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.
Watch 'Chasing Mavericks' on Comcast's OnDemand and Available on DVD Starting Feb 26th
On Thursday (2/21) North and Central CA had residual dateline swell still hitting providing waves in the 6 ft range and occasionally bigger with intermixed local north windswell filling the gaps. North wind was the rule with chop in control. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were waist to chest high and very clean but generally weak. But it's better than dealing with the chop up north. Southern California up north was waist high with a few larger sets and reasonably clean. Looks more like windswell than groomed swell though. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean but with some texture on top. Generally weak looking though. Hawaii's North Shore was getting residual dateline swell with waves waist to chest high with occasional head high peaks and clean but warbled by strong east-northeast trades. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at shoulder high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a weak gale off Kamchatka last weekend was starting to hit Hawaii. Otherwise the storm track has moved north and east compared to weeks previous, similar to the track exhibited during the early Fall. A series of fast moving gales have migrated through the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska with none getting good traction on the oceans surface and all fetch aimed east of the Hawaii swell window and mostly north of the CA swell window. One Tuesday had 32 ft seas with another Wednesday also at 32 ft with yet one more forecast Friday (2/22) with 36 ft seas all on the northeastern edge of even the Central CA swell window. Some sideband energy is forecast pushing down the US West Coast for the weekend. Two more similar systems are forecast tracking from the Northern Dateline region into the Northern Gulf, with the first developing Sat (2/23) with 36 ft seas then fading, with another behind starting Tues (2/26) with 41 ft seas and falling a bit more to the southeast. Maybe even a hint of swell for Hawaii from this one if one is to believe the models. But overall no real solid storm or swell are indicated.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/21) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds to 190 kts just off the coast of Japan, then splitting as it approached the dateline, with the northern branch easing slowly east-northeast and tracking just south of the Aleutians pushing up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska before falling hard south and pushing inland over the US West Coast. No troughs of interest were indicated. The southern branch dropped south then turned abruptly east tracking over Hawaii then eventually pushing into Baja California. The area between the split streams was supporting high pressure development. otherwise there was no troughs or real support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with winds in the northern branch holding near 180 kts with the stronger of those winds approaching the dateline. As those winds continue pushing east the split point is to move east with it, reaching the dateline Sat (2/23) and east of there to 170W by Sunday. Maybe a bit of a broad trough is to start building off Kamchatka over this time period, but nothing of any real interest. Beyond 72 hours winds to rebuild on the dateline to 200 kts by Mon (2/25) with the split point easing east to a point north of Hawaii and a slightly more defined trough moving east from Kamchatka. to the the northern dateline somewhat supportive of gale development. But by the middle of next week wind energy is to start fading with the bulk of the wind north of Hawaii and the split point 1200 nmiles from the US West Coast. A bit of better defined trough is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska Thurs (2/28) providing a little support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. And the split flow and support for high pressure between the streams is to be fading over the Eastern Pacific. Kinda hard to believe since the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/21) swell from a broad but generally unorganized gale previously off the Kuril Islands was hitting Hawaii. That gale developed Sunday (2/17) and had northwest to west winds at 35 kts over fragmented areas and seas 22-24 ft near 36N 162E targeting mainly Hawaii, and held into Tuesday AM at 40N 170E, then faded. Small 13-14 sec background swell is hitting the Hawaiian Islands and to continue through Sat (2/23) from 310 degrees but unremarkable.
Multiple Small Systems - The Details
On Tues PM (2/19) a small gale developed in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska riding over the top of a large area of high pressure dominating the Northeastern Pacific. The high was centered 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii with the gale north of that producing 45 kt west winds and seas to 32 ft at 53N 158W targeting only Canada. By Wednesday AM (2/20) the gale was fading just off the coast of Northern Canada with winds 35-40 kts and seas 28 ft at 54N 148W targeting only Canada, then dissipating. Maybe some sideband swell for the Pacific Northwest late in the workweek. Swell to reach Central CA on Fri AM (2/22) at 6.0 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft) from 312 degrees
Another ill-defined fetch of west to southwest winds pushed over the same area Wed AM (2/20) generating 32 ft seas at 51N 163W then raced west fading in the Northern Gulf in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 52n 148W. Another pulse of swell for the Pacific northwest reaching down to Central CA arriving Saturday AM (2/23) at 5.6 ft @ 15 secs (8.0 ft) from 307 degrees
Yet a third gale is to develop in the Northern Gulf on Thursday PM (2/21) building Friday AM with west winds 45-50 kts generating seas to 36 ft at 52N 142W pushing into British Columbia in the evening. Swell again to push over the Pacific Northwest reaching Central CA on Saturday (2/23) evening with pure swell Sunday AM at 8.0 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) coming from 320 degrees.
A storm is to develop just south of the Aleutians near the dateline tracking east Fri AM (2/22) producing a small area of 55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 28 ft at 49N 179W. In the evening 50 kt west winds to hold over a small area just barely south of the Aleutians with the gales center in the Bering Sea. Seas building to 34 ft at 51N 178W. By Sat AM (2/23) 45 kt west winds to be plodding east with seas to 36 ft barely clear of the Aleutians at 51N 175W (308 degs NCal). The gale to be fading in the evening with winds 40 kts and seas fading from 32 ft at 51N 170W. Residual seas fading from 30 ft Sunday AM (2/24) at 50N 163W (307 degs NCal). More modest swell possible with period 16-17 secs for the Pacific Northwest reaching down to Central CA if all goes as forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/21) north winds were still in control driven by high pressure at 1036 mbs located 1100 nmiles west of San Francisco. Another low is to build off the Pacific Northwest Friday (2/22) falling southeast with winds a little lighter then days previous (10-15 kts for the entire CA coast - less for Southern CA). Maybe light rain for northern CA late. But the wind machine starts rebuilding Saturday as the low moves inland and high pressure takes control. North winds 15+ kts early to 20+ kts later over North and Central CA, then fading from 15-20 kts Sunday. Southern CA to remain protected. Maybe a hint of rain down to Pt Arena Sat AM. More high pressure and north winds Monday (25 kts) for North and Central CA at 15-20 kts, fading to below 15 kts Tuesday AM and holding as low pressure again moves into the Pacific Northwest. Light winds for the entire state Wednesday and Thursday as a broad area of low pressure sets up in the Gulf of Alaska, positioned far more to the south than previous ones. No rain other than what is noted above forecast for the entire state.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were 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 Another modest gale is to develop off Japan Sunday (2/24) with 45-50 kt northwest winds lifting steadily northeast with seas peaking near 34 ft Monday AM (2/25) at 38N 165E targeting Hawaii best (305 degs). It's to lift fast to the north and reorganize in the evening with 50+ kt west winds and seas building to 42 ft Tuesday AM (2/26) over a tiny area at 46N 176E (323 degs HI, 301 degs NCal) then fading from there while it pushes over the dateline Tuesday evening with seas fading from 38 ft at 47N 175W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold Wed-Thurs (2/28) as the gale falls southeast through the Gulf of Alaska with 30 ft seas reaching east to 41N 159W Thurs AM. More swell for the US West Coast with limited sideband swell for Hawaii with luck.
A third smaller gale to follow over the north dateline Tues (2/26) and quickly fading.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by 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 days, 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 jet stream 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Thursday (2/21) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 14.84. The 30 day average was rising to -7.34 with the 90 day average up some at -5.04. The rising averages are reflective of the Inactive Phase of the MJO currently in control. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated weak west anomalies over the extreme West Maritime Continent but quickly giving way to moderate easterly anomalies over the central Maritime Continent to the dateline and continuing east to a point well southeast of Hawaii, then turning lighter to neutral the rest of the way into Central America. This clearly indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific. A week from now (3/1) solid easterly anomalies are to be over the Maritime Continent fading some as the reach the dateline, with neutral anomalies the rest of the way into Central America. The Inactive Phase is to remain in control for at least the next week and not really supportive of gale development.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/20 suggest a modest version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the Pacific centered just east of the dateline. Beyond, the models are in disagreement with the statistical model suggest the Inactive Phase is to dissipate and be gone 10 days from now (3/2) with the Active Phase currently building strong in the Indian Ocean moving into the far West Pacific and almost to the dateline, reaching the dateline 15 days out. The dynamic model continues to suggest a slower push of the Active Phase into the West Pacific with the leading edge barely hitting the dateline 15 days out (3/12). It's too early to know what will happen but the dynamic model has actual been performing better that the normally trustworthy statistic model, so this is something to monitor.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (2/21) a pocket of 2 degree above normal water has built under the dateline (at 175W) and now appears to be shifting east reaching 140W, while a pocket of -2 deg C cooler than normal water is blocking it's eastward progress south of Southern CA (120W) on the equator and 150 meters deep. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. In short, temperature on the surface remain a mixed bag but are mostly hovering near neutral, with no clear indications of going either warmer or colder.
Projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but do suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and holding there into the early Fall if not turning slightly warmer (+0.25 degs C). Virtually all the other ENSO models are on a similar track now with near normal water temps into Spring and early Summer 2013.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that has not materialized with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This season is more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. Longer term the expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
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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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) replaying again on Sunday (2/10) at 7 PM. Set your DVR.
'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
Jaws Redbull Contest Forecast Explained By Stormsurf
Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature=player_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
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/
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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/
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