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 (10/15) North and Central CA was seeing small southern hemi swell generating waves at waist high or so up north and near chest high down south with leftover northern hemi swell about thigh high at exposed breaks. South winds were in control making for textured conditions at protected spots and worse at south facing breaks. Southern California was seeing a bit of the southern hemi swell too up north at waist high and pretty lined up and fairly clean. Down south the southern hemi swell was in control with sets near head high but pretty heavily textured late. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell at chest to head high and not too bad a shape and relatively clean. The South Shore was effectively flat at knee or so and clean. The East Shore was getting north windswell too with waves 1 ft overhead and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Things to be slowing down at least for the next week with high pressure in control over the Western Gulf/East Pacific. Windswell expected for Hawaii from a cutoff low located 800 nmiles west of Southern California and expected to hold there through Sunday (10/16) producing up to 20 ft seas. But no energy from this low is forecast pushing towards the US mainland. Elsewhere both north and south, no swell producing fetch is forecast. Longterm there models are teasing about a stronger system pushing over the Northern dateline Thurs (10/20) tracking into the Western Gulf on Sunday but fading by then. If this were to occur some swell might radiate towards all breaks in our forecast area, but that's a long ways from being a reality.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (10/15) the jetstream was ridging over the Kuril Islands with 150 kts winds, then falling into a weak trough over the dateline with no real wind energy associated with it before tracking north again into another ridge over the Gulf of Alaska, then diving into a steep trough off the US West Coast and then sliding into Central CA. IN all, no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours that pattern is to push east with the Kuril ridge building over the dateline and the dateline trough moving into the Western Gulf of Alaska, but again with no real wind associated with it. The steep trough off California is to dissolve as a ridge builds over it arching up into Canada. Again, no real support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours the ridge over the dateline is to flatten with a pocket of 150 kt winds remaining on the dateline pushing towards the Gulf of Alaska perhaps resulting in a weak trough there on Thurs (10/20) offering a little support for gale development. But that assessment is likely optimistic.
At the surface on Saturday (10/15) high pressure at 1024 mbs was off Northern Japan with a second high also at 1024 mbs north of Hawaii. Weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was 800 nmiles west of Southern CA forming a weak pressure gradient with the high north of Hawaii and generating 30 kt northeast winds and 20 ft seas over a tiny area at 33N 142W aimed well at Hawaii's East Shores. Swell from this system is expected to reach the Islands on Monday (10/17) with swell pushing 5.5 ft @ 12 secs (6.5 ft faces) from 45 degrees. Residual energy to last into Tuesday at 5 ft @ 10-11 secs (5.5 ft faces) then slowly fade out on Wednesday. Otherwise virtually no fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast 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 Saturday AM (10/15) weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was in-place 800 nmiles west of Southern CA allowing a weak southerly flow to build along the entire CA coast (other than the Cape Mendocino area). This 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 through Monday (10/17). Later Tuesday (10/18) high pressure is to start rebuilding off Central CA with north winds again on the increase over Pt Conception building north into the Central and North CA coasts late Wednesday and then becoming more focused on Cape Mendocino on Thursday. Still, nearshore northerly winds are to be the norm, but light in the mornings especially at protected breaks. No change is forecast through next weekend (10/23) with 15-20 kt northwesterly winds in control of waters just beyond the beach from Pt Conception northward.
At the surface on Saturday (10/15) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
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 weak high pressure is to be the name of the game. Finally on Thurs (10/20) a broad gale is to be tracking through the southern Bering Sea with fetch in it's south quadrant south of the Aleutian Islands moving from Kamchatka to the northern dateline with winds at 30-35 kts and seas building to 26 ft late at 48N 180W. On Friday the fetch is to continue east but fading in intensity down to barely 30 kts late Seas to peak Friday AM at 27 ft at 47N 176W then fading in the evening from 25 ft at 46N 170W. The gael is to be effectively gone Saturday AM with residual seas at 20 ft at 45N 160W. Will believe it when it happens. It certainly appears the Inactive Phase of the MJO is having it's way with the atmosphere.
As of Saturday (10/15) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was backing off some more at 1.61. The 30 day average was up some at 11.23 with the 90 day average down slightly to 7.11. We expect these numbers to rise with the Inactive Phase of the MJO in control.
Current wind analysis indicated modest westerly anomalies were blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific into the East Pacific suggestive of the Active Phase of the MJO moving from the East Pacific almost towards the Atlantic basin with the Inactive Phase already starting to move into the extreme West Pacific. The models indicate that fully blowing easterly anomalies are to build over the extreme West Pacific a week out (10/19-23) extending from the dateline westward while westerly anomalies hold in the East Pacific moving into the Atlantic and 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 is already likely putting a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reducing the probability for swell producing storm formation for the next 3 weeks (10/14-11/4). 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 (for example, the no-name storm over Florida of last week). But by Nov 4 or so, there are indications of the Active Phase returning to the West Pacific and tracking east through 11/19. Something to look forward too.
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 but back to -4 C on 10/15. 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
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