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 Tuesday (2/26) North and Central CA was seeing swell from the North Dateline with a big spike up front that was larger than forecast. Surf was 12 ft plus at exposed (unshadowed breaks) but half that at shadowed breaks. Clean early. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were chest to head high with some bigger sets and clean. Southern California up north was waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean. Down south waves were chest high with bigger sets and a little texture building but fun looking. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more north dateline swell too at 1 ft overhead and clean but a little warbled from trades. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at shoulder high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
One swell hitting, with another one the way. A small storm developed on the Northern Dateline tracking into the Northern Gulf Fri-Sat (2/23) generating with up to 45 ft seas then fading Sunday in the Gulf. Swell hit Hawaii on Monday and was hitting North CA on Tuesday (2/26). Another small system developed in the Gulf Mon-Tues (2/26) with a short burst of 38 ft seas with yet one more behind it that started Mon (2/25) well west of the dateline peaking Tuesday on the dateline with supposedly 44 ft seas, then expected to be fading Wednesday in the Northwestern Gulf. Some small longer period swell possible for both Hawaii and the US West Coast. After that things settle down some, but not out with 2 more gale on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/26) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds 120 kts then building to 180 kts as the jet reached the dateline while rising northeast eventually splitting 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii, with the northern branch pushing inland over Washington while the southern branch fell south directly over Hawaii then turned abruptly east and pushed inland over Baja. A broad ill defined trough was nestled near the dateline providing some support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to flatten a bit more but wind speeds are to really drop off barely reaching 140 kts in pockets. Two small troughs are forecast, one in the Northern Gulf and the second off Kamchatka with neither showing any real signs of development. Limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to totally unravel with the split point retrograding to a point just off Japan on Saturday (3/2) with winds speeds building over Japan to 150 kts and a ridging pushing the northern branch well up into the Bering Sea and offering no real support for gale development. But by Tues (3/5) winds to be back to 180 kts but ridging off Japan with the split point back to the dateline. A bit of a trough is forecast in the northern branch over the Eastern Gulf, but nothing remarkable.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/26) swell from a storm that was over the Northern Dateline was hitting North and Central CA (see North Dateline Storm below). Another gale developed in the Northeastern Gulf On Mon-Tues (2/26) (see below). And yet a third storm was tracking to the dateline (see Dateline Storm below).
North Dateline Storm
A storm developed just south of the Aleutians near the dateline tracking east Fri AM (2/22) producing a small area of 55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 47N 179W. In the evening 50 kt west winds held over a small area just barely south of the Aleutians with the gales center in the Bering Sea. Seas built to 41 ft at 51N 174W. By Sat AM (2/23) 50-55 kt west winds had redeveloped briefly and were plodding east with seas to 44 ft barely clear of the Aleutians at 51N 172W (308 degs NCal). The gale is to be fading in the evening with winds barely 40 kts and seas fading from 37 ft at 52N 165W. Residual seas fading from 28 ft Sunday AM (2/24) at 48N 164W (307 degs NCal).
A decent pulse of long period but fairly north angled swell possible for the Pacific Northwest reaching down to Central CA on Tuesday (2/26) with swell to 6 ft @ 17 secs (10 ft) fading Wed (2/27) from 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Swell Direction: 307 degrees
Northeastern Gulf Gale
On Monday AM (2/25) a new gale developed in the Northern Gulf just south of the Eastern Aleutians generating 45 kt northwest winds with seas on the increase. By evening west winds were 45-50 kts over a pretty solid area aimed due east with seas to 34 ft building at 48N 152W (306 degs NCal). Tues AM (2/26) winds were fading from 45 kts and covering a much smaller area with seas peaking at 39 ft at 51N 149W (314 degrees). By evening this system is to be gone with 30 ft seas at 52N 140W outside/east of the Central CA swell window.
Expect swell arrival in Central CA on Thurs (2/28) at 4 AM peaking at sunrise with period 18 secs holding for a few hours reaching 7.8 ft @ 17 secs (13.3 ft) but heavily shadowed in the SF Bay area. 13 sec residuals on Friday. Swell Direction: 314 degrees
Another modest gale developed off Japan Sunday evening (2/24) with 50 kt northwest winds over a small area lifting steadily east-northeast. Seas building from 34 ft over a tiny area at 38N 155E. By Monday AM (2/25) fetch stabilized with west winds 50 kts and seas supposedly 41 ft at 39N 164E (309 degs HI). Winds held over a modest sized area in the evening at 45-50 kts with the storm lifting slowly east-northeast with seas building to 42 ft at 41N 172E (317 degs HI, 299 degs NCal). Tuesday AM (2/26) 45-50 kt west winds were holding with seas supposedly 44 ft over a tiny area at 44N 178E (327 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the storm and confirmed seas 38.3 ft with one reading to 40.7 ft. Clearly the wave model was overhyping this one. This system is to be fading from there while pushing over the dateline Tuesday evening with winds fading from 45 kts and seas fading from 43 ft at 45N 175W (298 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35-40 kt west winds to be fading in coverage Wed AM (2/27) as the gale disintegrates and falls southeast through the Gulf of Alaska with 34 ft seas at 45N 170W (297 degs NCal). Residual 30 kt northwesterly fetch to track southeast into the Central Gulf in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 44N 167W (295 degs NCal). This system to be gone after that.
The net result is to be a shot of smaller but longer period energy for the US West Coast by the weekend with some decent 17 sec period sideband swell for Hawaii by late in the workweek. The main Jason-1 reading on Tues (2/26) was well less than what was hoped for meaning the model is likely over estimating the swell that will result.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (2/28) before sunrise. Based on current data swell to peak near 9 AM HST at 6 ft @ 18 secs (10.5 ft) and holding through sunset with period dropping to 17 secs. Swell Direction: 306-309 degrees. Swell to continue on Fri (3/1) swinging more from a more northerly direction (325 degrees) at 6.9 ft @ 15-16 sec early (10.5 ft) slowly fading through the day.
North CA: Rough data based on current data suggests Utility Class swell arrival on Saturday (3/2) with pure swell reaching 6 ft @ 17-18 secs (10 ft). Sets madningly inconsistent. Period dropping to 15-16 secs on Sunday. Swell Direction: 298 degrees (Shadowed).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/26) light winds were in control early but quickly gave way to northwest winds by noon driven by incessant high pressure at 1028 mbs centered just 750 nmiles west of Monterey Bay. Lighter winds are forecast for the North and Central Coasts Wednesday (northwest at 10-15 kts) and continuing Thursday as weak low pressure moves into the Pacific Northwest. Light rain pushing south to Bodega Bay Thurs AM then quickly retreating. A little lighter wind pattern sets up Friday as a broad area of low pressure takes over the Central Gulf of Alaska, reaching more to the south than previous ones with high pressure almost dissipating. An almost calm wind pattern is forecast nearshore all day Saturday while the next batch of high pressure builds off the Coast. The dry high pressure front is to push onshore over CA on Saturday evening and with it the north winds machine cranks up again blowing 20+ kts all day Sunday for North and Central CA. But a rapid decline in north winds is expected Monday as another low moves up to the Pacific Northwest (northwest winds 10-15 kts) with almost calm winds on Tues (2/5). Rain down to Pt Arena late.
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 another gale is to track to the dateline Fri AM (3/1) producing 45 kt northwest winds with seas 30 ft at 43N 175E (324 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). Winds to build in the evening to 45-50 kts and still from the northwest with seas 32 ft at 45N 178W a bit south of the Aleutian Islands (331 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). 50 kt winds to hold Sat AM (3/2) just barely clear of the Central Aleutians with seas near 41 ft at 49N 175W aimed mostly due east (339 degs HI, 303 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be fading fast with winds barely 45 kts and seas fading from 38 ft at 47N 167W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the Gulf Sun AM (3/3) with seas fading from 32 ft at 47N 160W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Something to monitor.
Yet another small gale is forecast developing off the Northern Kuril Islands on Sun (3/3) generating 32 ft seas at 43N 160E but quickly fading beyond then, offering only the opportunity for background swell for the Islands assuming all goes as modeled.
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 (2/26) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was fading at 9.41. The 30 day average was rising to -6.27 with the 90 day average up some at -4.35. The rising averages are reflective of the Inactive Phase of the MJO currently in control. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated weak to modest west anomalies extending from Indonesia to the Central Maritime Continent then giving way to modest easterly anomalies over the dateline and continuing east to a point well south of Hawaii, then turning neutral the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make headway east but the Inactive Phase of the MJO remained in control near the dateline, but not very robust. A week from now (3/6) westerly anomalies are to make no headway but east anomalies are to weaken more covering only a small area near the dateline with neutral anomalies the rest of the way into Central America. The Inactive Phase is to be pretty close to dead if one is to believe the models but the Active Phase of the MJO is to not be strong enough to actively support gale development.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/25 suggest the Inactive Phase of the MJO as of today was all but gone with the Active Phase in control of the West Pacific centered just west of the dateline. That seems a bit optimistic. Beyond, the models are in close agreement (but with the statistical model still slightly more aggressive) suggesting the Active Phase solidifying it's grasp on the West Pacific and reaching the dateline 15 days out. The dynamic model continues to be much slower in this evolution, suggesting a slow push of the Active Phase through the West Pacific but still having the core of it not reaching the dateline 15 days out (3/12). It's too early to know what will happen but the models are in closer agreement than days past and generally depict a favorable versus unfavorable pattern, with a slow transition to the Active Phase likely.
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 (2/25) a pocket of 1.5 degree above normal water that built under the dateline (at 175W) and at first glance appeared to be shifting east reaching 140W, is going nowhere and if anything is dissipating. Conversely a pocket of -2 deg C cooler than normal water that has been blocking it's eastward progress south of Southern CA (120W) on the equator and 150 meters deep is slowly easing east, but not overtly opening a path for warm subsurface water to track east. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. Slightly cooler waters cover the equator from the dateline to a point just off Ecuador. In short, temperature on the surface remains a mixed bag but are mostly hovering near or just under neutral, with no clear indications of going either warmer or colder.
Projections from the CFSv2 model continue to improve in small increments over the past few days. They suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.25 degs C by April, +0.4 degs by July and and +0.6 degrees by October. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring rising barely into Summer and early Fall 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. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that has not materialized with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This season is more of a 3 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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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
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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/
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table