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 Monday (9/5) North and Central California was still seeing Swell #7S hitting with waves head high and a few overhead sets early and glassy conditions. 6 days from this swell and counting. Is it sane to say we need a rest? There was nothing coming from the north. Southern California was waist high or so up north (from Swell #7S) and clean but unimpressive. Down south Swell #7S was occasionally chest high and clean early with top spots pushing head high or a little more but with a little texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat. The South Shore was pretty close to flat with occasional knee high sets coming through and glassy early with light trades.The East Shore was small with maybe knee high easterly tradewind generated windswell with lightly chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
High pressure is out of the picture in the North Pacific and instead the first little gale low of the Fall season was pushing through the Gulf of Alaska generating wind and supposedly some seas in the next few days. No sign of local high pressure either till Friday, and then just a modest fetch off Cape Mendocino with 25 kt north winds and making a little windswell possible pushing down into Central CA. And another small gale is forecast long term. Down south a modest gale developed east of New Zealand on Sat (9/3) with 32 ft seas aimed pretty well to the north for 24 hours with swell likely for Hawaii and dribbles for the mainland and Central America. The model suggest a weak system on the extreme eastern edge of the California swell window a week out, but even at that it's energy is to be aimed all east. It looks like the southern hemi has done it's thing for the season and the focus is turning northward.
There's still pockets of snow left over from last winter at the higher elevations of some ski resorts. Squaw Valley hard some in Siberia Bowl and less over under Granite Chief. Kinda amazing seeing how summer is pretty much winding down. Just a testament to how much snow actually fell last winter and how comparatively cool this summer was (in the Western US). Those folks in the Eastern US would say otherwise.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
the surface on Monday (9/5) high pressure was gone from the North Pacific. Instead a 964 mb gale was developing in the Northern Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt west winds up near 50N aimed well at the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours this gale is essentially sit stationary just off the Alaskan coast through Tuesday generating mostly 30 kt west to northwest winds resulting in 22 ft seas by Monday evening at 47N 158W (1600 nmiles from NCal on the 301 degree great circle path and 1500 nmiles from Hawaii and pushing a bit east of the 360 degree path) holding at that location Tuesday AM at 20 ft and then fading in the evening with seas dropping from 19 ft up at 50N 150W (1400 nmiles from NCal on the 310 degree path). This is to result in small swell for North and Central CA at 5.0-5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft faces) after dark on Thursday but likely providing surf for Friday (9/9) into Saturday. Same basic setup for Hawaii too in terms of swell size and arrival time. Nothing special, but just something to ride. No other fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being tracked. Disturbed weather associated with what was tropical storm Noru is still present 450 nmiles east of Japan and tracking north and fading. No swell generation potential for our forecast area is indicated.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (9/5) low pressure was in control of the Gulf of Alaska with no high pressure of interest anywhere in the eastern Pacific. This was resulting in relatively calm winds over California nearshore waters. No real change is forecast until Wed (9/7) when weak high pressure at 1020 mbs starts setting up ridging into British Columbia with maybe 15 kt north winds building off Oregon and extreme Northern CA and holding into Thursday, but again of no real interest. By late Thursday (9/8) the fetch is to become better defined as high pressure building to 1024 mbs and 15 kt north winds could reach down to Pt Conception late, but then are to refocused up near Cape Mendocino by Friday AM with a light eddy flow (south winds) taking control from Pt Arena southward. That pattern is to hold through Saturday (9/10) then fading Sunday as more low pressure building in the Gulf. A slack wind pattern is forecast on Monday as well. Looks like a Fall pattern setting up.
On Monday (9/5) a ridge in the jetstream was pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf under New Zealand then rising fast into a weak trough over the Central Pacific, then diving into another ridge over the Southeastern Pacific. Only the trough held any support for low pressure development at the oceans surface and not much at that winds winds feeding it only 80 kts. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to dissolve but not dissipate setting up a broad area of favorable upper level winds in the Central Pacific by late Wed (9/7) with 120 kt winds feeding up into it while all moving to the east late Thursday. Maybe some support for gale development is suggested. Beyond 72 hours a flat zonal flow is to take over with the southern branch of the jet pretty much flowing over the 60S latitude, right on the edge of Antarctic Ice and not providing any support for gale development.
At the surface on Monday AM (9/5) a broad area of low pressure was circulating in a trough over the South Central Pacific but producing winds only in the 25-30 kt range and not offering anything to produce swell of interest. Otherwise high pressure was over New Zealand and off South America. Over the next 72 hours that low is to track east and fade offering nothing of interest.
New Zealand Gale
On Friday AM (9/2) a gale was building just southeast of New Zealand with a broad area of 35-40 kt southwest winds tracking northeast through Saturday evening. This resulted in 30 ft seas Friday PM (9/2) at 51S 178E building to 32 ft Sat AM at 46S 176W (shadowed by Tahiti relative to the US West Coast) with a second area south of it with 30 ft seas at 55S 180W. Both pushed north Saturday PM (9/3) with 32 ft seas up north at 40S 170W and 30 ft seas to the south at 53S 174W. This system was gone by Sunday AM (9/4). Small swell possible for Hawaii and less for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival during the day Friday (9/9) pushing near 3 ft @ 17 secs late (5 ft) then fading through the day Saturday (9/10) with swell initially 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.0-5.5 ft) and dropping from 3.6 ft @ 14 secs on Sunday (5 ft). Swell Direction: 191 degrees
California: Swell swell expected to arrive on Monday (9/12) with pure swell maybe 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 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 hrs high pressure is to start rebuilding modestly 600 nmiles off the North CA coast on Friday (9/9) resulting in a fetch of 25 kt north winds near Cape Mendocino holding into Saturday, then fading. This fetch is to come nowhere near the Central CA coast with instead an eddy flow in effect. Maybe some windswell to result arriving about in sync with the small Gulf swell.
By Sunday (9/11) a small low is to start wrapping up again in the Northern Gulf with a small fetch of 30-35 kt west winds for 24 hours producing a tiny area of 19 ft seas with tiny swell possible targeting the US West Coast. But that is too far out to have any credence.
In short, it looks like Fall is trying to get started, but we're not there yet.
As of Monday (9/5) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising just slightly. The daily SOI was 6.90. The 30 day average was up to 4.62 with the 90 day average up to 4.52.
Current wind analysis indicates very light easterly anomalies blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific just making it over the dateline, then fading to neutral from there into Indonesia. Near normal winds were over the far Eastern Pacific with no anomalies indicated. This is the same pattern that has been in effect for 2 months now (neutral to light west anomalies on either side of the Pacific and light east anomalies in the the middle) and indicative of neither the Active or Inactive Phase. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to build over both the East and West Pacific a week out (9/12) with easterly anomalies over the Central Pacific too. This is suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. But another model suggests that if anything the exact opposite is to occur, with the Active Phase of the MJO building in the West Pacific starting a week out an building there 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase migrate from the West Pacific into the East Pacific. We take more stock in the latter scenario. This also bodes well for the North Pacific storm corridor about 1-2 weeks out (starting 9/13), just beyond the horizon of the weather models.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/5) 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. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. But warmer than normal waters are not building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii, and if anything are shrinking. And that pattern as getting more pronounced as of 9/5 with eddy's of cool water starting to invade the Galapagos warm pool near 120W. Tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres but are trying to make inroads to the east, a bit more effective in the north and in the south, now reaching into Northern CA. But overall the big picture still looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things continue unchanged. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, 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. 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 8/8 with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii through 8/18 and blocking the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 100 meters and was rising while gaining areal coverage. Then on 8/20 it looked a bit weaker, down to -4 degs below normal and by 8/23 vaporized with just residual -2 degree anomalies left behind. By 8/28 those anomalies were holding at -2 C and drifting east while fading, down to -1 deg on 8/30. No change thru 9/5. Though weak, this area of cool subsurface water was still blocking the normal warm flow to the east. This suggests that a weak Active Phase of the MJO in mid-August might have tried to dislodged the cool pool, at least temporarily, but then it returned with the Inactive Phase in the West Pacific the last weeks of August.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 9/5 were unchanged from the previous month 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 there's suggestions that a small gale might form in the Southeastern Pacific on Fri (9/9) with 35 kt southwest winds producing maybe 30 ft seas at 50S 120W, on the very eastern edge of the California swell window, but mostly aimed at Chile. No swell expected to result for US interests. A better gales forecast in the same area Sunday (9/11) with up to 35 kt west-southwest winds and 30 ft seas building to 34 ft Monday AM (9/12) at 50S 125W but again aimed mostly at Chile. Maybe some sideband swell to result, but odds very low considering it's still a week from forming.
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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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table