New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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: 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.
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As of Thursday PM (12/9) we finished that effort and fresh content should now be available for all to use. We apologize for the inconvenience and thanks again for using Stormsurf.
On Friday (12/10) North and Central California was getting residual Gulf swell in the 2 ft overhead range and clean but fogged in. Southern California was getting slightly warbled chest to shoulder high surf up north with some wind on it. Down south exposed breaks were head high or a foot more and pretty foggy though nicely lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more northerly windswell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and clean with hard offshore in effect. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less.
The forecast for North and Central CA is for surf fading from 5 ft (faces) on Saturday with residuals down to waist to chest high on Sunday. Monday new west windswell arrives producing 5 ft faces fading from shoulder high on Tuesday. Southern California is to see northwesterly swell fading from waist high Saturday AM with knee high leftovers on Sunday. New knee high westerly swell arrives on Monday pushing thigh high with luck on Tuesday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see north windswell rebounding Saturday to 1 ft overhead fading from head high to 1 ft overhead early Sunday. Head high leftovers expected on Monday fading from waist high Tuesday. The East Shore is to see no significant easterly windswell (thigh to waist high) through Tuesday (12/14). The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
Things are to remain kind of weak for a bit longer. On Sunday another gale is to develop in the Central Gulf in the semi-perpetual upper trough carved out there and pushing east with seas in the 20 ft range initially aimed a bit at Hawaii, then turning more towards the CA coast while tracking east and building with seas near 30 ft Tuesday just off the Oregon coast. Possible raw swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA mid-next week. Another similar gale is to build in the northern Gulf falling southeast on Thurs-Sat (12/18) with seas in the 23 ft range. Also an anemic gale is expected to organize on the dateline with 30 kt northwest wind and 22 ft seas aimed a bit south of Hawaii on Sun-Mon (12/13). Still maybe a little sideband swell to result for the Islands. Persistent east winds are to continue aimed at Japan positioned on the dateline driven by high pressure there and choking off the normal storm track just south of the Aleutians. the good news is the Active Phase of the MJO is expected to be pushing into the West Pacific next week, offering better opportunity to support gale development for 3 weeks to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Friday (12/10) the jetstream was pushing flat off Japan but splitting just off the coast with the northern branch tracking due north into the Bering Sea then turning east and southeast falling into the Central Gulf of Alaska and feeding a bit of a semi-permanent trough located 1500 nmiles west of Central CA while rejoining the southern branch there, then ridging slightly northeast and pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest. The trough was not real supportive of gale development at the moment with winds very weak and ridging pushing into the Pacific Northwest dominating. In all, there was no suport for gale delvopemnt anywhere in the North Pacific at the moment. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with the split over the dateline becoming even more pronounced but with the ridge off the Pacific Northwest relaxing some setting up a better trough off the coast there with 150 kts winds flowing into it by Monday (12/13). Decent support for local gale development then. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to push inland into Northern CA with some residaul troughiness still persisting over the Guulf of Alsaka while a huge well defined split remains centered over the dateline supportive of high pressure development there. Yet another pulse of wind energy is to drop into the Gulf trough on Thurs-Fri (12/17) possibly supporting another gale forming off the Oregon coast at that time. What we need is a real strong pulse of wind energty pushing off Japan to blast through the split on the dateline and cut it off. But that statistically is not going to happen, this being a La Nina year.
At the surface on Friday (12/10) high pressure was the name of the game. A moderate strength high at 1032 mbs was in the Bering Sea ridging south over the dateline and blocking the normal eastward flow of low pressure off Asia and Sibera. And second weaker high at 1024 mbs was just off Southern CA pushing into the Golden State. Weak low pressure at 1000 mbs was in the extreme Northeastern Gulf of Alaska just off Northern Canada and producing litterally no fetch. In all, a quite pattern was in-play. Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to slowly build in the Gulf of Alaska resulting in the proudction of 25 kt north winds falling from the Eastern Aleutians south towards Hawaii by late Saturday pushing near 30 kts Sunday AM at 45N 160W with 18 ft seas stasrting to build. By evening 35 kt northwest winds are forecast at 44N 157W with 20 ft seas at 45N 158W, or 1500 nmiles north of Hawaii and aimed well in that direction (355+ degrees). By Monday AM (12/13) that fetch is to wrap into the gales south quadrant exclusively and up to near 40 kts at 43N 146W aimed at NCal up the 292 degree path. 20 ft seas to be moving in that direction. The fetch is to continue pushing east in the evening at 35 kts at 43N 136W with 24 ft seas forecast then at 42N 140W (292 degrees). Tuesday AM the gale is to reapidly intensify with 45 kt northwest winsd building at 45N 138W (307 deg NCal) with 26 ft seas buildign at 43N 135W (296 degs NCal and 700 nmiles out). Tuesday night the gale is dissipate while pushing onshore over Oregon with 32 ft seas from previous fetch just off soutehrn Oregon at 43N 128W (319 deg NCal). If all this comes to pass some degree of very limited 13 sec period north swell could push into Hawaii initally and larger but much rawer energy into Oregon and down to Central CA. Will monitor.
Also a diffuse gale is forecast building just west of the dateline Sunday (12/12) producing 35 kt northwest winds at 40N 168E moving to 35N 168E in the evening aimed more south than west. Seas of 22 ft are forecast at 36N 168E Sunday night holding while pushing to 32N 168E Monday AM (305 ->295 degs HI) and aimed pretty well to the south. Maybe some sideband swell to result for Hawaii with luck.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Friday (12/10) weak high prssure at 1024 mbs was 600 nmiles west-southwest of Southern CA trying to ridge into Central and North CA, but not quite making it with residual moisture from a gale that was in the Gulf still whafting over the northern half of the state. A light wind pattern was in effect coastside otehr than north winds to 15 kt isolated to the Point Conception area cause by the pressure gradient generated by high prsesure moving into the area. The Central Sierras received nothing but light rain serving only to soggy up what was a nice snow base. It will take a foot or more of freshies to hide the damage exerted by this rain. By Saturday high prssure is to continue building into the area with north winds from Monterey Bay southward to Pt Conception down over the Channel Islands at 15+ kts hacking things up a bit there. Rain and cloulds to be fading except in the extreme northern end of th state. The high is to be moderating on Sunday with north winds fading over Pt Conception and a light wind pattern for the entire state likely with tings dring out even in the north. No change for Monday for most locations but a new gale si to be pushing towards Oregon a with a front psuhing into Northern CA on Tuesday with rain reaching down to Monterey Bay and snow for the upper elevations of the Sierra then clearing out on Wednesday with light winds everywhere except north winds at 20 kts over Pt Conception. Light winds and calm Thursday (12/16) as the next front builds off the coast with rain and south winds likely for the entire state Friday.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
72 hrs another broad but diffuse gale is forecast developing in the
Northern Gulf of Alaska starting Wed (12/15) with 35 kt northwest winsd
up at 53N 155W and holding in that geenral area while building to 40
kts on Thursday with up to 27 ft seas forecast at 47N 157N Thursday
night aimed well at Hawaii (360 degrees). Addtional but weaker 30-35 kt fetch is to wrap into the gale southern quadrnat on Friday with 20-22 ft seas at 44N 148W aimed at bit south of Central CA (296 degrees). Maybe another decent pulse of north swell to push into Hawaii from this one with smaller swell into Central CA.
As of Friday (12/10) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory. The daily SOI was down to 15.36. The 30 day average was up to 20.57 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.17. Overall, averages remained high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day ave near 22.0).
Wind anomalies as of Thursday (12/9) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models continued to indicated that easterly anomalies were filling the North Pacific from Central America to the dateline, but were retreating and pushing to the east. They were not particularly strong, but indicative of the last pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Central Indian Ocean effectively filling it with west anomalies and a bit stronger than previously indicated. East anomalies (Inactive Phase) in the Pacific are to be fading out through 12/14 (nearly gone then) while westerly anomalies (Active Phase) start pushing east into the Western Pacific almost pushing to the dateline, pushing east of it on 12/19 and straddling it on 12/24 then fading some while easing east into 12/19. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push east into Central America into maybe the second week in January. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, if anything, the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast will be roughly over the Christmas-New Years Holidays. Then a week after the New Year the Inactive Phase will likely be coming back and shutting it all down into early February. Sometime soon after that north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (12/9) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a stable grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, but are not getting any colder and not expanding their coverage. And if anything, the areal coverage of the coldest waters seems to have dissipated some. Maybe we have already reached the peak of this La Nina event, but that is likely just wishful thinking. The models suggest a second surge of this La Nina event is to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, which will likely send water temps much colder. Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feed bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America. Looks like a classic La Nina setup. Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept and 6 degrees below normal on 10/18. But it has warmed to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and was starting to move east. This is most interesting and possibly suggests the peak of La Nina may have already been reached.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this only occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. Looking at the Pacific equatorial current as of 12/5, it is now running slightly anomalously west to east, completely contrary to it's previous flow and a bit unusual for a La Nina year. It actually started this pattern in early November. This likely explains the rise in negative subsurface temperatures under the equator.
Of note; The Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it did not waiver until Oct 2010. But trades never waivering from the normal range. This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self amplifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina). If this is true, and if the current change on the equator as of November is real, then we should start seeing signs of a faltering La Nina, with the pocket of cold subsurface water under the equator being the first piece of that puzzle. Something to monitor.
regardless, for now a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, the next year and half is 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. 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 more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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: 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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table