New Swell Classification Guidelines
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.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
We hope you've had a great year and wish to extend our many thanks for your support over the past 12 months. Viewership continues to rise enabling us to work on new products. We wish you and your family the best and safest Holiday Season and hope you get some good surf (or snow) wherever your travels may take you. Forecast's will be provided on an as-available basis over the holidays as we try to take some time off as well. Have a great holiday!
On Saturday (12/22) Northern CA surf was 1.5 times overhead with offshore winds. Not too bad. South facing breaks in Santa Cruz were waist to chest high and clean. Central California surf (Morro Bay) was head high to 2 ft overhead and pretty clean. Surf in Southern CA from Santa Barbara to just north of LA was waist high with near chest high sets at the better breaks and clean. The LA Area southward to Orange County was chest high and clean. South Orange County down into San Diego best breaks were up to chest high and clean. The North Shore of Oahu was up to waist high and clean. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore had waist to chest high windswell.
North/Central California continued on a roll receiving locally generated swell originating from the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. Southern California was getting limited wrap-around energy from this same swell, filtering in through the Channel Islands. Hawaii's North Shore remained near flat. Local windswell continued pushing into the East Shore. The South Shore was flat. The last of the initial series of moderate period swells generated in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska is fading along the California coast, while the next series of storm is starting to gear up. The models have done a significant downgrade from their previous ridiculously optimistic projections, and now are looking more like something that is believable. Essentially the first storm is the series has formed just off Oregon and is only a gale, with 3 more projected forming right behind following the well worn path tracking from just east of the dateline and well north of Hawaii up into British Columbia, typical of a La Nina year. Biggest swell is to result for the Pacific Northwest down into North CA with much more limited size into Central and Southern CA. Even Hawaii might get a piece of the action, but only a glancing blow. But the good news is there will be surf, and conditions are to be decent from time to time. And even some much needed rain and snow might result for the Sierra's so there a little bit of a present for everyone here. See details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Saturdays jetstream charts (12/22) for the North Pacific looked no different than previous days with a cohesive flow pushing off Japan with winds to 160 kts dipping slightly over the dateline then fading with the jet .cgiitting northwest of Hawaii. Most energy was retained in the northern branch which continued tracking northeast into the Pacific Northwest with winds up to 130 kts s while the southern branch peeled of and followed a track pushing near Hawaii and then tracking east into Baja at 70 kts. The best odds for surface level gale development remained in the mini trough over the dateline pushing into the Northern Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours the first of several tiny mini-troughs are to undulate within the main flow tracking from from the dateline up into the Gulf offering some hope for surface level gale or maybe even storm development there. Beyond 72 hours that same pattern is to persist, but the .cgiit over the dateline is to become much more pronounced. This to likely steal a little energy from developing storm pushing into the Gulf. But then by Saturday (12/29) the .cgiit is to heal itself and a solid trough with 200 kt winds is to push into the Gulf offering lot's of potential. Will believe it when it happens.
At the surface today high pressure at 1028 mbs was pushing inland over San Francisco generating a light offshore flow for all locations south of there even down over Baja. That high still had legs as far west as Hawaii and was generating trades in the 15-20 kts range there too and some form of small short period windswell along east facing shores. Of more interest was a developing storm north of Hawaii (see Possible Storm #10 below) . Over the next 72 hours Storm #10 to be the first of three storms developing near the dateline and pushing northeast generating surf for mostly the Pacific Northwest down into North California but also offering some hope for the surf starved Hawaiian Islands. Details on all systems are below and in the long term forecast. But it should be noted, these storm are no projected to be nowhere near as strong as was previously indicated by the models, and additional downgrading of their intensity should be expected. And the storm track on all three has taken a significant shift to the north, moving them out of the main swell window for CA during their peak intensity. Information is provided here just for comparison purposes. Follow the models closely for real-time updates.
Storm #10 (updated Mon AM)
On Friday AM (12/21) a 1000 mb low formed on the dateline pushing east with no winds of interest initially. In the evening pressure dropped to 988 mbs with 45-50 kt winds confirmed at 38N 165W aimed right at Hawaii down the 319 degree path and 30 degrees south of the 287 degree path at North CA (292 SCal). Seas were building.
On Saturday AM (12/22) 50-60 kt winds were confirmed pushing mostly east at 42N 157W aimed 20 degrees east of the 350 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 287 degree path to NCal (292 SCal). Seas were modeled at 25 ft at 39N 162W. In the evening this system really got going with pressure down to 964 mbs with 55-60 kts winds confirmed building at 46N 147W as the storm lifted gently northeast aimed right at NCal up the 301 degree path (306 SCal). Seas were modeled up to 30 ft at 43N 150W (293 degrees NCal).
On Sunday AM (12/23) the storm was pushing northeast with pressure 962 mbs and 50 kt winds confirmed at 49N 140W aimed 20 degrees east of the 315 degree path to NCal and mostly out of the SCal swell window. 35 ft seas were modeled at 46N 143W (310 degrees relative to NCal) with 30 ft seas as far south as 43N. By evening the storm was up in the Northern Gulf with 50 kts winds confirmed pushing into Northern British Columbia and effectively out of the California swell window though providing a.cgie fetch at the Pacific Northwest over a broad area at 54N 140W. 35 ft seas forecast at 49N 135W and of use only to the Pacific Northwest.
This system to be moving inland over North Canada Monday AM (12/24). Pure swell from this one was pushing into buoy 46059 starting at 5 PM Sunday with tiny size then building to 8.2 ft @ 16.6 secs by 7 AM Monday. Swell at Pt Reyes was up to 5.5 ft @ 17.3 secs at 8 AM Mon.
If all this comes to pass the first real significant class swell in a while could result for the Pacific Northwest on down into North and Central CA. The track of this storm has shifted north of previous projections and the intensity is dialed way back, but still some form of solid 17-19 sec period energy is expected for the Golden state with maybe even a little bit pushing into Hawaii from early in this storm life. A rough forecast is provided below for reference purposes. It was projected at 1090-1840 nmiles from San Francisco.
Hawaii: Rough data suggest swell arrival expected Mon (12/24) before sunrise peaking at sunrise with swell 6 ft @ 13-14 secs (8 ft faces) from 330-340 degrees Swell fading fast on Christmas Day
North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival after sunset Mon (12/24) with period 20 secs and size on the increase. Swell to peak from 10 PM-4 AM Tuesday (12/25) with swell 8-9 ft @ 17-18 secs (14-16 ft faces) then dropping to 15 secs by sunrise with swell 8-9 ft @ 15 secs (13 ft faces). Seas to 12 ft. Swell Direction: 294-300 degrees with longer period components to 310 degrees.
Another Gulf Gale (Formally Possible Storm #11 - Updated Mon AM)
On Sunday AM (12/23) another storm was forming just east of the dateline with pressure 984 mbs and winds confirmed at 40-45 kts in it's southwest quadrant at 44N 175W aimed well at Hawaii down the 335 degree path and towards California up the 296 degree path. 25 ft seas were on the increase at 42N 180W. In the evening pressure to drop to 984 mbs with the low tracking northeast in the the Western Gulf of Alaska. 40-45 kt winds were confirmed at 44N 168W aimed 30 degrees east of the 342 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 296 degree path to North CA (301 SCal). Seas were modeled at 29 ft at 43N 170W. The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western flank of this storm Sunday evening and reported seas at 25 ft, a shade less than the 27 ft forecast by the model for this area. This is consistent with the QuikSCAT satellites confirmation on wind speeds too, a little less than what was modeled.
On Monday AM (12/24) the core of the storm is to be up nearly over the Eastern Aleutians with 40-45 kt winds located in it's south quadrant at 46N 158W pushing 45 degree east of the 355 degree path to Hawaii and right down the 296 degree path to North CA (311 SCal). Seas building to near 30 ft at 43N 163W with energy building to the north. In the evening the storm to be tracking east in the Northern Gulf with 45-50 kts winds at 49N 152W aimed right down the 305 degree path to NCal (312 Scal). 27 ft seas at 44N 152W.
On Tuesday AM (12/25) this system to be fading out, ready to move onshore over Northern Canada with 45 kts winds at 48N 140W aimed 20 degrees east of the 310 degree path to NCal and out of the SCal swell window. 30 ft seas modeled at 46N 142W aimed down the 305 degree path to NCal. This one to be gone by the evening with residual 25 ft seas at 45N 133W pushing down the 312 degree path to NCal.
Again this system. like it's predecessor, has taken a significant hit in the models as of late and continues to get less powerful with each new run and is forecast to track on a more northern path than previous expected. This should still result in large advanced class swell for Northern CA and Hawaii, but likely no significant class potential. Given the volatility in the models, any swell projection at this early date would be folly. It is to be 786-2183 nmiles from San Francisco.
Pacific Northwest Gale
On Friday AM (12/21) a small gale developed off the Pacific Northwest coast generating confirmed winds of 45 kts over a tiny area at 44N 147W aimed right down the 297 degree great circle path to N. California. By the evening it was lifting northeast with winds confirmed at 50 kts at 48N 138W aimed 20 degree east of the 319 degree path to North CA and approaching the British Columbia coast. Seas were modeled at 25 ft at 45N 140W or positioned 901 nmiles from San Francisco. This system was moving inland over British Columbia Saturday AM and all swell generation potential was over. It was 901 nmiles from San Francisco at it's peak. Small swell is expected to result pushing into NCal near 11 AM on Sunday (12/23) at 7.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (10 ft faces) from 303 degrees, but based on recent outer buoy reading, that seems quite a bit on the high side.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
California Offshore Forecast
On Saturday (12/22) high pressure was pushing over North CA moving inland generating a light offshore flow over most of the state. That to hold into Sunday while another high pressure systems builds just out of range, then surging onshore Monday with 25 kt northwest winds howling over all North and Central CA waters. Scal to remain protected though. Tuesday that wind event is to dissipate late morning but then another high is to move in right behind on Wednesday pushing even into Southern CA. Rain is forecast in North and Central CA with more 20 kt north winds. Thursday another short break is forecast then a quick front is to pass though in the evening. Generally light winds forecast behind it on into the weekend but a healthy dump of rain is forecast Friday even down into South CA.
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
No swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 models suggest another storm forming on Monday (12/24) west of the dateline taking a northeasterly route over the dateline with 50-55 kts winds building in it's southwest quadrant initially aimed well at Hawaii with seas to 20 ft, then shifting towards the US West coast on Tuesday (12/25) with winds holding and seas to 30 ft lifting into the Gulf on Wednesday (12/26) with winds still in the 55 kt range and seas to 35 ft. 50 kt winds still projected early Thursday (12/27) near 53N 152W aimed due east with seas building to 36 ft. Honestly there seems to be a big disconnect between the wind models and the wave models, with the wave models being grossly understated. That could be because this one is to be moving northeast fair fast, limiting it's winds ability to get good traction on the oceans surface. And the more northerly projection on this ones track is a bit of a disappointment. So for now some form of solid advanced class swell seems likely, but not much more.
The North Pacific to take a bit of a pause while it reorganizes, but then is to start pulsing again just before the New Year concentrated on the Western Pacific. So we're in a bit of a pattern here, but far from optimal.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. The season is over.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table