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 (12/12) North and Central CA surf was knee to thigh high and clean and lined up, but just too darn small. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high and beautifully clean and sunny, but again, too small. In Southern California up north surf was knee high and lightly textured, and weak. Down south waves were up to waist high but heavily textured and not looking very rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was head high on the sets, sheet glass and looking very inviting. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting easterly windswell at shoulder high and bumpy from onshore winds (trades).
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific residuals of a gale previously north of Hawaii redeveloped well off Oregon on Mon-Wed (12/11) with seas in the 20-22 ft range offering some weak but direct energy for California for the Fri-Sat (12/14) timeframe. A stronger gale developed on the dateline Wed-Thurs AM (12/12) falling towards Hawaii with up to 37 ft seas, then turning it's energy east Thurs-Fri (12/13) expected to produce a tiny area of 34-38 ft seas, aimed well at California up into Oregon. Swell is in the water pushing towards Hawaii and is starting to be produced targeting the US West Coast. And long term a large gale remains forecast in the far West Pacific Mon-Tues (12/17) with up to 45 ft seas projected but targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. And more possible behind that - fingers crossed.
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 Thursday (12/12) the jetstream was mostly weak but starting to show signs of life in that 160 kts winds were building in the main flow pushing flat off Japan. Some energy split off that pocket heading north towards the Bering Sea with the bulk of the energy tracking southeast and falling into a weak trough on the dateline, much as it has for weeks now. On the dateline the jet split with most energy tracking northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska with a little trough embedded in that flow supported by 110 kt winds, before turning east and splitting again with most energy pushing into the Pacific Northwest coast with secondary energy into Baja. In all no real support for gale development was obvious. That said, there was in-fact a gale actually in-play at the surface in the trough bound for the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to hold weakly into Friday (12/13) then dissipate. At that time the pocket of energy pushing off Japan is to push solidly east reaching the dateline with 170 kt winds at it's core and no energy peeling off to the north. A consolidated jet is to be in-play finally. The jet is to split east of there. A far more cohesive flow is to be in effect by Sun (12/15) with 190 kt winds streaming off Japan reaching to the dateline and beyond, then splitting just 700 nmiles 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 lots of wind energy to tap into. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue building with 210 kt winds feeding into a building trough on Monday with that trough pushing east to the dateline by Tues-Wed (12/18) with 180 kt wind still feeding it and a good upper circulation developing. Great support for gale development indicated with the split fading in the east and instead a huge ridge is to build pushing up to North Canada, with the main flow then turning hard south and pushing down the Canadian coast Wednesday and reaching California on Thurs (12/19) with a little backdoor front pushing down the coast. Continued support for gale development in the dateline trough possible. This pattern should support low pressure in the West Pacific and high pressure in the East.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (12/12) a solid gale was circulating northwest of Hawaii lifting slowly east-northeast (see Dateline Gale below). Swell from a previous weak gale in the Gulf of Alaska has produced small swell pushing towards the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below). Otherwise weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was just off Central CA providing clear skies, cool temps and a light offshore flow for Central CA. Over the next 72 hours the Dateline gale is to be the primary system of interest, though a new broad but ill defined gale is to start developing off North Japan on Sun (12/15). See longterm forecast for details.
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 46N 155W (297 degs NCal). Fetch was fading in the evening with 20 ft seas fading at 47N 149W (306 degs NCal). This system was 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) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area then fading from there. Swell Direction: 287-290 degs first pulse, 296+ degrees second pulse. Residual fading on Sunday (12/15) from 4 ft @ 10-11 secs (4 ft).
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 lifted gently northeast and built with 35-40 kt north winds developing aimed due south on the dateline Wed AM (12/11) with seas on the increase. In the evening a solid fetch of 45 kt north-northwest winds were in the gales west quadrant with 29 ft seas building at 38N 176W (323 degs HI). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the fetches north quadrant and confirmed seas at 27.8 ft with a peak reading to 31.2 ft where the model suggested 27 ft seas. The model was right on the money. On Thurs AM (12/12) the gale was lifting gently northeast with 45 kt northwest winds turning more to pure west winds aimed both at Hawaii and the US West Coast with seas to 37 ft at 37.5N 170W (330 degs HI, 286 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite made a passover the extreme eastern edge of this system and reported seas of 22.3 ft with one reading to 24.9 ft where the model suggested 23 ft seas. The model was on track. In the evening 40-45 kt west winds to hold in the gales south quadrant aimed exclusively at the US West Coast with seas fading as the fetch regroups to 34 ft at 40N 162W (287 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). By Fri AM (12/13) a small fetch of 45 kt west winds are to be fading in the gales south quadrant with the gale tracking northeast with seas fading from 38 ft at 41N 163W (287 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Friday evening winds to be fading from 35 kts in the Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 32 ft at 43N 156W (293 degs NCal). On Sat AM (12/14) this system is to be gone.
A solid shot of swell is already in the water heading towards Hawaii from the initial push of this gale. Swell relative to California from the second pulse of this gale is still undetermined, as the system is still evolving. A rough estimate is provided below for planning purpose though. All this assumes the storm progresses as forecast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri late afternoon evening (12/13) with swell reaching 8 ft @ 17 secs at sunset (13-14 ft Hawaiian). Swell to peak near 11 PM HST and then holding into Sat AM (12/14). Swell 9 ft @ 15-16 secs at sunrise (14 ft Hawaiian) then slowly easing through the day, but still solid with period 15 secs at sunset. Swell fading from 6.6 ft @ 14 secs Sun AM (9 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 321-326 degrees with some energy to 330 degrees
NCal: Rough data based mostly on the models suggests swell arrival late Sunday (12/15) with period 18 secs and size building overnight, peaking near 11 PM at 7.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (13 ft) and holding into Monday sunrise (12/16) with period 16 secs, then slowly fading through the day with swell dropping to 7 ft @ 15 secs late (10-11 ft). Swell Direction: 286-293 degrees
Southern CA: Rough data base mostly on the models suggests swell late Sunday evening and solid by Monday AM (12/16) pushing 3 ft @ 17 secs mid-day (5 ft faces) with period still 16 secs and sunset. Swell fading Tues (12/17) from 2.7 ft @ 14 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 291-294 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 (12/12) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was just off California with low pressure over the Canadian Maritimes. A weak wind pattern was in play for the entire California Coast. 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. Sunday a light offshore flow is forecast with high pressure starting to push inland over Oregon. A bit of a gradient is forecast over Cape Mendocino on Monday with north-northeast winds 20+ kts, but light to calm from Pt Arena southward. The same continuing on Tues and Wed (12/18). But by Thurs (12/19) high pressure is to build strong in the Gulf at 1034 mbs with low pressure inland setting up a local pressure gradient with 35 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendo and pushing southward to Pt Conception down to 20 kts though. There's a hint of light precipitation for Southern CA ahead of the gradient on Thurs (12/19).
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 remains forecast to build east of the Northern Japan on Sun (12/15) with winds in the 35-40 kt range streaming east off Japan to almost the dateline late. Sea building to 25 ft at 33N 160E targeting Hawaii. Fetch is to continue to build Monday with pockets in the 35-40 kt range pushing up to 50 kts in the evening aimed east. Seas to 34 ft down at 30-36N 164E targeting Hawaii. 50-55 kt west winds are forecast overnight settling from 45 kts Tues AM (12/17) over a solid area with 45 ft seas projected at 34N 170E (299 degs HI and not shadowed by Kauai relative to Oahu, 289 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal). By evening the gale is to be fading with fetch dropping from 40 kts and seas 41 ft at 34N 178E (306 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). Fetch fading Wed AM (12/18) on the dateline from 30 kts with seas fading from 33 ft at 35N 177W (310 degs HI and only 1200 nmiles out, 284 degs NCal). This system to begone by the evening. This storm is still a very long ways from forming, and the models will undoubtably downgrade as we get closer to it's formation (assuming it even forms at all). Still, it's fun to dream. Certainly 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 (12/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -2.39. The 30 day average was up to at 6.71 and the 90 day average was falling from 3.22. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a very 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 modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading towards the dateline and neutral south of Hawaii only rebuilding to easterly anomalies between there and Central America. A week from now (12/20) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline and holding neutral south of Hawaii on into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific and is likely maxed out, and is to be slowly fading some a week out (per the dynamic model).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/11 are nearing consensus. Both models suggest a modest Inactive Phase was established over the West Pacific centered near the dateline. The statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to slowly dissipate while easing east over the next 15 days 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 to peak on the dateline 5 days out then quickly dissipate 8 days from now, 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. The Active Phase is to die there. This would be bad if it were to occur. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/12 suggests support for the Inactive Phase is all but gone, with a weak Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 12/18 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 and moving into the East Pacific 1/21. 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 (12/12) 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 continues 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 still 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. A week or more of offshore winds isn't helping either. 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 there are some interesting suggestions of such a pattern trying to develop. And 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 2-3 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 12/12 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 backed off with warming expected only to +0.7 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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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