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.
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On Tuesday (3/19) North and Central CA was seeing a mix of minimal local north windswell and background southern hemi swell producing waves to waist high up north and clean but weak and crumbled. Down south in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing waves thigh to waist high high with a few bigger peaks at top breaks and clean but weak and inconsistent. Southern California up north was knee high and clean but very weak. Down south waves were waist to chest high on the sets and clean but fairly weak. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing more north windswell at 2 ft overhead and clean with no real wind in effect. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting the same northerly windswell with waves near head high and fairly clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Weak low pressure was pushing into the Pacific Northwest, residuals from a low that was north of Hawaii over the weekend. Nothing other than windswell to result from it for the US West Coast. Of more interest is a gale that was falling southeast from the dateline circulating just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii still producing 35 kt northwest winds and 30 ft seas (on Tues), but fading. Swell from it is expected mainly for the Islands by Thurs (3/21). Beyond one short lived gale is forecast pushing off Kamchatka late Thursday with seas to 40 ft, but quickly tracking northeast and moving into the Bering Sea within 24 hours. Maybe some minimal background swell to result for Hawaii and Central CA, but it's to be shadowed by the Aleutians north of there. A weak cutoff low to produce 18 ft seas off the California coast over the Weekend into early next week if one is to believe the models. Down south a fairly decent looking gale produced 41 ft seas in the Southeast Pacific late Friday (3/15), offering the first real sense of rideable southern hemi swell of the season for the mainland (by the weekend). But nothing to follow. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/19) the jetstream was a mess with no real defined flows other than a generalized west to east trajectory. A pocket of 130 kt winds were forming something that looked like a trough over the dateline offering some support for gale development with luck. But otherwise no trough or winds exceeding 110 kts were present. Over the next 72 hours the trough from the dateline is to ease east and weaken while getting pinched off late Thurs (3/21) with winds below 100 kts. No additional support for gale development then. If anything the northern branch of the jet is to get more defined tracking off the Kuril Islands pushing northeast into the Bering Sea and traveling east from there offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is forecast with the jet split just east of Japan with the northern branch strengthening to 120 kts but tracking directly up into the Bering Sea and proceeding east from there while the southern branch tracked east on the 25N latitude eventually pushing over Southern Baja and into Mexico. Perhaps a bit of a cut-off trough is to develop off the Pacific Northwest Tues (3/26) though no good support for gale development is indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/19) a gale was falling from the dateline towards the Hawaiian Islands with seas 30 ft in the morning (See Dateline Gale below). A storm is forecast developing mostly landlocked over the North Kuril Islands on Thurs AM (3/21) with winds from the west at 55 kts and seas building. In the evening 50 kt west winds to push out over exposed waters of the extreme Northwest Pacific with seas building to 42 ft at 48N 158E (304 degs NCal, 317 degs HI) and tracking northeast. By Friday AM (3/22) the storm is to be fading fast with barely 45 kt west winds hanging on while lifting northeast winds with seas fading from 38-40 ft at 49N 162E (308 degs NCal and almost shadowed by the Aleutians, 318 degs HI). By evening the gale is to be almost gone moving into the Bering Sea with 36 ft seas tucked up at 52N 170E and shadowed for everyone. Maybe some minimals well to result for Hawaii early the next week and beyond for California. Something to monitor.
A modest gale developed off the Kuril Islands Sunday (3/17) producing a small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds falling southeast with seas to 30 ft seas by evening at 42N 167E. By Monday AM (3/18) it organized better while approaching the dateline producing a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest winds and seas building in coverage but still 30-32 ft at 40N 174E (311 degs HI). Winds faded to 40 kts in the evening with seas peaking at 32 ft at 38N 178E (311 degs HI). By Tues AM (3/19) the gale was fading while falling southeast winds 35-40 kts and seas still 30 ft at 37N 180W. Winds to be fading in the evening from 35 kts with 28 ft seas at 35N 177W. Residual energy to hold into Wed AM (3/20) with winds 30 kts and seas 24 ft at 33N 172W. Wind gone and seas fading from 20 ft in the evening at 34N 167W with the low now tracking east. Some decently rideable swell is expected to result primarily for the Islands given it's trajectory right down the great circle paths there, with much less for the US West coast given the indirect route up the great circle paths there.
Hawaii - Rough data suggest swell arrival Thurs (3/21) AM with seas building mid-day to 7.5-8.3 ft @ 16 secs (13 ft) coming from 310-312 degrees holding through sunset. Residual energy fading Fri AM (3/22) from 7.8 ft @ 14 secs early (11 ft) and dropping from there. Dribbles on Sunday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/19) weak low pressure at 1000 mbs was off extreme North California tracking northeast with weak high pressure at 1020 mbs centered just 400 nmiles west of San Diego resulting in light winds along the entire California coast. South winds and light rain building over extreme North CA late afternoon. A front is to push south Tuesday evening with rain working its way south to maybe Pt Reyes late. Wed AM a light wind pattern is expected turning slowly northwest by late afternoon for North CA down to San Francisco. In Southern CA northwest winds to be building to 15 kt nearshore late. Light rain down to Monterey Bay, strongest in the morning and fading as the day goes on. Perhaps 6 inches of snow for Tahoe starting early Wed fading by evening. A clearing north wind pattern to take control first thing Thursday AM driven by high pressure. Northwest winds 20 kts for North and Central CA building to 30 kts late. Northwest winds 15 kts for Southern CA but less at the most protected breaks. The high is expected to hold driving a pressure gradient over North and Central CA Friday and Saturday with north winds 20 kts, finally starting to fade Sunday but still 15 kts for everywhere but Southern CA. Southern CA to remain mostly protected from this wind event. Monday winds fade as another low approaches from the west with light southwest winds possible down to Morro bay later Tuesday (3/26).
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. But small swell is radiating northeast from the Southeast Pacific (see First Small Gale below). And a second swell is radiating northeast from the Second Gale (see details below). Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
First Small Gale
On Tues (3/12) a small gale developed east-southeast of New Zealand producing a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds and racing east. By Wed AM (3/13) winds were holding with seas building to 28 ft at 53S 153W. In the evening fetch built to near 50 kts over a small area aimed northeast with seas to 36 ft at 54S 143W aimed somewhat to the northeast (195 degs SCal). By Thurs AM (3/14) winds were fading fast from 45 kts with seas fading from 36 ft at 53S 133W (189 degs). Small swell for Southern CA with better size for South America.
Southern CA: Expect small swell starting to show on Thurs (3/21) building to 1.8 ft @ 18 secs late afternoon (3 ft) but inconsistent. Swell increasing some Fri AM (3/22) peaking at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs early (3.0 ft) and holding through late AM. Residuals on Sat (3/23) at 2 ft @ 15 secs early (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 189-195 degrees.
A stronger system built over the same area Thurs PM (3/14) producing a decent sized fetch of 45 kt west winds in the deep Central South Pacific with seas building from 34 ft at 62S 165W. By Fri AM (3/15) fetch was building in coverage still at 45 kts and aimed better to the northeast producing a small area of 36 ft seas at 60S 152W aimed somewhat northeast (196 degs SCal). By evening up to 50 kt southwest winds were modeled embedded in a larger area of 45 kt southwest winds with seas up to 40 ft at 57S 142W (195 degs SCal) peaking at 06Z Sat at 41 ft at 56S 148W. The gale was dissipating Sat AM (3/16) with winds 40 kts and seas fading from 38 ft at 55S 135W (189 degs SCal). This gale to be gone by evening. Again a better shot for modest swell for Southern CA from 190-195 degrees and more for South America.
Southern CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Sat (3/23) building decently by sunset with pure swell 2.3 ft @ 19 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) and building. Swell coming up through the day Sunday (3/24) peaking late with period 17 secs. Swell fading Monday AM (3/25) but still fun with period 16 secs then dropping through the day. Residual 15 sec energy Tuesday. Swell Direction: 195-196 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.
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 Tuesday (3/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down more to 2.20. The 30 day average was down to 10.18 with the 90 day average up into positive territory at 0.96. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and Dateline with light west anomalies south of Hawaii, then fading to neutral anomalies extending the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was barely making a statement and of no real interest. A week from now (3/27) near neutral winds are forecast over the entire equatorial Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase is to be gone and no Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be taking root. In short, no support for storm development in the North Pacific is expected attributable to the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/18 are in agreement suggesting a small and weak version of the Active Phase was positioned on the dateline while fading and moving east, effectively gone 8 days from now (3/26). The Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over Indonesia and expected to push into the extreme West Pacific 12-15 days out but weakening some while traveling east. Given the change of seasons no effect of interest is to result.
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 (3/14) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in play on the equator. But a noticeable plume of cooler water is radiating off the California coast tracking southwest typical of the effects of a stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. Subsurface waters temps, previously indicating an open path for warm water migration east, are now indicating cooler water (-3 deg C) in place at 135W and down at 115 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path is back to being blocked with the coastal pattern off the US mainland also suggested increase high pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model have bounced back slightly. They suggest a slow build up to barely warm temps by April (+0.2 degs C) only to give that up in July (-1.5 degs C) then slowly rebuilding to normal by Oct and holding into November. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring, Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated. We are moving into the Spring unpredictability barrier with accuracy of all the ENSO models historically low.
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 of interest is forecast with the storm track moving decidedly southeast (rather than northeast).
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
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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