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 (9/8) North and Central CA had surf that was shoulder to head high at top exposed breaks and fairly clean but warbled. Down in Santa Cruz surf was knee high and clean. Southern California up north was knee high at best and clean early. Down south waves were thigh high with waist high sets and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. Not rideable. The South Shore had some mini-background swell with waves knee to maybe thigh high and clean with light trades. The East Shore was flat with no rideable easterly windswell indicated and lightly chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific the first semi real gale of the season was generating 26-28 ft seas over a small area on the dateline aimed well east. Small swell looks likely. A smaller system is forecast behind later in the workweek.
Relative to California a weak version of the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient was generating 20 kts north winds and modest local north windswell for North and Central CA. Winds to build to 25 kts Monday holding into Tuesday AM, then dissipating with windswell building a little as those wind speeds increase.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were below the 15 kt threshold and are not expected to return for the next 7 days. No easterly tradewind generated windswell is in the forecast.
Looking south the Southern Hemi is asleep. A weak cutoff low started circulating in the mid-latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Monday (9/2) generating 24 ft seas, then quickly faded, but regenerated Thurs-Fri (9/6) producing 28 ft seas late in the period over a small area aimed decently north. Some small south swell is expected for Southern CA starting mid-week continuing into the early weekend. Central America to se a shot of this one too.
In all, things are starting to look up.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (9/8) the jet was pushing east from the Kuril Islands running near flat along the 43N latitude with winds 130 kts falling into a weak trough on the dateline, then lifting north some over the Western Gulf and dissipating while pushing into Northern Canada. There was decent support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to push east into the Western Gulf while holding together decently into mid-Tuesday (9/10), then slowly getting steeper and nearly pinched off 24 hours later and loosing support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to split over the Kuril Islands on Wed (9/11) with the northern branch tracking well up into the Bering Sea with the southern branch loosing it's winds energy (winds down to 70 kts) and offering no support for gale development. This pattern to hold through the following weekend (9/15). This projected degradation of the jet is likely attributable to the building Inactive Phase of the MJO (see details below).
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (9/8) windswell from a previous low near the dateline was all but gone in the Islands and fading and masked by locally produced windswell along the US West Coast. High pressure at 1020 mbs was centered 600 nmiles west of Northern CA generating a weak pressure gradient over waters of Northern CA producing 20 kts north winds and modest north windswell pushing down into Central CA. Trades were in the 10+ kts range over the Hawaii Islands and doing nothing to produce easterly windswell. Of most interest was a legitimate gale circulating south of the Central Aleutians just east of the dateline producing decent significant wave heights (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the dateline gale is to track east and fade into Monday (9/9). High pressure off North California is to slowly ease east and start ridging into British Columbia on Monday (9/9) re-invigorating the pressure gradient over North CA generating northerly winds up to 25 kts there and holding into Tuesday AM (9/10) resulting in slightly increasing north local windswell relative to North and Central CA. A eddy flow expected for North and Southern CA at the same time.
No trades of interest are forecast for Hawaii with no easterly windswell resulting.
A gale starting developing west of the dateline Fri (9/6) generating a small but steady fetch of 25-30 kt west winds late. A broader fetch of 35+ kt northwesterly winds began to develop Sat AM (9/7) just west of the dateline generating 16 ft seas approaching the dateline. By evening this system started peaking with 40 kt northwest winds modeled and confirmed by the METOP-B satellite on the dateline as the low tracked flat east with 22 ft seas building at 45N 178W. The gale held into Sun AM (9/8) with 40 kt northwest winds confirmed via the METOP-B satellite moving towards the Western Gulf aimed southeast and seas peaking at a surprising 27 ft over a small area at 44N 173W embedded in a broader area of 26 ft seas targeting Hawaii with sideband energy (1500 nmiles out on the 335 degree path) and California more directly (2200 nmiles away on the 296 degree path). By evening the gale is to start fading fast with only 25 kt northwest winds still in the gales southwest quadrant generating 22 ft seas at 43N 166W targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband swell still possibly pushing towards Hawaii. Monday AM (9/9) only 20 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Gulf of Alaska as the low lifts northeast and a small area of 17 ft seas fading fast at 45N 160W.
This system in and of itself was pretty ordinary by Fall standards, but ordinary is sure better than where we've been for 2 years now. So that's a good thing. Well rideable swell with period in the 15-16 sec range is expected for Hawaii and California. Nothing huge, but at least a real taste of Fall energy is expected.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues (9/10) at 3 PM with swell building fast to 4.2 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft faces) near sunset. Swell holding overnight with swell 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft faces) Wed at sunrise (9/11) but fading from there. Swell Direction: 334 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/12) just before sunrise peaking mid-AM at 4.2 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft faces). Size holding through the day with period down to 14 secs by sunset (4 ft @ 14 secs - 5.5 ft faces). 12-13 sec period energy expected Friday (9/13). Swell Direction: 294-297 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/12) near 3 PM with period 16 secs and size coming up at sunset to 1.7 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft faces). Size holding Friday (9/13) morning at 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.5 ft faces), then fading as the day progresses. Swell Direction: 299-302 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (9/8) no tropical systems were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/8) the usual summer time pressure gradient was being generated by high pressure off Oregon producing north winds over the north end of the state with a weak eddy flow (south winds) over South, Central and the southern part of North CA. By late Sunday the high to be ridging harder into the Pacific Northwest with 25 kt north winds building in the gradient over Cape Mendocino with and eddy flow south of there holding through Monday. The gradient to start collapsing Tuesday (9/10) with north winds fading from 25 kts off Cape Mendocino down to 15 kts late, but with and eddy flow still in effect south of Cape Mendo. North winds to be gone by Wednesday (9/11) with a light flow in effect everywhere , then turning just slightly northerly Thursday at 5 kts and up to 10 kts Friday, though more late north of Pt Conception. Saturday 15 kts north winds forecast for outer waters of Central CA but light elsewhere. 15 kt northwest winds forecast early Sunday (9/15) for all of North and Central CA.
Surface - On Sunday (9/8) high pressure at 1020 mbs was locked over the Southeast Pacific pushing down to 63S effectively pushing the storm track into Antarctic Ice over all the Central and Eastern South Pacific. No swell producing fetch was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours a broad low pressure center is to develop under New Zealand on Tues (9/10) tracking flat east. By evening a small area of near 50 kt west winds are forecast with seas building to 32 ft at 53S 172E aimed more southeast than even east. By Wed AM (9/11) 45-50 kt west to almost northwest winds to hold over a small area easing east with seas building to 42 ft over a tiny area at 55S 178E likely pushing more towards the Ross Ice shelf than northward towards our forecast area. In the evening the gale is to start fading with 40-45 kt west winds pushing east and seas fading from 40 ft at 54S 174W over an infinitesimal area. By Thurs AM (9/12) fetch is to be fading from 35-40 kts over a tiny area with seas dropping from 30 ft at 54S 164W. If all goes as forecast perhaps some small background sideband swell will track up into the California swell window. Less odds for Hawaii given this systems due east to almost southeast wind vector.
Otherwise nothing of interest is forecast.
A low developed 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 from this pulse 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.
Southern CA: Expect swell from this pulse arriving on Wed AM (9/11) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) and slowly building through the day to maybe 2.3 ft @ 15 secs late (3 ft). Swell to start fading Thurs AM (9/12) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees
North CA: Expect swell from this pulse arriving on Wed later in the day (9/11) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell holding into Thurs AM (9/12) at 2.0 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) fading in the evening from 2.0 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees
The cutoff low above continued circulating and redeveloped some on Wed (9/4) with southwest winds to 35 kts late and seas building to 22 ft at 40S 139W aimed mainly at South America. The gale got slightly better organized late Thurs (9/5) with a broader area of 35 kt southwest winds aimed better to the north while the whole low lifted northeast with seas building to 23 ft at 35S 135W targeting the US West coast down into Central and South America. On Friday AM (9/6) some virtual fetch developed with winds up to 40 kts from the southwest with seas building to 27 ft at 36S 132W. Fetch faded some in the evening but still 40 kts but more southwest early rather than south with seas peaking at 28 ft at 33S 127W and then down to 26 ft at 31S 120W Sat AM (9/7) before tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window and fading.
This system was very far to the north reducing the travel distance to CA (3900 nmiles to Dana Point based on the Sat AM final position) thereby reducing swell decay along the way. Maybe some small 15-16 sec period swell to result for California if all goes as forecast.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs later AM (9/12) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) building to 2.3 ft @ 16 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (9/13) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 180-190 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs afternoon (9/12) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) building to 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft) Fri AM (9/13) and holding well into the afternoon. Swell fading Fri (9/13) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 180-187 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 another low pressure system is to track across the North Pacific and start organizing just south of the Aleutians and just east of the dateline Wed PM (9/12). Northwest winds forecast at 35 kts over a tiny area targeting Hawaii best. Seas building. By Thursday AM (9/12) the gale is to better defined with 40 kt northwest winds forecast targeting Hawaii and California with seas building to 22 ft at 48N 171W. By evening the gale is to start fading while pushing into the Western Gulf. Wind fading from 30 kts out of the northwest with seas 22 ft at 47N 164W. The gale is to be gone by Friday AM with no seas of interest being generated. This system has been on the charts now for several days in one form or another. Still, it's way too early to know what will happen, but it's another step in the right direction towards Fall.
The model suggests yet another system could develop on the dateline next weekend (Sun 9/15). It's way to early to believe that though.
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 (9/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) rose to 3.15. The 30 day average was up to -0.70 with the 90 day average up some at 4.36. Assuming we are near the end of the Active Phase, this pulse 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 longer term pattern was still in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino. This was illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate east anomalies had built over the Maritime Continent as has been predicted for a while now fading to neutral over the dateline continuing neutral south of Hawaii on into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/16) neutral anomalies are forecast re-taking the Maritime Continent continuing neutral over the dateline region and south of Hawaii continuing into Central America. In all this suggests a rather modest pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to develop but rapidly fade ( a good thing).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/7 remain in sync. Both models suggests an Inactive Phase is supposedly in control over the West Pacific and already peaking. This pattern is to continue easing east per both models over the next 5 days, then quickly fading 8 days out and dead 10 day from now. Perhaps a weak pulse of the Active Phase to start building 12-15 days out per the dynamic model. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Inactive Phase was already over the mid-equatorial Pacific with the Active Phase starting to set up over the Maritime Continent. The Active Phase is expected to slowly track east over the Pacific through 10/3 with the Inactive Phase building behind that. 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 (9/5) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the far East Pacific on the equator. The small pocket of cooler water we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is holding having built slightly the past week, 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 suggested a warming trend in play, likely the result of the current weak Active Phase in play. But the 8/29-9/5 images suggested 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 was building west of California (originating off Japan) tracking east and as of 9/5 had fully impacted the North and Central CA coast with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. This is likely the result of the collapse of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). And it also appears to be a full oceanic exchange of warm water that has been pent up in the far tropical West Pacific for two + years, now released and following the jet across the northern latitudes into the US West Coast. One thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years, pushing near 61 degrees. This appears to be the final demise of La Nina and the start of the Fall season. 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 a significant transition appears to be in-play. 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 9/5 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 Nov-Dec holding till the end of the model run on 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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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/
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