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 (6/30) North and Central California was seeing the start of new northerly local windswell with waves up to maybe chest high at exposed breaks and clean early, but quickly getting hacked as the pressure gradient builds along the coast. No surf was occurring at south facing breaks. Southern California was effectively flat up north. Down south rare residual southern hemi swell was still producing an occasional waist to chest high wave or two, with southerly eddy winds building in as the day went on. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a little waist high northwest swell pushing in with textured conditions. The East Shore had maybe a few knee high or so easterly tradewind generated sets and chopped. The South Shore had few knee to thigh high sets and and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
In the North Pacific a gale crossed over the northern dateline last Sunday (6/26) producing 24 ft seas but a longs ways away and tucked well up to the north. Minimal swell to hit Hawaii on the Central CA region later Friday (7/1) and buried in windswell. The standard local California pressure gradient is rebuilding and is to be solid by Saturday, holding through the weekend and well into next week, with windswell from it pushing down into Central and maybe even Southern CA. A shutdown of the southern hemi is over with a new little gale tracking northeast alongside of New Zealand with 32-34 ft seas with a larger one forecast developing behind it Thursday evening (6/30) and also tracking northeast along New Zealand through Saturday with seas in the 34-36 ft range. And yet another one to follow behind it, but tracking flat east and just off the Ross Ice Shelf offering far less swell potential for the Northern Hemi irrespective of it's forecast 46 ft seas. At least we're back in business.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Previously on Sunday (6/26) a gale pushed over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians producing a tiny area of up to 35 kt west winds just shy of the Aleutians resulting in 24 ft seas at 50N 178E for 18 hours, good for maybe some swell into Central CA starting Fri (7/1) at 3 ft @ 13 secs (4.0 ft faces) holding at 4.0 ft @ 11 secs into Saturday (7/2) (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 305 degrees.
At the surface on Thursday (6/30) high pressure at 1024 mbs was positioned 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii and starting to produce the usual pressure gradient pushing into North and Central CA with north winds there at 20 kts resulting in small but building local windswell but with chopped conditions. But the high was still a bit too far to the north to generate trades of any magnitude pushing over Hawaii. Another weak late season low pressure system was nestled up in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, but offering no fetch of interest. Over the next 72 hours high pressure and the local pressure gradient over North and Central CA is to be the only feature of interest, easing east and pushing into Oregon and North CA early Friday (7/1) with pressure 1028 mbs and starting to set up a building pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino. North winds building there to 25 kts Saturday pushing to near 30 kts on Sunday (7/3) with north windswell on the rise. Hopes for development of a local eddy along the Central CA coast are now gone, with the fetch snuggled right up to the coast. Trades to remain light over the Hawaiian Islands with windswell small to non-existent, but fetch from the CA gradient is to be making slow but steady progress towards the Islands.
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 (6/30) high pressure at 1028 mbs was starting to rebuild towards the east with the all-too-familiar pressure gradient starting to build over Central and North CA signaling the return of north winds, windswell and chop for exposed breaks. The gradient is to build Friday with 25 kt north winds over outer waters and 15-20 kt north winds nearshore, holding Saturday and pushing to near 30 kts Sunday. Any hope for a nearshore eddy flow (southerly winds) seems remote now. More of the same on Monday, then finally on Tuesday (7/5) the gradient is to shift north (over Cape Mendocino) with winds still 25+ kts but with an eddy flow (south winds) in control off all of Central and Southern CA. The same pattern to hold through Wednesday but with winds near 30 kts. Windswell the expected result Sat-Wed with improving conditions as we pass July 5th. By Thursday (7/7) the gradient is to still be in-place but the winds vector is to be aimed more towards Hawaii, directing less windswell towards Central CA but with improving conditions.
On Thursday (6/30) the jetstream was still ridging well to the south over the Southeastern Pacific pushing into mainland Antarctica eliminating any odds for gale formation there. But a small trough that developed under New Zealand 2 days ago was continuing to hold it's own, arching up to near 40S over the Central Pacific with up to 120 kt winds feeding into it though rather fragmented in it's flow, offering a bit more support for gale formation over the Western Pacific. This was likely the peak of this event. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to try and hold on, maybe last into Friday (7/1) but with wind speeds on the decrease. Some more support for gale development is possible at the oceans surface. But by Saturday (7/2) a new ridge is to start building under New Zealand with winds 140 kts and pushing east down to 65S, likely putting an abrupt end to any support for gale formation. Beyond 72 hrs reinforcements are to be building in behind this ridge pushing is well to the south, driving the flow deep into Antarctica by Wed (7/6) and eliminating any odds for gale development at the surface.
At the surface on Thursday (6/30) high pressure had broken over the West Pacific and gale formation was at hand. A primer gale starting to form southeast of New Zealand Tues PM (6/28) with 40 kt southwest winds building, then lifted hard north Wednesday with 45 kt south winds in control. A tiny area of 32 ft seas had developed Wednesday PM (6/29) at 48S 168W (208 degs NCal - 210 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti - 187 degs HI) building to barely 34 ft over a tiny area Thursday AM at 41S 166W (210 degs NCal - 212 degs SCal and still barely shadowed - 187 degs HI). By evening 40-45 kt south winds to still be holding with 32 ft seas well to the north at 36S 158W (208 degs NCal - 210 SCal and still barely shadowed - 185 degs HI). By Friday AM (7/1) 40 kt southwest winds to continue but the core of the low is to be tracking due east rather than northeast, producing more 32 ft seas at 32S 149W and very close to Tahiti (800 nmiles away) but most energy to be pushing due east now and bypassing any route to the Islands or the US West Coast. The net result is large utility class swell for Hawaii with small background swell likely for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (7/5) at sunset with pure swell maybe 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces). Swell to build overnight and be peaking at sunrise Wed (7/6) with pure swell 3.3-3.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.7 ft faces with sets to 7.0-7.5 ft) and holding through the day as period drops solidly to 16 secs and pure swell size creeps up another few inchs. Swell fading on Thurs (7/7) from 3.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces early). Swell Direction: 187 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 high pressure is to hold, ridging into Oregon and Washington continuing the usual pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast and producing north winds at 25-30 kts Monday and continuing unabated through Wednesday (7/6) with a eddy flow (southerly winds) easing into Central CA on Tuesday. Northwest windswell holding at exposed north facing breaks in Central CA. The gradient is to fade some by Thursday (7/7) and tilt more towards the southwest with winds down to 25 kts offering less windswell potential for the CA area (but with better conditions) and start favoring Hawaii with 15 kt easterly fetch starting to reach the Islands then and holding through Friday. Limited east-northeast windswell possible for East Shores then.
As of Thursday (6/30) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down slightly. The daily SOI was down to -6.54. The 30 day average was down slightly to 0.92 with the 90 day average down slightly to 8.15.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (6/27) (no update on Thurs) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated winds blowing anomalously mildly from the east covering from the dateline into the northern Indian Ocean suggesting the presence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Weak easterly anomalies and the Inactive Phase is to hold over the Philippines 7/2, than start dissipating on 7/7 and gone by 7/12 with a neutral pattern in place by 7/17. There's some fragments of westerly anomalies forecast then over the Indian Ocean through 7/7 suggestive of the Active Phase, but exceedingly weak and small and fading.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (6/30) 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 Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. For the most part, a subtle but steady warming of these band was in effect (6/30) with the band off Chile the warmer of the two. 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 northern hemi as of lately 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 things remain unchanged from previous reports. 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 drove Kelvin Waves. 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, 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. Nothing has changed since then through 6/28. 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 a second stronger gale is forming in the trough under New Zealand with 45 kt southwest winds Thursday AM (6/30) building over the Ross Ice shelf and moving into ice free waters. This fetch to build in areal coverage and aimed more to the northeast in the evening generating 34 ft seas over a solid area at 56S 170E. 40-45 kt southwest winds to hold Friday AM (7/1) with a new core developing to the east of it resulting in 36 ft seas at 52S 180W (213 degs NCal - 211 degs SCal and unshadowed). 40 kt fetch to hold in the evening but shrinking with winds near the core of the gale to 50 kts but pulled east of the main fetch resulting in 34 ft seas at 46S 172W (212 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). The fetch is to be fading fast Saturday AM (7/2) from 35 kts and displaced from the core to the east of it resulting in more 32 ft seas at 44S 163W (206 degs NCal and totally shadowed) and fading. The fetch is to be gone by the evening with seas fading below the critical 30 ft threshold. This is a bit of a downgrade from previous forecast, attributable mainly to the forecast separation of the initial fetch and the secondary core. If all this comes to pass a decent pulse of significant class swell could result for Hawaii with decent sized utility class swell for California. Will monitor.
Beyond a storm is to form under New Zealand tracking flat west-to-east Sun-Thurs (7/7) with 45-50 kt west-southwest winds moving right over the seam of the Ross Ice Shelf and open waters to the north. Much of this fetch is to be obstructed by Antarctic Ice. Even at that, 46 seas are forecast at 59S 150W on Monday (7/4) but again aimed towards Southern Chile at best. Something to monitor.
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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table