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 (11/5) North and Central CA was seeing residual swell from the first in a series of local gales fading from double overhead but pretty hacked by northwest wind. Down south wrap around energy was chest high or so and warbled though winds were light. Southern California was small up north with wrap around local north swell waist high or so and pretty warbled. Down south the same swell was bigger with surf head high, glassy, sunny and looking fairly fun. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high and effectively flat but clean. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell with sets maybe thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell with waves chest high and chopped by moderate trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A local gale developed just off British Columbia and fell southeast along the US West Coast Wed-Friday (11/4) with seas to 26 ft. This swell hit on Friday and though fairly large up north, it was very raw. Residuals were fading through 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. Swell for Hawaii expected by Sun (11/6). Remnants from that gale were redeveloping in the Northeastern Gulf on Sat (11/5) with 24 ft seas and expected to push southeast into Oregon and extreme Northern CA later Sunday with seas down to 19 ft. Raw north angled protoswell is expected for the Pacific Northwest then and down into Central CA late Sun/Mon (11/7). At least one more larger local gale is forecast developing off North CA on Wed-Thurs (11/10) with maybe near 30 ft seas but aimed mostly south of the Golden State. Still more larger raw protoswell is expected for the US West Coast, focused mainly on Central CA. High pressure is to be pushing the storm track well north of Hawaii effectively through the Bering Sea. Just waiting on the Active Phase of the MJO to hopefully clear that problem out, but we have no real believe that will actually occur.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (11/5) the jetstream was flowing generally flat to the east off the Central Kuril Islands splitting on the dateline with most energy ridging north tracking along the Aleutian Islands and then into the Northern Gulf of Alaska before falling southeast and tracking down the Canadian and US West Coast sort of forming a trough there, then finally pushing inland near Northern CA. Wind speeds were generally light over the entire length of the jet at 100-110 kts offering minimal support for gale development even in the trough along the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours a bit of wind energy is to build briefly in the trough to 130 kts on Sunday (11/6) bumping the potential for gale development up some there. Otherwise a generally weak and ill defined flow is forecast. Beyond 72 hours a large ridge is to take hold over the dateline with 140 kts winds driving the jet well up into the Bering Sea near the dateline while at the same time carving out a steep almost pinched trough ahead of it in the Southeastern Gulf of Alaska on Tues-Wed (11/9) resulting in it turning into a backdoor trough Thursday off Central and North CA. Winds initially 140 kts in this trough then slowly settling down over time offering decent support for some form of gale development there before the trough moves onshore on Fri (11/11) near Pt Conception. And on Wed-Thurs (11/10) there's suggestions of a decent trough setting up off Japan pushing east, but that strong ridge on the dateline is to vaporize it when it reaches that location. Maybe some fleeting activity there.
At the surface on Saturday (11/5) two high pressure systems at 1024 and 1028 mbs were straddling the dateline, with the stronger one in the Gulf of Alaska. A pair of gales were tracking over the high pressure through the Bering Sea, the trademark pattern so far this season. The leading gale was falling southeast just off British Columbia (see 2nd Local Gale below). Swell from it's previous incarnation on the dateline Wed-Thurs (11/3) was pushing towards Hawaii (See Dateline 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.
Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to be tracking off Japan to the northeast on Monday (11/7) and trying to organize. By Tuesday AM (11/8) it is to be racing northeast with 40-45 kt north winds in it's west and west winds at 45 kts in it's south quadrant but barely getting any traction on the oceans surface. 22 ft seas forecast up at 47N 172E (322 degs HI). Maybe some background energy to result for the Islands at best.
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
2nd Local Gale
Residuals from the Dateline Gale (above) Wed-Thurs (11/3) tracked though the Bering Sea and then started falling into the Gulf of Alaska Friday (11/4) with 35 kt northwest winds becoming exposed. By evening 35 kt northwest winds were modeled with seas building to 24 ft at 52N 148W (Northern Gulf of Alaska). Fetch was fading from 30 kts Saturday AM (11/5) off the Pacific Northwest Coast 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 30 kts fetch off Cape Mendocino and seas fading from 20 ft at 48N 134W (319 degs NCal). Residual seas to push into the Pacific Northwest on Sunday (18-20 ft) with jet more seas to 19-20 ft just off Cape Mendo.
Raw north angled local jumbled swell to push into Central CA on Sunday late afternoon at 10 ft @ 12 secs (11 ft) and then the core of the swell arrives Monday (11/7) AM at 8 ft @ 13-14 secs (10-11 ft). Swell Direction 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 (11/5) the next local gale was falling down the Pacific Northwest Coast with it's leading edge just off Cape Mendocino and northwest winds stacked up for hundreds of miles behind it. Northwest winds at 10-15 kts were over most of the Central CA coast driving by high pressure trying to nose into the coast, with a pocket of near calm air was sandwiched between this and the new system falling down the northern coast. Perhaps a slight improvement in winds over Central CA Saturday mid-day, really just a break between weather systems, before south winds start building and the next low moves into the picture washing over all of North and Central CA late Saturday into Sunday AM. Rain for Central CA during the evening Saturday pushing into Southern CA Sunday AM the fading late. Maybe 6-7 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe on late Saturday into Sunday. Northwest winds 15+ kts forecast for all of CA (including Southern CA) on Sunday. A little break perhaps for North CA on Monday though northwest winds to hold over Pt Conception 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 off Cape Mendo with 30 kt south winds pushing into outer waters of Central CA and a light southern flow over nearshore waters down to Pt Conception. The core of the low is to fall south well off Pt Conception on Thursday with south winds at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA. Light ran pushing into the Central CA coast Thursday evening. Friday the low is to turn east and start pushing into Southern CA with south winds 20 kts late afternoon and building while an offshore flow takes hold for Central CA. Rain for all of Central CA Fri with limited snow in Tahoe late (2-3 inches). But by Saturday (11/12) high pressure and north winds to be the rule blowing at 20 kts for the entire state with rain continuing into Southern CA early.
At the surface on Saturday (11/5) 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. 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 a new gale is to be falling from the the extreme Eastern Bering Sea into the Gulf of Alaska Tuesday AM (11/8) with 35 kt northwest winds forecast generating a 22 ft seas up at 48N 158W and falling southeast. In the evening 35 kt northwest winds to continue falling southeast into a new developing low pressure center wrapping up just off the Washington Coast. Seas 22 ft at 45N 151W from previous fetch. Wed AM (11/9) a full broad gale is to be circulating with 30-35 kts winds 600 nmiles off the coast of Oregon and Cape Mendocino. Seas 20 ft and building at 38N 143W. 40 kt north winds to hold in the gales north quadrant (off Oregon) Wed PM with 22 ft seas building there (44N 140W). The gale and fetch is to fall south on Thursday AM with most fetch 800 nmiles off Cape Mendocino at 40 kts aimed southeast with seas to 29 ft tracking down the outer coast at 40N 140W. In the evening the fetch is to still be 35 kts but falling due south with near 30 ft seas at 35N 138W targeting no land mass. Sideband swell likely for the Central CA coast. with maybe some energy wrapping into Southern CA. But this system is still a ways from forming and the details on it's forecast will likely change.
And yet another gale is to push off Kamchatka on Fri-Sat (11/12) with 35-40 kt west winds and 29 ft seas forecast. But it is way too early to believe this yet.
As of Saturday (11/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -0.26. The 30 day average was unchanged at 8.83 with the 90 day average down slightly at 8.19.
Current wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central Pacific and the dateline building a bit just west of there near New Guinea , but then blowing from the west over Indonesia. 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 focused more on the Western Central Pacific. The models indicate near neutral to slightly westerly anomalies are to start building from Indonesia to the dateline a week out (11/9-12) and making some minor headway into the Western Pacific. This is our big hope for the Active Phase of the MJO, but it is far from impressive. The longer range models all suggest that starting around (11/10) 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 it is already starting to take hold in the far west Pacific continuing out till 11/20. This window is our best shot at swell, until the next 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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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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Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table