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 Sunday (6/9) North and Central CA had a combination of local northwest windswell and Gulf swell providing waves in the chest high range and up to 1 ft overhead at top spots and a bit ruffled early with south eddy wind in control except at protected spots. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi Swell #2S was fading but still decent with waves chest high and clean. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high and clean with light fog. Down south waves were chest to head high and 1 ft overhead at top spots and clean, lined up but with long waits between sets, all from Storm #2S. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting minimal residual background energy with waves knee to thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting modest northeasterly 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 no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast. Moderate local north windswell was occurring along the California coast paired with fading swell from a gale that formed in the Eastern Gulf a few days earlier. Hawaii was receiving local trades at 15 kts producing modest easterly tradewind generated windswell.
The models suggest no swell producing weather systems in the North Pacific for the next 7 days other than the usual northerly local windswell relative to California and easterly tradewind generated windswell relative to Hawaii all produced by the standard Northeast Pacific summer-time high pressure system.
Down south swell from Storm #2S is to be all but gone by Monday relative to California. A pair of small gales are to track east under New Zealand and just off the Ross Ice Shelf Sun and Wed (6/12) producing 36 and 34 ft seas respectively, but all aimed due east. Minimal background swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast, but nothing more. Nothing else is on the charts. Hope you scored on Swell #2S.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (6/9) swell from a late season gale previously in the Eastern Gulf was fading along the North and Central CA coast. Also high pressure at 1036 mbs was centered in the Central Gulf of Alaska generating the standard pressure gradient over North California generating a moderate sized area of 25 kt north winds with an eddy flow in place nearshore resulting in moderate northerly local windswell for North and Central CA. 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.
Over the next 72 hours the models indicate high pressure is to hold in in the Gulf perhaps easing south some continuing to generate the pressure gradient along the California coast with north winds near 30 kts early Monday then fading to 25 kts Tuesday and Wednesday centered over Cape Mendocino. North local windswell to hold focused on Central CA with limited energy wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA.
Trades to also build in areal coverage relative to the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts as the high falls south some resulting in more short period easterly windswell.
A tropical system off the Philippines is tracking north and expected to move into Southern Japan late on Tues (6/11). But no swell from it is to reach the US West Coast or Hawaii.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Yagi was off the northern Philippines with winds 35 kts and tracking north-northeast. Yagi is expected to build some into Monday (6/10) with winds to 60 kts continuing on the same heading reaching southern Japan on Tues (6/11) with winds fading from 50 kts, moving inland just east of Kyoko on Wed (6/12) with winds 40 kts. No swell production of interest relative to our forecast area expected.
Otherwise no tropical systems of interest were occurring or forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/9) strong high pressure at 1038 mbs was centered in the Gulf of Alaska ridging towards the Pacific Northwest generating 30 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 winds are to be fading from 30 kts Monday off Cape Mendocino with a nearshore eddy flow fading. By Tuesday the gradient is to barely be producing 25 kts north winds reaching down to Pt Arena with the eddy flow gone. By Wednesday the gradient is to redevelop further south than previously with 25 kts north winds over most of the outer North and Central CA coast and less (but still brisk north ) nearshore becoming more pronounced Thurs (6/13) and Friday. The gradient is to finally start fading on Saturday and be gone by Sunday with nearshore winds for North and Central CA 5-10 kts. Southern CA to remain protected from this gradient through the week.
Jetstream - On Sunday (6/9) the jet was split over New Zealand with the southern branch down at 55S and ridging south and moving into Antarctica near the dateline, rebounding north some over the Southeastern Pacific but with the ridge tracking fast to the east. There was no support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours the ridge is to continue east while a bit of a trough tries to build south of Tasmania on Monday (6/10) resulting in south winds at 110 kts but quickly moderating 24 hours later and of no interest. A full zonal flow is forecast in place by Wednesday (6/120) offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours no change is forecast with winds in the southern branch only getting lighter offering less energy to support surface level low pressure development.
Surface - On Sunday (6/9) residual swell from Storm #2S was fading while pushing into California.
Otherwise a small gale was peaking under New Zealand and just off the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf with winds 50 kts out of the west over a small area. Seas were modeled at 38 ft over a tiny area at 61S 163E. The gale is to be fading fast by evening with winds barely 40 kts and falling into Antarctica with seas dropping from 34 ft at 62S 175E. By Monday AM this system is to be gone. Minimal small background swell is possible reaching Hawaii by Sun AM (6/16) from 198 degrees with period 19 secs and the US West Coast (CA) by late Tues (6/18) with period 20 secs from 211 degrees if all goes as forecast.
Also on Monday evening (6/10) a small gale is to again develop south of New Zealand just off the Ross Ice Shelf producing 45 kts west winds and seas building to 34 ft over a moderate sized area at 61S 170E. Winds to fade to 40 kts by Tues AM (6/11) resulting in seas of 34 ft at 58S 178W. The fetch is to be disintegrating by evening fading from barely 40 kts with seas 32 ft at 55S 172W. Small swell possible if all goes as forecast. Will monitor.
Previously a small gale developed off the Ross Ice Shelf in the far Southwest Pacific on Tues AM (5/4) with 45 kt west winds. By evening it was tracking east with winds up to 50 kts and seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 61S 167E. This system started fading Wed AM (6/5) while tracking east with winds 40 kts and seas building to 35 ft at 60S 176E. By evening winds were down to 35 kts with seas 32 ft at 57S 173W. By Thurs AM (6/6) this system was gone. Low odds for small 17 sec period sideband swell radiating up into Hawaii on Wed (6/12) AM with swell 1.4 ft @ 18 secs (2 ft) from 193 degrees and California on Sat AM (6/15) with swell 1.4 ft @ 17-18 secs (2 ft) from 208 degrees.
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather system of interest are 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 the local coastal gradient is to continue holding Thursday (6/13) but falling south more as high pressure in the Gulf falls southeast, resulting in north winds at 25 kts centered mainly over the Pt Arena area down into San Francisco producing modest north short period windswell. The local eddy flow relative to Central CA is to be gone. This situation is to hold though early Saturday (6/15), then the gradient is to fade with windswell dissipating and just a light northerly flow forecast along the coast.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to hold steady Thurs (6/13) out of the east-northeast at 15 kts pushing near 20 kts near the Islands, then starting to loose coverage off California with the fetch getting progressively smaller into Saturday (6/15) but not fading altogether, holding into Sunday. Good odds for somewhat larger windswell Thursday then slowly fading but not out into the weekend.
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 Sunday (6/9) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -6.33. The 30 day average was up to 13.01 with the 90 day average down slightly at 5.35. 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 (6/16) light easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning moderately easterly over the dateline and holding that way south of Hawaii then going neutral from there into Central America. This suggests a building of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/8 are in agreement, suggesting a neutral Phase of the MJO was in control while the Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Indian Ocean. Both models have this pattern continuing with the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and starting to track into the far West Pacific 8 days out, but not really making it, and instead starting to dissipate 15 days out while moving into the West Pacific.
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 (6/6) a 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 continues to not look as forceful as previous updates, with the cold pool steadily shrinking over the past 17 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. But that cold pool too seems to be eroding. 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 6/9 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 +0.25 degree C level is possible by July building into October at +0.6 and holding there into the +0.5 degree mark 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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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".
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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