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 Sunday (12/4) North and Central CA was seeing residual northwest swell from a gale that was over the dateline Mon-Tues (11/29) continuing to push in, but definitely dying. Still it was producing surf in the head high range to maybe 1 ft overhead on the better sets and clean early but pretty soft. Down south surf was about waist high and clean early. Southern California was seeing a fragment of this swell with with waves knee to thigh high up north on the sets and clean. Down south surf wasn't much better at waist high with maybe a stray chest high peak every now and then. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting limited and fading dateline swell with intermixed windswell at chest high and reasonably clean. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell at thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at near head high and chopped by northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A very weak and poorly organized system pushed up to the dateline Fri-Sat (12/3) falling southeast resulting in only a tiny area of 22-26 ft seas. Minimal swell for Hawaii expected building in on Tuesday (12/6). A new storm is starting to build just off North Japan on Sunday and is to peak while tracking towards the dateline Monday with seas to 44 ft. A solid pulse of swell could hit Hawaii with far less size for the US West Coast. Perhaps another far smaller system to develop on the dateline next weekend with luck. At this point we're just waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to start pushing into the West Pacific and dislodge the Inactive Phase that is currently fueling a split jetstream pattern and high pressure that has been dominating the bulk of the Pacific for the past 2 weeks. We probably have another 2 weeks to wait.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (12/4) the same Inactive Phase themed jetstream pattern was in play with the jet flowing east off Japan forming a broad trough there with winds pushing to near 150 kts then splitting heavily on the dateline with most energy ridging hard north up into the Southeastern Bering Sea and tracking east from there inland over Southern Alaska on into Northern Canada getting little to no exposure on open waters of the Gulf of Alaska. A solid amount of wind energy was now also peeling off the main flow on the dateline falling southeast some then tracking flat east and just south of Hawaii on into Baja. In all there was decent support for gale development in the trough 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 dateline). Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to continue but with the trough off Japan digging out a bit better and pushing slightly over the dateline (to 170W) with winds pulsing in short bursts to 180 kts. Good support for gale development in that trough. But again the jet on the eastern side of the trough is to be splitting with most energy lifting hard north as it passes over the dateline and moves over land (Alaska). Good support for gale development in that trough. Beyond 72 hours no appreciable change is forecast with the split jetstream pattern still in control with the split point moving back to the dateline. But solid winds to build in the flow tracking off Japan by Friday (12/9) with winds at 170-180 kts holding well into next weekend and offering decent support for gale development in that area.
Surface - At the surface on Sunday (12/4) bulletproof high pressure at 1040 mbs was anchored off the Pacific Northwest driving a northeast flow at 20-25 kts over outer waters off California turning east in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands and dropping to 15-20 kts and producing east windswell along east facing shores there. But of more interest was a storm pushing off Japan with west winds at 50 kts and seas on the increase (see Japan Storm below) Over the next 72 hours the Japan Storm is to be the only system of interest.
Weak Dateline System
On Friday AM (12/2) a small system tracked 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 building to 26 ft in the evening at 47N 171E. Limited 35-40 kt fetch held in the area on Saturday AM (12/3) resulting in 24 ft seas at 43N 176E (near the dateline) and fading in the evening with 24 ft seas at 41N 178E (322 degs HI and 296 degs NCal and 301 degs SCal). The fetch dissipated after that with seas fading out from 20 ft Sun AM (12/4) at 40N 175W. 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.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (12/6) in the morning building and peaking early afternoon at 6.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (9 ft faces). Leftovers expected on Wednesday AM at 6 ft @ 12 secs (7.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 320 degrees
A storm started wrapping up off Japan on Sun (12/4) generating 50 kt west winds and seas building just off the coast there. The storm is to building some in the evening with west winds up to 55 kts with seas building to 38 ft at 41N 158W (308 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The storm is to hold on Monday AM (12/5) while starting to lift slightly northeast positioned mid-way to the dateline with winds 50 kts. Sea at 42 ft at 42N 165E (314 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The system is to continue fading by evening with residual 40 kt west wind lifting northeast and seas peaking at 43 ft at 45N 174E (322 degs HI, 300 degs NCal and 304 degs SCal). The core of this system is to be over the Aleutians Tuesday AM (12/6) with a broad area of 35 kt northwest winds pushing up to the dateline with 30 ft seas covering a solid footprints at 40-50N 180W with a core from previous fetch at 36 ft at 46N 178E. 35 kt northwest winds to hold at this location in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 44N 180W (325 degs HI and 296 NCal). This system is to be effectively gone after that.
This system looked great on the models a week ago but steadily deteriorated with each successive run, then stabilized at about it's currently projection late in the workweek. Will be interesting to see what actually results, but we suspect the model is about on track. If all goes as forecast a decent pulse of longer period energy is expected to radiate across the Pacific. But size will be the issue due to the long travel distance and much swell decay that will occur on the journey across the dateline relative to the US West Coast. Hawaii should do better being closer. 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 Sunday (12/4) high pressure at 1040 mbs was centered 700 nmiles off Northern Oregon and ridging into British Columbia setting up a broad northeasterly flow at 20-25 kts starting over Cape mendocino and pushing well off the California coast with a light to calm windflow nearshore. This same basic pattern is to hold through Monday with the high fading and wind lightening up more offshore, with a light wind regime in control of all California nearshore waters into Wednesday. North winds to build near Cape Mendo Thursday at 15 kts but not extend south of there, with light winds still in control for all of South and Central CA into Friday. Saturday high pressure is to get reinforcement off British Columbia with northwest winds at 20 kts building into the Pacific Northwest and sweeping south encroaching into Central CA Saturday late afternoon with a full blowout expected on Sunday with north winds 25 kts just off the coast for all of Central and North CA likely sweeping into Southern CA in the later afternoon.
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 the model suggest a new gale racing east from Japan starting to organize Sunday (12/11) on the dateline with 30 kt west winds. Nothing remarkable indicated with high pressure still locked down over the East Pacific.
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 Sunday (12/4) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 20.29. The 30 day average was up to 13.98 with the 90 day average up to 11.39.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies over the Western Pacific, strongest over the dateline and into the Central Pacific with near neutral winds over Indonesia to the Philippines. Near normal winds over the East Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West and Central Pacific and was likely putting a damper on storm development for the bulk of the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate very weak easterly anomalies are to start dominating over the West and Central Pacific with small pockets of weak westerly anomalies. This is indicative of the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east but no sign of a strong or even moderate Active Phase building yet. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO has peaked out on the dateline and is moving into the Central Pacific with the Active Phase of the MJO already building strong over Indonesia to almost the dateline, and is expected to start making better inroads into the West Pacific reaching well to the dateline over the next 2 weeks, 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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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