New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Sunday (8/31) Northern CA surf was 1.5 times over head with a few bigger sets and raw. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to chest high and reasonably clean early. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was chest to head high but socked in. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was thigh to maybe waist high and clean but a little warbled. The LA Area southward to Orange County was knee to thigh high and textured early. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were chest high and almost clean. The North Shore of Oahu was flat and clean. The South Shore was near flat and clean. The East Shore was up to knee high.
North/Central California was getting the peak of local windswell but wind was on it even early. Southern California was getting a fraction of that windswell with a tiny bit of southern hemi swell mixed in, but not really doing much. Hawaii's North Shore had no swell. The South Shore had no swell. And almost no east windswell was occurring on the East Shore.
For Central California locally generated northerly windswell remains the best swell source for the upcoming week, slowly fading in size Monday then holding in the chest to shoulder high range for the rest of the week. Southern CA to see percentage of this windswell at best. But of more interest is the expected arrival of very southerly angled southern hemi swell from a gale that was off Chile Monday (8/25) expected to start showing on late Tues (9/2) and peaking Wed (9/3) with size into Thursday. The extreme south angle will limit it's exposure to only the best south facing breaks. The North Shore to remain unrideable for the next week, Tradewind generated east windswell expected on the East Shore starting late Monday and is expected to continue in the rideable range for the foreseeable future. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expected to see any of the Chilean southern hemi swell. But another gale developed under New Zealand starting Thursday (8/28) with 32 ft seas indicated then faded to the 29 ft range into early Sunday offering reasonable potential for both Hawaii for Thurs-Sat (9/6) and California beyond that. Nothing forecast in the North Pacific though. So we continue in summer-time mode for now. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (8/28) the North Pacific jetstream was almost returning to normal with the bulk of the flow focus west to east just south of the Aleutians in the 90 kt range, though it wa still a bit fragmented. No ridges or troughs of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours it's to get marginally better organized with 110 kts winds becoming the average and a bit of a trough setting up on the dateline on Tuesday (9/2) with up to 120 kt winds flowing into it, then pushing slowly east tot he Western Gulf on Thursday and becoming pinched off and dying on Friday. Limited support for surface level low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours a return to the fragmented and split pattern is suggested, with winds only in the 90 kts range south of the Aleutians and energy also flowing north of the Bering Sea offering no real support for surface level low pressure development.
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was located 750 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA generating a pressure gradient over land there producing up to 35 kt north winds and reasonably large windswell pushing south (seas at 15+ ft). Winds from this system were also taking aim on Hawaii with 15 kts fetch already reaching Oahu, which should result in building northeasterly windswell. Also a 992 mb gale was moving northeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt winds and 20 ft seas aimed toward Central Canada. A small low pressure system at 996 mbs was approaching the dateline with no winds of interest. Otherwise no fetch of interest was in play. Over the next 72 hours high pressure off California is to hold into early Monday, then back off some with winds only in the 25-30 kts range over Cape Mendocino and windswell down a few notches from the weekend larger size. The gale in the Northern Gulf is to fade through Monday with peak seas generated Sunday evening at 23 ft aimed mostly at Northern Canada and Alaska. No real swell to result for the US mainland. The gale that is over the dateline is to race northeast generating winds of up to barely 30 kts but even that meager fetch is to not get any traction on the oceans surface. No other swell source indicated.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/31) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 7500 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA ridging into Oregon generating an enhanced pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in 30 kt north winds there and northerly windswell for breaks south of there. Winds from that fetch were pushing south into Central CA waters making a pretty good mess of conditions. Monday (9/1) the gradient is to be starting to loose it's grip while incrementally pulling away from the coast. Somewhat calmer local winds and better conditions to result. Tuesday-Sunday (9/7) the gradient to continue in the 25 kts range rebuilding Friday to 35 kts but still nowhere near the Central CA coast with an light eddy flow expected (southwest 5 kts). Reasonably clean conditions.
On Sunday (8/31) no tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
On Sunday (8/31) a split jetstream pattern remained in control of the entire South Pacific with a solid ridge pushing south over the Ross Ice Shelf in the Southeast Pacific. Under New Zealand a trough was starting to develop with 130 kt winds feeding into it and offering some support for surface level low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to continue pushing east with 140 kts winds feeding into it through early Tuesday, but not getting much real estate to work with with the remnants of a strong ridge still hanging out over the Southeast Pacific. Both to dissipate on Wednesday. Beyond 72 hrs the split jetstream flow to continue with the southern branch basically flow flat west to east along the 60S latitude offering no clear support for surface level low pressure development.
At the oceans surface low pressure at 960 mbs was over the Ross Ice Shelf southeast of New Zealand generating only 35 kt winds over exposed waters and not generating seas of interest. High pressure at 1044 mbs was east of northern New Zealand ridging south to 63S pretty much putting a cap on things in the west. A second high at 1032 mbs was in the east pushing south to 60S doing the same thing there. Over the next 72 hrs high pressure off New Zealand is to continue it's grip on the South Pacific storm, minimizing the odds for storm development.
Cutoff Chilean Low
A cutoff low coalesced just off Chile on Sunday (8/24) generating 45 kt southerly winds at 53S 93W generating up to 32 ft seas at 50S 95W in the evening pushing north. Some degree of 35 kt fetch held Monday AM (8/25) generating 30 ft seas at 49S 98W ten fading to 29 ft in the evening at 45S 101W. All fetch was gone Tuesday AM (8/26) with residual 27 ft seas fading at 40S 98W. Possible small swell for CA 8 days beyond with period in the 15 secs range, with larger swell for Central America.
Also a secondary gale developed due south of California generating 12 hrs of 29 ft seas at 40S 125W on Wed PM (8/27).
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (9/2) mid-day with period near 17 sec and size tiny, but building. Size to build late Wednesday, a combination of swell from off Chile and the secondary gale south of CA producing 2 swell s with period 15 secs (3 ft @ 15 secs - 4.5 ft faces) continuing on into early Thursday (9/4) with swell 3 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 164-168 and 183 degrees
New Zealand Gale
A gale low began to sneak under New Zealand late Wednesday at 976 mbs generating 40 kt westerly winds at 58S 160E.
It tracked northeast with 40-45 kts winds over an expanding area Thursday AM (8/28) at 55S 172E generating 30 ft seas at 55S 172E aimed well towards both Hawaii and CA but moving into the Tahitian swell shadow for CA (212 degrees). The Jason-1 satellite confirmed seas at 30-32 ft with a peak reading to 41 ft. Hmmm. It's continued Thursday PM with 45-50 kt winds at 53S 179W aimed northeast targeting Hawaii and California. 32 ft seas were modeled at 52S 178E hanging right on the western edge of the Tahitian swell shadowed for NCal (212 degrees) and in it from SCal (216 degrees).
By Friday AM (8/29) 40 kts winds to continue aimed even further to the north (aimed almost due north) at 44S 168W with 32 ft seas modeled at 46S 174W. In the evening a new fetch of 45-50 kts winds built at 47S 163W aimed north-northeast with 30 ft seas modeled at 44S 169W. All of CA was in the Tahitian swell shadow.
The fetch started fading Saturday AM (8/30) with 40-45 kt south winds at 47S 160W and 29 ft seas modeled at 43S 160W pushing north. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the northern reaches of the fetch early Am and reported seas 26.7 ft with a peak reading of 35 ft. So the Wavewatch model likely is presenting a good idealized view of what is going on. In the evening the fetch tried to hang on but was loosing areal coverage with a small patch of winds confirmed at 40-45 kts at 42S 155W and barely 28 ft seas modeled at 42S 158W and shadowed from CA. The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the fetch and did one better though, reporting 33.2 ft seas at 45S 157W with a peak reading to 36 ft.
On Sunday (8/31) residual 35 kts winds were hanging on with 28 ft seas modeled at 38S 155W aimed dead for Tahiti. This system to die in the evening with seas falling below 27 ft.
This is not a particularly intense system, really just utility class by usual summertime standards, but holding on for a long time and following a directed path giving it's limited winds every ounce of traction they can get on the oceans surface. Given the limited amount of activity of late, this might actually be something to get a bit excited over, especially in Hawaii and Tahiti, but California to be basically shadowed by Tahiti for the whole thing. Still some degree of rideable southern hemi swell is expected to result. Fun but nothing more and likely a bit inconsistent with few number of waves per set for the mainland, though better for the Hawaiian Islands. Tahiti to get a good last shot at a modest tow swell (or large paddle swell) for select breaks.
Tahiti: Expect swell arrival starting Monday (9/1) with swell building fast through the day peaking at sunset with pure swell 10.5 ft @ 15 secs (15 ft faces Hawaiian) from 205-210 degrees
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Thursday (8/4) building to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs late (4.5 ft faces) continuing upward Friday (9/5) with swell 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces) fading Saturday with swell 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces). Swell Direction 190 degrees
California: Expect swell arrival Sunday (9/7) with swell pushing 2 ft @ 17 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft faces) from 210 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 hours high pressure off California is to hang on and perhaps rebuild by Friday (9/5) with 35 kt north winds again expected over Cape Mendocino, pushing windswell up some for Central CA, then fading steadily through the weekend. Weak low pressure to move north through the Gulf of Alaska Sat/Sun (9/7) then track north of the Aleutians, but no swell producing fetch is indicated. Pretty quiet for now.
MJO/ENSO Update: As of Sunday (8/31) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fully in the Inactive phase and not supportive of North Pacific storm formation. The Daily SOI index was at 22.03. The 30 day average was up to 8.21 and the 90 day average was up to 4.35, still neutral, but up compared to weeks and days previous. Winds at at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up), indicated east winds over the entire Western Pacific reaching over the dateline but not as much in day previous. The peak of the Inactive Phase has passed and we are no in the downward side of it. It's to slowly fade through the first week in September and be nearly gone by 9/10. Unfortunately no signs whatsoever of the Active Phase are forecast suggesting no support for fueling the development of North Pacific storms in September. Of note - the weak MJO pattern of late has caused what was a promising flow of warmer than normal subsurface waters from the West to east Pacific to break down, with a marked cool pocket now positioned 150 deep on the equator south of Hawaii, smack in the middle of the channel that normally enable warm water to flow to the east. This is not indicative of an El Nino like circulation, and if anything looks still like La Nina, thereby suggesting no enhancement to the winter North Pacific storm pattern. The relatively active tropics in the East Pacific also support the thesis that a La Nina-like global circulation pattern is in-play.
Beyond 72 hrs the models suggest spurious bit's of fetch possible tracking just north of the Ross Ice Shelf west to east, but none getting serious traction or having the potential to generate even utility class swell.
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