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 (2/23) North and Central CA was seeing residual Gulf and dateline swells buried under locally generated windswell producing waves 2 ft overhead and pretty ragged. In Santa Cruz waves were chest to head high and a bit bumpy and warbled with wind on it early. Southern California up north was waist high or so and clean but looking very much like only windswell. Down south waves were waist to chest high on the sets and clean with no wind, but still rather warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and clean but warble was in the water. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting east windswell at 1-2 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 continues over the North Pacific as the Inactive Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation remains in control. A rather modest gale developed west of the dateline and south of the Aleutians on Wed-Thurs (2/23) with 31 ft seas offering something for mainly Hawaii by Sunday (2/26) and much less for the the US West Coast. A small gale is forecast just off the Oregon-Washington Coast on Saturday (2/25) with 22 ft seas, providing stormy conditions there and very steep and shadowed swell possible down into Central CA on Sunday. And another gale is forecast west of the dateline Fri-Sun (2/26) with up to 36 ft seas all pushing to the northeast, targeting mostly the Pacific Northwest with remnants tracking east and eventually falling down the US West Coast mid-week. Another system to follow a similar route later next week too. But in all most nativity is to be confined well west of the dateline and pushing northeast, not optimal for anyone in our forecast area.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Thursday (2/23) the jet was flowing off Japan and looking pretty ragged wit winds to 150 kts in one pocket, then reaching the dateline and splitting heavily with most energy ridging northeast up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska and moving onshore over British Columbia. A weak flow was peeling off the main stream falling southeast and west of Hawaii then turning hard east on the equator. Very 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 hold with wind speeds generally below 110 kts over the greater North Pacific with one pocket to 150 kts building off Japan by Sun (2/26). Very limited support for gale development off Kamchatka. Beyond 72 hours no real change is forecast with a generally weak and very split flow in control. A bit better of a trough is forecast organizing off Kamchatka on Tues (2/28) but winds to only be 140 kts, offering minimal support for gale development beyond.
Surface - On Thursday (2/23) high pressure at 1032 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest, offering more clear space between the US West Coast and Hawaii than days previous. A small gale was trying to organize well off Washington. Remnants of another gale were moving over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians (see Modest Dateline Gale below) with swell tracking towards primarily Hawaii. And another gale was trying to develop off Japan. Over the next 72 hours a gale is to be organizing just off Washington Thurs PM (2/23) with north winds building from 35 kts. Friday AM (2/24) north winds forecast to 40 kts with seas starting to build. By evening 45 kt north winds are forecast just off the Washington coast with seas building to 20-22 ft at 45-47N 133-137W and barely in the North CA swell window (315 degrees). By Saturday AM (2/250 the gale is to be moving onshore over Vancouver Island with winds still 40 kts just off the coast there and 24-26 ft seas at 45-47N 124-132W and effectively outside all but the Cape Mendocino swell window. Expect swell moving into the Cape Mendo area at sunset Saturday and into Central CA at 2-5 AM Sunday (2/26) at 7.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (10.5ft) but well shadowed in the San Francisco Bay area with less size. Also another gale is to be building west of the dateline (see Another Possible Dateline Gale below).
Also a small and weak gale tracked through the Northern Gulf on Tues AM (2/21) with seas to 26 ft at 48N 154W. Maybe some limited small reinforcing swell possible for Northern CA on Fri (2/24) but buried under local windswell.
Modest Dateline Gale
A modest gale developed off Northern Japan on Wed (2/22) with 45 kt northwest winds aimed well at Hawaii. In the evening seas were 30 ft at 42N 168E. The gale lifted northeast on Thurs AM (2/23) and held in coverage, with seas still in the 30 ft range at 45N 173E. This system is to fade by evening with seas down to 26 ft at 46N 173E, then dissipating.
Limited swell for Hawaii with swell arriving on Sunday (2/26) peaking late AM at 5.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (8.5 ft faces) coming from 310-315 degrees.
Another Possible Dateline Gale
On Thursday evening (2/23) a gale is forecast pushing off Japan with north winds building to 55 kts aimed south of even Hawaii. By Friday AM (2/24) 55kt west-northwest winds are forecast moving into the gales south quadrant with seas building from 28 ft at 40N 160E targeting Hawaii reasonably. By evening the gale is to be lifting northeast with 50 kt northwest winds holding targeting Hawaii with seas building to 32 ft at 42N 168E, but the gale forward speed to limit the fetchs traction on the oceans surface. By Saturday AM (2/25) the gale is to over the central Aleutians near the dateline with westerly fetch fading from 45 kts and seas peaking at 36 ft at 46N 175E (322 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). The gale is to be moving into the Bering Sea in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts south of the Aleutians and seas holding at 37 ft at 48N 179W (on the dateline) (331 degs HI, 304 degs NCal). 35 kt westerly winds to hold south of the Aleutians Sunday AM 92/26) with seas fading from 32 ft at 50N 173W. remnants of the gale to travel east and eventually fall into the Northern Gulf of Alaska by Tues (2/28) with winds 30 kts and seas to 22 ft at 46N 140W (308 degs NCal). Possible sideband swell for Hawaii maybe later Monday (2/27) with more size but less quality for the US West Coast a few days later. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/23) high pressure between Hawaii and California was at 1034 mbs ridging northeast more than days past up to the Washington but not quite making it. It was still enough to generate a pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast with north winds to 30 kts off the coast and 15+ kts nearshore and making a mess of things. A small gale was well off the Pacific Northwest coast pushing east. The gradient and north winds are to be retreating Friday as the local gale off Washington builds and moves east, with winds over the North and Central coast down below 10 kts mid-day. But as the gale moves onshore over Washington late Friday night, high pressure and strong north winds are to again take over the entire US West Coast Saturday (20 kts) holding Sunday while building into Southern CA and continuing into Monday (2/27). Sure looks like a La Nina enhanced Springtime pattern in-play. A bit if a break is forecast on Tuesday and another patch of low pressure falls southeast out of the Gulf of Alaska, possibly setting up local weather for the Central Coast later in the week.
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 another gale is to try and wind up off Japan on Sunday (2/26) but is to get shunted hard north with limited 40-45 kt westerly fetch blowing off the northern Kuril Islands Mon-Tues (2/28) resulting in maybe 28-30 ft seas over a small area a very long ways from either Hawaii or the US West coast. Longer term there's some indication this gale might stall over the Aleutians and ease east to the dateline with some fetch just barely south of the Aleutians by Thurs (3/2) resulting in 28-30 ft seas in that area. It's the only thing on the charts so we'll keep an eye on it.
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 (2/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up slightly at 5.57. The 30 day average was down to 3.30 with the 90 day down slightly at 12.12. This is a lagging indicator of what is happening wind-wise and these numbers are expected to start rising. Interestingly, the 30 day average has dropped significantly since December, almost approaching neutral territory, if it can hold.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate to strong easterly anomalies were over the dateline/equator region extending from 170W over the dateline to 100E and pushing the whole way into the Indian Ocean. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control. A week from now (3/6) solid easterly anomalies are to continue and be focused mainly a bit south of the equator, but still in control of the West Pacific extending from 160W to 120E. No signs of any westerly anomalies or even neutral anomalies are indicated. This remains bad news and indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to remain in control. We expect the SOI to start rising solidly. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) are mixed in their output,. with the statistical model suggesting the the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to push east from New Guinea reaching the dateline 2 weeks from now and fading. Conversely the dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to hold on the dateline and not budge one inch. We suspect the Dynamic model has a better handle on the situation based on past months experience. Regardless, this marks the end of the good storm cycle the Active Phase of the MJO had been providing (Jan into mid-Feb). If one believes the statistic model it would also indicate that the 'blocked' MJO pattern that has existed most of this winter might finally be coming to an end. But that see not likely. Both models project building of the Active Phase of the MJO under India and slowly pushing east. But the exact timing of it's entry into the West Pacific (if at all) remains up for debate. For now no coverage is expected in the West Pacific during the forecast window.
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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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