Swell Classification Guidelines
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 Thursday (6/23) North and Central California was seeing chest to shoulder high locally generated northwest windswell mixed with small waist high southern hemi background swell with eddy flow southerly winds and heavy texture on top. Southern California had thigh high northwest windswell sets up north and clean. Down south occasional waist high southern hemi sets were hitting but with fairly textured eddy flow south winds on top. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had waist high high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore was seeing Swell #5S with sets 1 ft overhead and fairly clean with moderate trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
In the North Pacific the local California pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino is starting to reactivate and expected to hold through Sat AM (6/25) providing some windswell, then backing off steadily and almost dying later Sunday and holding there well into next week. Down south a gale developed under New Zealand Wed-Thurs (6/16) then lifted northeast with seas in the 36-38 ft range. Significant class Swell #5S started pushing into Hawaii on Tues (6/21) with unshadowed but very modest sized swell expected for the US West Coast by Friday (6/24) into the weekend. The remnants of Storm #5S continued to circulate in the deep Central Pacific with a second pulse of 36 ft seas on Friday PM (6/17) and yet another pulse to 34 ft on Sun AM (6/19), but mostly aimed due east. Background follow-on swell possible mainly for the US West coast on down into Mexico through early next week. Otherwise a complete shutdown of the southern hemi is occurring and expected to hold through at least 7/1.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (6/23) high pressure at 1028 mbs was anchored over the Eastern Pacific ridging into Cape Mendocino CA forming a pressure gradient over the North CA coast with northwest winds to 25 kts and 20 kt north winds reaching down to Morro Bay, resulting in building northwest windswell pushing down into the Central CA coast. This high was also driving 15 kt trades over the Hawaiian Islands and generating some rideable short period easterly windswell at exposed east facing breaks. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build some more with the pressure gradient along the North CA coast surging some through Saturday (6/25) with north winds up to 25-30 kts resulting in increasing north windswell for Central CA. Trades to remain at 15 to near 20 kts over Hawaii with increased odds for easterly windswell generation (see QuikCASTs). But by Sunday the gradient over CA is to start fading while trades hold over the Islands. No other swell producing weather systems are forecast with a summer-time pressure pattern in effect.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity of interest is being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/23) high pressure at 1026 mbs remained positioned 600 nmiles west of Northern CA with a second lobe west of it and forming the usual pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino and 25 kt northwest winds there with 20 kt north winds reaching down to near Morro Bay. The gradient is to continue building on Friday (6/24) with 25-30 kt north winds forecast from Cape Mendo down to Monterey Bay (and 20 kt winds down to Pt Conception) and holding into at least mid-day Saturday. Chop and local windswell to be the name of the game. The gradient is to start retreating on Sunday with winds over Central CA waters down to 15-20 kts. And then on Monday (6/27) the model actually depicts a weak low pressure system dropping into the Pacific Northwest coast cutting into the gradient and weakening it more while shunting it south, then it is to be gone by Tuesday. But high pressure is to try and make a play to push back into the coast on Thursday, but additional low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska is looking to hold it at bay with north winds along the coast over a very shallow area only 15-20 kts.
On Thursday (6/23) the jetstream was pushing hard to the south from a point west of New Zealand forming a ridge reaching well into mainland Antarctica and then sweeping east from there, eliminating any odds for gale formation over the whole of the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours that ridge is to continue, though fading some in terms of energy levels with the southern branch of the jet running flat west to east over the northern edge of Antarctica (70S) and completely suppressing the potential for gale formation across the entire South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with reinforcing jetstream energy pushing the jet well to the south raking Antarctica and offering no troughs capable of supporting gale formation through Wed (6/29). there's some suggestions of a trough starting to form under New Zealand after that, but that is just a preliminary guess by the models.
At the surface on Thursday (6/23) high pressure at 1032 mbs was locked southeast of New Zealand reaching down to nearly 70S and putting a cap on gale formation there with no fetch greater than 30 kts anywhere in the South Pacific. No swell generation potential was evident. Over the next 72 hours that high pressure system is to track slowly east-northeast and weaken some, ending up in the Central Pacific reaching down to 60S and still suppressing significant gale formation. A cutoff low is to try and organize northeast of it on Sun (6/26) but no fetch of interest is to be aimed north. In short, no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Storm #5S - Hawaii
On Tuesday (6/14) a complex low pressure system was trying to organize just southeast of New Zealand generating a fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds just under the southern tip of NZ and getting traction on the oceans surface. Seas were building to 30 ft at 55S 168E (216 NCal and unshadowed, 201 HI). By evening the fetch was better defined at 40 kts and aimed almost due north with 30 ft seas holding at 52S 173E. By Wednesday AM (6/15) a solid fetch of 40-45 kt south winds were building just east of southern New Zealand resulting in 34 ft seas at 49S 177E pushing right up the 214 degree path to NCal (217 SCal) and well up the 197 degree path to HI. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the eastern periphery of the storm at 18Z and reported at 15 reading sea average at 28.9 ft with one reading to 34.8 where the model suggested 29 ft seas. The model was right on track. In the evening 40 kt south fetch continued pushing north with a tiny dot of 38 ft seas peaking at 48S 175W aimed right up the 214 degree path to NCal (unshadowed) 217 SCal and well up the 193 degree path to HI. Nice. Thursday AM (6/16) more 40-45 kt south fetch was blowing with a broad area of 34 ft seas at 42N 170W pushing right up the 213 degree path to NCal (unshadowed), the 215 degree path to SCal (becoming shadowed by Tahiti) and a bit east of the 188 degree path to Hawaii. By evening the core of this system was receding while starting to falling to the southeast with all swell generation potential fading off fast. Residual seas from previous fetch to 32 ft at 40S 165W (212 degs NCal and unshadowed, 215 degs SCal and shadowed, and pushed pretty well east of the 185 deg path to HI).
At this time it seems pretty certain that a decent push of southern hemi swell could be moving towards Hawaii from (4084 nmiles away) resulting in the best size there given it's close proximity, with lesser swell pushing towards California from 5663 nmiles away.
Hawaii: Swell dropping on Friday (6/24) from 3.0 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft faces) and heading down from there. Swell Direction: 188-196 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 6 PM Thursday (6/23) with period 19 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell to slowly be building through the day Friday (6/24) with pure swell building late afternoon to 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.0 ft faces with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to continue, peaking on Saturday AM (6/25) with pure swell 3.0 ft @ 16 secs early (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.0 ft). Decent 15 sec energy to continue into Sunday (6/26) at 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces), then fading. Swell Direction: 213-217 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting near 10 PM Thursday (6/23) with period 19 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell to slowly be building through the day Friday (6/24) with pure swell building near sunset to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs (4.0 ft faces with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to peak Saturday AM (6/25) with pure swell 3.0 ft @ 16 secs early (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.0 ft), with period settling down early afternoon. Decent 15 sec energy to continue into Sunday (6/26) at 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces), then fading. Swell Direction: 211-215 degrees
Storm #5S Reform
In the deep Central South Pacific on Friday (6/17) the remnants of Storm #5S tried to reform generating a decent sized fetch of 45 kt south winds during daylight hours resulting in the creation of a short-lived and small area of 36 ft seas Friday PM at 50S 154W. This should result in another pulse of backgrounds well pushing up into California Sunday AM (6/26) at 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 200-202 degrees. Even sideband swell could push up into Hawaii on Friday (6/24) at noon pushing 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) from 180 degrees.
Then again on Saturday AM (6/18) the remnants of Storm #5S were still circulating in the Central Pacific with 40 kt southwest fetch still at 51S 158W generating 29-30 ft seas at 48S 152W. Additional 40-45 kt southwest fetch built in the evening at 54S 152W resulting in more 29-30 ft seas at 52S 152W. Sunday AM (6/19) a solid fetch of 40-45 kts west-southwest winds developed at 49S 142W resulting in a tiny are of 34 ft seas at 49S 143W. By evening the fetch finally pushed fully west to east and fading with seas taking aim only on South America. Another pulse of background swell possible for California on Monday (6/27) at 8 AM down south and noon up to Monterey with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft faces) from 193-195 degrees. No energy expected from this pulse into Hawaii.
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 high pressure is to be retrograding east taking up a position over the Western Gulf of Alaska and eliminating the standard pressure gradient and north winds over Northern CA, meaning no or little northerly windswell is expected through Thurs (6/30). Relative to Hawaii trades to hold in the 15-20 kts range through Monday, but becoming shallower in depth before faltering altogether later on Tuesday (6/28) as the high retrogrades up into the Western Gulf. Windswell likely to hold till the trades fail.
As of Thursday (6/23) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued on the rise. The daily SOI was up to 15.04. The 30 day average was up slightly to 2.87 with the 90 day average up slightly to 10.34.
Wind anomalies as of Wednesday (6/22) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a neutral wind pattern indicative of neither the Active or Inactive Phase of the MJO. A tiny patch of easterly anomalies were over the Philippines, but that's it. A dead neutral pattern is to hold through 7/12. If anything, we suspect a bit of an Inactive Phase might be developing, though the models don't show it, but the SOI (above) does.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/23) is effectively unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Hawaii to the dateline but steadily loosing coverage. The larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and somewhat colder ones off Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. but for the most part, a subtle but steady warming of these band was in effect (6/23). This is typically what is referred to as a horseshoe pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure that built in over both hemispheres in the winter 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. Regardless, 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 are building over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there almost to the dateline and continue slowly increasing 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. Interestingly is the new emergence of a cold tongue of water in the tropical Atlantic, tracking west from Africa on the equator to nearly South America (the exact opposite of what's occurring in the tropical Pacific). For now the big picture still looks like a La Nina, though slowly fading and trying to turn neutral if not something more.
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 an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. Then 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 started flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies tracked from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W as of 5/1. On 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water started to make a faint showing at 140W and was holding through 6/5, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. On 5/26 it appeared more warm water was pushing through the subsurface current heading towards Central America, possible a new Kelvin Wave and the likely result of the latest Active Phase of the MJO. By 6/18 +1 degree anomalies covered the entire subsurface current other than one little break at 140-150W with up to 2 degree anomalies embedded in the larger flow in the west and east. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters in the east, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline, and continuing to get better by the day. 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 slow evolving.
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 June 2011 (a little weaker towards mid-June than earlier in the month). 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 if not 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. This suggest the warm waters currently pooling up off Ecuador will likely dissipate as summer progresses but at the same time, the cooler than normal horseshoe pattern over the North and South Pacific will dissipate too.
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 high pressure in the upper atmosphere is to continue controlling the weather scene down at the surface. A cutoff low in the Southeast Pacific is to continue circulating near 35S 130W possibly pushing 35 kt south fetch and 22 ft seas up into our forecast area with Hawaii possibly seeing some 13 sec period southeast swell from it, assuming it even forms as modeled. Towards Tuesday (6/28) there is some suggestion that multiple gales are to try and take a stand in the far Southwest Pacific southeast of New Zealand and possibly getting some traction and opening up the storm door a little, a good thing. But at the same time as we move into the core of Winter in the Southern Hemi, the Antarctic Ice sheet (Ross Ice Shelf) is to be building to the north, decreasing the area of ice free waters and decreasing the space for fetch to get traction on clear waters. In short, we're starting the usual battle between the Ice and Storm produced fetch.
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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KICK OFF TO SUMMER PARTY at the Mavericks Surf Shop on Saturday, June 18, from Noon to 5 p.m. There will be food, drinks, live music, product giveaways, a special showing of our new women's swimwear by Toes on the Nose, and our new summer line of Mavericks gear. We hope you can join us! 25 Johnson Pier, Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table