New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Thursday (4/2) North and Central California surf was head high to 1 ft overhead with intermixed chop and warble. Spring time conditions were in-effect. Waves were a mixture of locally windswell generated thanks to high pressure off the coast and longer period swell originating from a small gale over the dateline last weekend. Southern California was getting a fraction of that mixed northerly swell with waves thigh high at exposed breaks and reasonably clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the last of a swell originating from a gale that was off Japan over the weekend with waves chest high or so with trades blowing. The East Shore had more head high to 1 ft overhead east windswell generated by brisk easterly trades generated by high pressure northeast of the Islands. The South Shore had some thigh high waves coming through from the southern hemi and limited east windswell wrapping into exposed breaks.
North and Central CA was back in windswell mode, aided by background swell coming across the dateline on occasion. This same combo is to continue with the windswell component ramping up on Friday (4/3) as high pressure holds tight off the coast and low pressure builds inland invigorating the coastal pressure gradient. Windswell to hold into early Saturday to 1-2 ft overhead, then fading. Southern CA is to continue getting a portion of that north windswell, starting to build in size later Friday into early Saturday reaching waist to chest high. Swell on Hawaii's North Shore is to be dropping from waist high on Friday with no rebound until late Sunday. The East Shore is expected to have slowly fading east windswell through the weekend. The South Shore is not expected to see any southern hemi swell forecast till late Monday.
Longterm a pair of gales are forming Thursday-Sunday (4/5), one over the dateline pushing into the Gulf of Alaska and a second off Japan pushing to the dateline. Neither of these are to be particularly strong, with seas to barely 29 ft in the Gulf and 38 ft off Japan. This ought to be good for swell into the US West Coast early next week and Hawaii starting late Sunday with bigger energy behind that by Tuesday (4/7). Down south a gale formed under New Zealand on Monday with a little bit of swell expected into Hawaii late Monday (4/6). But the overriding issue is to be strong north wind and local windswell associated with high pressure off the US West Coast and brisk trades with east windswell for the Hawaiian Islands through the workweek next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/2) the North Pacific jetstream remained split on the dateline with the northern branch arching through the Gulf of Alaska pushing inland over Oregon while the southern branch flowed under Hawaii and into Baja. Two modest troughs were present in the northern branch, one off Japan and the other pushing into the Western Gulf of Alaska with peak winds in the bottom of those troughs at 130 kts, offering some support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours through Sunday (4/5) these troughs are to push east, with the Gulf trough getting steeper by the day and almost pinching off just west of Central CA, then easing inland there early next week while the Japan trough steadily weakens and fades on the dateline. Both to be fairly productive while they last. Beyond 72 hours the split pattern is to perhaps start fading 7 days out, with only the northern branch really showing any signs of life. But even at that, no troughs of interest are forecast offering no support for surface level gale or low pressure development.
At the surface strong high pressure at 1032 mbs remained locked 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco ridging into California and the Pacific Northwest generating a steady fetch of north winds at 30 kts off Oregon and Washington and 20 kts pushing down the North and Central California coasts before turning southwest and west pushing up to and over the Hawaiian Islands at 20 kts from the east. These winds were generating raw local windswell along the exposed US coast and more direct easterly windswell pushing into East Shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Two gale lows were winding up in the Gulf of Alaska and off Japan tracking northeast (see details below). Over the next 72 hours or more these lows are to dominate the picture shunting high pressure a bit to the south relative to California and out of the way for the time being, though not having much effect in Hawaii with trades still strong and east windswell in-effect.
Thursday AM (4/2) a new gale was forming in the Western Gulf of Alaska, just beyond the dateline. By evening 45 kt it is to have pressure of 992 mbs with 45 kt west winds in it's south quadrant aimed well at the US West Coast aimed down the 296 degree path to NCal. 45 kt northwest winds are to be moving into the Gulf by Friday AM (4/3) with 25 ft seas at 45N 165W. 40-45 kt northwest winds are expected in the evening with seas to 29 ft in it's south quadrant at 46N 151W aimed well at the US West Coast, then moving into the Eastern Gulf on Saturday (4/4) with 40 kt northwest winds fading and 26 ft seas at 44 N 148W before fading while dropping southeast towards Central CA. By Sunday 30-35 kt northwest winds are forecast just 600 nmiles off San Francisco with seas in the 20 ft range and the leading edge of the low starting to push into the coast late. The core of the low is to never move onshore, but is to wither just off the coast through late Tuesday. South winds and rain is expected for Central Ca in association with this system Mon-Wed (4/8) with potential for snow at higher elevations.
Rough data suggests swell arrival in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday (4/5) and into Central CA early Monday before sunrise with swell about 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10-11 ft faces) but with south winds taking it's toll.
A storm was forming off Japan Thursday (4/2) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and 26 ft seas expected late at 38N 154E pushing well towards Hawaii down the 302 degree great circle path. On Friday AM (4/3) west winds are still forecast at 45 kts with seas up to 38 ft seas at 38N 160E targeting Hawaii well and even pushing energy towards the US West Coast up the 296 degree path (NCal). By evening winds to be dropping from 40 kts with seas peaking at 39 ft at 40N 166E aimed at NCal down the 296 path and Hawaii down the 310 degree path. 30 kt west winds to be fading fast Saturday AM (4/4) with seas fading from 36 ft early at 41N 171E, down to barely 30 ft at sunset.
Rough data suggests a decent pulse of 18 sec period swell to reach Hawaii's North Shore late Monday (4/6) with most consistent size on Tuesday (4/7). Maybe even some inconsistent energy reaching into Central CA late Wed into Thurs (4/9), though north winds to be back in-control by then.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/2) high pressure was rebuilding strong at 1034 mbs 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco with north winds building in over the entire US West Coast fueled by low pressure inland, strengthening the coastal pressure gradient. North winds of 30-35 kt are forecast off Washington late pushing down to California at 30 kts on Friday generating much local windswell and chop. But this this fetch is to be rapidly dissipating Saturday as the gale in the Gulf of Alaska makes headway east, nudging up to the coast Sunday AM. As a result southeast to south winds at 15 kts are to be building in from Big Sur northward mid-day and becoming entrenched as the Gulf Gale moves closer, with rain taking over by late evening. South winds and rain to continue, reaching even Santa Barbara Monday and continuing everywhere till mid-day Tuesday (4/7) before the low dissipates and clearing high pressure and north winds again try to move into the picture, but only at 15 kts covering the entire US West Coast (though SCal to remain protected).
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
On Sunday (3/29) an elongated fetch of 35-40 kt west winds were under New Zealand associated with a 960 mbs low in the deep Southwest Pacific and generating 30 ft seas at 55S 158E south of the Tasman Sea and shadowed from Hawaii and the US by New Zealand. By Monday AM that gale was fading with 35 kt southwest winds aimed better to the northeast, then fading from 30 kts by Tuesday AM. Seas were modeled at 30 ft Mon AM (3/30) at 54S 176E and holding at 30 ft in the evening at 54S 179W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern edge of the fetch at 06Z Tues and reported seas of 25.8 ft with a peak to 34.8 where the model suggested seas of 27-28 ft. This was about on-track. One more reading of 28 ft occurred Tuesday AM (3/31) at 52S 180W then dissipating. Possible modest 17 sec southern hemi swell is possible for the Islands 7.5 days later (late Tues 4/7) and a few days beyond for CA.
Another gale tried to get going under New Zealand Wednesday (4/1) producing a modest area of 40 kt wind at 60S 180W Wed PM aimed somewhat to the northeast, but dissipating into Thursday AM. 28 ft seas were modeled Wed afternoon (3/31) at 60S 170W pushing to 29 ft Thursday AM (4/2) at 58S 177W then forecast down to 26 ft in the evening at 55S 165W. Possible sideband swell for the Islands and barely unshadowed (Tahiti swell shadow) for CA if this comes to pass.
Remnants of this system are forecast to try and coagulate in the Southeastern Pacific on Sunday AM (4/5) producing a small fetch of 55 kt almost south winds at 54S 145W aimed up the 193 degree path to CA and east of the Tahiti swell shadow, and holding into the evening at 48N 132W aimed up the 188 degree path to CA. 35 ft seas are forecast at 49N 132W with the momentum pushing them more east than north. The fetch is to all turn to the east on Monday AM (4/6) with winds 45 kts and 35 ft seas pretty well east bound for Peru from 47N 125W. The fetch is to all gel in the storms northeast quadrant in the evening aimed southeast towards the passage between Antarctica and Chile, pretty much eliminating any swell energy from tracking north and ending this systems lifecycle relative to Central America northwards. Possible small very southerly angled swell pushing up into California.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to be the name of the game with north local windswell the only thing going down the US West Coast in the 15-20 kts range and equal strength trades for Hawaii. There a hint of a build low over the dateline Thurs (4/9), but that is very far from credible at this early date. Looks like summer is trying to get a foothold.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/2) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was barely in the Active Phase with the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index neutral. The Daily SOI index was up hard to 12.98 (breaking the string of 33 days in a row near zero). The 30 day average was up slightly to 0.90 and the 90 day average was down some to 7.02. The SOI indicies remained barely symptomatic of La Nina mainly attributable to the 90 day average, but clearly La Nina took a big hit over the past month. Wind anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated a solid and steady westerly flow from the dateline into Central America, covering the entire Eastern Equatorial Pacific and indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. This is likely the last push of it and is likely the main influence in helping the recent 2 gales in the North Pacific, and may be helping the formation of gales under New Zealand and regions east of there. But be forewarned that a strong pulse of the Inactive Phase is building over Indonesia ready to burst east into the Western Pacific. The Active Phase is to hold for a day or two more on the dateline, then rapidly dissipate while the Inactive Phase surges east from the Indian Ocean on 4/3, making it to the dateline by 4/9, then holding there while slowly fading and easing east reaching Central America on 4/16 and fading through the end of the month. A new Active Phase is forecast to build behind it in the Indian Ocean through the month, but not reach the Pacific. The residual effects of 3 years of La Nina remain in-control, with cooler than normal water trying to hold west of Central America. But that took a pretty good hit over the week of 3/30 with warmer than normal waters now barely built-in there at the surface. And below the surface the equatorial subsurface warm pool of water that has been repressed back west of the dateline worked it's way east to 140W, a major step forward. The big question is how much effect with this next Inactive Phase of the MJO have on surface and subsurface waters of the East Pacific through the next 3 weeks, and whether the Active Phase behind it comes on strong. Suspect we will loose some ground by the middle to end of the month. Regardless, it will still take months before the atmosphere begins to respond to any warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, so expect a continuation of cool and foggy Spring weather in California into early summer. But come summer, if warming develops in the Tropical Eastern Pacific, this could set up up for a decent Fall, and maybe an enhanced late summer southern hemi season.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing systems are 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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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/
Help Out a Fellow Mavericks Surfer: Our friend Christy Davis is going through some tough times. His 14 year old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. The prognosis is good but we'd all like to help him out with medical expenses not covered by insurance. If you would like to donate, send an email to us here or send it to Christy directly at: Chris Davis PO Box 628 Moss Beach, CA 94038
Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
STORMSURF Local Wave Models Upgraded - We significantly upgraded the local waves models on Sunday (6/8). All now utilize our newly developed high-resolution 3D shaded relief topography for mapping landmasses. Coastlines are now accurate down to the individual pixel providing near photographic realism. Mountains and hills are all shaded and accurate to within the same single pixel specification. Cities are overlaid as before, but now we've added major highways and rivers too (for many locations). Some good examples of this new technology can be viewed here:
- View the reefs north of Tahiti and notice their contribution to the 'Swell Shadow' relative to California - Tahiti
- Notice the detail of the coast in and around Vancouver Islands and Washington State - Pacific Northwest
- See the details of inland waterways of the US Northeast Coast - Virginia
- Details of the Mentawai Island and Nias
And all the local models can be found either on our homepage or from the wavemodel page (bottom half of the page).
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.
Mavericks Contest 2008: View all the action from the 2008 Maverick Surf Contest from Powelines Productions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5lj9CUpCc
Need Chiropractic Help? Visit our friends at Darrow Chiropractic. Not only will Dr. Darrow fix you up, he might give you some big wave surfing tips too! See more here: http://www.darrowchiropractic.com/
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