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 (6/4) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell fading but still decent with waves chest high and a bit warbled except near clean at select spots with a south eddy flow in control. Down in Santa Cruz windswell was wrapping in producing waves in the thigh high range and clean but weak. Southern California up north was flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high coming out of the south with moderate texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore was getting background swell with waves maybe waist high and reasonably clean with just a hint of north direction on the trades. The South Shore was getting minimal energy from Swell #2S with waves chest high with bigger sets occasionally with brisk trades. The East Shore was getting modest easterly windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific a gale was starting to develop just east of the dateline with seas on the increase. Small local north windswell was fading with the typical summer time pressure gradient fading off of Northern CA. Hawaii was receiving local trades at 15 kts producing modest easterly tradewind generated windswell.
The models continue suggesting the gale above is to develop while tracking into the Gulf of Alaska with seas to 27 late Wednesday. Possible swell for Central CA northward really focused on the Pacific Northwest for the weekend. Otherwise the local California coastal gradient is to remain weak until later Friday when it starts building, getting solid by Sunday (6/9) with north windswell building at that time. For Hawaii tradewind generated east to northeast windswell is to continue through the week and the coming weekend at 15 kts thanks to high pressure holding off California coastal gradient.
Down south Storm #2S is gone with swell from it already passed Tahiti with size about as expected and starting to hit Hawaii (smaller than expected on the front end). Seas were modeled in the 46 ft range with winds confirmed at 50-55 kts. Swell is also on the way to the US West Coast and down into South America. Beyond a tiny system is forecast in the extreme Southeast Pacific on Wed (6/5) with 36 ft seas aimed mostly east with a second forming at the same time under New Zealand with 34 ft seas also pushing east. backgrounds well possible for Southern CA and Hawaii respectively, but size minimal.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (6/4) high pressure had retrograded 1100 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino at 1024 mbs generating a weak pressure gradient off the North CA coast generating north winds at 20 kts resulting in minimal short period north windswell at exposed breaks. An eddy flow was in place over almost the entire California coast. The south quadrant of the high was also generating easterly winds over the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts generating the usual small easterly short period windswell along east facing shores. Further out to the west a gale low had developed just east of the dateline generating 35 kt west winds in it's south quadrant aimed solely at the US West Coast and tracking east-northeast towards the Gulf of Alaska.
Over the next 72 hours the models indicate this gale is to lift steadily northeast with winds building to 40 kts on Wednesday (6/5) before fading Thursday in the northeast Gulf. 22 ft seas forecast at 43N 160W Wed AM (6/5) aimed east peaking on Wed PM building to 27 ft at 46N 156W (297 degs NCal), holding Thurs AM at 25 ft at 47N 150W (304 degs NCal) then dissipating in the evening from 23 ft. If all this comes true assume some degree of 15 sec period swell resulting targeting San Francisco northward. Rough guess puts swell into San Francisco starting Sat AM (6/8) with period 15 secs peaking in the afternoon at 4.2 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft). Swell holding overnight then fading from 4.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5 ft) Sun AM (6/9). Swell Direction: 197-302 degrees
As the low above moves into Alaska high pressure is to start rebuilding off the California coast late Friday (6/7) with the local coastal gradient developing and north winds building to near 30 kts late centered over Cape Mendocino. North local windswell to start rebuilding focused on Central CA with limited energy wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA.
Trades to hold steady over the Hawaiian Islands over the next 72 hours but covering less fetch area to the east resulting in short period and less energy. Still some degree of small but rideable easterly windswell is expected for the Islands.
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 Tuesday (6/4) modest high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered 1100 nmiles west of San Francisco ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating 25 kt north winds just off Cape Mendocino, but with a well defined eddy flow over all of Central CA and much of North CA. North to northeast winds are to be fading from 20 kts Wednesday off Cape Mendocino with a nearshore eddy flow 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. Southern CA to remain protected. By Friday north winds are forecast to start rebuilding from 30 kts late over North CA continuing Saturday with a well developed eddy flow building for Central CA on Saturday. By Sunday the gradient is to peak with 35 kts north winds over Cape Mendo and an eddy flow for all of South and Central CA extending up into southern North CA continuing into early Monday (6/10). The gradient to relax on Tuesday (6/11) with north winds 25 kts but the eddy to continue.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (6/1) the jet was split over New Zealand then almost consolidating east of there, only to split again and remain that way almost to the coast of Chile. A weak trough was trying to develop at that consolidation point, but of no real interest yet. Winds were up to 140 kts in another pocket in the Central South Pacific, but offering no real support for gale development of interest either. Over the next 72 hours the developing trough in the West Pacific is to get better defined through Thurs (5/60 before pinching off 24 hours later. Limited support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours (starting Sat 6/8) a fully split jetstream pattern is forecast extending the width of the South Pacific offering no real support for gale development. Maybe a weak trough to develop Tues (10/11) under New Zealand, but that's so far off as to not be believable.
Surface - On Tuesday (6/4) swell from Storm #2S (see details below) was tracking into Hawaii and South America bound for Central and North America.
Otherwise a small gale was building off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf under New Zealand with winds forecast to 45 kts out of the west Tues PM (6/4) pushing east with seas building to 28 ft at 59S 170E. Winds to fade Wed AM (6/5) at 40 kts with seas 34 ft at 60S 177E. In the evening winds to be dropping from 40 kts with seas fading from 33 ft ft 59S 174W. This system to be gone by evening. Is all comes to pass some degree of small sideband inconsistent 17 sec period swell could radiate north affecting Tahiti and Hawaii.
Another small gale was developing off the Ross Ice Shelf in the far Southeast Pacific to on Tues AM (5/4) with 45 kt west winds. By evening it is to be lifting northeast with winds still 45 kts and seas building to 32 ft over a tiny area at 59S 130W, barely in the CA swell window and mostly targeting Chile. This system to hold Wed AM (6/5) while tracking northeast with seas building to 36 ft at 55S 120W, then moving well east of the CA swell window in the evening with seas 33 ft at 50S 107W. Low odds for small 17 sec period sideband swell radiating up into mainly Southern CA, but again mostly targeting Chile.
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather system of interest are forecast.
Previously a tiny gale formed in the Central Tasman Sea on Mon AM (6/3) producing 40 kts south winds over a small area generating a small area of 32 ft seas at 33S 163E. By evening the fetch had faded to 40 kts with 28 ft seas fading at 32S 166E targeting Fiji well. Fetch was fading fast Tues AM (6/4) from 35 kts with seas fading from 27 ft at 32S 168E. Possible moderate 16 sec period swell for Fiji starting before sunrise Wed (6/5) peaking at sunrise at 8.0 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft Hawaiian) from 210 degrees. Swell fading from 7 ft @ 14 secs on Thurs (6/6).
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: Swell to peak near 1 AM Wed (6/5) 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 continue rebuilding Sat (6/8) producing a small area of 30 kt north winds building directly over Cape Mendocino building to 35 kts late and holding through Sunday producing modest north short period windswell with a local eddy flow becoming more pronounced by Saturday resulting in improved local conditions relative to Central CA. The gradient to start fading Monday but winds still 30 kts, then starting to dissipate late Tuesday with winds down to 25 kts. Still some degree of north local windswell to continue being generated.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to hold steady out of the east-northeast at 15 kts and starting to cover more ground by late in the weekend (Sun PM - 6/9), blowing continuously from Cape Mendocino to the Islands at 15 kts and stronger near the US West Coast. Better odds for somewhat larger windswell at that time and holding into Wed (6/12).
The model hint at a tropical system developing off the Philippines on Fri (6/7) tracking north and moving eventually into Japan on Tues (6/11), but none of that is believable just yet.
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 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 (6/4) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 22.84. The 30 day average was up to 11.95 with the 90 day average down slightly at 5.98. Overall this is neutral territory bordering on La Nina and not indicative of El Nino and clearly illustrative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the dateline region with neutral anomalies east of there on into Central America. A neutral MJO pattern was in control. A week from now (6/12) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the dateline and holding that way south of Hawaii almost the whole way to Central America. This suggests a continuation of a neutral if not slightly Inactive Phase of the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/3 are in agreement, suggesting a barely present Inactive Phase of the MJO trying to hang on while the Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Indian Ocean. 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 out, but not fully exposed yet in the West Pacific. At least the models are hopeful.
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 (6/3) a full La Nina pattern continues in the East Pacific over the equator with much cooler water pushing off the South American Coast extending over the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there almost half way to a point south of Hawaii. 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, with the cold pool steadily shrinking over the past 12 days. 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-place?". It's too early to know but they appear to be fading - a good thing. 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 plume 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. The teleconnection suggests this pattern has a global component and will not easily be dislodged. 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 place at 150W and down 150 meters. But it appears that warmer water is actually starting to migrate east over top of the cold pool - another thing to monitor.Temperatures on the surface appear to be warming some, and the subsurface blocking pattern appears to be loosing legs. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic is starting to respond to what appears to be a building global pattern. And the SOI is starting to rise again. But the models suggest the MJO is to start turning more towards the Active Phase and less Inactive. Maybe we will return to a pattern biased neutral, but it's too early to tell.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 6/4 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 place 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.
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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'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, 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".
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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