New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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 (10/7) North and Central California was leftover smaller locally generated north windswell coming from fetch that was over Cape Mendocino with surf shoulder high and pretty clean though warbled. Southern California was getting the same thigh to waist high windswell wrapping around from Pt Conception and a bit weak with some light texture on it. Down south waves were chest to head high at top spots and textured with energy from the southern hemi being dominant. Hawaii's North Shore was small with some waist high sets from residual Gulf windswell and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at waist to chest high with chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting rare high high sets and warbled from sideshore tradewind swell.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for surf background northwest windswell and gulf swell combo Friday producing waist to chest high surf at exposed breaks and about waist high on Saturday. Sunday new local windswell builds to 6 ft and about the same early Monday (10/11). Local Gulf windswell moves in late pushing 8 ft on Tuesday. Southern California is to see no ridable surf Friday or Saturday. Maybe some knee high plus north windswell to arrive later on Sunday pushing thigh high plus on Monday and being reinforced with local Gulf windswell up to near chest high Tuesday. Southern hemi background swell at thigh to waist high possible Monday too moving to waist high solid on Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see chest high northwest Gulf windswell on Friday then down to waist high Saturday. New northwest windswell to head high on Sunday fading from waist to chest high Monday with thigh to waist high leftovers on Tuesday. The East Shore is to see east local windswell dropping from waist high or so Friday then gone all together. New tradewinds generated east windswell expected on Monday to chest high pushing shoulder high Tuesday. The South Shore is to see no southern hemi swell of interest till Sunday (10/10), and then in the waist to maybe chest high range on the sets holding into early Monday and then thigh high Tuesday and fading.
On the charts a small local gale is forecast to wind up 800 nmiles off the coast on Friday-Saturday (10/9) with up to 40-45 kt northwest winds aimed well at Central CA but lifting north fast and not getting much traction with seas to only 18-20 ft. Maybe some windswell to result for Hawaii as it passes north there, and more for Central and North CA, but nothing to get too worked up about.
Down south nothing of any interest is forecast. Residual background swell to work it's way north, but only likely of interest for Southern CA, and then only marginal. Beyond virtually no swell producing fetch of interest is indicated.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/7) the North Pacific jetstream had 150 kt winds from three separate streams over Russia feeding into a modest trough that was set up over the Gulf of Alaska offering decent support for gale development there, then ridging northeast into Central Canada. Over the next 72 hours that trough in the Gulf is to push east over the Eastern Gulf with the main pocket of energy tracking up into Canada on Sunday (10/10) but with the core of the trough still holding back over the Central Gulf. Continued support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to persist with winds building in it's southeastern sector on Monday (10/11) mainly focusing on northern Canada with the whole trough starting to move inland there late Wednesday. A broad weak ridge is forecast over the dateline at that time pushing east with a deeper trough building just inland of Japan with a pocket of 150 kt wind energy starting to take root there on Thurs (10/14). It's way too early to tell if this trough holds any promise, but it is to be the only thing of hope till the dateline ridge clears out, so it bears watching.
At the surface on Thursday (10/7) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was located over the southern dateline pushing whatever storm track there was a little to the north, but still clear of the Aleutians. Weak low pressure was in the Northern Gulf of Alaska with new low pressure developing as it tracked over the top of the dateline high, falling southeast into the Gulf towards a more hospitable area for development. A small patch of 30 kt west winds were modeled in association with this low, but not doing much in terms of swell production yet. Winds were light down the CA coast and trades were fading over the Hawaiian Islands, a result of dying high pressure in the area.
Over the next 72 hours the first in a series of two weak low pressure systems is to be developing 800 nmiles off the southern Oregon coast after sweeping east past Hawaii and lifting northeast generating 35 kt northwest winds Friday AM at 42N 142W aimed well at Central CA , then up to 40 kts in the evening off of Washington. Seas are forecast to 18 ft in the evening at 44N 137W 800 nmiles northwest of Central CA pushing somewhat down the 308 degree path there, but mostly serving to only rough up the oceans surface some. Of more interest is a second low is forecast developing right behind with 35 kt northwest winds Friday evening at 38N 158W targeting Hawaii well initially with seas in the 15-16 ft range (Friday PM). Then it is to track east out of the Hawaiian swell window and build with 40 kt northwest winds Sat AM (10/9) at 38N 150W lifting fast to the north with near 50 kt northwest winds at 43N 139W in the evening. 19 ft seas are forecast in the Central CA swell window Sat PM (likely a low forecast) at 40N 139W then pushing to a point just east of Vancouver Island Sunday AM (10/10) with near 55 kt northwest winds 49N 134W (out of the Central CA swell window) with 22 ft seas at 46N 131W (319 degs NCal). A possible pulse of raw windswell to result later Monday in Central CA but intermixed with building local windswell, and arriving a little sooner on up into the Pacific Northwest. Will monitor.
Of some marginal interest was a gale that quickly wrapped up in the Northern Gulf Monday morning (20Z) with 40 kt west winds confirmed at 47N 157W lifting northeast in the evening (06Z Tues 10/5) to 49N 148W. Seas were modeled to 20 ft with the Jason-1 satellite making a pass directly over the area at 06Z Tues (10/5) confirming seas at 22.3 ft with one reading to 25.3 ft. Evidence of this swell hit Central Oregon on Thursday AM (10/7) with pure swell 5-7 ft @ 13 secs.
Possible small 13 sec period swell pushing into Central CA Thurs (10/7) at 8 PM (or later) at 3-4 ft @ 13 secs (4-5 ft faces) from 304.5 degs. Odds low and more an just an exercise in forecasting.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/7) a generally calm pattern was in play with weak low pressure starting to build over the entire Gulf of Alaska pushing to within 600 nmiles of the Central CA coast and even closer up into the Pacific Northwest. South winds were even being experienced into extreme Northern CA. and a frontal boundary is to hold over the coast there and points northwards through Saturday with light winds over the remainder of California. But at the same time on Saturday a moderate area of high pressure is to start building southwest of Southern CA, with the first isobars from it reaching Pt Conception late Saturday then building into all of Central and North CA Sunday with a pressure gradient and north winds setting up over nearshore waters at 15 kts. Finally by Monday (10/11) a full-on pressure gradient is expected to be in-play with north winds at 35 kts forecast over Cape Mendocino pushing down the outer Central CA coast, but maybe pulled away from nearshore waters south of Pt Reyes mid-morning, and then fully dissipating by Tuesday 910/12) with light winds in control of all but extreme Northern CA. Light winds to hold through Thursday (10/14).
On Thursday (10/7) a weak trough was located in the Southeast Pacific with 150 kt west-northwest winds ridging over it, offering little in terms of support for gale production. A strong ridge was pushing hard south over the Southwest Pacific into Antarctica proper offering no support for gale development at the oceans surface. This general pattern is to persist for the next 72 hours with the trough tracking east and out of the US Swell window while dissipating. Beyond 72 hours the ridge in the west is to build across the width of the South Pacific and take control, eliminating odds for gale development.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was in-play. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast. No swell production is expected. A late Spring pattern is in control down south and the season is effectively over.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs two more waves of low pressure are to be pushing towards the low
pressure trough holding over the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska, both
being steered northeast by strong high pressure building just off the
Central and North CA coast Sunday through Tuesday (10/12). 35 kt west-southwest winds are forecast in the first one at 47N 155W mid-Sunday targeting Washington northward and up to 50 kt west winds in the second mid-Tuesday just off Central Canada. The Pacific Northwest to likely see some swell from both, but little odds for much reach south of Cape Mendocino. The high pressure system off Central CA on Sun-Mon (10/11) is to also generate a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with 35 kt north winds on Monday (10/11) likely making for chop and local windswell along the Central and North CA coasts.
Also strong high pressure is to be setting up over the dateline on Monday at 1028 mbs totally blocking the storm track east from Japan and the Kuril Islands hindering swell production there like it has much of the season. But that high is to move fast east and be in the Central Gulf by Thurs (10/14) and likely pushing inland soon thereafter.
We're updated the official El Nino forecast and it is now posted at the link below.
As of Thursday (10/7) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued solid in the positive range. The daily SOI was at 21.92 and has been that way in excess of 81 days now. The 30 day average was at 24.26 with the 90 day average up to 21.89 and still inching upward. But at this point it will be very difficult for it to get much higher unless the daily SOI redlines about 27 for the next 30 days. Regardless, the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in firm control.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (10/4) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated a building easterly anomaly extending from Central America east on the equator over the dateline reaching just about to the Philippines, clearly indicating the Inactive Phase of the MJO. A building moderate Active Phase (west anomalies) was trying to organize in the Indian Ocean. The Inactive Phase is forecast to slowly push east into Central America through 10/16, with the Active Phase starting to reach out into the West Pacific though that time, the furthest it has progressed since the early Spring. A ray of hope. And it is now forecast to almost reach the dateline on 10/21 then slowly fade on the dateline by 10/26. This is the first Active Phase of any substantial strength so far this Fall, and offers at least a tease of some potential fuel to support to formation of North Pacific gales starting 10/21 and for a few weeks threafter. Of course this is only a projection. but it is pretty typical for the MJO Phases to be not well defined during summer months, then become much more apparent in the Fall and Winter months, with the effects at the surface more obvious then too. The swing from Active to Inactive and back to Active is to become more pronounced too, especially during La Nina years.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/7) indicates that downright colder than normal waters (-2 C degs or cooler) continue to expand their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to New Guinea. The coldest waters extended from a point off South America pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of cooler than normal water continued building off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the dateline, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (getting a little warmer than previous readings of -7 degs in mid- Sept. but this is still not good.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. And now from a historical perspective these easterly winds were now fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this is a rather recent development, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. The interesting twist to all this is that the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. But trades never waiver from the normal range. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).
El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through early Fall 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remained of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is 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. 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 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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Stormsurf Hi-Res Coastal Precipitation Models Upgraded Though a bit late in the season, on 3/20 we implemented the same basic technology used in our new snow/ski models into the coastal hi-res precipitation models. So now you can not only determined whether rain is forecast for your area, but also snow. And not just light, medium or heavy snow like most sites, but the exact snowfall amount (in inches) for each 3 hr frame of the animation. Here's a sample, but now this approach is used in all our precipitation models. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=nwcoast_precip
Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is explicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good examples:
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Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process. Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone. Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table