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 Thursday (4/21) North and Central California was seeing no real northerly windswell and some minimal southern hemi background swell producing waves at thigh high at exposed breaks. Winds were already blowing pretty well out of the northwest early making for heavily textured if not chopped conditions at exposed breaks. Southern California was seeing southern hemi swell in the thigh to maybe waist high range and weak up north but clean early. Down south southern hemi swell was maybe thigh high and clean but weak. At least it was clean. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing leftover windswell in the thigh high range and textured with light but slightly sideshore trades in effect. The East Shore was pretty much flat with no real tradewind generated east windswell and semi clean conditions. The South Shore was getting the New Zealand southern hemi swell with waves shoulder to head high and clean with light northeast trades.
Surf Forecast Overview
North and Central CA on Friday has windswell bumping up to 2.5 ft (faces) with new semi real southern hemi swell to 3.5 ft. Saturday southern hemi swell peaks at 4 ft then fading Sunday from near 4 ft. Monday southern hemi swell continues fading from 3.5 ft and then gone on Tuesday with northwest windswell building to near 7.5 ft late.
Southern California is to see new southern hemi swell arriving Friday at near chest high. Saturday southern hemi swell peaks at chest high fading Sunday from waist to chest high. Waist high plus southern hemi swell to hang on for early Monday and fading, down to thigh high Tuesday.
The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable swell on Friday. Maybe some more windswell on Saturday at thigh high early. Maybe another pulse of waist high plus windswell late Sunday, then and maybe thigh high early Sunday. Monday new windswell to push chest high and up to shoulder high Tuesday with luck.
The East Shore is to see no east windswell until Sunday when it hits thigh high pushing up to waist high Monday fading some Tuesday.
The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell fading from chest to shoulder high Friday. Saturday that swell fades from waist high with knee high leftovers Sunday. Monday a new small pulse arrives at thigh high fading from thigh high early Tuesday.
The North Pacific effectively asleep. A large pool of low pressure is forecast tracking from the dateline towards the Pacific Northwest over the next 7 days perhaps generating fleeting patches of seas in the 17-18 ft range, moving onshore early next week but nothing more than windswell is to result. Down south a decent gale pushed under New Zealand Tues-Thurs (4/14) with 40-42 ft seas but shadowed by Tahiti. Swell from it has hit Hawaii and is expected into California over the weekend. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is forecast with high pressure in control of the region under and just east of New Zealand for the next 7 days.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (4/21) the jetstream was pushing off Japan producing a small trough just east of there extending to the dateline fed by a pocket of 170 kts winds and providing some opportunity for low pressure development at the lower levels of the atmosphere. The jet continued flat east from there but with no trough and no wind energy. Over the next 72 hours that wind pocket is to push over dateline reaching to the Central Gulf of Alaska with a better defined trough building on the dateline and points east fed by 150 kt wind. More support for low pressure development possible in that area. Beyond 72 hours that wind energy and trough are to push east positioned 1500 nmiles north of Hawaii by late Monday (4/25) and then pushing into the Pacific Northwest late Wednesday (4/27). Limited support for low pressure development. Beyond a consolidated jetstream is to hold over the entire North Pacific thanks to the fading Active Phase of the MJO, but not troughs or supporting wind energy are forecast. The result is to be no low pressure formation of interest.
At the surface on Thursday (4/21) a broad pool of generally weak low pressure at 984 mbs was straddling the dateline resulting in a small patch of 30 kt west winds over the dateline and expected to hold into the evening. This is expected to produce a tiny area of 18 ft seas, good for some small windswell pushing into Hawaii on Monday (4/25). Otherwise weak high pressure was off the US West Coast producing no fetch of interest. Over the next 72 hours the low over the dateline is to east east and north some reaching the northern Gulf of Alaska Saturday. Again some fleeting patches of 30 kt west winds are forecast in the Gulf Fri-Sat perhaps generating seas to 17 or 18 ft targeting the Pacific Northwest, with maybe some windswell being produced for later in the workweek. But whatever it is, it will be small and weak.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (4/21) high pressure was ridging into the coast while low pressure was exiting off the the east over the Sierra generating a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds at 15-20 kts over nearshore waters of the North and Central coasts. This to be short lived though with winds starting to subside through the day Friday as a broad area of low pressure moves east and into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska by Saturday AM. At that time near calm winds are forecast from Pismo Beach northward with weak southerly winds possible for Monterey Bay northward mid-day into early Sunday. Light rain is forecast for the North coast down into San Francisco-Monterey Bay later Friday into Saturday AM. High pressure is to try and take hold Sunday, but get beaten back by another pulse of Gulf low pressure with a front to maybe down to San Francisco on early Monday. No snow of any kind forecast for the Sierras, only rain. Then finally high pressure is to take hold on Tues (4/26) with northwest winds back in control at 30 kts focused near Pt Conception and even pushing well into Southern CA. That high is to slowly lift north with north winds building up into San Francisco and points north of there into mid-week.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast in the California or Hawaiian swell windows. High pressure at 1032 mbs was building east of New Zealand on Thursday (4/21) and expected to reach near 1040 mbs by Saturday driving the storm track to the southeast and shutting down gale formation potential for the Southwest and Central Pacific. Any gale that does try to form is forecast to have all it's fetch aimed southeast towards Antarctica.
New Zealand Gale
A gale built south of the Tasman Sea tracking east-northeast on Tues (4/12) producing a solid area of 40 kt west-southwest winds and seas building. With the Antarctic Ice Sheet at it's Fall minimum, the fetch was getting some traction on ice free waters there. By Tuesday evening the fetch built to 45 kts over a solid fetch area while pushing east-northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 58S 168E (a long ways from the US West Coast - 6690 nmiles away on the 212 deg track - and aimed pretty much east of the 199 deg great circle track to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southeast quadrant of this system and reported average seas at 28.4 ft with one reading to 32.8 ft where the model indicated 32 ft seas. This was about right on track. 45 kt winds held into Wed AM (4/13) with seas to 40 ft at 56S 178E (210 degs CA -193 degs HI), with new fetch developing a bit south of there. By Wed PM 45 kt southwest winds were blowing generating 42 ft seas at 56S 170W (205 deg NCal - 185 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system again and reported average seas at 31.1 ft with one reading to 34.4 ft where the model indicated 31 ft seas. This was right on track. Thursday AM (4/14) 45 kt west winds continued to hold generating 44 ft seas at 55S 161W bypassing Hawaii and aimed a bit east of the 201 degree track to CA. By evening the fetch is to be fading fast and aimed due east with seas from previous fetch at 42-43 ft and fading fast at 54S 151W (197 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northwest quadrant of this system are reported average seas at 28.8 ft with one reading to 36.4 ft where the model indicated 30 ft seas. This was again right on track.
This system developed right on track with the models and the models were well correlated to the readings coming off the Jason-1 satellite, though most of those readings were from the outer periphery of the systems rather than over it's core. For the most part this system was totally shadowed from CA by Tahiti and surrounding Islands and fetch aimed well east of any track going up to Hawaii. The net result is to be rideable swell at both locations, but nothing to get excited about. Just something rideable. Tahiti will do alright, but not optimal.
Hawaii: Swell down to 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft faces) on Fri (4/22) and fading. Swell Direction: 185-195 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving later Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 205-210 degrees
Northern CA: Expect perhaps a few signs of this swell arriving late Thursday (4/21) with swell 1 ft @ 21 secs (2 ft) and very inconsistent. By Friday swell to build to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to peak on Saturday (4/23) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell to continue Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft with some bigger sets), then heading down on Monday. Swell Direction: 203-208 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 the remnants of the dateline-Gulf low pressure pool are to be pushing into the Pacific Northwest Mon-Tues (4/26). The models suggest some small low pressure cells are to wrap up just before pushing inland into Washington Monday and then again Wednesday (4/27) with winds 30-35 kts and seas to 18 ft on the first one and near 20 ft on the second. But these seas are to build literally 200 nmiles off the coast, totally shadowed relative to California, good only for raw tattered windswell in the Pacific Northwest. Longerterm the models suggest high pressure is to start building over the southern dateline region while some degree of low pressure tried to track over the top of it on Wed (4/27) generating a pressure gradient between the two systems and resulting in a decent sized fetch of 35 kt northwest winds moving into the Gulf of Alaska on Thursday (4/28). Seas to 25 ft possible. But given that it is nearly 7 days from occurring, odds of it actually occurring are very low and will probably fade with the next run of the models. Something to dream about though.
As of Thursday (4/21) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued dropping, presumably from the effects of the Active Phase of the MJO. The daily SOI was down to 7.14. The 30 day average was down slightly to 24.82 with the 90 day average down slightly at 20.90.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (4/20) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the Active Phase of the MJO was gone with neutral winds in control over the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. But with the daily SOI dropping some, suspect there is still some weak westerly anomalies in play. Regardless, a neutral pattern is expected to hold through the end of the forecast period (5/10). In reality, we would not be surprised to see some degree of a weak Inactive Phase make an appearance. The 2010-2011 Winter season is over.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/21) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a a good bit west of South America westward to the dateline. Cooler than normal waters also were present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific are relenting some as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters remain over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But there had also been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there that was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). And currently (4/19) a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water was flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies are tracking from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline. The thought is this normalization of the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (6 months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though painstakingly slow.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were 'normal' with only light easterly anomalies persisting in the far Western Pacific.
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 the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours there's no indication of any swell producing weather systems tracking through the South Pacific with high pressure aloft and down at the surface in control of the favored New Zealand swell corridor and just more forecast 180 hours out (Thurs 4/28).
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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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
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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
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table