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 (10/29) North and Central CA was seeing leftover swell from the Northern Gulf producing waves at waist to chest high and clean early but with some outer wind driven warble on top. Down south wrap around swell was thigh high and clean but generally weak. Southern California was not getting much up north with waves maybe knee high and pristine clean even late. Down south things were also very clean with lingering southern hemi swell still occasionally pushing chest high though inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some little pulse energy from the north at maybe waist high or so. The South Shore was near flat with rare southern hemi sets to waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves waist high or so and lightly chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A decent gale developed on the dateline pushing into the Western Gulf Fri-Sat (10/29) with up to 30 ft seas offering a decent shot of swell by Monday (10/31) for Hawaii and Tues (11/1) for Central CA. Another local gale is to develop just off British Columbia Thursday (11/3) and fall south along the US West Coast Friday with seas initially to 22 ft. And yet one more gale is forecast to follow over the dateline Wed-Thurs (11/3), and per the most recent model (18Z Sat) is to be very solid. But this is the first run that suggests solid strengthening, so for now we'll continue on a conservative tracks and say only limited swell generation potential is possible. Theoretically the Active Phase of the MJO is to try and make a showing about a week later, but reality and the models have not been converging very well lately.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (10/29) the jetstream was poorly organized tracking flat west to east centered loosely on 45N but with no winds of interest associated with it. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours a bit more wind energy is to start building on the dateline at 130 kts with a small trough trying to build on Mon (10/31) pushing east while lifting some reaching the Northern Gulf late Tuesday with winds building to 160 kts and then 170 kt 24 hours later forming a trough nudged right up along the British Columbia coast. Decent support for gale development from this one. Beyond 72 hours the British Columbia trough is to try and fall south but is to move onshore over North Oregon on Thursday (11/3) ending any gale development from it. Also on Wed (11/2) a trough is to try and build just west of the dateline, but most energy is to be associated with a ridge east of it feeding into the British Columbia trough. The dateline trough to dissipate in 24 hours with little support for gale development indicated. Next weekend another trough is forecast well off Japan trying to push towards the dateline, this time with a bit more energy associated with it while a solid ridge builds over the East Pacific. Limited support for gale development. Honestly, we're waiting to see a big split in the jetstream develop over the Central Pacific, typical of La Nina. But so far, it has been held at bay.
At the surface on Saturday (10/29) weak high pressure was off the US West Coast at 1024 mbs setting up mostly a light northerly flow over Central CA and light trades at 10 kts pushing into Hawaii. Remnants of the the Dateline Gale (see details below) were pushing into the Gulf of Alaska. Modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was over the dateline. Only the Dateline Gale held any interest.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure at 1036 mbs is to build solid off the Pacific Northwest setting up a strong pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with 35 kt north winds building there Monday evening (10/31) and increasing in coverage to near 40 kts Tuesday AM (11/1) before quickly fading into the evening. If this comes to pass large local north windswell is expected pushing down the Central CA coast on Tuesday. Certainly something to monitor.
But of far more interest (per the 18Z run of the models Sat 10/29 afternoon) is a gale forecast to wrap up Tues (11/1) midway between Japan and the dateline tracking east-northeast. By evening a solid fetch of 45-50 kt north to northwest winds are forecast in it's west quadrant almost aimed at Hawaii. Wednesday AM (11/2) 50 kt northwest winds are forecast in it's southwest quadrant at 46N 177E (30 degs south of the 310 deg path to NCal and right up the 328 deg path to HI). Seas building to 24 ft at 43N 175E (likely a low projection). Wed PM (a broad fetch of 45 kt northwest winds to hold while easing northeast with 29 ft seas forecast at 45N 180W (328 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The gale is to be on the move east Thurs AM (11/3) with 45 kt northwest winds holding and seas building to near 30 ft at 45N 173W (297 degs NCal and 336 degs HI).In the evening fetch to be fading from 40 kts over a broad area in the Western Gulf aimed more solidly to the east with 30 ft seas at 48N 165W (304 degs NCal and 347 degs HI and moving out of the swell window there). More energy forecast as this system moves into the Gulf of Alaska Fri-Sat (11/5) if one is to believe the models.
British Columbia Gale
A small closed isobar gale wrapped 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 40-45 kt southwest winds were pushing directly into the coast of British Columbia with seas to 18 ft pushing into the coast there and perhaps in the Pacific Northwest swell window but well outside any great circle path to CA. Windswell pushed into the Pacific Northwest on Saturday (10/29) with minimal sideband energy pushing down into North CA with luck Sunday (10/30).
A stronger gale 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 40-45 kts northwest winds were south and clear of the Eastern Aleutians. Seas were building from 30 ft at 48N 173W (338 degs HI). On Saturday AM (10/29) 40 kt northwest winds were starting to fade with seas dropping from 27 ft over a modest area at 47N 167W (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 20 ft seas up at 50N 145W (315+ degs NCal) pushing east in the evening and out of the NCal swell window. Seas holding at 22 ft at 54N 142W offering swell for the Pacific Northwest, but nowhere south of there.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Monday (10/31) mid-AM with period 16 secs and size building quickly. Swell to peak near sunset at 5.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (8 ft). Residual energy to continue on Tuesday at 5.4 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft) and fading as the day continues. Swell Direction: 335 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday (11/1) at 5 AM with period 17 secs and size building fast pushing to 5.5 ft @ 16-17 secs mid-morning (9 ft) and holding through the early afternoon. Period down to 14-15 secs at sunset with swell still 5.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (8 ft). At the same time a very strong local gradient is forecast developing over Cape Mendocino producing 35 kt north winds and large raw local windswell intermixing with the more refined swell coming from the dateline. Residual dateline swell continuing Wed (11/2) at 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft) with windswell intermixed. Swell Direction from the dateline: 303 degrees with local windswell from 310+ 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 (10/29) high pressure at 1024 mbs was building off California and ridging into the Pacific Northwest with a light north windflow along the CA coast. By Sunday reinforcing high pressure at 1034 mbs is to be moving into the area with north winds at 15 building off the coast of North and Central CA, but nothing compared to what's coming. By Monday AM (10/31) the reinforcing high is to move in with a large gradient and north winds to 20 kts building over the entire PAcific Northwest down to Pt Conception with a defined gradient setting up over Cape Mendocino later with north winds there to 35 kts. The gradient is to hold with winds to 40 kts early Tuesday and 30 kt north winds extending from Southern Oregon down to Big Sur. Large local windswell expected for Central CA with nearshore chop too. The gradient is to evaporate thought the day Wednesday with light winds expected for all CA coastal waters by mid-AM. But low pressure is to be dropping south with high pressure west of it on Thursday (11/3) and north winds to again be the result by mid-afternoon, at 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA and holding into Friday. Still even Saturday north winds at 15 kts forecast for nearshore waters.
At the surface on Saturday (10/29) 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 the Dateline Gale forecast mid-week (11/2) is to track through the Gulf of Alaska with a building fetch of 45 kt west-northwest winds and seas at 32-34 ft. If all this comes to pass a fairly solid bit of north angled swell is likely for the US West Coast with a decent pulse of swell from early in the gael life for Hawaii. But it is way to early to know with any certainty since there is only one model run under this system. But it's something to monitor.
As of Saturday (10/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down again at 7.02. The 30 day average was down some at 9.93 with the 90 day average down some to 7.68.
Current wind analysis indicated modest to weak 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 but not so much. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to continue in the weak category over the West Pacific a week out (11/6) extending from Indonesia to the dateline, indicative of the fading core of the Inactive Phase holding in that region. The longer range models all suggest that by Nov 6-9 or so the Active Phase of the MJO is to be returning to the West Pacific and tracking east through 11/21. And the 40 day upper level model is suggesting all little more strength to it than previous projected.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest 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
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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/
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