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 (9/3) North and Central CA had surf that was chest high with bigger sets and clean early. It was the first identifiable pulse of the Fall season. Down in Santa Cruz surf was occasionally thigh to waist high and clean but very weak. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high on the bigger sets and clean but with a little intermixed warble. Down south waves were waist high with a few bigger sets and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting small swell with waves waist high or so and reasonably clean flat and clean. The South Shore was near flat and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore was getting easterly windswell at maybe waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific small swell from a low pressure system (not even a gale) previously in the Gulf of Alaska was pushing weakly into California. A slightly stronger and broader low developed on the Northern Dateline Monday (9/2) peaking early Tuesday with 16-17 ft seas aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. Small weak swell possible. A smaller but stronger gale is forecast for the dateline region by Friday too (9/6) with up to 24 ft seas. A bit of an early Fall pattern is trying to set up in the North Pacific.
Relative to California no local pressure gradient capable of generating northerly windswell was occurring, but that is to change by later in the coming weekend (9/7).
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds had faded below the 15 kt threshold and are not expected to return for at least the next 7 days. No easterly tradewind generated windswell is in the forecast.
Looking south the Southern Hemi is effectively asleep. A very weak gale tracked under New Zealand Tues (8/27) with 32 ft seas and another developed behind it Wed-Thurs (8/29) with up to 27 ft seas, but both faded before making any serious inroads into the Southwest Pacific. Low odds of any swell resulting except for maybe Tahiti.
A weak cutoff low started circulating in the mid-latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Monday (9/2) generating 24 ft seas but is now fading, though expected to regenerate Thurs-Fri (9/6) with up to 26 ft seas over a tiny area. Maybe some tiny swell for Southern CA down into Central America with luck.
But with the North Pacific starting to come on-line, any Southern Hemi development is becoming much less of a priority.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (9/3) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was hanging 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and doing nothing to generate fetch of interest, being too weak and far west to affect the US West Coast and to weak to generate significant trades relative to Hawaii. Windswell from a previous low that circulated in the Gulf of Alaska was hitting California, but unremarkable. Of slightly more interest was a broad low circulating over the intersection of the Aleutians and the dateline (See Dateline Low below)
Over the next 72 hours high pressure to slowly ease east and start ridging into the California coast on Thurs (9/5) generating northerly winds at 15 kts over Pt Conception and building northward, reaching San Francisco on Friday and finally becoming centered over Cape Mendocino Saturday (9/7) with north winds building there to 25 kts resulting in the production of small but rideable north local windswell. The high and associated gradient to peak Sunday with north winds to near 30 kts then starting to fade Monday (9/9) through 25 kt north winds to hold through the day.
Of more interest is a gale forecast developing west of the dateline stating Fri (9/6). Details in the Long term forecast below.
Tropical low pressure that developed on the dateline late Friday (8/30) tracked north to the Aleutians arriving there late Sunday (9/1) joining forces with broad Arctic low that tracked east through the Bering Sea. The two systems started forming a single cohesive gale Sun AM (9/1) with a broad area of 30+ kt west winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface south of the Central Aleutians continuing east in the evening. Seas up to 18 ft were modeled at 51N 172E. By Monday AM (9/2) 25-30 kt west winds continued just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas holding at 15-18 ft at 50N 173W, though the bulk of the wind energy was north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea. Some of that energy fell south in the evening with a small fetch of 30 kt northwest winds indicated generating seas holding at 16 ft at 48N 176W (a long ways from Hawaii and the US West Coast). By Tuesday AM (9/3) the gale was fading fast with seas fading from 16 ft at 49N 170W. A quick fade to follow.
Some small pulse of windswell is expected to radiate southeast towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, but nothing too much.
Swell to peak in Hawaii on Fri (9/6) at 3 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft) from 330 degrees and in Central CA on Sat (9/7) at 2.6 ft @ 12 secs (3 ft) from 303 degrees. See QuikCASTs for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (9/3) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Tropical Storm Toraji was positioned 120 nmiles southwest of the southern most tip of Japan tracking northeast with winds 50 kts. Landfall in Japan is expected late this evening with the storm tracking effectively over the core over Japan for 2+ days, finally exiting into the open Pacific on Sat AM (9/7) with winds down to 20 kts. Those remnants to race east over the weekend possibly redeveloping in the Gulf into a small but fairly solid little gale. In reality, the odds of that occurring are non-existent. At least it's something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/2) weak low pressure was 550 nmiles northwest of California off the Oregon coast completely suppressing high pressure relative to the US West Coast. As a result, a weak wind pattern was in-play for California. Wednesday (9/4) high pressure is to start getting a toe in the door as low pressure weakens with north winds building over Point Conception to 20 kts and building northward reaching San Francisco late. By Thurs (9/5) high pressure is to start getting a better grip on things with north winds to 20 kts late from Monterey Bay southward to Pt Conception and 15 kts northward to Pt Arena, then lifting north with a gradient forming over Cape Mendocino late Friday (9/6) with north winds 20+ kts there late building and peaking near 30 kts Sunday while a weak eddy flow builds into Central CA. This pattern to hold through Tuesday (9/10) but with north winds fading to 25 kts off Cape Mendocino. Southern CA to remain protected
Jetstream - On Tuesday (9/3) the jet was split over the entire South Pacific with the southern branch tracking flat east but displaced well south down at 63S and effectively over the Ross Ice Shelf and Antarctic Ice the width of the South Pacific. No support for gale development was indicated in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours a massive ridge is to start building under Australia on Wed (9/4) pushing well south into Antarctica with no change forecast again suppressing support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the ridge is to dissipate with a weak trough trying to building under New Zealand by Mon (9/9) but with winds pushing to the north at only 90 kts, not offering any real support for gale development. This pattern to hold into mix-next week. No clear support for gale development indicated in the jetstream levels of the atmosphere.
Surface - On Tuesday (9/3) a small cut-off gale (no access to jetstream energy) was circulating at 43S 145W but of no immediate interest. Previously this low develop some in the upper reaches of the Central Pacific on Mon AM (9/2) generating a small area of 40 kt south to southeast winds with seas building to 25 ft over a small area midday into the evening at 50S 148W aimed well north targeting only Tahiti and Hawaii. The gale lost definition on Tuesday (9/3) with winds only 25-30 kts and seas fading below 22 ft. Maybe some small swell in the 14-15 sec range to result for Tahiti with far less size for Hawaii with luck. Nothing was aimed at California though.
Maybe swell arriving in Hawaii late on Mon (9/9) with swell 1.3 ft @ 15-16 secs late (2 ft) building to 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft) on Tues (9/10). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs on Wed (9/11). Swell Direction: 175 degrees.
New Zealand Mini-Gales
First One - On Monday evening (8/26) a small gale was falling southeast under New Zealand with winds 45 kt over a small area and seas 32 ft over a tiny area at 56S 170E with most fetch east to southeast. On Tues AM (8/27) the gale fell southeast with 45 kt west winds producing seas of 32 ft at 59S 180W with swell energy radiating primarily due east if not southeast towards the Ross Ice Shelf. No swell energy is likely to be radiating northeast.
Second One - A second gale developed tracking under New Zealand on Wednesday AM (8/28) with 40 kt west winds initially turning more southwesterly in the evening aimed better to the northeast but fading from 35 kts. Seas built to 27 ft in the evening at 54S 171E. Winds fading from 35 kts on Thurs AM (8/29) with seas fading from 25 ft early at 53S 176E. this system to be all but gone in the evening.
If all goes as forecast perhaps tiny swell is possible for Tahiti and Hawaii with next to nothing for California.
Small swell expected for Hawaii on Fri (9/6) with swell 1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Over the next 72 hours the cutoff low above is to continue circulating and redevelop some on Wed (9/4) with southwest winds to 35 kts late and seas building to 22 ft at 40S 140W aimed mainly at South America. The gale is to get slightly better organized late Thurs (9/5) with a broader area of 35 kt southwest winds forecast lifting northeast and seas building to 24 ft at 39S 137W targeting the US West coast down into Central and South America. Some virtual fetch to develop from the 35 kt southwest winds on Friday AM (9/6) with seas 27 ft at 36S 132W pushing to 32S 127W in the evening nd then to 30S 121W Sat AM (9/7) before tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window and fading. Maybe some small 15 sec period swell to result for California if all goes as 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 another low pressure system is to try and develop west of the dateline on Fri (9/6) generating a small but steady fetch of 30 kt west winds. Seas building to 16 ft late at 43N 169E targeting mainly Hawaii. A broader but still relatively small fetch of 30 kt westerly winds to continue Sat AM (9/7) generating 17 ft seas approaching the dateline at 43N 177E. By evening more of the same is forecast as the low tracks flat east with 16 ft seas at 43N 177W. The low is to build to gale status Sun AM (9/8) with 30-35 kt north winds building aimed south as the gale moves into the Western Gulf of Alaska with seas rebuilding to 17 ft at 44N 170W targeting Hawaii. By evening a decent sized fetch of 30+ kt northwest winds is forecast in the gales west quadrant generating 18 ft seas at 45N 164W targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband swell still possibly pushing towards Hawaii. Monday AM (9/9) 35 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Gulf of Alaska over a small area with 20 ft seas at 47N 160W. Fetch is to hold in the evening with seas building to 22 ft at 47N 158W targeting the US West coast exclusively. Fetch fading from 30 kts Tues AM (9/10) as the gale lifts northeast into the Gulf of Alaska with seas 20 ft at 48N 150W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest.
This system in and of itself is to be unremarkable by Fall standards, but the fact that it is even modeled and that it is to track completely across the North Pacific while holding together is certainly a step in the right direction.
Theoretically another smaller but stronger system is forecast right behind with winds building to 45 kts in the Western Gulf on Tues (9/10) with seas building to 25 ft targeting primarily the US West Coast. It's way too early to believe any of this but again, it is encouraging.
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 (9/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) fell to -20.62. The 30 day average was down to -1.47 with the 90 day average down some at 4.73. Assuming we are near the end of the Active Phase, this Phase from an SOI perspective is still higher than any Active Phase since March of 2012. 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 weak westerly to near neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline and then turning neutral from a point south of Hawaii on into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/11) moderate east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region then fading to neutral south of Hawaii continuing into Central America. In all this suggests a modest pulse of an Inactive Phase of the MJO is to develop.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/1 remain in sync. Both models suggests an Inactive Phase is supposedly in control over the far West Pacific. This pattern is to continue easing east per both models over the next 15 days with the peak expected over the next 5 days, then moderating to day 12 and near dead 15 day from now. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Inactive Phase was firmly in control over the far West Pacific, expected to slowly fade while tracking east through 9/17. After that the pattern is to reverse turning Active late Sept into early October (10/6). But the upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 (9/2) 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 continues to be build 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 8/19-8/26 images suggest a warming trend in play, likely the result of the current weak Active Phase in play. But the 8/29-9/2 images now suggests a return of cooler waters. 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 appears to be shutting the cool flow off again, especially given the lack of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). As of 9/2 it looks like the warm pool has impacted the Central CA coast, at least up towards Monterey Bay. One thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years, pushing near 61 degrees. 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 pure 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. No Kelvin waves are present, but at the same time no cold water waves are present either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/3 have retreated 0.1 deg C over the long haul, but otherwise is unchanged. The model indicates 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 bit of a turnaround with a warming trend (up to +0.25 degs C) taking hold by September into Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.5 C by April 2014. This would suggest a weak El Nino possible for next year. 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 from the 2010-2011 La Nina 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 by early 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 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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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)
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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
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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