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 Saturday (9/24) North and Central CA was seeing residual and reinforcing swell coming out of the Gulf of Alaska was producing waves at 1-2 ft overhead at top spots, a bit warbled, and encased in fog. Southern California was thigh high up north and fairly lined up and clean. Down south Gulf swell was waist high or a little more, clean and lined up but not real strong. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting sideband Gulf swell too with waves chest high or so and clean. The South Shore was knee high with thigh high sets and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting the Gulf swell too at waist high but with some wind bump on it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Saturday (9/24) more early season Fall swell was hitting CA and Hawaii, generated by follow-on pulses of low pressure circulating under and up into a core low in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. Continued modest surf forecast well into early next week relative to the US West Coast. Another weak system is forecast just off North CA late Sunday with 18 ft seas helping to continue the swell pattern. Beyond a broader gale is forecast developing in the Southeastern Gulf Sunday-Tues (9/27) with 26-28 ft seas again aimed mainly at the US West Coast. More swell the likely result. Late next workweek high pressure is to dig in north of Hawaii possibly setting up a small gale just northeast of Hawaii pushing 22 ft towards the Islands and offering some swell there while at the same a stronger gale develops over the northern dateline generating 28 ft seas and possibly pushing some swell east. But that's more of a guess than anything. Down south a tiny gale tracked east through the extreme Southeastern Pacific with potential at best only for Southern CA on Tues (9/27), with better odds for Chile. Longterm the southern hemi under New Zealand is still projected to turn more active with a gale forecast there Mon-Wed (9/28) with up to 46 ft seas, but that's seems a bit optimistic. .
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (9/24) the jetstream continued to have one consolidated flow ridging off Kamchatka over the dateline then falling into a trough in the Central Gulf of Alaska with 150 kt winds flowing into it, offering some support for gale development. But the trough was a bit pinched. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to ease east, flatten out some with winds fading to 130 kts through Monday and offering only limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours another push of wind energy is to develop in the Western Gulf Tues (9/27) trying to rebuild the Gulf trough, but it is to pinch off before much materializes. But by Friday (9/30) yet another pulse of wind energy is to rebuild the trough somewhat in the Western Gulf with 130 kt winds feeding it, but it too looks to be pinching off late Saturday. All this suggest some degree of limited support for gale development, but nothing significant.
At the surface on Saturday (9/24) swell from Follow-On energy in the Gulf (details below) was pushing towards and into California with even more limited energy squeaking into Hawaii. Otherwise no fetch of even 30 kts was occurring. Over the next 72 hours another nondescript little low is to spin up just off Oregon and North California Saturday evening generating 30 kt winds and maybe 17 ft seas for 12 hours, good for more north angled 10 sec swell pushing down into North and Central CA on late Sun-Monday (9/26). But nothing of real interest. The remnants of Typhoon Roke (currently falling southeast from the Northern Dateline region) are to start building in the Central Gulf Sunday AM (9/25) with 30-35 kt west winds forecast at 43N 153W aimed primarily at the US West Coast (292 degs NCal) then building in the evening to 40 kts at 44N 145W (295 degs NCal). Seas building to 22 ft at 44N 148W (294 degs NCal). No real energy is to be aimed at Hawaii. 45 kt west winds are forecast building in the gale south quadrant on Monday AM at 45N 140W resulting in 28 ft seas at that location (303 degs NCal). The gale is to ease east in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts and seas building to 34 ft but way up at 48N 135W or barely in the Ncal swell window at 319 degrees. But good energy should be pushing east towards Oregon and Washington. The gale is to move inland just north of Vancouver Island on Tuesday AM (9/27) with 32 ft seas just 200 nmiles off land there, pushing more swell down as far south as Oregon, but of no use to California. If all goes as forecast another shot of decent sized north angled utility class swell could result for Central CA with limited energy down into Southern CA mid-week. Will monitor.
Another follow-on pulse (the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Songa previously off Japan) pushed over the dateline streaming east and then started to build off North CA Thursday AM (9/22) with 35-40 kt west to southwest winds at 43N 142W. Seas 17 ft. This fetch lifted hard northeast in the evening with winds to 45 kts at 49N 135W resulting in 18 ft seas at 48N 135W off Vancouver Island (317 degs CCal 950 nmiles out) resulting in more reinforcing 12 sec period swell that will arrive Saturday afternoon (9/24) for Central CA from a very northerly angle. Larger swell possible up into the Pacific Northwest but raw.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Saturday (9/24) Hurricane Hilary was tracking due west positioned 370 nmiles southeast of Cabo San Lucas with sustained winds 115 kts. Hilary is forecast to continue on this heading while slowly loosing strength, moving pretty well west of Mexico before making a hard turn to the north on Tuesday (9/27). But by then winds to be down to 95 kts and fading fast. There is some remote hope for swell to be pushing north at that time towards Southern CA, but odds are low. Will monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (9/24) a closed isobar low pressure systems was circulating 450 nmiles west of Southern Oregon with a front build off North and Central CA and 20 kt southerly winds over outer waters of Central CA. Nearshore a light windflow was in effect supporting decent swell that was hitting the area. By Sunday the low is to moving inland fast over British Columbia with a light windflow over all of California. The front from it is to nudge op to the NOrth CA coast with rain/drizzle reaching south to maybe San Francisco mid-day, then vaporizing. By Monday high pressure is to be ridging into Southern CA with north winds 15-20 kts over Pt Conception and the Channel Islands while a large gale low builds off the Pacific Northwest with calm wind in between. But the gale is to be gone by Tuesday pushing into British Columbia with local high pressure getting a little better footing over the entire Central CA coast with north winds 15-20 kts from Cape Mendocino south to Pt Conception and lifting north. By Wednesday the gradient is to move in it's usual position over Cape Mendo with an eddy flow building from Pt Arena southward and holding into Thursday. The gradient to fall south and affect most of Central CA on Fri-Sat (9/31) with north winds at 15 kts.
At the surface on Saturday (9/24) high pressure was fading over the South Pacific but no swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours big changes are forecast under New Zealand. By Monday a large storm is forecast developing southwest of New Zealand with southwest winds to 50 kts and seas building fast from 34 ft at 57S 155E (216 degs NCal and unshadowed and up the 203 deg path to Hawaii but shadowed by New Zealand). In the evening 50 kt southwest winds to hold at 55S 170E resulting in 42 ft seas at 55S 165E (214 degs NCal and unshadowed and moving into the Hawaii swell window at 201 degs). Tuesday AM (9/27) a large are of 45 kt southwest winds is forecast at 52S 180W resulting in a large area of 45 ft seas at 53S 180W (213 degs NCal and unshadowed and 194 degs HI). In the evening southwest fetch to be fading from 45 kts but still large in areal coverage with seas at 47 ft at 51S 175 W (211 degs Ncal and just barely starting to become shadowed and 309 degs east of the 192 deg path to Hawaii). Unbelievably 45 kt southwest fetch is to hold into Wed AM (9/28) with 47 ft seas holding at 50S 170W (209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti and 35 degrees east of the 1188 degree path to Hawaii. In the evening the storm is to start fading with winds down to 40 kts and seas dropping from 44 ft at 50S 160W (203 degs Ncal and starting to become unshadowed and pushing 45 degrees east of the 181 degrees path to Hawaii.
If all this goes as forecast a large and solid longer period swell could be generated pushing to all the standard southern hemi swell locations. Will monitor.
Previously, a cutoff low developed 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. By Tuesday AM winds were near 55 kts but it had quickly turned flowing due east. 34 ft seas were modeled at 34 ft Tuesday AM at 38S 130W covering only a tiny area. In the evening seas to build to 36 ft at 37S 125W over a tiny area all aimed to the east. 38 ft seas forecast at 37S 119W Wed AM (9/21) before fading and moving out of even the Southern CA swell window. Some degree of tiny south angled sideband swell is possible for Southern CA by Tues AM (9/27) with luck 91.6 ft @ 16-17 secs - 2.5 ft from 189 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 a cutoff low is to develop on the leading edge of a solid and compact high pressure system positioned northwest of Hawaii on Wed-Thurs (9/29) resulting in a fetch of 35 kt northeast winds and possibly 20-22 ft seas at 33N 149W on Thursday AM aimed reasonably well at Hawaii. Possible 13 sec period swell to result if all goes as forecast. Also theoretically a gale is to develop over the Northern Dateline region on on Thurs (9/29) with 40+ kt northwest winds falling southeast but fading into Friday. Sea forecast to 28 ft early Friday near 50N 175W then fading to 24 ft while dropping southeast early Saturday. Maybe some swell to result for both Hawaii and California, but it's too far into the future to be believable.
As of Saturday (9/24) no update was available for the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). As of Thurs (9/22) it was down slightly at 13.61. The 30 day average was up some at 7.49 with the 90 day average up slightly to 6.21. 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 to the dateline then fading east of there with actual westerly anomalies building north of Australia. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was perhaps moving east some but still in control of most of the West Pacific as it has been for months. The models indicate that a dead neutral pattern is to build over the Central and West Pacific a week out (10/2) with the Inactive Phase possibly starting to fade. Another long term model we use suggests that if anything a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is in-fact building over the West Pacific and is to push to the dateline 5 days from now and hold there till at least two weeks out (10/6) while the Inactive Phase migrates and then holds over the East Pacific. This would be very good for supporting north Pacific Storm development if one is to believe the models.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/22) 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 thru 9/24. 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 and is showing no signs of budging.
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
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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".
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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
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table