hours the fetch north of Hawaii is to build to 35 kt Thursday PM producing 16-17 ft seas at 28N 160W sinking south slightly and holding into Saturday AM (at 26N 158W). Larger but raw local northerly windswell is expected for the Islands through the weekend (see QuikCAST's for details).
Also the gale in the Northern Gulf of Alaska is to continue developing with 35 kt northwest winds at 48N 154W by the evening producing 25 ft seas at 45N 150W. That fetch is to back off some Friday AM through still in the 30-35 kts range with more 22 ft seas forecast at 46N 157W. Fetch is to be gone by the evening with seas from previous fetch still 20 ft at 45N 153W. If this develops as forecast limited sideband swell could radiate towards the Hawaiian Islands with some degree of 13-14 sec period swell pushing towards the US West Coast for Sunday AM (hitting NCal at 6.5 ft @ 14 secs - 8.5 ft faces - 298 degrees).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/10) high pressure at 1026 mbs was ridging into the Washington coast with a tail extending southwest almost to Hawaii. This was generating a mild offshore flow for the California coast. As the high slowly pushing onshore over the Pacific Northwest winds are to slowly fade to near calm Friday-Sunday (2/13) while low pressure builds into the Gulf of Alaska and well off the CA coast. Then on Monday a new local low and front are to be building off Central CA with south winds building into areas from Pt Conception northward. Rain likely too with snow developing in upper elevations. A full southwest to west winds flow in excess of 15 kts wIth rain and snow is forecast through Wed (2/16). UP to 3 ft of snow possible in the Sierra (Tahoe). Perhaps a brief break Thursday first light in Central CA but then the next system moves onshore with 30 kt south winds in control and more snow up high. Prepare to say goodbye to the beautiful weather of the past 5 weeks. It's time to rebuild the snowpack.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs another Gulf gale is to become established on Monday (2/14) in the Northeastern Gulf with 30 kt northwest winds at 45N 150W extending southeast and feeding into a small weak low just off the Central CA coast. The local low is to lift quickly north in the evening setting up a continuous fetch of 30 kt northwest winds from Alaska the whole way to just off the Northern CA coast with 25 ft seas building up in the Central Gulf at 43N 147W. On Tuesday AM (2/15) the fetch is to move closer to the US West coast with 30 kt northwest winds centered at 40N 142W and 25 ft seas continuing at 41N 144W. The fetch is to continue tracking east while fading in the evening with 25 ft seas holding at 40N 140W. By Wed AM (2/16) the fetch is to be gone with residual 22 ft seas just off Central CA at 37N 132W. Suspect some degree of larger but very raw and windblown 13-14 sec period swell could result for California and the Pacific Northwest later in the week.
Yet another gale is to form right behind and in the same area on Wed PM (2/16) with 35 kt northwest winds dropping southeast to a point just off the Central CA coast on Thursday AM resulting in peak seas of 26 ft at 41N 140W on Thurs AM. More raw swell possible focused on California for late in the workweek.
As of Thursday (2/10) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was remaining relatively low, much to our surprise. The daily SOI was 12.97. The 30 day average was down to 18.48 with the 90 day average down slightly at 21.19.
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (2/10)at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a dead neutral pattern was in control. Neither the Active Phase nor the Inactive of the MJO were having an influence. Absolutely no change is forecast through 3/1. Given the massive change in the jetstream, it seems unlikely that a purely neutral pattern is in play with some bias towards the Inactive Phase more likely, regardless of the models. Gale development potential for the favored dateline region is way down and expected to continue through the end of the month if not a bit longer. Also north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds-in (maybe late Feb). But that could be interrupted by occasional cold bursts of wet energy pushing down the US West Coast from the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (2/7) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond. Colder than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and even colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. Regardless, it looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept, then warming to 6 degrees below normal on 10/18 and up to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and moving east while not getting any colder through of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W and nearly 5 degs below normal on the 27th, expanding coverage on 12/31. With the advent of the Active Phase of the MJO in January, it seemed to be pushing it east some, with temps remaining at -4 on 1/5-1/8 but backing off and looking to be fading while pushing east on 1/10-1/17. Current data as of 2/8 suggests temps still 4-5 degrees C below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. And if anything there were only getting worse (on 12/31). This occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. As of 1/29 these anomalies had backed off, presumable due to the influence of the Active phase of the MJO. But that should be fading shortly with easterly anomalies taking control.
A moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in 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 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 more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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