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 Sunday (8/14) North and Central California was seeing thigh to waist high warbled northwest windswell up north with light west winds early but still almost clean. Down south another little pulse of southern hemi swell was hitting with waves at waist high and a few chest high sets and clean early. Southern California was getting waist high plus southern hemi swell up north and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves in the chest to head high range and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The South Shore was still getting some small southern hemi swell with waves waist to maybe chest high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was near flat wit no real easterly tradewind generated windswell with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific high is to continue weakly ridging into the North and Central CA coast producing bare minimal northwest local windswell through the workweek into next weekend (8/21). It is not doing much to generate easterly trades over Hawaii's Eastern Shores, but that situation is expected to improve somewhat by Tues (8/16) on through the workweek. Weak low pressure is to track over the North Pacific High starting Thurs (8/18) possibly generating westerly winds at 25 kts well off the Pacific Northwest, but not enough to generate and swell. At least it's a hint of Fall. Down south a weak weather system formed under New Zealand Monday (8/8) tracking northeast with seas barely 30 ft offering possible utility class swell for Hawaii early next week (8/15) and far less for the US mainland. And some sideband swell from a storm off Chile Mon-Tues (8/9) is expected to push into CA on Tues (816) showing first at the south end of the state. And the models are depicting a gale building almost directly over New Zealand on Sun (8/14) possibly tracking east and getting some fetch over exposed waters of the Southwest Pacific late Monday with seas to 34 ft. Maybe a little pulse to result. Otherwise nothing else is on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Sunday (8/14) high pressure was fading off the US West Coast with low pressure circulating 800 nmiles northwest of San Francisco generating a tiny fetch of 25 kt north winds and of no real interest other than to suggest that some Fall-like influence was in-play. Trades were light over Hawaii with no east windswell being generated due to the demist of the High. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast with low pressure trying to get a toehold in the Gulf of Alaska but not enough to generate fetch, only enough to kill the usual high pressure and north winds gradient along the North CA coast. This suggests not much in terms of windswell generation.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (8/14) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/14) no real high pressure was off the Northern CA coast and instead weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was 800 nmiles off Cape Mendocino destroying the usual NCal pressure gradient (the source of local windswell). Weak high pressure was nestled along the coast making 15 kt north winds, but nothing more. This same pattern is to hold into Tuesday then by Wednesday high pressure is to start making inroad to the east at 1026 mbs with north winds building over Cape Mendo to 20 kts late and near 25 kts late Thursday and building down the Central CA coast. Those winds to reach near 30 kts Friday evening with increased local north windswell expected and chopped conditions nearshore of all of Central CA. By Saturday (8/20) the high is to quickly fade as low pressure starts building east from the Gulf of Alaska and a front approaching Vancouver Island late. This configuration to hold through the weekend.
On Sunday (8/14) a split jetstream pattern continued over Central and Southeast Pacific with the southern branch running just off if not over Antarctic Ice. But in the West Pacific a bit of a trough was under and pushing north over New Zealand with winds 120 kts offering some support for low pressure development there. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to eases east but weaken with winds falling below 100 kts. This suggests continued weak support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to dissipate and then try and reorganize in the deep Central Pacific but winds feeding it to only be maybe 100 kts. No real support for gale development indicated.
At the surface a broad but poorly organized low was circulating just east of New Zealand. 35+ kt south winds were pushing from south of New Zealand directly north and over land there, offering no potential for swell generation. No other fetch of interest was in-play. Over the next 72 hours that gale is to continue heading off to the east at a good rate of speed with winds up to 45 kts, offering some potential for swell generation (see Second New Zealand Gale below).
A broad gale developed off Southern Chile starting Sun (8/7) producing 32 ft seas at 40S 115W building to 42 ft in the evening at 40S 105W and holding into Monday evening. This offered great raw swell potential for Chile up into Peru, but was well east of any great circle route to the California coast. Just the same the there is some suggestion that some degree of sideband swell from this system is to somehow push up the great circle paths to California.
Southern CA: Expect swell arriving on sunset Mon (8/15) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (t2.5 ft) building to near 3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5 ft) late Tuesday (8/16) and holding at 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) Wed (8/17). Swell Direction 176 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arriving on sunset Tues (8/16) with pure swell to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft) building to near 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) late Wednesday (8/17) and holding at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) on Thurs (8/18). Swell Direction 174 degrees
New Zealand Fetch
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 194 degrees starting Mon (8/15) with swell 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft faces) fading from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) on Tues (8/16). Background energy for California by Wed noon (8/17) from 210 degrees but shadowed by Tahiti and buried in theoretical Chilean swell.
Second New Zealand Gale
On Sunday PM (8/14) 40-45 kt south fetch is to start building just southeast of New Zealand with seas building to 28 ft pushing into New Zealand on Monday. But by Monday AM a new area of 45+ kt south fetch is to build off New Zealand resulting in seas to 32 ft seas in the evening at 50S 172W targeting primarily Hawaii. The fetch is to hold into Monday night with more 32 ft seas at 47S 172W on Tuesday AM. A quick fade is forecast thereafter. Maybe some small swell to push north towards Hawaii, but little fetch is to be aimed northeast towards the US mainland. This remains something to monitor.
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 North Pacific jetstream is to become better organized tracking east along the Aleutians by late Wed (8/17) on the 50N latitude with winds at 130 kts and then pushing into Washington near Saturday (8/20). No real troughs forecast but this certainly is an unexpected turn in the models. A modest low pressure system is to form following the stream into the Northern Gulf of Alaska by Friday producing 25 kt west winds. No real swell generation potential suggested with seas only to 17 ft projected, but something to monitor. At the same time high pressure is to build off North CA producing north winds at 20 kts off Cape Mendocino possibly setting up modest north windswell into Saturday. Trades to start building in coverage over Hawaii too by Tues (8/16) at 15+ kts, offering better odds for windswell there along Eastern Shores during the workweek.
As of Friday (8/12) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued slowly rising. The daily SOI was up to 15.23. The 30 day average was down to 8.72 with the 90 day average holding at 5.48. This continues to look like a neutral if not slightly La Nina biased long-term pattern.
Current wind analysis indicates extremely light easterly anomalies in control over the Central equatorial Pacific pushing just a little west of the dateline, then turning to stronger easterly anomalies west of there. This remains 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 just northeast of New Guinea and maybe easing east a little from there. But it also indicates that this area was weakening. The models indicate that weak westerly anomalies if not dead neutral winds are to drift east, perhaps reaching east of the dateline by 8/22 but with easterly anomalies building strong 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 and fading with a moderate Inactive Phase building in the West Pacific. This would indicate the area conducive to formation of moderate tropical systems moving east to the Central Pacific in sync with the MJO.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (8/11) 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 if not increasing their coverage slightly. 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. And those cooler waters off the US West Coast were getting cooler still. Warmer than normal waters appeared to not be building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii. 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. A cold tongue of water previously developing in the tropical Atlantic tracking west from Africa on the equator was fading. For now the big picture still looks like a La Nina.
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 and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii on 8/14 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.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 8/11 we flowing anomalously west in the far West Pacific with a small pocket of strong easterly flow at 120W. Previously we 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 another small gale developing south of New Zealand on Sat (8/20) with southwest winds 40-45 kts resulting in a small area of 32-34 ft seas at 55S 175W late Saturday. This is just something to monitor. No other swell producing fetch is 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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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