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 (3/8) North and Central California was getting next to no swell with waves maybe waist high on the sets and warbled and weak with a light northwest flow. Southern California was getting the same minimal northwest windswell with waves maybe thigh to waist high and chopped up north except at protected breaks. Down south waves at exposed breaks were up to chest high with a few bigger sets and cleaner though still textured early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal northwest swell at waist to chest high and lumpy. The East Shore was effectively flat. 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 for Wednesday is for northwest windswell pushing 3 ft (faces). Thursday windswell expected up some to 5.5 ft but that is likely on the high side. Friday possible semi real swell arrives reaching 9 ft continuing Saturday (9-10 ft) and the same on Sunday. Southern California is to northwest windswell at knee high on Wednesday then maybe up to thigh high Thursday. Possible new swell arrives for later Friday to shoulder high or more continuing on Saturday at shoulder high and maybe up some on Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see decent northerly swell arriving late Wednesday to 9 ft (faces) pushing near 11 ft early Thursday fading from 6.5 ft faces on Friday. 4 ft leftovers on Saturday then new northwest swell hits pushing 6-7 ft (faces) on Sunday. The East Shore is to see east windswell at maybe waist high Wednesday holding into Thursday and 6 inches more Friday. Thigh high leftovers on Saturday and fading out. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
A gale developed just south of the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Sunday (3/6) holding there into Monday with 26-28 ft seas, then dropping southeast pushing directly towards California through mid-week with seas forecast fading from 24 to 22 ft. Sideband swell likely for Hawaii later Wednesday with energy expected for the mainland as the weekend approaches. A slightly weaker system is forecast for the gulf tracking east towards Oregon Friday with 26-28 ft seas while another system builds on the dateline Friday with 30 ft seas tracking fast east and up to Oregon on Sunday with 32 ft seas. Yet another stronger one is forecast behind that pushing towards the Gulf into early next week. The jetstream continues favorable supported by a slight resurgence of the Active Phase of the MJO, potentially having a much needed positive impact on gale production.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/8) the jetstream had a fairly cohesive singular flow tracking flat off Japan with a pocket of 170 kt winds there then ridging some over the dateline with something that almost resembled a split there, but quickly falling into a trough in the Western Gulf with a consolidated flow and 130 kt winds back in control there before tracking flat east and pushing into Southern Oregon. Decent support for gale development in the trough in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to moderate and push east into the Pacific Northwest late on Thursday providing declining support for gale development. At the same time the pocket of energy is the west is to expand reaching from Japan to the dateline and a bit further east with 130-160 kt winds, though no trough yet. Still, some support for gale development is possible. Beyond 72 hours that energy is to consolidate some on the dateline Saturday (3/11) starting to carve out a weak trough there and pushing east, into the Pacific Northwest on Monday (3/14). Tuesday yet another trough is to start building on the dateline pushing east with 150 kt winds under it. All these troughs to provide decent late season support for gale development.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/8) remnants of a gale were tracking east located 900 nmiles north of Hawaii with fetch at 30 kts (see 1st Gulf Gale below). A second larger and stronger gale were organizing just east of the Kuril Islands lifting north and destine to be shred by stronger upper level winds. Otherwise no fetch of interest was indicated. Over the next 72 hours another gale is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska Thursday AM (3/9) with pressure 996 mbs and 35 kt west winds at 45N 160W. In the evening a decent sized fetch of 40 kt west winds are forecast at 43N 155W embedded in a broader fetch with 24 ft seas building at 43N 154W. Friday AM 40 kt west winds to be pushing east at 43N 141W generating 28 ft seas at 43N 145W (293 NCal and 1100 nmiles out). Friday evening the gale is to be veering northeast with 35 kt west winds fading at 46N 140W with 28 ft seas up at 46N 140W. Based purely on the models all swell generation potential is to occur east of the Hawaiian Islands, but targeting Central CA northward well, with poor weather for Oregon northward.
1st Gulf Gale
On Sunday AM (3/6) a broad ill defined gale was starting to set up on the dateline just south of the Aleutians with a tiny area of 40 kt west winds at 47N 178W. Seas were building. That gale dropped south some Sunday PM with winds at 40 kts at 45N 178W generating seas to 26 ft at that location. Most of this energy was pushing due east towards the Pacific Northwest down into California. That gale held it's position Monday AM (3/7) but with winds down to 35 kts and seas pushing 28 ft at 45N 173W. In the evening it regenerated some with winds up to 35 kts and the whole system starting to move east-southeast 45N 173W with seas 26 ft at 44N 170W. The gale continued falling southeast on Tues AM (3/8) with barely 30 kt northwest winds at 45N 170W with 26 ft seas at 45N 168W, continuing in the evening with barely 30-35 kt winds and seas to 24 ft at 43N 163W (1200 nmiles north of Hawaii). Wednesday AM (3/9) the gale is to be faltering with only 30 kt west winds left and 24 ft seas at 40N 157W decaying to 22 ft in the evening at 40N 145W.
Possible slightly somewhat larger and longer period swell expected from this one. Sideband energy is expected into Hawaii by Wednesday at sunset with pure swell at 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft faces from 330 degrees) and slightly smaller energy from the US West Coast late in the workweek (285-296 degrees NCal) if all goes as forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/8) a broad but poorly organized pool of low pressure held control of the gulf of Alaska down to the Oregon-California border with high pressure at 1026 mbs off Pt Conception providing a 20 kt north flow off the Channel Islands with far lesser impacts into Southern CA. Light winds north of there into Cape Mendocino. Wednesday a light wind flow remains forecast as another weather system pushes into the Pacific Northwest with yet a third into Thursday. Perhaps another brush of light rain down to San Francisco Thursday afternoon/early evening. Yet more low pressure system are to be queuing up bound for the Pacific Northwest Friday with another pushing further south on Sunday (3/13). Weak high pressure is to try and hold over Southern CA through this timeframe with a neutral pattern in the boundary in between focused on San Francisco and Monterey Bay (north winds from Pt Conception down to the Channel Islands at 15+ kts and south winds from Pt Arena northward at 15+ kts). But by Sunday south winds are to reach all the way down into Big Sur with rain to maybe Pismo Beach in the evening and 6 inches of snow for the higher elevations of Lake Tahoe, then quickly rebounding northward for Monday (3/14). Another front with light south winds and rain possible Tuesday down to Monterey Bay.
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 gale yet one more stronger system is forecast
building on the dateline Friday (3/11) with 55 kt west winds over a small area but quickly washing out with winds down to 35-40 kts Saturday AM. 32 ft seas forecast on the dateline targeting Hawaii well. The models have this system regenerating off Northern CA on Sunday (3/13) with 45 kt west wind and seas rebuilding to 32 ft. And yet one more system is to follow on the dateline Sat-Sun with 50 kt west winds and seas building to 40 ft, pushing east into the Western Gulf on Monday with 43 ft seas as winds fade from 45 kts, and dissipating on Tuesday (3/15) well off the Pacific Northwest. And yet one more small system is charted behind that on the dateline. In all a pretty nice little storm cycle is projected. Something to monitor.
As of Tuesday (3/8) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some. The daily SOI was up to 14.50. The 30 day average was down some to 20.31 with the 90 day average down some to 21.38.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (3/7) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak westerly anomalies north of Australia extending over the dateline into the mid- Pacific symptomatic of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. They are to hold through 3/12 then dissipate while a weak version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO builds in the Indian Ocean. Latest data suggests the nascent Inactive Phase is to make it to New Guinea on 3/17, then fall apart there through 3/27, with a neutral pattern forecast to follow. This suggests perhaps minimal support for gale development through maybe 3/15, then likely falling back to a split jetstream pattern thereafter.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/7) 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 evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO. In parallel warmer than normal water was edging east from the West Pacific, up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator on 3/3, but loosing a little of it's punch. By 3/6 those temps were down to +1 degrees above normal and loosing more heat. It looks like the worst of La Nina is over and maybe a more normal pattern is trying to get established, but there is no sign that anything more favorable is evolving.
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 anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, but not unusually so. We actually expect more from this 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 the Fall of 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