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 Thursday (10/18) North and Central CA had continued Gulf swell producing waves at head high and clean. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing sets in the waist high range and clean but weak. Southern California up north was near flat and torn apart by northwest wind. Down south the same swell was producing sets to maybe waist high, weak and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting local northerly swell with waves 2 ft overhead and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was small at thigh high and clean with light trades. The East Shore had minimal wrap around local swell at thigh high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
One more day of fun sized swell expected for the Pacific Northwest down into California from a series of low pressure systems that tracked through the Gulf producing 20-22 ft seas earlier in the week. But that is to be gone by the weekend. A weak low low is to be off the US West Coast by later in the weekend into early next week (10/22) resulting in local windswell, unfavorable wind, cooler temperatures and rain with snow in higher elevations. Also swell from a small system that developed northwest of Hawaii late Mon (10/15) with seas to 28 ft over a tiny area is hitting the Islands, but to be fading by the weekend. Perhaps small bit of it to reach the US West coast Saturday (10/20). For now high pressure has a lock over the dateline and Western Gulf of Alaska but there's suggestions it could fade allowing a weak gale to form midweek in the Western Gulf falling south towards Hawaii. But it's nothing one can bet on just yet. Overall the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control supporting the tendency for high pressure development. Down south a tiny gale formed just south of New Zealand Mon-Tues (10/16) with seas to 36 ft over a small area aimed well northeast, but effectively gone by Tues PM. A pulse of decently rideable swell is expected for Hawaii by Mon (10/22) and California by late Wed (10/24).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (10/18) the jet was ridging off Japan then falling into a broad but weak trough over the dateline with 140 kts winds falling down into it bottoming out on the dateline down at 29S, then ridging again while flowing east and pushing into British Columbia. there was limited support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the dateline is to pinch off early Saturday with the remnants of the trough getting totally cut off, and the jet flowing well north of it running effectively over the Central and Eastern Aleutians. No support for gale development in the mid-North Pacific. A bit of a trough is to form off the British Columbia coast Sunday (10/21) with 130 kt winds flowing into it and diving south off the CA coast into Wed (10/24) finally pushing onshore over San Francisco offering some support for low pressure development and poor local weather for the Pacific Northwest into Central CA. But overall west of there the jet is to remain very weak and ridging hard to the north over the dateline offering no support for gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday a gale was trying to develop 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii and interacting with high pressure over the Central Aleutians at 1032 mbs resulting in 40 kt northeast winds aimed back at the Philippines, but not at any location in our regular forecast area. Northeast winds to build to 45-50 kt in the evening but with the same result. Even Hawaii is to be outside the swell window for this gale. Over the next 72 hours the above gale is to fade and drift west to the dateline late Saturday, and effectively dissipated. Remnants of a tropical system traveling east from Japan are to be approaching the dateline Sunday (10/21) but dissipating too. Back well to the east a weak low is to develop off British Columbia Sat-Sun (10/21) forming a weak pressure gradient with high pressure in the Western Gulf at 1036 mbs and producing northwest winds at 25 kts fading to 20 kts Sunday. Maybe some windswell to result for the Pacific Northwest at best. In all a weak weather pattern is shaping up.
Northeast Gulf Gale
Swell from low pressure that developed in the Central Gulf on Saturday (10/13) producing a broadish fetch of 30 kt west winds and seas peaking at 20 ft Sat PM (10/13) has already arrived in CA on Tuesday (10/16). Another fragment of 35 kt northwest winds developed in the Northeast Gulf Monday AM (10/15) producing 22 ft seas Tuesday AM at 53N 143W almost outside the Central CA swell window. Swell from this pulse to arrive in in Central CA on Thursday afternoon (10/18) at 5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces) then fading into Friday.
A small gale developed 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Monday (10/15) with a small area of up to 45 kt northwest winds and seas to 28 ft over a tiny area at 37N 174W (320 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). The gale pushed east Tues AM (10/16) and faded out with seas dropping from 24 ft at 37N 170W. Most energy was targeting Hawaii. Swell arrived late Wed afternoon (10/17) peaking early on Thurs with swell 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft) then fading as the day wore on. Swell Direction (320 degs).
Limited energy from this system is to make it to the US West Coast peaking in Central CA on Sat AM (10/20) at at 2.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft) from 285 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (10/18) Tropical Storm Prapiroon was accelerating to the east-northeast from a position 180 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan with winds 50 kts. it is expected to fade as it beelines towards the dateline then impacting a cut off low there on Saturday (10/20). Some interaction might occur between the two systems (see details below in the Long Term Forecast).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/18) high pressure at 1020 mbs was located between Hawaii and North California trying to ridge into the Oregon coast but not quite making it. Weak low pressure was off Southern CA setting up a south winds flow over most of Central CA. By Friday both systems are to dissipate with a weak wind pattern expected. By Saturday (10/20) a new strong high pressure system at 1036 mbs builds in from the Western Gulf with the tip of it reaching North CA and 25 kt north winds taking hold from Cape Mendocino down to Monterey Bay late and less winds to Pt Conception. These winds to try and hold but end up fading to 15 kts by late Sunday over Central CA. But by Monday (10/22) a broad but weak local low pressure system is to be building off the Pacific Northwest driving south winds as far south as Cape Mendocino with a weak wind flow for Central and South CA. A front associated with the low is to start pushing into Central CA waters with south winds and light rain forecast reaching down to Morro bay late and likely continuing through Wednesday and reaching as far south as Pt Conception. If this occurs, the first real taste of winter is possible. Up to 2 ft of snow is possible in the Tahoe region from this system if one is to believe the models. By Thursday (10/25) weak high pressure and a light wind regime to take hold.
Surface - On Thursday (10/18) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. Summer is taking over the South Pacific.
Another Small New Zealand Storm
On Monday AM (10/15) a gale developed under New Zealand with 45 kt south-southwest winds at 58S 177E in the HI and CA swell windows. Seas were building from 30 ft over an tiny area at 58S 177E. In the evening fetch peaked at 45-50 kts (minimal storm status) with seas reaching 36 ft at 53S 178W (pushing right up the 210 degree path to CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and aimed a bit east of the 192 degree path to Hawaii. Fetch was effectively gone Tues AM (10/16) at barely 40 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 50S 170W (208 degs CA and shadowed, 188 degs HI).
Expect swell arrival on Hawaii on Monday (10/22) before sunrise building through the day, reaching 2.3 ft @ 17 secs late (4 ft faces). Swell to continue Tues AM (10/23) peaking at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft faces) early, then settling down through the day with period dropping to 15 secs. Swell continuing Wed (10/24) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out late Thurs.
Expect swell arrival in California on Wed (10/24) with pure swell building to 1.3 ft @ 18 secs late (2.0-2.5 ft) and very inconsistent. Swell peaking Thurs AM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Long waits between sets. Swell Direction: 208-210 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 remain locked over the Western Gulf of Alaska into Tues (10/23) continuing a pressure gradient with a small pocket of low pressure dropping south off the Canadian coast producing northwesterly winds at 20-25 kts and seas to 13 ft targeting the California coast. Only weak local windswell to result. This system is to be more of a local weather producer for California with rain, southerly winds and cooler temperature expected if one is to believe the models.
There's some suggestions remnants of the tropical system off Japan and a backdoor low currently developing north of Hawaii are to merge over the northern dateline late Mon (10/22) falling southeast with winds to 30 kts maybe pushing 35-40 kts Wed-Thurs (10/25) generating a tiny area of 24-26 ft seas Thurs AM at 37N 160W and falling south targeting Hawaii well. Something to monitor.
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 Thursday (10/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was not updated since 10/11 (we'll write the site owners shortly to alert them of the problem). At that time it was 23.14. The 30 day average was up some at 2.17 with the 90 day average up to -0.88. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest east anomalies had developed over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with near neutral anomalies on the dateline and the rest of the way across the equatorial Pacific into Central America. A week from now (10/26) weak west anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent tracking to the dateline then turning neutral except stronger west off Central America. This suggests that the Active Phase of the MJO continues pushing east with the Inactive Phase building in the West. We had a good long run of the Active Phase (since at least 9/1) but it was over starting about 10/16.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/17 are in agreement suggesting a moderate version of the Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 2 weeks and nearly gone by 11/1 while the dynamic model remains far more aggressive with a full strong Inactive Phase continuing 2 weeks from now. That remains unrealistic as of right now. But if it does develop it will fully signal the death of any form of El Nino this season (as if it isn't already technically dead) .
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A warm pool that built and peaked off Ecuador 7/2 fed my multiple Kelvin Waves earlier has been steadily loosing ground, but is not gone. That said - pulses of cooler than normal water continue tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/18) signaling it's demise. a near neutral water temp pattern is taking shape. 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. It should help to replenish the warm water pool sometime in October, but nowhere near the levels it was in July. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event 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 before finally dissipating on 10/9. The resulting Kelvin Wave is to provide reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). This Kelvin Wave is evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline as of 10/18 at 175W, but not as strong as even a week earlier. At best it will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests that El Nino is not forming, but instead is dissipating. Latest projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development either but rather a return to a neutral state by November with -0.25 deg C water temps by Jan into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013.
At this time there is only limited atmospheric evidence of a 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. We believe we're in a hybrid atmospheric state with the trend shifting more towards the normal category. The atmosphere is like a big ship, it takes a long time and alot of energy to turn. The good news is there is confirmed evidence of tropical systems recurving northeast and migrating to the dateline. This suggest La Nina is dissipating.
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). We think we are in a slowly building multi-year pattern that will culminate with a real El Nino 2 or more years beyond.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
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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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:
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table