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 Thursday (8/4) North and Central California was seeing waist high northwest windchop up north with onshore winds and fog in control. Generally miserable. Down south some southern hemi swell was providing waves in the waist high range and relatively clean early. Southern California was getting knee to thigh high northwest windswell up north and a bit warbled. Down south southern hemi swell was occasionally producing sets to waist high or so and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist to chest high northeasterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had more rideable southern hemi swell at waist to chest high at best breaks and sheet glass 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 generate some minimal northerly windswell along the Central CA coast. It was also serving to generate modest easterly trades and tradewind windswell pushing into Hawaii's Eastern Shores. More of the same is forecast through the weekend at both locales. Swell from Typhoon Muifa was pushing towards the US west coast, but will be well decayed and well spaced out upon arrival. And Hurricane Eugene tracking northwest well off the Mexican coast has some swell generation potential with energy arriving 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. Minimal energy was starting to hit the US West coast 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 was starting to hit Hawaii on Wed (8/3) with less expected 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 for CA by late Sun (8/7). But for all these, small is the operative word. One more tropical system is forming too in the West Pacific expected to turn north and intensify.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (8/4) modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was filling the Northeast Pacific pushing east some generating a weak pressure gradient along the Central and North CA coasts with north winds there at 15-20 kts, resulting in weak short period north windswell at exposed breaks. Not interesting. The high was also fueling increased easterly tradewinds pushing over Hawaii at 15-20 kts with modest short period east-northeast windswell there. Typhoon Muifa was effectively out of the picture bound for China. And Hurricane Eugene continued steaming west-northwest well off of Mexico providing some swell generation potential for Southern and Central CA (see Tropics below). Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to ridge a bit more to the east forming a slightly better defined but still ragged pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast resulting in north winds there at 15-20 kts generating more raw local short period windswell. Trades to continue over the Hawaiian Islands, strongest on Friday (8/5) at 15-20 kts then fading more towards the 15 kt range through the weekend offering a slight bump up in easterly windswell Friday, then slowly backing off through the weekend 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.
Sideband swell is expected reaching the exposed breaks mostly on Kauai on Sat (8/6) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft faces) from 280 degrees continuing into Sunday at 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft).
Tiny swell is also 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).
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 built in behind with Eugene up to 120 kts (138 mph) at 2 PM Wed pushing energy up the 168 degree path to Pt Dume, 174 degree path Dana Point, and the 165 degree path for Santa Cruz.
Theoretically swell to reach Southern CA mid-Friday at 4.4 ft @ 13 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces) fading from 4 ft @ 11 secs (4.5 ft) on Saturday . Swell Direction: 155-168 degrees
Swell also expected into only the most exposed breaks in Central CA starting late Friday with pure swell 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) building to 3 ft @ 13 secs on Saturday (4 ft). Swell Direction: 155-160 degrees
Also on Thursday (8/4) Tropical Storm Merbok developed 650 nmiles west-northwest of Wake Island heading west-northwest with sustained winds at 35 kts. Gradual intensification is forecast while this system makes a steady turn to the north by Saturday (8/6) with winds just under minimal hurricane force, then turning north-northeast 24 hours alter with winds to 65 kts for maybe 6 hours, before starting to fade and turning northeast. There is some potential for swell to be generated relative to the US West coast, but, it's way to early to know with any real certainty. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/4) high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 1300 nmiles west of Central CA and trying to ridge east generating north winds at 15 kts over the North and Central CA coast. Minimal northerly windswell was being generated. The gradient is to pull away slightly from the Central Coast Fri-Sat with it's core moving up to Cape Mendocino, with winds up to 20-25 kts. Larger windswell to result with slightly better conditions nearshore. 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 (up to 25 kts near Cape Mendo), making chop and short period windswell for Central CA. Wednesday the gradient is to reorganize over Cape Mendocino (north winds 20 kts) with nearshore winds fading along the bulk of the Central CA coast , and then even the gradient is to start fading in coverage on Thursday (though still producing 20 kt north winds and limited windswell). Nearshore winds for Central CA to remain light. Southern CA to remain in a near eddy flow the entire time, unaffected by the pressure situation north of it.
On Thursday (8/4) the same split jetstream pattern continued over the West and East Pacific but with the two streams almost merged over the Central Pacific forming an ill defined trough there. Winds remained light feeding up into the trough, at 90 kts, offering minimal support for gale development down at lower levels in the atmosphere. Likewise two large ridges were pushing hard south where the jet was split in the far West and East offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to start to get washed out as the ridge in the west pushes east over it offering no support for gale development over the entirety of the South Pacific by Sun (8/7). Beyond 72 hrs that ridge is to retain control of the entire Central and East Pacific offering no hope there. But a bit of a new trough is to try and set up under New Zealand by Monday (8/8) and is to ease east through the workweek. But winds speeds are to be light and fading and the trough is to become less organized with time (and it wasn't; really well organized to start with). The net result is to be bare minimal support for low pressure development with luck.
At the surface small swell from 3 previous systems (details below) was in the water heading north towards California and has already passed Hawaii. Low pressure continued circulating in the deep Central Pacific as is has since Tuesday AM (8/2) when it produced 30-35 kt southwest winds and a tiny area of 28-30 seas. But that quickly faded below the critical 30 ft threshold in 6 hours. No real swell to result for anywhere by Tahiti. But on Thursday AM (8/4) it regrouped with winds again rebuilding to 45 kts in the aimed due north expected to fade to 40 kts by the evening. Seas forecast to again briefly hit the 30 ft mark Thurs PM at 55S 150W. Maybe another pulse of 17 secs swell could radiate north up towards California. Over the next 72 hours this system is to continue circulating while pushing east, with all fetch moving into it's north quadrant aimed at Chile Friday AM, then fading, but regrouping to the northeast, well outside the California swell window but with 45 kt southwest winds and 36 ft seas holding stationary Sun-Mon (8/8) near 44S 105W. Nice swell possible for Chile.
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 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).
Swell has already arrived in Hawaii and is on the way down by Thurs (8/4).
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 through early next week ridging east with pressure 1028 mbs impacting the Central CA coast peaking on Tues (8/9) with north winds 20-25 kts offering some hope for slightly larger northerly windswell pushing down in the Central CA. But it is to start fading by late Wednesday with windswell heading down with it. Likewise trades are to be holding over Hawaii and points east of there through the weekend, then start heading down by Monday (8/8) from 15 kts and all but gone by Wed (8/10) with east windswell fading steadily along east facing shores.
As of Tuesday (8/2) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was falling some. The daily SOI was down to -12.26. The 30 day average was down to 8.55 with the 90 day average down some to 4.11. This continues to look like a neutral long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicate modest 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 no 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/Eastern Indian Ocean near New Guinea 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 this region is not drifting east slightly, perhaps reaching the dateline a week out at best. But in all the MJO has been literally non-existent for the past few weeks. This would indicate continued formation of moderate tropical systems in the West Pacific, but none recurving significantly back to the northeast.
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 present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. But then as quickly as it redeveloped, it died with the cold pool re-emerging starting on 7/30 and built far stronger by 8/2 with waters -3 deg C below normal and down to -4 degs C below normal on 8/4 positioned on the equator and south of Hawaii and blocking the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 125 meters and was rising while 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 a bit above normal in the Central Pacific but less than normal if not slightly anomalously westward in the East and 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 imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours another broad but ill formed low pressure system is to develop under New Zealand tracking east-northeast Sun-Tues (8/9) with 35 kts winds and seas in the 28-30 ft range. That seems a bit generous through. Something to monitor. 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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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