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 (12/10) North and Central CA surf was chest to head high on the sets and clean but cold with brisk offshore winds. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean and weak. In Southern California up north surf was knee to thigh high and clean but weak. Down south waves were up to waist high on the sets and pretty torn up with north sideshore wind in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was 2-3 ft overhead and clean and lined up with trades in effect. Nice looking swell. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting wrap around energy at head high and pretty trashed from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from a gale that circulated north of the Islands in the Western Gulf starting Thurs (12/5) producing 22-24 ft seas initially and up to 30 ft seas by Sat (12/7) before fading is hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast but is on the way down in both locales. Residuals of this system redeveloped well off Oregon on Mon-Wed (12/11) with seas in the 20-21 ft range offering some weak but direct energy for California for later in the week into the weekend. A stronger gale is forecast developing on the dateline Wed-Thus falling towards Hawaii with on Fri-Sat (12/14) with a tiny area of 34 ft seas, then lifting northeast and redeveloping Thurs-Fri (12/13) with a tiny area of 39 ft seas forecast aimed well east. Swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast. And long term a very broad gale is forecast developing in the far West Pacific early next week with 28 ft seas projected. It almost looks like winter is finally starting to take root.
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. TOA Array (El Nino Monitoring) 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 (12/10) the jetstream was weak and aimless. It was trying to develop over South Japan with winds to 150 kts but that energy was making zero headway into the West Pacific. Instead the flow dissolved west of there with the jet trying to split and energy starting to track north up the Kuril Islands with the balance of the energy tracking east to the dateline, falling into a very weak trough there, then meandering northeast. That energy formed a weak trough in the Gulf with 110 kt winds flowing into it then ridged up into the Canadian Maritimes before falling south down the US Coast and falling into a backdoor trough off Central CA before pushing inland over Central Baja. Weak support for gale development in both the dateline and Gulf troughs. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of energy pushing north over Japan is to blast northward and dissipate leaving a well formed stream of 170 kt winds pushing east from Japan reaching almost to the dateline. The two little troughs mentioned above are to hold their own, with the Gulf trough lasting till late Wednesday before moving inland over Canada and the dateline trough actually getting better organized into late Thursday (12/12) before racing off to the northeast. Some support for gale development in each. Beyond 72 hours a far more cohesive flow is to be in effect by Sun (12/15) with 180 kt winds streaming off Japan reaching to the dateline and beyond, then splitting northwest of Hawaii with then northern branch lifting due north then turning hard east pushing into British Columbia with the southern branch drifting over Hawaii then southeast to the equator. A bit of a trough is to start building just east of North Japan with piles of wind energy to tap into. The jet is to continue building with the trough pushing east to the dateline on Tues (12/17) with 190 kt feeding it and a good upper circulation developing. Great support for gale development indicated with the split flow continues in the east ushering in a weak high pressure regime centered just northeast of Hawaii.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (12/10) swell from the second part of a gale that circulated north of the Islands was hitting Hawaii and heading down while swell from the early part of the gale (the only part aimed at the US West Coast) was slowly fading. High pressure at 1032 mbs was just off Oregon pushing inland and setting up a cold offshore flow for California. A weak gale was circulating in the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below) while a new gale was building over the southern dateline (see Dateline Gale below). And yet a third gale was over Northern Japan, land-locked and not of interest. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf and Dateline gales are to be the only systems of interest.
A small gale developed north of Hawaii on Mon AM (12/9) lifting northeast with a small area of 35 kt west winds and seas on the increase. In the evening west-northwest winds were up to 40 kt with seas building to 20 ft at 42N 159W (287 degs NCal). By Tues AM (12/10) 35 kt west winds were fading with seas holding at 20 ft over a modest sized area 42N 154W (290 degs NCal). By evening winds to be holding at 35 kts out of the west-northwest but retrograding west some with seas 20 ft at 45N 157W (296 degs NCal). The gale to be lifting northeast and fading Wed AM (12/11) with 35 kt winds in the Northern Gulf and seas 20 ft at 47N 156W (302 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening with 20 ft seas fading at 47N 148W (306 degs NCal). This system to be gone after that.
At this time some degree of limited 13-14 secs period swell looks likely for the US West Coat late in the week. No energy was aimed into the Hawaiian swell window.
NCal: Expect swell arrival late on Thurs (12/12) with period 14 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell to peak on Fri (12/13) mid-day at 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft faces).A second pulse to hit on Saturday (12/14) at 4.8 ft @ 13 secs early (6 ft faces) then fading from there. Swell Direction: 287-290 degs first pulse, 296+ degrees second pulse
On Tuesday (12/10) a gale was starting to build on the dateline and positioned well south of normal. No fetch was aimed at Hawaii or the US West Coast. The gale is to lift gently northeast and build, with a solid fetch of 45 kt north-northwest winds forecast in it's west quadrant Wed PM (12/11) with a tiny area of 30 ft seas forecast at 38N 176W (323 degs HI). By Thurs AM (12/12) the gale is to lift gently northeast winds 40-45 kt northwest winds holding aimed well at Hawaii with seas to 30 ft at 35N 171w falling southeast towards the Islands down the 322 degs great circle path. In the evening 45 kt west winds to building into the gales south quadrant aimed almost exclusively at the US West Coast with seas rebuilding to 36 ft at 40N 167W (289 degs NCal). By Fri AM (12/13) 40 kt west winds to be fading in the gales south quadrant with the gale tracking northeast with seas fading from 37 ft at 42N 160W (291 degs NCal) and actually up to 39 ft for a few hours at 18Z at 41N 163W. Friday evening winds to be fading from 35 kts in the Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 154W. On Sat AM (12/14) interestingly 40 kt west winds to rebuild in the gales south quadrant in the Northern Gulf with seas 28 ft at 50N 148W targeting only north Oregon northward. By the evening this gale is to be pushing onshore over North Canada.
If all goes as forecast a nice little shot of swell could result for Hawaii from the initial push of this gale, with additional swell pushing towards California from the second pulse of the gale, and yet a third pulse for the Pacific Northwest. All this assumes the storm progresses as forecast. Certainly something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/10) high pressure at 1034 mbs was just off Oregon and ridging inland there setting up a cold offshore flow for the entire California coast. A light northerly flow to possibly develop on Wed late then collapsing back to calm for Thursday. Friday a light northwest flow is forecast early building to 15 kts late and 15 kts all day over Cape Mendocino. Light winds early Saturday but north 15 kts over outer waters later and all day over Cape Mendocino. A bit of a gradient is forecast over Cape Mendocino on Monday with north winds 20+ kts, but light to calm from Pt Arena southward. The same continuing on Tues (12/17)( but with somewhat lighter winds over North CA. No precipitation is forecast for the next week. Snow wise, coastal British Columbia is the call.
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 a broad gale is to start building east of the Northern Japan on Sun (12/15) with winds building from 35 kts. Fetch is to continue to build Monday with pockets in the 35-40 kt range, but not continuous. Seas to 28 ft late down at 34N 163E targeting Hawaii. Finally on Tues (12/17) a more normal looking fetch of 40 kt northwest winds is forecast building of Japan with the gale effectively filling the West Pacific. Seas building to 28 ft over a broad area at 34N 165E (298 degs HI) with more likely building in behind. This is still a very long ways from occurring, but it's a nice tease on the models. Certainly some thing 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 Tuesday (12/10) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 14.43. The 30 day average was up to at 6.62 and the 90 day average was falling from 3.64. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was just above neutral territory suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO also. 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 moderate east anomalies building over the Maritime Continent and dateline continuing south of Hawaii then fading to neutral from there into Central America. A week from now (12/18) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline dateline and holding south of Hawaii progressing a bit east of there before turning neutral and holding that way into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific and is building about as suggested by previous projections from the dynamic model.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/9 are nearing consensus. Both models suggest a modest Inactive Phase was established over the West Pacific centered near the dateline. The statistic model suggests this pattern is slowly dissipate over the next 15 days with the Inactive Phase fading and tracking east while the Active Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean into the far West Pacific 8 days out and takes over 15 days out. The dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is peaking on the dateline now and is to slowly fade, but is to give up no ground, instead fading on the dateline and keeping the Active Phase bottled up in the Indian Ocean for the next 15 days. This would be bad if it were to occur. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/8 suggests only weak support for the Inactive Phase currently, and that is to fade with a weak Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 12/16 and slowly tracking east into Jan 2 moving over the East Pacific at that time. In parallel a new weak Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Jan 7 easing east. 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 (12/9) a completely neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines if not biased on the warm side of neutral (+0.25 degs C). This is the best we've seen in quite a while. 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 has stopped and a neutral to warmish pattern started setting up in Dec. A building pocket of warmer water is over Chile and Southern Peru and is building north, almost covering all of Peru and Ecuador, a good sign. Water temps off West Africa remain slightly warm. The California cool plume 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 yet, but certainly there's no troubling cool water on the charts and if anything, warm water is getting the upper hand. 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) then to the Central Pacific 140W and now to the East Pacific (110 W). temp are up to +3.0 deg C too. NOAA is calling this an eastward moving Kelvin Wave. Today's chart indicates 3+ deg C waters are positioned 100 meters down at 110W, suggesting the Kevin Wave has crossed the dead spot in the East Pacific sensor array and the warm pocket is in-fact still coherent and pushing east. This is great news. The expectation is it will now impact Ecuador and provide slight warming to the already warming surface warm pool near the Galapagos (a good thing) over the next 30-45 days. The hope is this will add some fuel to the jetstream.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 12/10 remains 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 +0.6 deg C by Aug 2014. For the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering near 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 Summer 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 Updated 12/4/13
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