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 (8/4) North and Central CA had surf that was maybe thigh high and clean at protected breaks but heavily textured otherwise with south wind on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean coming from the southern hemi. Southern California up north was waist high on the sets and clean coming from the south. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting residual southern hemi swell with waves waist high and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting small easterly tradewind generated windswell at knee to 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. The models project a small low pressure system developing just south of the Eastern Aleutians on Tuesday with 35 kt northwest winds and 18 ft seas for 12 hours, maybe good for minimal background swell for the US West Coast late week. Otherwise for California no local north fetch of interest was occurring over North California and none is forecast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds were barely reaching the 15 kt threshold driven by weak high pressure centered mostly west of the Islands with no change forecast through the workweek. Tropical Storm Gil continued plodding east and was about 1100 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island and weak with winds only 45 kts, and expected to falter as it continues tracking west per the official forecast, though the GFS model suggests strengthening. At least it's something to monitor relative to the Islands.
Small swell was hitting California from the last of a series of storms that tracked under New Zealand pushing east Wed-Thurs (7/25) with seas to 34 ft over a solid area and aimed decently northeast.
But over the past 7 days no swell producing weather system of interest have occurred in the South Pacific. And looking forward no storms of interest are forecast for the same region. A prolonged swell drought is underway. Get what you can now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (8/4) the normal East Pacific high pressure system was retrograded well west now centered over dateline with a very weak pressure pattern between Hawaii and the US West Coast. This is the first time this has happened in 3 years and finally suggests the demise of La Nina. A near neutral pressure pattern was off the US West Coast with no north fetch of any kind evidenced. Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was just north of the Hawaiian Islands generating 15 kt easterly trades, but nothing more, resulting in bare minimal easterly windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours weak low pressure is to start developing just south of the Eastern Aleutian Islands lifting northeast with northwest winds building near it's core to 35 kts Monday evening into Tuesday morning (8/6) with seas peaking at 18 ft at 51N 155W, but dissipating by Tuesday evening. There low odds for a minimal pulse of northwest windswell for the US West Coast if this were to materialize.
Otherwise the presence of low pressure (above) in the Gulf is to suppress high pressure development along the US West Coast with no northerly fetch nor windswell expected to develop through Wed (8/7).
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure at 1020 mbs is to continue north of the Islands generating a weak easterly flow with trades remaining barely in the 15 kt range through Wed (8/7) with tradewind generated east windswell remaining just barely in the rideable range. And even that is a stretch. Tropical Storms Gil and Henriette may have a little influence depending upon which model one looks at (see Tropical Forecast below).
Otherwise no other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (8/4) Tropical Storm Gil continued chugging due west positioned 1100 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island with winds 45 kts and looking unremarkable. The official forecast track has Gil turning on a more southwesterly heading later today and slowly loosing strength, with winds 40 kts on Monday and down to tropical depression status Tuesday with winds 35 kts and fading. The remnants of Gil to pass well south of the Big Island on 8/12.
Tropical Storm Henriette was well south-southwest of Pt Conception tracking slowly due east with winds 35 kts. The official projections has Henriette slowly building with winds to 60 kts on Wed (8/7) while making a bit of a northwesterly jog. Winds to fade some thereafter but not completely out with the GFS model putting the remnants of Henriette almost north of the Big Island on Sun (8/11) with winds 25 kts and the remnants of Gil due south of the Big Island at the same time. At least it's something to monitor and provides a little hope for windswell for eastern facing shores of Hawaii.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/4) a weak northerly local wind flow was in control of the entire California coast with winds not exceeding 10 kts. No real change is forecast Monday or Tuesday except north winds 15 kts over Southern CA Tuesday afternoon. More of the same is forecast Wednesday but with 15 kt north winds over Southern California up to Morro Bay in the afternoon. Again the same pattern on Thursday with light winds early then coming up northerly in the afternoon to 15 kts expanding to most of the state and peaking on Friday with northern winds 10 kts early everywhere and 15 kts late. The pattern is to collapse on Saturday through the weekend with light winds the norm all day.
Jetstream - On Sunday (8/4) the jet was fully split over the width of the South Pacific with the two streams running parallel to each other with the northern branch up at about 35N and the southern branch displaced well south near 70S and over Antarctic Ice. No troughs of interest were indicated. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is forecast but with the two streams starting to move towards one another over the extreme Southeast Pacific, just off Southern Chile. But again no troughs of interest are forecast. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to build just off New Zealand in the northern branch on Fri (7/9) pushing south and colliding with the southern branch while pushing east into the weekend (Sun 8/11). But no trough of any result is forecast capable of supporting gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.
Surface - On Sunday (8/4) small swell from the last is a series of gales that tracked under New Zealand 8+ days earlier was peaking in California. Energy to last into Monday (8/5) then fade out. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Strong high pressure at 1036 mbs was anchored southeast of New Zealand pushing the storm track over the Ross Ice Shelf with no swell producing fetch over exposed ice free waters of the greater South Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours The high is to slowly ease east and fade and effectively gone by Wed (8/7). A cutoff low is to develop in the Southeast Pacific generating a small area of 35-40 kts south winds and seas 22 ft at 39S 134W, not covering enough area nd with no enough wind velocity to produce rideable swell for our forecast area.
No other swell producing fetch of interest 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 hours high pressure is to try and get a foothold off the Central CA coast on Thurs (8/8) with north winds building to 15 kts down the entire US West Coast late but then dissolving into Friday on into the weekend with no local windswell expected to result. This is bad for windswell production but better for water temperature increases and is symptomatic of a return to a normal/neutral ENSO pattern.
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure is to barely hold with easterly trades in the 15 kt range and bare minimally rideable east windswell resulting along east facing shores.
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 Sunday (8/4) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -8.98. The 30 day average was up to 9.18 with the 90 day average up to 9.7. 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 to light east wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent building to light east anomalies over the dateline then fading with weak east anomalies south of Hawaii on into the coast of Central America. A week from now (8/11) modest east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline region with neutral anomalies south of Hawaii on into Central America. This suggests perhaps another pulse of the Inactive Phase developing over the far western equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/3 are in disagreement from beginning to end. The statistic model suggests no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific while the dynamic model suggests a weak Inactive Phase was building over the far West Pacific. The divergence only continues from there with the statistical model continuing a dead neutral pattern for the next 15 days while the dynamic model has the Inactive Phase building while tracking east peaking 10 days out and filling the tropical Pacific while a Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean. It's too early to know which of theses two scenarios will play out, or whether some hybrid of the two will results. Clearly we are hoping the statistic model wins.The ultra long range upper level model unfortunately favors the formation of the Inactive Phase of the MJO through the entire month of 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 (8/1) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator. A small weak 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 no different from what has been occurring all summer. The sympathetic anomalously cool pool off West Africa appears to be eroding some and is not having any real influence. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. The African cool pool 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. It appears to be making a slight comeback as of 8/1, but not much. 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 neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact and continues holding.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 8/1 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation. No significant change is forecast into April 2014, but the trend is definitely for water temps to error on the positive side rather than negative (0.0 to +0.4 degs C). 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 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 a rather weak pressure pattern is to take hold typical of the late stages of winter in the Southern Hemi with no swell producing fetch of interest 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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Wall of Skulls - Here's a great video featuring Tahiti's famous wave. There's also a nice little plug for Stormsurf in it too. http://vimeo.com/70308073
Super Natural - Powerlines Productions has released their new big wave surf video chronicling the epic El Nino winter of 2009-2010 plus many other big wave event through the 2012-2013 winter season. It's a must see event for any big wave rider. It should be posted for sale on Mavfilm.com shortly.
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
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:
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table