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.
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On Sunday (2/17) North and Central CA had a mix of local windswell and residual Gulf swell producing surf at 3-4 ft overhead and pretty raw if not chopped at exposed breaks. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were head high and clean and well lined up on the sets but a little soft. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high with heavily textured conditions and unremarkable. Down south waves were waist high and weak with heavy texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new west swell from the dateline with waves double overhead and powerful but raw with strong trades in effect. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at 2 ft overhead and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A strong but small storm pushed off Japan moving to the dateline Wed-Thurs (2/14) with seas to 46 ft late but only over a tiny area aimed due east, then faded on the dateline Fri (2/15). Swell is currently hitting Hawaii and expected to push east to the mainland for the workweek. After that the storm track is to change significantly with most energy taking a northern route over the dateline developing and just south of the Eastern Aleutians and pushing into the Northern Gulf of Alaska. One with 34 ft seas is forecast late Tuesday (2/19) with a stronger one over the weekend (2/23). But over all the pattern is to be dominated by the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (2/17) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds to 160 kts in pockets reaching barely to the dateline before splitting there with the northern branch pushing hard north tracking over the Eastern Aleutians before falling just a bit southeast in the Eastern Gulf forming a weak trough the then tracking into North Canada. A broad trough was embedded in the jet off the Kuril Islands with a second far weaker trough moving through the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. The first trough was offering good support for gale development with the second trough offering only limited support for low pressure development. The southern branch was tracking south well west of Hawaii then turning east and pushing into Central Baja with no winds of interest. The area between the split flow (the entirety of the Northeastern Pacific) was supporting high pressure down at lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with the Kuril Island trough peaking out Monday then lifting northeast and quickly dissipating as it moves east of the split point. Fading support for gale development from it. And the split point is to be retrograding to a point west of the dateline (160E). Beyond 72 hours winds to rebuild over Japan to 180 kts by Wed (2/20) with the split point maybe easing east slightly and the northern branch tracking steadily up into the northwestern Gulf and just south of the Eastern Aleutian Islands. No troughs of interest forecast with no real support for gale development indicated. But winds to build to near 200 kts in the jet just west of the dateline by Sun (2/24) offering some raw material to support gale development if a trough were to develop. Wind speeds are not the issue.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (2/17) swell from Storm #3 was hitting Hawaii and pushing east towards the US mainland (see Dateline Storm #3 below). A broad but generally unorganized gale was trying to develop off the Kuril Islands. Northwest to west winds were most 35 kts over fragmented areas with seas 22-24 ft near 36N 162E targeting mainly Hawaii expected to hold into Monday AM at 35N 172E, then fading. 13-14 sec background swell possible for the Islands but unremarkable.
By Tues PM (2/19) a small gale is forecast developing in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska riding over the top of a large area of high pressure dominating the Northeastern Pacific. The high is to be centered 900 nmiles north of Hawaii with the gale north of that producing with 45 kt west winds and seas to 32 ft at 50N 158W targeting only Canada. By Wednesday AM (2/20) the gale is to be fading just off the coast of Northern Canada with seas 34 ft at 53N 148W targeting only Canada, then dissipating. Maybe some sideband swell for the Pacific Northwest late in the workweek.
But the large high pressure system is to be the dominant weather feature totally taking over the Northeast Pacific.
Dateline Storm #3
On Wed AM (2/13) a tiny storm started 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 grew some in coverage pushing east with seas to 44 ft over a tiny area at 36N 156E (299 degs HI). On Thurs AM (2/14) winds backed off slightly to 50 kt and aimed more due east with seas building to 45 ft over a tiny area at 37N 165E (302 degs HI). In the evening winds to rebuild to 55 kts aimed due east with seas up to 47 ft at 39N 170E (aimed a bit east of the 307 deg path to HI, aimed right up the 294 deg path to NCal). Seas peaking at 06Z at 49 ft at 41N 174E. On Fri AM (2/15) west winds to be fading from 45 kts as the storm lifts northeast with seas 45 ft at 40N 177E (aimed east of the 313 deg path to HI, right up the 293 deg path to NCal). By evening west winds to be fading from 40-45 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 41 ft at 42N 180W (bypassing the 322 degree path to HI, pushing right up the 295 deg path to NCal). By Saturday AM (2/16) this system is to be gone with seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 43N 174W (295 degs NCal).
This is 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. The swell that is to hit is to be from a very westerly direction. Conversely 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.
Hawaii (Oahu): Swell hit as expected on Sunday (2/17) and was expected to reach 8.4 ft @ 17-18 secs (14.7 ft Hawaiian) by sunset, but that might have been a bit on the high side. Residuals on Monday fading from 6.9 ft @ 16 secs early (11.0 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 304-310 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (2/18) morning with period 22-23 secs and size tiny but building. Period to 20 secs at sunset with size still coming up. Swell peaking overnight at 6.6 ft @ 19 secs (12.5 ft). Still solid energy Tuesday morning with swell 6.6-7.0 ft @ 18 secs (12-13 ft) but starting to settle down later as period drops to 17 secs. Swell fading Wednesday (2/20) from 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.6 ft). Swell Direction: 294-295 degrees. Very inconsistent. North winds to be a issue through out the swells duration at exposed breaks.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (2/17) high pressure at 1036 mbs was locked north of Hawaii with a finger trying to make inroads to Central CA but not making it. Still, it was close enough to set up a north wind pattern off the entire CA coast reaching 25 kts off North CA and basically wrecking nearshore conditions for all of North and Central CA. Monday these winds are to still be 15 kts from the north for all of North and Central CA while Southern CA remains protected. A weak low to start moving south inland over the Pacific Northwest Tuesday with the high off the coast, setting up a gradient and 15 kt northwest winds early building to 25 kts by afternoon over the entire California coast. Rain pushing south with the low reaching San Francisco early and down to San Diego by mid-day. Up to 1 ft of snow for Tahoe starting mid-Tuesday AM through early Wednesday. Rain clearing through the day Wednesday (2/20) with north winds 20+ kts for the entire state including Southern CA. Those winds to fade some Thursday but conditions still miserable for everywhere but Southern CA. Still another low to build off the Pacific Northwest Friday (2/22) falling southeast with winds a little lighter then, but then building Saturday at 20 kts holding into Sunday and including Southern CA. Maybe a hint of rain down to San Francisco Sat AM with 2 inches of snow for Tahoe. Looks like a spring weather pattern shaping up with the Inactive Phase of the MJO and high pressure the driving factor.
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 high pressure is to remain dominant but retrograding west some possibly opening up the extreme Northeastern Gulf of Alaska to more gale development. Remnants of the Wednesday gale in the northern Gulf are to redevelop just off British Columbia Fri (2/22) tracking southeast and plowing into Washington that evening with winds 50-55 kt just offshore and seas to 38 ft at 47N 129W. Raw stormsurf possible for the Pacific Northwest.
Another gale is to develop just south of the Eastern Aleutians tracking east Fri-Sun (2/24) with 40-45 kt west winds and 38-41 ft seas over a tiny area near 51N 165W. And another one to follow directly behind that starting on the northern dateline Sun (2/24). But it's way to early to believe anything just yet.
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 Sunday (2/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was 7.97. The 30 day average was rising to -9.00 with the 90 day average down some at -5.18. This negative spurt was associated with a recent previous version of the Active Phase of the MJO. But that is now over. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies over the central Maritime Continent to the dateline and continuing easterly to a point south of Hawaii, then turning lighter but still easterly the rest of the way into Central America. This clearly indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific. A week from now (2/25) only pockets of weaker east anomalies are to be over the Maritime Continent to the dateline, with neutral anomalies the test of the way into Central America. The Inactive Phase is to remain in control and less supportive of gale development than weeks past, but is also to be less influential than this week.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/16 suggests a moderate version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the Pacific centered over the dateline. Beyond, the models are now in agreement suggesting the Inactive Phase is to dissipate rather quickly 12 days from now (2/28) with the Active Phase currently building strong in the Indian Ocean moving into the far West Pacific though fading in strength some. It's too early to know what will happen but there is some hope for one more pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO 2-3 weeks from now and before the Winter season comes to a close.
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 in the next few weeks. 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) but appears to be making no inroads to the 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 trying to take hold over the equator covering from the dateline eastward to Ecuador but not getting much traction. In short, a mixed bag of mostly neutral temperatures is occurring.
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
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:
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new 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