New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 Saturday (9/5) North and Central California had small local northwest windswell at waist high with a light onshore flow and some texture. Small and boring. Southern California had no real rideable surf with waves knee high at best coming from the northwest and onshore early up north but a little cleaner down south. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting limited waist high plus northeast windswell with onshore winds and chopped. The South Shore was really small, with maybe some knee high sets wrapping in from the east with modest trades in effect.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for a little more northwest local short period windswell on Sunday followed by some swell from the Gulf for Monday fading Tuesday. Southern California is to remain effectively unrideable until later Monday when pieces for the Gulf swell are forecast to arrive at exposed break, peaking late then heading down into Tuesday. The North Shore of Hawaii is not expected to see any rideable surf for the next 5 days. The East Shore is to see a bit more size from the easterly windswell into Monday and Tuesday at waist to almost chest high, then dropping off a little. The South Shore is to be near flat for the foreseeable future.
Over the long term a gale in the Gulf is to provide a decent pulse of swell up into the Pacific Northwest by Sunday and Central CA for Labor Day, then things are to drop off. Tropical Storm Dujuan is forecast to build some under Japan then track east to the dateline Tuesday (9/8) possibly generating some seas and setting up small swell for Hawaii, but that's just a guess. Otherwise we're just waiting for the Inactive Phase of the MJO to push east out of the Pacific and the Active Phase to come in the front door (West Pacific), hopefully reinvigorating the tropics in the West and setting up extratropical storm activity.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (9/5) the North Pacific jetstream was looking decent with a contiguous flow of winds tracking more or less flat over the 45N latitude. A trough was over the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with 140 kt winds providing support for gale development there. A second very weak trough was over the dateline, but not providing any gale development support. Over the next 72 hrs the Gulf trough is to push inland over Oregon while the flat consolidated flow continues over the greater North Pacific until late Monday (9/7). At that time a bit more energy is to get interjected into the jet with 130 kt winds starting to build in the Western Gulf (but no troughing yet). Beyond 72 hours a new trough is forecast for the Gulf mid-next-week (9/10) with 130 kts winds pushing into it, but it's to be tucked up in the far northern Gulf and pushing northeast pretty fast. By Friday (9/11) the while jet is to be racing east with 150 kts winds running dead flat west to east over it's width and no troughs forecast, reducing odds for low pressure development. Nice energy levels though.
At the surface on Saturday (9/5) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was 750 nmiles north of Hawaii generating trades at 15-20 kts there resulting in small short period easterly windswell there. But the fetch was not very deep. A gale was in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska (details below). Another low was on the dateline just south of the Aleutians but only generating 20 kts winds (no swell potential). And a broad area of 30 kt south winds associated with Tropical Storm Dujuan was south of Japan offering hope for the long term. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to provide the most hope for swell development, but limited to the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, with some energy seeping into Southern CA. High pressure that was north of Hawaii is to start pushing east ridging into Oregon by Sunday generating north winds along the North and Central CA coast at 20 kts, making a mess of things there on into Monday. Weak low pressure from the dateline is track east into the Gulf but not do anything. The extratropical remnants of Typhoon Dujuan are to be pushing to the dateline (see Tropical Forecast below).
A low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska built on Friday AM (9/4) with pressure at 996 mbs. A small fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds developed at 50N 148W with seas on the increase, to 20 ft at 49N 150W. By the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds were modeled at 45N 143W resulting in 20 ft seas at 47N 145W. These readings were on the 308 degree path to Central CA. Additional 30-35 kt northwest winds were modeled holding at 46N 140W Saturday AM with 20 ft seas at 48N 140W. Fetch is to hold into the evening with 30-35 kts winds at 45N 135W with 20 ft seas forecast at 46N 137W, just off the Oregon coast and on the 310 degree path into Central CA. The fetch is to be fading Sunday AM with seas dropping from 18 ft at 45N 130W. This all adds up to good possibilities of 12-13 sec period swell pushing southeast into Oregon on Sunday and Central CA for Labor Day.
Central CA: Expect swell arrivalMonday (9/7) at 1 AM with period 13 secs and size building, reaching 6.6-7.0 ft @ 12-13 secs near sunrise (8-9 ft faces). Swell Direction: 308-312 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival Monday (9/7) at 9 AM with period 13 secs and size building, reaching 3.0 ft @ 12-13 secs mid-day near sunrise (3.5-4.0 ft faces at exposed breaks). Swell Direction: 310-315 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/3) low pressure was building in the Gulf of Alaska and trying to cut into high pressure that has been ridging into the Central CA coast. Still 15 kt north winds were positioned off the shore, making for some texture and ruffle. High pressure is to try and get a better foothold on Friday, setting up north winds at 20-25 kts mainly over Pt Conception but affecting up to the San Francisco Bay area with 15 kt north winds there. A building gale low is forecast tracking from the Gulf of Alaska to Oregon killing local high pressure with north winds settling down Sat and Sun (9/6). But high pressure and north winds are forecast developing over Central CA behind the weak front associated with the Gulf low, returning on Monday (9/7) affecting all of Central CA, finally lifting north on Tuesday to Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow taking control south of there. The high pressures system and eddy flow are to fade out by Thursday (9/10) as more low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska .
The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control of the Eastern Pacific expected to have control for the next 2 weeks and likely hampering odds for tropical storm formation:
Tropical Storm Dujuan was located 700 nmiles south of South Central Japan and tracking slowly north-northeast. Sustained winds were 45 kts with slow strengthening forecast, reaching typhoon force on late Sunday (9/6). Additional strengthening to 70 kts is forecast through Tues (9/8) as Dujuan moves to within 200 nmiles of the Central Japan coast. A turn to the northeast is forecast directly after that with Dujuan moving into open waters of the North Pacific and accelerating on to the northeast with winds down to 55 kts. The models and the official forecast are in conflict regarding what will happen next. The models suggest a fast acceleration with Dujuan on the dateline on Tuesday and in the Gulf of Alaska on Wednesday (9/9) with 45-50 kts winds. That will likely change multiple times between now and then, but the key feature required for swell production is that the system has to slow it's forward speed to allow it's fetch to get tractions on the oceans surface. It's too early to know how this will play out, but is certainly worth watching.
At the surface on Saturday (9/5) high pressure at 1024 mbs remained south of Tahiti ridging tot he southeast, but not reaching the Ross Ice Shelf and relenting it's lock on the South Pacific storm corridor. A cutoff gale was building off the northeastern tip of New Zealand producing 45 kt southeast winds with a tiny area of seas to 30 ft forecast mi-day. But this fetch was in the gales south quadrant pushing west to northwest, aimed almost directly at Fiji. Swell likely there, but nothing is expected for US interests. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast with high pressure still giving any fetch in the South Pacific a decidedly southward push, targeting Antarctica if anywhere.
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 the remnants of Dujuan are to reach the Gulf of Alaska with solid winds still (40-45 kts) but racing east-northeast and getting little if any traction on the oceans surface. Will be interesting to watch this one though, because such systems are notorious for not doing exactly what the models expect. Another broad gale is forecast building over Kamchatka on Thurs (9/10) producing 30-35 kt west winds then tracking east over the Aleutians Friday and Saturday, with 35 kts fetch fading and just barely south of the Aleutians. Maybe some swell to radiate from this fetch, but it's way too early to know for sure.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Saturday (9/5) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in the Inactive Phase, and a bit stronger still than projected even 24 hours earlier. The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) index remained slightly negative. The Daily SOI index was up to 21.87. The 30 day average was up to -1.61 and the 90 average was up to -0.76. The SOI index was slowly on the rise, typical of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Wind anomalies at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that strong easterly anomalies have now built over the entire Eastern equatorial Pacific starting weakly over the Philippines and building in velocity south of Hawaii into Central America. This is the peak of this event and is expected to hold though loosing areal coverage through 9/9. All this is typical of the Inactive Phase of the MJO and is a much stronger signal than the models had indicated 24 hours earlier. But of more interest, the models also indicate that western anomalies associated with a building Active Phase of the MJO were taking root over the Indian Ocean, looking pretty healthy and also stronger than even 24 hours earlier. As the Inactive Phase pushes over Central America on 9/9 the Active Phase is to be starting to exit the Indian Ocean pushing into the Western Pacific. his same pattern is to hold through 9/14 with the Easterly anomalies easing and tracking east out of the Pacific over Central America while the Westerly anomalies push into the Western Pacific and to the dateline holding strength. By 9/19 a decent core of westerly anomalies are to remain reaching to the dateline with the Easterly Anomalies al but gone over Central America. By 9/24 weak westerly anomalies are to continue extending from the Philippines to the dateline and under Hawaii. So the question remains: How far off the mark are the models, and will the Westerly Anomalies develop stronger than currently forecast and hold longer too. And will the Easterly anomalies fade earlier than expected. It's too early to tell, but our guess is that might be the case. The good news is the easterly anomalies didn't even develop until they reached the East Pacific, leaving the prime area for Westerly Wind Burst development (and Kelvin Wave formation) untouched. Such a scenario only aids the development of El Nino.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/3) indicates only subtle change over the past month, with a solid area of warmer than normal water extending over the equator from the dateline east and building into Central/South America with temps holding at 2.0 deg C above normal in the east. This is suggestive of a moderate El Nino. But the expanse of the warmer waters has increased some solidifying there grip north up the coast of Baja Mexico and Southern CA, but still retreated from the Central California coast. There is also more coverage over the dateline region pushing east, suggesting the warm pool is in fact building not in intensity but in area. This would likely have a stronger effect on the environment over the long term. Cooler than normal waters (-2.0 deg C) remain mirrored streaming off Africa and pushing east reaching South America. Typical of stronger Classic El Ninos of the past. .
Below the surface on the equator major changes are developing. A steady flow of warmer than normal subsurface water has been tracking from the West Pacific (150 m below the surface) under the dateline and breaking the surface near Central America for months now. And if anything that pattern is building, very much so. 2-3 deg warmer than normal waters are in control from 175W extending then whole way into Central America in one non-stop contiguous stream. Most impressive. The Kelvin Wave we have been tracking of late is embedded in the stream with it's core near 165W, the result of a Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) in the West Pacific that occurred on 7/25-8/2. Between it and the Kelvin Wave off Central America, a nearly continuous pool of 2+ deg C warmer than normal water is present from west of the dateline into Central America with pockets to near 3 C above normal. This is very good news if it holds. We actually expect it to hold for weeks or more. This is exactly the sort of situation we've been looking for and is critical to the formation of a legitimate El Nino. We suspect this large confluence of warm water backing up across the length of the thermocline could possibly feed a continuous stream of warm water into the Central America coast for months to come. This is interesting.
Fully blowing westerly winds in the far West Pacific and westerly anomalies reached to the dateline starting 8/12. They had pretty much settled down by 8/19, and were reduced to weak anomalies by 8/20, continuing steady 8/31. But on 9/3 more fully blowing west winds were indicated and were holding into 9/5 extending from the west to 165E with a solid westerly anomaly in play. This is the result of developing tropical system (Dujuan) in the West Pacific, classic El Nino symptoms. This is good news and might continue to gently feed the subsurface warm water flow pushing east. At a minimum it suggests reinforcements for the existing Kelvin Wave pattern already in-play. Will continue monitoring this situation.
The belief at this time is this developing El Nino is past the critical juncture, and will survive in some fashion with effects continuing in the atmosphere until at least the Spring of next year. All data suggests this will not be a strong El Nino, more likely a moderate one. NOAA is forecasting the same outcome. Of note, some data suggests that during the development of moderate to stronger El Nino's and La Nina's, it is normal for the MJO signal to become exceedingly weak. That was the case in late July into August, but a far stronger signal is now in play. That coupled with the solid accumulation of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific is evidence in-favor of continued development. As long as there continues to be WWB's, then warm water will be migrating east, and the warm water pattern will hold if not build, and the atmosphere above it will respond in kind to the change (towards El Nino). Therefore the delineation of whether development will continue versus stall is dependent upon more WWBs. And current data indicates that the warm pool will continue to build.
The next milestone we're looking for is development of the next Active Phase of the MJO, expected sometime near the 3rd week of Sept. The models (as of 9/3) now indicate it is forecast to develop as hoped for. Also water temps need to hold if not build (as is happening now). A final confirmation should be possible in mid-Sept. In the mean time, the current Inactive Phase currently in-progress faltered as it passed over the West Pacific, a good thing in that it allowed the prime area for Westerly Wind Bursts to remain unscathed, allowing the warm pool to continue to build. Strong El Ninos bring lot's of bad weather to the US West Coast, along with the potential for storm and swell enhancement. A moderate El Nino provides storm and swell enhancement, a gentle but steady push/momentum in-favor of storm development rather than the manic frenzy of a strong El Nino, but without all the weather associated with a strong event. So in many ways a moderate El Nino is more favorable from a surf perspective. As of right now things remain miles better than anything the Pacific has seen in the past 12 years regarding anomalous sea surface temperatures, besting anything since the big El Nino of 1997. That is very good news. But the lack of a clear response in the atmosphere as evidenced by a unremarkable SOI remains the only perplexing indicator. But we're becoming more disposed to think the SOI of more of a lagging indicator, at least for this event.
See more details in the new El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no immediate swell producing fetch is forecast aimed towards US interests. The models suggest a huge gale developing on the extreme eastern edge of the South CA swell window (Southeast Pacific) on Wednesday (9/9) with 45 kt winds, but mostly encases in ice to the south. Any exposed fetch is to be aimed east towards Southern Chile. No other fetch of interest 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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Shark Video: Our friend Curt Myers of Powerlines productions shot this footage of 2 great whites munching on a whale carcass off Devils Slide (south of San Francisco) on Thursday. Kind of interesting to watch. Check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4rZYEZMWQ (Fixed link)
Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Stormsurf Wave Models Updated: On Friday (2/6) we installed the latest upgrade to our wavemodels. A year in the works, this upgrade essentially is a total re-write of every wave model product we produce. They now take advantage of the new Version 3 of the Wavewatch wavemodel. This version runs at a much higher resolution, specifically 0.0 X 0.5 degrees for the global grib with local products at 0.1667 X 0.1667 degrees, and it uses the hi-res GFS model for wind speeds. And of even more interest, the model now identifies primary swell and windwave variables. As such we now have new model images which displays this data. Also we've included out special 3D topographic land masks into all models. In all it makes for a radical step forward in wave model technology. We'll be upgrading minor components (FAQ, new menu pages etc) for a few weeks to come, but all the basics are available for your use now. Check it out here: http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wam.html
Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here: http://www.surfpulse.com/2009/01/visceral-surf-forecasting-with-mark-sponsler/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table