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 jumbled northwest windswell with onshore northwest winds warbling it up. Down south some minimal southern hemi swell was occasionally showing with waves at thigh to rarely waist high but clean. Southern California was getting knee high max northwest windswell up north and clean. Down south minimal southern hemi swell was producing waves up to waist high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The South Shore was getting limited southern hemi swell with waves waist to maybe chest high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore had waist high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high is to continue ridging weakly east into the Central CA coast producing minimal northwest local windswell through the weekend. It is also expected to continue generating easterly trades and tradewind windswell pushing into Hawaii's Eastern Shores through Wednesday, then fading for the foreseeable future beyond. Down south an area of low pressure formed in the Central Pacific Tues-Fri (8/5) producing 26-30 ft seas. Background swell for CA possible by Wed (8/10) with pulses through the weekend, but very small. One more weak system formed under New Zealand Monday (8/8) tracking northeast with seas barely 30 ft and offering possible utility class swell for Hawaii early next week and far less for the US mainland. The good news is the models are at least teasing with a real storm projected in the Southwest Pacific a week out. The bad news is it's still a week from forming, meaning much probability of it never forming. At least there's something to dream about.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
the surface on Tuesday (8/9) modest high pressure at 1028 mbs remained centered 1300 nmiles west of San Francisco CA ridging east some generating a small pressure gradient along the North CA coast with north winds there at 20-25 kts, resulting in weak short period north windswell at exposed breaks. The high was also pushing modest easterly trades over Hawaii at 15 kts resulting in small short period east-northeast windswell there. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to continue ridging into North CA forming a slightly better defined pressure gradient on Wednesday (8/10) resulting in north winds there at 20-25 kts generating a little more raw local short period windswell, then backing off but holding int the 20 kt range through the end of the week. Small windswell to continue over Central CA. Trades to slowly back off over the Hawaiian Islands Wed-Thurs (8/11) also with less coverage result in a downward windswell trend along eastern shores. No other swell producing fetch forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
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 occurred while this system made a steady turn to the north Saturday (8/6) with winds just under minimal hurricane force, then turning north-northeast on Sunday (8/7) with winds to 70 kts for maybe 6 hours, before starting to fade and accelerate to the north-northeast. At this time there is no potential for swell to be generated relative to the US West coast. The remnants of Merbok were pushing fast to the north-northeast on Tuesday (8/9) with winds 35 kts and all aimed due north with seas 26 ft at 43N 165E. No swell to result relative to the US mainland nor Hawaii. This system is to continue north and more into the Bering Sea later on Thurs (8/11).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/9) high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 1300 nmiles west of Central CA and was ridging east generating north winds at 25 kts over the North CA coast and also reaching into Central CA nearshore waters. Modest northerly windswell was being generated. This is to hold into Wednesday but with the gradient pulled away from the Central CA coast offering somewhat improved local conditions nearshore. Then the gradient is to start fading in coverage on Thursday (though still producing 20 kt north winds and limited windswell) and moving closer to the Central CA coast. By Friday (8/12) the gradient is to fall further south and impact the whole of the Central CA coast with 15-20 kts north winds and chop, continuing Saturday, then retreating some by Sunday (8/14) with local low pressure theoretically forecast off the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast Pacific High in full retreat.
On Tuesday (8/9) a split jetstream pattern continued over South Pacific with the southern branch forming a trough under New Zealand with winds barely 100 kts feeding up into it then turning and pushing hard south over the Central Pacific and crashing into Antarctica. There was limited support for low pressure development in the trough under and just east of New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to push slowly east if not a little southeast and steady loose energy, with winds below 90 kts. The ridge is to continue in the Southeastern Pacific pushing into Antarctica and eliminating hope for gale development there. Beyond 72 hrs an improving pattern is forecast under New Zealand with a big blast of south winds feeding into the preexisting trough on Saturday (8/13) 140 kts with a second blast at 150 kts on Mon (8/15) and pushing the apex of the trough well to the north, up to 45S. This suggests a muchly improved environment for gale development if one is to believe any of this.
At the surface a broad gale continued circulating off Southern Chile with 45 kt west winds taking aim on the coast there and seas pushing 38 ft at 43S 95W offering great raw swell potential for Chile up into Peru, but well east of any great circle route to the California coast. Otherwise a fetch of 35 kt westerly winds persisted just southeast of New Zealand generating 28 ft seas (see New Zealand Fetch below). Over the next 72 hours both these systems are to be winding down with no other swell producing fetch of interest forecast.
Central Pacific Fetch
New Zealand Fetch
Low pressure circulated in the deep Central Pacific Tuesday-Fri (8/5) produced 30-35 kt southwest winds and a tiny area of 28-30 seas at 53S 160W Tues AM (8/2). But that quickly faded below the critical 30 ft threshold in 6 hours. No real swell to result for anywhere by Tahiti. But just for laughs the calculation suggest whatever swell was generated could arrive in CA on Thurs (8/11) near noon with period 17 secs from 201 degrees. Then on Thursday AM (8/4) it regrouped with winds again rebuilding to 45 kts and aimed due north, then faded to 40 kts by the evening. Seas 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 arriving Sat (8/13) from 196 degrees with period 17 secs. But size to be insignificant.
A new gale organized in an upper level trough positioned under New Zealand late Sunday (8/7).. Southwest winds were modeled at 40 kts with seas on the increase, reaching 30 ft on Monday AM (8/8) at 51S 172E. But then winds were down to 35 kts and fading from there. Seas dropped to 28 ft in the evening at 50S 177E moving to 48S 170W Tues AM then dissipating from there. Decent odds for some utility class swell to result for swell for Hawaii from 190 degrees starting Mon (8/15) with period 17 secs and background energy for California by Wed noon (8/17) from 210 degrees but shadowed by Tahiti.
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 relative to California through Sat (8/13) with pressure 1024 mbs resulting in north winds over Cape Mendocino at 20 kts offering hope for minimally rideable northerly windswell pushing down in the Central CA. But by Sunday (8/14) it is to start fading and with whatever is left of the gradient moving directly over Central CA. Windswell to be heading down and getting more chopped. Likewise trades are to be less than 15 kts by late week into the weekend over Hawaii resulting in no easterly windswell of interest there.
As of Tuesday (8/9) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising slightly again. The daily SOI was up to 8.07. The 30 day average was up to 8.97 with the 90 day average up some to 4.87. This continues to look like a neutral if not slightly La Nina biased long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicate modest easterly anomalies were in control over the Central equatorial Pacific pushing up the to the dateline then going slack west of there if not slightly westerly north of Australia. Light westerly anomalies were over the East Pacific. This is not substantially 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. But it also indicates that this area was weakening. The models indicate that exceedingly weak westerly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to drift east, perhaps reaching east of the dateline a week out (8/17) but with easterly anomalies building in over the far West Pacific at the same time. This suggests the Active Phase, weak as it is, is to be moving towards the Central Pacific with the Inactive Phase building in the West Pacific. This would indicate the area conducive to formation of moderate tropical systems moving east tot he Central Pacific in sync with the MJO.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/8) remains essentially 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 continue to look bad. 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, down to -4 degs C below normal on 8/4 and down to -5 degs C below normal on 8/8 holding position 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. This suggests the forecasted 2 year La Nina is growing roots.
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 the models suggest a new broad gale is to start developing south of New Zealand on Mon (8/15) with southwest winds 40 kts while lifting almost due north with seas on the increase pushing 38 ft late at 48S 164W and then reorganizing on Tuesday in the Central Pacific with seas in excess of 30 ft. It is way too early to expect any of this to actually occur, but it is the first hint of anything somewhat legit on the models in weeks. Something to monitor, but expect it to disappear from the models at any time.
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