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 (12/1) North and Central CA was seeing swell from a gale that tracked into the Pacific Northwest late Tuesday combined with locally generated windswell producing surf in the shoulder to head high range but a bit ruffled by north winds. Down south surf was shoulder high with some bigger sets and clean early. Southern California was seeing mostly north angled locally generated windswell with waves waist high up north on the sets and reasonably clean. Down south surf was waist high or so and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new dateline swell with waves up to double overhead but pretty ruffled by northeast trades and not really rideable. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell at waist to chest high and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at exposed breaks at head high and chopped by northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A small gale tracked from Kamchatka east to the dateline Sat-Mon (11/28) with 26 ft seas then surged slightly there early Tues (11/29) with up to 32 ft seas then faded quickly. Modest swell hit Hawaii on Thursday and is expected for the US West coast for the early weekend. A very weaker and poorly organized system is forecast for the Dateline Fri-Sat (12/3) falling southeast resulting in only a tiny area of 22-26 ft seas. Minimal swell for Hawaii maybe mid-next week. A previous solid looking storm projected pushing off Japan Mon-Tues heading towards the dateline has since really faded from the charts and continue fading with each run of the models. It sure looks like the combination of La Nina and the Inactive Phase of the MJO are having the normally expected effect (i.e. reduced gale formation).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (12/1) the jetstream was flowing east off Japan pushing near 190 kts then splitting heavily on the dateline with much energy ridging northeast up into the Southeastern Bering Sea and tracking east from there over Southern Alaska on into Northern Canada getting little to no exposure on open waters of the Gulf of Alaska. A proportionally larger amount of wind energy was now also peeling off the main flow falling southeast some then tracking flat east and over Hawaii into Baja. In all there was limited support for gale development off Japan and virtually no support east of there with the split flow supporting high pressure aloft over the entire East Pacific (everywhere east of the Pacific). Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to continue but with a bit of a trough digging out of the flow tracking east from Japan by Saturday (12/3) with 180 kt winds feeding into it. But that trough is to be lifting north as it hits the split pattern on the dateline 24 hours later and disintegrating. Limited support for gale development in that trough. East of there the split pattern is to become even more pronounced with high pressure likely in control. Beyond 72 hours the split jetstream pattern is to reign supreme over the Eastern Pacific in sync with the build-up of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the same location. A second trough is to build off Japan starting Sunday (12/4) with 160 kt winds covering a broad area and offering good support for gale development well west of the dateline into Tues (12/6). But this trough too is to lift hard northeast near the dateline dissolving in the process while a huge split jet continues to control the Pacific from the dateline eastward. Welcome to our La Nina winter.
Surface - At the surface on Thursday (12/1) two high pressure systems at 1032 mbs and 1044 mbs were anchored over the West and East Gulf of Alaska respectively. the stronger one was still generating 30 kt north winds pushing down the Central and outer Southern CA coasts producing local short period windswell. This high was also generating easterly trades at 15 kts pushing up to Hawaii but not quite reaching the Islands. Weak low pressure was pocked under and between the two lows about 700 nmiles north of Hawaii generating a weak gradient and 30 kt north winds aimed well at the Western Hawaiian Islands resulting in 18 ft seas. Windswell likely mixing with whatever swell is in the water for north facing shores of Hawaii by Saturday (11/3) Swell from a gale that was off Kamchatka pushing towards the dateline and sending energy aimed towards Hawaii and the US West Coast was hitting Hawaii (see Second Kamchatka Gale below). Also swell from a small gale that wrapped up off Vancouver Island was hitting Central CA but buried in local windswell.
Over the next 72 hours another small system is forecast tracking off Kamchatka easing east east over the Aleutians with 35 kt westerly fetch tracking south of the Aleutians over a tiny area resulting in 22 ft seas at 48N 168E on Friday AM (12/2) building to 26 ft in the evening at 47N 171E. Limited 35-40 kt fetch is to hold in the area on Saturday AM (12/3) resulting in 24 ft seas at 44N 178E (near the dateline) and fading in the evening with 22 ft seas at 41N 178W (323 degs HI and 297 degs NCal and 302 degs SCal). The fetch is to dissipate after that with seas fading out. If all goes as forecast some small swell to result for Hawaii with period in the 14 sec range but mostly unremarkable. Little if anything expected for the US West Coast due the the long travel distance ensuring much swell decay along the journey.
Second Kamchatka Gale
A new gale started developing off Kamchatka on Saturday AM (11/26) with 35 kt west winds and seas building to 26 ft at 48N 165E. This was a long way from anywhere in our forecast area. It continued pushing east in the evening making it about half way to the dateline with seas still 26 ft at 48N 170E. On Sunday AM (11/27) 30-35 kt west winds held with 24 ft seas at 47N 175E and pushing east with energy heading down the 321 degree path to Hawaii and the 303 degree path to Central CA. It tracked flat to east in the evening with winds down to 30 kts and seas still 24 ft at 45N 177E (325 degs HI and 300 degs CCal). Additional gale energy was feeding into this area on Monday AM (11/28) with west winds building to 45 kts and seas holding at 22 ft at 45N 176W (331 degs HI and 296 degs NCal) with a new fetch building directly behind. In the evening 45 kt northwest fetch held wrapping well into the gales core and getting traction on the oceans surface with seas building to 30 ft over a decent sized area at 43N 177W (327 degs HI and 296 CCal). The gale started tracking hard northeast Tuesday AM (11/29) with 45 kt west and southwest winds and seas to 32 ft targeting primarily Alaska with residual seas at 28 ft holding at 43N 170W targeting primarily Hawaii (336 degs) and up to 30 ft at 45N 170 targeting NCal (296 degrees). The gale is to fade out in the evening with all residual fetch aimed at Alaska.
Another pulse of decent swell is likely to push towards Hawaii from for the second half of the workweek from 325 degs and lesser energy for the US West Coast for early in the weekend (from 293-298 degs CCal and 298-302 degs SCal).
Hawaii: Swell fading Friday from 9 ft @ 13 secs (11-12 ft). Swell Direction 325-335 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (12/2) at 2 PM with period 17 secs and size slowly building pushing to 6.5 ft @ 16-17 secs after sunset (10 ft) and holding solid through nighttime hours. Swell to remain solid at 6.0-6.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (8.5-9.5 ft) Saturday (12/3) at sunrise then slowly setting down from there. Swell Direction: 296-300 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Saturday (12/3) at 1 AM with pure swell pushing to 3.0 ft @ 16-17 secs just after sunrise (5 ft) at nearshore locations and holding solid through daylight hours with swell dropping to 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs late (4.25 ft). 13 sec residuals on Sunday (12/4). Swell Direction: 300-305 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 (12/1) high pressure at 1040 mbs was ridging into British Columbia driving a strong north-northeast flow over California with more northerly angled winds at 20+ kts over coastal waters. The high is to continue pushing inland with winds theoretically turning progressively more offshore for the whole state (Santa Anna's in SCal) and then fading over most of the entire state on Friday while a new north wind gradient persists over Cape Mendocino at 30-35 kts solid. That gradient is to start fading Saturday while a light wind regime settles in for the weekend holding at least into mid-next week for all locations.
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs another gale is forecast wrapping up off Japan on Sun (12/4) generating 50-55 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft just off the coast there. The storm is to hold with west winds 50-55 kt in the evening with seas building to 38 ft at 41N 158W (308 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The storm is to start fading Monday AM (12/5) and lifting northeast mid-way to the dateline with wind barely 50 kts. Sea peaking at 44 ft at 44N 164E (315 degs HI and 310 degs NCal). A quick fade is forecast by evening with residual 35-40 kt west wind lifting northeast and seas fading from 41 ft at 46N 170E. This system is to be gone 12 hours later. This system looked great on the models a few days ago but has steadily deteriorated with each successive run, and no end to the trend is expected. Will be interesting to see what actually results by the time this thing actually starts to form. We are not holding our breath.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 day, then Active for 20-30 days over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jetstream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (12/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 9.86. The 30 day average was up to 12.60 with the 90 day average up to 11.13.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies over the Western Pacific, strongest from the dateline to the Philippines, easing west of there and down to near normal over Indonesia. Light easterly anomalies were also over the Central Pacific but with near normal winds over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific and is likely putting a damper on storm development for the bulk of the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate strong easterly anomalies are to remain entrenched from just east of the Philippines eastward over the dateline and building into the Central Pacific indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east (as usual). But strong westerly anomalies are to be pushing east from Indonesia, a sign of an impending Active Phase of the MJO pushing east (a good thing). The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO has peak out on the dateline and is to fade slowly while pushing east, possible dissipating in the Central Pacific 2 weeks out (approx 12/15). A solid Active Phase of the MJO is already building strong in the Indian Ocean (12/1), and is expected to start making inroads into the extreme West Pacific over the next week, peaking just west of the dateline mid-December. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the Inactive Phase is to be in control through 12/10, with the next Active Phase appearing probably around mid December holding through Christmas to New Years with luck in the Pacific. This will be our next and likely best opportunity for storm production in the North Pacific for the winter season, with a secondary shot maybe late January into early February.
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 during tropical/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 of the MJO 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table