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 (10/18) North and Central CA was seeing small North Gulf swell producing waves at shoulder high with a bit of warble and unevenness in the water. Rideable but nothing more. Down south surf was effectively flat and clean. Southern California was seeing no rideable swell up north with moderate northwest winds and a bit ruffled and foggy to boot. Down south things were not much better with sets to knee high or so and clean but weak and coming out of the south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell at chest high and clean. The South Shore was getting small background southern hemi swell with waves waist high or so and clean. The East Shore was getting north windswell too with waves shoulder high or so and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Things to remain relatively calm along the coasts of Hawaii and the US mainland into early next week with high pressure in control over the Western Gulf/East Pacific. The models continue to suggest a moderate gale pushing over the Northern dateline Thurs (10/20) with seas to 26 ft tracking into the Western Gulf on Saturday with seas fading from 20 ft. 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. There's suggestions a far smaller gale might drop into the dateline region starting Mon (12/24) with maybe 22 ft seas and unremarkable. Basically we're waiting for the Inactive Phase of the MJO to clear out enabling gale development to return to normal levels.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/18) the jetstream was ridging firmly off the Kuril Islands with winds to 180 kts, then dipping into a very weak trough over the northern Gulf with no real wind energy associated with it before tracking flat into Northern Canada. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours and improving pattern is forecast with the ridge over the dateline flattening if not forming a weak trough over the dateline with a pocket of 150 kt winds tracking through it pushing east into the Gulf on Friday (10/21). This to offer some reasonable support for gale development in the Western Gulf. Beyond 72 hours another pulse of wind energy is to be running through the jet on Sun (10/23) helping to form a developing trough on the dateline pushing east with winds at 150 kts. But that trough is to rapidly get very steep if not pinching off by Tuesday (10/25) in the Gulf, limiting it's potential to support gale development. And a large ridge is to be building again off the Kuril Islands and over the US West Coast. No support for gale development under the ridges.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/18) weak nondescript high pressure at 1020 mbs was filling the North Pacific. A new developing gale was tracking east off Kamchatka pushing into the extreme western Bering Sea with winds 30-35 kts but totally shadowed from the greater Pacific by the Aleutian Islands.No swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours starting Wednesday PM (10/19) this gale is to drop south to the dateline with winds at 35 kts and starting to generate seas pushing 22 ft at 48N 170E aimed towards the US West Coast, but a long ways away. By Thursday AM (10/20) winds to be holding at 30-35 kts on the dateline with seas building to 26 ft at 47N 177E. In the evening winds to be fading from 30 kts with seas fading from barely 26 ft at 45N 180W (on the dateline). By Friday AM the fetch is to continue east but fading in intensity down to barely 30 kts early. Seas down to 22 ft over a good sized area at 44N 170W aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast then fading in the evening from 20 ft at 44N 165W. The gale is to be gone Saturday AM with residual seas at 18 ft at 44N 160W. There is some reasonable possibility that modest northwesterly swell will result of the Hawaiian Islands and the US West Coast, but as of right now, not a breath of wind is actually blowing on the oceans surface. This is still just a figment of the weather models silicon imagination.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (10/18) weak high pressure at 1018 mbs was in-place over the entire Eastern Pacific generating a light northerly flow down the CA coast at 10 kts, but unremarkable. By late evening high pressure is to start rebuilding off Central CA with north winds again on the increase over Pt Conception By Wednesday AM 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 and up to 15 kts over exposed waters and nearshore in the evenings into Friday. By Saturday 15-20 kt northwesterly winds are to be in control of outer waters just beyond the beach from Pt Conception northward becoming more focused on Cape Mendocino on Sunday with winds 20-25 kts with an eddy flow nearshore. A full on summertime pressure gradient is forecast off Cape Mendo on Monday (10/24) with north winds 30 kts and north winds reaching down to just south of Pt Arena, with a light southerly eddy flow south of there. The gradient is to start fading later Tuesday (10/25) but not before some decent north windswell is generated.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/18) 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 another small gale is forecast developing on the northern dateline Sunday PM (10/23) with a tiny area of 40 kt northwest winds falling southeast into a developing trough in the Western Gulf Monday AM, before dissipating. 20-22 ft seas forecast near 45N 170W. Maybe some small swell to result for Hawaii with less energy from the US West coast with luck.
As of Tuesday (10/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising some at 15.66. The 30 day average was down some at 10.41 with the 90 day average down slightly to 6.87. We expect these numbers to rise over the next week with the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking control.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were starting to blow from just west of the the dateline to Indonesia suggestive of the Inactive Phase moving into the extreme West Pacific. Westerly anomalies over the extreme East Pacific were still in-place, but loosing some coverage as compared to days previous. The models indicate that fully blowing easterly anomalies are to build over the West Pacific a week out (10/26) extending from the dateline westward while westerly anomalies start fading in the East Pacific, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO moving out of the East Pacific into the Atlantic. In short, the Inactive Phase is already putting a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reducing the probability for swell producing storm formation for the next 2 weeks (10/18-11/4). 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 (10/17) 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 in mid-Sept, holding there until early October when it dropped back down to -4 degs and then -5C mid-month. But by 10/18 it was up to -3 C and pushing east, presumably the effect of the Active Phase of the MJO that occurred in late Sept/early Oct. Regardless, 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.
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. that said - the models project some sort of gale activity pushing under New Zealand on Tues (10/25) generating 36 ft seas. But that seems hardly believable at this early date.
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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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