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 (2/16) North and Central CA was seeing north dateline swell fading out with surf 2 ft overhead and pretty chopped and lumpy under non-stop northwest winds. In Santa Cruz waves were shoulder high and clean but with lump running through it. Southern California up north was waist high or so and heavily textured with westerly wind on it. Down south waves were shoulder high and inconsistent but clean with hard offshores in control. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing new Southern Dateline swell producing waves near triple overhead (13 ft) and clean with trades in effect. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the limited wrap around dateline swell resulting in waves chest to shoulder high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A gale developed on the Southern Dateline on Mon-Tues (2/14) with seas to 34 ft and follow-on energy into Wednesday at 26 ft targeting Hawaii well. Swell hit late Wed (2/15) into Thursday with some energy expected into Central California by Friday continuing into the weekend. But beyond that things are to really settle down. A small gale is forecast just off Washington on Saturday (2/18) with seas to 32 ft and outside the CA swell window, but likely setting up raw, west and windy conditions for the Pacific Northwest. Another somewhat larger gale is forecast west of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians Friday (2/17) with 34 ft seas, providing some potential mainly for the US West Coast 5 days out. Beyond another broader gale is forecast in the same area later next week. But the biggest development is the apparent and unexpected return of the Inactive Phase of the MJO, forecast to take control and dampen the storm track.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Thursday (2/16) the jet was flowing flat off Japan with winds in pockets at 160 kts, but nowhere near as cohesive as weeks past. It tracked to the dateline then split with most energy continuing east undulating along the way pushing over the coast near Washington. A weak flow was peeling off the main stream falling south and west of Hawaii then turning hard east on the equator. Limited support for gale development north of the northern branch of the jet, but nothing obviously impressive. Over the next 72 hours a more familiar pattern is to emerge with winds building off Japan to 190 kts and becoming far more integrated, but splitting on the dateline with the northern branch ridging northeast pushing into Alaska just south of the Aleutians Limited support for gale development indicated mainly off Japan. Beyond 72 hours energy levels are to hold off Japan pushing to the dateline at 190 kts on Monday (2/20) with the split point being pushed east to a point north of Hawaii and most energy still flowing into the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing up into Northern Canada. A weak but broad trough is forecast on the dateline, offering limited support for gale development and digging out deeper by Wed (2/22) and holding for 24 hours, but making little eastward progress. Maybe better support for gale development then.
Surface - On Thursday (2/16) swell from the South Dateline Gale (see details below) was passing Hawaii and taking aim on the US West coast. Swell from the North Gulf Gale was also pushing towards the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA and expected to arrive there on Friday (2/17). A small gale was tracking off northern Japan heading northeast on Thurs AM (2/16) with 40 kt west winds over a small area building to 45 kts in the evening on into Friday AM then fading late. Seas forecast maxing at 36 ft over a tiny area well west of the dateline Fri AM (2/17) at 45N 171E (320 degs HI and 301 degs NCal). Possible small inconsistent swell to push mainly towards the US West Coast and bypassing Hawaii to the north. Will monitor.
Over the next 72 hours weak and ill defined 30-35 kt southwest winds are forecast for the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend generating 22-24 ft seas but all targeting Northern Canada and of no real interest.
South Dateline Gale
Another broad gale developed 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 35N 165E and continuing over the dateline in the evening with winds still 40-45 kts and seas to 34 ft at 35N 175E. Fetch is to start fading just east of the dateline on Tuesday AM (2/14) with 28-30 ft seas mostly from precious fetch at 35N 174W, then fading in the evening from 26 ft at 35N 178E.
Moderate very westerly angled swell hit Hawaii at sunset on Wednesday (3/15) at 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.5 ft) building over night and peaking mid-Thursday (2/16) at 10 ft @ 14-15 secs (14.5 ft). residuals fading on Friday (2/17) from 8.5 ft @ 14 secs (12 ft). Swell Direction: 305 degrees
Less size and consistency for the US West Coast given the long travel distance from the dateline and the fact the the core of the storm was displaced well to the south.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (2/17) near sunrise with period 17 secs and size small but building, reaching 6 ft @ 16 secs early afternoon (9.5 ft). Swell to continue Saturday (2/18) at 6.5 ft @ 15 secs (9.5 ft). 14 sec remnants on Sunday with new north angled swell possibly intermixed. Swell Direction: 285-290 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (2/17) near sunset with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5 ft). Size building overnight reaching 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) at sunrise Sat (2/18) and holding, dropping some late afternoon. 15 sec remnants on Sunday AM at 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) and fading with new north angled swell possibly intermixed late. Swell Direction: 288-293 degrees
North Gulf Gale
A small circulation developed just south of the Eastern Aleutians from the South Dateline Gale (above), with 45 kt west winds Monday AM (2/13) at 40N lifting hard to the north in the evening with 55 kt west winds up at 44N 170W. 32 ft seas building at 43N 170W (296 degs NCal). By Tuesday AM (2/14) winds were already fading from 45 kts at 47N 170W aimed more northeast than east with seas building from 37 ft at 47N 167W targeting the Pacific northwest up into Alaska (302 degs NCal). By evening a tiny area of 45 kts southwest winds remained targeting the Aleutians with 34 ft seas fading over a tiny area at 48N 167W.
This all suggest some degree of modest longer period swell could result for the Pacific Northwest, but will be well shadowed or too north an angled to be ideal for California south of Pt Arena. Additional follow-on west fetch continued in the Gulf at 30-35 kts Wed-Thurs (2/16) resulting in 26 ft seas near 40N 165W. Perhaps more 14 sec energy to continue pushing into the Pacific Northwest down into California intermixed with the South Dateline Gale (indicated below).
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (2/17) near 1 AM with period at 18 secs and peaking near 9 AM as period drops to 17 secs. Swell 5.5 ft @ 17 secs (9.5 ft) from 298 degrees. Swell to intermix with the South Dateline Swell above.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/16) high pressure at 1030 mbs was locked midway between Hawaii and California and trying to ridge into Central CA but not quite making it. This was resulting in a steady northerly flow at 15 kts covering the whole coast except select shadowed locations in Southern CA. On Friday lighter northerly winds are forecast for North and Central CA (10 kts and maybe less nearshore early) while a new stronger but small gale is forecast wrapping up off Vancouver Island falling southeast into the Pacific Northwest Saturday with high pressure surging northeast as it moves inland early Sunday. A dusting of snow for Tahoe Saturday possible (1 inch accumulation) with showers for the Central CA coast. North winds to again be the rule in California (north of Pt Conception) by first light Saturday at 20 kts continuing Sunday, fading some later. Yet another small low is forecast pushing southeast into Oregon on Monday (2/20) with remnants hanging off the California coast resulting gin a bit of a break from the wind with light rain forecast down the coast into Southern CA during the day to San Francisco with 2-3 inches of snow possible at Tahoe. But high pressure is to remain locked off the coast, with north winds again forecast Tuesday but only in the 5 kts range, then possibly generating an almost summer like gradient off Cape Mendocino on Wednesday with light winds south of Pt Arena into Thursday (2/23).
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 be in firm control off the US West Coast edging painstaking slow towards the east moving to within 600 nmiles of Central CA by Thurs (2/23). A moderate size gale is forecast developing off Northern Japan on Tues (2/21) with 45 kt northwest winds aimed well at Hawaii lifting slightly northeast on Wed (2/23) and growing in coverage, remaining stationary into early Friday while holding strength. Seas forecast in the 34-36 ft range near 44N 170E offering good potential for modest but steady swell for Hawaii and a bit less for even the US West Coast if one is to believe the models.
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 jet stream 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 (2/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -5.24. The 30 day average was down some to 8.35 with the 90 day down slightly at 13.63. This is a lagging indicator of what is happening wind-wise and these numbers are expected to start rising.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate to strong easterly anomalies were building over the dateline/equator region extending from 170W over the dateline to 135E and actually pushing the whole way into the Indian Ocean down at 10S. Not good. Westerly anomalies were few and far between isolated to the Philippines. This suggests yet again that the Active Phase of the MJO is fluctuating (at a minimum) if not in full decline. A week from now (2/24) easterly anomalies are to weaken some and move a bit south of the equator, but still in control of the West Pacific extending from 170W to 120E and maybe more. No signs of any westerly anomalies are indicated. This remains bad news. This suggest strongly that the Active Phase of the MJO is gone and the Inactive Phase is now in control. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) continue suggesting the the Inactive Phase of the MJO is pushing east from New Guinea and 2 weeks from now is to be over the dateline. This suggests the end to the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO has been providing 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. Even more interesting is a projected building of the Active Phase of the MJO over that 2 week period under Indian and slowly pushing east. No coverage expected in the West Pacific during the forecast window, but at least it's a step in the right direction, if one is to believe the models.
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. Starting in Jan the Active Phase starting easing east, reaching near the dateline early Feb, but then rapidly declined mid-Feb. The only hope is that a regular, non-blocked, 5-6 week MJO cycle will materialize.
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