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 Thursday (10/6) North and Central CA was seeing the first cold front of the season starting to clear out with locally generated swell from it at 3+ ft overhead but pretty torn up with northwest winds and rain in the mix. Down south the same Gulf swell was wrapping into exposed breaks with southern hemi swell starting to show to at head high and reasonably clean but a bit of lump in the water. Southern California was seeing small Gulf swell up north with waves waist high but hacked with strong northwest winds and whitecaps in control. Down south the same northerly swell was in control producing waves chest high and reasonably clean, with southern hemi swell supposedly in the mix, but not nearly as consistent nor noticeable. Hawaii's North Shore was getting another pulse of sideband Gulf swell with waves shoulder to head high and clean and pretty lined up. The South Shore was still getting Swell #8S with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and clean. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell, south swell and east windswell all about in the waist high range with trades adding some chop on top.
The first snow of the season hit the Lake Tahoe region Tuesday night into Wednesday (10/5) with 12-18 inches of accumulation above 6500 ft, with another 6 inches on top of that by Thursday AM providing a nice start to the winter season. Will be interesting to see if any survives, or if it all melts off before reinforcements arrive.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Thursday (10/6) southern hemi Swell #8S was starting to fade in the Hawaii while building into the US West Coast. Local Gulf swell was hitting North and Central CA too but with generally poor conditions. A small gale is forecast wrapping up off Vancouver Island on Saturday (10/8) with 22 ft seas barely in the NCal swell window, pushing to 28 ft but out of the swell window for everyone south of Cape Mendocino. And another system was tracking east off Japan, forecast to be building on the dateline over the weekend with seas to 36 ft, pushing into the Central Gulf but dissipating some by then. Possible larger swell to result. A bit of a break forecast after that. Down some one more gale was wrapping up in the Southeast Pacific with seas forecast to 38 ft this evening. Nothings else forecast to follow down there.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/6) the jetstream continued solid flowing flat off Japan then tracking east-northeast pushing into Central Canada then diving hard south with a strong trough pushing into California at the same time. Winds in pockets were 120-140 kts with one pocket approaching the dateline and another just off Japan both offering trough like properties. Some support for gale development possible in these locations. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to not develop a whole lot while tracking east pushing into Canada on late Saturday. Limited support for gale development possible. The second trough off Japan is to race east-northeast with winds holding in the 150 kt range but not deepening too much while pushing over the dateline and then into British Columbia early Tuesday (10/11). Limited support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours a large ridge is forecast developing off Kamchatka pushing east tot he dateline Wed (10/12), likely shutting gale production till late in the workweek. there's some hints of a trough building off the Kuril Islands Fri (10/14), but it's way too early to know any certain.
At the surface on Thursday (10/6) modest but broad high pressure at 1024 mbs was filling the Northeast Pacific and ridging up to Central CA but not quite reaching it yet with low pressure pushing inland over California. A pocket of low pressure as over the dateline with a far strong low pressure system off Japan. Over the next 72 hours low pressure over the dateline is to race northeast and start building with 30 kt northwest winds by Friday evening at 45N 145W with seas building. By Saturday AM (10/8) 45 kt northwest winds are forecast up at 49N 138W (319 degs NCal) with seas building to 19 ft at 48N 141W. By evening the gale is to be pushing inland over Central Canada with winds still 40 kts over open waters and seas to 26 ft at 50N 134W, totally outside the Central and Southern CA swell windows and only producing swell for regions from Cape Mendocino northward, and then only from a very northerly direction. Possible swell from the Pacific Northwest arriving on Sunday (10/9).
Possible Dateline Gale
The remnants of a tropical system were starting to develop while tracking east off Japan on Thursday (10/6) and are expected to be approaching the dateline Friday AM (10/7) with winds 45-50 kts in it's west and southwest quadrants with seas building from 20 ft at 40N 167E. By evening it is to start developing solidly with winds to 55 kts in it's southwest quadrant targeting Hawaii (319 degs) and the US West Coast (298 degs NCal) with seas building from 28 ft at 42N 174E.
By Saturday AM (10/8) 50 kt northwest to west winds are forecast over a small area at 44N 178W (297 degs NCal and 328 degs HI) with seas on the increase from 34 ft over a small area at 43N 178W. In the evening fetch is to fade from 45 kts and aimed more purely to the east with seas building to 36 ft at 45N 172W (297 degs NCal and pushing pretty well east of the 328 deg path to HI).
A broader area of 40-45 kt west winds is to hold Sunday AM (10/9) as the storm tracks due east with seas building to 38 ft at 47N 163W (aimed right up the 299 deg path to NCal and 60 degrees east of the 344 deg path to HI). The fetch is to fade in the evening with winds down to 35 kts pushing flat east aimed best at the Pacific Northwest with 36 ft seas at 47N 155W (300 degs NCal and outside the HI swell window).
The system is to hold Monday AM (10/10) with winds still 35 kts and seas fading from 32 ft at 47N 148W (302 NCal) pushing right at Washington. Some degree of 30-35 kt west fetch is to hold through Monday PM with seas fading from 30 ft at 47N 142W (303 degs NCal).
The gale is to be dissipating on Tuesday AM (10/11).
If all goes as forecast some larger and longer period sideband swell could reach Hawaii with larger and rawer swell still for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. This is all likely the result of the turn from the Inactive to the Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO). Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (10/6) low pressure was falling southeast and pushing over the North and Central CA coast while higher pressure was 1000 nmiles west of the state, resulting in a gradient between the two pressure centers and producing northwest winds at 20 kts off the coast, but near 15 kt nearshore reaching down to even Southern CA. Two days of soaking early season precipitation on the coast has resulted in solid snow accumulations for Lake Tahoe above 6500 ft with 1.5-2.0 ft of accumulation estimated between Squaw, Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood. Nice! Clearing high pressure to continue over the state on Friday with northwesterly winds forecast everywhere but Southern CA) at 15 kts, fading some Saturday as a weak gradient develops off Cape Mendocino with light winds if not a weak eddy (south winds) nearshore earlier in the day. But high pressure is to return on Sunday with northwest winds in control at 15 kts over north and Central CA and a bit off the coast but making for local junky conditions, and holding Monday on into mid-week (nearshore calm early - but offshore winds and junk still radiating nearshore). Another gale is to be moving into the Gulf at this time but the high is to deflect it northward into Washington and northern Oregon with no precipitation and no break from the north winds forecast for California.
At the surface on Thursday (10/6) a new gale was building in the Southeast Pacific. 45 kt southwest winds were indicated over a small area with seas building from 32 ft at 55S 140W. In the evening a fragmented area of 40-45 kt southwest winds is forecast continuing generating seas to 38 ft at 50S 130W, but that seems highly optimistic given the rather meager fetch size and strength. By Friday AM (10/7) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds is to persist with seas fading from 36 ft at 45S 123W. By evening the fetch is to be effectively gone with residual seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 45S 115W, outside the California swell window. If all goes as forecast (unlikely) a decent pulse of very southerly angled sideband swell could result for Southern CA with more directly energy down into Central America on to Peru with sideband energy for Chile.
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Starting Monday AM (9/26) a solid storm started 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 and confirmed via WindSAT 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 was fading from 40-45 kts but still large in areal coverage with seas peaking at 47 ft at 56S 174 W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 30 degs east of the 188 deg path to Hawaii). A new fetch of 50-55 kt southwest winds was building at 55S 173E.
The new smaller fetch of 50-55 kt southwest fetch built 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 164W (203 degs NCal and just barely shadowed and aimed pretty well east of the 184 deg path to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southern edge of the fetch at 18Z and reported seas at 30.1 ft with a peak top 38.4 ft where the modeled suggested 34 ft seas. This suggest the model was just a little bit on the high side. In the evening the storm was starting to fade though a patch of 45-50 kt southwest winds persisted lifting northeast with seas dropping from 40 ft seas at 50S 170W (209 degs NCal and barely shadowed by Tahiti and 35 degrees east of the 191 degree path to Hawaii. WindSAT confirmed a small area of south winds at 60S 172W near 7Z.
By Thursday AM (9/29) all fetch of interest was gone with seas from previous fetch at 36 ft at 47S 162W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 184 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the fetch and reported seas at 31.4-32.3 ft with peak readings to 36.7 ft where the model suggested 35 ft. this was about right, maybe modeled just a bit on the high side again.
Both WindSAT and Jason-1 satellites confirmed this storm forming pretty close to modeled expectations with winds to 55+ kts and seas to 47 ft. This is impressive. But the storm did not grow as large as Storm #7S about a month prior, and it tracked a bit more flat west to east, meaning more of the swell was shadowed relative to the US West Coast. And a little less energy was aimed up at the Hawaiian Islands. Just the same 36 hours of seas greater than 40 ft were produced from the initial fetch, and a smaller secondary fetch developed adding a smaller amount of 40 ft seas behind that. The net result is to be significant class swell for most breaks in the North Pacific (and of course Tahiti).
Hawaii: Residuals on Friday at 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 190-201 degrees
South CA: Swell to peak on Friday mid-morning (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft).Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 208-213 degrees
North CA: Swell to peak on Friday mid-day (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 206-211 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 high pressure at 1032 mbs is to take over the Eastern Pacific with no clear sign of swell development forecast.
As of Thursday (10/6) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading down as expected at -0.65. The 30 day average was down slightly at 11.74 with the 90 day average down slightly to 8.01. Since the SOI is a lagging indicator, and we believe the Active Phase of the MJO has now been in control of the West Pacific for a week or more, the expectation is that these numbers should continue to fall.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific to a point just over the dateline (160E) then fading east of there with neutral wind pattern further east to Indonesia. Easterly anomalies were building over the East Pacific. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading and moving east some but still in control of most of the Central Pacific while the Active Phase has edged east some, getting exposure in the West Pacific. The models indicate that a neutral wind pattern if not full west anomalies are to push east from the dateline over the Central Pacific into the East Pacific a week out (10/14) with the Inactive Phase losing control and a weak to moderate iteration of the Active Phase building into the Central Pacific for the next 2 weeks (10/15). But if anything, the Active Phase has about peaked out already. This pattern seems likely to support a continuation what we've already being seeing, that is tropical systems developing in the extreme West Pacific with their remnants tracking over the Aleutians and dropping into the Gulf of Alaska and occasionally developing some. But already the Inactive Phase of the MJO has starting building solidly in the Indian Ocean. Beyond 2 weeks the Active Phase is to start fading while the Inactive Phase pushes slowly from the Indian Ocean towards the West Pacific, but not quite making it yet. 3-4 weeks out it is expected it will move into the Pacific likely putting a damper on storm development. So the best window for storm development in the North Pacific is the next 2-3 weeks (thru 10/25).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/6) 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 any over the Galapagos Islands, 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 early August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii blocking the warm water flow eastward. It weakened some in late August then reappeared in early Sept and dropped to -4 degs C slowly rebounding to -2 deg C on 9/13, holding there until 10/4 when it dropped to -3 C and almost -4 degs on 10/6. This area of cool subsurface water was blocking the normal warm flow to the east and suggests that overall a pattern biased towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control. There's some hope this developing Active Phase might help to dislodge it some, but it will likely have no staying power.
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 Spring of 2012. 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.
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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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
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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