New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Thursday (2/10) North and Central California had northwesterly local raw swell from a gale that was off the coast the day before generating surf at double overhead plus early, but fading fast with a healthy northerly lurp running through it. Southern California was getting a far smaller version of this swell with waves waist to maybe chest high and pretty chopped with northwest winds in effect. The bulk of the swell was being shadowed from the Channel Islands with the dwell angle too northerly. Hawaii's North Shore was receiving more small swell energy originating from a gale that was across the dateline with waves head high to 1+ ft overhead and pristine glassy conditions. The South Shore was flat other than limited east tradewind swell filtering in. The East Shore was getting local trade induced windswell producing surf in the chest high range and choppy.
For Central California the pattern of winds and rain then clearing is to continue for the next 5-7 days, with a greater emphasis on the rain and wind component and shorter dry period in between. More northerly swell (really windswell) is expected reaching the double overhead range or so, but all very northerly and shadowed from most premiere breaks. And even at that , when it does comes it's likely to be a lumpy mess assuming local winds are OK. So set your sights low. The next gale in this series is forming off Washington Thursday expected to push into Central CA on Saturday (2/14) with seas at 23-25 ft, peaking off Oregon at 28 ft. And yet another one is scheduled forming off Washington on Sat/Sun (2/15) sinking southeast with seas to 23-25 ft and most swell pushing south of the entire Golden State. Southern California to see a fraction of the swell from these systems and be mostly shadowed but winds and rain are to be in good supply. The strategy is to watch the wind models closely and try to find a window between fronts to get some thing that resembles cleaner surf. The North Shore of Hawaii is receiving a little pulse of energy coming from a gale that was off the Kurils. That swell to continue decently into Friday then fade out Saturday. Perhaps another little pulse to occur next week. The South Shore of Hawaii is in hibernation with no change forecast. The East Shore has easterly windswell that is expected to grow some, peaking out over the weekend (2/14) on into Monday.
Longer term the story continues to focus on the local northerly gale pattern dropping out of the Gulf down the US West Coast at least into Friday of next week (2/20). But nothing of any real interest from a clean swell production standpoint looks likely. Rain is in the forecast for California virtual every day through next Wednesday (2/18). Again, good for snow pack, but not much for producing quality surf. For the Islands another weak gale is schedule for west of the dateline this weekend (2/14) with maybe 28 ft seas, then even that meager pattern is to dry up with all activity shifting way north and aimed east of any route to Hawaii.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/12) the North Pacific jetstream was tracking off Japan with a nice little trough set up there with 160 kt winds flowing into it, but then rising into a big ridge over the dateline with up to 190 kt winds there. The trough was supporting a gale at the surface and the ridge a strong high pressure system down below. A secondary ridge was pushing up to the Aleutians then reversing direction and tracking south off the US West Coast, bottoming out over Central CA while providing decent support for weak gale development off the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (2/15) the trough off Japan is to quickly wash out and lift north with all of it's energy getting fused into the ridge and then feeding south into the growing trough off the Pacific Northwest. A fine pocket of 160 kts winds to be in that trough by Saturday (2/14) bottoming out just off the Coast of Big Sure and pushing inland there. Gale development likely. Beyond 72 hrs the ridge over the Central Pacific is to continue feeding into the trough off the West Coast at least through late next week likely continuing the cooler wet pattern there and producing modest gale activity. But a fraction of that energy is to be splitting off the main jet near the dateline and tracking southeast, missing even Hawaii. So the same old split jetstream flow appears to be coming back in-play.
At the surface today high pressure at up to 1036 mbs remains locked 1100 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA and 1200 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii ridging southeast between Hawaii and California, generating trades at 20-25 kts off it's southern quadrant pushing towards the Hawaii Islands, generating east tradewinds and windswell. A broad gale was in the Bering Sea producing 40 kt west winds just barely south of the Aleutians on the dateline resulting in 23 ft seas there. Off Japan a new gale was building tracking east, with 45 kt north fetch developing and aimed a bit south of the great circle tracks to Hawaii, but start to get a little interesting. Swell from a gale that formed off Vancouver Island Monday PM (2/9) generating 40 kt northwest winds and up to 32 ft seas had already hit Central CA Wed pm and was pushing south into Southern CA, but from too north and angle to be effective.
Over the next 72 hours the gale off Japan is to hold into Thurs PM (2/12) with up to 50 kt winds aimed mostly south of Hawaii, then it is to lift north rapidly Fri/Sat with all fetch moving into it's south quadrant (up to 45 kts Sat AM). But it is to be moving so fast that little of this fetch is to get traction on the oceans surface. A small path of 29-30 ft seas are forecast at 32N 162E Fri AM (2/13) targeting Hawaii and continuing in the evening at 32N 168E, but then are to dissolve overnight with only 26-28 ft seas being left Saturday way up at 40N 180W on the dateline all aimed towards the mainland. Minimal swell generation potential for Hawaii at best, with swell possibly arriving late Monday PM (2/16). .
Otherwise the gale pattern is to continue off the West Coast. Another gale was forming in the Eastern Gulf Wednesday PM with 30 kts northwest winds at 50N 145W pushing down the 310 degree path to North CA. This gale had pressure only down to 1012 mbs Thursday AM (2/12) with 35 kt fetch at 47N 135W with 18 ft seas building there. By evening a small area of 40 kt northwest wind are forecast sinking southeast at 45N 133W generating 25 ft seas at 45N 133W pushing down the 315 degree path to NCal. More 35 kt northwest fetch is forecast Friday AM (2/13) at 41N 130W pushing swell energy towards Southern CA.down the 305 degree path. Seas forecast to 28 ft at the same place. Quickly fading 30 kt northwest winds are forecast in the evening at 39N 130W pushing directly off Pt Arena with 26 ft seas impacting the coast there. Wind and rain are to be impacting North & Central CA as the gale moves inland late Friday likely making this swell a blown out mess. Swell to be too north for anywhere south of San Francisco.
Yet one more broader but not necessarily stronger system is forecast forming off Washington Saturday AM (2/14) with 35 kt northwest winds at 42N 140W (305 degs relative to Central CA) dropping southeast though the evening with seas to 23 ft at 40N 134, then fading Sunday AM with 30 kt west winds and 25 ft seas forecast at 35N 134W pushing tangently down the 280 degree great circle path into Central CA but mostly bypassing the coast. Very close to shore (600 nmiles out relative to Southern CA). Weather likely to take a very big chunk out of this swell.
Also Thursday PM (2/12) a gale in the Bering Sea is to be generating a small area of 55 kt west winds over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians pushing east Friday AM then dissipating fast. Seas are modeled building to 41 ft at 50N 170W Fri AM (2/13) and fading from 38 ft in the evening. This suggests some form of 18-19 sec period swell pushing into the US West Coast from 307 degrees arriving in Central CA on Monday (2/16) but likely buried in local swell.
Note: Jason-1 satellite data continues to be un-available while the satellite is repositioned into a new orbit to integrate with the new Jason-2 satellite.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/12) high pressure at 1038 mbs remained locked 1100 west of Cape Mendocino trying to ridge southeast into Central CA now that one gale has passed south of the state and dissipated. This was generating 15 kt northwest winds down the Central Coast and up to near 20 kts in Southern CA. Yet another gale is queued up off the Pacific Northwest on Thursday with it's front scheduled to hit Central CA late Thursday PM (2/12) with brisk northwest winds at 15-20 kts and rain taking over Central and Southern CA waters Friday PM. Rain is scheduled through the day. The next front hits Central CA with south winds and rain in control mid-Saturday moving into Southern CA Sunday AM. South winds and copious rain to prevail in South and Central CA Sunday with high pressure and northwest winds for both by Monday ( and more scattered rain) And here we go again with south winds for the southern half of the state again by Tuesday (2/17) with the gale stalling off San Francisco and south winds continuing into Thursday (2/19).
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring aimed at US targets. 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 hours another weak gale is to push southeast off the US West Coast Tuesday (2/17) nuzzling up to San Francisco on Wednesday making a winds mess of things and offering mainly more rain and snow for the state, though some windswell looks inevitable.
The limited gale pattern off Japan is to falter with no activity forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (2/12) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Active Phase. This is the second time in recent months that hardly any inactive phase resulted between Active Phase, giving us reason to be interested in long term prospects. The Daily SOI index was down to 18.83. The 30 day average was up some to 13.05 and the 90 day average was steady to 13.43. The SOI indicies were all still symptomatic of La Nina and did not yet reflect the building Active Phase currently in-play. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated neutral winds over the equatorial East Pacific and Central America. But a solid area of westerly wind anomalies associated with the Active Phase pushing into the equatorial Western Pacific over northern Australia. These winds are to start reaching the dateline by 2/13, holding there solidly through 2/22, then start decaying but still present through 3/3. This is much earlier and stronger than previously suggested and are modeled to hang there longer than usual. This incarnation of the Active Phase is likely supporting a gale pattern previously off Japan and should support for additional development in the Gulf of Alaska into the weeks ahead. Interesting, but some of the El Nino models are starting to suggest a tendency towards El Nino next Fall. Clearly the more-than-anticipated robustness of the MJO is possibly starting to have an effect. Extremely dry conditions in Australia and a vigorous wildfire season there could be early symptoms of El Nino. There's also remains evidence to suggest that cooler than usual subsurface waters that had pooled up south of Hawaii might be starting to erode, with a large pool of warmer than normal water sitting just west of it waiting to surge east and actually making some headway. We needs to see a real Westerly Wind Burst on the dateline from this pulse of the MJO through before we can say something is really starting to develop.
No swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days.
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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Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
Help Out a Fellow Mavericks Surfer: Our friend Christy Davis is going through some tough times. His 14 year old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. The prognosis is good but we'd all like to help him out with medical expenses not covered by insurance. If you would like to donate, send an email to us here or send it to Christy directly at: Chris Davis PO Box 628 Moss Beach, CA 94038
Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
STORMSURF Local Wave Models Upgraded - We significantly upgraded the local waves models on Sunday (6/8). All now utilize our newly developed high-resolution 3D shaded relief topography for mapping landmasses. Coastlines are now accurate down to the individual pixel providing near photographic realism. Mountains and hills are all shaded and accurate to within the same single pixel specification. Cities are overlaid as before, but now we've added major highways and rivers too (for many locations). Some good examples of this new technology can be viewed here:
- View the reefs north of Tahiti and notice their contribution to the 'Swell Shadow' relative to California - Tahiti
- Notice the detail of the coast in and around Vancouver Islands and Washington State - Pacific Northwest
- See the details of inland waterways of the US Northeast Coast - Virginia
- Details of the Mentawai Island and Nias
And all the local models can be found either on our homepage or from the wavemodel page (bottom half of the page).
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Mavericks Contest 2008: View all the action from the 2008 Maverick Surf Contest from Powelines Productions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5lj9CUpCc
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table