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 Monday (7/11) North and Central California was seeing northwest windswell at waist high and blown out with a thick marine layer in effect. Down south southern hemi swell was still hanging in there at shoulder high with some bigger sets and clean early. Southern California was getting locally generated northwest windswell up north at knee to thigh high and warbled but winds was not too bad. Down south southern hemi swell was chest to near head high on the sets and heavily textured if not warbled with afternoon eddy winds in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had thigh high easterly tradewind generated windswell and lightly chopped. The South Shore was thigh to waist high with southern hemi leftover sets and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is asleep for the summer. And the local North California pressure gradient is not in effect with high pressure entrenched off to the northwest offering no real northwest windswell. Swell from southern hemisphere Storm #7S is heading down, good for maybe one more day of surf on Friday (7/15) for CA before dissipating. Beyond another pulse of swell filtered by Fiji is expected into Hawaii by Friday 97/15) from a solid storm that moved up into the Tasman Sea Fri-Sat (7/9) with up to 48 ft seas. But the US mainland is to see only the faintest hints of it (impulse class swell) starting late Tues (7/19). After that there is only faint hints of a gale possibly forming under New Zealand and tracking somewhat to the northeast on Wed-Thurs (7/21), but seas to barely be 30 ft. In short, it looks like the core of summer is finally starting to take hold.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (7/14) high pressure at 1036 mbs remained positioned in the Western Gulf of Alaska or 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and 1500 nmiles west of North CA. It was barely ridging into the North and Central CA coast generating a steady 15 kt northwesterly flow over exposed waters with a light eddy flow (southwest breeze) down into Southern CA. It was also generating trades at 15 kts over Hawaii making for very modest easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Typhoon Ma-On was tracking through the Western Pacific. Otherwise no other swell producing fetch was in effect. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with high pressure holding at 1032 mbs and remaining locked in position over the Western Gulf offering only limited windswell potential for Hawaii but far less for Central CA.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (7/14) what was Tropical Depression 08W (located well northeast of Saipan) had matured in Typhoon Ma-On now located 350 nmiles north-northwest of Saipan with winds up to 100 kts heading due west (275 degs) at 12 kts. It is forecast to continue westward while gaining strength then start turning northeast on Saturday (7/16) while peaking, with winds at 125 kts and positioned 800 nmiles south of Kyoto Japan. it is to make a full turn to the north Monday into Tuesday (7/19) with winds down to 110 kts with landfall expected on extreme southern Japan that evening. The GFS model has it's remnants possibly tracking over Central japan then pushing east off there on Thurs (7/21) and regrouping, though that seems like an optimistic outcome based on similar tracked storms this season. All previous ones have not successfully survived the journey even to the dateline. No swell production is projected for our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/14) high pressure at 1034 mbs was locked in the Western Gulf of Alaska and filling the East Pacific driving a modest but shallow northwesterly flow at 15 kts down the North and Central CA coast. A light eddy flow was in control of Southern CA waters. Weak low pressure was over the Pacific Northwest coast. No change or if anything, lighter winds are forecast through the weekend (7/17) as a result of low pressure holding over the Pacific Northwest and working it's way south, resulting in nearshore warble and only very limited 6-7 sec period local windswell for North and Central CA. By Monday (7/18) low pressure is to start clearing out and there's suggestions that the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient might start to reform as high pressure gets the opportunity to ridge closer to the CA coast. North winds to be building to 15-20 kts over all of North and Central CA waters on Tuesday and pushing 20-25 kts by Thursday (7/21). Increased low windswell possible, but also chop and warble.
On Thursday (7/14) the jetstream was mostly split over its length and generally weak. The one exception was a slight trough in the far West Pacific where the southern branch almost reached up to the northern branch just east of New Zealand. But wind speeds were very weak. No support for gale development was evident. Over the next 72 hours a little more energy is to be flowing up into the trough by Friday with winds to 150 kts, but fading quickly 24 hours out. No real support for gale development indicated. All the while a huge ridge is to be controlling the Central and Eastern Pacific pushing well into Antarctica and totally shutting down gale potential there. Beyond 72 hrs the trough in the west is to wash out while in the east the huge ridge there is to continue circulating over Antarctica and eliminating any potential for gale development there through Thurs (7/21). There's some suggestions the ridge could be fading a week out, offering a better environment for gale development, but that is more of a guess than anything.
At the surface on Thursday (7/14) virtually no gales of interest were in-play, with no fetch in excess of 30 kts across the entire South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same situation is forecast, through slightly more organized low pressure is forecast developing south of New Zealand. But fetch is to not exceed 35 kts.
Swell #7S - California
Another storm developed southeast of New Zealand on Sunday AM (7/3) with 50 kt west winds in place resulting in a small area of 34 ft seas at 56S 174E all aimed due east an nothing pushing to the north. In the evening 50 kt westerly fetch was pushing east to southeast with 36 ft seas building at 56S 170W, shadowed by Tahiti relative to CA. Monday AM (7/4) the fetch was split and trying to reorganize with a small area of 50-55 kt west winds building resulting in a tiny area of 38 ft seas at 56S 155W again all pushing due east but moving out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA. In the evening the fetch was still fragmented with some starting to move over Antarctic Ice and a secondary fetch building to the west and aimed more to the northeast at 50 kts resulting in 36 ft seas at 57S 142W. The main fetch dissipated Tues AM (7/5) with 40-45 kt lingering southwest winds trying to hold on. Seas from previous fetch were at 38 ft at 55S 133W and totally unshadowed. Finally in the evening 40 kt fetch was aimed pretty well to the north, but loosing it's areal coverage with 35 ft seas at 52S 128W. 35-40 kt fetch was fading Wed AM (7/6) with 33 ft seas fading at 49S 126W.
Some very limited sideband swell is expected for Hawaii starting Tues (7/12) [see QuikCASTs for details]. Better size is forecast for California attributable mainly to the resurgence of the fetch on late Mon-early Tues (7/5) when the fetch was aimed a little bit better to the northeast with most size pushing into Southern CA. Decent significant class size to result mainly for Southern CA.
Southern CA: Swell fading from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces) Fri AM (7/15) and dropping from there. 13 sec residuals Sat AM. Swell Direction: 193-195 degrees
North CA: Swell fading from 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft faces) Fri AM (7/15) and dropping from there. 13-14 sec residuals Sat AM. Swell Direction: 190-192 degrees
On Thurs PM (7/8) a new storm started building under Southern Australia resulting in 40 ft seas building at 56S 130E, totally outside the US swell window but on the 212 degree route to Hawaii through totally shadowed by Fiji. The storm peaked on Friday AM (7/8) with seas hitting 48 ft at 51S 136E on the 216 degree path to Hawaii and again shadowed by Fiji. In the evening 47 ft seas moved to 47S 147E barely on the 216 degree path to Hawaii and still obstructed by Fiji. On Sat AM (7/9) residual seas of 42 ft were indicated moving up the Tasman Sea at 43S 157E on the 212 degree path to Hawaii and still obstructed. By evening this system was pushing into New Zealand with seas fading fast.
Hawaii: Some degree of filtered energy is expected into Hawaii starting Fri (7/15) near sunrise building to 2 ft @ 19-20 secs by sunset (4 ft faces). Swell to peak Saturday (7/16) at 2.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) Solid energy to continue on Sunday at 2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to near 6 ft) and holding through the day. Residuals in the 2.7 ft @ 15 secs range (4 ft faces with sets to maybe 5 ft) to continue Monday (7/18) and slowly fading. Swell Direction: 212-216 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 it's position and strength at 1032 mbs, but not moving east any with weak low pressure off the Pacific Northwest and holding the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino at bay. It is to continue producing north winds at 15 kts pushing down the California coast through Mon (7/18) offering only more modest 7 sec period northwest windswell and warbled conditions for exposed breaks. Trades to continue in the 15+ kt range for Hawaii offering modest easterly windswell in the 7-8 sec range. Beyond Tuesday (7/19) it looks like low pressure to move out of Pacific Northwest waters with a return of the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient expected and increasing but still modest northerly windswell for Central CA. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
As of Thursday (7/14) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI was up to 20.6. The 30 day average was up to 2.3 with the 90 day average down some to 4.3. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Wind anomalies are not available. We wrote the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to try and get the data refreshed and have since learned that they have re-hosted the computers that produced that product, and the meteorologist who produced the key charts has no time to re-configure the system. We have written NOAA to see if a back up can be established. In the mean time we will use far less detailed data to interpret real-time wind conditions. Latest data suggest weak easterly anomalies over the West Pacific with stronger westerly anomalies over the East Pacific indicative of a fading Active Phase existing over Central America and and building Inactive Phase of the MJO over the Philippines. Over the next 2 weeks the models suggest a stationary pattern, with the last of the Active Phase exiting over Central America through 7/28 with the Inactive Phase peaking over the Philippines through 7/25, then loosing some steam but not budging one inch to the east. All this suggests a configuration not supportive of storm development.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/14) remains 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 and holding steady. 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. This is typically what is referred to as a horseshoe pattern. Warmer than normal waters continue slowly 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 have taken a turn for the worse. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator which then evaporated in late February have returned. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) has again re-established itself at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. They reach up to 65 meters from the surface too. it will take a major burst of westerly winds and a solid Kelvin wave to unlodge this blockade (unlikely). This suggests that another year of La Nina is imminent.
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 no real gale development is forecast. There's suggestion of a weak gale forming under New Zealand on Wed (7/20) with 40 kt west-southwest winds forming 30 ft seas late, but it is to fade while tracking east. No swell of interest is to result for our forecast area.
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
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