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 Tuesday (9/13) North and Central CA was seeing little to no northwest windswell with waves waist high, warbled and weak. Down south New Zealand swell was hitting nicely with sets head high or a little more and well lined up and glassy. Southern California had limited southern hemi energy up north at waist high and glassy. Down south that same swell was waist high with some rare bigger sets with textured conditions. Hawaii's North Shore had some new Gulf swell with waves pushing shoulder high or better and clean. The South Shore was still getting some New Zealand leftover swell with waves waist to chest high and clean. The East Shore was also getting north Gulf swell with waves chest to shoulder high but with modestly chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A modest gale developed in the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (9/11) setting up small swell pushing into Central CA on Wednesday. At the same time high pressure is to be making a comeback in the East Pacific with the usual pressure gradient developing over Cape Mendocino and producing up to 25 kt north winds Friday and Saturday (9/17) resulting in small north short period windswell for Central CA, then fading as more low pressure tries to push into the area. Something semi-interesting is forecast tracking from the Northern Dateline region on into the Gulf of Alaska starting Monday (9/10). Still a reach for the models, but there is hope. Also trades to build a little pushing over Hawaii Thurs-Sun (9/18) perhaps generating minimal easterly short period windswell there over east facing shores. Down south swell from a modest gale that developed east of New Zealand on Sat (9/3) with 32 ft seas aimed pretty well to the north for 24 hours has hit the CA coast and peaked out. A downward trend expected by Wednesday (9/14). Another weaker system formed on the eastern edge of the California swell window on Sun (9/11) with 34 ft seas reported on Monday, but most of it's energy is to be aimed all east. Minimal swell to radiate north. After that the southern hemi is to totally shut down. Looks like Fall might arrive just in time.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/13) at the jetstream level a reasonably well organized flow was tracking more or less flat west to east on the 47N latitude pushing into British Columbia. A pocket of 130 kt west winds were over the Western Gulf, but not pushing south enough to call it a trough. Over the next 72 hours that area of wind is to push east and fade, followed closely by another similar patch of 140 kt winds on Thursday (9/15), but it too fading quickly. Still both these suggest that something is trying to get a foothold in the North Pacific focused on the Western Gulf. But no clear support for gale development was suggested. Beyond 72 hours a more energetic pattern is forecast developing with 150 kts winds feeding into the flow pushing off Kamchatka on Sat (9/17) and building over the width of the North Pacific by Tues (9/20) with a mild trough starting to build in the Western Gulf. Limited potential for gale development indicated.
At the surface on Tuesday (9/13) weak low pressure at 994 mbs was in the Bering Sea pushing down to the Aleutian Islands with 20 kt west winds extending just south of there from Kamchatka east to Alaska, but with not enough velocity to generate swell. Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was north of Hawaii and just off the Pacific Northwest and California, but having no significant effect from a wind generation (and therefore swell generation) perspective. Swell from a gale that built in the Gulf of Alaska Sun-Mon (9/12 - details below) was hitting Hawaii and pushing towards the California coast. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to again make a showing northeast of Hawaii ridging into the Central CA coast setting up a building fetch of north winds to 20 kts over Cape Mendocino by Wed (9/14) pushing down into Central CA waters likely starting to generate short period north windswell in that area but pretty ragged conditions with the fetch pretty much impacting the coast there and holding into Thursday. The high is to also start generating trades at 15 kts pushing over the Hawaiian Islands with short period east windswell starting to take hold at that time. The high is to peak out of Friday (9/16) with 20-25 kt north winds over Cape Mendo and 15 kt trades pushing into Hawaii, then starting to dissipate later Saturday first in California and then on Sunday in Hawaii with windswell on the way down.
On Saturday (9/10) a new gale started building 1300 nmiles west of Oregon with pressure 992 mbs and winds building on Sunday mid-day (9/11) to near 40 kts in it's southwest quadrant aimed well at Central CA 1400 nmiles out on the 297 degree great circle path, then fading from 35 kts and lifting slowly north in the evening.18 ft seas were modeled at 45N 148W Sunday PM aimed all to the east and holding into Monday AM (at 45N 145W). A quick fade occurred thereafter. Buoy 46006 reported pure swell of 9-10 ft @ 12-13 secs for a 5 hr window starting Tuesday at 7 PM.
Small swell was radiating east towards Oregon down into Central CA arriving at the latter early Wednesday AM (9/14) with swell peaking at 5.5 @ 12 secs (6.0 ft faces) from 298 degrees.
Varying degrees of weak follow-on westerly fetch occurred in the same area Tues-Wed (9/14) with 11-13 ft seas resulting, offering more limited 9 sec period windswell for Central CA northward into the early weekend but likely buried in local windchop.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/13) weak high pressure was starting to build off the CA coast at 1026 mbs with north winds modeled at 15 kts late affecting all of North CA. That fetch is to build to 20 kts on Wed centered off Pt Arena with 15 kt northwest winds reaching all nearshore coastal waters late, then starting to pull away from the coast with the fetch becoming more focused on Cape Mendocino late Thursday (9/15) with winds to 25 kt up there through Friday. An small eddy flow is forecast by Fri (9/16) from Pt Reyes southward continuing through Saturday (9/17) with a near total collapse of the gradient on Sunday with its residuals pushing south hanging just off Central CA as low pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska.The gradient is to build directly over Central CA Mon-Wed (9/21) displaced to the south as the first Fall gale of the season pushes into Vancouver Island and Washington on Tues (9/20).
At the surface on Tuesday (9/13) weak low pressure was just east of New Zealand generating a small fetch of 35 kt southwest winds with seas forecast to 26-28 ft over an infintistimal area by late evening targeting Hawaii well, then fading on Wednesday. Tiny 15 sec swell could result for the Islands with luck. otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. No swell generation is expected.
Southeast Pacific Gale
At the surface on Sunday AM (9/11) a 968 mb gale built in the Southeast Pacific supported by a building trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Southwest winds were at 40 kts and building in areal coverage with speeds to 45 kts in the evening while tracking east some. Seas to 32 ft modeled in the evening at 52S 134W. 40 kt west winds held into Monday AM (9/12) resulting in 34 ft seas at 50S 127W, on the eastern edge of the California swell window but mainly targeting Chile with only sideband energy pushing up into California. Fetch was fading fast Monday PM with only 35 kt south winds in the CA swell window and seas from previous fetch 32 ft at 47S 120W and moving east out of the California swell window. This was 4830 nmiles south of Southern CA and is expected to result in small sideband swell for exposed breaks in California coming from 180-187 degrees arriving late Monday (9/19) in Southern CA with period at 17-18 secs and peaking Tuesday noon (9/20) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft). the peak is to hit Central CA on Wednesday AM. But most energy is to be focused on South America.
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. Of note: Swell that hit Hawaii on Saturday was bigger than forecast with solid overhead surf reported there with top breaks pushing double overhead on sets if not more. Perhaps some of that energy will reach CA too, but odds not in favor of it.
California (North and South): Swell fading Wed (9/14) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs mid-day (3.5 ft faces) and heading down fast from there. 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 a new low pressure systems is forecast developing just south of the Aleutians on Sunday (9/18) pushing east with 30 kt west winds building to 35 kt on Monday in the Central Gulf. 22 ft seas forecast relatively close to the Pacific Northwest Monday evening at 46N 150W and holding into Tuesday AM at 46N 140W. Possible decent 13 sec periods well pushing into the Pacific Northwest on down into Central CA later in the week.
Of more interest is a second gale forecast building directly behind with 45 kt northwest winds Tuesday PM (9/20) resulting in 24 ft seas building at 47N 158W. Possible utility class winter swell to result for both Hawaii and the US West Coast if one choses to believe the models.
As of Tuesday (9/13) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping solidly. The daily SOI was -10.34. The 30 day average was down some at 3.98 with the 90 day average up slightly to 5.05.
Current wind analysis indicated light to moderate easterly anomalies were blowing from the Western equatorial Pacific over the dateline then whole way to and over the Eastern Pacific. This suggest that a weak Inactive Phase is still in control as it has been for months locked over the Central Pacific. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to build over the entire West Pacific a week out (9/21) with a near neutral pattern building over the Central Pacific with easterly anomalies in the East. This is a change for the Central Pacific but not really indicative of the Active Phase and rather is just a slackening of the Inactive Phase. But another long term model suggests that if anything a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is building in the Indian Ocean and is to push into the West Pacific 10-15 days out (9/27) while the Inactive Phase migrates from the West Pacific into the East Pacific. It is hard to believe either model at this point. Will monitor but we suspect there is no good impact expected in relation to the North Pacific storm over the next few weeks.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/12) 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 were shrinking. And that pattern as getting more pronounced as of 9/12 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 have again taken a turn for the worse. 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, but then on 9/8 they again dropped to -4 degs C only to rebound to -3 deg C on 9/11 and -2 deg C on 9/13. Regardless of the fine details, 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 into September. that Inactive Phase may now be fading, but it is too early to declare any outcome just yet.
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 into 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 no swell producing fetch is forecast with high pressure and an unfavorable jetstream pattern expected.
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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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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table