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 (12/19) North and Central CA surf was 2+ ft overhead and a windblown mess with brisk northwest winds and chopped. Down in Santa Cruz surf was shoulder high to a little overhead and relatively clean in comparison. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and sloppy with onshore winds and lightly chopped. Down south waves were up to chest high and pretty sectioned and lightly chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was thigh to maybe waist high and clean and weak, at least for now. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting east windswell at waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell was poised for Hawaii from a solid gale that developed in the far West Pacific Tues (12/17) with seas modeled to 42 ft targeting primarily the Islands with sideband energy expected for the US West Coast later in the weekend. And another smaller system is forecast tracking east from Japan Sat-Tues (12/24) with seas to 46 ft initially, but fading to the 32 ft range before reaching the dateline. Small but long period swell possible for all. Another small and weak gale is possible for the Northwestern Gulf later in the week with luck.
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 (12/19) the jetstream was tracking steady off Japan with 160 kt winds weakly falling into a trough on the dateline providing some support for gale development. The jet split east of there with most energy draining into the northern branch of the jet pushing hard north up into the Gulf of Alaska with winds to 190 kts, then falling into a small trough over interior Central California before pushing inland supporting only high pressure in the Gulf. The southern branch was tracking southeast over Hawaii and then splitting again tracking east into Baja and southeast towards the equator. Over the next 72 hours another pocket of wind energy is to build just east of Japan into Sun (12/22) with winds to 170 kts forming a bit of a trough pushing east towards the dateline providing decent support for gale development. The big ridge in the east is to start disintegrating but a split flow holding east of the dateline. Beyond 72 hours a healthy flow of 140 kts winds is to continue streaming flat off Japan crossing the dateline before finally splitting near 165W but with no troughs apparent until maybe Thurs (12/26), and then only weakly so located on the northern dateline region. Limited support for gale development indicated. The split flow to continue in the east.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (12/19) solid high pressure at 1032 mbs was just off the US West Coast ridging inland over British Columbia while low pressure was inland over Central CA forming a pressure gradient over coastal waters of North and Central CA generating 35-40 kt north winds generating much local north windswell and chop for Central CA. Otherwise remnant low pressure from Dateline Storm #2 was circulating over the northern dateline region but producing no fetch of interest. Weak low pressure was trying to organize over and inland of Japan but was so far non-productive. Swell from Storm 32 was pushing east poised to impact Hawaii shortly. Over the next 72 hours a new storm is to develop east of Japan on Fri (12/20) (See Japan Storm below).
Large Dateline Gale (Storm #2)
On Sun (12/15) a broad gale was developing east of Japan with winds in the 30-35 kt range streaming east off Japan halfway to the dateline late. Seas built to 24 ft at 33N 154E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Fetch continued to build Monday AM with a solid pocket of 40 kt northwest winds. Seas built to 28 ft at 33N 165E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Northwest fetch built in the evening to 45-50 kts aimed well at Hawaii with seas to 38 ft up at 36N 157E targeting Hawaii. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the leading edge of the storm at 1Z and reported seas at 34.0 ft with one reading to 37.0 ft where the model suggested 34-35 ft seas. This was right on track. 40-45 kt west winds continued Tues AM (12/17) over a solid area with 40 ft seas modeled at 32N 162E (296 degs HI and barely not shadowed by Kauai relative to Oahu, 290 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the west quadrant of the storm at 11:30Z and reported seas at 33.1 ft with one reading to 37.8 ft where the model suggested 36 ft seas. Looks like the model was over hyping that area by about 10%. By evening the gale was holding with fetch still 40-45 kts and seas 42 ft at 31N 171E (297 degs HI and not shadowed relative to Oahu, 284 degs NCal and not really aimed there). Fetch was fading Wed AM (12/18) just west of the dateline from 40-45 kts but displaced north some with seas fading from 34 ft at 32N 178E (302 degs HI and 1400 nmiles out, 283 degs NCal and aimed a little better there, 288 degs SCal). 35 kt west fetch was fading in the evening with seas fading from 33 ft at 34N 177E (306 degs HI, 287 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the storm at 0Z and reported average seas at 26.9 ft with one peak reading to 34.9 ft where the model suggested seas of 28-29 ft. Looks like the model was over hyping the storm some. It looks like decent significant class swell will result for Hawaii though nothing over the top with lesser size and less direct energy for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs (12/19) after sunset with period 21 secs and size building fast. Swell to continue up overnight and peaking as period hits 18 secs a bit before sunrise Fri (12/20). Pure swell to be 9.3-9.8 ft @ 18 secs (17-18 ft Hawaiian with bigger sets) and size hold as period transitions to 17 secs mid-afternoon. This forecast could be about 10% on the high side with peak size occurring more in the 17 sec frequency than the 18 sec one. Swell Direction: 296-300 degrees. Swell fading Saturday (12/21) from 9 ft @ 16 sec early (14 ft Hawaiian) down to 7.5 ft @ 15 secs late (11 ft). Swell fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7-8 ft faces) on Sun (12/22). Decent Consistency.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival Sat (12/21) at sunset with period 21 secs and perhaps barely rideable. Swell to start peaking Sunday AM (12/22) at 6 ft @ 18 secs (11 ft) and maddeningly inconsistent. Much variability between sparse sets. Period dropping to 17 secs at sunset with swell 6.3 ft @ 17 secs (10.5 ft). Swell fading Monday (12/23) from 6 ft @ 15-16 secs (9.5 ft). Tues (12/24) residuals dropping from 4.0 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 283-287 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival late Saturday (12/21) near 8 PM with period 22 secs and size slowly building. Period to turn to 20 secs near 8 AM Sun (12/22) with size rideable 2.4 ft @ 20 secs (5 ft faces) and coming up steadily, peaking near sunset at 2.8 ft @ 18-19 secs (5 ft with bigger sets) and holding over night. Swell to still be 3.1 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft) at sunrise Mon (12/23) then tapering a little late afternoon. Tues (12/24) AM swell fading from 2.7 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 288-295 degrees
A small gale is projected developing off Japan on Friday (12/20) tracking east producing a tiny area of 45-40 kt west winds and seas building to 41 ft at 36N 152E in the evening targeting Hawaii and California. On Sat AM (12/21) a solid but small a rea of 50 kt west winds to hold pushing flat east with seas building to 46 ft at 37N 159E (302 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). 45-50 kt west winds to ease east into the evening generating 47 ft seas at 38N 165E (306 degs HI, 294 degs NCal). The gale to start fading Sun AM (12/22) with winds down to 40 kts and seas fading from 41 ft at 39N 171E (312 degs Hi, 295 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). The gale to hold in the evening with 40 kt west winds and 32 ft seas up at 42N 173E (313 degs HI, 293 degs NCal). The gale is to hold Mon AM (12/23) with a small area of 45 kt west wind and mostly 40 kt west winds remaining and seas dropping from 34 ft over a small area up at 43N 177E (321 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Fetch is to fading some from 40 kts in the evening with 34 ft seas holding at 42.5N 175E (not really aimed up the 319 degree path to HI, 296 degs NCal, 300 degs SCal). West fetch fading in the evening from 35 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 30 ft at 42.5N 177W (294 degs NCal, 299 degs SCal). This is an upgrade from previous runs. At this time most energy is to be pushing up the great circle paths to NCal, with a far more indirect energy into Hawaii but much closer. The swell to be a little too north to SCal to reach into many breaks. 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 Thursday (12/19) strong high pressure at 1034 mbs was 850 nmiles west of Northern CA with low pressure inland over Southern CA forming a strong pressure gradient with up to 40 kt north winds indicated pushing down outer waters off Central CA generating north windswell and local chop. This fetch was even making inroads into Southern CA. 1 inch of snow reported for the Tahoe area. Friday the gradient to relax but 25 kt north winds are still forecast for North and Central CA late dropping to 10 kts for Southern CA. More of the same is forecast Saturday with 20-25 kt north winds off North and Central CA but near calm in Southern CA. By Sunday (12/22) a light wind flow is forecast taking control as the day progresses for everywhere by Cape Mendocino (20 kt north winds there) for the state continuing into Christmas Eve. The gradient is to rebuild off North CA to 25 kt on Christmas Day (12/25) perhaps reaching down to Pt Reyes, then turning offshore the day after.
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 tiny gale is projected developing on the dateline late Wed-Thurs (12/26) with 45 kt winds and up to 28 ft seas aimed well at Hawaii. Small short period swell possible mainly for the Islands.This system to quickly be torn apart then reorganize in the far Northwestern Gulf late Thurs (12/26) again with northwest winds 45 kts and seas on the increase from 26 ft targeting both Hawaii and the mainland. Something to monitor but nothing of real interest.
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 (12/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 4.25. The 30 day average was up to at 8.24 and the 90 day average was falling from 2.69. 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 weak to modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending over the dateline at modest strength and continuing to a point south of Hawaii before fading to neutral east of there and continuing into Central America. A week from now (12/27) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to weak over the dateline extending to a point south of Hawaii, then fading to neutral on into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific and is to hold but slowly fade.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/18 continue at odds with each other. 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 5 days out and continues to take hold 15 days out. This is the optimistic outlook. The dynamic model is more conservative suggesting the Inactive Phase is slowly fading on the dateline but to hold in a weakened state there over the next 15 days giving up no ground, with it's remnants locked over the dateline keeping the Active Phase bottled up in the Indian Ocean for the next 15 days. But the Active Phase is to not die there, just hold. This is actually an upgrade from previous runs. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/19 suggests support for the Inactive Phase is fading over the East Pacific, with a weak Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 12/24 and slowly tracking east into Jan 16 moving over the East Pacific at that time. In parallel a new weak Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Jan 13 easing east and moving into the East Pacific 1/26 with a new Active Phase building behind it. 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 (12/19) 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 and has not stopped. A building pocket of warmer water continues over Chile and all of Peru now, 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 all the result of much offshore winds. 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). Temps are up to +3.0 deg C too off Central America at depth. NOAA is calling this an eastward moving Kelvin Wave. Today's chart indicates 2 deg C waters are positioned 100 meters down at 110W and pushing east, 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 12/19 remain unchanged and upgraded from runs a few months back. The model previously had suggested rapid warming starting March 2014 building to +1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Then the model backed off some, but more recent runs started again suggesting warming expected to +1.0 deg C by Aug-Sept 2014. For the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering near 0.0 deg C. But starting January water temps in the NINO 3.4 region are to be on the rise steadily pushing +1.0 C by Sept, in El Nino range. 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