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 (10/27) North and Central CA was seeing residual local windswell at chest high and clean but a bit warbled. Down south background southern hemi swell was producing waves rarely to thigh high and clean. Southern California was not getting much up north with waves thigh high and blown out early. Down south things were much cleaner with southern hemi swell still dominant at chest high with some bigger sets and pristine, though a bit inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was getting waist high residual southern hemi sets and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves thigh high and lightly chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A small gale dropped into the Western Gulf on Tues (10/25) pushing flat east with up to 28 ft seas Wednesday in the Northern Gulf but aimed mostly towards the Pacific Northwest with only 24 ft seas in the NCal swell window. Another tiny one is to develop in the far Eastern Gulf Friday but with only 18 ft seas and mostly 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 30 ft seas offering a little better hope assuming the models are correct. And yet one more gale is forecast to follow over the dateline Tues-Thurs (11/3), but poorly organized offering only limited swell generation potential. Theoretically the Active Phase of the MJO is to try and make a showing about the same time, but even that is now coming into doubt. Looks like La Nina is having her way.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (10/27) the jetstream was gently ridging northeast off Japan touching the Aleutians at the dateline with winds to 150 kts, then trying to fall into a trough over the Gulf of Alaska but loosing energy with winds barely 120 kts before pushing into British Columbia. No real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the wind energy currently over the dateline is to fall southeast slightly while moving into the Gulf Friday (10/28) making something that almost resembles a shallow trough. Maybe some support for gale development to result as it pushes through the Gulf over the weekend. Beyond 72 hours a generally weak jetstream flow is forecast tracking flat on the 48N latitude. A very steep trough is forecast forming just off the US West Coast on Wed (11/2) with it's apex down just off Monterey Bay moving inland there 24 hrs later. But it is to be so steep and short lived that there is little odds of support for gale development.
At the surface on Thursday (10/27) weak high pressure was ridging into the Pacific Northwest at 1024 mbs generating a weak northerly flow (10 kts) down the California coast, but nothing more. Trades over Hawaii were suppressed.
Over the next 72 hours a small closed isobar gale is forecast to wrap up just off Vancouver Island late Thursday (10/27) producing 30 kt west-northwest winds at 48N 140W (316 degs NCal) and seas building from 16 ft. By Friday AM 40 kt west winds are to be pushing directly into the coast of British Columbia with seas to 18-20 ft pushing into the coast there and perhaps in the Pacific Northwest swell window but well outside any great circle path to CA. There's some decent support for swell radiating into the Pacific Northwest with minimal sideband energy pushing down into North CA with luck Saturday (10/29). At the same time a new system is to be building on the Dateline (see Dateline Gale below).
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 built 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. On Wednesday AM (10/26) 40 kt west-northwest fetch continued in the extreme Northern Gulf targeting British Columbia and pushing seas up to 28 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 were fading from 24 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 arriving Friday.
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 28 ft at 49N 178E (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 30 ft at 48N 173W (338 degs HI). On Saturday AM (10/29) 40 kt northwest winds are to start fading with seas dropping from 26 ft over a modest area at 47N 165W (303 degs NCal and mostly outside the HI swell window at 348 degrees). Theoretically 35 kt northwest fetch is to hold as the gale moves into the Northern Gulf of Alaska Saturday evening with 24 ft seas mostly from previous fetch moving east to 48N 158W (307 degs NCal). More 35 kt west fetch to building in the Northern Gulf Sunday AM (10/30) resulting in 24 ft seas up at 52N 140W (319+ degs NCal) pushing east in the evening and out of the NCal swell window. Seas holding at 20 ft at 52N 140W offering swell for the Pacific Northwest, but nowhere south of there.
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. Will monitor.
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 (10/27) the pressure gradient that had been in control over Cape Mendocino was fading fast, with only lingering 20 kt north winds off Central CA early and expected to be barely 15 kts by sunset. Low pressure was wrapping up off Vancouver Island taking the legs out of high pressure sitting off Central CA. A light northerly wind flow is forecast for all of CA Friday then building some Saturday to 15 kts just outside of nearshore waters (Southern CA protected) as high pressure at 1024 mbs starts re-ridging back into the Pacific Northwest. By 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 later on Monday (10/31) . The gradient is to pretty much hold over all of Central CA early on Tuesday (11/1) with nearshore winds near 20 kts, then start fading in the evening. Light winds forecast on Wednesday for all CA coastal waters.
At the surface on Thursday (10/27) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
Previously starting on Tuesday (10/25) in the South Pacific a series of small gales were 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 tiny area of 36 ft seas at 60S 157W. By Tuesday evening the New Zealand fetch was producing 36 ft seas at 59S 180W and the other to 38 ft at 60S 140W. Again all fetch was aimed due east. On Wednesday AM (10/26) the New Zealand system was fading with seas dropping from 36 ft at 58S 170W with the other one producing 36 ft seas at 56S 122W 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 170W on Wednesday PM, then fading out. All the fetch from the New Zealand system was shadowed by Tahiti relative to CA and on a very easterly track relative to both HI and CA. Background swell expected from both at south facing breaks in California. 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 there's suggestions of another modest gale trying to wrap up just south of the Aleutians on the dateline on Wed (11/2) with most energy pushing up into the Bering Sea. Limited fetch is to persist south of the Eastern Aleutians on Thursday pushing seas to maybe 22 ft, but unremarkable. And that's all the North Pacific has to offer.
As of Thursday (10/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up again at 12.05. The 30 day average was down some at 10.70 with the 90 day average up some to 8.00.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing from the dateline to Indonesia and India. Light 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 build firmly over the West Pacific a week out (11/4) extend from Indonesia well into the Central Pacific, indicative of the core of the Inactive Phase holding in that region. It is already putting a damper on a favorable jetstream configuration and reducing the probability for swell producing storm formation through 11/4. But the longer range models all suggest that by Nov 6-9 or so, there are indications of the Active Phase is to be returning to the West Pacific and tracking east through 11/21. But the 40 day model are suggesting it is to not be as strong as previously indicated. take what you can get.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/27) 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 10/27 it was up to -3 C and trying to push east initially, then stalling, 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 there's some suggestion of a new gale developing on the eastern edge of the California swell window in the Southeast Pacific starting Mon (10/31). Seas forecast building to 38 ft at 56S 121W but all fetch aimed mostly east. Low odds for swell radiating up into California coastal waters.
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
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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