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 Thursday (3/25) North and Central California was getting hear double overhead swell coming from the Gulf but heading down with a fair amount of lump and bump on it. Southern California was getting the same gulf swell with southern hemi swell underneath producing waist to chest high surf up north and kinda hacked by west winds at dominant at exposed breaks. Surf was waist to chest high up north and trashed by northwest winds and about the same down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover Gulf swell with waves head high and trades still pretty still with a touch of north on it making for some texture. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high and chopped. The South Shore was getting the end of Swell #1S with waves waist high or so and fading.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for locally generated north swell arriving on Friday at 2-3 ft overhead then fading from head high Saturday. Possible new swell from the Gulf arriving late Sunday under south winds then fading from 10 ft on Monday. Southern California is to see chest high north wrap around short period swell on Friday fading from waist high at best on Saturday. Nothing is expected Sunday then new north angled swell is expected in on Monday at chest high. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see new small Gulf swell late Friday at 1 ft overhead pushing 2 ft overhead Saturday and holding Sunday then fading Monday. The East Shore is to have steady waist high or so east windswell then coming up next week some. The South Shore is to see more waist high or so southern hemi swell Friday and Saturday then fading Sunday and gone Monday.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remains in the Inactive Phase reducing odds for storm formation through about the first week in April. But El Nino continues to strongly influence the North Pacific Storm Track. And small storm is is on the charts for Fri/Sat (3/27) with up to 40 ft seas and pushing well into the California swell window. And a bigger (not stronger) one is forecast behind that Sat-Mon (3/29) pushing closer to US West Coast with energy sliding down into Hawaii too. And yet one more is forecast right behind Tues/Wed (3/31) pushing right over North CA. The North Pacific appears to becoming reasonably active for the week ahead.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (3/25) the North Pacific jet was split with two distinct flows tracking in parallel across the North Pacific. But the northern branch had 180 kts winds flowing into it from Japan, ridging just off Kamchatka, then falling gently in to a building trough just east of the dateline and tracking east. The bottom of this trough was down at 40N and looking to be building. Good support for gale development in this trough. Over the next 72 hrs energy levels are to build in this trough with winds up to 190 kts on Friday, then easing some while pushing east though the Central Gulf reaching the coast of Canada 24 hrs later while more energy builds on the dateline, with winds in the jet there back up to 190 kts pushing 200 kts on Monday and pretty much covering the entirety of the North Pacific focused on a building trough in the Gulf. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to build and steepen, solid just off the coast of North CA on late Tuesday (3/30) and pushing over Central CA on Wednesday. Behind a weaker pattern is forecast, at least for a day or so. But by late Thurs (4/1) a new trough with building wind energy is forecast on the dateline, and more energy pushing off Japan behind it. More support for gale development possible.
At the surface on Thursday (3/25) the remnants of a previous Gulf Gale were 200 nmiles off Oregon with 35 kt northwest winds aimed somewhat towards Central CA producing a small area of 20 ft seas up there. The net result is to be swell of 6-7 ft @ 13 secs (8 ft faces) pushing into exposed Central and North CA breaks on Friday. Otherwise a building storm was positioned in the Western Gulf of Alaska tracking east (details directly below). High pressure at 1024 mbs was fading nmiles north of Hawaii with trades turning more east and expected to fade. Over the next 72 hours a new gale formed just west of the dateline Wednesday PM (3/24) with 40 kt west winds at 43N 175W aimed mostly to the east. By Thurs AM 50 kt northwest winds were modeled at 45N 165W aimed mostly towards the US West coast (296 deg NCal, 60 degs east of the 347 degree path to HI) with seas 25 ft and on the increase. Thurs PM up to 55 kt west winds are forecast at 45.5N 160W aimed exclusively towards NCal and locations north of there up the 297+ degree path. 37 ft seas are forecast at 45N 160W. Friday AM (3/26) 45 kt west fetch is to hold at 45N 152W aimed again at NCal up the 297 degree path. 41 ft seas are forecast at 45N+ 154W. Friday PM still 40 kt west winds are forecast up at 48N 148W aimed up the 299+ degree path to NCal. 35 ft seas forecast at 45N 150W. 35 kt west winds are to hold into Sat AM (3/27) at 48N 145W with 30 ft seas fading up at 48N 145W. Decent swell possible mainly for the US West Coast early next week. Will monitor
Also the models suggest a new storm is to start building well west of the dateline Friday (3/26) morning with 55 kt west winds at 46N 162E aimed 30 degrees east of the 315 degree path to Hawaii and 20 degrees south of the 306 degree path to NCal. Seas on the increase. In the evening (3/26) 50-55 kt west winds are projected at 46N 172E aimed up the 303 degree path to NCal and 35 degrees east of the 320 degree path to Hawaii. 32 ft seas building at 47N 168E. Winds to fade some to 45 kts Sat AM (3/27) positioned at 45N 180W aimed up the 299 degree path to NCal and the 328 degree path to HI. 36 ft seas forecast at 46N 176E. This system to gradually sinking southeast Saturday night with a broad area of 40 kt west winds at 44N 163W (294 degrees NCal) and 35 ft seas at 44N 173W and then Sunday AM (3/28) with up to 45 kt west winds at 43N 157W targeting NCal exclusively up the 292 degree path. 35 ft seas are forecast holding at 44N 161W. Seas to build to 36 ft Sunday Pm at 41n 151W. A gradual fade is forecast into Monday AM (3/29) but still 40 kt west fetch is forecast at 46N 142W (308 deg NCal) with a broad area 32 ft seas at 40N 142W. Most solid for April, but we'll have to see what actually materializes.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/250 a weak gale with a front was just off the Northern CA coast, pushing into extreme NCal by evening while weak high pressure was trying to get a nose in generating northwest winds at 15 kts by evening while another stronger gale was building off the coast. High pressure and northwest winds at 15 kts are forecast Friday with a front from the gale off the coast pushing dangerously close Saturday (3/27) but fading and falling apart all the while. Light offshore winds forecast Saturday for Central CA. Remnants of the front are possible on Sunday down into San Francisco with light south winds, while a stronger front pushes closer, nuzzling up to the coast Monday with south winds and rain taking control down into Big Sur. A slight break is forecast mid-Tuesday (3/30) then a full on winter like storm is forecast pushing into the Central coast late Tuesday on into Wednesday pushing the whole way down into Southern CA with gusto.
The models continue to suggest that a northward tracking gale in the far East Pacific on Thurs/Fri (3/26) generating 30-32 ft seas on the 120W longitude line. 32 ft seas were modeled Thursday AM (3/25) at 56S 124W projected moving to 53S 120W in the evening holding at 32 ft. This system is to fade out with residual seas of 27 ft at 50S 119W. If this materializes some degree of limited very southerly angled swell could result for Southern CA down into Mexico and Central America. Will monitor.
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 yet another small storm is forecast developing in the Western Gulf Monday AM (3/29) with 55 kt west winds at 46N 165W aimed at NCal up the 298 degree path and pretty much bypassing Hawaii. 28 ft seas forecast on the dateline. It is to pushing southeast in the evening with 50 kt northwest winds at 44N 156W pushing down the 296 degree great circle path to NCal. 26 ft seas at 44N 168W. It is to surge some on Tuesday AM (3/30) getting good traction on already roughed up seas with 55kt northwest winds at 43N 145W heading up the 293 degree path to NCal with 32 ft seas building at 42N 145W then moving to within 600 nmiles of the coast in the evening. 38 ft seas forecast at 40n 135W. Wednesday AM the gale is to nestle right up to the Central CA coast with 45 kt northwest winds targeting primarily the Southern Central CA coast and seas 40 ft at 38N 128W. This system is to be moving inland in the evening. Large raw messy swell likely if all comes to pass as forecast.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (3/25) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading from the Active Phase of the MJO, moving towards a neutral state. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index moved positive with the Daily SOI at 4.69. The 30 day average was down to -9.72 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -11.83 (bottomed out at -14.2 on 3/14). El Nino maxed out on 2/15.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated moderate easterly anomalies from Australia to the dateline and starting to push into Central America, a clear signal of the Inactive Phase. Models project the Inactive Phase to be dominant for a short while drifting east into 4/3 while dissipating. A weak version of a new Active Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean all the while reaching Northern Australia by 4/4, then drifting east and reaching the date 4/13. Since the Inactive Phase of the MJO is dominant now, it should gently suppress storm development. But with the effects of El Nino on the atmosphere already well entrenched, the momentum to support storm development will be slow to dissipate over the coming next 6 months. We will continue monitoring the MJO for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May time frame to see if this Midoki El Nino can hang on for another year, or whether we fall back into a La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control). But latest data from the models suggest a return to neutral conditions.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (3/18) indicated no dramatic change from previous weeks, with warmer than normal waters consolidated on the equator more towards the dateline and less in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands, almost gone off South America. Erosion of warmer waters over the Galapagos continues, symptomatic of the fading of El Nino. In all this continues looking more like a Midoki El Nino than one of the classic variety. But regardless, we are past the peak of this ENSO event.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 3/23 tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 140W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core at 5 C at 110W. This is expected to fuel or at least extend El Nino symptoms into summer, but is likely the last Kelvin Wave we are going to see.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to almost the Philippines, but only in the normal range. This looks like the normal Springtime transition typical for this time of the year. Previous, an area of fully blowing westerly winds extended from the far west to the dateline on 1/20 and continued through 3/15 generating the Kelvin Wave currently pushing east into Central America. We expect a normal trade pattern to take hold over the entire equatorial Pacific for the remainder of the Spring. Previously Westerly Wind Bursts produced Kelvin Waves that resulted in the subsurface warm pool currently present in the tropical East Pacific, resulting in El Nino.
El Nino continues affecting the global atmospheric weather pattern and is expected to continue having an impact into the Summer of 2010. This suggests that the spring storm pattern be enhanced in the North Pacific, but also the early summer storm track in the South Pacific too. This has not been a strong El Nino, more of a solid moderate one. A respectable accumulation of warm surface water in the equatorial East Pacific and a solid pool of warm subsurface water remains in place, but seems to be eroding some suggesting El Nino has maxed out. But the atmosphere is already being strongly influenced by the warm water buildup over the past 6 months, and it will not return to a normal state for quite some time.
Strong El Nino's bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast along with the benefit of increased potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides that storm and swell enhancement, but more of a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. This was a moderate event. Better yet, if it's not too strong (as this event appears to be) perhaps it will not degrade into La Nina the year after (which typically happens after stronger El Nino's), but hold in some mild El Nino-like state for several years in a row. This would be an even better outcome and something we are monitoring for. The months of Mar-June normally are when the transition takes place.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest no swell producing fetch is to develop.
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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Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we implemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sample, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
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Shark Video: Our friend Curt Myers of Powerlines productions shot this footage of 2 great whites munching on a whale carcass off Devils Slide (south of San Francisco) on Thursday. Kind of interesting to watch. Check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4rZYEZMWQ (Fixed link)
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Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table