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 (6/11) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell producing surf in the chest high range and clean early but generally weak. It's rideable but nothing more. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi residuals were producing waves in the waist high range and clean but unremarkable. Southern California up north was flat with a few knee to thigh high sets and clean. Down south waves were waist high plus with up to shoulder high sets and weak but clean and rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was near flat and clean, maybe a few thigh-waist high sets. The East Shore was getting modest northeasterly windswell at waist to 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. Summer is fully engaged. Small locally generated north windswell was occurring along the California coast. Hawaii was getting local trades at 15 kts producing modest easterly tradewind windswell.
The models suggest no swell producing weather systems in the North Pacific for the next 7 days. Relative to California local north windswell to increase some by Wednesday and hold for the rest of the workweek but with poor local conditions relative to everywhere north of Pt Conception then fading over the weekend. For Hawaii easterly tradewind generated windswell produced by the standard Northeast Pacific summer-time high pressure system is to build some on Wednesday and hold through the workweek into Saturday, then starting to fade as the high dissipates.
Down south two small gales formed Tues-Wed (6/5), one under New Zealand and the second in the extreme Southeast Pacific both with 34 ft seas for 24 hours aimed due east. Small swell tracking towards Hawaii from the first and maybe California from the second. A tiny storm formed under New Zealand Sun (6/9) with up to 40 ft seas for 12 hrs aimed due east. Small swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast. And a larger gale again formed under New Zealand on Mon-Tues (6/11) with seas to 38 ft. Perhaps a little more size possible for the same regions. Beyond virtually no swell producing weather systems of interest are charted.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (6/11) high pressure at 1032 mbs as located in the Gulf of Alaska pushing slowly east and starting to generate the standard pressure gradient over North California generating a modest sized area of 20 kt north winds with an eddy flow in place nearshore resulting in small local short period north windswell impacting the North and Central CA coast. The south quadrant of the high was also generating northeasterly 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 push a little further east increasing the pressure gradient along the California coast some with north winds building to 25 kts Wednesday centered just off San Francisco then falling south some into Friday (6/14) centered off Monterey Bay but extending north to Cape Mendocino and south to the Channel Islands. North local windswell to build some focused on Central CA with limited energy wrapping into exposed breaks in Southern CA. But by late Friday the gradient is to start fading.
Trades to also build in areal coverage starting Wednesday and peaking late Thursday (6/13) relative to the Hawaiian Islands at 15-20 kts as the high falls south some resulting in more short period easterly windswell.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were occurring or forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/11) strong high pressure at 1034 mbs was centered in the Gulf of Alaska 1200 nmiles northwest of San Francisco ridging towards the Pacific Northwest generating a fetch of 20 kt north winds off Cape Mendocino, but with a weak eddy flow over all of Central CA and much of North CA. North winds are to be building nearshore for Central CA by Wednesday as the high pushes east and the gradient redevelops centered off San Francisco 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), before fading some Friday (20-25 kts). Poor local conditions everywhere but Southern CA. The gradient is to finally start fading on Saturday from 20 kts and be gone by Sunday with nearshore winds for North and Central CA 5-10 kts. Still 20 kt north winds to be centered over Pt Conception. Southern CA to remain protected from this gradient through the week and into the weekend. By later Monday the gradient is to move over the Channel Islands with Southern CA experiencing northwest winds at 15 kts and holding into Tuesday before starting to lift north late.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (6/11) the jet was fully split over the width of the South Pacific with the southern branch down at 60+S and tracking flat west to east (zonal flow) wit one small pocket of winds to 110 kts. There were no troughs present offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the split jet pattern is to continue with no troughs forecast and winds not exceeding 110 kts offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours no real change is forecast. Perhaps a small trough is to develop over the deep south Central Pacific with 120 kts winds starting to feed up into that trough, but nothing remarkable to result down at the oceans surface.
Surface - On Tuesday (6/11) a gale was fading south of New Zealand (see details below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather system of interest are forecast.
On Tuesday AM (6/4) a small gale developed off the Ross Ice Shelf in the far Southwest Pacific 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 later in the day and California on Sat AM (6/15) with swell 1.4 ft @ 17-18 secs (2 ft) from 208 degrees.
On Sunday AM (6/9) a small gale developed and quickly peaked 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 40 ft over a tiny area at 61S 163E. The gale was fading fast by evening with winds barely 40 kts and falling into Antarctica with seas dropping from 36 ft at 62S 175E. By Monday AM this system was 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 but likely not big enough to be rideable yet).
On Monday evening (6/10) a small gale developed south of New Zealand just off the Ross Ice Shelf producing 45 kts west winds and seas building to 36 ft over a moderate sized area at 58S 170E. Winds were fading to 40 kts by Tues AM (6/11) resulting in seas of 36 ft at 57S 178W. The fetch is to be disintegrating by evening fading from barely 40 kts with seas 34 ft at 58S 165W. Small swell possibly reaching Hawaii on Tues AM (6/18) at 1.3 ft @ 18 secs (2 ft) from 191 degrees. e if all goes as forecast. Even less size for California arriving on Thurs (6/20) midday with period 18 secs from 208 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 fading fast early Saturday (6/15) with winds barely 20 kts centered off Monterey Bay, then dissipating with winds falling below 15 kts Sunday AM. Windswell fading Saturday and dissipating Sunday with a light northerly flow forecast along the coast. Some semblance of the gradient is to persist with winds 20 kts near Pt Conception, rebuilding there late Tues (6/18) to 25 kts.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to hold steady over the weekend at 15 kts, but having little areal coverage east of there. But by Tues (6/18) high pressure is to again start building north of Hawaii with easterly winds at 15 kts starting to cover more area with the odds of easterly windswell increasing.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast for the North Pacific with high pressure effectively filling the entire North Pacific Basin by Sun (6/16) with no change projected.
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 (6/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 20.81. The 30 day average was up to 13.15 with the 90 day average holding 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 easterly anomalies building over the eastern Maritime Continent holding over the dateline region with neutral anomalies east of there on into Central America. The Inactive Phase appeared to be building. A week from now (6/19) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning moderately easterly over the dateline and holding that way to a point 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 6/10 are in agreement with themselves, but not with the model above, 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 the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and starting to track into the far West Pacific 8 days out (per the Dynamic model), but not really making it, and then dissipating (both models) 15 days out. Effectively a continuation of a neutral pattern for the next 15 days with a slight bias towards the Active Phase (at best).
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 (6/10) a La Nina like 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 20 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 some. 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 that warmer water actually started to migrate east over top of the cold pool (6/3) - 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 6/11 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 +0.5 degree C level is possible by July building into October at +0.7 and holding there into the +0.6 degree mark through Jan 2014. A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a wide spread of outcomes ranging from La Nina to neutral to just a bit warmer than neutral into Summer and early Fall 2013. 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".
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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table