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 Saturday (6/1) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell doing well producing surf in the head high to 2 ft overhead range at better exposed breaks and clean through at least early afternoon. Not bad for windswell. Down in Santa Cruz windswell was wrapping in producing waves in the thigh to waist high range and clean but weak. Southern California up north was waist high with bigger sets and fairly chopped mid-afternoon and foggy. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high on the peaks and coming out of the north and a bit warbled, though local winds was near calm and conditions were a bit textured. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was knee high .cgius and clean. The East Shore was getting minimal easterly windswell at waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no large scale swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Solid local north windswell was being generated by high pressure ridging into North California generating a pressure gradient and brisk north winds. Hawaii was receiving trades at 15 kts producing minimal easterly tradewind generated windswell.
The local California coastal gradient is to build some more into Monday with an eddy flow developing nearshore, setting up more decent northerly windswell with improving conditions. But the gradient to fade by late Tuesday and windswell dropping as a result. For Hawaii tradewind generated east to northeast windswell is to continue through the weekend thanks to the same high pressure system that is generating the California coastal gradient. And likewise, the windswell and trades to collapse Tuesday as the high disintegrates. The models are also suggesting some sort of a gale developing north of Hawaii tracking northeast with fetch aimed to the east and seas pushing 26 ft. That is a fantasy at this early date.
Down south Storm #2S has done it's thing and is fading out in the Southeast Pacific. Seas were modeled in the 46 ft range with winds confirmed at 50-55 kts. Swell is in the water and tracking towards Tahiti, Hawaii the US West Coast and South America. Beyond a tiny system is forecast in the Tasman Sea pushing 34 ft seas towards Fiji late Mon (6/4). And a small system is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific Sat (6/8) lifting north with up to 40 ft seas, but that too is just a fantasy of the model at this early date.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (6/1) high pressure was anchored in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and 700 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino at 1028 mbs generating a pressure gradient focused off Central CA generating north winds at 25 kts resulting in moderate local short period north windswell at exposed breaks. Trades remained extending from California towards and over the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts generating the usual small easterly short period windswell along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to slowly lift north generating a local fetch of 30 kt north winds centered over Cape Mendocino late on Sunday and building to 35 kts over a modest area by Monday (6/3) resulting in slightly increasing northerly windswell focused on Central CA with limited energy wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA.
The same high pressure is to continue generating 15-20 kt easterly trades relative to Oahu and peaking Monday focused on the Eastern Shores of the Hawaiian Islands producing short period easterly windswell. But by Tuesday the high is to rapidly fade with windswell retreating for both Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Otherwise no fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (6/1) moderate high pressure at 1030 mbs was centered 600 nmiles west of San Francisco trying to ridging into the coast but being held at bay by weak low pressure just off Washington. It was generating 25 kt northerly winds just off the North and Central Coast, but with much less wind nearshore at select locations. Sunday 30 kt north winds are forecast lifting north to Cape Mendocino with 25 kts north winds pushing down the outer coast and building in coverage with a coastal eddy starting to build for Central CA late. North winds Monday AM to build to 35 kts early up north with a well developed eddy flow in.cgiace for all of Central and South CA. The gradient is to start collapsing late, with north - northeast winds fading from 25 kts on Tues (6/4) early and down to 20 kts Wednesday. Nearshore a eddy flow to continue for Central CA Tuesday then dissipating during Wednesday. A light 10 kt northwest flow to develop nearshore for Central CA Thursday with 25 kts north winds building over North CA. By Friday north winds are forecast to 30 kts over North CA with a well developed eddy flow in.cgiace for Central CA and continuing Saturday (6/8).
Jetstream - On Saturday (6/1) the jet was .cgiit over New Zealand but consolidated over the Central South Pacific with a bit of a trough holding on there being fed by 170 kt winds running through it's apex and 120 kts winds feeding up into it from the southern branch of the .cgiit flow over New Zealand. This was providing decent support for gale development down in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to become more pronounced with additional southwest winds at 140 kts starting to push up into it Sun (6/2) with 170 kt winds still in.cgiace at it's apex positioned on the eastern edge of the California swell window. Continued support for gale development possible. Over the next 72 hours and by Monday that trough is to rapidly pinch off and dissipate with a ridge starting to build over the Southwest Pacific and sweeping east, with a fully .cgiit zonal jet flow forecast by Wed (6/5) resulting in no support for gale development. There continues to be weak suggestions of a new trough building southeast of New Zealand on Thurs (6/6) pushing east and peaking late Friday, but winds only 110 kts feeding it, offering minimal support for gale development. The trough to pinch off late Saturday with a zonal flow taking control over the entire South Pacific.
Surface - On Saturday (6/1) the only swell producing weather system of interest was Storm #2S (see details below) fading out in the Southeast Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather system of interest are forecast other than a tiny gale forming in the Central Tasman Sea on Mon (6/3) producing 40 kts south winds over a decent sized area late generating a small area of 34 ft seas at 38S 165E targeting Fiji well. Fetch is to be fading fast Tues AM (6/4) from 35 kts with seas fading from 28 ft at 32S 167E. Possible moderate 17 secs period swell for Fiji peaking late Wed (6/5) at 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft Hawaiian) from 200 degrees.
A storm built southeast of New Zealand. On Wed AM (5/29) two fetch areas developed, one tiny at 50 kts in the north quadrant of the newly developing storm and a secondary but broader fetch of 45 kt south wind aimed well to the northeast producing seas of 34 ft at 55S 177W. By evening a broad fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds was aimed well to the northeast resulting in a solid area of 39 ft seas at 49S 169W (187 degs HI, 212 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 209 degs NCal and unshadowed). More 45-50 kt southwest winds held Thurs AM (5/30) generating 43 ft seas consolidated at 44S 162W aimed well to the north targeting Tahiti and Hawaii (182 degs) but 209 degs SCal and 208 degs NCal and totally shadowed. Additional 45-50 kt southwest fetch built in the evening with 47 ft seas modeled at 48S 151W mostly east of Hawaii but totally unshadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal (201 degs) and NCal (199 degs). Fetch started fading Friday AM (5/31) from 45 kts aimed more east but covering a good sized area with seas from previous fetch still 47 ft at 45S 141W (196 degs SCal, 193 degs NCal) and totally unshadowed. Residual 35 kt easterly fetch was fading Fri PM with seas from previous fetch dropping from 40 ft at 42S 134W (190 degs SCal, 189 degs NCal). This system was gone by Sat AM (6/01) with seas from previous fetch fading from 35 ft at 41S 128W.
This system developed very close to what was originally projected by the models. All wind values indicated above were validated by both the ASCAT and WindSAT satellites. The one uncertainty is that our Jason-1 data steam has been disrupted (NASA changed the data file formats and we continue to rebuild our interface, but it is not operational yet). There are rumors that the satellite did not confirm significant sea heights as large as what was modeled, but that is always the case for any storm with seas exceeding 40 ft (the sensor on the satellite appears to have a hard upper limit of 40 ft). Regardless, if the winds projected by the GFS model are confirmed by satellite, the model typically does a good job of projecting the resulting seas. Regardless, were going to error on the side of caution on our sure forecast. That said, it still seems reasonable that a solid pulse of direct wave energy is to track north targeting Tahiti up into Hawaii. But the peak of the storms wind and seas were generated while it's passing directly south of Tahiti and aimed decently northward with the more energetic swell pushing up towards the US West Coast, Central America and eastward into South America. This should not be anything more than what was seen from Swell #1S for Tahiti and Hawaii, but the US West Coast down into Mexico and Chile should fare better if for no other reason than more fetch was aimed directly at those locations and seas exceeded those of Storm #1S.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (6/3) at sunset with a few sets to 1.6 ft @ 23 secs (3.5 ft). Swell to build through the day Tues (6/4) pushing 3 ft @ 21 secs early (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8.0 ft) pushing 3.9 ft @ 19 secs late (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Swell to peak near midnight at 4.2 ft @ 18 secs (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Solid swell to continue Wed (6/5) at 4.0 ft @ 17-18 secs early (7.0 ft with sets to 9 ft) then starting to taper off late as period drops just below 17 secs. Swell fading Thurs (6/6) from 3.2 ft @ 15 secs early (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Dribbles on Fri (6/7) dropping from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 183-188 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arriving on Wed morning (6/5) with period 25 secs and size tiny but building, pushing 2.0 ft @ 23 secs late (4.5 ft with sets to 6.0 ft). Swell continuing upwards on Thurs (6/6) with period 21 secs early and turning to 20 secs near noon with swell 3.6 ft @ 20 secs (7 ft with sets to 9 ft). Swell holding Fri (6/7) reaching 4.3 ft @ 18 secs (7.7 ft with sets to 9.7 ft). Swell continuing on Sat (6/8) but heading down from 3.6 ft @ 16-17 secs early (6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft). Solid residuals on Sunday (6/9) with period 15-16 secs. Swell Direction: 196-205 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arriving on Wed mid-afternoon (6/5) with period 25 secs and size tiny but building, pushing 2.3 ft @ 23 secs late (5.0 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell continuing upwards on Thurs (6/6) with period 22 secs early and turning to 20 secs near noon with swell 3.6 ft @ 20 secs (7.2 ft with sets to 9 ft). Swell holding Fri (6/7) reaching 3.8 ft @ 18-19 secs early secs (7.0 ft with sets to 9 ft). Swell continuing on Sat (6/8) but heading down from 3.3 ft @ 17 secs early (5.6 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Solid residuals on Sunday (6/9) with period 15-16 secs. Swell Direction: 194-203 degrees
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 the local coastal gradient is to be next to nonexistent relative to the California coast until Fri (6/7) as low pressure in the Gulf dissipates (see more details below). At that time the gradient is rebuild slightly with a small area of 30 kt north winds building directly over Cape Mendocino and holding through the weekend producing modest north short period windswell with a local eddy flow also coming into effect resulting in improved local conditions relative to Central CA.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to retreat by Tuesday (6/4) but not fade completely then start to rebuild Fri (6/7) as high pressure strengthens. Minimal east windswell expected Wed-Thurs then perhaps rebuilding slightly into the weekend.
The models also indicate a semi-tropical low over Japan is to race east and start building just east of the dateline on Tues (6/4) generating 35 kt westerly winds while the gale lifts steadily northeast through late Thurs (6/6). 20 ft seas forecast at 46N 157W aimed east on Wed PM building to 26 ft Thurs AM at 48N 151W, then dissipating. If this were to occur some degree of 15 sec period swell would result targeting San Francisco northward. But at this point it's only a fantasy by the models with less than 10% chance of actually forming. A tease a best.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast for the North Pacific.
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.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 Saturday (6/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 6.45. The 30 day average was up to 8.50 with the 90 day average up slightly at 6.12. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino, with the upward trend a clear indicator of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and the dateline region with neutral anomalies east of there on into Central America. A neutral MJO pattern was in control. A week from now (6/9) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the dateline and then fading to neutral south of Hawaii continuing that way on into Central America. This suggests a continuation of a neutral Phase of the MJO ( a good thing compared to previous model runs).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/31 are in agreement, suggesting a fading Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control over the far West Pacific. Both models have the weak Inactive Phase slowly fading 4, 8 and 15 days from now while the Active Phase of the MJO builds in the Indian Ocean and starts to track into the far West Pacific 15 days (the dynamic model is a little less aggressive on it's eastward propagation, still holed up in the Western Indian Ocean).
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. As of now (5/30) a full La Nina pattern continues in the East Pacific over the equator with much cooler water pushing off the South American Coast extending and building now west of the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there the whole way to a point south of Hawaii (we erroneously reported it extending to the dateline last update). This looks like a real La Nina cold pool at this time, or maybe just a striking strong effect of a robust Inactive Phase of the MJO. That said - it does not look as forceful as even the previous update 3 days ago. Will monitor. This cold pool has eroded warm water that previously built up north of the equator off Central America. Looking back just a few weeks it's almost as if this cold pool developed before any anomalous east winds started blowing over the West Pacific. The question now is: "Will those cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in.cgiace?". It's too early to know. But another ominous sign is the same thing is occurring off West Africa, with cold water radiating off the coast there on the equator and building while pushing towards the Caribbean. This is a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. And the.cgiume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years and finally closed off mid-May has returned, initially only weakly but it's growing. This was a reflection of the collapse of high pressure over the East Pacific. But that high is now rebuilding with more cool water expected to develop. Another interesting tidbit is last year at this time an almost El Nino like pattern developed, only to collapse late summer. So it is possible this La Nina teaser could fade as well. Something to monitor. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicating a pool of cooler water (-2.0 deg C) in.cgiace at 150W and down 150 meters, blocking the transport path and locked in.cgiace. A building pocket of slight warmer water is backed up in the West Pacific, typical of La Nina. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and if anything are cooling, while the subsurface path is blocked by cooler water, not doing anything to transport warm water eastward, even if there was warm water to transport. And the Atlantic is starting to respond to what appears to be a building global pattern. And the SOI is starting to rise again and expected to continue as the MJO again turns Inactive. All signs are pointing towards La Nina.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 5/30 remain oblivious to the cold water building occurring in the Southeast equatorial Pacific. The model indicates water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (+0.0 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.2 degree C level is possible by July building into October at +0.5 and holding there through Jan 2014. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier where accuracy of all the ENSO models is historically low. But by mid-June we'll be clear of that barrier and will have a better handle on the long term outlook. So for now the outcome is uncertain, but not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates). Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) 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 did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to 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 Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast until Sat (6/8) when a small storm is to develop in the southeast Pacific lifting north producing 50 kt south winds over a tiny area and 40 ft seas over a small area late near 43S 129W targeting Mexico up into California. But this is 7 days out on the models so there little confidence at this time. Will believe it when it happens.
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) r.cgiaying 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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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,.cgiease 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 acco.cgiished 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