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 (10/13) North and Central CA was seeing leftover swell from the dateline was still pushing 3 ft overhead to rarely double overhead early and pretty clean, but still with some underlying warble. Down at south facing breaks surf was chest to head high on the sets and pristinely clean and well lined up. Southern California was seeing a good dose of dateline swell with waves head high and very clean but a touch to powerful for beach breaks. Down south the dateline swell was also head high or a little more and beautifully clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the tail end of the dateline sideband swell with waves chest high on the sets and clean. The South Shore effectively flat at knee or so and clean, though a rare waist high plus set would show up every now and then. The East Shore had east tradewind generated windswell at knee to waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Things to really be slowing down with high pressure in control over the Western Gulf and forecast tracking east some. Maybe some sideband windswell mainly for Hawaii, but that's it. Down south a gale wrapped up in the Southeast Pacific with seas to 38 ft on Thursday evening (10/6). Small swell has started pushing into California and should hold into the weekend. After that no other swell producing fetch is forecast down there.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/13) the jetstream was tracking off Northern Japan falling into a slight trough west of the dateline then ridging into the Western Gulf before diving into a steep, almost pinched-off trough just off Central CA then ridging again into Vancouver Island. Winds were generally light with pockets to 120 kts, but not offering anything really supportive of gale development at the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours that pattern is to push east with a ridge building in the west and east with a weak trough on between over the Western Gulf of Alaska and the steep pinched of trough holding off California. Wind speeds to increase to 130 kts in the apex of both ridges. Maybe some limited support for gale development occurring in the trough over the dateline at best. Beyond 72 hours that trough is slowly push east and weaken as it pushes over the Northern Gulf on late Mon (10/17). A week out things to subside some more with only a pocket of 140 kt winds tracking flat over the dateline, perhaps generating a weak trough ahead of it in the days to follow, but that's mainly just a guess.
At the surface on Thursday (10/13) high pressure at 1032 mbs was 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. It was generating northeast winds at 20-25 kts along it's southern periphery aimed at Hawaii and possibly starting to produce limited northerly windswell pushing towards Hawaii. Otherwise virtually no fetch of interest was occurring. Residual swell from a storm that tracked from the Dateline into the Gulf last weekend was fading along the HI and CA coasts. Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low is forecast developing northeast of Hawaii just in front of the leading edge of the high pressure system on Fri-Sat (10/15) with northeast winds at 30-35 kts possibly resulting in 20-22 ft seas near 33N 142W aimed well at Hawaii which could produce windswell for northeast shores of Hawaii through the weekend with a better pulse (from the cutoff low) early next week. But otherwise no real swell production is expected anywhere in the North Pacific.
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 (10/13) weak low pressure at 1024 mbs was starting to build 600 nmiles west of San Francisco breaking up high pressure that was previous in control and offering improving odds for a break in the local north wind pattern. The low is to remained locked in position preventing high pressure from building and keeping a generally light wind flow and yet dry pattern in control on through the weekend into early next week. Later Tuesday (10/18) high pressure is to start building off Central CA with north winds again on the increase over Pt Conception building over the entire Central and North CA coast 24 hrs later.
At the surface on Thursday (10/13) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Southeast Pacific Gale
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 34 ft at 55S 137W. In the evening a fragmented area of 40-45 kt southwest winds were modeled continuing generating seas to 38 ft at 50S 130W, but that seems a bit optimistic given the rather meager fetch size and strength. By Friday AM (10/7) a small area of 45 kt southwest winds persisted with seas fading from 36 ft at 45S 123W. By evening the fetch was effectively gone with residual seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 45S 115W, outside the California swell window. Theoretically another 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.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (10/13) with pure swell building to 2.3 ft @ 18 secs late (4 ft faces). Swell to peak on Friday AM at 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Swell Fading Saturday from 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 197 degrees
Northern CA: This swell to also arrive in Northern CA at south facing breaks on Thurs PM (10/13) to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft faces) building Friday to 3.0 ft @ 17-18 secs late (5.5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell Fading Saturday from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs early (4 ft). Residuals on Sunday. Swell Direction: 190 degrees Note: This swell likely to be overridden by larger swell coming from the dateline and Gulf of Alaska.
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 high pressure system at 1028 mbs is forecast setting up on the dateline Mon (10/17) while a small gale tries to wrap up north of it tracking east into the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (10/21). West winds forecast to 30 kts over a small area generating seas at 18-20 ft. Maybe some 12-13 sec small northwest swell to result for mainly California. Otherwise a rather placid pattern is forecast.
As of Thursday (10/13) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was backing off some at 9.02. The 30 day average was up some at 10.65 with the 90 day average down slightly to 7.41. We expect these numbers to rise with the Inactive Phase of the MJO starting to take control.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific to the dateline and reaching to the Philippines, with light west anomalies blowing from Indonesia up to the Philippines. Westerly anomalies were in control over the East Pacific. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was moving from the East Pacific into the Atlantic basin with the Inactive Phase already starting to move into the extreme West Pacific. The models indicate that fully easterly anomalies are to build over the extreme West Pacific a week out (10/19) extending from the dateline westward while westerly anomalies build in the East Pacific indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO holding over the East Pacific and the Inactive Phase building in the west. In short, the Inactive phase with likely put a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reduce the probability for swell producing storm formation for the next 3 weeks (10/13-11/3). With the remnants of the Active Phase moving over the East Pacific moving into the Atlantic there should be increased odds for tropical storm formation building in the Atlantic.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/13) 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, but more of a Midoki La Nina (centered south of Hawaii to the Dateline) then the usual version centered directly off Ecuador.
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 holding thru 10/11 and dropping to near -5C on 10/13. Not good. 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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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table