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 (3/30) North and Central California was starting to get large wind ripped swell out of the Gulf of Alaska with waves 16 ft late afternoon. Southern California was getting limited waist high residual energy from the Gulf with a brisk northwest wind flow and hacking things up pretty well. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the new Gulf sideband swell with waves 12 ft or so, bigger before sunrise but quickly peaking then heading down, with strong ENE trades in control. The East Shore was getting double overhead sideband Gulf swell too with intermixed east windswell and heavily chopped. The South Shore was getting no southern hemi swell with waves thigh high or less and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for Swell #27 to continue hitting on Wednesday at 17 ft or so, then heading down Thursday but still solid at 13 ft. 8-9 ft leftovers expected Friday into early Saturday. Possible new Gulf swell expected for Sunday, but south winds to be fully in effect. Southern California is to see surf pushing 8 ft or more Wednesday and 7 ft Thursday but with brisk northwest winds. Swell dropping from 1 ft overhead Friday and waist to chest high Saturday with improving conditions. Possible new swell for Sunday with decent winds at select locations. The North Shore of Hawaii is to see sideband dateline/Gulf swell fading from 10 ft Wednesday and down to 1 ft overhead Thursday. Nothing rideable on Friday and then maybe a waist to chest high bump on Saturday, fading away by Sunday. The East Shore is to have steady unrelenting east windswell at 1 ft overhead or so Wed through the weekend. The South Shore is to see no southern hemi swell through the weekend.
Longterm the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is about maxed out in the Inactive Phase and theoretically reducing odds for storm formation, but El Nino appears to be trumping that outlook. After Storm #27 another system is forecast develop in the Northern Gulf Thurs-Sat (4/3) with up to 40 ft seas, but up in the 310 degree swell angle for NCal and further to the north for SCal (not good). Some decent north swell possible for NCal northwards. Another lower latitude gale is forecast Sat-Mon (4/5) with 30-32 ft seas, but with the core of the system expected to push right into Northern CA/Southern Oregon on Sunday likely making a mess of things into early Monday. The storm machine is to take a short break after that, but with the Active Phase of the MJO starting to take hold, suspect more swell production is likely to follow after a short break. A solid early season storm is forecast for the Southern Hemi later this week too.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (3/30) the North Pacific jet was tracking east with a single consolidated flow. A trough was off Japan with 150 kts winds building into it rising into a large ridge over the dateline of up to 160 kt wind, then falling into a broad trough running through the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with up to 180 kts winds pushing into and running into Northern CA. Good support for gale development in the troughs and especially the one in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hrs the Gulf through is to steepen significantly and push over Central CA early late Wednesday (3/31) while the trough off Japan dissolves and all potential for gale development fades. Then a split jetstream pattern is to redevelop off Japan by Friday evening (4/2) while a new trough start building in the Eastern Gulf, sagging southeast and running over Northern CA late Sunday. Gale development possible but limited to the Eastern Gulf. Beyond 72 hours the split jet pattern is to migrate east covering the width of the North Pacific by Monday (4/50 pretty much shutting support for gale development off into mid-week.
At the surface on Tuesday (3/30) remnants of Storm #27 were circulating in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska generating more 30-35 kt northwest winds aimed at the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA with seas from previous fetch at 30 ft over a large area at 40N 138W a mere 800 nmiles west of North California. Swell #27 was pushing towards the coast along with weather and a generally poor ocean surface conditions (see details about Storm #27 below). A new storm was on the dateline with 50 kts west wind at 40N 170E targeting Hawaii down the 312 degree great circle path but rising northeast fast. 23 ft sea were modeled at 40N 170E. High pressure at 1028 mbs was locked 600 nmiles north of Hawaii driving the storm track up into the Gulf then those systems falling down along the US West coast. Over the next 72 hours this same scenario is to continue with the dateline storm rising fast to the northeast and building with 55 kt west winds forecast Wednesday AM (3/31) at 49N 170W completely bypassing Hawaii with 32 ft seas up at 48N 171W, not tracking towards anywhere but Alaska. This system is to stop it's northward progress Wednesday PM and start moving due east with 50 kt west winds up at 52N 161W with seas at 32 ft at 50N 163W and pushing east. By Thursday PM (4/1) the gale is to regenerate some with a build sized fetch of 40+ kt west-northwest winds at 52N 150W aimed a bit east of the 315 degree path to NCal and 38 ft seas in that area targeting the Pacific Northwest best. This system is to be easing into the Pacific Northwest on Fri/Sat with gale force winds impacting the coast then. Some degree of north swell is likely down into NCal for the weekend, but details are still very fluid.
Second Gulf Storm # 27
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 169E. Winds faded 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 were modeled at 46N 176E. This system gradually sunk southeast Saturday night with a broad area of 40-45 kt west winds at 44N 170W (295 degrees NCal) and 35 ft seas were modeled 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. 37 ft seas were modeled holding at 44N 164W. Winds were fading from 40-45 kts Sunday PM at 43N 150W with seas to 38 ft at 43N 153W. A gradual fade occurred Monday AM (3/29) but still 30-35 kt west fetch was blowing at 43N 140W (295 deg NCal) with a broad area 37 ft seas at 42N 144W and pushing east while decaying. 32 ft seas occurred Monday evening at 41N 140W and then fading from 31 ft Tuesday AM (3/30) at 40N 138W. Pretty impressive for late March.
This system should provide a nice solid dose of sideband energy from early in its life pushing into the Hawaiian Islands with size approaching significant class, but not quite. Conversely, since most energy is aimed directly at Northern CA, significant class swell is expected there.Unfortunately, conditions to be abysmal during the core of the swell arrival window with south and northwest winds cycling in close intervals as a series of front push into the coast, and piles of lesser period energy is to intermixed from the storm itself as it moves to within 800 nmiles of the coast.
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting late afternoon Tues (3/30) with period 17 secs and size coming up pretty fast. Swell to start peaking around 11 PM with pure swell 10.5-11.2 ft @ 17 secs (18-19 ft faces) and size holding in the 10.5-11.0 ft range at 16 secs (17-18 ft faces) through mid-Wed (3/31). Size and period starting to fade then with period still 15 secs through sunset. Swell 9 ft @ 14-15 secs (13 ft faces) to continue well into Thursday. Swell Direction: 288-294 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tues (3/30) at sunset with period 17 secs and size coming up steadily fast. Swell to start peaking around noon on Wednesday (3/31) with pure swell outside the Channel Islands 10.0-10.7 ft @ 17 secs (17-18 ft faces) and inside the Channel Islands to 4.8-5.1 ft @ 17 secs (8.1-8.7 ft faces). Size holding well past sunset to the early morning hours of Thursday (4/1). Size and period starting to fade then with swell in the 9 ft range @ 15 secs (14 ft faces) outside the Channel Islands and 4.5 ft @ 15 secs (6.8 ft faces) inside the Channel Islands through the day Thursday. Period down to 13 secs on Friday (4/2). Swell Direction: 294-300 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/30) the leading edge of a gale low in the Gulf of Alaska interacting with high pressure north of Hawaii was generating northwest wind at near 20 kts down the CA coast making a mess of a newly building swell. A new local low is to build directly over the SF Bay Area on Wednesday perhaps bring a slight break to the northwest winds for 6 hours, but then quickly bringing south winds into the area by evening, just tearing things up more. rain is forecast over all of North and Central CA on Wed pushing to Southern CA, then clearing Thursday early. The interaction of the exiting low and building high pressure offshore is to bring a brisk northwest flow at 20+ kts over the entire state by Thursday AM (including Southern CA). A bit of a break is forecast Friday AM (4/2) ahead of another building weather system in the Gulf with decent wind conditions (though rain pushing south to to Monterey Bay late) a light winds holding into Saturday. But a new local gale is forecast on Sunday pushing a front down over the whole state late with south winds and rain forecast. A break is forecast Monday ahead of another gale off Oregon with effects of that gale down to maybe San Francisco late Monday (south wind and light rain), then high pressure and building northwest clearing winds forecast taking control later Tuesday (5/6) and holding for a while.
The models continue suggesting a storm is brewing in the deep mid-South Pacific on Tues PM (3/30) with a broad area of 45 kt southwest winds at 63S 161W aimed well up the 198 degree great circle paths to California and totally unshadowed by Tahiti. This system is to fade a little but still a large area of 40-45 kt southwest winds are forecast Wed AM (3/31) at 63S 155W aimed right up the 196 degree path to CA with 38 ft seas at 60S 155W. In the evening 45 kt almost pure south fetch is forecast at 60S 153W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA with 41 ft seas at 60S 150W. 40 kt south-southwest fetch is to hold Thurs AM (3/1) at 59S 140-150W resulting in 40 ft seas at 58S 149W pushing right up the 195 degree path to CA. There now suggestions that 40 kt south fetch could hold into the evening at 59S 148W with more 35 ft seas being generated there. In all it's possible some small sideband swell could result for Hawaii, though the focus will be California down into Central America. An interesting start to the summer season because this look like possible Storm #2S.
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 gale is to wrap up in the Northern Gulf on
late Friday (3/2) with up to 45 kt northwest winds at 53N 160W falling
southeast and weakening, then reorganizing off Oregon on late
Saturday/early Sunday with 40 kts northwest winds a mere 600 nmiles
from Central CA and plowing into the Northern CA coast Sunday evening
with 45 kt follow-on energy continuing pushing into Oregon on
Monday(4/5). Exact seas heights are not worth speculating on just yet, but it seems likely that some degree of north angle swell will likely reach down into Central CA. But it will be raw. A bit of a break form the string of gales is forecast to follow.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Tuesday (3/30) 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 up to 7.85. The 30 day average was down to -11.41 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average down to -12.17 (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 the dateline pushing into Central America, a clear signal of the Inactive Phase. Models project the Inactive Phase to ease east into 4/3 over Central America and then dissipate entirely. But on 3/30 the Active Phase was doing better than expected, with westerly anomalies filling the Indian Ocean and reaching east to Northern Australia. It is expected to make it to the dateline by 4/8, then hold there while slowly dissipating sometime after 4/18. Since the Inactive Phase of the MJO is dominant now, it should gently suppress storm development for another few days. And then with the advent of the Active Phase by next week, again storm potential should be on the upswing. And with the effects of El Nino on the atmosphere already well entrenched, the momentum to support storm development should continue, or be slow to dissipate over the coming 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 3/30 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
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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