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 (7/17) North and Central CA had surf at thigh to maybe waist high on the sets and textured with south wind blowing on it. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high on the sets and clean. Southern California up north had some tiny northwest windswell at knee to thigh high mixing with hurricane swell producing waves at waist high or better and a bit warbled. Down south hurricane swell was still producing decent surf with waves head high and a bit textured but well lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was flat with trades in effect and clean. The South Shore had some minimal background swell with waves at thigh to waist high and clean at top spots with trades in effect. The East Shore had windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure was retrograding west away from the California coast and fading with local north windswell on the way down. But it's to return by later in the weekend continuing well into the following week (7/24). Hurricane Fabio is producing moderate south swell pushing into Southern CA, but the best of it has already hit. For Hawaii trades are to remain in the 15 kt range through Thursday offering more modest east windswell along east facing shores, then fading out and not returning till maybe Tues (7/24).
Down south a small system developed well east of New Zealand on Sun (7/8) with a tiny area of 30 ft seas. Maybe a little pulse of swell for Southern CA on Wed (7/18). A stronger system formed south of New Zealand falling to the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf Thurs/Fri (7/13) with seas to 44 ft then moving into the Southeast Pacific on Sat (7/14) and fading with seas moving below 30 ft. Nothing for Hawaii and only small swell for California for the weekend (7/21) into early next week. Another system is pushing under New Zealand on Tues (7/17) again tracking flat east with seas to 33 ft, maybe good for more tiny background swell targeting Hawaii and the mainland. Nothing else is forecast to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface - On Tuesday (7/17) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned 1500 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii generating north winds on it's eastern flank at 20 kts mostly bypassing California and aimed into the open ocean. Maybe some limited sideband windswell from it to push into Central CA into Wednesday at best. The high was also generating a limited fetch of 15-20 kt east winds pushing into the Hawaiian Islands resulting in minimal east windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours the high is to continue retrograding west/moving away from the US mainland through Thursday with fetch pulling away from the coast. But then Friday (7/20) it is to start moving east again setting up a weak gradient and north winds to 15 kts over all of California late. By Saturday the usual pressure gradient is to result over Cape Mendocino at 20-25 kts with local north windswell on the increase over North and Central CA and increasing more on Sunday. In Hawaii east trades to hold at 15-20 kts Wednesday then start fading from 15 kts Thursday as high pressure weakens north of the Islands. East windswell to head downward too reaching the flat range on Friday and holding.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Fabio - A third tropical system developed 550 nmiles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas Mexico on Thursday (7/12) with winds 35 kts heading northwest. Seas were 12 ft. Winds built stronger than forecast peaking at 90 kts on Saturday PM into Sunday AM (7/15) and positioned 500 nmiles southwest of Cabo San Lucas or 1200 nmiles south of Southern CA on the 172-178 degree path and heading west-northwest at 8 kts. Seas estimated at 34 ft. Fabio turned more northwest on Monday AM (7/16) but with winds down to 70 kts, then turning hard north on Tuesday but fading fast with winds down to 40 kts as Fabio moved over cooler water. The heading and position of this system was better than the previous two systems.
More small swell hit Southern CA on Tuesday at 3 ft @ 11 secs (3-4 ft with bigger sets). the final day of swell is expected on Wednesday for Southern CA 2.3 ft @ 11-12 secs (2.5 ft) then heading down. not even rideable swell to result by Thursday (7/19).
Khanun - Tropical Storm Khunan was 360 nmiles south of South Korea tracking north-northwest with sustained winds 50 kts. It was already landlocked and expected to move inland over North Korea late Wednesday (7/18). No swell production is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/17) high pressure was in control of the Northeast Pacific but pulled away from the CA coast offering no direct fetch over California waters. A weak eddy flow was in control of the entire coast. More of the same is forecast Wednesday as high pressure retrogrades west. By Thursday a light local northerly flow is to move in (10 kts or less) as high pressure starts moving east again. And by Friday north winds build to 15 kts as the high starts impacting the coast. Winds to fade some Saturday as the high consolidates over Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow moving in on Sunday up to Pt Arena and becoming more pronounced the following week.
Jet stream - On Tuesday (7/17) a .cgiit jetstream pattern remained locked over the West and Central Pacific with the southern branch pushing southward and tracking east down at 70S and over Antarctica offering no support for gale development. That said, the ridge was very weak under New Zealand. And a pocket of 130 kt west winds was sweeping east under New Zealand kinda of setting up something that almost looked like a trough there offering weak support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours even that pocket of wind is to dissolve (later Wednesday 7/18) and a new ridge is to build west of New Zealand pushing hard into Antarctica sweeping east into Friday offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that ridge is moderate and lift north slightly while tracking east but still locking down the entire South Pacific through the weekend (7/22) offering no support for gale development. Early the following week (7/25) a new blast of wind energy is to push under New Zealand at 120 kts still pushing more south than east and offering no support for even low pressure development.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (7/17) high pressure at 1032 mbs was well east of New Zealand in the Central Pacific pushing all fetch in the vicinity south towards Antarctica with no gale development indicated. But south of New Zealand a gale was trying to get some footing with flat west winds 40-45 kts. Seas were building from near 30 ft at 58S 170E. Over the next 72 hours that gale is to hold in the evening with 40 kt west winds hanging on and seas holding at 33 ft at 59S 175E. These seas were already mostly in the Tahitian swell shadowed at 210 degrees. By Wednesday AM (7/18) fetch is to be fading from 35 kts and seas dropping from 32 ft at 59S 176W and still shadowed.
Assuming the model are correct some small background swell is expected to be radiating northeast towards Hawaii and California.
Central Pacific Gale
A tiny gale started to develop east of New Zealand on Sunday AM (7/8) with south winds to 45 kts over a tiny area generating seas to 30 ft at 52S 152W in the evening but falling southeast. It was gone 12 hours later. This system was positioned only in the CA swell window.
Small swell of 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft) to possibly reach Southern CA on Wed (7/18) then fading Thursday as period drop to 14 or less second. Swell Direction: 202 degrees
New Zealand Storm
On Thursday AM (7/12) the start of what looked like a gale was forming south of New Zealand. Winds were 40 kts over a tiny area. In the evening a storm formed well southeast of New Zealand Thursday PM with 55 kt southwest winds over a small area and seas building from 40 ft at 58S 179E. On Friday AM (7/13) 50 kt west winds continued at 61S 161W just barely exposed off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. 44 ft seas were building at 61S 167W but tracking east-southeast with no northward momentum. The storm raced east with 45 kt west winds continuing in the evening with seas to 42 ft at 60S 153W. Residual 40 kt west winds held Sat AM (7/14) with seas fading from 36 ft at 62S 138W.
Given the fast eastward track of this system and it's small fetch area, it seems unlikely anything more than background swell energy will actually radiate north into the California swell window, with virtually nothing forecast pushing into the Hawaiian swell window.
South California: Expect swell arrival on Friday (7/20) night with tiny energy at 22 secs and not rideable. Possible small energy with period at 20 secs to arrive near noon on Sat (7/21) at 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft) and slowly building. Finally on Sunday (7/22) near 8 AM period to drop to 18 secs with swell building to 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft) with a few sets to maybe 2.5 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft). Period dropping to 17 secs near 4 AM Monday (7/23) with swell 2.0-2.5 ft @ 17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) then fading from there. Swell Direction: 195-200 degrees
North California: expect swell arrival on Friday (7/20) night with tiny energy at 22 secs and not rideable. Possible small energy with period at 20 secs to arrive near noon on Sat (7/21) and still below rideable levels. Finally on Sunday (7/22) near 10 AM period to drop to 18 secs with swell building to 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft) with a few sets to maybe 2.5 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft). Period dropping to 17 secs near 7 AM Monday (7/23) with swell 2.0-2.5 ft @ 17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) then fading from there. Swell Direction: 193-198 degrees
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 the North Pacific high is to hold off Oregon on Monday (7/23) generating the typical pressure gradient and north winds at 25+ kts over Cape Mendocino resulting in steady north windswell for North and Central CA at least through mid-week (7/25).
Trades to rebuild slightly for Hawaii by later Sunday (7/22) at 15 kts as the high start rebuilding to the east and holding at that speed through Tues (7/24) with only the very most modest of easterly short period windswell resulting on east shores.
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, or 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 day, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 (7/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was at 11.33 (the 10th positive daily reading in a row). The 30 day average was responding likewise up some at -5.98 with the 90 day average up to -3.21. This trend is the result of the current Inactive Phase of the MJO weakly in control of the Pacific.
Current wind analysis indicated a small area of modest east anomalies on the dateline but fading to neutral over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with neutral winds everywhere east of the dateline. This continued looking like a very weak version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO easing east from the dateline. A week from now (7/25) faint east anomalies are forecast holding on the dateline neutral anomalies elsewhere in the equatorial Pacific. This would suggest we to continue in a weak version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO, with a possible fade but not quite an outright demise a week out. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/15 are into agreement suggesting that a mild Inactive Phase is occurring right now over the West Pacific but that 5 days out (7/20) that is to dissipate. The statistical model even suggests a weak Active Phase starting (7/24) building over the West Pacific becoming more entrenched 2 weeks out. The dynamic model has the current Active Phase fading 5 days out with dead neutral conditions taking control. 7/4 had been our 'stake in the ground' in assessing the strength of this Inactive Phase and to determine what the trend will be over this coming Fall and Winter (more below), but we're extending that out till this current ambiguity regarding the MJO becomes further defined. The expectation is that will be resolved in 8-10 days (~7/24). We've been stating that the preferred pattern is no or minimal Inactive Phase build-up through mid-July with a quick return to a neutral if not Active pattern, which would support as we move more into Summer development of a weak El Nino or at least a pattern that supports warm water buildup in the East Pacific continues. Current data continues coalescing around that prognosis.
In monitoring the migration of warm water into the equatorial East Pacific, which the previously existing weak Active MJO pattern supported (thru 7/10), this becomes important because it possibly sets up a configuration in the ocean that is more conducive to storm development for the coming Fall of 2012. More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). In fact warmer than normal water has already accumulated off Ecuador and that pool of warm water was growing in intensity and coverage through 7/2 (part of a continuous pattern that started in Jan 2012). And a pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) evaporated in April allowing warmer water to slowly but steadily pushing east into the vacuum (Kelvin Wave). This activity was the result of the Active Phase of the MJO (early April) and a continued weak MJO signal, and appeared to be reinforcing itself. If one inspects the water temperature anomaly chart through 7/2 an unmistakable El Nino pattern has developed extending from south of Hawaii into Ecuador and extending north to Cabo San Lucas and south well into Chile. Updates through 7/12 indicated the slightest decrease in the warmest anomalies occurring off Columbia mainly attributable to the recent weak Inactive Phase. But otherwise the coverage and temps appear similar. It will be interesting to see what setback if any this current Inactive Phase has on the warm water pattern in the tropical East Pacific. The suspicion is it will have only a minimal impact if it wraps up as expected in the next 5 days. The desire is for a weak MJO pattern to continue (a early sign of some flavor of El Nino, and preferably a weak multi-year event).
That said, only limited atmospheric evidence of a possible El Nino pattern is in.cgiay right now. Remnants of La Nina are still affecting the atmosphere and will likely continue for several months if not into the middle of Fall. One such indicator is the continued presence of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific. It has been locked in.cgiace for 2 years now and is not going to be easily dislodged. It continues to generate stronger than normal north winds pushing down the California coast (the reason for non-stop windswell in Central CA) and stronger than normal trades over Hawaii. This is evidenced by a large pool of cooler than normal water radiating southeast off California and over Hawaii reaching the equator at the dateline, the result of enhanced upwelling. Cooler than normal nearshore water remains an issue for much of the CA coast per the imagery, though a steady decline in nearshore north winds has occurred with some eddy flow working its way up into Central CA with water temps on the rise. Actually, it appears there is some problem with the nearshore CA imagery. The presence of 3 hurricanes in the East Pacific is certainly attributable to the warmer waters temps building near the equator. So in reality, we're in a hybrid atmospheric state. The longer the MJO remains biased towards a neutral or Active state, the more the atmosphere will respond in kind and turn more towards an El Nino like configuration. We remain at a critical juncture as of this date. Historical Note: It is very unusual for El Nino (of any magnitude) to develop directly following 2 years of La Nina.
As of right now the question remains: Will an Active-like Phase pattern begin to dominate, ultimately ushering in some flavor of El Nino, or will it stall in July and leave us in limbo with just a neutral pattern in.cgiay (normal)? Either option is better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours a new high pressure system at 1032 mbs is to be developing just east of New Zealand ridging south towards Antarctica and driving any fetch in that area towards the south through Tues (7/24). No other swell producing fetch is forecast elsewhere either.
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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Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment,.cgiease cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an acco.cgiished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table