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 Thursday (2/28) North and Central CA was seeing new swell from the Northern Gulf which hit overnight peaking at sunrise with sets in the 15 ft range at exposed breaks and clean but pretty quickly deteriorating as the morning progressed and wind picked up. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and glassy and well lined up. Southern California up north was waist to chest high on the sets and clean and well lined up. Down south waves were chest high and pretty textured but still fun looking. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new dateline swell with waves 10 ft on the face and clean though a little blustery and coming up with plenty of power. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell at head high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
New dateline swell was just starting to hit Hawaii while Gulf swell was hitting the US West Coast. Plenty of swell to go around. The storm that generated the dateline swell developed Mon (2/25) well west of the dateline peaking Tuesday on the dateline with supposedly 44 ft seas, then faded Wednesday in the Northwestern Gulf. Some small (by wintertime standards) longer period swell possible for both Hawaii and the US West Coast. Another small north dateline gale is forecast then things to possibly settle down, or maybe not with the MJO turning the corner.
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 130 kts in pockets pushing over the dateline then finally splitting 900 nmiles north of Hawaii, with the northern branch ridging and pushing inland over British Columbia while the southern branch fell south directly over Hawaii then turned abruptly northeast and pushed inland over Baja. Two ill defined troughs were embedded in the northern branch, one over the Kuril Islands and a second in the Gulf of Alaska 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) and the northern branch lifting hard north up into the Bering Sea with one small trough left just south of the extreme Eastern Aleutians offering minimal odds to support gale development. Wind speeds building over Japan to 160 kts and starting to push east some trying to heal the massively split jet into Sunday. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the Gulf to ease east towards the Pacific Northwest into Tues (3/5) offering the only support for gale development. Winds to continue building off Japan to 170 kts reaching to the dateline with the split point moving there late Tuesday, but then winds speeds starting to drop off some. Still, a decent trough is forecast developing on the dateline Wed slowly easing east into Fri (3/8) offering some support for gale development at low levels of the atmosphere, but winds to fade to 140 kts feeding into the trough.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/28) swell from a gale that was in the Gulf hit California and is to be fading by Friday (3/1). Also swell from a storm that was on the Dateline was hitting Hawaii and expected to reach the US West Coast over the weekend (see Dateline Storm below). Another small gale is forecast for the Northern Dateline over the weekend (see north Dateline Gale below).
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 43 ft at 41N 172E (317 degs HI, 299 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western edge of the storm at 22Z confirming seas 39.7 ft with one reading to 41.7 ft while the model indicated seas at 38 ft. This suggested the model was right on track. 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 kt west winds were fading in coverage Wed AM (2/27) as the gale disintegrated while falling southeast through the Gulf of Alaska with 34 ft seas at 45N 170W (297 degs NCal). Residual 35 kt northwesterly fetch tracked southeast into the Central Gulf in the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 42.5N 165W (295 degs NCal). On Thurs AM (2/28) 26 ft seas from previous fetch were at 42N 163W (293 degs NCal). This system was 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: Swell arrived as expected on Thursday (2/28) before sunrise peaking near 9 AM HST at 5 ft @ 20 secs (10.0 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: Expect utility class swell arrival on Saturday (3/2) building through the day reaching 6.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (12 ft). Sets madningly inconsistent. Swell holding near 7.0 ft @ 15-16 secs on Sunday (10.5 ft). Swell Direction: 295-297 degrees (partially shadowed).
North Dateline Gale
Another gale is to track to the dateline Fri AM (3/1) producing 45-50 kt northwest winds with seas 28 ft at 43N 177E (324 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). Winds to build in the evening to near 55 kts and still from the northwest targeting Hawaii well with seas 36 ft at 46N 177W a bit south of the Aleutian Islands (331 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). 50 kt winds to hold Sat AM (3/2) 50% obscured by the Central Aleutians with seas near 37 ft at 49N 171W aimed mostly due east (341 degs HI, 304 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be fading with winds 45 kts and seas fading from 36 ft at 51N 168W (307 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 48N 160W (304 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Something to monitor.
Yet another small gale is forecast developing off the Kuril Islands on Sat AM (3/2) producing a small area of 45-50 kt west winds with seas on the increase. By evening a reasonable sized fetch of 45 kt west winds is to be off the Kuril Islands generating 38 ft seas over a tiny area at 42N 154E (309 degs HI). Sun AM (3/3) winds to be fading from 45 kts generating more 38 ft seas at 43N 160E (312 degs HI, 302 degs NCal) but quickly fading beyond then. If all goes as forecast there some chance for decent background swell for the Islands, but far less for the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/28) light winds were in control early but quickly gave way to northwest winds before noon at 10-15 kts driven by high pressure at 1032 mbs centered just 250 nmiles off Monterey Bay. Perhaps a little lighter wind pattern sets up Friday as high pressure start ridging into the Pacific Northwest, tracking north and away from California. An almost calm wind pattern is forecast nearshore early Saturday while the next batch of high pressure lurks off the coast. Light rain down to Monterey Bay Sat PM with 1 inch of snow for Tahoe. The dry high pressure front is to push onshore over CA on Sunday AM and with it north wind is to build in the 15-20 kts range for all of North and Central CA, but not exceeding that mark, held at bay by large low pressure moving into the Gulf. A quick decay in north wind is expected by Monday AM as the low moves up to the Pacific Northwest (northwest winds 10-15 kts) with almost calm winds on Tues (2/5) then turning south for Central CA late. Rain down to Pt Arena late. South wind and a front pushes into Central CA Wednesday with rain starting at San Francisco moving down to Santa Barbara county late. 6 inches of snow for Tahoe. Wind turning to north 15 kts Thursday as the low moves onshore and high pressure builds in behind. Maybe light rain down to Monterey Bay. North winds for Southern CA too. A north wind blowout likely Friday for the entire state.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast. But a small gale is forecast producing 36 ft seas over a small area in the mid-South Pacific on Fri (3/1) at 60S 140W. No real swell to result, but it's a start (if it actually forms).
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 one more small gale is forecast developing on the dateline Wed (3/6) slowly tracking east-northeast peaking in the evening with seas 28 ft at 38N 172W. Previous model runs had suggested higher seas. This is something to monitor.
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 Thursday (2/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was unchanged at 9.41. The 30 day average was rising to -5.61 with the 90 day average down some at -4.37. The steady daily and 30 day averages are reflective of the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest west anomalies extending from Indonesia to the Eastern Maritime Continent (160E) then giving way to modest easterly anomalies over the dateline and continuing 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 was hitting a brick wall just west of the dateline where the Inactive Phase of the MJO remained in control (but fading). A week from now (3/8) westerly anomalies are to make no headway but east anomalies are to weaken more covering only a small area just west of the dateline and then again isolated to the far East Pacific. This actually suggests the Inactive Phase is to be exiting east out of the Pacific, but the Active Phase of the MJO is to not be strong enough to completely dislodge the Inactive Phase just yet.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/27 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 still seems a bit optimistic. Beyond, the models are in reasonable agreement (but the statistical model still slightly more aggressive) suggesting the Active Phase solidifying it's grasp on the West Pacific and reaching the dateline 10 days out. The dynamic model continues to be much slower in this evolution, suggesting little if any eastward motion of the Active Phase through the West Pacific with the core not reaching the dateline 15 days out (3/14), lodged at 165E. It's too early to know what will happen but assuming a 50/50 split in the models, that still puts the Active Phase at 175E and in control of the critical West Pacific region. A slow transition to the Active Phase is 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 (2/28) 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 gone, with what appears to be an open path for warm subsurface water to track east. now all we need is some real warm water to run through that path. 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 2 weeks. They suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.3 degs C by April, +0.5 degs by July and now up to +0.9 degrees by October. That's El Nino territory. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring 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
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
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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