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 (12/3) North and Central CA surf was shoulder high and a blown out mess with northwest wind on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was maybe thigh high on the sets and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down south waves were maybe waist high and pretty blown out. Hawaii's North Shore was head high on the sets at select locations and pristine clean and very fun looking. The South Shore was flat and clean. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting easterly windswell at shoulder high plus and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific high pressure was in control of California coastal waters with north winds and modest windswell the only expectation through the coming weekend. A very small gale developed 1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Mon (12/2) producing 22 ft seas aimed at the Islands for 24 hours, good for small swell starting late Wed (12/4). A broader gale is forecast for the Western Gulf on Thurs-Fri (12/6) with 32+ ft seas aimed better at the mainland than the Islands, and then things settling down. At least there's some activity in the forecast again.
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 Tuesday (12/3) the jetstream was pushing off Japan starting down at 28N with winds 150 kts streaming east, but with a small flow peeling off the main flow bound for the North Bering Sea. The main flow made it to the dateline and a then fell into a small trough before turning hard north and pushing up into the Eastern Bering Sea. Residual energy tracked east from there. All flows finally converged just off the coast of North California pushing inland. Only the little trough east of the dateline had any support for low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the trough east of the dateline is to hold if not build some Thurs (12/5) with up to 160 kt winds falling into it, then starting to weaken Friday and lift north. Good support for gale development possible. A big ridge is to build in the east tracking north from the eastern flank of the trough pushing up into Alaska and beyond, then falling back south along the US West Coast with a backdoor trough pushing south inland from Washington. Only the trough in the Western Gulf to provide any support for gale development while high pressure holds just off the US West Coast. Beyond 72 hours starting Sun (12/8) the jet is to split off the Kuril Islands with the northern branch tracking well up into the Bering Sea while the southern branch tracks east over the dateline forming a small cut-off trough north of Hawaii on Mon (12/9) but with no wind energy associated with it. Little support for gale development indicated and if anything, high pressure to take over the coveted dateline region.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (12/3) swell from a small gale that previously was on the dateline was pushing towards Hawaii (see Small Dateline Gale below). Remnants of the gale were still circulating 1000 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii. Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was off the US West Coast with low pressure falling south inland near Nevada making for a local pressure gradient and brisk north winds along the California coast. But over all, no solid swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours 20-25 kts north winds to persist along the Central and North CA coast through Wed (12/4) generating raw local windswell in California.
Of more interest is to be another weak gale (actually remnants of the Small Dateline Gale chronicled below) redeveloping 1100 nmiles north of Hawaii on Thurs AM (12/5). Pressure to be 996 mbs with 35 kt northwest winds building in it's west quadrant targeting Hawaii. Seas building. The fetch is to actually be lifting north while growing in coverage up to nearly 40 kts in the evening producing 22 ft seas at 40N 161W. By Fri AM (12/6) the fetch is to continue lifting north faster but with northwest winds now 45-50 kts and seas building from 26 ft at 43N 162W (355 degs HI, 292 degs NCal). The low to start fading Fri PM but still with 45-50 kt northwest winds in the Western Gulf and retrograding slowly west but covering less area producing 32 ft seas at 44N 165W (347 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Fetch is to hold position Sat AM (12/7) but winds fading from 40 kts aimed due south with seas fading from 31 ft at 43N 167W (343 degs HI). fetch is to fade in the evening from 35 kts with residual 24 ft seas at 43N 165W (347 degs HI, not really aimed at NCal up the 294 degs path).
Assuming all the plays out as forecast some degree of solid 17 sec period swell could be expected for Hawaii with smaller sideband energy from CA. Something to monitor.
Small Dateline Gale
A small low developed on the dateline Sun (12/1) producing a tiny area of 35-40 kt northwest winds in the evening with seas building from 22 ft over a pinpoint sized area at 38N 177W. 35-40 kt west winds moved into the gales southern quadrant Mon AM (12/2) generating 20 ft seas at 38N 172W. Fetch held at 35-40 kts in the evening with 22 ft seas moving to 38N 171W, then fading. 30 kt west winds were fading Tues AM (12/3) with seas dropping from 22 ft at 37N 169W.
Hawaii: Some small 12 sec period swell to result for Hawaii Wed afternoon (12/4) at 3.5 ft @ 12 secs (4 ft faces) then building overnight. Swell to peak Thurs AM (12/5) at 5.4 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces) holding pretty well through the day. Residuals on Fri (12/6) fading from 3.6 ft @ 11 secs (4 ft faces). Swell Direction: 320 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/3) high pressure up to 1038 mbs was in the Gulf of Alaska ridging southeast into the California coast with low pressure inland generating a pressure gradient and north winds at 20+ kts over most of North and Central CA. Modest snow was falling over Tahoe with 5-6 inches forecast. The north wind gradient is to pushing over the Channel Islands and into Southern CA in the evening. 20 kt north winds are forecast over outer waters on Wed (12/4) but light if not offshore for nearshore waters of Central CA. Thursday north winds forecast at 20 kts off the North and Central coast and lighter nearshore if not offshore for Central CA. 10 kt north winds expected Friday as another low builds over Oregon with high pressure holding strong off the coast. Saturday another local gradient to set up with north winds 25+ kts for all of North and Central CA as the low falls south but by Sunday that is to quickly fade with a light offshore flow possible early mainly for Central CA. A light offshore flow is forecast for the whole state Mon into early Tuesday (12/10).
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 high pressure is to set up off Oregon ridging inland on Mon (12/9) possibly setting up an offshore flow for CA. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest 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 Tuesday (12/3) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -10.69. The 30 day average was well up into positive territory at 8.77 and the 90 day average up to 4.64. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a Inactive Phase of the MJO and rising. The longer term pattern was rising above neutral territory. 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 light to modest east anomalies 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 (12/11) 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, and according to the dynamic model, is to hold or build over the West Pacific a week out.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/2 are mixed. Both models suggest a moderate Inactive Phase was established over the West Pacific. The statistic model suggests this pattern is quickly dissipate 4 days out and remain unchanged for the next 2 weeks. But the dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to hold and track east 4 days out, and strengthen 8 days out on the dateline then slowly starting to dissipate while pushing east 15 days out. This is the strongest MJO forecast we've seen for a few years. At the same time a building Active Phase of the MJO is to follow behind. If this were to occur, it would signal a significant departure from almost 2 years of weak MJO activity. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/3 suggests the Inactive Phase was tracking over the West Pacific and is to be exiting over the East Pacific by 12/18. At that time a weak Active Phase is to then start building over the West Pacific reaching the dateline 12/28 and slowly easing east into Jan 12. The upper level model appears to support the short term dynamic models view of the MJO. 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 (12/2) a completely neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines if not biased on the warm side of neutral. 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. Some slight erosion occurred thereafter, but that has stopped and a warmish pattern persist. A small pocket of warmer water previously developing over Southern Peru has moderated. 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 just off the North CA coast remains displaced west, held off by high pressure and local upwelling. Still, thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. In short, there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. We remain in a pure neutral pattern (as neutral as it can get). It will take 3 months from the time the cool eddy ended off the Galapagos 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. 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. If anything it appears to be retrograding west. It would be great to have it remain intact and impact to Ecuador, but we're not holding our breath due to the retrograde. But that could just as easily 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 12/3 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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table