New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 Saturday (7/31) North and Central California was getting chest high plus locally generated short period north windswell with pretty warbled conditions and theoretically minimal southern hemi swell underneath but inconsistent. Southern California was knee to thigh high up north and thigh to waist high down south and clean early at all spots. This was coming from weak southern hemi background swell. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting chest high tradewind generated east windswell with chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting minimal sideband southern hemi swell with sets in the waist high range with a little bit of sideshore warble early with trades on the increase.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for more locally generated north short period windswell Sunday at 4.0 ft and nearly that Monday then dropping to waist high plus on Tuesday and Wednesday (8/4). Small southern hemi swell is forecast at possibly up to 4 ft on the face Sunday hanging on at 4 ft into Monday before dropping from waist high Tuesday and thigh high Wednesday. Southern California is to see maybe only a hint of windswell Sunday and then only barely rideable at 2 ft on the face fading a little on Monday at 2 ft or less holding there into Wednesday (8/4). A pulse of southern hemi background swell is more interesting and holding at chest high Sunday, maybe still holding at that height early Monday before fading from waist high on Tuesday with thigh high dribbles left on Wednesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see no rideable surf through the weekend into next week. The East Shore to see east short period windswell at chest to shoulder high Sunday then maybe chest high Monday and holding into at least Wednesday. The South Shore is to see southern hemi swell fading from thigh high Sunday and then flat Monday. On Tuesday (8/3) new southern hemi swell arrives at chest high holding solidly into Wednesday then slowly fading after that. .
Up north no swell producing fetch is forecast over the next 7 days other than local windswell for Central CA holding well into next week. Down south a gale formed under New Zealand lift gently east-northeast and generating up to 38 ft seas just southeast of New Zealand Thursday AM. But it quickly maxed out and faded into early Friday. Limited sideband swell arrived in Hawaii on Thursday (7/29) as expected and is to continue providing something to ride Friday on into the early part of the weekend. California is to see only weak fragments of this one due to shadowing by Tahiti, with core energy arriving on Sunday (8/1). Beyond another weak gale developed under New Zealand Tues/Wed (7/28) with seas in the 37 ft range initially, then faded some with limited 30-32 ft seas continuing into early Friday (7/30). This is likely to result in another pulse of modest southern hemi swell for HI by late Tues (8/3) peaking on Wed. CA to see some swell from this one too starting Thurs (8/5) holding into the early weekend. But beyond that nothing else is projected on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (7/31) the North Pacific jetstream was weak and fragmented with no energy in it suggestive of supporting surface level lo pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the same weak and fragmented pattern is to continue offering no wind energy of interest. Beyond 72 hours slowly a more defined flow is to start pushing east directly over the Aleutian Islands by Thurs (8/5) with winds in the 110 kt range by Saturday. This is less than what was projected earlier but still might almost be the first weak attempt for a Fall push developing. Highly unlikely though.
At the surface on Saturday (7/31) a double barreled and weak high pressure pattern remained in control of the entire North Pacific with one high just west of the dateline at 1024 mbs and the second 900 nmiles west of Northern CA at 1028 mbs. The one off California was inducing the usual pressure gradient over the extreme North CA coast with north winds there 20 kts producing limited north windswell seeping down into Central CA but also inducing a good push of east-northeast trades over the Hawaiian Islands at near 20 kts with 15+ kt fetch originating the whole way back off San Francisco. So a good sized fetch area was in play. As expected windswell was up along the East Shores. Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system off Northern CA is to hold it's ground while the high over the dateline tracks east and merges with it. continuing to generate the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino producing north winds to 20 kts or os there into late Tuesday (8/3) continuing to produce limited northerly windswell tracking down into Central CA. Trades are to continue solid over the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday to Tuesday in the 15+ kt range, continuing to generate modest short period east windswell there too. But no signs of any tropical activity as one would expect with La Nina developing.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/31) high pressure at 1030 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino and was barely ridging into the Pacific Northwest, generating north winds at 20 kts or so there producing modest northwest windswell. The gradient was also pushing a bit into nearshore Central CA waters making for pretty warbled conditions early, and deteriorating as the day progressed. On Sunday (8/1) the fetch is forecast to move north of Pt Reyes with perhaps a weak south windflow taking control nearshore. But by Monday (8/2) the gradient is to fade some over Cape Mendocino but spread evenly over all of the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA with north winds tracking into the coast at 15 kts making for rather raw and warbled conditions and holding there through the workweek into Saturday (8/7). Windswell generation potential is to fade some as this happens, but the models suggest the gradient is to perhaps become more localized towards Cape mendocino by Sunday (8/8). Southern CA is to remain protected through the workweek though.
On Saturday (7/31) a weak trough continued in the upper atmosphere over the far Southeast Pacific and almost out of the California swell window and with little wind of interest pushing up into it offering little in terms of support for surface level gale development there. West of there the jet was ridging solidly to the south and sweeping east over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and likely suggesting a shut-down for gale development potential in the days ahead. Over the next 72 hours the ridge in the west is to push east tracking over the 62S latitude at 120 kts and offering no trough or any suggestion of support for surface level gale development. Beyond 72 hours the same flow is to persist, ripping east on the 62S latitude, but slowly loosing intensity with winds down to 80 kts by late Friday (8/6) and offering no support for surface level low pressure development.
At the oceans surface a weak gale was south of New Zealand with 35 kt winds, but all were aimed due south towards Antarctica and offering no swell producing fetch aimed towards the Northern Hemisphere. High pressure at 1036 mbs was anchored just east of New Zealand, driving the southward flow. Over the next 72 hours this gale is to track east and continue producing winds aimed to the south and southeast while high pressure at 1036 mbs tracks east above it, continuing to reinforce the southerly flow and directing any windswell production towards Antarctica.
New Zealand Gale
In the West Pacific a gale developed on Wednesday (7/21) at 936 mbs forming well inland over the Ross Ice Shelf tracking east but with fragments of 40 kt winds extending north over ice free waters, with a secondary fetch developing back west from it. By Thursday AM (7/22) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds were modeled at 57S 180W. 38 ft seas were modeled at 58S 180W pushing reasonably well up the 208 degree track to California. In the evening fetch faded to the 40-45 kt range but lifting northeast to 52S 164W generating 36 ft seas at 54S 170W. Unfortunately it was in the heart of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to California at 205 degrees. The fetch dropped to 35 kts on Friday AM at 50S 151W with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 51S 160W. Possible swell pushing northeast with sideband potential for Hawaii but mostly shadowed by Tahiti relative to California.
Southern CA: Swell to peak out on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.0 ft faces and better at best breaks). Swell to be fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces) on Monday (8/2) fading on Tuesday to 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200-205 degrees.
Northern CA: Swell to peak out on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.0 ft faces and better at best breaks). Swell to be fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft faces) on Monday (8/2) fading on Tuesday to 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
Another New Zealand Gale
On Monday (7/26) a broad gale started tracking under New Zealand while building. Monday AM a decent area of 40 kts southwest winds were modeled at 54S 165E aimed up the 216 degree path to California and unshadowed by Tahiti and also up the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Seas were building. By evening winds faded to 35-40 kts at 55S 172E pushing up the 213 degree track to CA and the 196 degree track to Hawaii. with stronger winds building west of there. 30 ft seas were modeled at 56S 172E.
Tuesday AM (7/27) that fetch moved into the swell window at 45-50 kts blowing from the southwest at 56S 164E tracking well up the 216 degree path to California and clear up the 201 degree track to Hawaii. 34 ft seas were modeled at 55S 167E. In the evening more southwest winds are to be in play in the 40-45 kt range at 51S 180W aimed more a bit more to the east but still pushing up the great circle tracks as before. 37 ft seas were modeled at 52S 175E.
Wednesday AM (7/28) a decent fetch of 40 kts southwest winds was at 50S 169W pushing up the 207 degree track to California and somewhat shadowed and a good bit east of the 186 degree path to Hawaii with more fetch behind that. 33 ft seas were modeled at 50S 175W. By evening a new fetch of 45 kts southwest winds was trying to develop over a small area at 52S 173W pushing up the 209 degree path to California and a bit shadowed by the western edge of the Tahitian Island chain and up the 188 degree path to Hawaii. 30 ft seas were modeled holding at 49S 167W. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of this area reporting average seas of 27 ft with one peak reading to 34.4 ft, a bit lower than what the model suggested.
Thursday AM this fetch was fading some with only 40-45 kt winds over a tiny area at 50S 162W aimed more to the west than north pushing barely up the 203 degree path to California and pretty well shadowed by Tahiti and 60 degrees east of the 181 degree path to Hawaii. 29 ft seas were modeled rebuilding at 51S 167W. 40-45 kt west fetch was fading in the evening at 50S 150W but starting to fall to the south fast. 32 ft seas are modeled at 50S 155W then decaying from there.
Residual seas remained in the mid-Pacific Friday AM (7/30) at 32 ft at 48S 151W pushing up the 198 degree path to California, then dissipating in the evening as the fetch that generated it fell south and dissipated.
Some degree of moderate southern hemi swell is likely already pushing northeast towards the usual locations of the South and North Pacific. This system is lasting longer than originally anticipated, though not necessarily strong. This could result in a nice long pulse of smaller minimally rideable sized surf if all goes as planned. Still it is to be a long ways away and much swell decay is to be expected. And Tahiti will be in the way for CA, resulting in some loss of consistency. Still, it's better than nothing (cause that's what's in the forecast behind it).
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (8/3) building to 2 ft @ 18 secs late (3.5 ft faces) and heading up some from there. Swell to peak on Wed (8/4) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft faces) with best spots doing better on occasion.Swell to be on the downswing on Thursday (8/5) dropping from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft faces) on down to 2.3 ft @ 13 secs (3.0 ft faces) by late Friday (7/6). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft faces) and slowly heading up some. Swell to start peaking late Friday (8/6) at 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5+ ft faces) then peaking out on Saturday (8/7) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces). Swell to slide down slowly on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 209-215 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft faces) and slowly heading up some. Swell to start peaking late Friday (8/6) at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (3.5+ ft faces) then peaking out on Saturday (8/7) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces). Swell to slide down slowly on Sunday at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 207-214 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 retrograde west off California but still at 1028-1032 mbs and covering a huge area basically filling the entire North Pacific basins. This to result in a steady north wind flow over Pacific Northwest waters down to Cape Mendocino at 15-20 kts through next week (8/7), but nothing more concentrated in the Cape Mendo area, suggesting only limited very short period north windswell generation potential. This large high is to also continue generating a broad area of 15 kt more easterly trades pushing over the Hawaiian Islands through next week providing continued support for generation of east short period windswell for the Islands, but slowly fading in intensity as the week progresses. No other swell producing fetch is indicated.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (7/31) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) remained in positive territory. The daily SOI was up to 29.79 and has been positive for 37 days running. The 30 day average was up to 18.56 with the 90 day average inching up to 10.14. This continues looking like the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (7/31) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a moderating area of east anomalies in control from just east of India peaking across the Philippines while fanning out over dateline then reaching almost to Central America. The coverage of this area remained large but was on the downswing, suggestive of a fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. The Inactive Phase and these east anomalies are to start dissipating more on 8/4, before collapsing by 8/9 off South America and effectively gone by August 14). A weak push of the Active phase is forecast building over the Indian Ocean behind and under it, reaching the Philippines on 8/14. But this current push of the Inactive Phase is the strongest we've seen in years (not a good sign) and is likely a hint of things to come.
We believe the remnants of El Nino are just about gone from the upper atmosphere. The expectation is that we'll fall back into some form of a moderate La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for later 2010 into 2011. NOAA seems to support that plan too per the latest ENSO update.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (7/29) indicates that cooler than normal waters continue to expanded their grip on the equator as compared to even a few days earlier covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to almost New Guinea. It was downright cold just off Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii and again in a pocket just east of the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of colder than normal water continued developing pushing off the US West Coast and South America reaching to the dateline, only serving to reinforce the existing pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect. Good for sea life and the food chain, bad for storm production. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. This is a turn for the worse and only seems to be getting stronger. At the same time a massive buildup of warmer than normal waters continues in the Atlantic almost bleeding into the far Eastern Pacific, of concern to hurricane forecasters there. We'll see if upper level winds support development of hurricane activity or whether residual upper level shear from El Nino will chop the tops of developing systems. Suspect shear will be gone by the heart of hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -3 degs below normal. Not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond, with easterly anomalies now in control of the entire Western Pacific, though normal conditions in the East. But the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing to towards South America to flowing towards the west in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around. And if anything, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through the Summer of 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. A slow transition to a normal if not cooler than normal conditions (La Nina) is expected through Nov 2010, and the signs continue to point to a La Nina pattern for the long term future.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to retain control of the upper reaches of the South Pacific while a steady stream of low pressure system track east over the Ross Ice Shelf offering no swell producing fetch of interest through Thurs (8/5). On Friday a little relief might be possible in association with a new gale tracking under New Zealand, but lifting a bit further to the north with 40 kt southwest fetch forecast up to 55S. But it is to track due east with little to no northwards progress 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table