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.
Happy New Year!
We wish to extend our warmest wishes to you and your families over this holiday season. It's been a good year here at Stormsurf with new content and new servers up and running, with more goodies in the making. We hope you all have a great holiday with lot's of food and fun. As usual, forecasts will be updated as time permits while we too enjoy a bit of a break. Thanks again for all your support and well return with regular forecasts updates in the new year.
On Sunday (12/26) North and Central California was getting Gulf swell mixed with local windswell at 2-3 ft overhead and pretty jumbled by southeasterly winds and warble at exposed breaks. Southern California was getting waist high or so northwest Gulf swell and pretty clean though a bit jumbled. Down south exposed breaks were waist to maybe chest high and clean with calm wind. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a pulse of the same swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and sets maybe 4 ft overhead and clean with little warble. Again it is better than anywhere on the mainland. 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 more local west windswell to add into the mix on Monday (12/27) with waves to 10 ft (faces) then down to (7 ft) on Tuesday. Wednesday mixed windswell of 6-7 ft is forecast mostly from the northwest, then rebuilding to near 11 ft Thursday, fading from 8 ft from the northwest on Friday. Southern California is to see northwesterly swell pushing shoulder high on Monday fading from chest high early Tuesday. Thigh high leftovers forecast Wednesday with north windswell building on top. Thursday new north locally generated windswell is expected at near head high fading from waist to chest high Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see fading North Gulf swell at 6 ft on Monday and 4 ft (faces) on Tuesday. New head high westerly swell arrives for Wednesday holding into early Thursday then being reinforces on Friday again at head high or a little more later in the day. The East Shore is to see waist high east windswell starting later Tuesday pushing near chest high Thursday and peaking Friday at near head high. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.
Compared to previous systems a stronger gale built in the Northern Gulf on Wed/Thurs (12/23) with up to 26 ft seas (Thurs AM) then 24 ft in the evening aimed south-southeast mid-way between Hawaii and California. Swell from that system is hitting CA and HI now. Residual gale energy from it was turning towards California on Sun (12/26) generating 20 ft seas 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast with more windswell to result there by Mon (12/27). Also a small gale was forming on the dateline Sun (12/26) generating maybe 18 ft seas aimed at Hawaii. Possible small swell there on Wed. Otherwise local windswell from a gradient forecast pushing into the Pacific Northwest on Wed/Thurs (12/20) to create north angled windswell for Central and exposed breaks in Southern CA with luck. But of more interest is a building gale pattern forecast for the West Pacific starting Thurs (12/30) and pushing east to the dateline into the first week in Jan. Nothing firm is projected just yet, but it is the first really decent upper atmospheric jetstream pattern supportive of gale development on the dateline we've seen thus far this winter, and is attributable to the building Active Phase of the MJO.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (12/26) the jetstream continued pretty much as it has in weeks past with a good push of energy tracking off Japan but now up to 200 kts and trying to split as it approached the dateline (but not splitting just yet). If anything the majority of the energy was falling southeast into a weak trough on the dateline then ridging back northeast and pushing into Northern CA being joined by minimal energy falling out of the Bering Sea through the Gulf of Alaska forming a weak trough off the Pacific Northwest. At this time energy only the weak trough in the Eastern Gulf holds any support for surface level gale development, but the big push of winds energy west of the dateline looks interesting. Over the next 72 hours this push of eastward moving wind energy is to continue tracking flat off Japan at 170 kts reaching the dateline on Wed (12/29) and providing decent support for gale development, though no clearly defined trough forming just yet. Once it reaches the dateline the flow is to split heavily with the northern branch ridging hard up through the Gulf of Alaska then tracking down the Pacific Northwest coast. Beyond 72 hours the single consolidate jet is to make more eastward progress, though starting to track a bit tot eh northeast with the main flow reaching into the middle of the Gulf of Alaska with winds 170 kts over it's length from Japan eastward. No clearly define troughs are forecast but undoubtedly this is the best configuration the jet has seen the entire Fall and Winter. Odds are to be improving to support gale if not storm development.
At the surface on Sunday (12/26) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was positioned just west of the southern dateline region and a second high was just off Southern CA. Weak low pressure at 992 mbs was in the extreme northeastern Gulf of Alaska pushing down to Washington setting up a fetch of 30 kt west winds pushing from just of the Oregon coast inland resulting in 20 ft seas roughly straddling 40N 135W ( 600 nmiles off the North CA coast). Swell from a previous gale that was in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Wed/Thurs (12/23) with up to 26 ft seas (Thurs AM at 47N 157W) then 24 ft in the evening (at 45N 150W) aimed south-southeast mid-way between Hawaii and California. Swell from that system is hitting CA now. Additional energy from the gale off North CA is to arrive in the Central CA coast on Monday (12/27) morning with pure swell 7.5 ft @ 13 secs (10 ft faces) with windswell on top. Also a cutoff low was just east of the dateline producing 30 kt northwest winds at 34N 175W aimed a bit west of Hawaii resulting in 18 ft seas at 33N 175W. Windswell of 4.8 ft @ 11-12 secs ( up to 6 ft faces) expected for Hawaii on Wed (12/29) from 308 degrees. Over the next 72 hours a pressure gradient between high pressure building into the southern Gulf of Alaska and low pressure pushing south inland over the Pacific Northwest is to generate a fetch of 30 kt northwest winds tracking down the PAcific Northwest coast resulting in 20 ft seas eventually pushing into Northern CA late Wed PM. Raw northwest windswell possible for the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA Wed-Thurs (12/30).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/25) the tail end of the most recent front was clearing out with south winds expected to be retreating from Central CA waters and weak high pressure building in. By Monday (12/27) A light wind flow is expected for Central CA with a bit of a pressure gradient setting up over Pt Conception resulting in 20 kt northwest winds there. But the next front is to be brewing up to the north and pushing south, with colder air behind it. The front is to reach Central CA on Tuesday with south winds and rain expected and snow starting to push into the Central Sierras late. High pressure to build in right behind on Wed with 30 kt north winds forecast for Central CA and up to 20 kts over the Channel Islands with snow in the Sierras into early evening (1 ft accum at Lake Tahoe). North winds to continue coastside Thursday for the entire state with light rain possible for North and Central CA and light snow in the Sierra, then relenting as another gale builds off Oregon on Friday (12/31). The front from that system is to push into Central and North CA later Friday with rain expected for the entire state through the New Years weekend with snow in the Sierra and south winds through Saturday for Central CA and Sunday for Southern CA.
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 a series of ill defined gales are to start building over Japan tracking east-northeast. The first is to make the trip from Japan to the dateline Wed-Thurs (12/30) with up to 38 ft seas initially off Japan but disintegrating all the while. The second is to be Fri-Sun (1/2) with a small core of 35-45 kt west winds forecast resulting in up to 38 ft seas on the dateline late Sun. Neither system is to be well defined, and the exact outcome changes with every run of the models. Still, it does indicate that some form of improved gale development potential exists over the long term, mainly attributable to a forecast improvement in the jetstream configuration driven by the Active Phase of the MJO. Any specific outcome is far from certain at this time though.
As of Sunday (12/26) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory. The daily SOI was up to 42.19. The 30 day average was up some to 23.03 with the 90 day average up slightly at 20.14. Overall, averages remained high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0).
Wind anomalies as of Saturday (12/25) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that easterly anomalies still were in control of the entire tropical East Pacific, but the Active Phase of the MJO was building over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing from the Western Indian Ocean over the Philippines and almost reaching the dateline, the straddling the dateline by 1/4 and holding through Jan 14th, not loosing much power or areal coverage. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America into maybe the third week in January. This most recent forecast is an upgrade from previous forecast and indicates the Active Phase is to have more staying power than previous ly indicated. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, this remains the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast swell window through at least mid-January. Starting Jan 9 a weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to start building in the Indian Ocean, likely shutting down gale development potential by later in Jan well into 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 (12/23) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a 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 was limited to the dateline region, though there was no real hints of warmer water building in the east. 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 was down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept and 6 degrees below normal on 10/18. But it warmed to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and was starting to move east and not getting any colder as of 12/16. But then on 12/25 it dropped back to -4 degrees located at 120W. There was some though the worst of La Nina was over, but as the models predicted, it now looks like a second pulse of La Nina is developing with colder waters the likely result.
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. And if anything there were only getting worse. This 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 was 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. But with East winds on the rise, it will likely fall back in line with expectations.
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 wavering 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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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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table