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 (11/3) North and Central CA was seeing residual dateline swell at waist to chest high and ruffled with a light onshore breeze early. Down south wrap around energy was thigh high and heavy textured with onshore winds in control. Southern California was small up north with dateline swell knee high or so and clean. Down south residual dateline swell as knee to thigh high and clean with just some slight texture. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and clean. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell with sets maybe waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell with waves chest to shoulder high and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A local gale developed just off British Columbia late Wed (11/2) and was falling southeast along the US West Coast into Friday with seas to 26 ft. Larger and very raw north angled swell expected for North and Central California Fri-Sat (11/5). A weaker gale also developed just west of the dateline Wed (11/2) with 28 ft seas, but faded fast and pushed up into the Bering Sea. Maybe some swell for Hawaii by Sun (11/6). Remnants from that gale are forecast to redevelop in the Northeastern Gulf on Sat (11/5) with 24 ft seas pushing southeast into Oregon later Sunday with seas down to 18 ft. Another pulse of raw protoswell possible for the Pacific Northwest then and down into Central CA late Sun/Mon (11/7). At least one more local gale is forecast developing off North CA on Wed (11/9) too with 24-26 ft seas. In all, it looks like alot of windswell and weather for the US West Coast, and high pressure pushing most everything well north of Hawaii. The Active Phase of the MJO is still on tap to make a showing next week, but any particular outcome is far too difficult to determine just yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (11/4) the jetstream was flowing generally flat to the east off the Northern Kuril Islands splitting some on the dateline with most energy ridging north while pushing into the Gulf of Alaska on up into Alaska before falling hard south into a backdoor trough bottoming out just off Oregon. Very limited support for gale development in that backdoor trough. Over the next 72 hours a more defined and broad ridge is to build north of Hawaii with a generalized trough pushing down the Pacific northwest coast through the weekend. Winds to 120 kts in pockets over the length of the jet. Limited support for gale development off the US and British Columbia coast. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the ridge holding north of Hawaii and another backdoor trough forecast in the far Eastern Gulf Tuesday (11/8) falling into Central AC 36 hrs later. Limited support for gale development in this one. And on Wed-Thurs (11/10) there's suggestions of a decent trough setting up off Japan, but that strong ridge to the east will likely drive it up into the Bering Sea.
At the surface on Thursday (11/3) double barreled high pressure at 1026 and 1036 mbs was straddling the dateline, with the stronger of the two in the Gulf of Alaska. A series of gales was tracking over those highs up in the Bering Sea. The first in the series of gales was falling south just off Pacific Northwest coast (see 1st Local Gale below). Otherwise easterly trades off the south side of the high pressure system in the Gulf were pushing over Hawaii at 15+ kts, generating some modest windswell there. Also swell from a gale that developed on the dateline Wed-Thurs (11/3) was pushing towards Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours residuals from a gale that developed on the Dateline Wed-Thurs (11/3) are to track though the Bering Sea an then fall into the Gulf of Alaska starting Friday (11/4) with 35 kt northwest winds starting to become exposed. By evening 35-40 kt northwest winds are forecast with seas building to 24 ft at 52N 148W (Northern Gulf of Alaska). Fetch is to fade from 30 kts Saturday AM (11/5) with seas holding at 24 ft at 51N 141W (319 degs NCal) and focused mostly on the Pacific Northwest. Residuals from this gale to push into Oregon starting Saturday evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 48N 134W (319 degs NCal). Residual seas to push into the Pacific Northwest on Sunday (18-20 ft) with possible raw north angled swell into Central CA on Monday (11/7). Will monitor.
1st Local Gale
Low pressure started building in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska on Wed AM (11/2) generating 40 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas at 49N 150W (308 degs NCal). This gale continued into the evening while easing east with 26 ft seas modeled at 48N 141W (310 degs NCal). Fetch held near 40 kts on Thursday AM while falling southeast with 27 ft seas moving to 46N 135W or just off the Oregon Coast (310 degs NCal). More of the same in the evening with the fetch just off Cape Mendocino at 35 kts and seas to 26 ft at 41N 132W (310 NCal). The core of the gale is to hit Central CA on Friday AM (11/4) near Monterey Bay with 30 kt northwest winds just off the coast and seas to 24 ft 250 nmiles out then moving onshore over Pt Conception in the evening with 20 ft seas dissipating just off the coast there heading southeast.
Based on this scenario large raw and windy northwest proto-swell is expected impacting North and Central CA on Friday at 10 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft) fading Saturday from 10 ft @ 12 secs (11 ft). Swell Direction 308-312 degrees. Swell very raw.
A gale started wrapping up Tues (11/1) midway between Japan and the dateline tracking east-northeast. By evening a solid fetch of 50-55 kt north wind was in it's west quadrant almost aimed at Hawaii, but not quite.28 ft seas were building at 45N 167E. Wednesday AM (11/2) 55 kt northwest winds were in it's southwest quadrant at 46N 170E (40 degs south of the 303 deg path to NCal and right up the 320 deg path to HI). Seas building to 30 ft at 46N 170E. Wed PM 45 kt northwest winds were holding while tracking north with 26 ft seas fading at 44N 174E (321 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The gale itself was lifting fast to the north and moving almost entirely in the Bering Sea Thurs AM (11/3) with 40 kt northwest winds barely exposed south of the Aleutians and seas from previous fetch fading from 20 ft on the dateline 40S 180W, all generated from previous fetch.
Perhaps some degree of modest northwesterly swell to result for Hawaii, but likely little for the US West Coast. Relative to Hawaii expect swell arrival on Saturday afternoon (11/5) pushing 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft faces) just before sunset holding till sunrise Sunday AM at 4.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (5.5 ft faces) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 311-318 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/3) a defined gradient was pushing south, the interaction of low pressure just off British Columbia and high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska generating 40 kt north winds over exposed waters. The leading edge of this fetch was 150 nmiles off the coast of Pt Arena. Light rain from an associated front was pushing through the San Francisco Bay Area. It is expected into Central CA late afternoon pushing the whole way to Southern CA on Friday. Maybe 6 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe too. There's some suggestion the main fetch might stay off the Central CA coast early Friday, though 20 kt northwest fetch is to move onshore over all of Central CA later in the afternoon tearing things apart. Improving conditions Saturday, really just a break between weather systems, with another low and associated fetch falling south and moving into the picture washing over all of North and Central CA late Saturday into Sunday AM. Rain for Central CA late evening Saturday pushing to Pt Conception Sunday AM and evaporating. Maybe 6-8 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe on Sunday. A little break perhaps on Monday while high pressure tries to build off the coast, but doesn't push onshore with maybe even clean conditions on Tuesday. But by Wednesday (11/9) a new local gale is to be wrapping up right over Cape Mendo with 30 kt south winds pushing into Central CA and solid rain during the day, with 6-8 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe. The core is to fall south and push into Pt Conception on Thursday. Decent rain even for Southern CA. 20+ kt north winds for everyone other than protected breaks in SCal likely.
At the surface on Thursday (11/3) 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 (starting Sat 11/5). Swell from the New Zealand system has already hit Hawaii and is on the way down. 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 there hints of a new gale building off North CA on Tuesday evening (11/8) with near 40 kt north winds just barely off Cape Mendocino Wed AM (11/9). Seas building fast. 35-40 kt north winds to hold in the same position Wed PM with 24 ft seas there. Fetch is to fall south on Thursday with seas to 26 ft tracking down the coast. Likely very stormy conditions along the Central CA coast.
And yet another gale is to build just west of the dateline on Wed (11/9) tracking northeast with 45-50 kt winds targeting Hawaii on Thursday with seas to 26 ft over a small area. Perhaps some small swell to result, but it's way too early to know with any certainty.
As of Thursday (11/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up slightly at 9.54. The 30 day average was down some at 8.49 with the 90 day average up some to 8.25.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central Pacific and the dateline but fading a bit west of there, and near calm from New Guinea westward. Moderate easterly anomalies were also over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the entire Pacific but focused more on the Central Pacific than the West. This offers some hope. The models indicate a weak area of Westerly Anomalies are to start building over Indonesia a week out (11/9-11) pushing into the Western Pacific Ocean and even as far south as south of Hawaii. This is our big hope for the Active Phase of the MJO. Weak westerly anomalies are to continue over the West, Central and East Pacific, indicative of the fading core of the Inactive Phase holding in that region. The longer range models all suggest that starting this weekend (11/5) 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 a little more strength to it than previous projected holding out till 11/25. This window is our best shot at swell, until another Active Phase appears probably not till the later half of December.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/3) 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 10/31 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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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