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.
On Sunday (6/23) North and Central CA had rare small southern hemi background swell and minimal locally generated northwest windswell producing waves maybe in the knee o thigh high range on sets and pretty clean early but shrouded in fog. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat with maybe a few knee high sets with luck and clean. Southern California up north was knee high on the sets and clean but weak. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high sets all coming from the southern hemi and textured early morning from south wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore had some thigh high sets and clean, but nothing more. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific a gale formed while tracking east-northeast off the Kuril Islands Thursday (6/20) peaking Friday evening over the dateline with barely 28 ft seas. By Sunday seas were fading from 18 ft as it tracked into the Gulf of Alaska. Swell is in the water heading southeast towards Hawaii and east towards the US West Coast. Otherwise on Sunday no windswell was being generated along the Central CA coast with the Gulf low eroding high pressure away from the coast. But the standard Northeast Pacific high had retrograded more towards the Hawaiian Islands producing a limited fetch of easterly tradewinds and windswell for east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Beyond high pressure is to be held at bay relative to California by the aforementioned Gulf low pressure system, circulating off the Pacific Northwest into next weekend (6/29) and eliminating any odds of low northwest windswell. Swell from the low itself is to last high through the workweek, then fall below rideable levels with no windswell expected till maybe late next weekend into the following week. For Hawaii high pressure and trade winds to drop out by Tuesday (6/25) at the latest and remain weak (below the 15 kt threshold) through next weekend (6/30) with no rideable easterly local tradewind windswell expected.
A small gale formed in the Southeast Pacific Mon-Tues (6/18) producing 32-34 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast. Swell is heading north expected into CA by Wed (6/26) with decently rideable size, but the core of the gale was too far east to have any real impact for Hawaii. But another gale formed off the northern tip of New Zealand Thurs (6/20) generating 28 ft seas aimed well to the north. Rideable southern hemi swell is expected for Hawaii on Wed (6/26). This system generated additional seas east of New Zealand aimed a bit towards Hawaii likely providing more follow-on swell for the Islands through Sat (6/29).
But beyond no respectable swell producing weather systems are charted.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (6/23) low pressure was tracking southeast through the Gulf of Alaska (see Dateline Gale below) causing the usual Northeast Pacific high pressure system to be retrograded west away from the California coast now positioned 800 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii at 1028 mbs, generating a modest fetch of easterly tradewinds south of it's core starting a bit east of Hawaii and pushing over the Islands on to the dateline and generating modest local windswell in the chest high range along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Nothing unusual. Since the high was well west of California the normal coastal pressure gradient was not in effect with only limited 15 kt north winds pushing down the Central CA coast in pockets with no real north windswell of any consequence occurring. As a result, fog was in control.
Over the next 72 hours the California coastal high is to retrograde even further west as the Gulf low falls southeast, taking up a fixed position off the Pacific Northwest coast late Monday (6/24) and continuing to circulate there through next weekend (6/30). As a result high pressure is to remain well away from the coast with no pressure gradient nor any source to produce local windswell forecast for California. But the low itself to generate 20 kt northwest winds and 15 ft or grater seas targeting all of California through Tues (6/25) resulting in northwest windswell mixed with longer period swell arriving from earlier in the gales life ( see Dateline Gale below).
This same low off California is to steadily reduce the footprint of high pressure north of the Islands pushing it even further to the west and reducing trades over the Islands to 15 kts by Monday and then even less by Tuesday (6/25) and holding for the foreseeable future. The net result is by Monday tradewind generated east windswell for Hawaii to dissipate and remain nonexistent for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Tropical moisture and energy tracked over and northeast off Japan Wednesday (6/19) organizing into a cohesive low pressure system off the Kuril Islands on Thurs AM (6/20) producing 35 kt west winds and seas to 20 ft at 43S 162E. This low migrated east-northeast and just shy of the Aleutians in the evening with winds still 35 kts and seas building to 24 ft at 43S 170E. The gale was over the dateline Friday AM (6/21) with 40 kt west winds and seas building from 23 ft at 46N 176E holding with seas to 28 ft in the evening at 48N 180W. Pretty solid given the time of year. Winds were fading from the 30-35 kt range Saturday AM (6/22) as the low moved over the dateline with seas fading from 25 ft at 48N 173W and then dropping from 20 ft in the evening at 48N 167W. The low started falling southeast Sunday AM (6/23) with west winds 25 kts and seas 18 ft at 48N 165W continuing southeast in the evening with seas down to 17 ft at 47N 158W. 25 kt northwest winds and 15-16 ft seas to hold till Monday evening (6/24) at 44N 147W (1200 nmiles from NCal on the 297 deg path), then fading from there. By Tuesday PM (6/25) only 20 kt northwest winds and 13 ft seas are to be left at 40N 138W (650 nmiles from San Francisco on the 285 degree path) and fading from there.
Swell from previous fetch on the dateline is already in the water pushing towards both Hawaii (Mon 6/24) and the US West Coast (Wed 6/26). Additional windswell to follow mainly for the US West Coast if the fetch that's forecast early this week plays out.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Monday (6/24) building to 3.6 ft @ 13-14 secs late (4.5 ft). Residuals to be fading Tues AM (6/25) from 3 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft faces) and 3 ft @ 11 secs on Wed AM (6/26). Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival at sunset Tues PM (6/25) with energy to 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft). Swell to peak on Wed (6/26) mid-day with pure swell to 4 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft). A mixture of longer period energy and more local shorter period energy expected Thurs (6/27) with pure swell 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft faces) fading Friday (6/28) at 4.7 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 1297 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were occurring or forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/23) a weak local pressure pattern was building into the CA coast with the leading edge of low pressure associated with low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska starting to move into the coast. Winds were light. On Monday a front is to be pushing up to the Central Coast with south winds building over North CA reaching down to maybe Monterey Bay late. Light rain for the state from Yosemite to Monterey Bay northward starting late afternoon Monday into mid-Tuesday. Southwest winds behind the front. Tuesday more of the same is forecast with light southwest winds from Morro Bay northward as low pressure holds off the Pacific Northwest. Wednesday a light southerly flow to hold from Monterey Bay northward with low pressure starting to loose coverage off the coast. On Thursday winds turning northerly maybe 5-10 kts building to 15 kts over Pt Conception later. By Friday a weak coastal gradient is to set up with north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA and up to 20 kts near Morro Bay. Saturday north winds are to build to 20 kts for all of North and Central CA pushing 25 kts off North CA on Sunday. Another low is to be building off the Pacific Northwest.
Jetstream - On Sunday (6/23) the jet was split over the width of the South Pacific with the southern branch down at least at 60S and tracking generally flat west to east (zonal flow). Embedded was a ridge pushing even further south over the Central Pacific down into Antarctica. Something that almost looked like a trough was trying to form west of it under New Zealand with 110 kt winds tracking northeast. Still, those are pretty weak wind speeds and offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the ridge is to push down into Antarctica then dissolve while the trough tracks northeast pushing the southern branch of the jet up into the northern branch forming a weak troughing pattern over the entire Southwest Pacific through mid-week (wed 6/26). But with winds only 90 kts, no clear support for gale development is forecast. Beyond 72 hours the southern and northern branches are to remain merged extending over the width of the South Pacific. But no troughs of interest are forecast until maybe late Fri (6/28) when some 110 kt winds are to be pushing northeast from Antarctica over the Southwest Pacific, perhaps offering some weak support for gale development. Something to monitor.
Surface - Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. Low pressure is to try and form just east of New Zealand Wed (6/26) with a small area of 40-45 kt southwest winds forecast and seas reaching 28 ft at 46S 170W in the AM pushing to 44S 160W in the evening, but then turning due east. Maybe some small swell to result for the Islands with luck.
Small Southeast Pacific Gale (CA)
On Sunday (6/13) a gale developed in the Southwest Pacific generating southwest winds at 35 kts south of New Zealand. No swell production was occurring yet. By evening fetch increased with winds building to almost 40 kts aimed well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 55S 165W. By Monday AM (6/17) a decent sized fetch of 40 kt southwest winds developed producing 30 ft seas at 60S 160W. By evening winds were holding at 40 kts with seas barely 34 ft at 59S 152W. Fetch was fading some Tuesday AM from 40 kts with seas 32 ft at 58S 142W. A quick fade is forecast after that.
Small swell is forecast for Southern CA starting Tues AM (6/25) building to 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell is to peak Wed afternoon (6/26) at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces). Swell to continue on Thurs (6/27) at 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft) then fading on Friday from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Small swell expected for Northern CA too starting Tues AM (6/25) building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell is to peak Wed late afternoon (6/26) at 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5.0 ft faces). Swell to continue on Thurs (6/27) at 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft) then fading on Friday from 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Small New Zealand Gale
On Wed PM (6/19) a gale developed over New Zealand producing 35+ kt southwest winds off it's northwestern tip resulting in 27 ft seas at 38S 165E. 35-40 kt southwest winds held till Thurs AM (6/20) resulting in more 27 ft seas at 34S 171E aimed well at Fiji and Hawaii. In the evening the fetch moved east of New Zealand with a small area of 40 kt south winds building along the coast aimed north resulting in 26 ft seas at 42S 175E. The fetch dissipated Fri AM (6/21).
Hawaii: Some degree of limited southern hemi swell from when the gael was over the tip of New Zealand is expected to reach Hawaii starting Wed (6/26) pushing 2 ft @ 16 secs late AM (3 ft). That swell to be fading Thurs AM (6/27) from 2 ft @ 14 secs coming from 207 degrees. Additional swell from when the gale moved east of New Zealand to be moving in late Thurs afternoon at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft) from 192 degrees building to 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft) on Fri (6/28). Swell fading Sat (6/29) from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft).
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 residual low pressure is to continue circulating off the Pacific Northwest coast through Sun (6/30) suppressing the development of high pressure nearshore to California and eliminating any odds for local windswell to develop.
But a new gale is to develop east of the Kuril Islands on Friday (6/28) generating abroad fetch of 30 kt west winds but tracking northeast and pushing into the Bering Sea on Sun (6/30). Maybe 18 ft seas to result west of the dateline but of no particular interest given the long distance away from our forecast area. Something to monitor.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to remain suppressed due to the same low pressure pattern over the East Pacific with no return forecast through next weekend (6/30) resulting in no local easterly windswell.
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 Sunday (6/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -9.21. The 30 day average was down to 8.12 with the 90 day average up to 6.54. Overall this is holding in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and clearly illustrative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated weak westerly anomalies over the western Maritime Continent turning neutral east of there and then turning back westerly over the dateline region continuing to a point south of Hawaii then neutral on into Central America. A week from now (7/1) neutral to slightly west anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent to the dateline with moderate west anomalies from the dateline extending all the way almost to Central America. This suggests a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was building.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/22 are in agreement initially suggesting a weak Active Phase of the MJO was fading out over the West Pacific with the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean. Both models have the Active Phase of the MJO all but gone 5 days out. 8 days out the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be moving into the far West Pacific and building moderately 15 days though the dynamic model suggests a stronger and larger footprint at that time. Regardless, the current weak Active Phase is expected to give way to a Inactive Phase within 2 weeks.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (6/20) a La Nina like pattern is continuing to fade in the East Pacific over the equator, almost gone. This is good news. Cooler water continues to significantly reduced it's footprint off the South American Coast with a pocket of warmer water holding there. Pockets of limited cooler water extend over the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there almost half way to a point south of Hawaii. But they continue to look weaker than even the previous update 3 days ago. The cold pool has been steadily shrinking over the past 25 days. This cold pool previously eroded warm water that was building up north of the equator off Central America. If anything, that area appears to be on the rebound with more warm water building from the equator northward. Looking back just a few weeks it's almost as if this cold pool developed before any anomalous east winds started blowing over the West Pacific. The question had been: "Will these cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in-place?". At this time they are in full retreat - a good thing. The next thing that would be good would be to see the cool pool off West Africa eroding too. Unfortunately, it too has built almost to the coast of South America. This was a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. But with the cold pool seemingly eroding some, maybe all hope is not lost. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, but has returned, initially only weakly but is now fully developed, with an open track from San Francisco over Hawaii all the way to the intersection of the dateline and the equator. The teleconnection suggests this cold water pattern (driven by high pressure aloft) has a global component and will not easily be dislodged. Another interesting tidbit is last year at this time an almost El Nino like pattern developed, only to collapse late summer. So it is possible this La Nina teaser could fade as well. Something to monitor.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicate a pool of cooler water that has been in place at 140W and down 150 meters has dispersed. Warm water from the West Pacific has migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +2.0 deg C water is now at 110W and down 80 meters. Temperatures on the surface appear to be warming some with the subsurface blocking pattern loosing it's legs. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic responded to the cold push in May, in what could be a building global pattern. Of concern too is that the SOI 30 day average is still pretty far into positive territory. But the models suggest the MJO is turning more towards the Active Phase and less Inactive. Maybe we will return to a pattern biased neutral, but at this time it seems like some flavor of weak La Nina is still dominant.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 6/23 indicate water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (-0.1 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.1 degree C level is possible by July building into Nov at +0.3 then fading from there through Jan 2014 dropping to (+2.0 deg C). A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a wide spread of outcomes ranging from La Nina to neutral to just a bit warmer than neutral into Summer and early Fall 2013. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models should have a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains uncertain, but surely not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates). Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 if not bordering weakly on La Nina.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) 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 did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to 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 Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest 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
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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".
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table