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 (9/27) North and Central CA was seeing preliminary windswell coming out of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska producing waves to 8 ft at top spots, but pretty well torn apart by northwest wind. Down south Gulf swell was wrapping into exposed breaks producing sets waves at chest high or so and clean, but with strong winds outside the kelp. Southern California was seeing nice Gulf swell at waist to chest high up north on the sets and well lined up and clean. Down south surf was waist high and weak but reasonably clean. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting minimal sideband Gulf windswell with waves waist high or so and clean. The South Shore was knee high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell too at knee high or so with wind bump on it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Tuesday (9/27) another early season Fall swell was queuing up at the outer CA buoys. But meteorlogically high pressure was in control of the dateline with a slack weather pattern in play elsewhere. Nothing of any real interest is forecast until Saturday and even then only a weak gale in the Gulf with 20 ft seas and fading fast. The models have been teasing concerning a storm forming just off the Pacific Northwest on Tues (10/4) with solid precipitation potential down even into Central CA, but that is pure rumor at this early date. Down south a storm is winding up under New Zealand with 55 kt winds and projected to have 44 ft seas by this evening, and still producing up to 38 ft seas through Thursday AM. Looks like summer is not over just yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (9/27) the jetstream continued to have a single consolidated flow tracking off Japan, ridging a bit west of the dateline, then falling into a mild trough bottoming out north of Hawaii at 37N with 140 kts winds flowing into it, then lifting gently northeast and up into Washington. Decent support for gale development in that trough. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to steepen more then pinch off early Thursday about 100 nmiles east of Cape Mendocino. It is to try and open up some again 24 hours later, but is to collapse again quickly by Friday (9/30). Limited support for low pressure development the likely result. Beyond 72 hours some for of trough-like structure is to persist just off the Pacific Northwest with solid wind energy building over the dateline on Sunday then falling into the trough Monday with winds to 180 kts, offering good support for gale formation or even something stronger. This trough is to push into the North CA coast late Tuesday with a ridge building behind it over the East Pacific and a temporary break in gale formation likely.
At the surface on Tuesday (9/27) swell from the Gulf Gale (see details below) was pushing into the Pacific Northwest Coast and bound for Central CA later in the evening. Residual fetch in the 25 kt range was lingering in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, but of no real interest from a swell generation perspective. On Wednesday another mini gale is to try and wrap up off the North CA/Oregon coast with winds to 35 kts for 6 hours, but lifting north too fast to get much traction on the oceans surface, with only 15 ft seas resulting, good for maybe some 10 sec period windswell at best 2 days later in Central CA. Otherwise no real swell producing fetch is forecast.
On Sunday (9/25) a gale started circulating in the Central Gulf with 40 kt northwest winds early, building in areal coverage in the evening and moving to within 1000 nmiles of San Francisco. Monday AM (9/26) 45 kt west winds were rebuilding in the gales south quadrant 45N 140W resulting in 24 ft seas at that location (296 degs NCal). The gale eased northeast in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts and seas building to 32 ft but way up at 48N 130W or barely in the NCal swell window at 319 degrees. But good energy was pushing east towards Oregon and Washington. The gale moved inland just north of Vancouver Island early 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.
Swell has been produced and is pushing towards the Central CA coast. Pure swell of 7.3 ft @ 14 secs is expected to arrive in Central CA at 9 PM Tues (9/27) from 296 degrees with larger but more northerly angled swell filling in quickly behind at 9.0 ft @ 15-16 secs from 308+ degrees, and well shadowed in the SF Bay Area. By sunrise Wednesday (9/28) a shot of decent sized north angled utility class swell could result for Central CA with pure swell in the 9.5 ft @ 13 secs range (12 ft) but with less size in shadowed breaks. Possible limited very north angled energy pushing down into Southern CA later in the afternoon.
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 continued 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) evening. Winds were down to 95 kts with seas 28 ft and a steady fade is expected with Hilary down to minimal hurricane force Thursday AM (9/29) at 65 kts but only 750 nmiles due south of Los Angles and heading directly towards there. There remains some hope for swell to be pushing north at that time towards Southern CA. The next 36 hours will be critical. Will monitor.
On Tuesday Typhoon Nesat as tracking west between the Philippines and North Vietnam with winds 75 kts and expected to build a little more. Regardless, there is no indication it will turn back to the northeast and have any impact on the North Pacific.
Also Tropical Depression Nalgae was well east of the extreme northern Philippines tracking west and expected to build to Typhoon strength by Sat (10/1) just grazing the north most Philippine Island continuing on an westerly track. There is no indication it will turn back to the northeast and have any impact on the North Pacific.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/27) local high pressure getting a toehold into the Central CA coast generating 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 north winds there to 25 kts with an eddy flow (south winds) from Pt Arena southward but fading with the gradient gone by Thursday AM and a weak flow in control. If anything, a weak front is to be well off the coast. A weak flow to persist through Saturday as low pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska with a weak front pushing up to Cape Mendocino late Sunday (10/2) with light rain there too. That gale is to push into the Pacific Northwest with a weak wind pattern for California on Monday while a stronger gale builds well off the coast. By Tuesday a full on storm is forecast building off the Pacific Northwest with a front, south winds pushing all the way down to Pt Conception late in the day and solid to heavy rain from San Francisco northward. But temperatures are to be too warm, with no snow yet for the Sierras except a dusting in the highest terrain southwest of Yosemite.
At the surface on Tuesday (9/27) a solid storm was tracking under New Zealand (See Storm #8S). Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours Storm #8S is to continue to be our primary focus with no other swell producing weather systems forecast.
Starting Monday AM (9/26) a large storm was developing southwest of New Zealand with southwest winds confirmed at 55-60 kts coverage a moderate area and expanding with seas building fast from 36 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 55 kt southwest winds were confirmed holding at 55S 170E resulting in 41 ft seas at 56S 165E (214 degs NCal and unshadowed and moving into the Hawaii swell window at 201 degs). Tuesday AM (9/27) 50-55 kts southwest winds were modeled 57S 178W resulting in a solid area of 43 ft seas at 56S 175E (211 degs NCal and barely unshadowed and 195 degs HI). In the evening southwest fetch to be fading from 40-45 kts but still large in areal coverage with seas peaking at 46 ft at 56S 174 W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 30 degs east of the 188 deg path to Hawaii). A new tiny fetch of 45 kt southwest fetch is to build Wed AM (9/28) embedded in the fading larger fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds with 40 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 55S 166W (204 degs NCal and just barely shadowed and aimed pretty well east of the 184 deg path to Hawaii). In the evening the storm is to start fading though a patch of 45 kt southwest winds is to persist lifting northeast with seas dropping from 38 ft seas at 51S 175W (210 degs NCal and barely not-shadowed by Tahiti and 35 degrees east of the 191 degree path to Hawaii. By Thursday AM (9/29) all fetch of interest is to be gone with seas from previous fetch at 36 ft at 47S 162W (205 degs NCal and shadowed and 184 degs HI).
At this time the WindSAT satellite is reporting solid fetch pushing reasonably well towards the US Mainland and of course Tahiti. If all continues as forecast a solid significant class longer period summer time swell should result 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 another weak but larger gale is forecast developing in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska on Friday (9/30) easing east and fading within 24 hours. Up to 20 ft seas are forecast Sat AM (10/1) at 48N 153W with 18 ft seas holding on to evening at 47N 148N. Maybe some swell 12-13 sec period swell to result for both the Pacific Northwest and California, but it's to be too far east to have any affect on Hawaii.
Theoretically another solid gale if not a storm is to develop quickly Monday evening (10/3) with up to 50 kt northwest winds 600 nmiles west of Oregon Tuesday AM (10/4) generating 34 ft seas with 30 ft seas reaching down 500 nmiles off Cape Mendocino. Large raw swell to result if the model are right, a long shot at best at this early date.
As of Tuesday (9/27) 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 moderate plus strength easterly anomalies were blowing from the Eastern equatorial Pacific to a point just over the dateline then fading east of there with actual westerly anomalies 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. But the Active Phase has edged east some, getting exposure in the far West Pacific. The models indicate that a weak easterly pattern is to persist over the Central and West Pacific a week out (10/5) with the Inactive Phase still holding control. But a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is in-fact building over the far West Pacific almost reaching to the dateline and is to hold for the next 2 weeks (10/11). This might support a continuation what we've already being seeing, that is tropical systems developing in the extreme West Pacific with their remnants tracing over the Aleutians and dropping into the Gulf of Alaska and occasionally developing some.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/26) 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. Embedded were pulses of cooler water still pushing from east to west. Cooler than normal waters were also 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".
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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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