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 (3/14) North and Central California was seeing more swell from the 3rd gale with waves 12-13 ft and clean early at select breaks (southeast wind), but getting more lumpy as the wind turned more southerly. Southern California was getting the bulk of the size now from the 3rd gale with waves head high to 2 ft overhead and fairly clean and lined up but a bit warbled. Down south waves at exposed breaks were up to 2 ft overhead and fairly clean, but totally fogged in. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Swell #6 with some waves to the 18-20 ft range and dead clean with brisk trades in effect, but inconsistent. Big waves breaks only. The East Shore was getting wrap around swell at 13-14 ft with windswell on top 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 residual raw swell at 11 ft (faces) with longer period Swell #6 building in late pushing 17-18 ft with much residual swell on top. That swell to hold into Thursday at 14 ft with residual swell on top. Friday new local swell building to 15 ft fading from 14 ft on Saturday. Residuals at 9 ft (faces) forecast for Sunday. Southern California is to see surf fading Wednesday from shoulder to head high. Then energy from Swell #6 arrives on Thursday at 2+ ft overhead fading from shoulder high on Friday. New local swell possible to 3-4 ft overhead on Saturday fading from chest high Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see Swell #6 fading Wednesday from 10-11 ft (faces) early and shoulder high early Thursday. Nothing forecast Friday and Saturday then possible northwest swell to 10 ft on Sunday. The East Shore is to continue seeing wrap around swell from the northwest into Wednesday then dissipating, with building east windswell to 7 ft on Thursday and holding through the weekend. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
Storm #6 built on the dateline Sunday (3/13) with 45 ft seas, pushing east into the Gulf early Monday with 37 ft seas, then faded but still producing seas in the 30 ft range ft through late Monday then pushed towards the Pacific Northeast expected to move onshore there on Wednesday (3/18) with seas in the 20 ft range. After that one more local gale is to develop off the North CA coast Thurs (3/17) with up to 32 ft seas and moving onshore over the early weekend. Raw local swell likely for CA. At the same time a strong storm is to track hard northeast from a point west of the dateline Thurs-Fri (3/18) generating up to 49 ft seas just south of the Aleutians, and a long ways from the US and aimed well north of the great circle tracks to either Hawaii or California. Still some decent sideband long period swell might results with a little luck. After that things to really calm down with the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking hold.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/15) the jetstream continued flowing flat from Japan over the dateline and into the US West Coast near Cape Mendocino solid with 190 kt winds over Japan and 160 kts winds carving out a bit of a trough off California providing decent support for gale development there. But a big pool of dead air over the dateline looking very much like a split in the jet was trying to develop. Over the next 72 hours a split is to build on the dateline with the trough off California growing in areal coverage but fading in intensity but holding through Friday and providing support for gale development there moving towards the US West Coast. The pocket of energy off Japan is to lift northeast holding at 190-200 kts with a bit of a trough trying to dig out providing support for gale development if not something more. Beyond 72 hours the energy approaching the northern dateline is to riding over the split and fall into Gulf of Alaska Fri-Sun (3/20) again offering some opportunity for gale development there but from a more northerly angle pushing down the direct CA coast. To the west a total shutdown is forecast with a big split developing on the dateline with all energy tracking northeast into the Southern Bering Sea and then falling southeast into the Gulf of Alaska. This is starting to look like support for gale development in the eastern Gulf of Alaska with cooler temps down into the US West Coast.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/15) the weak remnants of Storm #6 (see details below) were tracking flat east in the Central Gulf bound for the Pacific Northwest. No real swell production appeared apparent. A new little gale was trying to develop just off Northern Japan while solid high pressure at 1028 was elongated west to east on an axis 600 nmiles north of Hawaii extending from the dateline into Southern CA. In short, no swell production was apparent at the moment. Over the next 72 hours starting Wed (3/16) a new gale is forecast brewing in the Eastern Gulf while a storm builds off the Southern Kuril Islands. Details below.
Another gale developed just west of the dateline Saturday AM with 50 kt winds over a tiny area and building. By evening a solid fetch of 60 kt west winds were at 41N 178W generating seas to 39 ft over a tiny area. Sunday AM (3/13) 55 kt northwest winds tracked east to 41N 175W (328 degs HI) with 44 ft seas at 41N 178W targeting Hawaii well. In the evening 45 kt west winds continued at 39N 164W with 45 ft seas at 39N 170W (287 degs NCal and 338 degs HI). Monday AM 40 kt northwest winds were fading at 39N 153W and outside the Hawaiian swell window with 37 ft seas at 38N 161W mostly bypassing Hawaii (284 degs NCal). 30 kt west winds were fading in the evening at 40N 144W generating 30 ft seas at 38N 153W all targeting NCal up the 281 degree path. Fetch continued off Cape Mendocino and Oregon Tuesday AM (3/15) at 30-35 kts at 41N 138W (289 degs NCal) with 26 ft seas tracking east from 40N 147W (287 degs NCal) and slowly fading while drifting east into Wed AM (3/16) with seas dropping from 24 ft and 22 ft respectively but still not onshore, instead just holding off Cape Mendocino.
Significant class sideband swell hit Hawaii on Tuesday at 12.5 ft @ 17 secs (20 ft Hawaiian0 with trades in effect, though inconsistent.
N. California: Significant class swell is expected pushing east and reaching California on Wednesday (3/16) at 10 AM with period 21 secs and size small and building, reaching 9 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (18 ft Hawaiian) from 288 degree. It is to be buried in much residual swell from the gale that preceded it. Swell to peak out just after sunset and continue through the evening with size down to 8.5 ft @ 15 secs (13 ft) at sunrise Thursday (3/17) with additional swell generated off the coast arriving at 8 ft @ 14 secs (10-11 ft) intermixed and lesser energy from previous gales still in the water. A kind of warbled ill-defined conglomeration of swell trains.
On Wednesday (3/16) a new fetch of 30 kt west winds is to start building 1400 nmiles north of Hawaii associated with a non-closed isobar low there. It is to get good traction on an already rough oceans surface. In the evening winds to push 35-40 kts at 45N 149W 298 degs from NCal and 1200 nmiles out. Seas building from 20 ft. Thursday AM (3/17) 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 43N 143W aimed at NCal up the 297 degree path producing seas of 28 ft at the same location. A tiny area of 40-45 kt northwest wind to hold in the evening at 42N 136W with 32 ft seas at 41N 136W (292 degs NCal and 650 nmiles out - 303 degs SCal). the gale is to stall just off Oregon on Friday with 35-40 kt northwest winds at 40N 130W with 32 ft seas at the same location (296 degs NCal) and then dissipating int he evening.
Rough data suggest large very raw swell pushing from Southern Oregon down into Central CA focused mainly on the Pt Arena to San Francisco areas late Friday. poor conditions likely.
West Pacific Storm
On Wednesday AM (3/16) a new storm is to start brewing just off Northern Japan with 50 kt west winds at 40N 154E. In the evening 55 kt west winds to build at 43N 162E and lifting northeast fast. Seas building to 32 ft at the same location. Thursday AM (3/17) 55 kt southwest winds to be up to 45N 168E aimed right up the 302 degree path to NCal and 60 degrees northeast of the 318 deg path to Hawaii. Seas building to 43 ft at 43N 168E. In the evening west winds to hold at 50 kts at 46N 173E (302 degs NCal and 60 degrees northeast of the 323 degree path to Hawaii) with seas peaking at 49 ft at 46N 174E. The storm is to start tracking east Friday AM with 45 kt winds fading at 47N 178E with 47 ft seas at 47N 180W (302 degs NCal and 60 degrees east of the 330 degree path to HI). In the evening the gale is to dissipate with residual seas from previous fetch at 39 ft at 50N 175W (306 NCal and outside the Hi swell window).
Rough data suggest some degree of sideband swell for Hawaii from earl in the storm life. Larger but more inconsistent size possible for the US West coast but shadowed in the SF Bay Area.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/15) a weak front was trying to edge in to the Central CA coast with south winds in control and light rain down to maybe Monterey Bay. Light snow as falling in Tahoe at upper elevations, but rain down at lake level. Maybe 6 inches of accumulation into Wed AM. High pressure is scheduled to build into the area on Wednesday with up to 25 kt northwest winds over Pt Conception and the Channel Islands late and 15 kts up into San Francisco. High pressure to hold down south while a new front pushes into Northern CA Thursday AM with south winds and a little front brining rain over NCal down to San Francisco late. Friday (3/18) south winds to build down to Pt Conception as the gale pushes down the coast with rain to Santa Barbara late and 8-10 inches of snow for Tahoe. Saturday the low is to hold off the coast with southwest winds fading through the day and rain continuing down to maybe Santa Barbara. 6-8 more inches of snow at Tahoe. Sunday the low is to drop south off the Channel Islands with an offshore flow developing north of Morro Bay and a stronger southerly flow into Southern CA (25 kts). More rain for SF down into Southern CA with most precipitation focused on the Southern CA region and maybe 10 inches of snow for Tahoe. Northwest winds for all on Monday as high pressure builds in for a moment, but more local gales with rain and snow looking likely beyond as low pressure sinks south from Alaska. A typical La Nina pattern.
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 series of 2 gales are to try and organize tracking just barely
south of the intersection of the Aleutians and the dateline with most
fetch aimed north up towards the Bering Sea. 28 ft seas on Monday
(3/21) from the first and 24 ft seas late Tuesday from the second
offering only minimal swell potential for exposed breaks in the CA
region and far less for Hawaii.
As of Tuesday (3/16) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up. The daily SOI was at 22.74. The 30 day average was up some to 24.03 with the 90 day average up some to 22.13.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (3/14) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated mostly easterly anomalies covering the Eastern Indian ocean to the dateline and a bit east of there. This was symptomatic of the beginning of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. It is expected to start straddling the dateline on 3/19 then stall there and slowly diminish, effectively gone by 3/29 with a neutral pattern in control into 4/3. A weak new Active Phase is depicted building in the Indian Ocean by 3/19 pushing east but dissipating before making it into the Western Pacific on 4/3. This all suggests that support for gale development is gone with a split jetstream and reduced support for gale development likely from 3/15 through the end of the month.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/10) 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 a little 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 remains over 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 there was previously some indication of Kevin Wave activity. 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 which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. 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. But as of 3/10 +2 degree anomalies looked stronger but had made no eastward progress, stuck at 155W. And then on 3/12 it looked like it was loosing heat again making no eastward progress as of 3/15 with negative anomalies again showing up in the East Pacific at -2C just off Ecuador. La Nina is still in control.
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 expected 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 the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. 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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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
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table