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 Tuesday (12/6) North and Central CA was seeing no rideable surf with waves less than knee high and glassy. Down south surf was knee to waist high and beautifully clean. Perfect grom day. Southern California was near flat up north with waves knee high or less and chopped. Down south surf wasn't any better, flat and chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new northern dateline swell with waves 2 ft overhead and clean and looking pretty good at select breaks. The South Shore was getting fading background southern hemi swell with waves maybe waist high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at near chest high and chopped by easterly 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. Limited swell started hitting Hawaii on Tuesday (12/6) with little expected reaching to the mainland. A new storm started building just off North Japan on Sunday and peaked while tracking towards the dateline Monday with seas to 42 ft. Lingering fetch and seas in the 34 ft range held on the dateline Tuesday. A solid pulse of near significant class swell is expected to hit Hawaii late Thursday with far less size for the US West Coast by the weekend. A series of weaker systems are forecast tracking fro the dateline into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska next week, but of no particular interest. So for now we continue to wait for the Active Phase of the MJO to push into the West Pacific hoping it will dislodge the current split jetstream pattern and high pressure that has been chocking off swell production for several weeks now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (12/6) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 140 kts forming a bit of a trough pushing northeast over the dateline then splitting heavily well north of Hawaii with most energy ridging hard north up into the Southeastern Bering Sea and tracking east 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 also peeling off the main flow falling south over Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja. In all there was some support for gale development in the trough on the dateline and virtually no support east of there with the split flow supporting high pressure aloft over the entire East Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to continue but a new patch of energy building off Japan at 160 kts but not doing much in terms of trough development. The split point is to move west some more towards the dateline with most energy taking the northern split into Alaska. No real support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to hold at 160 kts over and extending off Japan offering a bit better support for trough development reaching up to the dateline into next Wed (12/14), with a heavily split pattern east of there. There's some suggestion of a backdoor trough falling down the US West Coast 180 hrs out, but that is just a guess from the models.
Surface - At the surface on Tuesday (12/6) high pressure at 1032 mbs remained anchored off the Pacific Northwest driving a light east over all California waters. Those winds extended south and increased to 15 kts pushing into Hawaii producing limited east windswell along east facing shores there. Of more interest was the remnants of a storm that pushed off Japan and was fading over the dateline with winds still 35 kts over a broad area aimed east (see Japan Storm below) Over the next 72 hours no other fetch of interest is forecast.
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 AM (12/4) generating 55+ kt west winds at 41N 153E and seas building just off the coast there. The storm was building in the evening with west winds confirmed via WindSAT at 55+ kts with seas building to 38 ft at 41N 158W (308 degs HI and 300 degs NCal). The storm held together on Monday AM (12/5) while starting to lift slightly northeast positioned mid-way to the dateline with winds 50 kts from the west. Seas were modeled at 40 ft at 42N 168E (316 degs HI and 298 degs NCal). The system was fading by evening with residual 40 kt west wind lifting northeast with additional 40 kt fetch building south of the main center. Seas from original fetch peaked at 42 ft at 44N 172E (322 degs HI, 299 degs NCal and 303 degs SCal). The core of this system was tracking northeast nearly over the Aleutians Tuesday AM (12/6) with a broad area of 35 kt west winds pushing up to the dateline with 34 ft seas covering a solid footprint at 42-47N 175E (322 degs HI and 296-300 degs NCal). 35-40 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). 35 kt northwest winds to fade out Wednesday AM with seas fading from 30 ft up at 46N 176W (actually making it over the dateline but aimed due east towards the Pacific Northwest). This system is to be effectively gone after that.
This system looked impressive on the models a week before it formed but steadily deteriorated with each successive run, then stabilized at it's currently configuration. Current data suggests 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, but it is a little south of the main swell vector.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival just before sunrise on Thursday (12/8) with period near 20 secs and size steadily on the increase peaking near sunset at 8.4 ft @ 16-17 secs (13-14 ft Hawaiian). Swell to hold while period drops over night. Friday AM (12/9) swell to be 9 ft @ 15-16 secs at sunrise (13-14 ft Hawaiian) fading slightly as the day progresses. Swell fading from 6.9 ft @ 13-14 secs (9 ft) on Saturday (12/10). Swell Direction: 310-320 degrees
North California: Expect swell to start showing near sunset Friday (12/9) at 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft). Swell to be solid by Saturday AM (12/10) with pure swell 6.6 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft), holding with period slowly dropping to 16 secs by sunset. Swell to continue on Sunday (12/11) at 7 ft @ 15 secs all day (10-11 ft). Swell fading from 6.5 ft @ 13-14 secs on Monday (8.5 ft). Very long wait between sets. Swell Direction: 297-300 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell to start showing before sunrise Saturday (12/10) at 2.5 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft) building through the afternoon reaching 3.2 ft @ 17 secs at sunset (5.5 ft). Swell to hold overnight with period slowly dropping to 16 secs by sunrise Sunday (12/11) and pure swell 3.6 ft @ 15-16 secs holding all day (5.5 ft). Swell fading from 3.5 ft @ 14 secs on Monday (4.5-4.0 ft). Very long wait between sets. Swell Direction: 299-303 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/6) high pressure at 1036 mbs was centered 750 nmiles off Northern Oregon but not ridging anywhere. this resulted in a light offshore flow for all of California. The high is to start slowly ridging into the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday but California is to remain unaffected. Northeast winds to build to 25 kts off Cape Mendocino on Thursday but again a light wind regime is expected for all of California nearshore waters. If anything, even the brisk offshores to die over NCal on Friday with dead calm winds in control through the weekend. Maybe a hint on north winds late on Sunday into Monday but then dead winds again to take hold Tuesday (12/13).
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 is to try and start organizing on the dateline Saturday (12/10) with 35 kts west winds and lifting northeast fairly fast while building with winds to 45 kts in the evening in the Northwestern Gulf with seas building to 22 ft near 45N 168W. 45 kt west winds to be pushing up to the eastern Aleutians bound for Alaska with 24-26 ft seas in the vicinity of 50N 160W. Residual fetch to hold in this area with seas 22 ft at 50N 162W. Possible decent 14 sec period swell for the Pacific Northwest with more north angled swell also radiating down into Central CA.
Another similar gale is to develop on the dateline Monday (12/12) with 45 kts northwest winds lifting northeast into the Northern Gulf 24-26 hours later.
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 Tuesday (12/6) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 27.09. The 30 day average was up to 15.44 with the 90 day average up to 11.78.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate to strong easterly anomalies were over the Central and Western Pacific, strongest on the dateline pushing to 140E near the Philippines, then abruptly shifting to westerly anomalies west of there. 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. But the Active Phase of the MJO appeared to be getting a little foothold in the vicinity of the Philippines, but not any further east. A week from now the models indicate easterly anomalies are to continue in the vicinity of the dateline while neutral to light west anomalies are to build to 150E making slow but steady eastward progress. This is indicative of the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east but no sign of a strong Active Phase signal projected yet. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO might still be peaking out on the dateline and is to slowly ease east while fading in the Central Pacific 2 weeks out. At the same time the Active Phase of the MJO is already building strong over Indonesia to 150E, 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 12/18, with the next Active Phase appearing about at that time 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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table