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 (6/25) North and Central CA had surf that was basically flat and nearly chopped with south wind in effect. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat but cleaner with kelp blocking the wind. Southern California up north was flat and heavily textured from onshore wind. Down south waves were thigh to maybe waist high on rare sets coming from the southern hemi and pretty heavily textured. Hawaii's North Shore was chest to shoulder high and clean but kinda closed out with much sand filling in the normal channels, swell coming from the dateline. The South Shore was doing the best of anywhere with thigh to waist high sets and clean, but still weak. The East Shore was getting east windswell at thigh high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from a gale that tracked over the dateline Friday evening (6/21) with 28 ft seas was starting to hit North CA and working it's way down the coast. Size was not even barely rideable yet. Otherwise on Tuesday no windswell was being generated along the Central CA coast with remnants of the dateline low hanging just off the Pacific Northwest coast eroding high pressure keeping it away from the coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands swell from the dateline gale was fading but still rideable size wise. But easterly tradewinds were suppressed with only minimal residual easterly tradewind generated windswell hitting east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Beyond high pressure is to be held at bay relative to California by remnants of the Gulf low pressure system, circulating off the Pacific Northwest into the weekend (6/29). Only a small bit of high pressure is to start building along the coast by Saturday offering limited odds for small and short period local north windswell. Swell from the low itself is to last into Friday, then fall below rideable levels with local windswell taking over for the weekend into next week. For Hawaii high pressure and tradewinds to remained suppressed for the next 7 days with no rideable easterly local tradewind windswell expected.
A small gale formed in the Southeast Pacific Mon-Tues (6/18) producing 32-34 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast. Swell is heading north expected into CA by Wed (6/26) with decently rideable size, but the core of the gale was too far east to have any real impact for Hawaii. But another gale formed off the northern tip of New Zealand Thurs (6/20) generating 28 ft seas aimed well to the north. Rideable southern hemi swell is expected for Hawaii on Wed (6/26). This system generated additional seas east of New Zealand aimed a bit towards Hawaii likely providing more follow-on swell for the Islands through Sat (6/29).
But beyond no respectable swell producing weather systems are charted. There's a hint of a small gale tracking east under New Zealand on Mon (7/1) with up to 40 ft seas, but it's way to early for any of that to be believed yet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (6/25) remnant low pressure was circulating off the Pacific Northwest generating a decent fetch of 20 kt northwest winds and seas at 13 ft pushing east to wards Oregon and California producing windswell to mix with longer period swell generated when this gale was over the dateline (see Dateline Gale below). This low was also causing the normal Northeast Pacific high pressure system to be retrograded well to the west, now centered near the dateline. With the high pushed so far west, even the Hawaiian had no real easterly tradewind and no real easterly local windswell along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with the California coastal high still retrograded well to the west as the low off Oregon slowly dissipates. No windswell of interest is forecast relative to California. But residual swell from the Oregon low to continue hitting the California coast, but fading (see Dateline Gale below).
This same low off California is to continue to reduce the footprint of high pressure north of the Islands reducing trades over the Islands to less than 15 kts through Friday (6/28). The net result is that tradewind generated east windswell for Hawaii to remain below rideable levels for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Tropical moisture and energy tracked over and northeast off Japan Wednesday (6/19) organizing into a cohesive low pressure system off the Kuril Islands on Thurs AM (6/20) producing 35 kt west winds and seas to 20 ft at 43S 162E. This low migrated east-northeast and just shy of the Aleutians in the evening with winds still 35 kts and seas building to 24 ft at 43S 170E. The gale was over the dateline Friday AM (6/21) with 40 kt west winds and seas building from 23 ft at 46N 176E holding with seas to 28 ft in the evening at 48N 180W. Pretty solid given the time of year. Winds were fading from the 30-35 kt range Saturday AM (6/22) as the low moved over the dateline with seas fading from 25 ft at 48N 173W and then dropping from 20 ft in the evening at 48N 167W. The low started falling southeast Sunday AM (6/23) with west winds 25 kts and seas 18 ft at 48N 165W continuing southeast in the evening with seas down to 17 ft at 47N 158W. 25 kt northwest winds and 15-16 ft seas to hold till Monday evening (6/24) at 44N 147W (1200 nmiles from NCal on the 297 deg path), then fading from there. By Tuesday PM (6/25) only 20 kt northwest winds and 13 ft seas are to be left at 40N 138W (650 nmiles from San Francisco on the 285 degree path) and fading from there.
Swell from previous fetch on the dateline is already in the water pushing towards both Hawaii (Mon 6/24) and the US West Coast (Wed 6/26). Additional windswell to follow mainly for the US West Coast if the fetch that's forecast early this week plays out.
Hawaii: Swell to be fading from 3 ft @ 11 secs on Wed AM (6/26). Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North CA: Swell to peak on Wed (6/26) mid-day with pure swell to 4 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft). A mixture of longer period energy and more local shorter period energy expected Thurs (6/27) with pure swell 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft faces) fading Friday (6/28) at 4.7 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 1297 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday AM (6/25) Hurricane Cosme was positioned 250 nmiles southwest of Cabo san Lucas with winds 70 kts and seas to 30 ft. This put the core of Cosme just barely in the Dana Point swell window at 159 degrees and traveling west-northwest at 15 kts. Some small swell energy is likely pushing north towards Southern CA. Cosme is to peak in intensity this evening with winds 75 kts, then start fading, falling below hurricane strength later Wednesday (6/26). A quick fade and a turn more to the west is expected after that as the storm moves over much cooler water. The window for swell generation relative to Southern CA is now and for the next 24 hours. Expect swell arrival in Southern CA on Thurs (6/27) mid-AM with swell 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.5 ft) and size holding into Friday at 7 AM at 2.6 ft @ 12 secs (2.5-3.0 ft), then falling off late afternoon. Swell Direction: 159-176 degrees
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (6/25) a steady south wind flow was occurring from Morro Bay northward as low pressure holds off the Pacific Northwest. Light drizzle was also occurring along the coast from Monterey Bay northward. By Wednesday light southwest winds are to slowly give way to a light northwest flow from San Francisco southward, but still south winds over the rest of Northern CA as low pressure starts loosing coverage off the coast. On Thursday winds turning northerly maybe 5-10 kts building to 15-20 kts over Pt Conception late. By Friday a weak coastal gradient is to set up with north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA and up to 20 kts near Pr Arena late, but less nearshore for all of Central CA. Saturday north winds are to build to 20 kts for all of North and Central CA later in the day holding at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA on Sunday. The gradient is to start fading on Monday as another weak low is to develop off the Pacific Northwest.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (6/25) the jet was consolidated from just east of New Zealand to a point just off Chile with winds pushing 180 kt tracking flat east over the Southeast Pacific. The southern branch of the jet was tracking northeast up along the east coast of New Zealand making something that almost looked like a trough there, but winds were only 100 kts, not offering much if any support for gale development at lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the consolidated flow taking a bit of a southerly track towards Southern Chile by Friday (6/28). Winds to still hold near 180 kts, but the southward track is problematic, driving any gale that might form southeast and away from the great circle tracks up into our forecast area. The same northeasterly wind flow to continue up along the New Zealand coast but fading to 60 kts and utterly useless to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours the southern and northern branches are to start splitting apart from one another by Mon (7/1), flowing flat west to east. There's no indication of any troughs forming and therefore no support for gale development suggested.
Surface - On Tuesday (6/25) a weak but broad low pressure system was circulating southeast of New Zealand but only generating 30-35 kt southwest winds and somewhat fragmented at that, only generating 20 ft seas with no swell expected to result. Over the next 72 hours that gale is to continue circulating with a bit better organized fetch of 30-35 kt southwest winds forecast and seas building to 26 ft Wed PM (6/26) at 47S 170W but only small in coverage and quickly tracking east and fading. No swell to result.
Small Southeast Pacific Gale (CA)
On Sunday (6/13) a gale developed in the Southwest Pacific generating southwest winds at 35 kts south of New Zealand. No swell production was occurring yet. By evening fetch increased with winds building to almost 40 kts aimed well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 55S 165W. By Monday AM (6/17) a decent sized fetch of 40 kt southwest winds developed producing 30 ft seas at 60S 160W. By evening winds were holding at 40 kts with seas barely 34 ft at 59S 152W. Fetch was fading some Tuesday AM from 40 kts with seas 32 ft at 58S 142W. A quick fade is forecast after that.
Small swell is forecast for Southern CA starting Tues AM (6/25) building to 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell is to peak Wed afternoon (6/26) at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.0 ft faces). Swell to continue on Thurs (6/27) at 3.3 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft) then fading on Friday from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Small swell expected for Northern CA too starting Tues AM (6/25) building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell is to peak Wed late afternoon (6/26) at 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5.0 ft faces). Swell to continue on Thurs (6/27) at 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft) then fading on Friday from 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Small New Zealand Gale
On Wed PM (6/19) a gale developed over New Zealand producing 35+ kt southwest winds off it's northwestern tip resulting in 27 ft seas at 38S 165E. 35-40 kt southwest winds held till Thurs AM (6/20) resulting in more 27 ft seas at 34S 171E aimed well at Fiji and Hawaii. In the evening the fetch moved east of New Zealand with a small area of 40 kt south winds building along the coast aimed north resulting in 26 ft seas at 42S 175E. The fetch dissipated Fri AM (6/21).
Hawaii: Some degree of limited southern hemi swell from when the gale was over the tip of New Zealand is expected to reach Hawaii starting Wed (6/26) pushing 2 ft @ 16 secs late AM (3 ft). That swell to be fading Thurs AM (6/27) from 2 ft @ 14 secs coming from 207 degrees. Additional swell from when the gale moved east of New Zealand to be moving in late Thurs afternoon at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft) from 192 degrees building to 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft) on Fri (6/28). Swell fading Sat (6/29) from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft).
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 residual low pressure is to fade off the Pacific Northwest by Sat (6/29) allowing development of limited high pressure nearshore to North and Central California with the usual coastal pressure gradient forming and north winds building to 20 kt later. This should start to increase the odds for generation of small local short period windswell with the gradient and windswell getting more defined Sunday, but then fading late Monday into Tuesday as low pressure regenerates off the Pacific northwest with windswell fading.
A new gale is to develop east of the Kuril Islands on Thurs (6/27) generating a moderate fetch of 25-30 kt west winds but racing northeast and pushing into the Bering Sea late Sat (6/29). Because this system is to be moving so fast, it's fetch is to get little traction on the oceans surface, with only 15 ft seas developing and of no particular interest given the long distance away from our forecast area.
Relative to Hawaii tradewinds are to remain suppressed due to the same low pressure pattern over the East Pacific until maybe Tuesday (7/2), and then barely 15 kts from the northeast. Maybe some minor local northeasterly short period windswell to results with luck.
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 (6/25) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 8.15. The 30 day average was up to 8.65 with the 90 day average holding at 6.43. Overall this is holding in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and clearly illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline region turning slightly west south of Hawaii and continuing almost the whole way to Central America. A week from now (7/3) easterly anomalies are forecast building over the western Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline with moderate west anomalies from the dateline extending well east of a point south Hawaii. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be building in the west and the Active Phase of the MJO is to be existing to the east.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/24 are in agreement suggesting a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was fading out while tracking over the East Pacific with the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean and starting to seep into the far West Pacific. Both models now have the Active Phase of the MJO all but gone 5 days out. 8 days out the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be moving into the far West Pacific and building moderately 15 days out. So the current weak and short lived Active Phase is expected to give way to another Inactive Phase starting in 1 week.
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 (6/24) a La Nina like pattern continues fading in the East Pacific over the equator, almost gone. This is good news. Cooler water continues to significantly reduced it's footprint off the South American Coast with a pocket of warmer water holding there. Pockets of limited cooler water extend over the Galapagos Islands and pushing west from there almost half way to a point south of Hawaii. But they continue to look weaker than even the previous update 4 days ago. The cold pool has been steadily shrinking over the past 30 days. This cold pool previously eroded warm water that was building up north of the equator off Central America. If anything, that area appears to be on the rebound with more warm water building from the equator northward. 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 had been: "Will these cold waters moderate and disperse or will they stay in-place?". At this time they are in full retreat - a good thing. The next thing that would be good would be to see the cool pool off West Africa eroding too. Unfortunately, it too has built almost to the coast of South America. This was a direct reflection of what is occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. But with the cold pool seemingly eroding some, maybe all hope is not lost. A plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been radiating southeast off California for 2 years closed off mid-May, but has returned, initially only weakly but is now fully developed, with an open track from San Francisco over Hawaii all the way to the intersection of the dateline and the equator. The teleconnection suggests this cold water pattern (driven by high pressure aloft) 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 indicate a pool of cooler water that had been in place at 140W and down 150 meters dispersed in June, but now appears to be rebuilding some (as of 6/25). Warm water from the West Pacific migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +2.0 deg C water is now at 110W and down 50 meters. Temperatures on the surface appear to be warming some with the subsurface blocking pattern loosing it's legs. Still of concern is the fact the Atlantic responded to the cold push in May, in what could be a building global pattern. And a new building pocket of -3 degrees water is rebuilding at 140W and down 125 meters. We'll see if it eventually breaks the surface. Also of concern is that the SOI 30 day average still remains well into positive territory. And the models are now suggesting the MJO is going to turn Inactive again. At best we could return to a neutral pattern biased Inactive, but at this time it seems like some flavor of weak La Nina is still dominant.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 6/25 indicate water temps bottomed out (in May) near normal (-0.1 degs C). A gradual rebound to the +0.1 degree C level is possible by July building into Nov at +0.3 then fading from there through Jan 2014 dropping to (+2.0 deg C). 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. The dynamic models favor slight warming, while the statistical models favor slight cooling. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models should have a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains uncertain, but surely not trending towards anything that would be considered warm (regardless what the CFSv2 indicates), not anything particularly cold either. 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 if not bordering weakly on La Nina.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid 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 a gale is forecast building while tracking under New Zealand on Mon (7/1) producing a small area of 50 kt west winds and seas building to 40 ft in the evening at 54S 178E. But by Tues AM (7/2) the gale is to be all but gone with seas fading fast from 40 ft at 55S 172W, then dissipated by evening. At this early date none of this is believable.
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
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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