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/Utility Class: 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 Tuesday (5/17) North and Central California was seeing raw swell generated by a low off the coast with waves 6 ft and trashed by southerly winds and rain. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell with reasonably light winds and warbled conditions. Down south windswell was thigh high and hacked/chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had thigh high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was getting minimal background southern hemi swell with waves knee to thigh high and clean with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific produced a weak gale on the northern dateline on Sunday (5/15) tracking through the Western Gulf into early Monday with 20 ft seas, offering the hint of 12-13 sec windswell for the US West coast late week. Yet another small gale to follow directly Tues-Wed (5/18) with up to 22 ft seas just east of the dateline, but fading well out to sea. And another smaller gale is forecast on a eastward track positioned in the Northwestern Gulf Thurs-Fri (5/20) with a brief spurt of 28 ft seas. Something more to watch with small swell possible. But of more interest was Storm #1S in the deep Southeast Pacific that organized on the very eastern edge of the California swell window Wed-Thurs (5/12) with seas pushing to 42 ft late on Wed (5/11) with most of that energy aimed northeast towards South and Central America. Solid swell is expected pushing up into California for late next week into the weekend. A brief secondary pulse resulted Sat (5/14) with 32 ft seas and not getting much northward traction. There's also still indication that another gale that has tracked over the southern tip of New Zealand will re-organize in the far West Pacific Wed (5/18) with a small area of 38 ft seas holding into Thursday mid-day. Maybe some nice utility class swell will result. After that a weaker pattern is to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (5/17) the jetstream was pushing off Japan tracking northeast towards the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with winds 140 kts then took a turn to the south forming a little trough on the dateline before ridging slightly in the Western Gulf then diving southeast and pushing inland over Central CA. Some support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to steepen and get pinched off by Thurs (5/19) while traveling east with diminishing support for gale development expected. Beyond 72 hours yet another trough is forecast forming on the dateline Sat (5/21) and traveling east nudging right up to the North CA coast late on Tuesday (5/24) looking most likely to support gale development and possibly more rain and snow into CA.
At the surface on Tuesday (5/17) weak low pressure was moving over Northern CA generating southerly winds and rain with a good dose of snow in the upper Sierra for the time of year. Another gale was positioned in the Western Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt northwest winds with seas on the increase. This is the second gale in the series. Over the next 72 hours this gale is to drop southeast with 35 kt northwest winds holding into Tuesday evening with seas 20-22 ft at 44N 168W then fading fast Wednesday AM with residual 20 ft seas at 42N 162W. Possible small background northwest swell for the US west coast starting Saturday at 11 PM (5/21) at 4.2 ft @ 13 secs (5.4 ft faces) from 292 degs (NCal) if all goes as forecast.
And yet a third gale is forecast for the dateline starting Wednesday PM (5/18) with 35 kt west winds covering a fairly decent sized area and pushing east. By Thursday AM (5/19) up to 40 kt west winds are forecast just a bit south of the Aleutians with seas building from 22 ft at 46N 175W. In the evening 40 kt west winds are to hold with 28 ft seas peaking at 47N 170W aimed towards the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy down into Central CA. Winds to be dropping from 30-35 kts Friday AM with seas dropping from 26 ft at 48N 164W. This system is to be effectively gone by the evening with residual seas at 22 ft pushing up towards Alaska from 50N 160W. If all goes as forecast some more swell is possible for the US West coast early next week.
All these gales are a by product of a late season surge in the Active Phase of the MJO.
On Saturday AM (5/14) a rather large gale was organizing just west of the northern dateline region with west winds at 35+ kts and starting to generate some seas there. That gale was still producing 35 kt west winds on Sunday AM at 47N 178W with seas to 20 ft and holding into the evening at 48N 171W then fading on Monday while pushing east with winds at 30 kts and seas 20 ft at 48N 162W, then dissipating. Possible small 13 sec period swell could result for the US West Coast (NCal) starting Thursday (5/19) at 9 PM from 303 degrees but likely bypassing Hawaii. Residuals at 4.3 ft @ 11 secs (4.5 ft faces) expected into Friday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (5/17) weak low pressure was moving into the Central CA coast having previously fallen down the coast from off British Columbia. It was serving to generate south winds and rain locally with snow in higher elevations. Since Saturday evening 20 inches of snow have fallen on the upper elevations of Squaw Valley with a good amount of snow piled up on the deck at Sugar Bowl (10"+). Squaw remains open Fri-Sun and then Monday through 5/30. Incredible May boarding and skiing. By Wednesday high pressure and north winds are to return at 15-20 kts over the entire coast including Southern CA (and strong late there) continuing on into Thursday but lifting out of the Southern CA area. Lingering light rain possible over all of Southern and Central CA Wed AM but fading through the day. 1.5-2.0 ft more snow possible for the Tahoe region (Tues AM through Wed PM). More of the same on Friday but only at 15 kts and then building stronger by Saturday mid-day with stronger high pressure building in and north winds to 25 kts just off San Francisco up to Cape Mendocino late. Southern CA to remain barely protected on Saturday by not likely by Sunday (5/22) as the local gradient starts to kick in with 25-30 kts northwest winds nearshore for all of North and Central CA pushing over the Channel Islands. Monday some slight moderation is forecast as low pressure builds off the Pacific Northwest with northwest winds finally dying on Tuesday (5/24) but likely to be replaced by south winds on Wednesday as the next gale moves up to the CA coast. It's the never ending wet winter.
On Tuesday (5/17) the second in a series of gales was impacting the southern tip of New Zealand. This gale previous produced 45 kt southwest winds and up to 40 ft seas at 18Z on Monday at 47S 155E aimed reasonably well up into the Tasman Sea and offering the hint of decent swell for Fiji. But by Tuesday what was left of it was trying to reorganize south of New Zealand with 35 kt southwest winds holding on. Additional energy is to be moving into the area over the evening and by Wednesday AM (5/18) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds is forecast at 52S 176E. 36 ft seas building at 52S 175E as well. In the evening 45 kt southwest winds to be moving northeast to 49S 173W with 38 ft seas at 49S 175W (210 degrees NCal and just barely moving into the Tahiti swell shadow and on the 213 degree route to SCal and in the middle of the shadow - 190 degs HI). By Thursday AM (5/19) 45 kt southwest winds to barely be hanging on with 38 ft seas over a most modest area at 46S 164W (208 degs NCal and totally shadowed - 210 degs SCal and on the eastern edge of the shadow - 185 degs HI and aimed east of there). A quick fade is forecast there after with the core of the system tarting to fall southeast and no fetch left aimed northeast to US interests. some degree of small utility class swell could result if all goes as planned.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (5/18) near 8 AM with period 20 sec and size on the increase. Swell up to 3.4 ft @ 19 secs late (6-7 ft with bigger sets). Swell to be building solid through the evening and into Thursday AM (5/19) peaking from 10 AM to 10 PM. Pure swell expected at 4.3-4.7 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.3-8.5 ft faces with occasional sets to 9.1-10.6 ft). Swell to hold solid into early Friday (5/20) near 4.5 ft @ 16 secs (7 ft faces with sets to 9 ft) then dropping off as the day progresses with period down to 15 secs by sunset. Residual swell on Saturday at 4 ft @ 15 secs early (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) with period dropping to the 14 secs range late. Residuals on Sunday AM at 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 182-190 degrees
Low pressure starting to get a foothold Tuesday AM at 63S 137W at 948 mbs. A broad fetch of 40+ kt west-southwest winds developed at 59S 150W and seas were building. By Tuesday evening up to 45-50 kt south-southwest winds took hold at 60S 133W aimed 20 degrees east of the 187 degree great circle path up to California. This was all be well east of any path to Hawaii. Seas built to 32 ft at 58S 142W. On Wednesday AM (5/11) the fetch was moderating some but still patches of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled in the general area of 52S 123-140W with seas building to 36 ft at 53S 130W pushing 30 degrees east of the 183 degree path to California. In the evening a secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest fetch took hold at 48S 130W with 42 ft seas from previous fetch modeled at 50S 135W aimed pretty well up the 188 degree path to California. The Jason-1 satellite made 2 passes over this area and confirmed seas exactly like what the models were suggesting. By Thursday AM (5/12) 35-40 kts winds were fading while pushing northeast at 48S 128W with 38 ft seas at 44S 125W pushing 30 degree east of the 182 degree path to California. By evening most fetch is to be pushing out of the California swell window and fading with residual seas of 34 ft hanging near 45S 120W. In all, some degree of decent sized (small significant class) swell from a very southerly angle swell seems possible for California. But better potential is likely for Peru and Chile extending up into Panama.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting on Wed (5/18) near noon with period 20 secs and size building and rideable (2 ft @ 20 secs - 4 ft faces) with period dropping at 9 PM to 19 sec and size on the increase. Swell to be building solid through the day Thursday (5/19) peaking from sunset into 4 AM Friday. Pure swell expected at 4.3-4.7 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.3-8.5 ft faces with occasional sets to 9.1-10.6 ft) Swell to hold solid through Friday near 4.5 ft @ 16+ secs (7 ft faces with sets to 9 ft) then be tapering off late. Residuals on Saturday with swell 4 ft @ 15 secs early (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and heading down. Swell of 3 ft @ 14 secs (4 ft) to linger into Sunday AM (5/22) then fading out. Swell Direction: 180-188 degrees
On Saturday (5/14) another gale was organizing from the remnants of Storm #1S in the deep Southeast Pacific with pressure 944 mbs and 45-50 kt south-southwest winds at 65S 140W with seas building from 28 ft near there. In the evening fetch dropped from to 40-45 kts over a solid area at 60S 130W with 32 ft seas building at 57S 135W. Fetch was retracting Sunday AM (5/15) but still 40 kts at 57S 122W with seas holding at 32 ft at the same locale (180-182 degrees relative to CA and pushing 25 degrees east of there). A quick fade of the gale occurred afterwards with residual 30 ft seas at 55S 119W and effectively out of the CA swell window. There's some potential for decent southerly angled swell pushing up into CA starting in SCal on Monday (5/23) AM with period 17 secs near noon (swell 2.3 ft @ 17 secs - 4 ft faces from 189 degrees). NCal to see the 17 sec component of this swell starting near 5 PM with longer period energy starting about mid-day. Better energy for Chile up into Central America.
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 yet another weak gale is to form off the Pacific Northwest on Mon (5/23) with 30 kt northwest winds and edging up to the North CA coast within 24 hours. At least some windswell seems possible from it. At the same lime another gale is to be tracking northeast up into the northern Gulf of Alaska, likely having no fetch aimed at the US West Coast. These also are to be byproducts of the Active Phase of the MJO as it pushes east across the Pacific and fades out.
As of Tuesday (5/17) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was barely in positive territory, down from a few days ago. The daily SOI was up to 0.48. The 30 day average was down to 3.45 with the 90 day average down some at 16.83. This was the lowest the monthly SOI has been since July 1, 2010, the start of La Nina and was still heading down. But to put things in perspective, the whole of 2009 was mostly lower than where the 30 day average is now (but that was an El Nino year). So at least were are starting to make inroads towards neutral territory - a good thing.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (5/16) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated the Active Phase of the MJO had maxing out and it's remnants were in control of the entire Pacific with westerly anomalies covering the entire equatorial Pacific basin. It is expected to continue slowly fading while holding control of the Pacific through 5/21, then dissipating. At the same time the Inactive Phase is already building in the Indian Ocean and is reasonably strong. It is to continue organizing to moderate levels before starting to seep east into the far West Pacific on 5/21 reaching the dateline on 5/26 then fading there into 6/5. These recent oscillations continue to be forecast moderately strong and fast moving.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/12) 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 in fits and spurts. 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 started to make a faint showing at 140W again and held through 5/16, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. We expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the current 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 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.
We did some analysis on ocean currents on the Pacific equator this year an found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through May 2011. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that coupled with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely to impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs.
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 a series of generally small and fleeting gales are forecast trying to push under New Zealand but all aligned on the non-preferred west to east axis, leaving little fetch aimed up to the north and meaning little odds of swell pushing into our forecast area. A larger system is forecast for the extreme Southeastern Pacific on Mon-Tues (5/24) with up to 42 ft seas, but all fetch is to be tracing almost due east leaving little chance for swell to radiate north. Chile and Peru might do well though.
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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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
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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