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 Saturday (2/11) North and Central CA was seeing residual swell from multiple sources hitting along with new small very westerly swell from a fetch just north of Hawaii last week making surf in the 3-4 ft overhead range. But northwest winds were in effect making a mess of things. In Santa Cruz rare waves were 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and very warbled. Southern California up north was getting a million lines pouring in from the west with waves head high but a bit warbled. Down south waves were head high and pretty hacked by onshore winds. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing residual local swell at 7-8 ft on the faces and clean finally. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same residual local swell at 1 ft overhead and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A large but poorly organized gale tracked over the Northern Dateline on Fri-Sat (2/11) with seas 32-35 setting up swell for next week bypassing Hawaii a bit to the east and a bit too north to be optimal for California. But another gale is scheduled for the Southern Dateline on Mon-Tues (2/14) with seas to 34 ft with follow-on energy into Wednesday targeting Hawaii well with some energy expected to the California. But this remains just a projection with no definite outcome confirmed. Things to settle down a bit after that. The MJO continues in a mildly Active Phase over the West Pacific offering hope for the next few weeks, so it likely isn't over yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Saturday (2/11) the jet was powering flat off Japan with winds 180 kts to a point just east of the dateline then splitting with most energy continuing on to the east falling into a small trough and pushing into Central California with the split energy falling south to the equator and just west of Hawaii. Some support for gale development north of the energy flowing off Japan, but with no real troughs in effect, that development will be limited. Over the next 72 hours winds to build to 190 kts off Japan reaching to the dateline with a trough building there and pushing to the dateline through Tuesday offering much improved chances for gale development. At the same time the split point is to ease east with the southern branch pushing over Hawaii and yet another little local trough pushing down the California coast. Beyond 72 hours energy levels are to fade in the jet, the split point is to retreat to almost the dateline by Thursday (2/16), then the whole pattern is to start again with 180+ kt winds building over and racing off Japan with the split point reset back at the just east of the dateline by Sat (2/18). Improving potential for gale development west of the dateline with high pressure over the East Pacific. The pattern is nothing if not consistent.
Surface - On Saturday (2/11) the fading remnants of a broad gale (actually a conglomeration of several smaller gales) were filling the North Pacific with 30-35 kt fetch north of 42N and extending from the Kuril Islands to the Central Gulf of Alaska (see Broad North Pacific Gale below). This system is to be fading through the day. Over the next 72 hours yet another broad gale is forecast developing off Japan Sunday evening (2/12) with a large area of west winds at 40 kts developing and seas building from 26 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 winds still 40-45 kts and seas to 35 ft at 35N 175E. Fetch is to start fading just east of the dateline on Tuesday AM (2/14) with 30 ft seas mostly from precious fetch at 35N 175W, then fading in the evening from 26 ft at 37N 180W. Possible moderate swell for Hawaii arriving at sunset on Wednesday (3/15) building over night and peaking Thursday. Less size and consistency for the US West Coast given the long travel distance from the dateline. And all this assumes it even forms as forecast.
Broad North Pacific Gale
A broad fetch started developing on the dateline Friday AM (2/10) with a tiny area of west winds to 55 kts on it's leading edge and a second fetch of 40-45 kts west winds off the Northern Kuril Islands resulting in seas to 32 ft at 47N 172E with a broad area of seas at 26 ft extending a bit off Japan to the dateline at 37N. 50 kt west winds continued in the evening on the leading edge of the gale lifting northeast with a broad area of 35-40 kts winds trailing behind with seas on the increase to 36 ft at 46N 177E all aimed due east (327 degs HI and 301 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds held into Saturday AM (2/11) but relocated just south of the Eastern Aleutians with pockets of 30-40 kts fetch extending well behind over the dateline resulting in seas of 32 ft over a large area near 45N and 178W all pushing due east (327 degs HI and 298 degs NCal) with 24+ ft seas north of 40N and filling the Central North Pacific. By evening the bulk of this system is to be gone with only 40 kt west winds holding near the dateline with 28 ft seas at 42N 177W. No significant fetch of interest to continue.
Possible moderate size swell with period in the 15-17 sec range to be pushing towards Hawaii arriving Sunday (2/12) and then towards the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (2/12) morning building through the afternoon with hitting near 4 PM HST at 6.5 ft @ 16 secs (10-11 ft) from 309 degrees. Swell to continue up some from there with the real core swell arriving Monday at 7 AM with pure swell 7.1-7.5 ft @ 17 secs and holding through the day (12-13 ft) with much lesser period energy intermixed in the 8 ft range at 14 secs (11 ft). Core Swell Direction: 324-331 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival late Monday night but period low. Teaser energy expected Tuesday (2/14) late morning pushing 8.5 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) from 299 degrees. Core swell to start hitting near 5 PM at 6.5-6.9 ft @ 17+ secs (12 ft) from 297-302 degrees and buried under lesser period energy. Swell to continue overnight with swell still 8 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) on Wednesday AM (2/15) and fading on Thursday (2/16) from 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10-11 ft).
Southern CA: Expect teaser energy arriving Tuesday (2/14) before sunrise and building through the day pushing 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) mid-afternoon from 302 degrees. Core swell to start hitting near 3 AM Wednesday (2/15) at 126.96.36.199 ft @ 17+ secs (6.0 ft) from 300-305 degrees and buried under lesser period energy at 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft). Swell to hold through Wednesday with swell still 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft) and smaller longer period energy underneath at sunset. Swell fading on Thursday (2/16) AM from 3.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.0 ft) from 305 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/11) high pressure was locked between Hawaii and California and trying to ridge into the coast but not quite making it. This was resulting in a steady northerly flow at 15 kts covering the whole coast except select locations in Southern CA. Light rain was also in the mix as far south as San Diego from a weak front that was disintegrating over the state. By Sunday AM rain is to be gone and high pressure is to move in taking control through still centered mid-way between Hawaii and CA. Northwest winds at 15 kts to be the rule everywhere, but starting to break up to the north late as another small local low falls south towards North CA with rain moving into Central CA overnight. By Monday AM (2/13) that low is to be pushing over Lake Tahoe with a front tracking south from Pt Conception 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. A total blowout is forecast everywhere. Light rain down to San Diego with 6-8 inches of snow for Tahoe with luck. Yet another low is to be setting up off the Northern Coast Tuesday falling down the state in the evening and into Southern CA Wednesday AM with rain the expected result. Maybe 2 inches of snow for Tahoe Wed AM and 3-4 inches for Southern CA high elevations. More north winds on Tuesday and being reinforced Wednesday though possibly turning northeast in Central CA after the core of the low pushes south of any given location. More of the same Wednesday with northeast winds possible after the core of the low passes south of your location. Lighter northerly winds on Thursday while a new strong gale is forecast wrapping up off the CA coast lifting fast to the northeast and getting little traction on the oceans surface. But then high pressure to be roaring back in on Friday (2/17) with north winds 20 kts from Pt Conception northward and continuing through the weekend. Looks like a Springtime pattern shaping up.
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 high pressure is to start building solid off the US West Coast and extending all the back to the dateline driving the storm track more to the northeast, or up into the Northern Dateline region. Another gale is to follow this path Thursday (2/16) with winds 45 kts and seas 28 ft 40N 175E but quickly getting deflected north and fading. A pair of similar strength gales forecast near the dateline Saturday (2/18) but also looking to be northward bound. Will monitor.
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 Saturday (2/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at 3.89. The 30 day average was up some to 10.74 with the 90 day down slightly at 14.08.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were taking a bit stronger control of the dateline region extending from 160W over the dateline to 150E. Westerly anomalies were trying to hold on extending from Indonesia east to 150E. 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, but currently being held at 150E. A week from now (2/19) the models indicate westerly anomalies giving up a little more ground, extending from Indonesia to only 130E with weakening if not near neutral easterly anomalies over the dateline but building to modest strength between 130-160E, and moving into what was purely westerly anomaly territory. This isn;t good news. Light westerly anomalies are also indicated from 160W to nearly Ecuador. It is unknown whether this is just a temporary fluctuation or a sign of the impending doom of the Active Phase of the MJO. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) have now reversed direction and are suggesting the the Inactive Phase of the MJO which has been holed up in the Indian Ocean is to start pushing east and 2 weeks from now is to be moving into the West Pacific. This would suggest the impending end to the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO has been provided for the past month. It would also indicate that the 'blocked' MJO pattern that has existed most of this winter might finally be coming to and end.
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table