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 Tuesday (3/1) North and Central California was getting north angled windswell with waves head high to 1 ft over and almost clean at protected spots early. Southern California was knee high or so up north and reasonably clean but weak early. Down south waves at exposed breaks were knee high and windblown from the north. Hawaii's North Shore was getting small northerly swell with waves head high with some bigger sets and a bit warbly with northeast trades in effect. The East Shore was getting the same northeast swell as the North Shore with waves shoulder high 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 Wednesday is for leftover north windswell at 4 ft (faces) early and buried in local south windswell. Thursday new north windswell expected at 6 ft fading from 4 ft on Friday. Small west swell of 3.5 ft expected on Saturday with new west swell to 8.5 ft possible on Sunday. Southern California is to see more south swell to chest high on Wednesday with north windswell to near waist high. Thursday south swell holds at near waist high with westerly windslop on top with the south swell continuing into Friday. Saturday new west swell might reach knee high at exposed breaks with northwest swell pushing into exposed breaks Sunday to chest high. The North Shore of Oahu is to see waist high mixed swell Wednesday then new northwest swell is to push 3 ft overhead Thursday fading from 1 ft overhead on Friday. New northerly windswell expected Saturday to 2 ft overhead holding into Sunday. The East Shore is to see nothing Wednesday then northeast windswell Thursday to waist to chest high pushing chest high Friday. Head high northerly windswell Saturday pushing 2 ft overhead Sunday. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A gale tracked east off Japan towards the dateline Sunday (2/27) with near 30 ft seas late pushing swell towards Hawaii for Thursday, then faded and lifted northeast. But it is expected to regenerate by Wednesday falling southeast towards the US west Coast with 20 ft seas holding to late Thursday reaching to a point just off Cape Mendocino. Maybe some decent but raw swell to push into the US West Coast by the weekend. Otherwise a little local low is to develop just north of Hawaii on Friday (3/4) possibly setting up local windswell. Maybe a weak system to develop over the northern dateline region pushing into the Western Gulf by the middle of next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/1) the split jetstream pattern remained in effect, though most energy was moving more or less flat from Japan to the US West Coast with only a small portion of that energy peeling off and taking the northern route through the Bering Sea. Still, wind speeds were very light (only 100 kts or less) taking the more direct route with no clearly defined troughs in effect and little support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours that same basic pattern is to hold but with 160 kts winds building off Japan and holding through Friday (3/4), but quickly pushing north well before even reaching the dateline. Limited support for gale development there. Also an extremely weak trough is to develop in the Western Gulf on Thursday easing northeast into the early weekend providing minimal support for low pressure development there. Beyond 72 hours the weak Gulf trough is to ease east into British Columbia on Sunday (4/6) while the japan trough moderates and pushes hard east into the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday (4/8) with no real wind energy to support gale development. At that time the jet off Japan is to start splitting in a more pronounced pattern likely setting up more of the split pattern we've all become accustom to.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/1) low pressure at 992 mbs was wrapping up just 500 nmiles off the coat of Northern CA producing mostly south winds aimed towards Canada at 30 kts. It is to race hard north and push into Vancouver Island on Wednesday with south winds at 45 kts turning to west at the same velocity later in the day. No real swell for US interests indicated other than westerly short period windswell.
Over the next 72 hours there is some suggestion the Japan Gale (see below) might reorganize in the Northern Dateline region Wednesday AM (3/2) with a tiny area of 35 kt northwest winds rejuvenating at 44N 172W with seas on the increase. That fetch is to be building in coverage while falling southeast on Wed PM with 35 kt winds at 41N 168W resulting in 20 ft seas at roughly the same locale. Fetch is to hold at 35 kts Thursday AM at 38N 160W with 20 ft seas moving to 38N 162W. More of the same is forecast in the evening with 35 kt west winds tracking west and 20 ft seas repositioned to 37N 153W. Friday AM up to 40 kt west winds to be at 41N 140W with 19 ft seas at 40N 142W. The gale is to start spinning up Friday night just off the coast of Washington with 40 kt northwest winds producing 20 ft seas at 41N 135W directly over buoy 46006 right before moving inland over British Columbia. If this comes to pass possible background sideband swell for Hawaii arriving by Saturday (3/5) with more directly but raw energy for Northern CA from 292 degrees and the US West Coast in general. Will monitor.
On Sunday (2/27) a gale was mid-way between Japan and the dateline generating 40 kt northwest winds at 35N 165E aimed at Hawaii up the 300 degree great circle path and producing 25 ft seas. That gale pushed east more Sunday evening with winds down to 35-40 kts at 35N 172E resulting in up to 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 35N 170E. On Monday the gale rapidly degraded while lifting northeast offering no swell producing fetch.
This system produced a nice little pulse of westerly swell with period initially at 17 secs for Hawaii starting late Wednesday with size building fairly fast. Peak swell of 6 ft @ 14-15 secs is expected by Thurs AM (3/3) resulting in surf with 8 ft faces from 304 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/1) a new local low (almost a gale) was organizing 500 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino while lifting northeast fast. South winds were building into the Central CA coast. The core of the gale is to be just off Vancouver Island Wednesday AM (3/2) with the meat of an associated front pushing into North and Central CA. South winds are to be fading from 20+ kts with peak rain forecast from Santa Barbara northward up into Northern CA. Snow building in the Tahoe region through the day. Thurs (3/3) a secondary pulse of low pressure energy is to push into Central CA with 10-15 kt south winds down to Pt Conception and light rain down into Santa Barbara County. Up to 2 ft of snow for the Tahoe region through Thursday. Clearing on Friday with light winds early, then another local pulse of low pressure is to be building and tracking northeast pushing into the Pacific Northwest late in the day with south winds reaching down to maybe Monterey Bay. Light rain north of the SF Bay area. Yet another pulse of weaker low pressure is to build off the coast and push into northern Central CA Saturday night into Sunday AM with south winds down to Pt Conception and heavier rain in San Francisco clearing in the evening. Maybe another 2 ft of snow for Tahoe starting late Sat through mid-Monday (4/7). A solid bout of northwest winds associated with a local gradient are expected along the entire coast Mon-Tues with mixed light rain Monday down to San Diego and more light snow for Tahoe into Tuesday AM.
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 a broad but ill defined low pressure system is to set up over
the Aleutians on Sunday (3/6) generating 30-35 kt west wind just barely
free and clear of the Aleutians generating seas to 20 ft into Monday
pushing due west targeting the Pacific Northwest. Size to be minimal
upon arrival due to swell decay. No other clear swell producing weather
systems are forecast.
As of Tuesday (3/1) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding. The daily SOI was down to 20.73. The 30 day average was up to 22.61 with the 90 day average up to 22.37.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (2/28) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a dead neutral pattern in control. A dead neutral pattern is forecast to hold for the length of the model run (out to 3/19). This suggests no real support for gale development through the month of March. We're still waiting for high pressure and north winds to build along the US West Coast, but as long as the jet keeps driving small pulses of low pressure down directly over the Canadian and US West Coasts producing rain and snow, that high pressure and associated north wind will remain at bay.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (2/28) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from a bit west of South America westward 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. Warmer than normal water has now built near the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a classic La Nina setup.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present. Colder than normal water that has been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator has now evaporated and temps there are dead neutral, which is s step up from the negative temps that have dominated there all winter. . This is presumably the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO. In parallel warmer than normal water was edging east, now +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (155W) under the equator, but loosing just a little of it's punch from previous indications. Looks like the worst of La Nina is over and maybe a more normal pattern is trying to get established, but that still might just be wishful thinking.
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 during Springtime of La Nina.
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. Conversely, the tropical season in the Atlantic (2011) might be fairly active.
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
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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table