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 Sunday (7/17) North and Central California was seeing remnant southwest swell was occasionally thigh to waist high with light northwest winds in effect making for some texture early. Down south southern hemi swell was maybe knee to thigh high and clean. Southern California was getting next to no locally generated northwest windswell up north at maybe knee high and lightly textured early. Down south rare southern hemi sets were thigh high and glassy early. 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 chest high with some shoulder high sets and glassy early with Tasman Sea swell hitting.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific was doing it's usual summer thing, which was sleeping. High pressure in the east but no pressure gradient along the California coast with Typhoon Ma-On in the west. Down south a pulse of swell filtered by Fiji has sort of hit Hawaii providing rideable surf but nothing more, and is to limp into the US West Coast starting late Tues (7/19). After that there no glae energy or great is forecast tracking through the South Pacific and pushing north towards US interests. Whatever there is is to form in the East Pacific tracking flat to the east targeting only Chile. looks most quiet indeed.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Sunday (7/17) high pressure at 1028 mbs remained positioned in the Western Gulf of Alaska 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and 1500 nmiles west of North CA. It was not ridging into the North and Central CA coast offering no northwest windswell there but was generating trades at 15 kts over Hawaii making for very modest easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Typhoon Ma-On was tracking north towards Southern Japan with winds 100 kts and on the increase modestly. Otherwise no other swell producing fetch was in effect. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast other than high pressure holding building in the East to 1032 mbs and starting to nudge up the the US West Coast perhaps building some modest windswell by Wednesday for Central CA. Trades to continue for Hawaii offering modest windswell there too.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (7/17) Typhoon Ma-On now located 450 nmiles south of Southern Japan with winds at 100 kts and building, expected to peak Monday AM at 120 kts and positioned 250 nmiles south of Southern Japan. It is to skirt the coast south of Kyoto on Tuesday (7/19) with winds down to 100 kts then push east towards open waters becoming free and clear of land by Thursday (7/21) with winds down to 65 kts, barely typhoon strength. The GFS model has it's remnants rebuilding off Central Japan late Fri (7/22) with winds in the 40-45 kts range aimed well to the east and lifting north, off of Northern Japan Sunday AM (7/24). a tiny area of 30-32 ft seas are forecast Sat-Sun (7/24) offering a smidgeon of hope for swell for the PAcific Northwest and maybe down to Central CA. But that is really just an optimistic guess.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (7/17) weak low pressure was off Cape Mendocino at 1010 mbs while high pressure at 1030 mbs was locked in the far Western Gulf of Alaska offering near calm wind conditions for California coastal waters. More of the same is forecast on Monday too. By Tuesday low pressure is to start clearing out and a weak northerly flow is to settle in for all exposed waters with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient starting to reform Wednesday as high pressure gets the opportunity to ridge closer to the CA coast. North winds to be building to 25 kts over the Cape Mendo area Thursday with 15 kt north winds nearshore for all of North and Central CA waters through Friday, then collapsing as more low pressure starts moving into Pacific Northwest waters over the weekend. But 15 kt north winds to continue nearshore for North and Central CA through the weekend.
On Sunday (7/19) the jetstream was split over its length with the southern branch totally running inland over Antarctica forming a fully cutoff upper level low there and offering no support for gale development over South Pacific waters. Over the next 72 hours that cutoff low is to continue circulating over Antarctica south of the Southeast Pacific and still damping support for gale development. Beyond 72 hrs that low is to wash out while in the west the the southern branch of the jet is to show signs of recovery starting to form a trough under New Zealand and building to the east on Fri (7/22) though very weak with winds only in the 100 kt range. No real support for decent gale development expected on into Sun (7/24).
At the surface on Sunday (7/17) virtually no gales of interest were occurring, with no fetch in excess of 30 kts across the entire South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same situation is forecast, with only fragmented fetch building to 35-40 kts on Wed (7/20) in both the east and west. Seas barely 30 ft in patches and of no real interest.
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 to continue hitting Hawaii on Monday (7/18) in the 2.6 ft @ 15 secs range (4 ft faces) and slowly fading, down to 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs on Tuesday (7/19). Dribbles Wednesday fading from at 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). 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 continue at 1032 mbs ridging into the US West Coast slightly offering a modest pressure gradient along the Cape Mendocino coast with north winds there at 25 kts Wed-Fri (7/22), with small windswell the result for exposed breaks in Central CA. But that is to fade later Friday as low pressure builds in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. Of somewhat more interest is to be the remnants of Typhoon Ma-On, expected to rebuild some off Japan on Fri (7/23) with 45 kt west winds and lifting north producing a small area of 30-32 ft seas aimed a bit up the great circle tracks to US interests. Maybe some tiny swell to result with luck.
As of Sunday (7/17) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading up. The daily SOI was up to 21.42. The 30 day average was up to 6.85 with the 90 day average down some to 4.40. 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 but no response has been received. 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 neutral winds over the remaining of the tropics indicating the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control 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 evaporated in late February, but have since returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) remains locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. There is some data that now indicates they are sinking deeper (previously 65 meters from the surface) and are moving east some, a better sign. Still it looks like it will take a major burst of westerly winds and a solid Kelvin wave to unlodge this blockade (which is 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 fleeting small areas of 45 kt westerly fetch building in the mid-South Pacific tracking due east but offering no fetch aimed to the north. Maybe 32-34 ft seas to result Sat-Sun (7/24) but all targeting Chile and maybe Peru only. 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