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 (2/17) North and Central California was getting raw jumbled locally generated swell with waves to double overhead and chopped to death. Southern California was getting the same swell but far cleaner with waves head high or a little more and lined up in the north. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead, lined up and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband north angled swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and clean with light trades in control though a little warbled. The East Shore was getting the same swell as the North Shore at 2-3 ft overhead 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 Friday is for westerly windswell dropping from 7.5 ft (faces) then north local windswell takes over Saturday at 7 ft and again 7.5 ft early on Sunday. Monday no real rideable swell is expected then north windswell of 6 ft is expected on Tuesday. Southern California is to see chest high leftover local swell early Friday fading from waist to chest high Saturday and holding at chest high Sunday. Thigh high leftovers Monday and pretty much unrideable Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see Gulf north swell fading from 1 ft overhead on Friday. Chest high leftovers on Saturday fading from waist high Sunday. Monday possible new swell of 1 ft overhead expected fading from head high Tuesday. The East Shore is to see waist high east windswell Friday on through the weekend and holding through early the next week. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A series of small south falling gales are to travel almost right over the US West Coast generating 20 ft seas just off San Francisco Saturday and Tuesday (2/22) possible setting up sideband 12-13 sec period windswell, but real raw. Then north winds and high pressure to build in later in the week. Also a cutoff low is forecast north-northwest of Hawaii on Saturday (2/19) generating 24 ft seas but aimed a bit west of the Islands. Maybe some sideband swell to result. Otherwise, no swell producing weather systems are forecast. Sure lloks like Spring is coming.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (2/17) a split jetstream pattern was in control. The splitpoint was over Japan with the northern branch tracking up the Kuril Islands then into the Bering Sea finally dropping south through the Northern Gulf of Alaska and pushing inland over San Francisco. A bit of a trough was off the Pacific Northwest coast capable of supporting gale development there. Otherwise, nothing. Over the next 72 hours the trough off the Pacific Northwest is to slowly push east eventually moving over the California coast on Sunday 92/20) eliminating any support for gale development over the Pacific. If anything, a large ridge is to control the entirety of the North Pacific. Beyond 72 hours no real change is forecast. There's some suggestions the ridge in the west might back off some, allowing something that almost looks like a trough to develop over the northern Dateline region on Thurs (2/24), but that is likely just wishful thinking.
At the surface on Thursday (2/17) a cutoff low was 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii generating only easterly fetch aimed at Japan. A weak 1006 mb low was over Washington setting up a wet and windy weather pattern reaching down to Central CA, but no swell producing fetch of interest was evident. High pressure at 1028 mbs was over the dateline and another at 1032 mbs was between the Hawaiian cutoff low and the low over the Pacific northwest. in short, not swell production was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the Hawaiian cutoff low is to ease east some with up to 40 kt northeast winds and 24 ft seas Saturday AM (2/19), possibly setting up some sideband swell for the Islands early in the workweek. Otherwise remnants of the Washington low pressure cell are to work their way into the California coast through Saturday (2/19). no fetch of interest is indicated.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/17) low pressure at 1002 mbs was circulating just off Vancouver Island with a front pushing into Central CA and a wet flow of southwest winds into the Central and North Coasts and generating moderate precipitation. This is the worst of it. Generally the Tahoe resort were reporting 43-46 inches of snow through Thursday AM with more falling, pretty hard too. By Friday the core of this new low is to be hanging just off Pt Conception, driving south winds and rain into the Southern half of California and and offshore flow over northern Central CA with light rain, then finally pushing onshore early Saturday over Southern CA with 15 kt west winds there, and northeasterly winds over Central and North CA. Rain clearing out. More snow from the Central Sierra southward Thursday through early Saturday (16-25 inches of snow for the Tahoe region through Fri 10 PM). Northwest winds expected everywhere on Sunday but then another local south falling gale is to push down the US West Coast Monday-Tuesday and then into Southern CA on Wednesday (2/23). Most precipitation is currently scheduled to remain off the coast (i.e. no snow), but that is subject to change. The low only needs to inch east a little. Strong high pressure and north winds to take over the coast Wed-Thurs north to south.
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 low pressure cell is to drop down the Pacific northwest coast on Sun-Mon (2/21) with up to 30 kt north winds, stalling off Pt Conception on Tuesday, then pushing inland over Southern CA 24 hrs later. 20 ft seas to be generated over that timeframe, all aimed due south and mostly bypassing even the CA coast. maybe some sideband windswell to result, but that's it. No other swell producing fetch is forecast. Pretty quiet.
As of Thursday (2/17) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was very high. The daily SOI was 55.43. The 30 day average was up to 18.13 with the 90 day average up slightly at 21.71.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (2/16) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak westerly anomalies (Active Phase) on the dateline and schedule to push east through 2/21 then dissipate. An even weaker version of the Inactive Phase (Easterly anomalies) are to migrate from the Indian Ocean to North Australia through 3/3, then dissipate. In all essentially a neutral pattern was in control with neither the Active Phase nor the Inactive of the MJO having any real influence. No change is forecast through 3/8. Given the massive split in the jetstream, some bias towards the Inactive Phase is most likely, regardless of the models. Gale development potential for the favored dateline region is non-existent 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 (2/10) 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 2/15 suggests temps down to only 2 degrees C below normal. Looks like the worst of La Nina is over.
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