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 Saturday (2/23) North and Central CA was seeing the second in a series of Gulf swells hitting with waves 2-3 ft overhead at exposed breaks and blown to bits by strong northwest wind. Unrideable. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were chest high and clean but weak and warbled. At least it wasn't chopped like up north. Southern California up north was flat and clean. Down south waves were thigh to waist high with luck and clean with all swell shadowed. Hawaii's North Shore was getting wrap-around tradewind swell and residual Kamchatka swell at chest high and fairly clean but warbled and rainy. Nothing great. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at head high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Though the storm track is displaced to the north, 2 systems of interest are projected with another swell in the pipe for California. A gale developed in the Northern Gulf Friday (2/22) with 362ft seas all on the northeastern edge of even the Central CA swell window. Some decent sideband energy is forecast pushing down the US West Coast for Sunday then fading into the early work week. Two more similar systems are forecast tracking from the Northern Dateline region into the Northern Gulf, with the first developing Sat (2/23) with up to 45 ft seas then fading Sunday in the Gulf, with another behind starting Mon (2/25) well west of the dateline peaking Tuesday on the dateline with 42 ft seas then fading Wednesday in the Northwestern Gulf. Maybe even some small swell for Hawaii from this one if one is to believe the models. After that things look pretty meager.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (2/23) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds up to 180 kts over a good sized area midway between Japan and the dateline then lifting slightly northeast managing to reach over the dateline to a point north of Hawaii before splitting. The northern branch was tracking east-northeast through the Northern Gulf of Alaska then falling hard south directly over the Canadian and US West Coast turning inland near San Francisco. No troughs of interest were indicated. The southern branch dropped southeast directly over Hawaii then turned abruptly east tracking into Baja California. The area between the split streams was supporting high pressure development but was considerable less in areal coverage than weeks past. 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 moving to the dateline and the east-northeast tilt becoming a bit more pronounced. A bit of a weak trough is to develop and move through the Gulf Monday (2/26) but unremarkable. The split point is to move east a little more to a point 1200 nmiles due north of Hawaii. Maybe a bit of a broad trough is to build off Kamchatka also over this time period, but nothing of any real interest. Beyond 72 hours winds to fade over the dateline dropping to barely 140 kts on Thurs (2/28) but falling into something that almost looked like a legitimate trough in the Gulf and amplifying some into the early weekend, but winds speed steadily fading. Maybe some support for gale development there. And the split point to reach within 900 nmiles of the US West Coast. But off to the west winds speeds to be down to the 110 kts range and our guess is the jet is to likely split all the way back off Japan over the long haul.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (2/23) swell from the second of two gales that were in the Northern Gulf with seas 32 ft was hitting the Central CA coast. Another is on the way (see below) with more behind that.
Small Gulf Gale
A third gale developed in the Northern Gulf on Thursday PM (2/21) building Friday AM with west winds 45 kts generating seas to 32 ft at 50N 142W pushing into British Columbia in the evening. Swell again to push over the Pacific Northwest reaching Central CA by Saturday (2/23) evening with pure swell Sunday AM at 8.0 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) coming from 317 degrees.
North Dateline Storm
A storm developed 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 32 ft at 47N 179W. In the evening 50 kt west winds held over a small area just barely south of the Aleutians with the gales center in the Bering Sea. Seas built to 41 ft at 51N 174W. By Sat AM (2/23) 50-55 kt west winds had redeveloped briefly and were plodding east with seas to 44 ft barely clear of the Aleutians at 51N 172W (308 degs NCal). The gale is to be fading in the evening with winds barely 40 kts and seas fading from 37 ft at 52N 165W. Residual seas fading from 28 ft Sunday AM (2/24) at 48N 164W (307 degs NCal).
A decent pulse of long period but fairly north angled swell possible for the Pacific Northwest reaching down to Central CA on Tuesday (2/26) with swell to 6 ft @ 17 secs late (10 ft) if all goes as forecast. Minimal sideband swell for Hawaii by Monday AM (2/25) at 3.6 ft @ 14 secs (4.0 ft) from 320 degrees.
Possible Dateline Storm
Another modest gale is to develop off Japan Sunday evening (2/24) with 50 kt northwest winds over a small area lifting steadily east-northeast. By Monday (2/25) fetch is to stabilize with west winds 45-50 kts and seas 39 ft at 40N 164E (309 degs HI). Winds to hold over a modest sized area in the evening with the storm lifting slowly east-northeast with seas to and seas building to 41 ft at 43N 172E (317 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). Tuesday AM (2/26) 45 kt west winds to hold with seas 42 ft over a tiny area at 45N 177E (327 degs HI, 298 degs NCal) then fading from there while it pushes over the dateline Tuesday evening with winds fading from 40 kts and seas fading from 40 ft at 46N 175W (298 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold Wed AM (2/27) as the gale disintegrates and falls southeast through the Gulf of Alaska with 30 ft seas at 47N 169W. Residual 30-35 kt northwesterly fetch to track southeast into the Central Gulf Thursday (2/28) with seas in the 22-24 ft range reaching 43N 160W (292 degs NCal) offering a shot of 13-14 sec period energy for both the US West Coast and Hawaii after the main core of the swell passes. The net result is to be possibly a shot of smaller but longer period energy for the US West Coast by the weekend with some decent 17 sec period sideband swell for Hawaii by late in the workweek with luck.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/23) north winds were taking a firm hold over Central and North CA at 20-25 kts driven by fresh high pressure at 1034 mbs located 1100 nmiles west of San Francisco and expected to 30 kts late. North winds to fade some Sunday from 20+ kts early over North and Central CA, then fading from 15 kts later. Southern CA to remain protected. More high pressure and north winds building Monday (20-25 kts) for North and Central CA, fading to below 15 kts Tuesday AM for a little bit as low pressure again moves from the Gulf just off the Pacific Northwest. Lighter winds for the North and Central Coasts Wednesday (but still north at 15 kts) continuing Thursday. Finally Friday a broad area of low pressure is to set up in the Central Gulf of Alaska, positioned far more to the south than previous ones with high pressure dissipating. North winds turning northeast at 5-10 kts for North and Central CA and almost east for Southern CA and holding into Saturday. No rain projected, but a little low is to move very close to the North and Central coasts by Sunday (3/3).
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 small and generally weak gale is to track over the dateline Fri (3/1) with seas to 26 ft and holding while moving into the Western Gulf on Sat (3/2). Something to monitor if you're bored.
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 Saturday (2/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at 14.27. The 30 day average was rising to -6.83 with the 90 day average up some at -4.82. 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 reaching from Indonesia to the central Maritime Continent but quickly giving way to moderate easterly anomalies over the Eastern Maritime Continent to the dateline and continuing east to a point well south 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 but the Active Phase was trying to make some headway east. A week from now (3/3) westerly anomalies are to make no headway with east anomalies still reaching the Central Maritime Continent fading some as they reach the dateline continuing to a point south of Hawaii, 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 2/22 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 general agreement but with the statistical model more aggressive and suggesting the Inactive Phase is to dissipate and be gone 5 days from now (2/27) with the Active Phase currently building strong in the Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific and reaching the dateline 10 days out, holding there 15 days out. The dynamic model continues to be much slower in this evolution, suggesting a slow push of the Active Phase into the West Pacific but still having the leading edge barely hitting the dateline 5 days out (2/27) but then making no eastward progress from there thru the 15 day mark. It's too early to know what will happen but the models are in closer agreement than days past. The dynamic model has actual been performing better that the normally trustworthy statistic model lately, so the assumption is a slow transition to the Active Phase is likely. .
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 (2/23) a pocket of 2 degree above normal water that built under the dateline (at 175W) and at first glance appeared to be shifting east reaching 140W, is going nowhere. If anything it's loosing heat content just holding it's ground. Conversely a pocket of -2 deg C cooler than normal water that has been blocking it's eastward progress south of Southern CA (120W) on the equator and 150 meters deep is slowly easing east, but not overtly opening a path for warm subsurface water to track east. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. Slightly cooler waters cover the equator from the dateline to a point just off Ecuador. In short, temperature on the surface remain a mixed bag but are mostly hovering near or just under neutral, with no clear indications of going either warmer or colder.
Projections from the CFSv2 model have improved slightly in the past few days but still are not supporting any form of El Nino development. They do suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.25 degs C by April and almost hitting the +0.5 degree mark by October. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring rising barely into Summer and early Fall 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/
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
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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table