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 (9/10) North and Central CA had surf that was thigh high and clean at protected breaks but chopped by south winds elsewhere. Down in Santa Cruz surf was knee high at best and clean. Southern California up north was flat and clean early. Down south waves were thigh high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore had some waist to near chest high sets and a little ruffled but rideable. The South Shore was getting background swell with waves waist to chest high at the betters breaks and clean with light trades. The East Shore was knee to thigh high 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 generated 27 ft seas over a small area Sat-Sun (9/8) on the dateline aimed well east. Small swell looks likely. A smaller system is forecast in the Northwestern Gulf on Thurs (9/12) with 22 ft seas aimed east for a short duration targeting mainly the US West Coast. Nothing else to follow.
Relative to California no local windswell is occurring and none is forecast.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were below the 15 kt threshold and are not expected to return until maybe late Mon (9/16) as high pressure builds in the Gulf. No easterly tradewind generated windswell is in the forecast until then.
Looking south 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 hitting Hawaii and expected for Southern CA starting mid-week continuing into the early weekend. But nothing to follow behind it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (9/10) the jet was split in the west with the southern branch pushing over Northern Japan with the northern branch over the Kamchatka Peninsula tracking through the Bering Sea with both stream merging on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians. The consolidated jet felling into a steep trough in the Gulf of Alaska building to near 120 kts in the bottom of the trough, then quickly ridged north and pushing inland over Eastern Alaska. Minimal support for gale development was occurring in the steep trough. Over the next 72 hours the split flow is to hold in the west with the trough is the Gulf cutting off and continuing to circulate 800 nmiles off Northern CA into the early weekend. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours the cutoff low is to move into Oregon late Sunday (9/15) while the split flow pushes east covering the entire North Pacific and reducing odds for gale development. By Monday (9/16) a consolidated pocket of 130 kt winds is to be building over the Southern Kuril Islands building to 140 kts and starting to ease east 24 hours later. If this were to occur some increased support for gale development might evolve over the far Northwest Pacific. But for the immediate future the degradation of the jet is likely attributable to the building Inactive Phase of the MJO (see details below).
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (9/10) swell the Dateline Gale (see details below) was starting to hit Hawaii and was pushing towards the US West Coast. Weak low pressure associated with this system remnants were lifting north over the Northern Gulf and pushing into Alaska. A second low of weakly tropical origins was starting to develop a bit west of the dateline and decently south of the Aleutians. West winds were imaged at 30 kts but too weak and too far away from any target to be of immediate interest.
High pressure was pushing inland over the Canadian coast with the normal pressure gradient over Northern CA quickly fading with north winds from it all but gone. No local windswell generation of interest was occurring. Trades were in the 10 kt range over the Hawaii Islands and doing nothing to produce easterly windswell.
Over the next 72 hours the low pressure system west of the dateline is to track east 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 falling south and clear of the Eastern Aleutians targeting Hawaii and California with seas building to 22 ft at 50N 170W. By evening the gale is to start fading while pushing into the Western Gulf. Winds fading from 30-35 kts out of the northwest with seas 21 ft at 50N 162W. The gale is to be gone by Friday AM with no seas of interest being generated. 17 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 48N 160W. This system has been on the charts now for several days in one form or another and is stabilizing, likely to produce some small swell. Still, it's too early to know what will happen, but it's a step in the right direction towards Fall.
No local north winds nor windswell of interest is forecast relative to California.
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 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 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 Tuesday (9/10) no tropical systems were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/10) the usual summer time pressure gradient was fading fast and expected to be gone by nightfall with no north winds blowing in excess of 15 kts over Northern CA waters. A light south wind flow is to be in effect on Wednesday (9/11) for the entire state, then turning just slightly northerly Thursday at 5 kts and up to 15 kts Friday, strongest late near Pt Conception. Saturday 15 kts north winds forecast for outer waters of Central CA up to 20 kts over Pt Conception, but light elsewhere. 15 kt northwest winds are to be limited to Pt Conception Sunday (9/15) and far lighter for all of North and Central CA. Monday massive high pressure starts building in the Gulf of Alaska with the north flow up along the North and Central Coasts to 20 kts in the afternoon holding Tuesday pushing 25 kts over North CA later in the day.
Surface - On Tuesday (9/10) low pressure was trying to develop under New Zealand (9/10). High pressure was over the extreme Southeast Pacific at 1028 mbs pushing the storm track south over Antarctic Ice. No swell production was occurring. By evening the low is to be falling southeast producing up to 40 kt northwest winds with seas building to 26 ft at 51S 173E aimed more southeast than even east. By Wed AM (9/11) 45 kt west to almost northwest winds to hold over a small area easing southeast with seas building to 34 ft over a tiny area at 59S 178W likely pushing more towards the Ross Ice Shelf than northward towards our forecast area. In the evening the gale is to be fading fast wit seas fading from 30 ft at 60S 168W over an infinitesimal area. If all goes as forecast there only the smallest of odds of tiny small background sideband swell tracking 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.
Hawaii: 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 high pressure at 1024 mbs is forecast building in the Western Gulf Fri (9/13) and tracking east into the Gulf of Alaska by Monday building to 1028 mbs and locking that area down offering no odds for gale development. The high to lodge there with a gradient starting to build along the US West Coast Tues-Wed 99/18) with north winds to 25 kts over Northern CA at that time with windswell potentially on the increase. Easterly trades to start building over Hawaii too at 15 kts as the high builds north of there starting Tues (9/17) with easterly windswell possibly starting to develop.
The high pressure buildup and northern winds relative to CA is likely the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
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 (9/10) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) rose to 16.76. The 30 day average was down to -1.07 with the 90 day average down some at 4.23. 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 over the Maritime Continent as has been predicted for a while now also building over the dateline continuing to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies set up there and continued east into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/18) neutral anomalies are forecast re-taking the Maritime Continent turning weakly easterly over the dateline region and south of Hawaii then turning neutral there continuing into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is finally developing but is to rapidly fade a week out (a good thing).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/8 remain in sync. Both models suggests an Inactive Phase is in control over the West Pacific and already past it's peak. This pattern is to continue easing east per both models over the next 5 days, then gone 7-8 days out. A weak pulse of the Active Phase to start building 10-15 days out per both models. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Inactive Phase was already over the mid-to-east 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 a weak 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 (9/9) 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 fading some, 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 early Sept indicates this pattern has dissipated some, likely the results of the latest Active Phase of the MJO. 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. We're in a down phase of that right now. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa appears to have lost ground too while the Active Phase was in control. Both these plumes to likely resurge slight now that the Inactive Phase is trying to take control. Further north a plume of slightly cooler than normal water that had been radiating southeast off California for 2 years fully closed off in July. In late August it tried to make a weak comeback off the California coast but was shut down by a considerably wall of warmer than normal water that had build off Japan and migrated east, slamming into California on 9/5 with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. looking briefly at the historical record This is the result of the seasonal collapse of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). And it also appears to be part of a oceanic exchange of warm water that has been pent up in the far tropical West Pacific through the early summer, and in this case 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 60 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 in 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 9/9 are 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 holding till the end of the model run on May 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. Other models suggest a continuation of neutral conditions. All 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 there's weak suggestions of low pressure building in the Southeast Pacific but tracking flat west to east and getting little traction on the oceans surface. Effectively there's 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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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.
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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
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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