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 Saturday (3/27) North and Central California was getting head high leftover swell from the Gulf of Alaska with offshore's but still a fair amount of warble intermixed. Southern California was getting the same leftover wrap-around Gulf swell with waves thigh to waist high up north and clean, a bit smaller down south and swamped by tide. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a new pulse of Gulf sideband swell with waves head high or so and trades pretty strong with a touch of north on it making for some texture. The East Shore was getting east windswell at thigh high and chopped. The South Shore was getting new southern hemi background swell with waves waist high or a little more and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for new swell arriving from the Gulf late Sunday under south winds then fading from 8-9 ft on Monday. Swell to take a big step upwards Tuesday from the Gulf to 15 ft or better holding Wednesday and even Thursday but trashed the whole time. Southern California is to see next to nothing Sunday then new north angled swell is expected in for Monday at chest to head high. Should high surf from the Gulf is expected in on Tuesday building late and pushing 8 ft or more Wednesday and 7 ft Thursday but with onshore winds from Monday evening onwards. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see small Gulf sideband swell at 2 ft overhead Sunday then fading from 1 ft overhead Monday. Larger Dateline swell is possible by Tuesday at 14 ft fading from 11 ft Wednesday and down to 1 ft overhead Thursday. The East Shore is to have steady waist high or so east windswell through the weekend then coming up Tuesday to the 1 ft overhead range or so, but just trade induced windswell. The South Shore is to see fading southern hemi swell Sunday at thigh high, then gone Monday with no return forecast.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) remains in the Inactive Phase supposedly reducing odds for storm formation through about the first week in April. But El Nino continues strongly influencing the North Pacific storm track with a series of weather systems on the charts. A small storm developed in the Gulf Fri/Sat (3/27) with up to 38 ft seas and pushing well into the California swell window. And a broader and solid gale is developing right behind pushing from the dateline and expected to move to the Gulf Sat-Mon (3/29) eventually pushing right into to US West Coast bringing winds and rain with sideband swell energy sliding down into Hawaii. And yet two more might develop behind dropping south from the Northeast Gulf over the later part of next week into the weekend but only good for more wind and rain, but maybe reaching the whole way to San Diego. El Nino has not given up the ghost yet, not by a long shot if you believe the models.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (3/27) the North Pacific jet was looking far better than days previous with a single consolidated flow of up to 180 kt winds tracking more or less flat across the width of the ocean with a small trough on it's leading edge in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska a mere 800 nmiles away from North and Central CA and heading in that direction. Good support for gale development in that trough. Over the next 72 hrs energy levels are to build in the Western Gulf with 210 kt winds expected by Monday (2/29) over a large area feeding a broad but gentle trough there and providing good support for gale development there. This trough is to hold if not build into Wednesday AM while moving towards the North CA coast with winds up to 180 kts impacting the coast with the bottom of the trough pushing over Pt Conception late Wednesday. A weather even is expected then along with good support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a ridge is to try and develop in the Gulf, but not really happen with 160 kts winds continuing falling south over the Sierras into Friday (4/2), then a new trough developing in the Gulf Saturday and looking to slam right into Central CA again. Back to the west the jet is to be tracking far to the north almost over Kamchatka and the Aleutians though solid with 150 kts winds in control, likely feeding the weather pattern in the east. No gale development obvious though for the dateline.
At the surface on Saturday (3/27) remnants of the First Gulf Storm were circulating 600-800 nmiles off North California and easing to the east. Still 35 kt west winds were in control generating 25 ft seas at 40N 140W likely setting up swell of 8.3 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft faces) for Sunday evening for Central CA reaching into Pt Conceptions for early Monday (3/29). A far broader gale was also circulating over the dateline bound for the US West Coast (see Second Gulf Storm below). Over the next 72 hours the Second Gulf Storm (really a gale) is to be in control of the weather picture.
First Gulf Storm
A new gale formed just west of the dateline Wednesday PM (3/24) with 40 kt west winds modeled at 43N 175W aimed mostly to the east. But the ASCAT satellite confirmed winds at 50-55 kts late at 44N 169W. By Thurs AM 50 kt northwest winds were modeled at 45N 165W and confirmed at 45.5 N 161W 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 50 kt west winds were modeled at 45.5N 160W aimed exclusively towards NCal and locations north of there up the 297+ degree path. 35 ft seas were modeled at 45N 160W. Friday AM (3/26) 45 kt west fetch was holding at 45N 152W aimed again at NCal up the 297 degree path. 37-38 ft seas were modeled at 45N+ 154W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the fetch at 13Z and confirmed seas there at 32.4 ft with a peak to 38.1 ft where the models suggests 29 ft seas. So if anything, this system was doing better than projected. Good news. Friday PM still 40 kt west winds were modeled up at 47N 148W aimed up the 299+ degree path to NCal. 35 ft seas projected at 47N 148W. 35 kt west winds held into Sat AM (3/27) at 48N 145W with 29 ft seas fading up at 48N 148W.
Expect swell pushing into North CA on Sunday (3/21) afternoon at 8.7-9.4 ft @ 17 secs (14-16 ft) from 296-298+ degrees. South winds to be in effect north of Monterey Bay.
Second Gulf Storm
A new storm started building well west of the dateline Friday (3/26) morning with 55 kt west winds at 46N 161E 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 kt west winds were modeled 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. 35 ft seas forecast at 46N 176E. This system to gradually sink southeast Saturday night with a broad area of 40-45 kt west winds at 44N 170W (295 degrees NCal) and 36 ft seas at 45N 174W and then Sunday AM (3/28) with solid 45 kt west winds at 43N 160W targeting NCal exclusively up the 292 degree path. 38 ft seas are forecast holding at 44N 163W. Winds to fade from 40-45 kts Sunday PM at 43N 150W with seas to 37 ft at 43N 151W. A gradual fade is forecast into Monday AM (3/29) but still 30-35 kt west fetch is forecast at 43N 140W (295 deg NCal) with a broad area 32-36 ft seas at 43N 142W and pushing east while decaying into Wednesday. 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 Saturday (3/27) a gale low was wrapping up off Oregon with a front from that gale 600 nmiles off the California coast and pushing northeast but fading, expected to fall apart Sunday. Remnants of the front are possible on Sunday down into San Francisco with light south winds (but rain staying north of Pt Reyes), while a stronger front pushes closer over outer waters, nuzzling up to the Central Coast Monday and hitting the North Coast with south winds and rain taking control down to Pt Reyes. A slight break in the winds is forecast mid-Tuesday (3/30) then a push of moisture is forecast pushing into the Central coast late Tuesday on into Wednesday and early Thursday. Northwest winds are expected at 10-15 kts coastside during this event reaching into Southern CA by Wednesday AM (rain too) and holding into early Friday (4/2). Northwest winds to continue Friday with more light rain before a new gale starts wrapping up off North CA on Saturday (4/3) generating south winds and likely more rain for the entire coast for the weekend.
A northward tracking gale developed in the far East Pacific on Thurs AM (3/25) generating 30-32 ft seas on the 120W longitude line. 34 ft seas were modeled Thursday AM (3/25) at 56S 124W moving to 53S 120W in the evening at 32 ft. This system faded out Friday AM with residual seas of 27 ft at 50S 119W. Some degree of limited very southerly angled swell could result for Southern CA down into Mexico and Central America the weekend of 4/3, but will likely be lost in larger northwest swell expected at the same time.
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 broad El Nino fueled gale is to start building off Japan on Monday (3/29) lifting northeast and not particularly well organized, reaching the Western Gulf on Wednesday with only 35 kt southwest winds, arching over broad high pressure at 1028 mbs locked just north of Hawaii. Latest data suggests it is to not organize particularly well, with it's remnants spilling southeast into the PAcific Northwest and Central CA on Friday (4/2). Remnants of this system are to reorganize in the Eastern Gulf just off Oregon on Saturday looking to build and move over CEntral CA over the weekend (Sun 4/3). Very raw local swell in CA is the best one could hope for.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (3/27) 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) daily index was at -3.83. The 30 day average was down to -10.57 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average down to -11.92 (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 Northern Australia peaking on the dateline and then pushing into Central America, a clear signal of the Inactive Phase. Models project the Inactive Phase to be dominant till the end of the month (3/31) drifting east into 4/5 while dissipating. A weak version of a new Active Phase is already building in the Indian Ocean expected to reach Northern Australia by 4/5, then drifting east and reaching the dateline 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 (3/25) 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, but not quite. 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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Read about Eric Nelson and Curt Myers, the makers of Ride-On and other Big Wave Surf Movies here: http://coastviewsmag.com/powerlines-productions-filming-the-art-of-big-wave-surfing
Ride On! Powerlines new big wave epic is now available on DVD. Get the entire big wave story of the 2008-2009 season here: http://www.mavz.com/
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Interview With Stormsurf: The crew at SurfScience.com worked with Stormsurf on a feature about why surfers should be able to read wave charts themselves. They are firm believers that a little learning can go a long way to help your surfing. This is a great article to help convince your friends that they can benefit from being able to read the data themsleves rather than just relying on the forecasts of others. See the full thing here: Create Your Own Surf Forecast with Stormsurf
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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)
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table