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 (12/18) North and Central CA was seeing dateline swell hitting producing waves in the 10 ft range at exposed breaks with calm winds all day and clean conditions. Down south surf was head high to maybe 2 ft overhead and clean. Southern California was waist high with a few bigger sets and pretty textured. Down south surf was maybe waist high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting dateline swell with waves in the 2 ft overhead range and reasonably clean but a little bump intermixed. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Swell from a combination of the dateline and the northern Gulf to continue slowly fading out in California over the next 2 days and effectively gone for Hawaii by Monday. After that the storm track is to be pushed well to the north over the Eastern Pacific focus just south of the Aleutians with nothing of any real interest forecast for a few days. By Friday (12/23) a stronger Gulf pulse is forecast with seas pushing 36 ft, but short lived and pushed pretty well to the north. A spin-off gale is forecast developing 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Sat (12/24) with 26 ft seas but lifting north pretty fast. A week out maybe some energy is to migrate off Japan to the dateline, but nothing definitive is forecast just yet. In all, a pretty lackluster pattern for the time of year. Maybe a good time to work on that Christmas shopping.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (12/18) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 170 kts tracking flat to the dateline, then splitting with most energy ridging northeast up into Northern Canada. Modest wind energy was also peeling off the main flow at the split point falling southeast just south of Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja with yet another split pushing some of that energy the whole way south the the equator. No significant change from weeks previous with no clear cut troughs of interest indicated. There was limited support for gale development approaching the dateline and riding the just up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska, but the split flow continued supporting high pressure aloft over the Eastern Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with wind energy slowly fading off Japan by Wednesday and down to 140 kts only in pockets. The split point is to slide east a shade to 170W and of no real consequence. Beyond 72 hours another major push of wind energy is to build over Japan to 180 kts by Sat (12/24) then easing east reaching nearly the dateline into Monday (12/26). But no troughs of interest are forecast and the split jet is to hold over the East Pacific. No clear support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Sunday (12/18) residual swell from a broad dateline gale last week continued hitting California and was all but gone in Hawaii. High pressure at 1032 mbs was off Oregon while low pressure was tracking northeast through the Gulf of Alaska generating 30-35 kt southwest winds and 24 ft seas at 43N 157W bounds for the Pacific Northwest up into Canada, and of no particular interest for California. No other fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours a tiny little gale is forecast wrapping up briefly in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska on Monday evening (12/19) lifting northeast with winds in the 45 kt range and seas building to 26 ft at 50N 168W Tuesday AM (12/20) with the gael effectively inland over Western Alaska in the evening and seas impacting the coast there. Little is expected radiating towards and US landmass.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/18) high pressure was building into the Pacific Northwest. Calm winds were in control of California coastal waters. By Monday (12/19) the high is to be setting up the usual north wind gradient over Cape Mendocino at 25-30 kts early but with a light if not eddy flow for all of Central CA. The high is to hold well off the coast Tuesday (12/20) with a light wind flow along the CA coast then pushing over Cape Mendo Wednesday with a gradient again developing there with north winds at 30-35 kts and perhaps north winds down into Central CA at 10-15 kts. Regardless, by Thursday the gradient is to dissolve with a light to calm wind flow again in control for all of CA. This pattern to hold into Monday (12/26). No rain or snow in the forecast with the dividing line over south Washington (rain and snow north of there, dry south of there).
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 forming in just east of the dateline Wednesday PM (12/21) with 35 kt west winds over a modest area. It is to be lifting northeast Thursday AM (12/22) with winds to near 50 kts over a tiny area resulting in 24 ft seas at 43N 171W. 45-50 kt west winds to hold into the evening with seas to 32 ft lifting northeast at 47N 163W. Winds to fade from 40 kts Friday AM with seas fading from 35 ft at 48N 158W. Maybe some sideband swell targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA with luck, assuming this one even forms.
Yet another gale is to develop south from the remnants of the above gale on Friday evening (12/23) with 45 kt northwest winds building. 40 kt northwest winds to continue into Sat AM (12/24) with a small area of 26 ft seas building at 41N 160W targeting Hawaii well with sideband energy aimed towards California. 36-40 kt northwest winds to hold as the core of the gale lifts northeast in the evening resulting in 26 ft seas at 40N 153W targeting mainly California. The fetch is to lift hard north Sunday AM and build to 45 kts with seas from precious fetch fading from 23 ft at 43N 150W targeting mainly California up into Oregon. Remaining fetch and seas are to hold in the extreme Northern Gulf and be of no interest to anyone other than Northern Canada.
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 (12/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up again to 33.52. The 30 day average was up to 18.33 with the 90 day up slightly at 13.21. No sign of an Active MJO here.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies were over a portion of Western Pacific extending from 160W to 130E, then shifting to moderate westerly anomalies west of there. This suggests the transition point between the Active and Inactive Phases of the MJO had actually regressed back to the west (not good). Near normal winds over the East and Central Pacific. A week from now the models indicate little change with modest easterly anomalies holding at 170W to 150E, slowly giving up areal coverage, but not shifting east any. Dead neutral winds to be east of there into Central America and west of there into Indonesia. This is indicative of not necessarily the Active Phase, but certainly not the Inactive Phase of the MJO either. Maybe just a slow death of the Inactive Phase lingering on the dateline. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by Dec 25, with the Active Phase building over the dateline by 1/1. If anything, all the models are now suggesting that the Active Phase is indeed going to develop, but is going to be delayed some arriving over the first 3 weeks and January. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. This would be our best opportunity for storm production in the North Pacific for the winter season, with a secondary shot maybe late February into early March.
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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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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table