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.
Note: NDBC has no immediate plan to replace or repair any non-operational buoys due to funding shortages and the sequester. Expect inoperable buoys to remain off-line for the 2013-2014 winter season. Even with full approval of the Presidents 2014 budget (unlikely) maintenance of the buoys will likely not start occurring till at least late Spring of 2014. The good news is the economy is on the upswing and tax receipts likely increasing too. The federal government is starting to run at less of a deficit with occasional short spurts into the surplus range.
On Tuesday (9/24) North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead and warbled even early but with occasional decent sets from the north. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high on the sets at top breaks and clean but weak. In Southern California up north waves were flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high and weak with some texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was maybe waist high and a bit ruffled from east-northeast trades. The South Shore was thigh high and clean with limited background southern hemi swell trying to come in. No report was available for the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from the second gale of the season was peaking in Central CA and working it's way down to exposed breaks in Southern CA. A smaller system was forming in the extreme Northwestern Gulf Tues-Wed (9/25) with 25 ft seas projected over a small area focusing on the Pacific Northwest. And yet maybe one more is possible for the Northern Gulf Fri-Sat (9/28) over the weekend with seas in the 32-34 ft range with secondary energy behind on Sun-Mon (9/30) with seas in the 24 ft range. More swell possible mainly for the US West Coast and from a rather northerly direction.
In the South Pacific an area of 28 ft seas developed southeast of New Zealand Thurs (9/19). Minimal swell for Hawaii on Wed-Thurs (9/26), but nothing remarkable. Another gale is forecast producing 28 ft seas in the mid-Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (9/26) offering limited hope for Hawaii and the US West Coast. But effectively the summer season is over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (9/24) the jet was building over China push to the Kuril Islands with winds 140 kts, then fading east of there and falling into a small trough on the dateline with 100 kt winds. East of that a ridge was pushing well up into Alaska before falling down the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coasts and pushing inland over North CA. Only the trough on the dateline held any hope to support low pressure development, and even that was weak. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to push east but remain generally weak and just barely exposed to open ocean south of the Aleutians into Thurs (9/26) then fading. Limited support for low pressure development. At the same time winds to build in the jet to the west to 190 kts but riding northeast through the Bering Sea, offering nothing in terms of support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that energy is to start falling southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with winds 170 kts later Fri (9/27) carving out a nice trough and sliding east into Saturday providing good support for gale development. That trough to hold in some form into the weekend but weakening all the while, then gone by Tues (10/1). Limited support for continued gale development possible. But a new weaker trough is to start forming on the dateline at that time offering more hope. Overall the jet is to be displaced north some near 50N initially, then falling to 45N late in the period, still suggestive of a weak La Nina, but maybe weakening/improving over time.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (9/24) swell from a gale that tracked through the Northern Gulf of Alaska was hitting Central CA (see Second Gulf Gale below). Otherwise broad high pressure at 1028 mbs was easing east from a point north of Hawaii starting to ridge into California creating a north wind mess at breaks from Pt Conception northward. The high was also generating trades in the 15 kt range for the Hawaiian Islands generating some small east windswell. A small gale was building near the dateline (see Small Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours tropical energy is to be pumping north from off Japan and wrapping east over the top of high pressure over the dateline (Thurs 9/26) aided by the Active Phase of the MJO. But no gale development is forecast just yet.
Second Gulf Gale
On Saturday (9/21) a mixture of tropical and Siberian energy converged over the Eastern Aleutians dropping southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska in the morning with west winds building to 35-40 kts over a moderate sized area targeting mainly Canada with seas building to 26 ft over a small area at 53N 158W. By evening winds turned more northwest and held at 40 kts with seas building to 28 ft over a decent area at 51N 150W (310 degs NCal). On Sun AM (9/22) additional 35 kt northwest winds built in the Northern Gulf aimed at Oregon and points northward. Seas held at 28 ft over a decent sized area at 41N 142W (319 degs NCal) and 22+ ft seas down to 47N 144W (306 degs NCal). Winds to hold into the evening unchanged with seas 25 ft at 49N 146W (317 degs NCal) and 22 ft seas down to 47N 140W (310 degs NCal). By Monday AM (9/23) 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the Northeastern Gulf with seas fading from 23 ft at 50N 140W (319 degs NCal). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds to be fading off the coast of Canada with 21 ft seas on the edge of the NCal swell window 52N 142W (319 degrees) and fading. If all goes as forecast some very north angled 15 sec period swell could result for Central and North CA with more size north of there but also good odds for poor weather. No real energy is expected arriving in Hawaii.
North CA: Residual swell fading on Wednesday (9/25) from 5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft) with locally generated short period north windswell intermixed. Swell Direction: 310-319 degrees
Small Dateline Gale
A small gale was building just north of the Eastern Aleutians Tues AM (9/24) with 35 kt west winds building and seas on the increase from 18-20 ft near 48N 180W. By evening a small area of 35-40 kt west winds is to be tucked up against the Aleutians with seas building to 24 ft at 52N 170W. On Wed (9/25) 30-35 kt northwest winds to continue barely south of the Aleutians at 35 kts with 23 ft seas at 52N 162W aimed mainly at the Pacific Northwest and points north of there (310 degs NCal). By evening 30 kt west winds to be fading with seas fading from 19 ft at 51N 158W (310 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by Thurs AM (9/26).
Assuming all develops as forecast some small background 13 sec period swell might result for the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy pushing down to maybe Pt Conception late in the weekend. But nothing more than swell of 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft faces). Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (9/24) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Typhoon Pabuk was 450 nmiles south of Central Japan (Kyoto) with winds 85 kts and on the increase and making a turn to the northeast. Winds to hit 90 kts in the evening then start fading as Pabuk accelerates to the northeast with winds down to 45 kt Thurs AM 99/26) well west of Northern Japan. This system is to race northeast to almost the Bering Sea while getting sheared with it's energy feeding a developing gale in the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend (9/28) (see NPac Long term forecast below).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (9/24) high pressure was starting to ridge into the coast with north winds 10-15 kts from Cape Mendocino down to Pt Conception. Wednesday high pressure to be in control with a gradient and 20 kt north winds forecast for North and Central CA early, continuing north of Pt Conception Thursday and building to 25 kts off the coast, then finally dissipating Friday through the day as another broad gale builds in the Gulf. Light winds Saturday as a front approaches the North end of the state hitting Sunday with south winds down to maybe Pt Reyes with light rain down to Pt Arena, but neither making any progress into Central CA. A light wind pattern is forecast Monday (9/30), then high pressure returns Tuesday with north winds 15 kts early for all of Central and North CA building to 25 kts in the north end later.
Surface - On Tuesday (9/24) a broad but weak gale was circulating in the Southwest Pacific generating 35-40 kt southwest winds and 26 ft seas just off the Ross Ice Shelf aimed decently north at 58S 171W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold at 35 kts in the evening with 26 ft seas at 56S 161W. Wed AM (9/25) 35 kt southwest winds to hold easing east with seas building to 27 ft over a broader area at 53S 150W. The fetch is to turning more northerly in the evening at 35-40 kts with seas building to 28 ft at 52S 147W targeting Tahiti and California but mostly east of Hawaii. Fetch is to start fading Thurs AM (9/26) from 35 kts with 28 ft seas at 48S 138W. The fetch is to be down to 30 kts by evening with seas from previous fetch barely 28 ft at 47S 130W and gone after that. Assuming all goes as forecast some 15-16 sec period swell could be generated targeting primarily the US west Coast with sideband swell for Tahiti and 14-15 sec range sideband energy for Hawaii. Something to monitor.
On Thursday AM (9/19) southeast of New Zealand a small gale was generating 45 kt west to southwest winds producing seas to barely 28 ft over a tiny area, peaking in the evening at barely 30 ft but over a small sized area at 52S 167W. The gale faded and fell southeast on Friday (9/20) bound for the Ross Ice Shelf. A small pulse of 15-16 sec sideband background swell to result for Hawaii stating Fri (9/27) at 1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5 ft), then all but gone on Sat (9/28). Swell Direction: 188 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 1032 mbs is to remain lodged over the dateline with tropical low pressure riding over top of it falling falling southeast in the the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Friday AM (9/27) with 45+ kt northwest winds building over open waters and seas building from 24 ft at 53N 162W. 45+ kt northwest winds to hold in the evening with seas building to 34 ft at 51N 155W (309 degs NCal). Sat AM (9/28) 40 kt northwest winds to be fading while tracking southeast with seas holding at 34 ft at 48N 148W (309 degs NCal). Winds to be fading from 30 kts out of the northwest in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 45N 143W (304 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone Sun AM (9/29) while pushing into British Columbia but secondary fetch is to build behind (to the west) generating 35-40 kt westerly winds over already agitated waters with seas building to and seas building from 20 ft at 45N 151W. Additional 35-40 kt fetch to build north of there in the evening with 24 ft seas at 44N 140W (3030 degs NCal) and 22 ft seas up at 50N 150W (310 degs NCal). Northwest winds to be pushing east Mon AM (9/30) off the BC coast with 26 ft seas at 48N 142W (312 degs NCal). This system to be east of even the NCal swell window by evening and fading off Vancouver Island. If this were to occur some solid swell might result for the US West Coast from the north with a bunch of lesser period energy behind it. Certainly something to monitor.
Behind that another small gale is forecast over the Eastern Aleutians on Tues (10/1) with much tropical energy south of there. Interesting set up if true.
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 (9/24) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) dropped to -12.60. The 30 day average was up to 6.45 with the 90 day average down some at 5.15. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO (though the SOI is a lagging indicator - see more below) while overall longer term pattern was neutral if not 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 neutral to weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning weakly east on the dateline, then fading south of Hawaii almost half way to South America, then turning east off Central America. A week from now (10/2) neutral to light east anomalies are forecast on the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region and south of Hawaii then falling back to neutral and continuing into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was gone on the dateline but migrating east, with perhaps a weak Active Phase setting up on the dateline now and tracking east and expected to hold in some fashion for the next week.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/23 are in sync. Both models suggests the Active Phase was already in control of the far West Pacific. This pattern is to hold effectively unchanged for the next 15 days though strongest 5 days out per the statistical model but holding steady for 15 days per the dynamic model. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is set up over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions and is expected to slowly track east over the Pacific through 10/9 with a modest Inactive Phase building behind that on 10/09, but then gone by 11/3 with a weak Active Phase again starting to take over in the west. 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 (9/23) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer is officially dead with a pure neutral water temp pattern now in-play. The small pocket of cooler water that we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is gone, with no real outflow from it present except near the Galapagos Islands, and dissipating immediately west of there. Imagery for Sept indicates this pattern has continued to dissipate, likely the result of a weak Active Phase of the MJO occurring simultaneously. At this point it looks like the Active Phase is starting to get the upper hand. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa is gone. Further north a plume of slightly cooler than normal water that had been radiating southeast off California for 2 years is all but gone. Instead a wall of warmer than normal water that previously built off Japan has migrated east, slamming into California on 9/5 with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. No change is forecast. This is the result of the 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 for two + years, now released and following the jet across the northern latitudes into the US West Coast. This appears to be the final demise of La Nina and the start of the Fall season. But there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. In short, we're moving into a pure neutral pattern no longer biased slightly cool. The transition to a fully normal pattern has occurred in the ocean.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a neutral temperature pattern. No Kelvin Waves are present, as are no cold pools present either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/24 remain 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 turnaround with a warming trend taking hold by September into Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.4-0.5 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. 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. The weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into Dec 2013). This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered 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 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
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