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 (11/21) North and Central CA surf was up some at waist to chest high with bigger sets and almost clean surface conditions but with lots of underlying warble. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat and clean but warbled. In Southern California up north surf was flat and textured with north winds in effect. Down south waves were knee high and chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was chest to head high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. Exposed breaks on the East Shore had northeast windswell at waist high and lightly textured.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific the first faint signs of recovery from a massive high pressure outbreak that started over a week earlier were starting to develop. A weak low pressure system was north of Hawaii producing 16-17 ft seas aimed somewhat at the Islands Thurs (11/21) while high pressure was ridging into Washington generating a local gradient over Cape Mendocino CA resulting in 35 kt north winds and 18 ft seas, producing windswell that was moving into Central CA. Nothing remarkable though. Another small low is to try and develop over the Northern Dateline region Friday into the early weekend perhaps generating a tiny area of 24 ft seas aimed due east, but never really getting much coverage. Perhaps some swell for the US West Coast to result. Perhaps remnants of that low are to redevelop in the Gulf on Tues (11/26) producing 22 ft seas targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, but again unremarkable. And by Wednesday (11/27) a stronger gale is projected north of Hawaii producing 35+ ft seas aimed east, but for now consider that only model induced hype. Still, maybe there it will produce something to be 'thankful' for.
Note: NDBC has issued a schedule to start repairing buoys as of 11/12/13. Unfortunately no buoys of interest to California are scheduled through September 2014. Hawaiian buoys are set for maintenance in April 2014.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/21) the jetstream was gently ridging east-northeast off Japan starting down at 30N with winds building to 150 kts just west of the dateline, then falling weakly into a trough that bottomed out 900 nmiles north of Hawaii, but with no wind energy associated with it. No real support for gale development was indicated. Any signs of the big ridge from last week are all but gone. The jet ridged hard north but with no wind energy associated with it up into the Canadian coast, then fell south along the US West Coast before pushing inland near Pt Conception only ushering in slightly cooler air there. Over the next 72 hours the ridge west of the dateline and associated trough east of there are to ease east positioned mid-way between Hawaii and Washington on Sunday (11/24) and pinching off with the pocket of 150 kt winds holding together decently until that time, then faltering, down to 130 kts. Minimal support for gale development in that trough. East of there the jet is to split putting the US West Coast is the calm spot between the flows. Beyond 72 hours a new trough is to develop on the dateline Mon-Tues (11/26) with 130 kt winds flowing into it. Though not strong, those winds are to nearly double back on themselves creating a good vortex to support gale development. That trough is to slowly ease northeast into Thurs (11/28) before fading out while a new plume of 170 kts winds start pushing off Japan but ridging a bit northeast. Too early to tell what will come of this, if it even develops.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/21) weak low pressure was over the Western Gulf, with high pressure tracking into Washington and British Columbia. A very weak low was over the Kuril Islands. No swell of interest was being generated. Small windswell was starting to build in Central CA and small northerly swell is tracking towards Hawaii (see 'Previous' section below).
Over the next 72 hours there's suggestions of another weak gale is to develop just west of the Northern Dateline region on Fri AM (11/22) producing 40 kt northwest winds with seas building, and winds holding in the evening with seas building to 22 ft at 45N 180W targeting midway between Hawaii and the US West Coast (328 degs HI). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Sat AM (11/23) aimed due east with seas peaking at 24 ft seas at 46N 177W over a tiny area aimed east (299 degs NCal). The low is to continue tracking east Sat evening with winds fading from 30 kts and seas dropping to 22 ft 46N 172W (298 degs NCal). into Monday (11/25) reaching the Western Gulf with 25-30 kt west winds and 17 ft seas near 47N 168W, then dissipating.
Maybe swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast with luck
On Tuesday evening (11/19) low pressure developed just east of the dateline producing a small area of north winds in the lows west quadrant building barely to 35 kts holding into Wed AM (11/20) generating 16-17 ft seas at 45N 178W and 30 kt north winds holding to Thurs AM with 17 ft seas at 44N 172W all aimed decently at Hawaii down the 335-338 degs paths. The low is to be fading fast Thurs PM (11/21) with no swell generation potential expected.
This is to be good for maybe tiny windswell for Hawaii starting late Sat at 3 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft) peaking Sun AM (11/24) at 4 ft @ 11 secs (4.5 ft). from 340 degrees.
Also north winds built Wed (11/20) in association with high pressure building into Washington generating 17 ft seas Thurs AM just off Cape Mendocino CA per the model, but confirmed by the Jason-2 satellite at 20 ft with one reading to 25 ft (yes - we have Jason satellite data again!), but faltering with winds fading and falling south and seas fading to 16 ft well off San Francisco late. Windswell arrived in Central CA on Thursday (11/21) and is to be fading from 4.5 ft @ 9-10 secs (4 ft) from 315+ degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/21) north winds were in control over North CA at 30+ kts, but offshore relative to Central CA. A modest onshore flow was in control of Southern CA. A surprising amount of rain fell in the SF Bay Area from the front that pushed through on Tues-Wed, anywhere from 1.25-1.5 inches. 8-10 inches of snow to for Tahoe. Friday a light offshore wind flow is forecast everywhere, stronger in the mornings near canyons. Light offshores continue Saturday then calm Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. A low is to move in from the west on Wednesday with south winds building to 15 kts down to Pt Conception late and rain down to nearly Pt Conception late. The core of the low is to move right over the Pt Arena to SF area coast Thursday evening with rain continuing and snow for the Sierra through the day into the evening. If this were to occur, it would mark a significant change in the pattern so far this year.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were in play. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
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 remnants from low pressure crossing the dateline are to redevelop 900 nmiles north of Hawaii Sun PM (11/24) generating 30 kt northwest to west winds and lifting gently northeast. By Monday PM (11/25) winds are to build to 35 kts over a tiny area pushing 40+ kts Tues AM (11/26) with a tiny area of 20 ft seas at 45N 148W. 35-40 kt westerly fetch to hold in that area into the evening allowing those winds to get better traction on the oceans surface with 22 ft seas building at 45N 147W targeting Oregon down into Central CA (298 degs NCal), then dissipating 12 hours later. Possible small 13 sec period swell for the US West Coast.
Of more interest is a broader gale forecast developing 1300 northwest of Hawaii Tues PM (11/26) with 30-35 northwest winds starting to get decent traction and seas on the increase. On Wed AM (11/27) the low to rapidly deepen with pressure to 964 mbs and 50 kt northwest to west winds building generating seas of 32 ft at 42N 168W (338 degs HI, 292 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds to hold into the evening with seas peaking at 37 ft at 42N 164W (291 degs NCal) but mostly bypassing HI to the east. 35-40 kt west winds to be fading Thurs AM (11/28) in the Southwestern Gulf with seas dropping from 31 ft at 41N 160W (287 degs NCal). Winds fading from 30 kts over a broadish area in the evening with seas dropping from 24 ft at 42N 158W. At this time this is all a fantasy of the model, but bears watching, especially considering how flat it's been.
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 (11/21) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 15.33. The 30 day average was up some at -1.38 and the 90 day average up to 1.76. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO but rising towards Inactive Phase territory. The longer term pattern was near neutral and slightly rising. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest east anomalies over the Western Maritime Continent weakening and turning neutral before and on the dateline then returning to easterly anomalies south of Hawaii before turning weakly westerly pushing on into Central America. A week from now (11/29) very weak east anomalies are forecast over the far Western Maritime Continent turning neutral well before the dateline only to return weakly easterly south of Hawaii, then turning neutral and holding on into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific and appears to be dying, and nearly gone a week out. This should continue to hamper storm development in the North Pacific, but progressively less over the week long window.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/20 are in-sync. Initially both models suggest a dead neutral MJO pattern was in control over the West Pacific. Both suggest a weak Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean 4-5 days out with it moving into the extreme West Pacific 8-12 days out but not getting much traction, possibly starting to fade 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 11/21 suggests the same with the Inactive Phase currently over the East Pacific and fading while tracking east while a modest Active Phase already is building in the far West Pacific forecast to moderate while tracking east reaching the dateline 12/1 and then into the East Pacific around 12/18. This might help fuel the NPac storm track a little. A weak Inactive Phase to follow pushing into the West Pacific around 12/11 moving into the East Pacific 12/31 with yet another Active Phase building behind. 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 (11/21) a neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines. A weak tongue of warmer than normal water started developing over the East Pacific mid-October in sync with a building Active Phase of the MJO. But starting 11/11 through the present some slight erosion of this warm pool has occurred due to slightly cooler waters streaming off Peru, likely attributable to the current Inactive Phase of the MJO. Of note, a small pocket of warmer water is present in the latest imagery over Southern Peru. Maybe this is a good sign. Water temps off West Africa remain slightly warm. The North Pacific plume of slightly cooler than normal water tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California remains modest. The wall of warmer than normal water that was holding just off the North CA coast moved east impacting extreme North CA but quickly retreated with cooler waters still setting up along the North CA coast. This is result of high pressure, north winds and cool water upwelling locally. Still, thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. High pressure remains off CA, with water temps holding in the cool range, but there's some indication that may be breaking down. So there's neutral to warm water over the balance of the North Pacific (which is to good news). Still there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. In short, we're in a pure neutral pattern. It will take 3 months from the time it developed (mid-Sept) till anything manifests in the upper atmosphere (mid-Dec).
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a large pocket of warm water 2 degs C above normal is down at 150 meters and has been moving from just west of the dateline (170E) to the dateline (180W) and now with it's leading edge to 140W and tracking east while holding together nicely. And a smaller pocket of 2 deg warmer water has developed 70 meters down off Central America. NOAA is calling the larger warm pool an eastward moving Kelvin Wave, though there is doubt as to how far east it will actually travel while remaining cohesive. It would be great to have it remain intact and impact to Ecuador, but we're not holding our breath. Will monitor.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 11/21 have retreated some. The model previously had suggested rapid warming starting March 2014 building to +1.0 deg C by late July 2014. But the recent run has backed off with warming expected only to +0.5 deg C by Aug 2014. Will believe it when it happens. But for the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering near neutral (0.0 deg C). A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
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 models. Other models suggest a continuation of neutral conditions, though trending warmer. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 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 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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Epic TV goes to Rapa Nui and scores. Nice Stormsurf plug too: Rapa Nui
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