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 (4/24) North and Central California was getting a mix of local north windswell and stronger energy from the dateline in the 2-3 ft overhead range and a little warbled but with clean surface conditions early. Southern California was near flat up north early and clean (knee to thigh high) maybe pushing waist high or so down south at the better breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the end of a run of dateline swell with waves down to chest high and clean with trades a bit lighter. The East Shore was getting waist high east windswell and chopped. The South Shore was starting to see some smaller southern hemi swell with waves waist high or better and clean.
The forecast for North and Central CA on Sunday is for new swell from the Gulf moving in at 3-4 ft overhead, then dropping from 1 ft overhead at best on Monday. New local north and west windswells expected to 2-3 ft overhead on Tuesday continuing Wednesday with waist high southern hemi swell underneath. Southern California is to maybe see swell from the Gulf to chest high on Sunday only at exposed breaks, then fading from waist high on Monday with thigh to waist high southern hemi swell underneath holding into Tuesday. New northwest windswell in the waist to chest high range is expected on Wednesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see dateline swell fading from waist high Sunday. New dateline swell to reach 2 ft overhead late Monday down to 1 ft overhead Tuesday and chest high Wednesday. The East Shore to see east tradewind generated windswell to waist high Sunday then dissipating. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell pushing shoulder high or more Sunday with real swell at 1 ft overhead or more for Monday and Tuesday then fading from head high or a little more early Wednesday.
Remnants of a gale that was on the dateline early in the week reorganized late Thursday in the Central Gulf with a small area of 25 ft seas on the 298 degree path to CCal providing possible swell for later in the weekend. A weak gale is scheduled for the Northeastern Gulf on Mon (4/26) pushing up to the Oregon coast on Tuesday with up to 24 ft seas, likely setting up raw windswell for CA next week. Down south a primer gale tracked northeast alongside of New Zealand Sat/Sun (4/18) with 30 ft seas. That swell is expected to push into CA later Sunday (4/25). A stronger storm was right behind it and on the same track Sun-Tues (4/20) with 36-38 ft seas. Swell from this one to hit Hawaii on Monday and the mainland late Wed (4/28) but with not much size for CA. After that everything shuts down so make the most of it now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (4/24) the North Pacific jet was split over it's width, with most energy in the northern branch tracking south of the Aleutians on the 45 N latitude. A good pocket of 150 kt wind energy was ridging over the dateline with a small trough trying to set up in the Western Gulf of Alaska and offering some odds to support gale development. Over the next 72 hrs the Gulf trough is to push east ad hold together reasonably well before pushing into the Pacific Northwest on Monday/Tuesday (4/27) likely setting up some rain for that region down into CA and some raw local swell. Beyond 72 hours another small trough is to be working it's way from well off Japan to the dateline into Tuesday and then just north of Hawaii on Friday (4/30). But wind speeds are now to be pretty light and the trough itself very pinched off, not offering much in terms of gale development. A weaker and confused jet pattern is forecast after that into next weekend (5/1).
At the surface on Saturday (4/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs was just off Central CA making for more north winds at 20 kts along the coast there but relenting north of Hawaii, meaning less trades there (finally). Weak low pressure, the residuals of a gale that was over the dateline on Thurs (4/22) was pushing into the Central Gulf of Alaska but poorly organized with no fetch of interest occurring. Over the next 72 hours this gale is to regenerate slightly Monday and Tuesday (4/27) off Oregon, mainly from the interaction of it and high pressure building north of Hawaii, setting up a broad fetch of local northwest wind at 30-35 kts targeting North and Central CA. Sea building to 25 ft Tuesday AM (4/27) up at 47N 143W (308 degs NCal) pushing to 45N 138W in the evening and down to 23 ft (310 degs NCal) then fading making for some form of northerly swell in the 13 sec range for the coast from Oregon southward mixed with much local windswell and pretty raw. Unimpressive.
A new small gale was starting to wind up in the Northeastern Gulf on Thurs AM (4/22) generating 35 kt west winds over a small area at 45N 157W then building to 40 kts in the evening at 45N 148W. 25 ft seas were modeled Thurs PM at 45N 151W (299 Deg NCal) lifting northeast and regenerating a bit Friday AM with a decent sized area of 26 ft seas at 46N 143W (308 deg NCal) and pushing out of the swell window for all but the Pacific Northwest (but tracking directly at Washington. Possible swell to result for Central CA by Sunday at 6.5 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft faces from 300 degrees).
Dateline Gale (Hawaii)
Another gale started building on dateline too on Thursday AM (4/22) with 35-40 kt west winds through the day at 43N 165E-175E generating 23 ft seas at 43N 174E late holding at barely 24 ft Friday AM at 43N 177E. Possible sideband swell for Hawaii later Monday (4/26) at 5.1 ft @ 13 secs (6.5-7.0 ft faces) from 320 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/22) the pressure gradient that has been in place over the California coast (low pressure inland - high pressure north of Hawaii ridging east) was still holding on, generating brisk north winds at 25 kts over outer waters and up to 35 kts off Central CA and still generating limited local north windswell. The gradient and northwest winds are to finally start fading on Sunday (3/25) though 15 kt northwest wind are still forecast over outer waters. Light winds expected Monday (4/26) ahead of another front with south winds and rain pushing into the north end of the state late Monday and down to Pt Conception Tuesday with rain building from the north to the Mexican boarder late night. High pressure and another broad pressure gradient with brisk northwest winds are forecast right behind pushing into even Southern CA by Wednesday (4/28) and continuing if not strengthening Thursday in Southern CA. Snow forecast in upper elevations mid Tues AM into Wednesday evening. North winds and the pressure gradient is to lift north Friday (4/30) giving Southern CA a break but making for messy conditions over all of Central CA and only getting worse on Saturday with north winds 30 kts (all of Central and NCal).
On Saturday (4/24) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring in the South Pacific.
On Friday evening (4/16) an ill defined fetch of 35 kt southwest winds built south of New Zealand lifting northeast, barely hitting 40 kts Saturday AM at 50S 180W with seas building to 28 ft at 52S 175E. Near 40 kt winds held into the evening at 44S 170W with 28 ft seas continuing at 45S 172W. The gale faded Sunday AM (4/18) with seas fading from 29 ft at 42S 165W.
Some degree of rideable 15-16 sec period swell is expected to arrive in Hawaii starting Sat (3/24) near 10 AM at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) from 191-196 degrees. Swell to be fading from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft faces) on Sunday (3/25).
California might swell swell of 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) starting Sunday (5/26) pushing 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces) on Monday. Swell Direction: 215 degrees
Storm #3S (Hawaii)
A far more interesting storm started developing on Saturday evening (4/17) with pressure at 968 mbs in the deep southwest Pacific just off Antarctica getting traction on the early season ice free waters down there. 50 kts southwest winds were modeled at 61S 155E aimed up the 214 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and almost shadowed by New Zealand on the 201 degree path to Hawaii. On Sunday AM (4/18) a broad fetch of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled at 60S 167E aimed right up the 214 degree path to CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and a shade east of the 200 degree path to Hawaii. 28 ft seas were building at 60S 165E. In the evening 45 kt winds continued at 58S 171E with seas building to 34 ft at 56S 172E. Monday AM (4/19) 45 kts southwest winds continued though over a smaller area at 52S 177E aimed right up the 212 degree path to CA and just barely clear of the Tahitian swell shadow and well up the 193 degree path to Hawaii. 38 ft seas were modeled at 55S 180E. In the evening the fetch was fading from 40 kts in the same general area with 36 ft seas at 50S 172W pushing up the 210 degree path to CA and a bit shadowed on the very western edge of the Tahitian Island swell shadow and also up the 187 degree path to Hawaii. Tuesday AM (4/20) a large fetch of 40+ kt southwest winds were holding at 45S 165W with more 35 ft seas at 50S 170W pushing up the 208 degree path to CA and a bit unshadowed and the 191 degree path to Hawaii. The fetch is to fade some in the evening and loose some coverage and not moving any further north, still at 40 kts at 50S 165W with 36 ft seas at 48S 162W or up the 205 route to CA and totally shadowed. This system to fade after that. Assuming all goes as forecast a rather solid sized 17-18 sec period swell could result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (4/25) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 18 secs late (4.5-5.0 ft faces with set to 7 ft). Swell to peak on Monday (4/26) with swell 3.3-3.6 ft @ 17 secs (5.6 ft faces with sets to 7 ft). Swell to remain solid on Tuesday (4/27) with swell 4 ft @ 16 secs (6.3 ft faces with sets to 8 ft) then fading from 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft faces) Wednesday (4/28). Residuals on Thursday at 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 191-198 degrees
Southern CA: Rough data suggest swell arrival late Wednesday (4/28) with pure swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) pushing to 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (4 ft faces) early Thurs (4/29). Swell Direction 209-212 degrees
Northern CA: Rough data suggest swell arrival late Wednesday (4/28) with pure swell 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) pushing to 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (4 ft faces) early Thurs (4/29). Swell Direction 206-209 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 one more small gael is forecast in the extreme northeast Gulf of Alaska on Wed/Thurs (4/29) but tracking northeast with all fetch aimed at Central Canada northward. Next to no swell is expected to result. After that, the North Pacific goes dormant. Looks like El Nino's big run of North Pacific storms will be over. It's been a great season and it's sad to see it go.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Thursday (4/24) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping down a bit. The daily SOI was down to 1.44. The 30 day average was down to 12.14 (It bottomed out for the winter on 2/16 at -24.82) with the 90 day average up to -6.81 (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 dead neutral conditions suggestive of neither the Active or Inactive Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation. No change is forecast through May 13. 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). There some suggestions on models for a mild La Nina. Of other interest will be whether the Iceland Volcano will spew enough high level fine particle dust and aerosols into the atmosphere to produce a reflective effect, dropping surface temperature and pushing us into a multi-year La Nina. This is a very real concern.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (4/22) 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 but not occurring yet.
Below the surface on the equator a Kevin Wave attributable to the previous Active Phase of the MJO was fading. On 4/24 a fading tongue of warmer than normal water was in-place extending east from 120W into Central America averaging 3 deg C above normal. This is expected to 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.
El Nino is slowly loosing it's grip and it's affects on the global atmospheric weather pattern. Still some impact is to continue 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 indicate the storm pattern is all to be aimed all due east, offering no fetch pushing well up into the great circle tracks for North Pacific locations.
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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Stormsurf Weather Models have all been upgraded! Over the New Years break we installed all new and upgraded weather models. Also new are experimental snow models for the Southwest US. Take a look here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
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