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 Saturday (11/30) North and Central CA surf was estimated at head high and clean but totally fogged in. Down in Santa Cruz surf was a very warbled waist high and foggy. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and very clean and lined up, when it came. Down south waves were waist high and clean but soft. Hawaii's North Shore was much smaller than the day before with waves 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting easterly windswell at shoulder high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from a broad gale that formed just east of the dateline on Wednesday (11/27) is already fading in the Islands and pushing towards the US West Coast. After that a much weaker storm pattern is to take over. High pressure and local windswell is the only expectation for California on Tues-Thurs (12/5). A series of very small gales are forecast developing 1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Mon (12/2), Thurs (12/5) and then again maybe Sat (12/7) generating only 20 ft seas over a small footprint perhaps resulting in small swell for the Islands, but next to nothing for the US West Coast. In short, back to the pattern we were in prior to the Thanksgiving swell cycle.
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 Saturday (11/30) the jetstream was pushing off Japan down at 30N with winds 130 kts and building to 150 kts on the dateline before diving hard south into a very steep and pinched trough. Limited support for gale development in that trough. The jet then ridged out of that trough northward before turning east and pushing flat into British Columbia. Also wind energy was peeling north off the main flow near the dateline tracking up into the Bering Sea with a return flow falling south and joining the main flow in the ridge off British Columbia. In all, there was good wind energy present, but not with any solid troughs to support gale development. Over the next 72 hours the trough east of the dateline is to totally pinch off and dissipate Monday leaving only a flat flow pushing off Japan reaching a point north of Hawaii, then splitting with the north stream tracking up into Alaska and the south stream heading towards the equator. A little weak trough is forecast just before the northern branch heads north offering only the smallest odds for low pressure development with only 140 kt winds feeding it. It to hold for 24 hours then dissipate. Beyond 72 hours another trough to form in the same position late on Wed (12/4) with 150 kt winds feeding it but again gone in 24 hours. And yet one more weak trough is forecast on Sat (12/7) on the dateline and looking even less organized that the previous ones. In short, just not alot of wind energy is forecast in the jet.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (11/30) swell from the Dateline Gale (details below) peaked in Hawaii on Fri (11/29) and was dropping off fast. It was also tracking towards the US West Coast. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. High pressure at 1032 mbs was building off North CA only setting up a weak offshore flow there and generating 15-20 kt trades just east of the Islands, with a front and small local low pressure system just northwest of Hawaii, but not strong enough to generate any fetch. A real weak pattern was in play. Over the next 72 hours a small low is to develop on the dateline Sun (12/1) producing a tiny area of 35 kt northwest winds in the evening with seas building. 35 kt west winds to move into the gale southern quadrant Mon AM (12/2) generating 20 ft seas at 38N 172W. Fetch to fade to 30 kts in the evening with 17 ft seas moving to 38N 170W, then fading. Maybe some small 12-13 sec period swell to result for Hawaii Wed afternoon (12/4) but peaking only in the 3.3 ft @ 12 sec range (3.5-4.0 ft faces) from 315 degrees. No other swell producing systems are forecast. Instead high pressure at 1028 mbs is to holding and push into the US West Coast generating 25 kt north winds and local windswell starting Tues (12/3) relative to North and Central CA, but with winds fading from barely 25 kts off North CA on Wed (12/4) and fading from 20 kts early Thurs (12/5).
Stronger Dateline Gale
Another somewhat broader gale developed northwest of Hawaii on Tuesday AM (11/26) with 45 kt west winds developing in its northern quadrant and poised to start wrapping around it's core. In the evening 45-50 kt northwest winds were in the gales west and southwest quadrants targeting Hawaii with seas on the increase from 32 ft at 40N 180W (319 degrees). On Wed AM (11/27) the gale had pressure at 976 mbs with 40 kt west and northwest winds holding in the gales west and southern quadrants aimed mostly due east generating seas of 36 ft at 38N 174W (326 degs HI, 288 degs NCal). 30-35 kt west and northwest winds were barely holding into the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 40N 167W (345 degs HI, 288 degs NCal) but mostly bypassing HI to the east. 30 kt west winds were fading Thurs AM (11/28) in the Southwestern Gulf with seas dropping from 23 ft at 40N 161W (286 degs NCal). This system is was gone by evening. Solid sideband swell resulted for Hawaii with smaller more groomed energy expected for the US West Coast.
NCal: Expect swell arrival late Saturday evening and getting sizable early Sunday AM (12/1) near 1 AM with period 18 secs. Swell to peak at about 5.2 ft @ 16 secs at sunrise (8 ft), and fading slowly from there. Swell Direction: 288 degrees
Southern CA: Small early arrives to start showing near sunrise Sun (12/1) with period 18 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to reach 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces) late. Swell Direction: 292 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/30) high pressure was in control off the California coast with just a leading edge of it touching extreme North CA producing north winds there at barely 20 kts. But from Pt Arena southward a calm wind pattern was in play. On Sunday more of the same is forecast, with even a slight northeasterly flow possible for Central CA down into Southern CA. But Monday north winds at 15 kts forecast for the North and Central Coasts building to Santa Barbara County late with high pressure off the coast and low pressure falling south inland. Light rain is forecast down to maybe Redding CA. Brisk north winds are forecast Tuesday at 25 kts for the entire North and Central coasts pushing over the Channel Islands and into southern CA later. Light snow possible for Tahoe. 20 kt north winds are forecast over outer waters on Wed (12/4) but light nearshore for Central and South CA. Thursday north winds forecast at 20 kts off the North and Central coast and lighter nearshore. 15 kt north winds continue Friday and Saturday for North and Central CA.
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 another weak gale is to try and develop on the dateline late Tuesday into Wednesday but never really organize till Thurs (12/5) 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii generating 35 kt north winds and a small area of 20 ft seas at 38N 168W. The fetch is to actually be lifting northeast with more 35 kt north winds holding into the evening producing more 20 ft seas at 40N 163W. By Fri AM (12/6) the fetch is to continue lifting north faster now with 18 ft seas at 40N 160W. the low to start fading Fri PM with 30 kt northwest winds in the Western Gulf producing 18 ft seas at 46N 161W, then dissipating. This would all be good for some degree of small swell for Hawaii if it were to materialize, and maybe even small swell for the US West Coast. Something to monitor. Also a tiny gael is forecast forming on Sat (12/7) 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii producing a tiny fetch of 40 kt northwest winds and 20 ft seas 33N 170W. Another thing to watch.
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 (11/30) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was still 20.74 (readings have not updated since Sun (11/24). The 30 day average was up into positive territory at 2.46 and the 90 day average up to 2.97. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a Inactive Phase of the MJO and rising. 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, so the move into positive readings is not unexpected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral to maybe just light east anomalies on one small pocket over the Maritime Continent weakening and turning pure neutral on the dateline continuing south of Hawaii and holding all the way into Central America. A week from now (12/7) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions weakening but still light easterly south of Hawaii. A neutral wind pattern is forecast from there into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific, but, according to the dynamic model, is to come back and take firm control of the West Pacific a week out.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/29 are really mixed. Both models suggest a weak Active Phase was trying to get established over the West Pacific. The statistic model suggests this pattern is to hold unchanged for the next 2 weeks. But the dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to rebuild 4 days out and be in firm control 10 and 15 days out while tracking east, while a stronger Active Phase builds in the East Indian Ocean. It's anyones guess what will really occur. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 11/30 suggests the Active Phase was already exiting over the East Pacific (as if it ever materialized in the West Pacific) and the Inactive Phase is building over the dateline, and forecast to track east into Dec 30. A very weak Active Phase is to then start building over the West Pacific 12/25 and slowly easing east into Jan 9. The upper level model appears to support the short term dynamic models view of the MJO. This is not good. 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 (11/28) a completely 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 11/21 some slight erosion of that pocket occurred due to slightly cooler waters advecting off Peru, likely attributable to the current Inactive Phase of the MJO. But as of 11/25, that erosion stopped and was all but dissipated with the 11/28 update. Also of note, a small pocket of warmer water was present 11/25 over Southern Peru and actually built some in the 11/28 image. 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 but in-place. 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 with no sign of it 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 (as neutral as it can get). It will take 3 months from the time the cool eddy ended and a fully neutral pattern developed (mid-Sept) till anything helpful to the jetstream 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) with it's leading edge to 140W and tracking east while holding together nicely. A smaller pocket of 2 deg warmer water that had developed 70 meters down off Central America has dissipated. 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 mainly because it has made no forward progress in 2 weeks. but that could be attributable to buoy problems in the TAO array over the East Pacific, so we have not written it off. Will monitor.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 11/29 remain stable. The model previously had suggested rapid warming starting March 2014 building to +1.0 deg C by late July 2014. But recent runs have backed off with warming expected only to +0.4 deg C by Aug 2014. 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