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 Monday (2/20) North and Central CA was seeing residual Gulf swell was producing waves at head high and clean early but pretty weak compared to days previous. In Santa Cruz waves were shoulder high on the sets and clean but a bit warbled Southern California up north was chest high and clean on the sets but looking very much like windswell. Down south waves were waist to shoulder high and clean with no wind. Hawaii's North Shore was small and warbled with waves maybe chest high on the sets. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting east windswell 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 rather quiet pattern is settling in over the North Pacific as the Inactive Phase of the Madden julian Oscillation takes root. A modest gale developed west of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians Friday (2/17) with 32 ft seas, providing some potential mainly for the US West Coast by late Tuesday into Wednesday (2/22). A series of weak systems are to races through the Northern Gulf of Alaska Mon-Tues (2/21) providing minimal swell for exposed breaks in Northern CA and the Pacific Northwest later in the workweek. Beyond another broad gale is forecast just west of the dateline and south of the Aleutians on Thurs (2/23) with maybe 35 ft seas offering something for both Hawaii and the US West Coast. Then after that things really go quiet. Take what you can get now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Monday (2/20) the jet was flowing consolidated and flat off Japan with wind 170 kts looking solid. It tracked to the dateline then split with most energy ridging northeast up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska then moving onshore over Canada. 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 confined to the far West Pacific. Over the next 72 hours this pattern is to try and hold on with wind speeds pushing up to 200 kts off Japan with a decent trough trying to build on the dateline mid-week and the split point holding just northwest of Hawaii. Reasonable support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours a big down turn is expected. The just is to loose all it's energy starting Thursday (2/23) and start heavily fragmenting even off Japan with the split point moving west midway between the dateline and Japan with a huge split taking over over the greater North Pacific and energy levels well below 100 kts almost everywhere. Virtually no support for gale development expected.
Surface - On Monday (2/20) swell from the Dateline Gale was starting to hit Hawaii (see details below). Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked between Hawaii and North California ridging as far west as the dateline and also nudging east up to the California coast. A pair of small unorganized gales were tracking north over the top of the high. One was just south of Alaska in the Northern Gulf with west winds at near 45 kts generating seas forecast to 30 ft by evening at 53N 148W and pushing out of the California swell window at 319 degrees. Maybe some limited swell from earlier in the gales life to result arriving in NCal starting early Thurs (2/23) at 5.8 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft) from 302 degrees. A smaller and weaker gale was right behind this one too, with seas to 24 ft forecast by Tues AM (2/21) at 47N 159W. Maybe some more small reinforcing swell possible by Fri (2/24). Over the next 72 hours another moderate size gale is forecast developing off Northern Japan on Wed (2/22) with 45 kt northwest winds aimed well at Hawaii. In the evening seas are forecast to 34 ft at 42N 165E. The gale is to be lifting slightly northeast on Thurs AM (2/23) and holding in coverage, with seas to 36 ft at 44N 173E then fading some late with seas down to 32 ft at 45N 175E, then lifting up into the Bering Sea by Friday and gone. Limited swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast if all goes as forecast.
A small gale tracked 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 maxed at 32 ft over a tiny area well west of the dateline Fri AM (2/17) at 45N 175E (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.
Swell arrival in Hawaii expected Mon (2/20) at 5 Am with period 17 secs and size small but building, peaking near sunset at 4.8 ft @ 15 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction: 320 degrees
Swell arrival in NCal expected on Tues (2/21) at 4 PM with pure swell pushing to 5.6 ft @ 17 secs just after sunset (9 ft) from 300 degrees. Sets very inconsistent with low wave counts.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (2/20) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked midway between Hawaii and California and trying to ridge into Central CA but not quite making it. A small non-closed isobar low (really just a trough in the upper atmosphere) was pushing southeast into Oregon and North CA on Monday (2/20) with remnants hanging off the California coast resulting in a bit of a break from the wind and with light rain supposedly sliding down the coast to maybe Monterey Bay during the day (a generous assessment). But high pressure is to remain locked off the coast, with north winds again forecast for Central CA on Tuesday but only in the 10 kt range. The high is to edge east just a little on Wednesday with north winds to 15 kts over North CA down to maybe San Francisco, then generating a solid gradient over the entire North and Central Coast Thursday with north winds to 15+ kts nearshore, but retreating Friday as a strong local gale is forecast developing just off Vancouver Island. But as is moves onshore over Washington on Friday night high pressure and strong north winds to take over the entire US West Coast Saturday and holding into Monday (2/27). Sure looks like a La Nina enhanced Springtime pattern in-play and only getting stronger.
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 a massively split and very weak jetstream flow aloft is to really take a toll on storm production. Virtually no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
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 Monday (2/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at 1.01. The 30 day average was down to 5.77 with the 90 day down slightly at 12.76. 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 over the dateline/equator region extending from 170W over the dateline to 140E and actually pushing the whole way into the Indian Ocean down at 10S. Westerly anomalies were gone from the West Pacific. This suggests that the Active Phase of the MJO is likely in full retreat. A week from now (2/26) modest easterly anomalies are to weaken some and be focused mainly a bit south of the equator, but still in control of the West Pacific extending from 170W to 110E. No signs of any westerly anomalies or even neutral anomalies are indicated. This remains bad news. This suggests strongly that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is 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 and indicates the end of the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO had been providing. 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 provides a little hope, 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, possibly setting up another opportunity for the Active Phase in mid March.
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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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