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 Thursday (8/22) North and Central CA had surf that was waist high and lightly warbled by light westerly wind. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat with light onshore winds and textured. Southern California up north was flat and clean with light westerly wind. Down south waves were thigh high and chopped with brisk northwest winds. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting thigh to waist high background southern hemi swell mixed with minimal tradewind generated wrap-around windswell and reasonably clean with trades in effect. The East Shore was getting tradewind produced east windswell at thigh high and and lightly chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific on Thursday (8/22) weak high pressure was in control of the eastern half of the North Pacific with no large scale swell production occurring. A tropical system was in the West Pacific but not producing fetch aimed east. There's some hints of a stronger pressure pattern later next week, but nothing obvious in terms of swell production.
Relative to California the local pressure gradient was all but gone over the north end of the state with no fetch indicated and windswell dropping. Friday the gradient is to return to the North and Central Coasts with north winds 15-20 kts making for barely rideable windswell, best on Saturday then fading out early next week.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were nonexistent offering no odds for easterly windswell development. No return of easterly trades above the 15 kt threshold forecast until Sunday, and then just barely 15 kts, holding into mid-Monday, then fading. Perhaps some tiny windswell to result along east facing shores.
Over the past 7 days no swell producing weather system of interest have occurred in the South Pacific. And looking forward no storms of solid interest are forecast. That said a gale developed in the deep Central Pacific starting Monday producing 25 ft seas aimed up at Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast while slowly easing east into late Tues (8/20) then building to 32 ft over tiny area aimed only at the US West Coast down into Chile before fading Wed AM. This was not a remarkable gale by normal standards, but should be good for a barely rideable pulse of 14-15 sec period swell for our forecast area mid-next week. Beyond the model depict a gale moving under New Zealand later next week 98/29) with 34 ft seas aimed northeast, the first real tease in weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/22) the North Pacific high pressure system was at 1024 mbs centered over the Western Gulf of Alaska ridging east some and also west to the dateline. A neutral pressure pattern was off Japan to the dateline. A light north wind flow (below 15 kts) was in control of the Canadian and US West Coasts offering no fetch capable of generating local windswell. The high was too far north and not producing easterly trades above the critical 15 kt threshold east of the Hawaiian Islands either resulting in no rideable easterly windswell. No large scale low pressure systems of interest were occurring. Two tropical systems were being monitored (see Tropics section below).
Over the next 72 hours the high is to push east some forming a weak pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coasts starting Friday evening (8/23) generating northwest winds at 15-20 kts perhaps producing barely rideable north windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA, faltering some Sunday AM only to return in the afternoon then gone by Monday (8/26). Desperation windswell is the best possible outcome.
Relative to Hawaii the pressure pattern is to remain weak with the high too far north to have any affect towards producing trades of interest until Sunday (8/25). At that time trades to barely return to the critical 15 kt threshold perhaps producing small short period east windswell holding into Monday late morning, then dissipating.
Otherwise no other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Pewa was just east of the dateline and 300 nmiles north of Wake Island tracking north-northwest with winds 35 kts, forecast holding this track while building with winds to 45 kts on Fri AM (8/23), then slowly fading and dying while continuing on a northward heading. The GFS model has the remnants of Pewa getting sheared and caught in the jetstream heading northeast for the Eastern Aleutian Islands, and loosing any definition. There's no indication of swell resulting for our forecast area. Still, it's something to monitor.
On Thursday (8/22) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Tropical Depression 9E has moved to a point 350 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas Baja Mexico on Thurs (8/232) tracking north-northwest and expected to continue that heading moving parallel to the western Baja coast into the weekend. Winds to peak Sat AM at 45 kts at 22N 114.5W 650 nmiles from Dana Point CA and on the 165 degree path and unshadowed. Maybe some windswell to result 32-36 hrs later with alot of luck. Will believe it when it happens.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/22) high pressure at 1018 mbs was centered mid-way between Hawaii and California but weak local low pressure was over the Central CA coast holding the high at bay and making for a generally weak local wind flow for the state. Friday the low is to disipate and high pressure build to 1020 mbs, starting to ridge into the coast. As a result a local north wind pattern is to develop at 15 kts by afternoon nearshore for the southern half of the North Coast and all of Central CA holding Saturday, then getting shallow Sunday with north winds to 20 kts for Pt Conception. Basically a southward displaced version of the normal coastal gradient. This gradient to dissipate some Monday as low pressure moves into the Gulf of Alaska and try to make a return on Tuesday but again getting shut down with more low pressure moving into the Gulf. In short, a generally light northerly wind pattern is expected for North and Central CA nest week, though strong over Pt Conception (15-20 kts). Southern CA to remain under a light wind flow for the duration.
Jetstream - On Thursday (8/22) the jet was split over the Southwest Pacific with the southern branch tracking over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and effectively landlocked offering no support for gale development in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The southern branch tracked north forming a very weak trough near 120W on the eastern edge of the California swell window, but winds were 80 kts or less offering no support for gale development. A big ridge was east of there. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold but with the ridge in the west starting to weaken and the southern branch moving up to near 55S just southwest of New Zealand, at least positioned better. But over the remainder of the greater Pacific the jet is to fall south and run flat along the 65S latitude, over Antarctic Ice and offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a better trough like pattern is to build under New Zealand starting late Tues (8/27) with 120-130 kts winds building into the trough and easing east into the far West Pacific perhaps offering limited support for gale development in the upper levels of the atmosphere. But that trough, assuming it even forms, is to be weakening 24 hours later. At least there's something to monitor.
Surface - On Thursday (8/22) high pressure at 1028 mbs was east of New Zealand ridging south to 65S driving all east moving gales into Antarctica. No swell producing fetch was indicated. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with the high building to 1032 mbs and tracking east riding south to 62S with the same effect as earlier.
Weak Gale 1
A gale developed in the far Southeast Pacific on Tues AM (8/13) producing 40 kt south to southwest west winds aimed barely at Southern CA and better at Chile with 28 ft seas over a tiny area at 58S 120W then quickly raced east by evening with seas to 29 ft at 54S 113W totally east of even the Southern CA swell window. Maybe a dribble of swell to radiate north towards CA. By Wednesday (8/14) this system developed more with seas exceeding 30 ft but all energy targeted Chile and well east of the California swell window.
Southern CA: Swell fading from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft) on Fri (8/23). Swell Direction: 175-180 degrees
Weak Gale 2
Weak low pressure circulating in the far Southeast Pacific on Thursday (8/15) starting to generate 30 kt south winds on the eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window and held through Friday building to near 30 kts. Seas built to 26 ft over a tiny area Friday at 18Z (8/16) at 53S 124W aimed north.
Maybe swell of 1 ft @ 16 secs (1.5 ft) to reach Southern CA on Sat (8/24) with luck pushing 1.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5-2.0 ft) on Sun (8/25). Swell Direction: 175-180 degrees
Better (but still weak) Gale 3
On Sunday (8/18) a weak gale developed in the Central Pacific but abutted against solid high pressure at 1028 mbs under New Zealand setting up a nice pressure gradient producing 40 kt south winds just north of the Ross Ice Shelf with the whole fetch lifting slowly due north. Seas built to 23 ft at 55S 160W in the evening. On Monday AM (8/19) winds faded to 35 kts over the same area of the ocean with seas 25 ft at 53S 155W pushing die north, with more of the same in the evening with seas 25 ft at 49S 150W. Tuesday AM (8/20) winds were still 35 kts from the south with seas holding at 25 ft at 48S 144W. Fetch built to 45 kts in the evening over a small area with seas building to 30 ft at 53S 132W. The gale was fading Wed AM (8/21) with winds dropping from 40 kts out of the south over a small area and seas 32 ft at 50S 130W. The gale was gone by the evening.
If all goes as forecast some degree of rideable 15 sec period swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, and the US West Coast.
Swell to arrive in Hawaii on Tues (8/27) building to 1.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft) later. Swell of 1.6 ft @ 13 secs (2 ft) continues Wed (8/28), then fading. Swell Direction: 175 degrees
Swell to arrive in SCal on late Wed (8/28) at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) peaking Thurs (8/29) at 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Dribbles on Fri (8/30). Swell Direction: 195 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 circulating 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii at 1024 mbs, generating and weak northerly flow down the US West Coast mostly just below the 15 kt mark, with no windswell of interest resulting. And by Thurs (8/29) even those modest winds to fade as the high starts retrograding west away from the coast.
Relative to Hawaii trades to fall below 15 kts Tues (8/27) and remain that way through the end of the workweek. No east windswell expected to result.
The models suggest a weak low building in the extreme Northeast Gulf of Alaska on Mon (8/26) with the Northeast Pacific High west of it forming a weak gradient and 20 kt northwest winds targeting the Pacific Northwest into Tuesday. But next to no windswell to result. Remnants of Typhoon Pewa are to migrate over the high and into the Gulf on Wed-Thurs (8/29). No swell producing fetch is indicated, but it bears monitoring.
Another low of tropical origins is forecast developing off Japan on Tues (8/27) racing northeast then stalling over the Western Aleutians late in the workweek. Something to monitor.
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 Thursday (8/22) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 5.22. The 30 day average was down to 1.92 with the 90 day average down some at 6.32. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO while overall the pattern was still 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 light easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline and holding neutral to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies extended from there into the coast of Central America. Of note - there has been a distinct lack of true prolonged westerly anomalies for months. A week from now (8/30) weak easterly anomalies are forecast developing over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline region then turning westerly there on to a point south of Hawaii. West anomalies are forecast holding almost into Central America. In all this suggests a slight Active Phase of the MJO is in-play pushing east.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/21 are in general agreement. Both models suggests a weak Inactive Phase is starting to take hold over the far West Pacific. This pattern is to continue per both models over the next 15 days with the peak expected 8-12 days out per both. The ultra long range upper level model suggests a Active Pattern now through 9/8, then turning Inactive and holding through 9/28, then falling back towards a neutral pattern if not light Active pattern for early October.
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. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. As of now (8/22) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator. The small pocket of cooler water we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is starting to recharge slightly, with the outflow from it tracking to the Galapagos Islands, then fading west of there, breaking up into small pockets of cooler water radiating west almost to a point south of Hawaii. Imagery from 8/5-8/15 suggested the cool pool had been re-generating, but the 8/19 image suggested a warming trend in play, likely the result of a weak Active Phase taking root. Historically this is no different from what has been occurring all summer with the cool pool fluctuating and sporadically spitting occasional larger pockets of cool water westward along the equator and keeping a lid on any legitimate warm water from developing. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa appears to be loosing some ground recently as the Active Phase gets a toe in the door. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. The African cool pool is a direct reflection of what has been occurred in the Pacific, an unexpected burst of cool water gurgling up off both the South America and West Africa coasts simultaneously - suggestive of a global teleconnection. Further north 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. 8/12-8/22 it appeared to be rebuilding off the California coast with a small but well defined track radiating off California almost reaching a point south of Hawaii. But a considerable pocket of warmer than normal water is also building west of California tracking east and now signs of abating, so it's anyone guess whether the local pool will get mowed over by the eastward moving warm pool. Once thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years. Looking at the big picture, cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina or at least a neutral pattern biased slightly cool. But we're nowhere near as cold as the previous 2 years.
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 8/22 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation. Recent runs of the model have consistently been suggesting a slow warming trend (up to +0.25 degs C) by Oct 2013 and near +0.6 C by April 2014. But for the immediate future a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Spring 2014, assuming one were to believe the model. This is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging 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 kind of El Nino pattern were to occur in 2013, 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 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern for 2014.
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 gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Wed (8/28) with 45 kt west winds turning southwest later in the day aimed better to the northeast. Seas building to 34 ft at 54S 172E. Winds fading to 40 kts on Thursday and lifting a little northeast with seas down to 30 ft pushing up to 51S 169W late. If all goes as forecast (not likely at this early date) tiny swell is possible for Tahiti, Hawaii and up into California. But its a long ways from reality. Otherwise 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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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's for sale here: http://www.mavz.com/movies/super-natural/
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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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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