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 (9/18) North and Central CA was seeing small locally generated windswell hitting at knee to maybe thigh high and clean early. Down south there was no real surf with occasional waves to knee high and clean. Southern California was flat up north with waves barely 2 ft on the sets and glassy. Down south there might have been some residual southern hemi swell generating waves occasionally to thigh high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore had some rare thigh high sets and clean early. The East Shore was getting easterly trade wind generated windswell with waves waist high high but chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Sunday (9/18) the first in a series of gale was pushing into British Columbia producing 22 ft seas but mostly east of the swell window for Central CA. But of far more interest was a much more potent gale wrapping up in the Western Gulf of Alaska projected to produce 45 kt winds and up to 34 ft seas in the Central Gulf Monday AM. The first real utility class swell of the Fall 2011-2012 season is expected to result. And that gale is expected to regenerate some early Wed before moving onshore into British Columbia. And yet another stronger one is forecast long term in the Gulf next weekend if one is to believe the models. High pressure is to just barely hold on along the US west coast too protecting Oregon southward from unfavorable winds. Who cares about the South Pacific with all that's scheduled for the North. But if you are wondering, virtually no swell producing fetch is forecast. Looks like Fall is here, and not a moment too soon.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (9/18) at the jetstream level 109 kt winds were organizing pushing off Kamchatka and starting to form into a trough on the dateline. The whole of the jet was flowing flat just south of the Aleutians from Kamchatka pushing into Vancouver Island. Over the next 72 hours by Monday AM (9/19) a solid trough with 180 kts winds is to be pushing east through the Gulf, then stalling there while more energy builds to the west. Great support for gale development expected in lower levels of the atmosphere from the trough there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to wash out slightly while 170 kts winds build off Kamchatka Wednesday feeding into the trough in the Gulf on Thursday (9/22) and looking most solid with obvious support for gale development possible. That trough is to slow ease east and start pinching off as wind levels subside to 150 kts on Saturday (9/24) with the trough pushing right up to the Central CA coast 24 hours later while yet more moderate energy at 140 kts looks to be building on the dateline and ready to flow into the trough long term. This all is very supportive of gale development.
At the surface on Sunday (9/18) weak high pressure was pancaked west to east on the 32 N latitude extending from just off Japan to Central CA generating only trades over Hawaii at 15 kts resulting in some minimal east windswell there. Swell from a weak Gulf Pulse and the First Gulf Gale (details below) was in the water pushing southeast towards California. Over the next 72 hours and of far more interest was a gale building in the Western Gulf of Alaska. Pressure was down to 968 mbs with a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase (see forecast details below - 2nd Stronger Gulf Gale). And follow-on energy is forecast right behind on Tuesday (9/20).
Weak Gulf Pulse
At the surface on Thursday (9/15) a weak low pressure system at 988 mbs was in the extreme eastern Bering Sea generating 30-35 kt west winds down into the Northern Gulf of Alaska and holding for 18 hrs resulting in a tiny area of 18 ft seas at 53N 156W at 11 PM Thurs aimed mostly at British Columbia. Small 11 sec period swell is expected to radiate east and southeast reaching Central CA on Monday (9/19) 3.7 ft @ 11 secs (4 ft faces) pushing down the 312 degree path.
First Gulf Gale
A semi well organized gale wound up off Vancouver Island Saturday (9/17) with northwest winds building to 40 kts at 5 PM in it's west quadrant at 49N 140W aimed at the Pacific Northwest and then easing into British Columbia Sunday AM (9/18). 20 ft seas were modeled at 11 PM forecast at 49N 138W just 500 nmiles east of Washington and on the 319 degree track to Central CA building to 22 ft Sunday AM at 51N 136W but well east of any track to CA, but offering swell down into Oregon. 13 sec period swell likely pushing into the coast there and on down into Central CA by 7 PM Monday (9/19) but from a very northerly direction (317 degrees). Swell to 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft faces).
2nd Stronger Gulf Gale
On Sunday AM (9/18) a gale was brewing in the Western Gulf of Alaska with pressure down to 968 mbs and a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase. By Sunday evening a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest to west winds is forecast at 47N 162W targeting primarily the US West Coast with seas building from 28 ft (if not higher). By Monday AM the gale is to fading some with pressure holding at 968 mbs and winds still 40-45 kts in it's south quadrant at 47W 157W with seas to 34 ft at 47N 160W (300 degs Central CA 1750 nmiles out). Solid utility class swell theoretically being generated. By evening the gale is to fade with winds down to 30-35 kts over a solid area and seas fading from 32 ft at 46N 154W. If all this comes to pass the first real utility class swell of the season is to push east offering good potential for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA with even energy possible for Southern CA. Relative to Central CA, swell arrival is expected well after sunset on Wed (9/21). Also some sideband energy is forecast for Hawaii starting Wed (9/21) from 335 degrees.
Remnants of the 2nd Gulf Gale are to be invigorated by more energy streaming east into it on Tuesday AM (9/20) resulting in more 35 kt west winds getting good traction on an already agitated ocean surface and lifting somewhat northeast. More 24 ft seas are forecast at 47N 157W on Tuesday PM 1600 nmiles from CEntral CA on the 302 degree path possibly resulting in more 13-14 secs period swell for late in the week into the early weekend. Something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
As of Sunday (9/18) Tropical Storm Roke has been circulating for a week south of Southern Japan and stalled. Winds currently 55 kts. The models suggest it is to finally get picked up by the jetstream and steered northeast tracking just over the eastern fringes of Japan and the Kuril Islands Wed-Thurs (9/22) with winds in the 50 kts range and then into the Bering Sea. There is suggestions from the GFS model that Roke could turn extratropical and hold together, reorganizing in the Gulf of Alaska a week out. Hard to believe but something to monitor.
Also Typhoon Songa was positioned just east of Southern Japan with winds 85 kts. It too is to track northeast and turn extratropical with winds down to 40 kts by Tuesday (9/20) and reaching northeast. Again, there is some potential to feed the storm pattern forecast for the Gulf with luck.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/18) weak high pressure at 1022 mbs was trying to hang on off the CA coast producing north winds at 15 kts over outer waters with far less effect nearshore More of the same is forecast Monday with fetch to 20 kts building over Cape Mendocino down to Pt Arena but and eddy flow in effect for all of Central CA. More of the same is forecast through the workweek with the high trying to hang on while being incessantly assaulted by low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska. By Saturday 99/25) a front is to be approaching the CA coast with south winds possible by Sunday from Pt Conception northward. Too early to tell with any certainty, but it seems unlikely south winds from a front will actually occur this early in the season. Will monitor.
At the surface on Sunday (9/18) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. A weak pressure pattern was in control. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast. Yes, a cutoff low is forecast developing Monday PM (9/19) on the eastern edge of the CA swell window with 45 kt southwest winds over a tiny area in the Central Pacific Tuesday but that fetch is to quickly turn flowing due east. 32 ft seas forecast Tues PM (9/20) at 38S 128W building to 36 ft over a tiny area at 36S 121W Wed AM (9/21) before fading and moving out of even the Southern CA swell window. Some degree of tiny south angled swell is possible for Southern CA by Wed (9/28) with luck.
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 was focused on South America.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 yet another gale is forecast building directly behind in the Eastern Gulf Thursday (9/22) with a small area of 55 kt west winds in the evening lifting northeast and targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest. 30 ft seas forecast in the evening at 48N 140W 319 deg great circle path relative to Central CA building to 36 ft while impacting the Central Canadian coast. Maybe more small swell for Central CA but primarily for Washington and points north.
And behind that remnants of a tropical system supposedly developing just south of Japan are to race north and through the Bering Sea dropping southeast into the Dateline-Western Gulf region on Saturday (9/24) with 40-45 kts northwest winds building to 45 kts on Sunday with seas to 38 ft at 47N 160W. This is all a fantasy at this early date with many possibilities for this system to get sheared. Something to monitor though.
As of Sunday (9/18) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was on the increase. The daily SOI was 24.72. The 30 day average was up some at 5.27 with the 90 day average up slightly to 6.19. The 30 day average had been hovering in the +2.0-4.0 range for a month indicative of a neutral ENSO pattern, but was now on the increase.
Current wind analysis indicated light to moderate easterly anomalies were blowing from the Eastern equatorial Pacific over the dateline and into the Western Pacific fading only once they reached Indonesia. This suggests that a weak Inactive Phase is still in-control of the Pacific as it has been for months locked over the Central Pacific. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to fade to near neutral over the Central and West Pacific a week out (9/23-9/25) but continuing in the Eastern Pacific. This suggests maybe the Active Phase might trying to get a foothold, but more likely just indicates a slackening of the Inactive Phase. The other long term model we use suggests that if anything a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is in-fact building in the Indian Ocean and is to push into the West Pacific 10-15 days out (9/29) while the Inactive Phase migrates 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 (9/15) 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. 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 as trades increased there with a defined but thin cool patch now evident on the equator extending from the Galapagos into Central America. Overall the big picture looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things are 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 weakened some in late August and by 8/23 had vaporized with just residual -2 degree anomalies left behind holding through the end of the month. Then on 9/8 the cold patch reappeared and dropped to -4 degs C only to rebound to -3 deg C on 9/11 and -2 deg C on 9/13, holding as of 9/15. Regardless of the fine details, this area of cool subsurface water was still blocking the normal warm flow to the east and 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 suspect it will return as Fall progresses.
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.
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
Add a STORMSURF Buoy Forecast to your Google Homepage. Click Here:
Then open your Google homepage, hit 'edit' button (top right near graph), and select your location
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.
||Casa Noble Tequila If you are looking for an exquisite experience in fine tequila tasting, one we highly recommend, try Case Noble. Consistently rated the best tequila when compared to any other. Available at BevMo (in California). Read more here: http://www.casanoble.com/
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!
Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here
Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here
Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table