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 (10/22) North and Central CA was seeing small local windswell producing waves to waist high and clean early with clear skies and warm temperatures. Down south surf was flat with knee high sets and clean. Southern California was knee high up north and clean but socked in with fog. Down south minimal southern hemi swell was producing surf maybe up to thigh high, textured and foggy. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat with waves maybe up to waist high with a good amount of sideshore texture. The South Shore was flat with maybe a few knee high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves knee to thigh high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A moderate gale pushed over the Northern dateline Thurs (10/20) with seas to 26 ft then tracked into the Western Gulf on Saturday with seas fading from 18 ft. Modest swell to arrive in Hawaii late Sunday (10/23) and the US West Coast maybe late Monday. A smaller gale is to be dropping into the Western Gulf starting Tues (10/25) and pushing flat east with maybe 26 ft seas Wednesday in the Northern Gulf but aimed mostly towards the Pacific Northwest. Another small one to follow right behind with a more southeast trajectory and 22 ft seas on Thurs (10/27). A stronger systems is forecast for the Western Gulf behind that next weekend. But for now we continue in the Inactive Phase of the MJO which tends to not feed development of stronger storms on the preferred dateline region.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (10/22) the jetstream was ridging north off Japan up to Kamchatka then finally falling southeast into a trough at the intersection of 35N and the dateline but with little wind energy there, then tracking slowly northeast pushing into British Columbia. In all no support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the dateline is to wash out and basically be replaced with a flat jetstream flow tracking west to east on the 50N latitude. A small trough is to develop in the Western Gulf late Monday (10/24) with 120 kt winds associated with it offering a little support for gale development moving into the Northern Gulf 24 hrs later. Beyond 72 hours a better trough is to build in the Gulf by Thurs (10/27) with 170 kts winds falling down into it and pushing slowly east, pushing into extreme Northern CA on Sat (10/29). Maybe some stronger gale activity to result focused on the Pacific Northwest. But off the the west the jet is to fumble with a broad and diffuse flow expected.
At the surface on Saturday (10/22) weak high pressure was off California generating a weak pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino with north winds there at 20 kts producing minimal short period windswell pushing down the Central CA coast. Easterly trades off the highs south quadrant were pushing well south of the Hawaiian Islands offering nothing there in terms of swell production. West winds at 20-25 kts were pushing through the Gulf of Alaska, but of no particular interest. In short, for October it was calm. But some westerly swell was pushing towards both Hawaii and California from a gale previously over the dateline (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another small gale is forecast developing on the northern dateline Monday AM (10/24) with a tiny area of 40 kt west winds tracking east into a developing trough in the Western Gulf. 30 kt northwest fetch is to be falling out of the Bering Sea in the evening with seas starting to build. On Tuesday AM the gale is forecast start wrapping up in the extreme Northern Gulf with 45 kt west winds over exposed waters. Seas building to 18 ft at 49N 162W. Additional northwest fetch to build at near 45 kts in the evening generating seas to 22 ft near 51N 153W. By Wednesday (10/26) 40 kt west-northwest fetch is to continue in the extreme Northern Gulf targeting British Columbia and pushing seas up to 26 ft at 53N 150W (314 degs NCal). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 35 kts and the gale staring to push into Northern Canada. Seas holding at 26 ft at 55N 143W (319+ degs NCal) and moving out of the Central CA swell window. Maybe some tiny sideband swell to result for Hawaii at best with more energy from Central CA and most focused on the northern Pacific Northwest.
On Tuesday (10/18) 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. On Wednesday PM (10/19) this gale dropped south to the dateline with winds at 35 kts and was starting to generate a broad area of seas pushing 22 ft at 48N 172E aimed towards the US West Coast, but a long ways away. By Thursday AM (10/20) winds were holding at 30-35 kts on the dateline with seas building to 26 ft at 47N 178E (328 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). In the evening winds were fading from 30-35 kts with seas fading from 26 ft at 45N 176W (just east of the dateline). By Friday AM the fetch continued east but fading in intensity down to barely 30 kts early. Seas fading from 24 ft at 45N 171W aimed at Hawaii (340 degs) and the US West Coast (296 NCal) then fading in the evening from 22 ft at 44N 161W. The gale was gone Saturday AM with residual seas at 18 ft at 44N 157W.
Modest northwesterly swell will result for the Hawaiian Islands and the US West Coast, but this system needed to move closer to both locations to generate anything that could be consider real.
Hawaii: Expect swell arriving Sunday AM (10/23) at 3 ft @ 16 secs building to 6.0 ft @ 15 secs late (9 ft). Residuals expected on Monday AM at 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction 329-340 degs
North CA: Expect tiny forerunners arriving Monday at sunset with swell to 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) building through the night and peaking near 4 AM at 5.1 ft @ 15 secs (7.6 ft). Swell holding at 5 ft @ 14 secs at sunrise (7 ft faces) and slowly dropping through the day. Swell Direction: 295-299 degrees
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 (10/22) north winds were in control of outer waters from Cape Mendo down to San Francisco and up to near 25 kts late with and eddy flow nearshore. This is to continue on Sunday with winds 20-25 kts offshore. A full on summertime pressure gradient is forecast to build over Cape Mendo on Monday (10/24) with north winds 30 kts and reaching down to just south of Pt Arena, with a light southerly eddy flow south of there. The gradient is to start fading later some later Tuesday (10/25) with winds down to 25 kts and then 20 kts on Wednesday, but not dissipating till Thursday when a more local gale starts to take root off the Pacific Northwest. A light windflow forecast for all of CA early Friday but then starting to turn south as the gale moves closer with a dry front pushing into North CA in the evening. A light wind flow to follow but a larger gale is forecast in the Gulf right behind, pushing at least towards the Pacific Northwest.
At the surface on Saturday (10/22) 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 in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Wed AM (10/26) tucked over the Eastern Aleutians with 35-40 kt northwest winds building and falling southeast. By evening a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds is forecast in the Gulf with seas building to 20 ft over a tiny area at 49N 167W. Thursday AM (10/27) winds to fade to 35 kts while the gale itself falls southeast with 22 ft seas over a small area at 46N 158W (on the 301 degree great circle path to NCal). By evening the gale is to fade out with seas from previous fetch fading from 20 ft at 43N 152W. If this materializes maybe some 13 sec period swell to result for the Oregon and California coast.
Beyond a far stronger gale is forecast dropping from the Bering Sea into the Western Gulf on Fri PM (10/28) with a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest winds south and clear of the Eastern Aleutians. Seas building from 30 ft at 50S 166W. On Saturday AM (10/29) 45 kt northwest winds to hold with seas building to 32 ft over a building area at 48N 160W. This offers some swell potential mainly for the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA with limited sideband potential for Hawaii if one is to even try and believe the models.
As of Thursday (10/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued relatively high at 22.30. The 30 day average was up some at 11.98 with the 90 day average up some to 7.92. We expect these numbers to continue to rise over the next week with the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking more control.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing from the dateline to Indonesia suggestive of the Inactive Phase taking control of the West Pacific. Westerly anomalies that were over the extreme East Pacific were gone and also replaced with easterly anomalies. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to fade some over the West Pacific a week out (10/30) but continuing to extend from just east of the dateline into the East Pacific, indicative of the Inactive Phase moving over the Central Pacific. It is already putting a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reducing the probability for swell producing storm formation through 11/4. But by Nov 4 or so, there are indications of the Active Phase is to be returning to the West Pacific and tracking east through 11/19. Something to look forward too.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/20) 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 increasing their coverage. 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 getting eroded pretty quickly on 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 in mid-Sept, holding there until early October when it dropped back down to -4 degs and then -5C mid-month. But by 10/20 thru 20/22 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 the models continue to project some sort of gale activity pushing under New Zealand on Tues (10/25) generating 38 ft seas in the evening at 57S 180W (60 degs east of the 193 deg path to HI and well on the 210 degree path to NCal but shadowed by Tahiti) aimed due east and fading from there, down to 36 ft Wednesday AM at 57S 171W then fading from there. But that remains only a projection.
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
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table