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 (8/2) North and Central California was seeing no real northwest windswell with waves at exposed breaks maybe knee high and clean. At south facing breaks southern hemi swell was rarely thigh high or so and clean. Southern California was getting minimal knee high northwest windswell and blown to bits up north. Down south southern hemi swell was occasionally producing sets to thigh high and cleaner though still lightly textured. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had chest high northeasterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had rideable southern hemi swell at waist to chest high at better breaks 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 high was trying to ridge east but had yet to form the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA. This was resulting in little to no northwest windswell along the CA coast. But that high was serving to generate easterly trades pushing into Hawaii's Eastern Shores at 15 kts or so resulting in modest northeasterly short period windswell. Those trades are to be on the increase to near 20 kts and holding through the week and coming weekend with the commensurate increase in easterly windswell expected. North winds to be on the increase over North and Central CA too by Wednesday at near 20 kts and expected to hold through Saturday (8/6) with a slight increase in windswell expected. Typhoon Muifa had done it's thing, peaking late on Saturday (7/30) with up to 140 kt winds and seas to 46 ft. Tiny swell possible for the US West coast late in the weekend. And Hurricane Eugene, well off the Mexican coast is heading west-northwest with perhaps some swell potential by Fri-Sat (8/6). Down south a tiny gale developed alongside of New Zealand Mon AM (7/25) tracking east-northeast with 34 ft seas slowly fading into Wednesday AM. Modest swell hit Hawaii late on Sunday (7/31) and is heading down with minimal energy for the US West coast by late Wed (8/3). And yet one more gale emerged 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 by Wed (8/3) and less for the US West coast by late Fri (8/5). One more small system formed in the deep Central Pacific tracking east Sat-Sun (7/31) with 32-36 ft seas but very tiny in areal coverage. Small swell by late Sun (8/7). But for all these, when we say small, we mean barely rideable. What else can one expect now that we are in the core of summer. Nothing else definitive is depicted on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Tuesday (8/2) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was filling the North Pacific pushing east some and just barely starting to make contact with the North California coast. A weak pressure gradient was starting to form off Cape Mendocino with north winds there at 15 kts, resulting in no real windswell of interest yet. The high was fueling increased easterly tradewinds pushing over Hawaii at 15 kts with very moderate short period east-northeast windswell there. Typhoon Muifa had already peaked out and was tracking northwest, bound for a point just south of Southern Japan while fading. Hurricane Eugene was steaming west-northwest well off of Mexico providing some swell generation potential (see Tropics below). Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to ridge eastward forming a weak and ragged pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast resulting in north winds there at 15-20 kts generating some raw locally short period windswell. Trades to be on the increase as well Wed-Fri (8/5) over Hawaii at 15-20 kts offering increased easterly windswell generation potential along eastern shores.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression 11W formed just east of the islands of Yap on Tuesday (7/26) with winds 30 kts. It tracked northwest and built to tropical storm status on Thursday AM and was named Muifa with with winds to 45 kts positioned about 1000 nmiles west of the Central Philippines. Continued intensification occurred as it inched slowly north and by Saturday PM (7/30) winds were 140 kts (Category 5 strength) and seas 45-46 ft through Sunday AM. It was tracking northeast at 4-8 kts during this window, or 5292-5407 nmiles from Northern CA pushing some swell up the 291-292 degree tracks towards that destination. Tiny swell is possible arriving in NCal by late Sun (8/7) with period at 19 secs and peaking late Mon (8/8) into Tuesday at maybe 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft).
By Tuesday Mufia was tracking northwest winds winds down to 110 kts and holding together well with seas 36 ft and expected to continue on that heading and strength into Thursday as it approaches China. no further swell generation was indicated relative to the US West coast.
On Tuesday at 2 PM (8/2) Hurricane Eugene was tracking west-northwest well off the coast of Mexico and had moved into the swell widow for Point Dume (Southern CA) with sustained winds estimated at 90 kts (103 mph) pushing some sideband energy up the 155 degree track there. It was 1300 nmiles from Pt Dume CA. Assuming a period of 15 secs expect swell arrival in 55 hrs, or 9 PM on Thurs (8/4). More energy is to build in behind it to with Eugene up to 100 kts (115 mph) Tues PM into Wed AM pushing energy up the 168 degree path. Theoretically swell to reach Southern CA mid-Friday at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 155-168 degrees
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/2) high pressure at 1026 mbs was trying to ridge east generating north winds at 15 kts well off the North and Central CA coast. lesser north winds were blowing down nearshore waters. Windswell was not being generated. By Wednesday the gradient is to build some and move closer to the coast with north winds 15-20 kts impacting nearshore waters of North and Central CA making a chopped mess of things and producing only minimal northerly short period windswell for exposed breaks. This same pattern is to hold through Thursday, then the gradient is to pull away slightly from the Central Coast Fri-Sat with the core of the gradient moving up to Cape Mendocino, through winds to still be only 20 kts. Then Sunday the gradient is again push into the Central CA coast with winds at 15 kts building to 20 kts on Monday and holding Tuesday, making chop and short period windswell for Central CA.
On Tuesday (8/2) a split jetstream pattern continued over the West and East Pacific but the two streams almost merged over the Central Pacific forming an ill defined trough there. Winds remained light in the trough, at 100 kts, offering minimal support for gale development down at lower levels in the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to hold while easing slowly east through Friday (8/5) while 2 strong ridges build over the West and East Pacific, shutting gale development potential down there. Beyond 72 hrs that trough is forecast to get less organized while drifting east and effectively out of the CA swell window by Tuesday (8/9). At that time the two ridges are to be in control of the whole of the South Pacific shutting gale development potential down.
At the surface small swell from 3 previous systems (details below) was in the water heading north towards primarily California. Low pressure was circulating in the deep Central Pacific Tuesday AM (8/2) producing 30-35 kt southwest winds and a tiny area of 28-30 seas, but is to quickly fade below the critical 30 ft threshold in 6 hours. no real swell to result for anywhere by Tahiti. Over the next 72 hours this system is to continue circulating, but ill formed with winds generally 30 kts or less. Seas to continue at 26 ft in fits and spurts near 48S 135W, with no real swell resulting for our forecast area.
Tiny New Zealand Gale (#3)
A tiny gale formed just off the Central 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 41S 176W building to 34 ft Tuesday AM at 38S 169W and holding at 34 ft in the evening at 36S 164W. Renewed fetch tried to build Wed AM (7/27) to 40 kts aimed pretty well to the north resulting in 30 ft seas at 33S 160W and moving out of the Hawaiian swell window. New fetch build south of there lifting northeast in the evening at 40 kts and seas to 29 ft at 35S 151W pushing east of the Tahitian swell shadow relative to CA (203 degs NCal/205 SCal). The gale was fading Thursday AM with seas from previous fetch at 29-30 ft at 34S 147W. Possible utility class swell to result for Hawaii initially and then California. Of note: Though this system was very small but positioned very far to the north, reducing swell travel distance significantly for both the Islands (3527 nmiles) and US interests (4994 nmiles), and only 1100 nmiles from Tahiti.
Swell has already hit Hawaii and is to be fading out on Wed (8/3).
Swell arrival in California expected on Wed PM (8/3) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2 ft) continuing Thurs (8/4) at 1.6-2.0 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft) then fading 24 hours later. Swell Direction: 213 degrees
Broader New Zealand Gale (#4)
Another gale also tracked under New Zealand on Wed AM (7/27) with 35-40 kt west-southwest winds and 32 ft seas at 48S 176E. This gale was already fading by evening with winds still 35-40 kts but shrinking in coverage with seas still 32 ft at 48S 178W (214 degs and unshadowed NCal). Fetch was effectively gone Thurs AM (7/28) with seas fading from 30 ft at 46S 170W (210 degs NCal and shadowed). Another decent pulse of swell is expected to result for Hawaii with far less size for the US West Coast even though it is not be shadowed by Tahiti initially (216-218 degs relative to NCal and SCal respectively) mainly because of the rather extreme travel distance (6134 nmiles NCal).
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Wed AM (8/3) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces) holding through the day. Swell to 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces) on Thurs (8/4). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Expect swell arrival in California at sunset on Friday (8/5) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) holding Sat (8/6) at 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 212-214 degrees
Central Pacific Gale (#5)
Low pressure organized in the deep Central Pacific Saturday AM (7/30) producing 45 kt southwest winds and an infinitesimal sized area of 32 ft seas at 47S 148W. Winds held in the evening while pushing east resulting in 38 ft seas at 46S 140W but most fetch was aimed east. Sunday (7/31) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds redeveloped early then fading to 40 kts later in the day. 34 ft seas were modeled Sun AM at 44S 134W holding at 34 ft in the evening at 44S 130W again aimed mostly to the east. Fetch and seas faded after that relative to California. Bare minimal background swell possible for the US mainland from 185-196 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (8/7) at sunrise with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs building to 2 ft @ 16 secs late in the day (3 ft faces). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) on Monday (8/8). Swell Direction: 196 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (8/7) at sunset with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 18 secs building to 2 ft @ 16 secs Monday AM (8/8) (3 ft faces). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) by Monday PM. Swell Direction: 192 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 hold and continue ridging east with pressure 1028 mbs impacting the Central CA coast Saturday (8/6) through at least the middle of next week resulting in a poorly organized fetch of 15-20 kt north winds blowing over nearshore waters initially near Cape Mendocino then pushing south and covering Central CA waters Sunday from Pt Conception northward, and making a mess of things there. Likewise trades are to be holding over Hawaii and points east of there on Saturday (8/6) at 20 kts over open waters generating better northeast to east windswell for east facing shores. Then winds are to start fading to the 15 kt range and slowly fading in areal coverage by Tuesday (8/9) with the requisite decrease in easterly windswell likely then.
As of Tuesday (8/2) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding. The daily SOI was down to 0.85, toggling between 26 and -1 over the past 7 days. The 30 day average was up to 9.63 with the 90 day average up some to 4.18. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicate easterly anomalies were pushing up the to the dateline then going slack west of there. Light westerly anomalies were over the East Pacific. this is not different than it has been for the past week and suggests a weak version of the Active Phase was stationary over the extreme Western Pacific helping to form a preponderance of tropical systems there. The models indicate that exceedingly weak westerly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to persist in the West through 8/10, suggesting a near neutral phase of the MJO is to remain in control.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/1) 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 again taken a turn for the worse. 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. Now again the cold pool has emerged starting on 7/30 and built far stronger by 8/2 with waters -3 deg C below normal developing south of Hawaii and block the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 150 meters and seemed to be gaining areal coverage.
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 more of the same is forecast with low pressure circulating in the deep Southeast Pacific offering no southerly winds in excess of 30 kts. Theoretically a pulse is forecast on Mon (8/8) with 40 kt south winds congealing pushing seas briefly to 32 ft late in the day aimed well at Southern CA. But that is more than likely just a transitory fluke by the models, quickly to be gone with the next model run. Otherwise no swell producing fetch is indicated.
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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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