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 Tuesday (7/23) North and Central CA had surf at thigh high from north windswell and clean at protected breaks but fairly textured otherwise with light south wind on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and fairly clean coming from the southern hemi. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high on the sets and pretty bumpy. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high and pretty heavily textured with northwest winds coming up some. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting new swell from a cutoff low with waves waist high with sets to chest high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting small easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no large scale swell producing weather systems of interest have occurred nor are forecast to occur, typical of the summer. For California no north were occurring near Cape Mendocino nor were forecast to develop till later in the weekend with no windswell expected till then. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds were not even reaching 15 kts thanks to low pressure north of the Islands and no real easterly tradewind generated windswell occurring along east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to rebuild in the eastern Gulf early Saturday (7/27) with north winds developing over Cape Mendocino at 25-30 kts later Saturday and into Sunday with north windswell developing for exposed north facing breaks, only to fade out early the following week. For Hawaii high pressure is to remain suppressed offering no potential to stimulate trades nor produce easterly windswell. The models suggest some sort of a tropical low building well east of the Islands Wednesday tracking flat east and moving up to the Big Islands a week out, but don't hold your breath for it.
Swell from a modest gale that formed in the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (7/11) with seas in the 34 ft range aimed well to the northeast is well past it's prime and is to be all but gone relative to California by tomorrow (Wed 7/24).
Beyond a tiny gale developed in the Central South Pacific on Wed-Fri (7/19) with 32 ft seas aimed due north towards Tahiti but very small in coverage. Small sideband is already hitting Hawaii with better energy tracking towards the US West Coast arriving Thurs (7/25). Another system built off the Ross Ice Shelf Sat (7/20) with 28-30 ft seas aimed due east then faded only to rebuild Sunday with up to 42 ft sea but falling southeast and crashing into Antarctica 24 hours later with no real energy aimed northeast. Limited swell for Hawaii and California. A third stronger system formed under New Zealand hovering over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf Sun (7/21) with up to 38 ft seas, then faded only to rebuild Tuesday (7/23) with seas up 38 ft and aimed better to the northeast but positioned on the edge of only the California swell window with again a pure easterly track, problematic for everywhere but Chile. Still some swell possible for Hawaii and California. And perhaps a stronger system to track under New Zealand pushing east again Wed-Thurs (7/25) with seas to 44 ft but only over a tiny area aimed decently northeast. Possible swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast. After that a storm drought sets in.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/23) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was off Oregon barely ridging into the North CA coast forming a weak pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in 15 kt north winds and generating no north windswell of interest. A weak eddy flow was in control of nearshore Central CA waters from San Francisco southward. Relative to Hawaii, weak cutoff low pressure was north of the Islands at 1016 cutting any high pressure out of the local picture. As a result trades were suppressed blowing below 15 kts, with no windswell of interest resulting.
Over the next 72 hours the low north of Hawaii is to lift north and fade while high pressure tries to build off Oregon to 1032 mbs by Friday AM (7/26) with a pressure gradient and north winds starting to redevelop over Cape Mendocino at 25 kts and north windswell trying to develop pushing down the North and Central CA coast. Size minimal initially though, and that assumes the models have a good handle on the situation.
Relative to the Hawaiian Islands high pressure is to continue to not be a factor with weak low pressure north of the Islands and easterly trades remaining below 15 kts into at least Thurs (7/25). As a result, tradewind generated east windswell to remain below rideable levels. Friday there's some suggestion that the low will dissipate and easterly winds might develop to 15 kts. But of more interest is a tropical low that is forecast to develop off Mexico on Wed pushing east and about half way to the Islands by the early weekend (7/26). It's something to monitor.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (7/23) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored. The models suggest weak low pressure is to develop off Mexico on Wednesday 97/24) tracking east for the next week with Hawaii a possible target (details above). Odds of this occurring are exceedingly low.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/23) a weak eddy flow was in control of the Central Coast with 15 kt north winds over the Oregon coast radiating southwest off North CA. This pattern to hold into Wednesday AM with perhaps a 10 kt north push in the afternoon. Then Thursday (7/25) the gradient is to return to North CA at 20-25 kts with north winds maybe 10 kts in the afternoon down into Central CA to Pt Conception. 25 kt north winds expected Friday over extreme North CA building to 30-35 kts late with a light northerly flow from Pt Arena southward at 5 kts or so and holding Saturday (7/27). Sunday more of the same. Monday the gradient is to be in full retreat with north winds 25 kts over North CA and fading fast with the eddy flow continuing for Central CA. Tuesday (7/30) north winds to be barely 20 kts over North CA with a neutral flow south of there.
Southern CA to remain under a light wind flow for the duration.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (7/23) the jet was split over New Zealand but almost joined east of there with a big ridge in the northern branch causing it to mash into the southern branch with winds 130 kts there over the deep South Central Pacific forming something that looked like a trough moving over the far Southeast Pacific. Limited support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours that trough to race east and into Patagonia on Wed (7/24). Otherwise another trough is to develop under New Zealand on Wed (7/24) with 130 kt winds pushing northeast and slowly fading with winds down to 100 kts late Friday (7/26) but still maintaining a trough-like configuration. Limited support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours the southern branch is to be displaced well south down at 68S tracking flat east with winds only 70 kts. A pocket of 130 kt winds pushing northeast is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Sunday (7/28) forming a weak trough but all over Antarctic Ice. No gale development of interest forecast.
Surface - On Tuesday (7/23) residual swell from a gale that tracked through the South Central Pacific last week was fading out over the US West coast. Small swell from a cut off low in the Central Pacific mid-last week was hitting Hawaii and bound for California (see Tiny Cut-off Gale below). Swell from the first of 2 southward displaced storms was behind it relative to California, but almost invisible. Yet another somewhat (but still small) swell from the 2nd storm was developing behind.
Over the next 72 hours another gale is to push under New Zealand Wed AM (7/24), but this time positioned a bit further north with 45 kt southwest winds and seas building from 34 ft at 52 S 162E. In the evening 50-55 kt southwest winds to build over a tiny area with seas building to 42 ft at 56S 170E. 45 kt southwesterly fetch to hold Thursday AM (7/25) with a small area of 42 ft seas at 53S 180W. 45 kt southwest fetch to hold in the evening tracking east with seas still 40 ft over a tiny area at 52S 168W. The gale is to fade Friday AM with seas dropping from 32 ft at 46S 163W. Perhaps a nice shot of swell for Tahiti and Hawaii with lesser long distance energy for California.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Tiny Cut-off Gale
Hawaii: Swell continues Wed AM (7/24) at 2.1 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday 2.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 175 degrees.
A cutoff low pressure system developed well east of New Zealand late Tuesday (7/16) producing 40 kt south winds aimed due north with seas building while traveling north. On Wed AM (7/17) 45 kt south fetch built over a small area with seas 30 ft at 43S 150W targeting mainly Tahiti. Fetch started breaking up in the evening from 40 kts over a tiny area aimed due north with seas from previous fetch peaking at 32 ft at 40S 148W targeting Tahiti and California (201 degs) with some sideband swell for Hawaii (174 degs). Fetch was fading from 35 kts Thurs AM (7/18) with seas dropping from 26 ft at 37S 147W. This system developed stronger than originally forecast but still was very small in areal coverage. In all some rideable swell expected for Tahiti with background energy for Hawaii and better energy directed at California but with small size given the tiny fetch. Expect peak size in the 16 sec period band.
Southern CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near 8 PM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
North CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs near 1 AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near noon at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 202 degrees.
1st Antarctic Gale
A broad gale built southeast of New Zealand on Fri (7/19) producing a decent sized area of 40 kt northwest by the evening with winds all targeting Antarctica and right over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. By Sat AM (7/20) winds built to 45 kts but again all aimed mostly southwest with seas building to 28 ft at 59S 163W. In the evening winds built to 55 kts from the southwest aimed northeast but with the fetch falling southeast towards Antarctic Ice and over ice with seas only 30 ft over exposed waters at 59S 142W. By Sun AM (7/21) 55 kt west winds were barely clear of Antarctic Ice aimed due east to southeast and almost east of the CA swell window with seas to 42 ft at 62S 128W. This system moved southeast of the CA swell window in the evening with the core of the storm crashing into Antarctica and 46 ft seas off the edge of the Ice Shelf all moving inland at 64S 116W.
Given this storms extremely easterly track and fast forward speed, and close proximity to Antarctica, little if any swell expected to radiate north. Best target in the non-frozen world to be Southern Chile.
Southern CA: Expect sideband swell arrival on Monday (7/29) with period 18 secs and size building to 1.3 ft @ 17 secs late (2 ft). Swell peaking Tues (7/30) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) and being overridden by another swell. Swell Direction: 185-195 degrees
Northern CA: Expect sideband swell arrival on Monday (7/29) with period 18 secs and size building to 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs late (2 ft). Swell peaking Tues (7/30) at 1.4 ft @ 16 secs (2.0 ft) and being overridden by another swell. Swell Direction: 182-192 degrees
Second Antarctic Storm
On Sat PM (7/20) a moderately powerful storm was forming under New Zealand with 50-55 kt west-southwest winds building and seas pushing near 32 ft at 60S 172E. By Sun AM (7/21) the storm was tracking flat east fast with southwest winds at 50 kts and seas building to 38 ft at 60S 176W right off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and pushing a little to the northeast. Fetch faded from 45 kts in the evening aimed due east with 35 ft seas mainly from previous fetch at 60S 159W almost hitting ice. 40 kt west winds and secondary fetch built Mon AM (7/22) but obscured by northward jutting ice with seas limited to 34 ft at 59S 155W over a tiny area. This system continued east from there with 40-45 kt southwest fetch rebuilding over ice free waters in the far Southeast Pacific with 32 ft seas Mon PM at 55S 138W aimed pretty much east and fading from there. A broad area of 45 kt southwest fetch was pushing out of the CA swell window Tues AM (7/23) with 38 ft seas at 54S 127W. By evening all fetch to be east of the CA swell window with 38 ft seas barely in the SCal swell window at 54S 119W.
At this time there is some odds of limited sideband swell energy radiating northeast towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Chile and Peru to be the best targets.
Rough data suggest swell arrival in Hawaii on Sun (7/28) with period 19 secs early building to 1.0 ft @ 17-18 secs late (1.5 ft). Swell to fade Monday (7/29) from 1 ft @ to 16 secs (1.5 ft). Swell Direction: 185 degrees
Rough data suggest swell arrival in Southern CA on Mon (7/29) with period 21 secs early building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell to build Tuesday (7/30) to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Rough data suggest swell arrival in Northern CA on Mon (7/29) with period 21 secs late. Swell to build Tuesday (7/30) to 2.0 ft @ 19 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 190 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 high pressure is to continue building off the Pacific Northwest at 1032 mbs ridging into Cape Mendocino on over the weekend generating a pressure gradient and a small area of 25-30 kt north winds resulting in limited north windswell pushing down the coasts of North and Central CA, biggest on Sunday (7/28). By Monday the gradient is to fade fast with winds down to 20 kts late and effectively gone by Tuesday (7/30).
Relative to Hawaii the high pressure system off the US West Coast is to steer the forecast tropical low on an due east course moving very close just north of the Big Island late on Mon (7/29). Possible northeast windswell for all east facing shore of the Hawaiian Islands if this comes to pass. But at this time that's just a fantasy.
No other swell sources projected.
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 (7/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 8.62. The 30 day average was up to 8.91 with the 90 day average up some at 7.44. Overall this is holding stable in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent building to light easterly anomalies over the dateline then fading south of Hawaii to neutral and holding that way to the coast of Central America. A week from now (7/31) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions. Neutral anomalies are to continue south of Hawaii into Central America. This suggests a fade of what is now a lightly Inactive Phase over the equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/22 are in agreement initially suggesting no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. Both models are in agreement suggesting a neutral MJO pattern is to hold 5 days from now. But beyond the statistic model continues the neutral pattern out 15 days while the dynamic models depicts the exact opposite, with a building Inactive Phase taking control over the Philippines 8 days out and building 15 days out. The longer range model has a weak Active Phase holding into early August while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean, moving into the far West Pacific mid-August. Odds are starting to favor formation of an Inactive Phase for August.
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 (7/22) a weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator. A pocket of cooler water continues in control off the immediate coast of Peru with the outflow from it tracking to the Galapagos, then breaking up with pockets of cooler water radiating west almost to a point south of Hawaii. This is a step back from what we thought was the death of this pattern 2 weeks ago (7/10). The anomalously cool pool off West Africa, thought to be eroding some, is still in-place and holding it's own. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. But as of now it's still in-play and if anything looks to be pulsing slightly. This was a direct reflection of what previously occurred in the Pacific, an unforeseen burst of cool water gurgling up off both South America and West Africa simultaneously - a global teleconnection. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, returned in June when the cold pool emerged off Peru and Africa, then fully closed off in July with warmer than normal waters the rule for the North Pacific. That said - some signs of weakness in that warm pool are now appearing. For now cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina or at least a neutral pattern biased cold.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a mainly neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact. Starting 7/16 a small pool of -2 deg C water was developing centered at 110W and down 75 meters. But as of 7/20 that had faded and continue suppressed today. This is similar to what has been going on all Spring. So no real change is occurring.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/23 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation and no significant change is forecast into April 2014. In short, a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but not anything particularly cold either. Instead the ocean is in recharge mode, with cold water dispersing and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any kinda of El Nino pattern were to occur, it would have started 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 a weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina, but we're still not in a pure neutral pattern either. We're still recovering from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). 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 hours 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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Nantucket Marine Mammals has documented a short video concerning whale conservation and awareness off the Northeast US Coast. See it here: https://vimeo.com/68771910
Jason-1 Satellite Decommisioned - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. The satellite has since officially been decommissioned. It's last working transmitter failed on 6/21. All efforts have been made to get a response to no avail. The satellite has been placed in a parking orbit with it's solar panels turned away from the the sun. It's batteries are to discharge in the next 90 days. No additional data is expected from this satellite. We are working to start capturing data from the Jason-2 satellite, but that will take some time. More information to follow.
'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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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:
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table