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.
Sion Milosky - On Wednesday (3/16) near sunset Sion Milosky lost his life at Mavericks. Swell #6 was peaking with pure swell running 9.5 ft @ 18 secs from 288 degrees and surf pushing to 20 ft Hawaiian. And the wind, which had been brisk northwest all day creating a heavy texture on the oceans surface, backed down to near calm setting up near glassy conditions for the sessions final hour. A handful of surfers were left savoring the improved conditions with waves breaking on the north end of the second reef and washing into the main bowl, the normal takeoff spot, which had now turned into an inside-out second section. Sion caught one of these waves, followed directly by Shawn Dollar on the next. Both went down. Shawn was able to scratch to the surface and was rescued by a ski. Sion was found 10 minutes later. It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Sion. His surfing on both Monday and Wednesday were ground breaking and provided a glimpse of where the future of big wave riding can go. He is survived by with wife and two younger daughters. His sponsor Volcom has set up a foundation to help support his family. Donations can be made here: http://volcom.com/news/article.asp?articleID=5218
On Thursday (3/17) North and Central California was seeing the back end of Swell #6 with waves to 12 ft and clean early. Southern California was getting more energy from Swell #6 with waves shoulder high up north and kinda hacked by northwest winds. Down south waves at exposed breaks were head high with some bigger sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftovers from Swell #6 with waves maybe shoulder high and relatively clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest 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 Friday is for new local swell building to 10-11 ft (faces) pushing to 14-15 ft Saturday. Residuals at 9-10ft expected for Sunday. South winds in control. Monday west windswell drops to 7 ft with longer period energy underneath coming from across the dateline. Then the dateline swell takes over pushing 12 ft on Tuesday Southern California is to see Swell #6 fading from chest high on Friday. New local swell possible to 1 ft overhead on Saturday fading from chest high Sunday. Monday waist high plus leftovers expected then new northerly dateline swell arrives at head high or better from Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no real rideable surf Friday or Saturday then possible northwest swell to 10 ft (faces) on Sunday fading from 8 ft Monday and 7 ft Tuesday. The East Shore is to see building east windswell to 6 ft on Friday holding through the weekend into early next week. The South Shore is not being monitored for the late Winter even though small pulses of southern hemi swell are occasionally starting to show up.
Another local gale was developing off the North CA coast Thurs (3/17) with up to 28 ft seas forecast Friday off Cape Mendocino and then pushing onshore over the early weekend. Raw local swell likely for CA for Saturday (3/19). At the same time a strong storm was tracking hard northeast from a point off Northern Japan bound for the Western Aleutians Thurs-Fri (3/18) and expected to generate 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 for both locales. After that things to settle down with the jetstream splitting and the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking hold. Still local gale activity remains possible just off the Pacific Northwest and CA coasts by mid-next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (3/17) the jetstream was flowing hard northeast off Japan with 200 kts winds and a bit of a trough trying to organize just south of the intersection of the Aleutian Islands and the dateline offering decent support for storm development. The jet split on the dateline with a fraction of energy peeling off to the south, but most energy tracking to the Aleutians then falling southeast through the Central Gulf of Alaska moving over Central CA. Again a bit of a trough was nestled along the Pacific Northwest coast with 130 kts wind present providing some support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the energy off Japan is to rapidly race northeast to a point just shy of the Aleutians then drop hard southeast with winds to near 190 kts early Saturday forming a well defined trough bottoming out just off San Francisco, then moving inland there. Good support for gale development there. At the same time the split point in the jet is to retrograde back to a point midway between Japan and the dateline. Beyond 72 hours most energy is to remain in the northern branch of the jet with winds 140 kts over it's width arching from Japan up tot he intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians then dropping south and falling into a trough off the Northern CA coast and best defined on Wed (3/23), then gently weakening into later in the work week but far from out.
At the surface on Thursday (3/17) a new large storm was circulating off the Kuril Islands lifting northeast (see West Pacific Storm below) while a smaller gale was organizing west of Oregon (see Gulf Gale below). High pressure at 1032 was positioned 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii setting up a solid trade wind flow there and reflecting the development of high pressure building over the Central North Pacific in upper levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the two aforementioned systems are to be the only thing of interest with high pressure also holding north of Hawaii (more trades).
On Wednesday (3/16) a new fetch of 30 kt west winds was starting to build 1400 nmiles north of Hawaii associated with a non-closed isobar low there. It was getting some traction on an already rough ocean surface. In the evening winds pushed 35-40 kts at 45N 149W 298 degs from NCal and 1200 nmiles out. Seas building from 20 ft. Thursday AM (3/17) 40 kt northwest winds continued at 42N 143W aimed at NCal up the 297 degree path producing seas of 25 ft at the same location. A tiny area of 40 kt northwest wind to hold in the evening at 42N 136W with 28 ft seas at 42N 137W (295 degs NCal and 650 nmiles out - 307 degs SCal). The gale is to stall just off Oregon on Friday with 35 kt northwest winds at 43N 133W with 27 ft seas at 40N 133W (292 degs NCal - 305 degs SCal) and then dissipating in the evening but still producing near 20 ft seas into Sat AM (3/19). Residual circulation to continue falling southeast and moving over San Francisco into Monday (3/21) providing windy and wet conditions.
Rough data suggest large raw swell pushing from Southern Oregon down into Central CA focused mainly on the Pt Arena to San Francisco areas late Friday into early Saturday. Poor conditions likely.
NCal: Swell arrival expected Friday at 10 Am at 10 ft @ 14-15 secs (14 ft) from 295 degrees
West Pacific Storm
On Wednesday AM (3/16) a new storm was brewing just off Northern Japan with 50 kt west winds at 40N 154E. In the evening 55 kt west winds built at 43N 162E and lifting northeast fast. Seas built to 32 ft at the same location. Thursday AM (3/17) 55 kt west winds were up at 44N 165E aimed right up the 302 degree path to NCal and 60 degrees northeast of the 318 deg path to Hawaii. Seas built to 44 ft at 44N 168E. In the evening west winds to hold at 50-55 kts at 46N 173E (302 degs NCal and 60 degrees northeast of the 323 degree path to Hawaii) but fading in coverage with seas peaking at 48 ft at 46N 174E. The storm is to start tracking east Friday AM with a broad fetch of 40 kt winds fading at 49N 178E with 43 ft seas at 50N 178W (306 degs NCal and 60 degrees east of the 333 degree path to HI). In the evening the gale is to dissipate with residual seas from previous fetch at 34 ft at 50N 175W (308 NCal and outside the Hi swell window) with a good portion of the swell energy impacting the Aleutians Islands directly.
Rough data suggest some degree of sideband swell for Hawaii from early in the storms life. Larger but more inconsistent size possible for the US West coast but shadowed in the SF Bay Area.
Hawaii: Rough data suggest swell arrival in the early hours of Sunday (3/20) with period 19+ secs and peaking near noon at 6.3 ft @ 18 secs (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees. Residual energy to continue into Monday at 6 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft Hawaiian) and period slowly fading.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/17) high pressure was retreating while a new gale was building 800 nmiles off the Cape Mendocino coast tracing southeast. Big changes are expected by Friday. At that time south winds are to start pushing into Monterey Bay northward with rain building southward from NCal reaching Pt Conception by late evening and south winds in control down there too. This same pattern (south wind and rain) to continue through the weekend generally on the mild side, with rain edging south to near San Diego on Saturday. But then a solid pulse is forecast pushing into San Francisco down to Pt Conception mid-Sunday with heavy rain near Pt Conception into Monday AM. Snow starts in Tahoe on Friday evening with perhaps 22 inches of accumulation into Sunday at sunset. Another 20+ inches is possible from early Monday AM into Tuesday night (3/22), heavy at times. south winds continuous along the coast even down to SCal. A bit of a break is forecast on Tuesday though lingering light precipitation is possible along the Central CA coast, then Round #2 starts late Tuesday as a new gale redevelops off Cape Mendo with south winds in control from Pt Conception northward through at least Thursday (3/24) and continuous precip from Pt Conception northward with fragments into Southern CA and 2.5+ ft of snow possible for Tahoe.
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 with
one tracking just barely south of the intersection of the Aleutians and the dateline with most of its 35-40 kts fetch aimed west towards the US West Coast producing 28 ft seas Monday (3/21). The second gale is to develop in the semi perpetual trough off Northern CA on Tuesday evening (3/22) with 30-35 kt west winds resulting in 24 ft seas Wednesday mostly targeting Southern CA and Baja with 20 ft seas on Thursday for the southern portion of Central CA. Raw swell possible.
As of Thursday (3/17) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) had backed off some. The daily SOI was down to 11.49. The 30 day average was steady at 23.79 with the 90 day average down slightly to 21.87.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (3/16) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies covering the Eastern Indian Ocean to the dateline symptomatic of the early stages of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. It is expected to start straddling the dateline on 3/20 then stall there and fade, effectively gone by 3/25 with a neutral pattern in control into 4/4. A weak new Active Phase is depicted building in the Indian Ocean by 3/20 pushing east but dissipating before making it into the Western Pacific on 3/30. 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 at least 4/4.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/17) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cold waters (-1 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering 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 the existing 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. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relating as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup 9though fading in intensity).
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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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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table