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 (10/25) North and Central CA was seeing dateline swell mixing with a more dominant local windswell producing waves at 3 ft overhead and a bit warbled from southwest breeze but still well rideable at select breaks. Down south dateline swell was wrapping in at waist high with some chest high peaks and clean. Maybe some southern hemi background swell underneath too. Southern California was getting northerly swell at thigh high and well lined up in the north and clean but a bit hazy from light fog. Down south a mix of minimal southern hemi swell and more dominant northerly swell was producing surf at shoulder high on the sets but textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more dateline swell with waves head high or a little more and pretty clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was waist high or so but kinda ruffled by east-southeast trades. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves waist high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Residual dateline swell was hitting Hawaii and just past peaking in California, already on the way down. A smaller gale was dropping into the Western Gulf on Tues (10/25) pushing flat east with up to 30 ft seas forecast Wednesday in the Northern Gulf but aimed mostly towards the Pacific Northwest with only 24 ft seas in the NCal swell window. Another small one to follow right behind positioned just off Vancouver Island on Friday with 26 ft seas but east of even the NCal swell window, targeting only the Pacific Northwest. A stronger system is forecast developing on the dateline pushing into the Western Gulf Fri-Sat (10/29) with up to 32 ft seas offering a little better hope assuming the models are correct. And yet one more small one is forecast to follow that but again tucked up well into the Northern Gulf of Alaska Theoretically the Active Phase of the MJO is to try and make a showing the first week of November which might help to feed development of stronger storms further south in the dateline region.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/25) the jetstream continued ridging north off Japan up to Kamchatka with winds to 150 kts, then tracking east over the Aleutians and faltering before finally falling slightly to the southeast over the dateline but not making a trough and with no wind energy of interest. Residual wind energy at 100 kts was tracking from there due east into the Northern Gulf of Alaska before ridging up and inland into Alaska. A little trough was trying to develop in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska, but winds were light and offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the wind energy currently ridging off Kamchatka is to push east to the dateline while flattening out some and falling south on Friday (10/28) making something that almost resembles a broad shallow trough. Maybe some support for gale development to result. Beyond 72 hours a generally weak jetstream flow is forecast tracking flat on the 48N latitude with 2 embedded pockets of wind to 130 kts but again not offering much in terms of large scale trough production. And worse, a possible small-scale split in the jet is forecast developing off Japan by Tues (11/1). No real support for gale development is forecast.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/25) high pressure was ridging into the Pacific Northwest at 1032 mbs generating a standard summer-time pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA with north winds there at 30 kts producing moderate northerly windswell pushing down the Central CA coast. And eddy flow was in effect for California waters from Bodega Bay southward (light southerly flow). Easterly trades off the highs south quadrant were pushing over Hawaii at 15 kts resulting in minimal east windswell there. Westerly groundswell from a gale previous over the dateline has already peaked along the Central CA coast (early Tues AM 10/25) nd is to be heading down over the next 48 hrs. A new gale was tracking through the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska (see details below).
Over the next 72 hours the North Gulf Gale is to dominate. But a small closed isobar gale is forecast to wrap up just off Vancouver Island late Thursday (10/27) producing 35-40 kt west-northwest winds at 48N 140W (316 degs NCal) and seas building from 18-20 ft. By Friday AM 40 kt west winds are to be pushing directly into the coast of British Columbia with seas to 26 ft pushing into the coast there and perhaps in the Pacific Northwest swell window but well outside any great circle path to CA. Some 20 ft seas might be in the 319 deg window for NCal with luck. Theres some decent support for swell radiating into the Pacific Northwest with minimal sideband energy pushing down into North CA later on Friday into Saturday AM (10/29).
North Gulf Gale
A broad low pressure system developed in the Bering Sea with fetch reaching south of the Aleutians just east of the the dateline Monday AM (10/24) with a tiny area of 35 kt west winds tracking east into a developing trough in the Western Gulf. 35 kt northwest fetch was falling out of the Bering Sea in the evening with seas starting to build. On Tuesday AM the gale was starting to wrap up in the extreme Northern Gulf with 40 kt west winds over exposed waters. Seas had built to 20 ft at 50N 163W. Additional northwest fetch to build at near 45 kts in the extreme Northern Gulf in the evening generating seas to 28 ft near 51N 148W all aimed northeast towards Alaska and not in even the NCal swell window with only 24 ft seas at 53N 155W on the 319 degree track to NCal. By Wednesday AM (10/26) 40 kt west-northwest fetch is to continue in the extreme Northern Gulf targeting British Columbia and pushing seas up to 30 ft at 55N 143W (outside the CA swell window) with more 24 ft seas on the 319 degree path to NCal (53N 150W). In the evening fetch is to be all but gone as the gale starts pushing into Northern Canada. Seas holding at 28 ft at 57N 140W offering only fetch for maybe the Pacific Northwest if even there.
In all no real swell is expected to result for Hawaii with minimal north angled sideband swell possible for Central CA for the weekend (4.5 ft @ 14 secs - 6 ft faces - arriving 1 AM Sat 10/29) with most energy focused on the northern Pacific Northwest.
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 (10/25) a full summertime pressure gradient was in control over Cape Mendocino with north winds 30 kts early and reaching down to a point well off Pt Arena, with a light southerly eddy flow nearshore feeding up into it. The gradient is to start fading some later Tuesday with winds down to 25 kts and then 20-25 kts on Wednesday and moving a bit closer to the coast, but not dissipating till late Thursday when a more local gale starts to take root off Southern British Columbia. A light northerly wind flow is forecast for all of CA Friday and Saturday with high pressure at 1024 mbs just west of the state but not too much of an influence. But then Sunday reinforcing high pressure at 1030 mbs is to be moving into the area with north winds at 10-15 stating to build nearshore over North and Central CA, with another gradient and north winds to 25 kts building over Cape Mendocino on Monday (10/31) . The gradient to lift north some on Tuesday and fade from 20 kts with an eddy flow taking over near shore.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/25) in the South Pacific had a series of small gales tracking rapidly west to east just off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. 32 ft seas were under New Zealand at 57S 170E with another area of 36 ft seas at 60S 157W. Over the next 72 hours and by Tuesday evening the New Zealand fetch is to produce 36 ft seas at 60S 180W and the other to 38ft at 60S 138W. Again all fetch is to be aimed due east. On Wednesday AM (10/26) the New Zealand system is to be fading with seas dropping from 36 ft at 58S 170W with the other one producing 40 ft seas at 56S 120W and moving out of the CA swell window. Follow-on fetch is to continue from the New Zealand system with seas to 34 ft migrating to 52S 145W on Friday AM (10/28). Almost all the fetch from the New Zealand system is to be shadowed by Tahiti relative to CA and on a very easterly track relative to both HI and CA. Backgrounds well expected from both at south facing breaks in CA. Perhaps a little bit better size from the New Zealand system relative to Hawaii. Surf forecast details to be posted in the QuikCASTs as swell approaches.
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 a stronger gale is forecast dropping from the Bering Sea into the Western Gulf on Fri AM (10/28) with a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds south of the Aleutians and 45 kt northwest winds up in the Bering Sea falling southeast. Seas starting to build from 26 ft at 48N 180W (on the dateline). By the evening a fetch of 45 kts northwest winds are to be south and clear of the Eastern Aleutians. Seas building from 28 ft at 47N 170W (340 degs HI). On Saturday AM (10/29) 40 kt northwest winds are to start fading with seas building to 32 ft over a modest area at 48N 160W (303 degs NCal and mostly outside the HI swell window). Theoretically more 40 kt west fetch is to rebuild up in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Saturday evening with 28 ft seas mostly from previous fetch moving east to 48N 152W (305 degs NCal). More 45 kt west fetch to building in the Northern Gulf Sunday AM (10/30) resulting in 28 ft seas up at 52N 156W (310 degs NCal) pushing east in the evening with seas building to 34 ft at 52N 149W (315 degs NCal). By Monday AM (10/31) this system is to be fading and moving into Central Canada.
This one offers some swell potential mainly for the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA with limited sideband potential for Hawaii if one is to believe the models at this early date.
Beyond yet one more small system is forecast for the Northwestern Gulf on Mon-Tues (11/1) with seas to 30 ft.
As of Tues (10/25) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) dropped to -1.23. The 30 day average was down some at 11.57 with the 90 day average down some to 7.82.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing from the dateline to Indonesia and India. Easterly anomalies were also over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the entire Pacific.The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to fade some over the West Pacific a week out (11/2) but continuing to extend from just west of the dateline into the East Pacific, indicative of the core 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, depending upon the model one uses, 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 (10/24) continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Southern CA 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 -5 mid-month. But by 10/20 thru 10/25 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 weather systems are 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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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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