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 Tuesday (7/26) North and Central California was seeing chest high locally generated northwest windswell with southwesterly wind on it at 5 kts early. South facing breaks were thigh high or so and clean. Southern California was getting knee to thigh high northwest windswell and clean up north. Down south it was near flat with heavy texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat (knee high) and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had thigh high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had thigh to waist high background swell at top breaks and glassy early with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The Northeast Pacific high pressure system was rebuilding along the US West Coast starting to generate northwest winds at 15-20 kts over outer waters and starting to produce minimal northwest short period windswell. The high was also ridging south towards Hawaii producing trades at 15 kts there and improving odds for small easterly windswell along east facing shores. Small swell from what was Typhoon Ma-On near Japan and 4002 nmiles from California was theoretically in the water pushing towards the US mainland. By Wednesday (7/27) the North Pacific high pressure system is to be in control starting to generate north winds and windswell from Cape Mendocino and forecast to hold solid through Friday, then backing off a little for the weekend. And yet another Typhoon is forecast forming and following a path similar to Ma-On late in the week. Down south a small but decent gale tracked east-northeast through the Southeast Pacific on Thurs (7/21) with seas to 38 ft offering hope for small swell for California by late in the workweek (7/29). Also another gale formed southeast of New Zealand Thurs-Fri (7/21-22) with 30-32 ft seas tracking northeast. Some small swell for Hawaii possible by Thurs (7/28) with tiny swell for CA by Sun (7/31). Beyond a tiny gale developed alongside of New Zealand Mon AM (7/25) and is tracking east-northeast with 34 ft seas and is to hold into Wednesday. Small swell for Hawaii to result with minimal energy for the US West coast. And yet another one is forecast emerging under New Zealand on Wed (7/27) with 32 ft seas over a larger area lifting east-northeast, but fading 30 hrs later. More background swell for Hawaii and less for the US West coast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Tuesday (7/26) high pressure at 1028 mbs was pushing east and starting to form the usual pressure gradient and north winds to 20 kts along the coast of North and Central CA. It was also starting to fuel slightly increased easterly tradewinds pushing over Hawaii at 15 kts. Minimal short period windswell was marginally on the increase in both locations. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to continue tracking east a little more impacting the West Coast of North America forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with winds up to 25 kts by Wednesday and 30 kts by Thursday into early Friday. Northern windswell on the increase for North and Central CA then. Trades to rebuild slightly over Hawaii over that time period too at 15 kts offering small windswell generation potential along eastern shores. The models suggest a tropical system is to develop just east of the Philippines Wed-Thurs then lifting north. This region has been very productive this year, attributable to persistent westerly anomalies and warmer than normal water there. Regardless, the storm track has not been favorable for the US West Coast in that none of these system recurve significantly to the northeast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression 11W was just east of the islands of Yap on Tuesday (7/26) with winds 30 kts. It was tracking northwest and is expected to slowly intensify, peaking on Sunday (7/31) with winds to 70 kts (minimal Typhoon strength) while turning north and then almost northeast and accelerating in forward pace. Current data suggest a track that puts it east of Southern Japan. Possible swell generation potential if this system grows significantly in areal coverage and strength, or if it survives in tack to the dateline (all of which is very unlikely).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/26) high pressure at 1030 mbs was moving east and was starting to generate northwest winds at 15-20 kts along the CA coast. On Wednesday (7/27) the Cape Mendo pressure gradient is to mature with north winds 25-30 kts but with an eddy flow (south winds) in-place nearshore from Pt Arena southward and this configuration holding into Friday AM. Windswell to result for Central CA with cleaner conditions nearshore. The gradient is to hold Saturday and Sunday at 25 kts with the eddy flow nearshore, then down to 20-25 kts Monday with decreased windswell and the eddy starting to fade some. The core of the gradient is to start falling south some on Tuesday (8/2) with winds back to 25 kts and covering a larger area, with 15+ kt north winds impacting all of Central CA and chop in effect.
On Tuesday (7/26) the jetstream was split across the width of the South Pacific with a large ridge pushing hard to the south over the Eastern Pacific reaching well into Antarctica and suppressing gale development there. A very mild trough was present in the West Pacific under New Zealand offering bare minimal support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the east is to continue pushing south into Antarctica with reinforcements building in on Wed-Thurs (7/28) and continuing the total shutdown of potential for gale development there. The weak trough in the east is to try and hold on under New Zealand reaching a bit east of there into Friday (7/29). Limited odds for gale development there. Beyond 72 hrs a new trough is forecast trying to make some headway over the Central Pacific starting Sat (7/30) holding on into the middle of next week, but winds speeds to be less than 90 kts, offering almost no support for gale development.
At the surface on Tuesday (7/26) a tiny gale was tracking east-northeast alongside of Eastern New Zealand. It actually formed just off the New Zealand coast on Mon (7/25) with 45 kt southwest winds tracking northeast. A tiny area of 32 ft seas resulted Mon PM at 40S 175W building to 34 ft Tuesday AM at 38S 169W and forecast holding at 34 ft in the evening at 36S 163W. Renewed fetch to build Wed AM (7/27) to 45 kts aimed pretty well tot he north resulting in 30 ft seas forecast at 34S 158W and moving out of the Hawaiian swell window, then lifting northeast in the evening with fetch to 40 kts and seas to 32 ft at 36S 149W pushing east of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA (193 degs NCal/195 SCal). The gale is to be fading Thursday AM with seas from previous fetch at 30 ft at 33S 142W. Possible utility class swell to result for Hawaii initially and then California. Of note: Though this system is to be very small, it is to be positioned very far to the north, reducing swell travel distance significantly for both the Islands and US interests, and only 1100 nmiles from Tahiti. Possible moderately decent swell to result.
Another gale is also forecast tracking under New Zealand on Wed AM (7/27) with 35-40 kt west-southwest winds and 32 ft seas at 48S 174E. This gale is to be already fading by evening with winds still 35-40 kts but shrinking in coverage with seas still 32 ft at 46S 176W. Fetch to be effectively gone Thurs AM (7/28) with seas fading from barely 30 ft at 46S 172W. If this occurs another decent pulse of swell could result for Hawaii with less for the US West Coast even though it is not be shadowed by Tahiti (216-218 degs relative to NCal and SCal respectively) mainly because of the rather extreme travel distance (6113 nmiles NCal). Will monitor.
Southeast Pacific Gale
A new fetch build on Tuesday evening (7/19) with a tiny area of 45-50 kt southwest winds peaking Wed AM (7/20) with 50 kts south-southwest winds holding and seas building to 29 ft at 49S 148W. This fetch held while pushing east in the evening with seas building to 32 ft at 48S 138W. By Thursday AM (7/21) fetch was fading from 45 kts with seas up to 36 ft at 45S 130W. Fetch was nearly gone in the evening at 40 kts with seas peaking (from previous fetch) at 38 ft at 43S 125W. A quick fade occurred in the evening with seas dropping from 35 ft at 39S 115W, east and outside even the Southern CA swell window targeting primarily Northern Chile and Peru. This system was very small and positioned in the Southeast Pacific, outside the swell window for Hawaii. Most energy was 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 182-185 degree paths (unshadowed by Tahiti), peaking in SCal on Thurs 7 PM (7/28) at 2.7 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft ) from 187 degrees and NCal on Fri AM (7/29) at 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) from 185 degrees.
Weak Southwest Pacific Gale
On Wednesday (7/20) a broad fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds pushed under New Zealand building in coverage even more in the evening. 29 ft seas were modeled building at 54S 180W (Wed PM). On Thursday the fetch continued tracking slightly northeast still at 35-40 kts aimed a mix of east and northeast and covering a good sized with seas building to 30 ft at 52S 178W (191 degs HI, 211 degs NCal and 213 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti). The fetch actually became better focused in the evening wrapping around the core of the low at 952 mbs with seas still 30 ft at 50S 170W (186 degs HI, 209 degs NCal and 211 degs SCal and still well shadowed). The fetch started fading Friday AM (7/22) from 35-40 kts and taking aim all aimed west to east with a moderate area of 32 ft seas at 49S 160W (181 degs HI, 204 degs NCal and 206 SCal) and becoming unshadowed but aimed less up to the north. By evening all remaining fetch was aimed due east if not southeast, offering no swell potential for US interests. 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 mainly due to the wind vector angle. Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Thurs (7/28) with pure swell reaching 2 ft @ 17 secs mid-day (3.5 ft faces with sets to 4 ft) then fading on Friday from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction 190 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 the Northeast Pacific high pressure system is to fade a little but while still positioned in the Gulf of Alaska through the weekend (7/31) generating 25 kt north winds through the weekend in to early next week and offering decent potential for local northwest windswell down into North and Central CA. Some increase in the strength and size of the gradient is forecast by Tues-Wed (8/3). But trades are to start fading some over and east of the Hawaiian Islands by Saturday (7/30), down to 10-15 kts offering less potential for easterly windswell.
As of Tuesday (7/26) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some. The daily SOI was up to 19.70. The 30 day average was up to 7.52 with the 90 day average down some to 3.95. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind anomalies indicate weak west anomalies are over the Eastern Pacific and also starting to build in the West Pacific reaching to a point north of Eastern Australia (150E). Light easterly anomalies are sandwiched in-between. This suggests that maybe the Active Phase of the MJO is trying to develop in the West Pacific. At the equator the westerly anomalies are to be fading totally by later Thursday (7/28) but a persistent patch of westerly anomalies that has held for a week or more over the Philippines, helping to form Typhoon Ma-On and maybe TD 11 behind it are to hold for the next week thru 8/3. Other models suggested that perhaps the Active Phase was trying to develop, but is expected to die and not make any significant headway to the east.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/25) 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 improved dramatically. 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. But then on 7/21 it vaporized, with a clear subsurface path no present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. No change is indicated on 7/26. The down side is there is no exceptional warm water in the west or east and nothing to force formation of the Kelvin Wave.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were about normal and just slightly above normal in the West.
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). Westerly anomalies continued in July to (thru 7/22) Easterly anomalies were isolated to a small area on the equator at 120W. 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 another gale is forecast developing in the Central Pacific on Sunday (7/31) and getting better organized on Monday with 45 kt southwest winds tracking fast to the northeast and east, resulting in 32 ft seas Sunday PM at 54S 152W pushing up to 38 ft Monday AM at 51S 145W, then quickly fading from 36 ft in the evening at 50S 135W. Peak swell generation is to be just barely east of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA (194 degs NCal/196 degs SCal) and east of any great circle path to Hawaii.
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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table