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 if NOAA is fully funded in 2014 (unlikely), maintenance of the buoys will likely not start occurring till at least late Spring of 2014.
On Saturday (9/28) North and Central CA surf was thigh to waist high and clean and weak. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high on the rare set and clean but weak. In Southern California up north waves were waist high and clean but weak - pure windswell. Down south waves were waist to maybe near chest high on the sets and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was up some with waves waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was waist high on the sets and clean. 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 a small system formed in the extreme Northwestern Gulf Tues-Wed (9/25) with 23 ft seas over a tiny area focusing on the Pacific Northwest. Small swell arriving on Sunday in Northern CA but getting overrun by larger swell late from a stronger gale that started falling out of the Northern Gulf Fri-Sun (9/29) with seas peaking in the 32 ft range. After that things settle down for a few days with only a small gale forecast for the Northern Gulf on Thurs-Fri (10/3) with 26 ft seas aimed east. HIgh pressure takes over after that.
In the South Pacific a gale developed in the West Pacific Tues (9/24) with 26 ft seas peaking late Wed (9/25) with seas up to 28 ft offering minimal hope for Hawaii but better odds for the US West Coast. The gale continued east Thursday again building 28 ft seas aimed north then fading late Friday (9/27). Nothing to follow with the summer season effectively over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (9/28) the jet was diffuse and weak in the west tracking mainly over the Aleutian Islands. It was ridging some over the dateline encased in the Bering Sea then started falling into a developing trough in the Gulf of Alaska with winds to 160 kts pushing through that trough, and forecast to build to 180 kts late. Good support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to hold in the Gulf Sunday (9/29) with 170 kt winds bottoming out just off the Oregon Coast late with winds still 160 kts. Good support for gale development in this trough. Back to the west a diffuse and weak flow is forecast. The trough is to start moving inland Mon (9/30) but still 130 kts winds to continue in the Eastern Gulf offering continued support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours starting Tues (10/1) most Gulf energy is to be inland with a generally weak and flat flow traversing the North Pacific centered just south of the Aleutians near 50N and offering no support for gale development. By late Wed (10/2) a new weak trough is to start developing in the Gulf just pushing south of the Eastern Aleutians pushing east, but winds only in the 110 kt range and not capable of supporting gale development. By Thurs (10/3) 140 kts winds to develop in the bottom of this trough aimed due east then pinching off on Friday (10/4) in the Eastern Gulf. Limited support for gale development. At the same time 170 kt winds to again be building off Kamchatka ridging up into the Bering Sea and looking poised to fall into the Gulf. Maybe another Gulf trough to result long term. The pattern so far this season is a ridge over the dateline and a trough in the Eastern Gulf. This is typical of La Nina.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (9/28) a solid gale was building in the Gulf of Alaska (see 3rd Gulf Gale below). Swell from a tiny gale that was near the dateline Tues-Wed (9/25) was starting to register on buoys along the the US West Coast (see Small Dateline Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked over the dateline ridging east and just barely getting a finger into Central CA but retreating fast as the Gale in the Gulf was taking over. The high was helping to build trades relative to Hawaii though, at 15 kts and making for some small easterly windswell.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to continue generating trades over Hawaii through Sunday (9/29) then fading while the gale in the Gulf continues to be productive into Monday, then fades. The high is to track east moving up along the US West Coast by late Tues (10/1).
Small Dateline Gale
A small gale built just north of the Eastern Aleutians Tues AM (9/24) with 35 kt west winds building and seas on the increase from 18 ft near 49N 180W. By evening a modest area of 35 kt west winds held tucked up against the Aleutians with seas building to 24 ft at 52N 171W (308 degs NCal). On Wed AM (9/25) 30 kt northwest winds were fading barely south of the Aleutians with 20 ft seas at 52N 162W (309 degs NCal) aimed mainly at the Pacific Northwest and points north of there. By evening this system was gone.
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. Relative to NCal swell of 3.4 ft @ 13 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) could result by Sunday AM (9/29). Swell Direction: 308+ degrees
3rd Gulf Gale
On Friday AM (9/27) high pressure at 1032 mbs was lodged over the dateline with tropical low pressure riding over top of it falling southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska with 35 kt northwest winds building over open waters and seas building from 20 ft at 53N 157W. By evening a solid fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds were falling southeast with seas on the increase from 28 ft at 53N 152W (316 degs NCal). Sat AM (9/28) a broad fetch of 40 kt northwest winds was in place with lesser winds filling the Gulf while falling southeast with seas building to 32 ft at 49N 145W (315 degs NCal). In the evening winds are to be holding at 40 kts out of the northwest but over a smaller area with seas holding at 32ft at 47N 138W (315 degs NCal). The original gale is to be nearly gone Sun AM (9/29) with winds 30 kts the core starts pushing into British Columbia with seas fading from 26 ft at 46N 133W (317 degs NCal). But additional 35-40 kt northwest winds are to be falling into the Northern Gulf from the Bering Sea with seas on the increase. By evening 35-40 kt northwest winds to again be filling the Gulf with 26 ft seas at 47N 139W (310 degs NCal) pushing into Oregon (319 degs NCal). Northwest winds fading from 30 kts and pushing inland over Northern Oregon Mon AM (9/30) with 24 ft seas at 45N 131W (319 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone by evening.
If all this were to occur some solid swell might result for the US West Coast from a very north angle with lesser period energy behind it. Swell well shadowed in the San Francisco area.
Northern CA: For planning purposes expected swell arrival on Monday (9/30) near 1 AM with pure swell to 9.5 ft @ 18 secs (16 ft) and holding to sunrise but well shadowed and much smaller in the San Francisco Bay area. Swell fading during daylight hours but still decent in the 8.5 ft @ 15-16 sec range early (13 ft) at unshadowed locations. Swell fading Tuesday (10/1) from 8 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft) Monday with north winds on the increase. Wednesday (10/2) swell fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft) with copious local chop and windswell on top. Swell Direction: 315 degrees with lesser period energy from 308+ degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Saturday AM (9/28) Typhoon Wutip was 350 nmiles east of North-South Vietnam border with winds 65 kts tracking west. Wutip to continue on this heading moving inland on Mon AM (9/30) with winds 85 kts. No swell production relative to our forecast area is expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (9/28) high pressure wa quickly retrograding west away from the coast with a broad low pressure system building in the Gulf of Alaska. A front was approaching the north end of the state with light rain forecast on the border late. The front to move south Sunday with south winds down to maybe Pt Reyes and light rain down to maybe the Golden Gate on the coast late, but neither making any progress into Central CA. A light wind pattern is forecast Monday (9/30) with sprinkles down to the Golden Gate, but then high pressure starts getting a toe in the door Tuesday with north winds 15 kts for all of North and Central CA early and 20 kts later. High pressure to building into North and Central CA on Wednesday (10/2) with 25 kts north winds building and a full gradient in effect for Cape Mendocino late at 30 kts. The gradient to hold early Thursday then start fading in the evening, and pulling away from the coast Friday (10/4) and gone by Saturday with light winds in effect.
Surface - On Saturday (9/28) the remnants of a gale that traversed the South Pacific was moving east out of the US swell window while fading (see South Pacific Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no gales of interest forecast.
South Pacific Gale
On Tuesday AM (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. Winds built to 35-40 kts in the evening with 26 ft seas at 55S 161W. Wed AM (9/25) 35-40 kt southwest winds held easing east with seas still 26 ft over a broader area at 55S 155W. The fetch turned more northerly in the evening at 35 kts with seas building to 28 ft at 52S 150W targeting Tahiti and California but mostly east of Hawaii. Fetch started fading Thurs AM (9/26) from 35 kts with 28 ft seas at 48S 143W. The fetch held at 35 kts by evening with seas from previous fetch still 28 ft at 47S 136W. Fri AM (9/27) 35 kt southwest winds held with seas still miraculously 28 ft at 45S 130W targeting Southern CA down into Central and South America. In the evening 35 kt southwest winds held if not expanded coverage with 26 ft seas at 43S 120W offering more hope for Southern CA. Sat AM (9/28) the gale was fading with 26 ft seas from previous fetch at 45S 199W barely targeting Southern Ca and mainly South America.
Some late season 15-16 sec period swell has been generated targeting primarily the US west Coast with sideband swell for Tahiti and 14-15 sec range sideband energy for Hawaii.
Background swell for Hawaii starting on Wed (10/2) at 1.0 ft @ 16-17 secs with luck (1.5-2.0 ft) from 180 degrees. Swell holding Thurs (10/3) at 1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5-2.0 ft).
Southern CA to see swell starting on Thurs (10/3) at 2 ft @ 18 secs late (3.5 ft) from 195 degrees but that is likely optimistic. Friday (10/4) swell to build to 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft) holding Saturday (10/5) at 2.4 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
North CA to see swell starting on Friday (10/4) building to 1.8 ft @ 17 secs (3.0 ft) late holding Saturday (10/5) at 2.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 192 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to take over the US West Coast forming the standard pressure gradient over North and Central CA on Wed (10/2) with north winds to 30 kts generating local short period north windswell then fading to 25 kts on Thursday before fading Friday (10/4). A weak low is forecast wrapping up in the Northeast Gulf on Thurs (10/3) with winds 30-35 kts building to near 40 kts at its core and seas up to 26 ft over a tiny area at 54N 148W aimed mainly at Canada. But that is to be gone by late Friday (10/4) with high pressure at 1032 mbs again taking over the dateline. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 Saturday (9/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) rose to -5.23. The 30 day average was down to 3.53 with the 90 day average down at 3.61. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO while overall longer term pattern was neutral if not still slightly biased toward La Nina territory.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent on to the dateline. Wind anomalies turned light easterly south of Hawaii, then turned neutral half way to South America and continued on into Central America. A week from now (10/6) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning very slightly easterly over the dateline region the back to neutral with one pocket of light easterly anomalies south of Hawaii and then neutral into Central America. In all this suggests a weak Active Phase of the MJO was in control of the dateline and migrating east, expected to hold for the next week. Given this we should see some boost to the North Pacific jetstream and storm track over the next week or so.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/27 are in sync. Both models suggest the Active Phase was in control of the far West Pacific. This pattern is to hold for the next 10 days per the statistic model and up to 15 day per the dynamic model, strongest now and for the next 5 days then starting to slowly fade 15 days out if not gone (per the statistical model). The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is on the dateline and easing east, forecast moving into Central America by 10/9 with a modest Inactive Phase building to the west at the same time, and traversing the equatorial Pacific by 11/2 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 (9/26) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer is 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). That said, high pressure is in control and local water temps have dropped 8 degrees in 2 days. The good news is the high is to fade in the next 24 hours. This long term pattern 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 completely neutral temperature pattern. No Kelvin Waves are present, and no cold pools either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/28 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 late September then accelerating early Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.7 deg C by Nov then slowly tapering down to +0.4 by 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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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