Swell Classification Guidelines
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/Utility Class: 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.
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On Tuesday (3/27) North and Central CA had south wind chop and south winds in control with waves chest high and not really rideable. In Santa Cruz surf was waist to shoulder high and horribly hacked by south winds. Southern California up north was maybe thigh high and chopped. Down south waves were waist high and really bumpy with winds on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves chest high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at chest high and chopped by enhanced northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A series of modest gales are tracking over weak high pressure lodged north of Hawaii and pushing into the Pacific Northwest. The first was off the US West Coast Tuesday with a second stronger one for Wed-Thurs (3/29) and now maybe a third moving towards and into Central CA Fri-Sat (3/31). The pattern to fade quickly after that. Continuous raw swell, south wind and rain forecast for most of California and next to nothing swell-wise relative to Hawaii. The good news is the MJO remains on track and is turning Active consistent with previous projections.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Tuesday (3/27) the jetstream was pushing solidly off Japan with winds 150 kts rising gently while pushing over the dateline into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska then falling southeast into a trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. Good support for gale development in that trough. A split was occurring midway between Japan and the dateline with weak energy peeling off and heading south then east under Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the split point moving east (to the dateline) and the trough area flattening out but energy building into the Gulf with winds 170 kts. Limited support for gale development in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. Beyond 72 hours most of the stronger energy is to ease east through the Gulf with a bit of a trough reforming off Oregon on Saturday, then fading but not dissipate with some form of a trough holding through Tues 4/3 with winds still 130 kts but focused more north. The areal coverage of that trough is to become very limited to just right along the coast of British Columbia. A large split is to build on the dateline Sat (3/31) pushing hard to the north and up well into the Bering Sea 24 hrs later, but looking to be settling down quick after that with much energy diving southeast by Tues (4/3) and winds to 190 kts over Japan. Maybe this will be the start of the Active Phase MJO push, or maybe it's just the model teasing us.
Surface - On Tuesday (3/27) a gale was off the Pacific Northwest Coast (see 3rd Local Gale below) with yet another behind it. High pressure was fading north of Hawaii down to the 15 kt range and not offering much in terms of windswell generation potential with no change forecast until Friday (3/30). At that time another bout of high pressure and 20 kt northeast winds are forecast building in offering increased odds for windswell production along the East Shore. Over the next 72 hours a series of gales are to push through the Eastern Gulf mostly bypassing Hawaii and providing raw wind driven swell for most of the US West Coast (details below).
3rd Local California Gale
Another fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds tracked over the dateline and fell into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Mon AM (3/26) producing 40 kt northwest winds and 24 ft seas up at 49N 172W then tracking rapidly southeast with winds down to 30 kts in the evening and seas 24 ft at 48N 162W (304 degs NCal). A broad area of 35 kts northwest winds was off the Oregon and Northern CA coast on Tuesday AM (3/27) producing more 22 ft seas at 41N 140W (291 degs NCal/296 SCal) and expected to fade into the evening with seas dropping from 22 ft at 40N 137W (287 degs NCal/297 degs SCal).
More raw swell possible for Central California by Wed AM at 8.5 ft @ 13 secs (11 ft) from 292 degrees and trashed by poor local conditions early, improving some later but not good.
4th Local California Gale
Yet another gale is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska Tuesday evening (3/27) with 40 kt west winds building aimed best at Washington. Seas on the increase. By Wed AM (3/28) 45 kt west winds are to be building well off the Washington Coast with seas building from 28 ft at 47N 155W pushing due east. Fetch is to hold into the evening moving close to Washington with 34 ft seas building at 46N 147W (303 degs NCal). The gale is to be on the verge of impacting Washington on Thurs AM (3/29) with winds still 40 kts and seas barely 34 ft at 46N 138W (308 degs NCal) then moving into Washington in the evening. Swell from this fetch to push mainly into the Pacific Northwest on Friday (3/30) with north angled energy radiating down into Central CA by Fri AM with swell 10.2 ft @ 16-17 secs (16 ft) but shadowed from 305 degrees in the SF Bay Area. South winds in effect.
5th Local California Gale
Another gale is forecast developing 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Thursday PM (3/29) with 40 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase. By Friday AM (3/30) a small fetch of yup to 45 kt northwest winds is forecast with seas building from 22 ft at 37N 153W mostly bypassing Hawaii. In the evening the system is to really ramp up with 45 kt northwest winds positioned 850 nmiles west of San Francisco with seas 24 ft at 37N 142W and on the increase. Sat AM (3/31) 45 kt northwest winds to be 400 nmiles off the Central CA coast with 28 ft seas at 36N 133W (directly off Monterey Bay) (270 degs NCal). The gale is to move onshore over Central CA Saturday evening with 26 ft seas starting to impact the coast from Pt Reyes south to nearly Pt Conception with much wind and rain.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/27) the front from another local low pressure system was starting to impact the Central CA coast with south winds and rain in control over Central CA down to Morro Bay. The core of the low was circulating 600 nmiles off Washington state. South winds to be in control into early Wednesday then fading mid-day up to Pt Reyes while another front builds off the coast and is to be already impacting the Pacific Northwest. Rain early down to Pt Conception then fading as the day progresses. 2 ft of snow for Tahoe through 1 PM Wednesday and up to near 3 ft at Kirkwood. That front is to go stationary just north of San Francisco on Thursday with light winds south of there (maybe northwest winds at 10 kts for Southern CA) and continuing into Friday. Rain holding from Pt Arena northward. But by Saturday a new strong local gale is to plow right into Central CA through the day with rain down to Santa Barbara County and 14 inches of snow for Tahoe. That is to be followed directly by strong high pressure on Sunday and north winds 30 kt near Pt Conception, but only 15-20 kt up at San Francisco early and fading through the day. Southern CA to be a north wind mess on Sunday too. Winds to be settling down on Monday but still brisk over Pt Conception then finally fading everywhere on Tuesday as a weak front tries to push down to Central CA with rain down to maybe the Golden Gate.
At the surface in the South Pacific a new gale formed southeast of New Zealand just off Antarctica on Thurs AM (3/22) with 45 kt south winds and 35 ft seas at 57S 155W lifting northeast with more 45 kt south winds and seas to 36 ft in the evening at 53S 148W. The gale held Friday AM (3/23) while tracking east with 45 kt south winds and 39 ft seas at 50S 141W. In the evening winds were fading from 40 kts with seas 36 ft at 49S 138W and residuals holding into Sat AM (3/24) with seas at 34 ft at 46S 133W. Another pulse of decent southerly swell to result for CA with swell coming from 188-197 degs.
Southern CA: expect swell arrival starting Friday AM (3/30) with period to 19 secs a 11 AM and size tiny (2 ft @ 19 secs (3.8 ft) but building and well rideable by sunset as period falls to 18 secs (3 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft). Swell to start peaking on Saturday AM (3/31) with pure swell 4.1 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft with sets to 8.5 ft). Swell to hold decently on Sunday (4/1) with swell 3.8 ft @ 16 secs (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and falling off late as period drops to 15 secs. Swell Direction 188-197 focused on 194 degs.
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 fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds is to develop tracking east through the Gulf of Alaska on Fri-Sat (3/31) producing 22 ft seas near 44N 145W 9300 degs NCal) and tracking east possibly setting up larger area of 26 ft seas at 45N 139W (307 degs NCal) Sun AM (4/1) resulting in more raw local swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA.
A calmer pattern to follow.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Tuesday (3/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some to -4.12. The 30 day average was down to 5.35 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 5.28. The latest pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO appears to starting to have some effects.
Current wind analysis indicated weak easterly anomalies were effectively all east of the dateline extending from 140W to the dateline (180W) and continuing to loose ground. The coverage of these winds was holding but expected to continue shifting east and fading. Westerly anomalies were moderate to strong extending from the Eastern Indian Ocean pushing east to 160E and building directly over the equator. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was in full retreat. A week from now (4/4) the pattern is to continue with solid westerly anomalies building from the Indian Ocean to 180W and making easterly headway with easterly anomalies displaced well to the east and fading out. This indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by then with the Active Phase in full control of the West Pacific. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/26 are in agreement suggesting the core of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is gone with the Active Phase of the MJO locked just west of the dateline (173E) and tracking east. This means we are already in a more favorable environment to support gale formation in the preferred dateline region. But as of right now, the upper level models are not quite picking up on that change. The thought is it will take a few days for the upper atmosphere to respond to the change in the MJO, and that the storm track will take a few days beyond that to respond. It will be interesting to see if the MJO really has any effect over the next 2-3 weeks, or whether the coming of Spring trumps everything else and high pressure continues to rule supreme. Regardless the Inactive Phase is already building in the Indian Ocean and expected to push east into the West Pacific by 2-3 weeks from now according to the statistical model, while the dynamic model has the Active Phase holding over the dateline and not loosing strength through 4/17. Would be real nice it that turns out to be true. .
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into Spring of 2012. but after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table