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 (2/12) North and Central CA had Gulf swell a bit bigger than expected with waves double overhead plus (10-12 ft) early and clean and holding decently through the day. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were chest to head high and clean nearshore but pretty heavily textured outside the kelp. Southern California up north was waist to chest high and clean and very lined up peeling nicely at select locations. Down south waves were waist to chest high and lined up but with some texture building on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal dateline leftover swell with waves shoulder to head high and clean but a little warbled. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting wraparound dateline swell at waist high to maybe chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale in the Gulf of Alaska Saturday (2/9) that developed from the remnants of a previous dateline storm was still producing swell impacting the US West Coast on Tues (2/12), and pretty decent at that. Another small gale is forecast for the Western Gulf on Wed-Thurs (2/14) producing 34 ft seas aimed best towards the mainland. And a far stronger but still small storm is forecast pushing off Japan and up to the dateline Wed-Fri with seas to 46 ft but only over a tiny area aimed due east. So more swell is theoretically in the pipeline for now. But beyond that a less active storm pattern is suggested courtesy of the MJO turning Inactive.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/12) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds to 160 kts in pockets reaching to the dateline, but then splitting just east of there with the northern branch pushing northeast tracking through the northern Gulf of Alaska moving inland over Central Canada. A mild and broad trough was indicated in the jet off Kamchatka offering only limited support for gale development. The southern branch felling southeast from the split point passing just southwest of Hawaii then turning east and moving inland over Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with the Kamchatka trough pushing east over the dateline and up into the Western Gulf of Alaska likely supporting some degree of weak gale development. A more pronounced trough to build off Northern Japan on Wed (2/13) following a similar track into the Western Gulf early in the weekend. This one too to produce perhaps better support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a more consolidated pocket of 170 kt winds to build in the jet off Japan briefly Sat (2/16) then fade over the weekend with a trough holding over Kamchatka and the northern branch rising hard to the north pushing up into the Bering Sea near the dateline. The split point to ease west to 165E and hold there into the middle of next week. Winds to rebuild over Japan to 180 kts then, but it is unclear at this early date whether that will be enough to move the split point east any. Perhaps the Inactive Phase of the MJO will start taking it's toll aloft.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/12) swell from a gale that formed Fri-Sat (2/9) in the Western Gulf of Alaska was still producing swell hitting California, but past it's prime from Central CA northward. Swell from a small gale just off Kamchatka was poised to hit Hawaii (see Small Kamchatka Gale below). Another small gale is to develop on the dateline easing into the Western Gulf Tues-Thurs (2/14) (see Small Gulf Gale below). Of far more interest is a strong yet still small storm forecast tracking east from just off Japan Wed (2/13) making it just over the dateline Sat AM (2/16) before fading (see Dateline Storm below). But no significant class swell is to result.
Small Kamchatka Gale
A small system started to develop off the Kuril Islands on Friday evening (2/8) producing a small area of 45 kt west winds and seas building from 32 ft at 43N 153E. Winds were fading from 40 kts Sat AM (2/9) with seas peaking at 34 ft over a small area at 43N 160E (312 degs HI) and too far away from the mainland to be of interest. Winds were fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 44N 166E (314 degs HI). Limited 30-35 kt west winds were fading in the evening with seas dropping to 26 ft at 45N 170E. Some smaller inconsistent utility class swell could result for Hawaii. Expect swell arrival on Oahu starting late Tuesday afternoon at 3 ft @ 19 secs (5.5 ft) peaking Wednesday (2/13) at 5.4 ft @ 16 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 312 degrees
Small Gulf Gale
Looking forward a small gale was developing midway between Japan and the dateline on Tues AM (2/12) producing a tiny area of 35 kt northwest winds and 20-22 ft seas lifting steadily east-northeast. By evening a more consolidated fetch of 45 kt west winds is to evolve on the dateline and northeast of the original fetch with seas building to 30 ft over an infinitesimal area at 44N 177W (328 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). By Wed AM (1/13) 40-45 kt west winds to be fading over a small area with seas 34 ft over a tiny area at 46N 172W (336 degs HI, 297 degs NCal) with lesser seas of 24 ft just south of there (319 degs HI). In the evening the gale is to redevelop with 45 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii in the Western Gulf with seas 30 ft at 42N 172W (331 degs HI). One last push of 40 kt west winds to hold into Thursday AM with seas 32 ft at 42N 165W (mostly bypassing the 345 degree path to HI, 292 degs NCal). Based on current data smaller utility class sideband swell could result pushing towards the Islands for early in the weekend (325 degrees) with an equal pulse for the US West Coast (NCal by Sun 2/17 from 293 degs).
On Wed AM (2/13) a tiny storm is to start developing just off Japan with an infinitesimal area of 55 kt northwest winds starting to stir up the oceans surface. By evening 55 kt northwest winds to grow some in coverage pushing east with seas to 45 ft over a tiny area at 36N 156E (299 degs HI). On Thurs AM (2/14) winds to back of slightly to 50 kt and aimed more due east with seas building to 46 ft over a tiny area at 37N 164E (302 degs HI). In the evening 50 kt west winds to hold pushing east with seas rebuilding to 46 ft at 38N 170E (aimed a bit east of the 307 deg path to HI, aimed right up the 292 deg path to NCal). On Fri AM (2/15) 45 kt west winds to holds as the storm lifts northeast with seas 44 ft at 39N 176E (aimed east of the 313 deg path to HI, right up the 292 deg path to NCal). By evening west winds to be fading from 40 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 40 ft at 41N 177W ( bypassing the 322 degree path to HI, pushing right up the 292 deg path to NCal). By Saturday AM (2/16) this system is to be gone with seas from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 43N 171W (292 degs NCal).
This is to be a very small but fairly intense system. The issue is though the storm is to be reasonably close to Hawaii, most energy is to be aimed east of the great circle paths to the Islands. And this one is to be a very long way from the US mainland, covering only a small footprint, but most energy is to be aimed directly towards this target. Swell decay will take it's toll both on size and distance on consistency.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/12) high pressure at 1036 mbs continued holding just 600 nmiles west of Pt Arena setting up an almost summer like pressure gradient extending off Cape Mendocino producing 20 kt north winds, but well off nearshore waters of Central CA. A light wind flow was in control of Central and South CA. No real change for Wednesday or Thursday either other than maybe just slightly stronger northwest winds (10 kts) in the afternoons. Friday even the light northwest flow in the afternoon is to falter with near calm winds. the afternoon flow increase on Saturday and then Sunday a full-on summer like pressure gradient sets up with north winds 30 kts over Cape Mendocino and 20 kt north winds moving very close to the coast. Monday the gradient fades early but high pressure starts moving onshore with north winds 15-20 kts for Central CA late afternoon. A weak low to start moving south inland over North CA Tuesday with the high off the coast, setting up a pressure gradient and 20+ kt north winds by afternoon. rain falling south mid-afternoon to San Francisco with a tease of a few inches of snow for Tahoe.
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 no real swell producing weather systems of interest 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 Tuesday (2/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 1.01 ending a 14 day run of negative values (8 of which were were -20 or more). The 30 day average was down to -9.30 with the 90 day average down some at -4.80. This negative spurt was associated with low pressure directly over Tahiti and the Active Phase of the MJO centered just north of there. Still, overall 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 light east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) building slightly over the dateline then fading to neutral from a point south of Hawaii the rest of the way into Central America. This suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was over and the Inactive Phase was building. A week from now (2/20) a tiny area of west anomalies are to be over the extreme Western Maritime Continent, but modest east anomalies are to be in control of the rest of the Continent extending east over the dateline and almost the whole way into Central America. This clearly indicates the Inactive Phase is to be in control and an end to the upper wind pattern supportive of gale development.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/11 suggests the last fading remnants of the Active Phase of the MJO were dissipating south of Hawaii. Of more interest was a moderate version of the Inactive Phase migrating east over the Maritime Continent and expected to be centered over the dateline 7 days from now (2/17). Both models are in close agreement regarding the long term outlook with the Inactive Phase peaking over the dateline 9 days (2/19) out then starting to fade 15 days out. The dynamic model actually is more aggressive on the fade component indicating that the Active Phase of the MJO (which is to be rebuilding in the Indian Ocean) will move east starting to make inroads over the far Western Pacific (2/26). If that were to occur the storm pattern might start redeveloping.
Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in 2012, we believed a return to a normal MJO cycle would occur with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. The pattern collapsed/stalled in November and December but then started to make a legitimate return first with the Active Phase in January, and now a legit Inactive Phase is building in the West Pacific, with another Active Phase supposedly queued up behind it. Assuming this all to be true, 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 (2/12) a pocket of 3 degree above normal waters has built under the dateline (at 175W) 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 (120W) 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. A return of a normal MJO cycle developed January-February 2013. Projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but almost a return to slight La Nina conditions with -0.25 deg C water temps from now into May, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by August 2013. Virtually all the other ENSO models are on a similar track now with near normal water temps into Spring and early Summer 2013.
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. AS of 2/7/13 the trend for this Winter has not been good or bad, just something less than normal. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell, but the reality is the storm have been small and the swell generally small and short lived, though with decent frequency. This season is more of a 4 rating than the 5 that was predicted. 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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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) replaying again on Sunday (2/10) at 7 PM. Set your DVR.
'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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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:
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