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 Monday (2/4) North and Central CA had residual energy from Swell #2 hitting producing waves in the 3-4 ft overhead range on the bigger sets with light northerly winds early and fogged in. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were head high with a few bigger sets and clean. Southern California up north was chest high and well lined up and clean. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead and clean and well lined up. A bit of haze in the air. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high or so and warbled and rather raw looking at exposed breaks. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting northeast windchop at waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A new gale had developed in the Gulf of Alaska with seas to 32 ft over a small area and is forecast to track east through early Tuesday dying just off Northern Oregon. Raw swell to result for the Pacific Northwest reaching southeast into California mid-week. And another gale is to track off Japan Tues (2/5) pushing east with seas in the 34 ft range targeting Hawaii well, then reorganizing to the north on Wed (2/6) with seas in the 44 ft range approaching the dateline with all fetch aimed east and targeting the US West Coast coast, then fading while tracking over the dateline Thursday with seas dropping from 36 ft. Utility class swell for the Islands and US West Coast. No other well organized storm systems forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (2/4) the jetstream was consolidated with winds to 170 directly over Japan, but winds were fading as the jet tracked east and almost split on the dateline, miraculously remaining consolidated to a point just 800 nmiles off the US West Coast with winds rebuilding to 150 kts in one small pocket there, then split with the northern branch ridging and tracking into Central Canada and the southern branch pushing southeast and into mainland Mexico. A bit of a trough was forming off the Northern Kuril Islands in the west and another in the Gulf of Alaska, both providing some limited support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to push east and inland late Tuesday with winds falling below levels of interest. But to the west the trough there is to build with winds migrating towards the dateline at 200 kts Tuesday, then falling to 160 kts mid-week and fading from there. Some support for gale development forecast in that timeframe. The split point in the jet is to retrograde to a point north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours wind speeds to rebuild off Japan to 160 kts over the weekend pushing 180 kts Monday (2/11) and pushing east, though no troughs of interest are forecast. The jet to remain heavily split from a point north of Hawaii eastward. Limited support for gale development from Japan to the dateline and a bit east of there.
Surface Analysis - On Monday (2/4) a gale was tracking through the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below) with a broad area of low pressure circulating over Japan and the Kuril Islands, but having no swell producing characteristics yet. Weak high pressure at 1024-1028 mbs was elongated from the dateline eastward to a point just off Pt Conception CA. Over the next 72 hours the Asian gale is to develop providing some decent swell production potential (see North Dateline Storm below). No other swell producing weather system of interest are forecast.
A new low developed in a broader circulation previously associated with Storm #2 in the Gulf of Alaska late Sunday (1/3). Winds were 45 kts over a tiny area with seas building to 20 ft at 44N 158W targeting the US West Coast exclusively. 40 kt west winds held tracking east Monday AM (2/4) with seas to 34 ft over an infinitesimal area at 44N 152W (296 degs NCal, 303 degs SCal). The gale to fade in the evening with 40 kt west winds racing east and 30 ft seas fading at 43N 144W (296 degs NCal). the gale is to be impacting the Washington and British Columbia coast Tuesday AM (2/5) with 35 kt west winds extending elongated through the Gulf and barely 30 ft seas just off Oregon at 45N 138W (308 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by evening.
Assuming the model to be correct, expect a short blast of 16 sec period swell reaching the Central CA coast mid-morning Wednesday (2/6) with pure swell 8.0 ft @ 16 secs (13 ft) but well intermixed with much locally generated windswell from 20 kt northerly winds just off the coast. Swell Direction: 296 degrees
Limited swell to reach Southern CA overnight Wednesday (2/6) with swell still 3.7 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) at sunrise Thurs (2/7), fading from there. Swell Direction 302-304 degrees
North Dateline Storm
On Monday (2/4) a new broad gale is to be be building off Japan tracking east with winds to 45 kts late over a small area. Seas building from 18 ft off Japan late. Tuesday AM (2/5) the core of the storm is to be lifting rapidly northeast while fetch from earlier in the storm life is to still be producing 50-55 kt west winds well off Japan with seas to 34 ft over a small area at 39N 163E. In the evening the core of the gale is to be approaching the Aleutian Islands just west of the dateline with winds 55 kts up at 45N 170E and seas 42 ft associated with the core of the storm at 45N 172E aimed due east (322 degs Hi, 300 degs NCal). The core of the gale is to be just south of the Aleutians on the dateline Wed AM (2/6) with 50 kt west winds resulting in a small area of 43 ft seas at 45N 177E targeting mainly the US West Coast (325 degs Hi, 300 degs NCal). In the evening west winds to be fading from 45 kts with seas fading from 40 ft at 45N 180W. Thursday AM (2/7) fetch is to be fading from 40 kts with seas dropping from 36 ft at 45N 178W mostly bypassing Hawaii (331 degrees) and aimed best at the US West Coast (298 degs NCal). Fetch to be fading in the evening from 35 kts with seas down to 30 ft at 43N 173W (295 degs NCal) and fading from there. Some solid utility class swell could result for Hawaii and the US West Coast if all plays out as forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (2/4) a light north flow was pushing down exposed breaks of North and Central CA strongest near Pt Conception courtesy of high pressure at 1024 mbs barely hanging on just off San Francisco. Tuesday more of the same expected while low pressure tracks into the Pacific Northwest coast. Maybe some rain for extreme Northern CA. Wednesday the high is to hold locally with northerly winds still in effect, while the low up north tries to make a dive to the south. Still on Thursday high pressure holds off the coast continuing a light northerly flow but rain starts falling down the coast reaching San Francisco late AM maybe reaching Morro Bay late afternoon, then dissipating. Friday the low moves inland with lingering precipitation along the North and Central Coasts. Meanwhile high pressure is to build in setting up a pressure gradient and brisk north winds at 20 kts for most of the coast (including Southern CA), Maybe 6-8 inches of snow for Tahoe Thurs-Fri. Wind is to slowly fade Saturday but not out (even for Southern CA). Finally Sunday a light offshore flow to build for the entire state continuing at least mid-way through Monday (2/11).
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
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 small gale is forecast developing off the Kuril Islands on Saturday (2/9) producing 32 ft seas over a small area and making little eastward headway. No other swell producing weather systems are 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 Monday (2/4) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down hard at -32.95 (7 days negative and 4 -20 or more). The 30 day average was down to -4.81 with the 90 day average down some at -3.27. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino but certainly reflects the effects of the Active Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated very light easterly anomalies over the West Maritime Continent (WPac) turning westerly over the Eastern Maritime Continent extending to the dateline on to a point south of Hawaii before turning neutral continuing to Central America. This suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was centered near the dateline. A week from now (2/12) east anomalies are to be building strong just south of the equator over the Maritime Continent but still neutral anomalies over the equator itself and holding to the dateline the rest of the way to Central America. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO is to be holding or fading some over the West Pacific. No clear sign of the Inactive Phase is indicated yet.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/3 suggest a modest version of the Active Phase of the MJO was barely hanging on over the dateline and extending to a point south of Hawaii while a strong Inactive Phase was migrating east over Indonesia. Both models have moved into close agreement regarding the long term outlook with the Active Phase fading south of Hawaii 8 days out and a strong Inactive Phase building from Indonesia into the West Pacific easing into the Maritime Continent 10 days out, and then to the dateline 14 days from now (2/17). It looks like the end of the Active Phase and the current storm cycle is near.
Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believed a return to a normal MJO cycle would occur with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. But the pattern collapsed/stalled in November and December. But as of now (2/4) it appears the MJO has made a legitimate return with the Active Phase now in control and the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean and expected to ease east. So we appear to be back in a more 'normal' pattern.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (2/4) a pocket of 3 degree above normal waters has built under the dateline pushing east, and a pocket of equally cold -3 deg C cooler than normal water is blocking it's eastward progress south of Southern CA on the equator and 150 meters deep. At the surface an almost La Nina like pattern is starting to take hold over the equator covering from the dateline eastward to Ecuador. It really looks like a mini-La Nina is trying to organize, very much like what the CFSv2 model predicted months ago. Even if the small Kelvin wave building courtesy of the current Active Phase of the MJO were to push east and makes it to the Central America Coast, it would only warm surface water temps back to something below the normal range.
Fall of 2012 started with what initially appeared to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggested a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. But that collapsed in Nov-Dec 2012. And now the models appear to suggests a return of a normal MJO cycle for January-February 2013. Projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but almost a return to La Nina with -0.4 deg C water temps by late January into April, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by July 2013. Virtually all the other ENSO models predict a slow decline from El Nino threshold temps into Spring 2013, but never dipping into negative territory. Regardless, the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start. 2012-2013 is a neutral year.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. Based on current data the outcome for this Winter is not looking good or bad, just normal. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell, but the total lack of any real activity so far had us thinking of downgrading that projection. With the projected return of the MJO, a barn buster Jan and Feb are required to make up the short fall. Will monitor but it looks doubtful. Longer term the expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). 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 Finally updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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'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
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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:
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
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, please 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 accomplished 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