New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
Significant: Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead)
Advanced: Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Intermediate: Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft)
Impulse/Windswell: Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
On Monday (12/15) North/Central California had 1 ft overhead lumpy northwest windslop from a pressure gradient set up along the coast. Southern California was waist to chest high and reasonably clean up north but blown to bits down south, a portion of the swell that was hitting Central CA. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting swell from that cutoff low that was over the dateline, but size was dropping off with waves chest high and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting trade induced east windswell at waist high.
For Central California local windswell is to best there is to offer for the next week, and possibly longer. It's to come from a series of low pressure cells dropping south along the Pacific Northwest coast forming short lived northerly fetch as it interacts with strong high pressure lodged in the Western Gulf of Alaska. The results to be pulses of 11 sec period north angled windswell on Friday then again next Monday (12/22). Southern CA to possibly see a fraction of this same windswell at the most exposed breaks, with a pulse on Tuesday (12/16) then less on Friday and again Monday (12/22). But the short story is it's all windswell with no 'real' swell expected anytime soon. The North Shore of Hawaii has seen all the swell it's going to get for a while, with virtually nothing expected over the next 5 days. The South Shore of Hawaii is not expecting any surf. The East Shore to see minimal easterly tradewind generated windswell through the week.
Longer term the only hope for surf is linked to another gale forecast to wind up on the dateline possibly Friday (12/19) in the exact same location a the other before it, getting better organized by Monday (12/22) with up to 32 ft seas there. But this is a larger reach by the models and hardly worth believing at this early date. The real issue is that the jetstream is heavily split, with no change forecast anytime soon.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Monday (12/15) the North Pacific jetstream was pushing solidly off Japan with winds to 170 kts, but then split just off the coast with the northern branch heading due north up and over the Bering Sea tracking roughly into Northern Alaska and then east on into Canada. The southern branch headed flat east to the dateline then dove hard south, carving out a steep trough just west of Hawaii before splitting yet again with a little energy heading east into Southern Baja while most energy rose up into a ridge pushing into the Gulf of Alaska then diving south again and pushing into the Southern CA coast. A real confused mess. But the real issue here was that branch of energy running over the Bering Sea which was stealing all potential energy from the others branches running over the North Pacific, rendering any troughs there cut-off, and generally impotent. No support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours this same general pattern is to hold with the steep cutoff trough remaining west of Hawaii while the trough pushing down the US West Coast builds a little and moves a bit further inland, reducing odds for surface low pressure development even more. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the dateline trough looking more energized with up to 130 kt winds falling into it Thurs/Fri (12/19) and into the weekend while the trough over the US West Coast dissipates by Friday with energy flowing flat, right into Oregon. But by Monday (12/22) another trough might fall south down the California coast. Either way, the best one could hope for is a cutoff gale low developing over the dateline late in the week.
What is interesting from a long-term historical perspective is how the jet was so strong and consolidated as early as July 2008, pushing strongly west to east, and held well through the Fall, supporting a better-than-expected storm pattern (Storm #1 & 2). This enhanced jet was likely a by-product of what initially looked like the start of an El Nino occurring early summer. In fact, the trades did reverse themselves in-sync with 2 strong pulses of the active phase of the MJO then, generating Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB) and pushing warmer than normal water up along the Central American Coast. The fading remnants of that warm pool are still present there today. But near the start of Fall, a stronger La Nina like pattern set up at the oceans surface, and easterly winds started taking over. A cold pool of subsurface water started building south of Hawaii and cut-off any fuel for the budding El Nino. Suspect that change in pattern did not take hold in the upper levels of the atmosphere until just the past week, and as of now we are in the configuration that we feared would occur earlier this Fall. Check out the El Nino forecast for details. in short, this doesn't bode well for the long term storm and surf outlook for the Winter of 2008/2009. Of course whether this is just a short-term anomaly or a long-term pattern is yet to be seen.
At the surface today high pressure was in control, with one at 1040 mbs sitting over the northern Gulf of Alaska ridging south to a point midway between Hawaii and California totally choking off the storm corridor there. A second high at 1024 mbs was over the dateline ridging due south. A weak cutoff low was in between the two highs tracking north through the Western Gulf of Alaska and of no use. Another low pressure system was fading directly over Cape mendocino CA, generating weak 20-25 kt north fetch targeting Central CA and generally making a mess of things. 15-20 kt easterly trades were blowing into the Hawaiian Islands making for minimal east windswell there. Over the next 72 hours the Cape Mendocino low is to drop south pushing into Southern CA on Wednesday (12/17) generating no real fetch of interest. Another gale is forecast to follow it developing over the coast of British Columbia on Wednesday generating up to 35 kt north winds and 20 ft seas, but not making any southward progress and mostly outside of the swell window for Central CA southward. Still some background windswell will likely hit this area, though most energy to be isolated to the Pacific Northwest on Thursday (12/18). A new 1036 mb high pressure system is to build off Japan on Wed/Thurs (12/18) with low pressure possibly building southeast of it on the dateline by Friday (12/19) producing 35 kt northeast winds, but all aimed well west of the Hawaiian Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (12/15) low pressure at 1006 mbs was over Cape Mendocino driving a northwesterly flow into the Central and South CA coasts and making for wet weather and snow in the mountains. That low is to sink south into Wednesday possibly setting up an offshore flow off it's back end (Central CA). But high pressure is to be right behind it bring north winds into the Central and Southern CA coasts Thursday (112/18) moderating on Friday. Then south winds are possible Saturday for North CA ahead of another low pressure cell falling southward into Central CA on Sunday (12/21) with a solid fetch of northwest winds right behind it. Southern CA to remain protected for most of this event.
No tropical activity of interest was occurring.
At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring aimed at US targets. 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 hours the gale over the dateline is to get better organized by Sunday (12/21) thanks to the cutoff trough above it. Pressure to drop to 996 mbs with 45 kt north winds and 32 ft seas aimed towards the open waters of the South Pacific by Monday (12/22) passing mostly west of Hawaii, though some degree of sideband swell could reach the Islands with a bit of luck.
Another broad but diffuse low is to build off the Pacific Northwest Sunday (12/21) possibly setting up 30 kt north winds and 20 ft seas there aimed well towards the coast down into Central CA. But it's very premature to expect this result.
MJO/ENSO Update (reference): As of Monday (12/15) the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was moving into the Inactive Phase. The Daily SOI index was down to 1.24. The 30 day average was down a notch to 13.95 and the 90 day average was steady at 13.46. This remains symptomatic of La Nina and is making no significant headway either up or down. Winds anomalies at the surface and the 850 mb level (approx 1000 ft up) indicated west winds covering a good portion of the Northwest Pacific reaching over the dateline, stronger than a few days ago and associated with the end of the Active Phase of the MJO. These winds are expected to continue fading while tracking east into Dec 24 with an absolutely neutral pattern taking hold after that and in control through 1/3/2009. No support or hindrance to the storm pattern is suggested meaning we're moving into an MJO neutral phase (or likely the Inactive Phase). A small pocket of westerly winds are to start building over the Indian Ocean all the while, pushing into the far Western Pacific near 1/3, signaling the start of the Inactive Phase in earnest.
No swell producing fetch forecast for the next 7 days.
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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Ride-On: See the new Curt Myers/Eric Nelson Big Wave surf movie Thursday 12/11 at 460 Capistrano Road, Princeton by the Sea. http://.powerlinesproductions.blogspot.com
Surfrider General Public Meeting: Thursday, December 11, 2008 7:00 PM. Join everyone for an evening with big wave surfer and local legend Dr. Mark Renneker. He will speak on Ocean Beach changes and answer your questions. Pedro Point Fire House (Map/Address)
1227 Danmann Ave, Pacifica
Swell #2 Mavericks Videos from Powerlines Productions: Check out the action on both Saturday and Sunday (11/30) from that massive swell of 12-13 ft @ 25 secs. Filmed by Curt Myers and Eric Nelson. Really thick! See this and more plus the movie Ride-On 12/11 at the Old Princeton Landing or the Red Vic Moviehouse in San Francisco 12/19-23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA57cIBkA0o & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37SCR9kDm60
Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it: http://vimeo.com/2319455
Help Out a Fellow Mavericks Surfer: Our friend Christy Davis is going through some tough times. His 14 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with leukemia and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. The prognosis is good but we'd all like to help him out with medical expenses not covered by insurance and a new Mav's gun. Randy Cone has offered to provide the board, we just need to get the funds together. If you would like to donate, send an email to us here or talk to Randy directly.
Pictures from Swell #1 - The first real significant class swell of the season produced a bit of action at Mavericks. See pictures here http://www.mavsurfer.com
Big Surf Up North - the First swell of the Fall 2008/2009 season brought a few large raw waves to the North CA Coast. Check out the details here: http://www.towsurfer.com/default.asp
The Kelly Slater Project - A group of dedicated surfers from Cocoa Beach are working to construct a statue of the the home town legend and set it up for all to enjoy near the break where Kelly grew up surfing. Take a look at the statue and read all about it here: http://www.thekellyslaterproject.com/
STORMSURF Local Wave Models Upgraded - We significantly upgraded the local waves models on Sunday (6/8). All now utilize our newly developed high-resolution 3D shaded relief topography for mapping landmasses. Coastlines are now accurate down to the individual pixel providing near photographic realism. Mountains and hills are all shaded and accurate to within the same single pixel specification. Cities are overlaid as before, but now we've added major highways and rivers too (for many locations). Some good examples of this new technology can be viewed here:
- View the reefs north of Tahiti and notice their contribution to the 'Swell Shadow' relative to California - Tahiti
- Notice the detail of the coast in and around Vancouver Islands and Washington State - Pacific Northwest
- See the details of inland waterways of the US Northeast Coast - Virginia
- Details of the Mentawai Island and Nias
And all the local models can be found either on our homepage or from the wavemodel page (bottom half of the page).
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.
Mavericks Contest 2008: View all the action from the 2008 Maverick Surf Contest from Powelines Productions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5lj9CUpCc
Need Chiropractic Help? Visit our friends at Darrow Chiropractic. Not only will Dr. Darrow fix you up, he might give you some big wave surfing tips too! See more here: http://www.darrowchiropractic.com/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table