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 Sunday (5/8) North and Central California was seeing a mix of locally generated windswell and leftover dateline swell producing waves at thigh to maybe waist high and mushy with winds on it early. Southern California was getting maybe knee high windswell up north and reasonably clean early. Down south windswell was waist high on the sets and clean, but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was thigh to waist high on the rare sets and clean with light trades. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at shoulder to head high and chopped. The South Shore was getting some background southern hemi swell with waves waist high and clean with modest trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific has no real swell producing weather systems forecast for the next 7 days. There's hints that maybe a low pressure system will build in the Gulf of Alaska pushing up to Washington on Thurs (5/12) with 16 ft seas, but even that seem unlikely. Down south high pressure remains in firm control of the South Pacific with no swell producing systems forecast. The models do continue suggesting a gale might start organizing on the very eastern edge of the California swell window starting Wed with seas pushing to 40 ft, but most of that energy is to be aimed east towards South America with little pushing up into the great circle paths aimed due north. And that is the optimistic forecast from the models. Reality is always something less. Will monitor regardless. Otherwise a weak gale developed in the Central Pacific Fri-Sat (4/30) but was falling southeast, with seas only barely reaching 26 ft at best and getting little traction pushing north. A second incarnation of this system developed Monday (5/2) in the East Pacific generating barely 26 ft seas again and aimed better to the north, but still not enough to really produce much swell. Something barely rideable might be lapping into Southern CA this week, but nothing for Central CA.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (5/8) the jetstream was unorganized and fragmented in the West generally ridging hard north after pushing off Japan reaching up to the Aleutians and with little wind speed, then falling slightly over the dateline only to ridge hard north again in the Gulf with winds to 130 kts before diving south along the PAcific Northwest coast and pushing inland over Cape Mendocino CA. In short, no support for low pressure development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours things are to morph somewhat with just one ridge taking control, over the dateline with a trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and another off the Kuril Islands. 130 kt winds are to be flowing through both troughs offering some potential for low pressure development there. Beyond 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold if not build with a ridge steady over the dateline and a steep trough building just off the US West Coast and holding through next weekend (5/15) offering some support for low pressure development there. A very weak trough is forecast off the Kuril Islands and will likely be unproductive.
At the surface on Sunday (5/8) high pressure at 1028 mbs was situated 900 nmiles north of Hawaii generating easterly trades to 20 kts flowing over the Islands and producing moderate easterly windswell there. This high was also generating northwest winds at 15 kts along the California coast down into Baja. A second high was over the dateline at 1032 mbs and likely poised to reinforce the first one. Weak low pressure was over the Kuril Islands lifting north and of no interest. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to continue to dominate the picture in the east through later Tuesday (5/10). But on Wednesday the high is to back off and lift north, positioned just south of the Eastern Aleutians at 1040 mbs with low pressure trapped south of it generating a gradient and resulting in brisk east winds centered northwest of Hawaii and all aimed at Japan. Also a weak area of low pressure is forecast building in the extreme Northeast Gulf of Alaska dropping southeast along the Canadian coast with winds to near 30 kts over a tiny patch positioned 500 nmiles off Vancouver Island late Wednesday (5/11) generating a tiny area of seas to 17 ft. This is to be the peak of this event. Possible small windswell to result for the Pacific Northwest coast down to maybe Central CA. Small is the operative word there though with period only maybe 10 secs.
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 (5/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was in control centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and trying to ridge into Oregon generating a pressure gradient and northwest winds at 25 kts over the Cape Mendocino area, but not pushing nearshore into Southern Central CA on down into Southern CA. On Friday the gradient is to start falling south with 20 kts winds pretty much taking control of Central CA nearshore waters early and holding with 15-20 kt northwest winds forecast all weekend. By Monday (5/9) a new gradient is to be building with winds up to 25+ kts out of the northwest covering the entire state (including Southern CA) then easing some Tuesday but still not out. A bit of a break expected Wednesday, especially for Southern CA with low pressure trying to get a toehold in off British Columbia, but then faltering with high pressure looking to build in beyond with more northwest winds the expected result.
On Sunday (5/8) high pressure at 1036 mbs was still locked in position east of New Zealand ridging south to near 60S and effectively shutting down gale production over the entire Central Pacific. Over the next 72 hours it is to back off some allowing a gap to develop in the Southeast Pacific, with low pressure starting to get a foothold Tuesday AM at 63S 130W at 958 mbs. A broad fetch of 40 kt west-southwest winds are forecast at 59S 140W. By Tuesday evening up to 45 kt southwest winds are forecast taking hold at 51S 134W aimed 20 degrees east of the 188 degree great circle path up to California. This is to all be well east of any path to Hawaii. Seas building to 30 ft at 54S 134W. On Wednesday AM (5/11) the fetch is to be moderating some but still patches of 45 kt southwest winds are forecast in the general area of 50S 123W with seas building to near 40 ft at 52S 129W pushing 30 degrees east of the 183 degree path to California. In the evening a secondary fetch of 45-50 kt southwest fetch is to take hold at 50S 128W with 38 ft seas forecast at 51S 130W aimed pretty well up the 187 degree path to California. By Thursday AM (5/12) 45 kts winds to be fading while pushing northeast at 43S 118W with 40 ft seas at 47S 122W pushing 30 degree east of the 181 degree path to California. By evening most fetch is to be pushing out of the California swell window and fading with residual seas of 32 ft hanging near 43S 120W. In all, some degree of decent sized but very southerly angled swell seem possible for California if this system comes to pass. But better potential is likely for Peru and Chile extending up into Panama. Will monitor.
Previously a gap in high pressure allowed a small area of low pressure to build well south of Tahiti. That low resulted in a moderate fetch of 40 kt south winds Friday AM (4/29) at 52S 157W aimed well to the north. Unfortunately the core of the low was falling southeast fast though and by evening only 30 kt south winds held at 51S 155W. 26 ft seas were modeled at 50S 153W. On Saturday AM (4/30) a tiny core of 40-45 kt south winds developed at 55S 145W aimed well to the north but the whole low was continuing to fall southeast, with 25 ft seas hanging on at 49S 152W. By evening all fetch was wrapping into the gales north quadrant aimed east and down to 35 kts and the core was falling south fast. Sea were modeled to 28 ft over an infinitesimal area at 52S 141W aimed due east. Sunday AM this system was gone. A secondary flare up of fetch produced one last area of 26 ft seas at 44S 151W Sunday night, and then evaporated. At this time some minimal background southern hemi swell seems possible for the US West Coast starting Monday (5/9) and sideband swell pushing into Hawaii by Sunday (5/8). Period to be in the 14 sec range upon arrival at those targets with swell size not exceeding 1.5-2.0 ft. In short, bare minimal. Details are posted in the QuikCASTs.
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 models suggest the low pressure system off Oregon is to slowly fade while falling south, reaching a point just off Cape Mendocino on Sun (5/15). But only 15 kt fetch is to be associated with it, offering no real windswell generation potential. Intere4sting, but the strong high pressure system at 1040 mbs in the Northwestern Gulf is to ease southeast and dissipate completely. By Sunday (5/15) a near neutral pressure pattern is forecast of the bulk of the North Pacific.
As of Sunday (5/8) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued low. The daily SOI was at -13.16. The 30 day average was down to 12.11 with the 90 day average down some at 19.10. This was the lowest the daily SOI has been over a few day period since May 2010 when La Nina first took hold.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (5/7) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated weak easterly anomalies still controlling the eastern equatorial Pacific starting south of Hawaii and pushing east into Central America and covering the Atlantic. this was indicative of the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. These anomalies are to be pushing into Central America on 5/12 and then gone. But of far more interest was the building Active Phase of the MJO. It was actually fairly strong and filling the the Indian Ocean and pushing into the West Pacific almost reaching the dateline. It is expected to move more solidly over the dateline by 5/12 then fading while filling the Pacific 5/17 into 5/22, then dissipating near 5/27. At the same time the Inactive Phase is to be again building in the Indian Ocean starting 5/17 and starting to seep east into the far West Pacific on 5/27.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/5) 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 continue to slowly relent in spurts 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 continue slowly building in coverage. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east but not very effectively. 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 by 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 as of 5/1. But on 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water was starting to make a faint showing at 140W again, presumably driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. We expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the building Active Phase of the MJO. 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 thermo cline. 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 no swell producing weather 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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Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table