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 Wednesday (4/7) North and Central California was getting the last little push of swell from a local gale with waves 2 ft overhead and clean early. Southern California was getting some energy from this swell at waist high but pretty ripped by northwest winds in the early afternoon up north, but not so bad down south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting no surf of interest with waves 1-2 ft. The East Shore was getting head high plus east windswell and heavily chopped. The South Shore was getting next to no southern hemi swell with waves thigh high at best and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for background Gulf swell fading to 1 ft overhead on Thursday with local windswell pushing 2-3 ft overhead on Friday and Saturday. Surf to be fading early Sunday with stormy conditions in control and small dateline swell possibly moving in late with reinforcements from the Gulf coming in on Monday (4/12). Head high southern hemi swell to be in the mix Fri/Sat too. Southern California is to see more limited Gulf swell in the waist high range Thursday pushing chest high Friday and Saturday the dropping out Sunday. But of more interest is southern hemi swell expected in late on Thursday to near chest high pushing near 1 ft overhead mid-Friday into Saturday then shoulder high Sunday. The North Shore of Oahu is to not see any real surf Thursday or Friday with only some shoulder high energy dribbling in later on Saturday fading Sunday. The East Shore to see more tradewind generated windswell at chest high through the weekend possible up a little more next week. The South Shore is to see some south angled southern hemi swell at chest high late Thursday into Friday then drifting out on Saturday.
A small gale is tracking over the dateline Wed/Thurs (4/7) with 30-32 ft seas projected, possible regenerating in the Eastern Gulf on Saturday (4/10) with 26 ft seas and perhaps setting up small northwest swell for North and Central CA late in the weekend and a little more size into early next week. A stronger system is forecast for the intersection of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians Mon/Tues (4/13) with 55 kt winds and 39 ft seas. Will believe it when it happens. Remnants of all these systems are to be drifting southeast through the Gulf and nearly over California likely setting up more rain and snow in the mountains, adding to an already solid snowpack and making for great late season riding conditions. But high pressure is to remain locked north of Hawaii making for brisk trades, but pushing the storm track well north of the Hawaiian swell window. The Active Phase of the MJO is starting to take hold hopefully offering some relief from this conditions, but far from guaranteed. another smaller storm is forecast for the Southern Hemi over the weekend, but pushing more energy east rather than north. Sideband swell energy could result if all goes well.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Wednesday (4/7) the North Pacific jet remained split with the split point just off Japan at 155E and most energy in the northern branch tracking east on the 45 N latitude. A small pocket of 140-150 kt winds was on the dateline perhaps offering some support for gale development there with a far weaker one in the eastern Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hrs the dateline pocket of energy is to reach to the far Wester Gulf on Thursday then dissipate with a ridge building on the dateline pushing north into the Bering Sea while a bit more of a trough starts building in the Central Gulf of Alaska and tracking southeast, pushing into Central CA late Saturday (4/10) supporting development of a gale just off the coast, pushing into the state through the weekend. Beyond 72 hours the split jet pattern is to hold with another pocket of 150 kts winds building just south of the Aleutians on the dateline Mon/Tues (4/13) supporting gale development there and working it's way into the Gulf of Alaska later in the week. There suggestions of stronger winds energy building off Japan later next week, possibly hinting at and end to the split jet flow then, but that remains mostly just a guess.
At the surface on Wednesday (4/7) strong high pressure at 1040 mbs was 120 nmiles north of Hawaii and trying to ridge into California starting to generate modest northwest winds along the Central Coast, with 15-20 kts trades pushing over the Hawaiian Islands. A gale was situated just east of the dateline producing 45 kt west wind at 43N 175E aimed due east or right up the 297 degree path to NCal. Seas were on the increase, building from 30 ft at the same location. Over the next 72 hours and starting Wednesday evening winds in the dateline gale are to be fading from 40-45 kts at 45N 178W aimed like before with seas peaking at 33 ft at 45N 178W. Thursday AM (4/8) the gale is to start turning and falling southeast with winds down to 35 kts and seas fading from 30 ft at 46N 170W. Remnants of this system are to continue tracking east-southeast through the later part of the week. If all goes as forecast some degree of longer period swell should arrive in Northern CA later Sunday (3/11) with pure swell 6.2-6.5 ft @ 17 secs (10-11 ft faces) from 297 degrees. Local weather to be a real issue though. Another gale is to build on the dateline Fri/Sat (4/10) but be north of the Aleutians and landlocked relative to Pacific locations before wind speeds reach a velocity of interest.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Wednesday (4/7) strong high pressure at 1040 mbs was centered 1200 nmile north of Hawaii and was trying to ridge into California generating modest north winds along the coast. By Thursday it is to succeed with 30 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino reaching down to Pt Reyes and pushing 35 kts by evening. Some fraction of these winds to reach down to Pt Conception making a mess of things along exposed beaches. These winds to hold into Friday AM, then slowly settle down through the day but still up to 25+ kts in the evening. Saturday winds to relax along the coast as a new local low pressure system drifts southeast from the Gulf with south winds impacting the Channel Islands (10 kts ) by evening and up to 20 kts over most of Central and North CA. Snow starting in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. Sunday these south winds to reach down into Southern CA and hold up into Cape Mendo. Rain over most of the state with solid snow accumulations in the mountains. By Monday (4/12) the low is to move inland with weak high pressure and light northwest winds in control of all coastal waters, except up to 15 kts in Southern CA. Rain and snow fading. Winds to back off everywhere Tuesday (4/13) as another Gulf gale bears down on the coast with south winds late in the day in Central CA. Rain in the lowlands north of Pt Conception with decent snow accumulations starting from Tahoe north. This gale to dissipate while it moves over the coast Wednesday with rain and snow continuing.
On Wednesday (3/7) no real swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring. But on Friday AM (4/9) the models suggest a storm forming well southeast of New Zealand with 55k southwest winds at 61S 180W aimed well up the 206 degree path to California and totally shadowed by Tahiti. Limited energy to be pushing up the 189 degree path to Hawaii. Seas building from 36 ft at 60S 179W. In the evening a solid fetch of 50 kt southwest winds to still be in-place at 59S 163W aimed well up the 200 degree great circle path to CA and almost clear of the Tahitian swell shadow and bypassing Hawaii, generating seas of 40 ft at 59S 167W. This fetch is to be fading from 40-45 kts Sat AM (4/10) at 55S 150W aimed 20 degrees east of the 196 degree path to CA producing 38 ft seas at 56S 154W. This system is to be gone by evening. if all goes as forecast another utility class pulse of swell result pushing towards Central America up into California with very limited sideband swell pushing up into Hawaii. Most of this fetch is to be tracking on a west to east axis with little movement to the north, limiting this storms swell production capability.
A storm started brewing in the deep mid-South Pacific on Tues PM (3/30) with a broad area of 45 kt southwest winds at 63S 162W aimed well up the 198 degree great circle paths to California and totally unshadowed by Tahiti. This system build with a large area of 40-45 kt southwest winds and up to 55 kt southwest winds were modeled Wed AM (3/31) at 63S 158W aimed right up the 196 degree path to CA with 38 ft seas at 60S 158W. In the evening 45 kt almost pure south fetch was modeled at 60S 155W pushing right up the 197 degree path to CA with 41 ft seas at 60S 150W. 40 kt south-southwest fetch was holding Thurs AM (3/1) at 59S 150W resulting in 38 ft seas at 56S 150W pushing right up the 195 degree path to CA. 40 kt south fetch held into the evening at 59S 148W with more 32 ft seas being generated there. The focus will be California down into Central America. An interesting start to the summer season because this look like possible Storm #2S.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival late afternoon on Thurs (4/8) with pure swell to 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft faces with bigger sets). Swell to continue up to 3 ft @ 18 secs later on Friday (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) holding at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs Saturday (5.5 ft faces with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to be fading from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs on Sunday (5 ft faces) and 3.0-3.3 ft @ 14 secs on Sunday (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195-197 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival late afternoon on Thurs (4/8) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3.5 ft faces with bigger sets). Swell to continue up to 3 ft @ 18 secs late Friday (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7 ft) holding at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs mid-Saturday (5.5 ft faces with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to be fading from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs on Sunday (5 ft faces) and 3.0-3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs on Sunday (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 194-196 degrees
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 remnants of the dateline gale (from Wed 4/7) are to move
to the Eastern Gulf by Sat AM (4/10) producing a small area of 45 kt
north winds at 46N 140W and falling south with 35 kt north winds in the
evening at 40N 139W resulting in 27 ft seas at 43N 140W. Possible sideband swell pushing into North and Central CA by Mon (4/12) if this comes to pass.
A stronger system is forecast for the intersection of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians Mon AM (4/12) with 55 kt winds at 50N 178E and 36 ft seas at the same locale. In the evening 50 kts west winds to hold at 51N 175W producing 39 ft seas at 50N 177W. Winds to be down to 40-45 kts Tuesday AM (4/13) at 50N 170W with 38 ft seas fading at 50N 170W. Possible longer period swell from 305 degree heading towards Central and North California if this occurs.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Wednesday (4/7) 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 hard though to 22.64. The 30 day average was up to 0.17 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -10.85 (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 westerly anomalies over Indonesia and reaching east to the dateline, a clear sign of the Active Phase of the MJO. It is expected to hold on the dateline through 4/16, then slowly dissipating while easing east into Central America to 4/21. And neutral pattern is expected after that into 4/26. This should gently feed storm generation potential. But with Spring moving in, it's difficult to estimate exactly how much of a positive impact that will actually have. At this point were monitoring the MJO more for signs of Active Phase dominance in the critical March-May time frame (versus monitoring for storm support) 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).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/5) 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, but not gone from South America and if anything, building slightly (likely the result of a recent impact by a Kelvin Wave). Erosion of warmer waters over the Galapagos is expected, symptomatic of the fading of El Nino.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 4/60 a tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 120W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal with a small core at 4 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. We expect a normal trade pattern to take hold over the entire equatorial Pacific for the remainder of the Spring.
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.
At this point were mainly monitoring to determine whether this El Nino will degrade into La Nina (which typically happens after stronger El Nino's), or whether it will hold in some mild El Nino-like state for several years in a row. This would be the best outcome, but far from expected. 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
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