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 new energy from what was the big Fiji swell making waves waist high on occasion down south and clean early. Up north windswell was chest high and a little ragged Southern California was getting thigh high northwest windswell up north and blown. Down south rare southern hemi sets were knee to thigh high and glassy early. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist high plus easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had waist high leftover southern hemi sets and glassy with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific was generating high pressure that was trying to ridge into North and Central CA, but not quite there yet. Still minimal windswell was being generated there with a little more along Hawaii's East Shores. Typhoon Ma-On was raking Japans southerly coast. Down south swell filtered by Fiji was fading along Hawaii's South Shores and starting to provide something rideable for California. Otherwise no swell producing gale energy was occurring. Longer term a series of 2 gales are forecast tracking east through the Central and South Pacific in the next few days offering potential for some utility class swell for both Hawaii and the US mainland. Rideable maybe, but nothing more.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Tuesday (7/19) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned in the Central Gulf of Alaska 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and 1300 nmiles west of North CA. It was drifting east and just starting to ridge into the North and Central CA coasts offering only 15 kt northwest winds and minimal windswell generation potential. Trades were also blowing at 15 kts over Hawaii making for very modest easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Tropical Storm Ma-On was tracking east over South Central Japan with winds 55 kts and getting ready to pushing out into exposed waters of the West Pacific. Tropical Storm Dora was tracking west-northwest off the Southern Mexican coast, and well shadowed relative to CA. Otherwise no other swell producing fetch was in effect. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to ease east a little more setting up 25 kt northwest winds over Cape Mendocino and likely generating increase northwest windswell for Central CA. Wed-Fri (7/22). Trades to continue for Hawaii offering modest windswell there too into the weekend. Ma-On is to regenerate some (see details below). Tropical Storm Dora to eventually approach a point just west of Cabo San Lucas while fading.and of little interest.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (7/19) Tropical Storm Ma-On was tracking over the outer stretches of beach of South Central Japan with winds 55 kts. The forecast has it pushing east towards open waters Wednesday with winds 50 kts and becoming free and clear of land by Thursday (7/21) with winds maybe up to 55 kts. It is to be making a slow turn towards the northeast with winds 50 kts Fri (7/22) and accelerating to the northeast with winds fading to 40 kts by Sunday AM (7/24). A tiny area of 36 ft seas are forecast Sat-Sun (7/24) offering a smidgen of hope for swell for the Pacific Northwest and maybe down to Central CA (296-301 degs). But that remains just an optimistic guess at this time.
On Tuesday (7/19) Tropical Storm Dora was close to hurricane strength with winds estimated at 60 kts and positioned off the Southern Mexican coast, well east of the Southern CA swell window. Dora is forecast to continue slowly building strength while tracking west-northwest peaking Thursday with winds 110 kts, but still well shadowed. It is finally expected to move into the Southern CA swell window (Pt Dume west) starting Saturday AM (7/23) (152 degs) but winds fading fast, dying from 65 kts. Low odds of any swell of interest expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/19) weak low pressure that was off Cape Mendocino was moving out of the picture while high pressure at 1034 mbs locked in the Western Gulf of Alaska was starting to ridge to the east with a modest northerly flow starting to build over exposed waters. The Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is to be developing Wednesday as high pressure moves closer to the CA coast. North winds to be building to 25-30 kts over the Cape Mendo late Wednesday into Thursday and Friday with 15 kt north winds nearshore for all of North and Central CA waters, then starting to collapse through the day Saturday as low pressure again starts moving into Pacific Northwest waters. But 10-15 kt north winds to continue nearshore for North and Central CA through the weekend. As the low dissipates on Monday (7/25) there indications high pressure will return and the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient will again fire up on Tuesday (or at least start building) with chop and windswell again in the CA forecast.
On Tuesday (7/19) the jetstream remained split in the west but was consolidated in the far East, but diving southeast towards Southern Chile. A massive cutoff upper level low continued circulating over Antarctica just southwest of Chile, offering no support for surface level gale development. Over the next 72 hours that cutoff low is to push further south and dissipate while something that almost looks like a trough is to form over the Southeast Pacific. and a secondary trough is to form southeast of New Zealand. Wind speeds to not be impressive, but perhaps some support for gale development is possible. Beyond 72 hrs both trough are to fade as a new ridge tries to get established over the South Pacific pushing down to 62S and about over the northern extent of the Ross Ice Shelf, offering no open space for gale development.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/19) a weak and unorganized area of 35 kt southwest winds were tracking through the Central Pacific. Otherwise virtually no fetch of interest was present. Over the next 72 hours that fetch is to fade but a new one is to build directly behind it, with a tiny area of 45-50 kt southwest winds Tuesday evening and peaking Wed AM with 50 kts south-southwest winds holding and seas building to barely 30 ft at 49S 148W. This fetch is to hold while pushing east in the evening with seas building to 32 ft at 46S 140W. By Thursday AM (7/21) fetch is to be fading from 45 kts with seas peaking at 38 ft at 45S 132W. Fetch is to be nearly gone in the evening at 40 kts with seas fading from 36 ft at 41S 125W. This system is to be very small and positioned in the Southeast Pacific, outside the swell window for Hawaii. Most energy is to be aimed towards Chile and Peru with decent energy pushing northwards to Central America. Sideband utility class energy seems likely to result for California up the 185-190 degree paths (unshadowed by Tahiti)
Also on Wednesday (7/20) another far broader fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds is to push under New Zealand building in coverage even more in the evening. 30 ft seas are forecast to be building at 54S 180W (Wed PM). On Thursday the fetch is to continue tracking slightly northeast still at 40 kts aimed a mix of east and northeast and covering a good sized are with seas building to 33 ft at 52S 175W (190 degs HI, 210 degs NCal and 212 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti). The fetch is to actually become better focused in the wrapping around the core of the low at 952 mbs with seas still 34 ft at 51S 165W (185 degs HI, 208 degs NCAL and 210 degs SCal and still well shadowed). The fetch is to start fading Friday AM (7/22) and taking aim all west to east with a broad area of 32 ft seas at 49S 155W (179 degs HI, 202 degs NCal and 204 SCal) and becoming unshadowed but aimed less up to the north. By evening all remain fetch is to be aimed due east if not southeast, offering no swell potential for US interests. If this system comes to pass some degree of swell is likely to push up into the Islands and the US mainland, favoring the mainland regardless of the Tahitian swell shadow.
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: Small well filtered residual energy to be fading Wednesday from at 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 212-216 degrees.
California: See QuikCASTs for details.
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 retreat on Saturday (7/23) as low pressure again builds off the Pacific Northwest coast with local northwest windswell fading as a result. trades to hold in the 15 kts range for Hawaii through with easterly windswell continuing there into early Sunday, then fading there as well. There's some suggestions that low pressure is to be clearing out and high pressure rebuilding along the CA coast Tuesday (7/26) with northwest winds and windswell on the increase. Trades also on the increase over the Hawaiian Islands over the same timeframe.
As of Tuesday (7/19) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding steady. The daily SOI was at 18.96. The 30 day average was up to 8.53 with the 90 day average up some to 4.56. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind anomalies indicate westerly anomalies are in control over the Eastern Pacific, suggestive of the Active Phase of the MJO exiting there and moving into the Atlantic (notice the formation of tropical Storm Brett there) while easterly anomalies are building over the West and Central Pacific (and pretty strongly), suggestive of the building Inactive Phase there. The forecast as best we can decipher is for the existing pattern to hold for the next 2 weeks, with little movement in any direction. This would tend to favor suppression of storm development in the Southern Hemisphere, though the relationship between the MJO and storm formation in the Southern Hemi is not tightly coupled.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/18) 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 stabilized a little. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, but then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. There is now some data (July 19) that indicates these waters are sinking deeper (previously 65 meters from the surface) and are moving east some, and warming (-2 deg C) a better sign. Still it looks like it will take a burst of westerly winds and a solid Kelvin wave to unlodge this blockade (which is unlikely for the next 3 weeks). 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 high pressure is to take control of the upper reaches of the South Pacific pushing the wind vector on any weather system traversing that area well to the south, towards Antarctica. And even at that no real gale development is forecast and therefore no swell production of interest is forecast.
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