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 (10/2) North and Central CA had residual Gulf swell and a windswell mix producing waves at 2-3 ft and a bit warbled but not too bad. Down south in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing waves at waist to chest high and clean. Southern California up north was getting limited southern hemi swell at thigh to waist high with less windswell/Gulf swell mix at waist high with a few bigger sets and clean at protected spots. Down south southern hemi swell was rarely producing sets at chest high plus and pretty clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover Gulf swell at chest high plus and pretty clean. The South Shore was getting southern hemi swell producing waves in the chest high range clean. The East Shore had wrap around Gulf swell at waist high and lightly chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
We're watching the potential re-development of a tropical system that has raced northeast from Japan and is approaching the dateline. Seas to possibly reaching 26 ft this evening, then fad into Wed (10/3) aimed well to the east but not making any eastward progress into the Gulf of Alaska. Small swell possible. Another tropical system is projected to follow a more southward path from the Kuril Islands to the dateline Fri-Tues (10/10) with better odds of development if one is to believe the models, but nothing extraordinary. Down south residual swell energy from a gale that formed southeast of New Zealand Thurs-Fri (9/21) tracking well to the northeast with seas at 36 ft has already peaked and is slowly fading with modest expected late in the workweek. The model hint at another system forming under New Zealand Friday (10/5) with seas to 36 ft aimed mostly east, then fading fast. Maybe some dribbles to result. Nothing else of real interest to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/2) the jet was running flat east off the Southern Kuril's at 45N with winds to 130 kts possibly starting to form a trough then fading on the dateline and ridging northeast into the Eastern Aleutians supporting high pressure down in lower levels of the atmosphere there. Over the next 72 hours the energy in the west is to dive southeast and building to 160 kts forming a trough on the dateline with winds up to 180 kts by Thursday (10/4) but with the trough starting to pinch off. Limited odds for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours additional 140 kt winds to build over the dateline Sun (10/7) possibly reinvigorating the trough some and holding while driving the jet down to 35N into late Tues (10/9). Improving odds for gale development.
Surface - On Tuesday (10/2) high pressure at 1038 mbs was pushing inland into Northern Canada and ridging south almost to Hawaii forming a bit of a weather barricade against the US West Coast. But back on the dateline a small gale was developing from the remnants of Super Typhoon Jelawat (see Small Dateline Gale below). Another system was forecast behind it (see West Pacific Gale below).
Small Dateline Gale
This system started organizing just west of the dateline Tuesday AM (10/2) with an infinitesimal area of 50 kt northwest winds and seas building from 20 ft at 46N 172E. In the evening winds are to be fading from 45 kts over a modest area with seas peaking at 28 ft at 47N 180W (aimed right up the 302 deg path to NCal and well down the 330 deg path to HI). Wednesday AM (10/3) the gale is to be dissipating with winds fading from 40 kts while lifting northeast and seas dropping from 25 ft at 47N 174W. Fetch is to be gone by evening with seas dropping from 23 ft at 48N 170W. If all goes as forecast there some potential for very small moderate period swell tracking towards the US West coast with even smaller swell pushing towards the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Saturday (10/6) with swell pushing 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft). Swell Fading Sunday from 3.5 ft @ 11-12 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction 325 degrees
North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Sunday AM (10/7) peaking at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading Monday from 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction 302 degrees.
West Pacific Gale
On Wed-Thurs (10/4) the remnants of Tropical Storm Maliksi are to be racing northeast off the Japan coast turning extra tropical, then stalling Thurs evening off the Southern Aleutians with winds building. Friday AM (10/5) 55 kt west winds are forecast generating 32 ft seas at 43N 158E (312 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). Winds to fade in the evening from 45 kts while the system heads due east with seas peaking at 37 ft over a small area at 43N 164E (313 degs HI/300 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade from 35 kts Sat AM (10/6) with seas dropping from barley 30 ft at 41N 171E. In the evening the gale is forecast to try and redevelop relocated to the dateline with 40 kts north winds forecast in the systems west quadrant with seas 23 ft at 44N 178E. 45 kt northwest winds are forecast Sunday AM (10/7) with 24 ft seas at 43N 175W. Additional development is forecast through Monday, then a steady fade is to set in. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/2) Tropical Storm Maliksi was located about 750 nmiles south-southeast of Tokyo Japan with sustained winds 45 kts and accelerating to the north-northeast. This system is to peak at 55 kts on Wed (10/3) 300 nmiles south-southeast of Tokyo then head off to the northeast. See details above in the North Pacific forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/2) high pressure was ridging into Central Canada and in control of the East Pacific out to Hawaii. Nearshore a light flow was in effect for most of California, though a gradient was over Southern Oregon generating 30 kt north winds almost reaching down to Cape Mendocino. The gradient is to continue on Wednesday with winds to 30 kts early likely generating some windswell for Central CA but a light eddy flow is forecast for Pt Arena southward and holding into Thursday. The gradient is to fading all the while down to 20 kts late Thursday and ready to die. A light wind pattern is forecast for the entire CA coast through the weekend other than north winds isolated to Pt Conception Thurs PM on into the weekend, but not effecting Central or North CA or nearshore Southern CA. Finally on Tues (10/9) high pressure is to build nearshore with north winds kicking up along the North and Central Coasts at 15-20 kts.
Surface - On Tuesday (10/2) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours there's some suggestion a gale will develop under New Zealand on Friday AM (10/5) with 50 kt southwest winds at 56S 160E in the CA swell window and unshadowed at 216 degrees (shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI) and seas building to 38 ft at 56S 160E. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 45 kts with seas 40 ft at 53S 167E (216 CA and barely in the HI swell window at 201 degs). Fetch is to be gone by Sat AM (10/6). If this occurs some small long spaced out swell is possible for the US West Coast, and even less for Hawaii. Will monitor.
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 there's suggestions that yet more tropical energy is to developing in the far West Pacific with fragments of it breaking off and traveling northeast towards the dateline. It's way to early to know with any certainty whether this will actually occur, but the trend is favorable.
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 (10/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping hard at -21.15. The 30 day average was down some at 2.03 with the 90 day average steady at -1.17. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated a small but strong area of west anomalies in full swing over the Maritime Continent (WPac). Neutral winds were holding the rest of the way across the equatorial Pacific into Central America. This suggests that a weak Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started Sept 2 in the West Pacific and continued for 21 days in a row through 9/22 then faded on 9/25 only to return with gusto on 9/28 and is still in control (a good thing for setting up a Kelvin Wave and feeding warm water eastward). A modest version of the Active Phase of the MJO was in control over the West Pacific. A week from now (10/9) weak to modest easterly anomalies are forecast to be trying to settle in over the Maritime Continent on into the dateline then weakening but still covering into the East Pacific suggesting perhaps a return of a weak flavor of the Inactive Phase. Even if that happens, we have had a good long run of the Active Phase (since at least 9/1 if not longer).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/1 remain in agreement for the short term suggesting a moderate Active Phase is in-play over the West Pacific with the Inactive Phase fading over Central America moving into the Caribbean and Atlantic Basin. They also suggest the Inactive Phase is building in the Indian Ocean, stronger than anytime so far this year. The statistical model over the long term has the Active Phase fading 2 weeks from now with the Inactive Phase making inroads into the West Pacific while the dynamic model has the Active Phase holding over the West Pacific. We're siding with the statistical model. Regardless, the current Active Phase favors some degree of maintenance plan for the warm water pool off Ecuador, if not slightly more due to the WWB currently in play.
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Warmer than normal water accumulated off Ecuador through 7/2 (part of a continuous pattern that started in Jan 2012) fueled by a Kelvin Wave, weaker than normal trades and a MJO pattern dominated by the Active Phase in early April and a continued weak MJO signal beyond. The warm water pattern peaked on 7/2 in an unmistakable El Nino-like configuration. But since then a steady but weak degradation of the warm pool has ensued. Starting in early September imagery depicted a thin track of cooler than normal water snaking it's way west through the heart of the warm pool off Ecuador. The latest update on 9/27 and 10/1 depicts the thin cool water trend building out to the mid-equatorial Pacific with spottier warm water coverage occurring over much of the tropical East Pacific. The warm pool certainly looks to be loosing ground.
We've also been tracking the cool pool that has dominated between California and Hawaii, generated by 2 years of La Nina and stronger than normal high pressure there. There's no real signs it is weakening and is still quite obvious and a force to be reckoned with atmospherically.
Something that looked very much like a weak Kelvin Wave propagated east both subsurface (2-3 deg C anomaly at 118W) and at the surface (1 deg C anomaly), moving east of 120 and off the charts by 9/17. If this is real, it would help to replenish the warm water pool maybe 3-4 weeks out (early Oct), but nowhere near the levels it was in July (our best guess). The overriding concern continues to be there is no indication that the warm water pool is building in temperature or areal coverage as one would expect if El Nino were developing, and plenty of evidence that it is in a slow but steady decline or at best just just barely hanging on in maintenance mode.
The models (CFSv2) also picked up on the decline in water temps in the Nino 3.4 region in late Sept, but as of 10/2 is now suggesting a return to building water temps in the Nov-Dec time frame pushing the Nino 3.4 region to +1.0 deg C. This suggests the Kelvin Wave (mentioned above) pushing east will add a little fuel. And if in fact the WWB that occurred 9/2-10/2 in the far West Pacific is productive, another Kelvin Wave could result with yet more warming expected 90 days out (Dec). There is a small cool pool of -2 c water building subsurface at 140W. We are assuming it is in response to the Jul-August slowdown in warm water eastward transport. But a building pool of warmer subsurface water at +1 C is depicted in the far West Pacific (160E to 160W), likely the new Kelvin Wave (mentioned above). We assume is will dislodge whatever cool pool develops at 140W.
A weak MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) is a sign of the weak version of El Nino. Strong Active Phases accompanied by Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB) is a sign of a stronger El Nino. Given the data to date, the current event is looking more like a weak El Nino at best. As we move into the Fall months (starting late August), the tendency is for whatever pattern has been dominant to only become amplified. In short, the true MJO character will become exposed in Fall, with summer just being a build-up. The expectation is that a near failure of the MJO could occur with trades fading and more slow-but-steady warm water propagation continuing eastward. If this happens the question then becomes: Will it be slow enough and weak enough to turn into a multi-year warm event, or will the atmosphere switch as usual in February 2013 and usher in a new La Nina. As of right now, with a weak MJO pattern in play, and only one WWBs in play for months now, the declining warm pool, and the projections from the CFSv2 model, our bets are for this warm event to perhaps reach minimal El Nino status, if not decay to neutral. And this would actually be a good thing (see final paragraph).
At this time there is only limited atmospheric evidence of a possible El Nino pattern in-play. Remnants of La Nina are still affecting the atmosphere and will likely continue for several months into the middle of Fall (mid-Oct), but steadily degrading. One such indicator is the continued presence of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific. It has been locked in place for 2 years now and it's momentum is not going to be easily be halted. The high has caused unrelenting north winds pushing down the California coast and stronger than normal trades over Hawaii. The high is evidenced by a large pool of cooler than normal water radiating southeast off California and over Hawaii reaching the equator at the dateline, the result of enhanced upwelling. Recent imagery suggest the high is shifting west and north some and winds along the California coast are becoming less of an issue. But there has been no change in local water temperatures off Central and North CA.
We're in a hybrid atmospheric state but the trend is starting to shift more towards the normal category. The longer the MJO remains biased towards a neutral or Active state, and the longer warm water holds if not builds off Central America, and the more the cool pool fades between CA and HI, the more the atmosphere will respond (especially come Fall) turning towards at least a neutral if not an El Nino-like configuration. The atmosphere is like a big ship, it takes a long time and alot of energy to turn. We remain on the bubble as of this date. Historical Note: It is unusual for El Nino (of any magnitude) to develop directly following 2 years of La Nina. The good news is there evidence o tropical system recurving northeast and migrating to the dateline, and not a moment too soon.
As of right now its seems the Active Phases of the MJO are not strong enough to usher in some flavor of real El Nino, but the Inactive Phases are not strong enough to shut off the warm water pump to the East Pacific either. Regardless, we are effectively past the La Nina hump and the tendency will be for a return to a normal if not slightly El Nino-like enhanced state. This is way better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina). The preference is that El Nino does not form this year, because that would only usher in another La Nina the year or two beyond. Rather, a neutral pattern biased slightly warm would be good, followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger El Nino 2-3 years out. And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts before a legit El Nino forms).So it will be interesting to see whether the pattern we are currently in is a tease or the real thing. The preference is for a tease with a slowly building storm pattern occurring over a multi-year period, culminating with a real El Nino 2 or more years beyond.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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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:
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table