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 (7/2) North and Central CA had surf at thigh high and clean but weak and sloppy with light wind and clean with just a hint of intermixed warble. Down in Santa Cruz surf was in the thigh to maybe waist high range on the sets and clean. Southern California up north had thigh high sets and and clean but weak - just windswell. Down south waves were maybe waist high and weak coming from the south and ruffled with some wind on it. Hawaii's North Shore was knee high and clean. The South Shore was waist high and clean with next to no wind blowing. The East Shore was getting easterly hurricane swell at thigh high and not too bumpy early.
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 is occurring or has occurred to produce swell. Minimal north winds near Cape Mendocino was producing small northerly windswell for the Central CA coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds remained suppressed with no real easterly tradewind generated windswell hitting east facing shores. A cutoff low was circulating northeast of the Islands generating a tiny fetch of 25-30 kt northeast winds and 12 ft seas targeting the Islands. Maybe some minimal windswell by later Friday (7/5) with luck.
Beyond high pressure is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska riding into the North CA coast generating the typical fetch of north winds there to 30 kts by Thursday holding into Saturday resulting in north windswell for North and Central CA for the long 4th weekend. For Hawaii high pressure and tradewinds to remained suppressed through Monday (7/8) then making a return on Tuesday at 15 kts with the potential for easterly local tradewind generated windswell resulting.
Down south a gale produced 26 ft seas east of New Zealand aimed at Hawaii. Maybe very small and weak swell for Tues (7/2). Of more interest if you follow the charts is a small but potent storm that developed in the East Pacific on Sat (6/29) with 48-52 ft seas over an infinitesimal area traveling due east. It faded some Sunday with seas falling below 40 ft and tracked east of the California swell window. Solid swell is expected for South America with sideband swell up into Central America and Mexico. But next to nothing is expected up into California except for maybe exposed breaks in Southern CA. This system was well east of the Hawaiian swell window.
Otherwise a series of very small gale are forecast tracking east under New Zealand Tuesday, Wednesday (7/3) and Friday (7/5) with seas in the 36 ft range, but all tracking flat east and fading rather quickly making no northward push and their fetch area's tiny, offering no swell generation potential for our forecast area. Even less is projected beyond. Take the windswell for all it's worth. Welcome to the dog days of summer
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/2) weak high pressure was starting to organize over the northern part of the Central North Pacific at 1024 mbs extending west to almost Northern Japan and east to the Pacific Northwest. A weak and small cutoff low was circulating 1400 nmiles northeast of Hawaii generating 25 kt northeast winds targeting the Islands and tracking west, but it's forecast to be dissipated by Wed AM (7/3). There low odds for minimal windswell arriving along exposed northeast facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands late on Fri (7/5) into early Sat (7/6) at 3 ft @ 9-10 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces) from 40 degrees. Otherwise the high pressure system was starting to generate the faintest of pressure gradient along the Cape Mendocino CA coast at 20 kts making for bare minimal short period local windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA. The Hawaiian Island had no real easterly tradewinds and no easterly local windswell of notice along east facing shores.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to start slowly moving more towards the Eastern Pacific while weak low pressure northeast of Hawaii fades out. A limited fetch of 25 kt north winds is forecast over Cape Mendocino on Wednesday building to 30 kts Thursday and holding Friday into mid-Saturday, but extending south no further than Pt Reyes nearshore, setting up an eddy flow south of there for the duration. the result is to be decent sized windswell with light south winds for Central CA with limited energy reaching into exposed breaks in Southern CA. But the Hawaiian Islands are to continue experiencing significantly reducing trades (less than 15 kts) with no tradewind generated east windswell of interest forecast mainly due the northward displacement of the high and linger presence of low pressure northeast of the Islands.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tues (7/2) tropical Storm Dalila was positioned 280 nmiles southwest of Can San Lucas Baja with winds 55 kts tracking west. This motion is forecast to continue if not falling a bit southwest with a slow slackening of winds speeds, down to 50 kts Wednesday and 40 kts Thursday. No swell of interest is forecast to results for our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/2) a light wind flow if not light eddy flow (south wind) was in effect for the California coast nearshore other than 20 kt north winds limited to extreme Northern CA. Wednesday the usual summer time gradient is to build over North CA at 25 kts reaching down to Pt Arena with a light eddy flow south of there. Thursday north winds build to 30+ kts over North CA with the eddy flow holding solid south of there. Friday more of the same but with north winds possibly reaching into the San Francisco Bay area mid-day and north winds to 35 kts late up north. Otherwise the eddy is to hold south of there. Saturday north winds to start fading with the eddy building up to Pt Arena. By Sunday the gradient is to be all but gone with north winds 25 kts off the North CA coast and a light winds flow or all of CA nearshore. More of the same Monday (7/8) with a light northerly flow 5 kts over the entire coast Tuesday.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (7/2) the jet was split over the width of the South Pacific with both streams tracking east parallel to each other with the southern branch weaker and running along the 53S latitude with the northern branch having all the wind energy consistently at 140 kts and more in pockets but no real troughs of interest indicated. Over the next 72 hours the southern branch is to start lifting north and colliding with the northern branch by Friday (7/5) which a nice pocket of 160 kts winds builds over the Tasman Sea extending east of New Zealand. At least there's finally to be some activity worth noticing. Beyond 72 hours though the southern branch of the jet is to rematerialize building under New Zealand on Monday (7/8) pushing east of there and displaced south down at 60S while the northern branch turns southeast over the Eastern Pacific. There's almost some hints of a trough developing over the Central Pacific a week out, but that is more of a fantasy than reality at this early date. In short, no troughs and no real support for gale development in the lower levels of the atmosphere indicated.
Surface - On Tuesday (7/2) swell from a small but powerful storm was tracking northeast through the Southeast Pacific targeting primarily South America (see Southeast Pacific Storm below). Otherwise a tiny gale developed southeast of New Zealand Mon PM (7/1) with barely 30 ft seas building Tues AM (7/2) with winds barely 55 kts over a tiny area and seas up to 36 ft at 55S 168W tracking flat east and tiny in areal coverage. This system to continue east in the evening with southwest winds 45 kts and seas 34 ft at 55S 154W. This system to be gone by Wed AM (7/3). No odds of any swell reaching up into Hawaii or the US West Coast given this storms tiny footprint and due east trajectory. A second smaller gale is forecast for the same area starting Tues PM (7/2) with a tiny area of 45 kts west winds. By Wed AM (7/3) with 45 kt west winds to hold with 37 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 176W, then winds and seas fading out by evening. Even less potential for swell to result from this one. the models suggest this system to redevelop in the Southeast Pacific on Fri (7/5) generating 45 kt southwest winds and seas peaking at 36 ft at 55S 139W, fading out 24 hours later. The same result expected (no swell for anywhere but maybe Chile).
Southeast Pacific Storm
A strong but tiny storm developed in the Southeast Pacific Sat AM (6/29) generating 60 kt west winds with seas pushing 52 ft at 44S 137W tracking due east targeting primarily South America. No fetch was aimed up at the US Mainland. 55 kt east winds held into the evening with seas 50 ft at 42S 128W, barely in the California swell window but with most energy pushing due east towards South America. By Sunday AM (6/30) the gale developed a small fetch of 45 kt south winds along with 45 kt west winds but positioned barely in the Southern CA swell window. 45 ft seas were modeled over a tiny area at 40S 120W pushing mostly east. By evening the storm was east of even the California swell window with 45-50 kt southwest winds positioned off the coast of Chile generating 38 ft seas at 39S 111W targeting only Chile and Peru. Fetch held while the gale pushed east into Monday AM (7/1) with 42 ft seas at 43S 104W, again targeting only South America. By evening wind was fading from 40 kts but covering a decent sized area finally with seas 39 ft at 39S 95W. Fetch was fading from 35 kts Tues AM (7/2) with seas fading from 36 ft at 38S 88W targeting Chile and Peru.
This will be a good swell producer for Chile and Peru, with decent sideband swell working it's way up into Central America and Southern Mexico. But only weak background sideband swell is forecast for California - mainly Southern CA, arriving on Fri (7/5) with period 20 secs and barely even noticeable. The issue is the the fetch was exceedingly small while the storm was in the CA swell window, and the fetch was all aimed due east or 90 degrees east of any great circle path up into California.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (7/5) with period 20 secs and size tiny, pushing 1.6 ft @ 19 secs late. Swell to peak on Saturday (7/6) at 2 ft @ 18 secs early (3.5 ft with sets to 4 ft) and period down to 17 secs late. Residuals on Sunday (7/7) at 1.8 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft) and fading. Swell Direction: 195 degrees
Another New Zealand Fetch
A broad but weak gale started circulating east of New Zealand on Wed (6/26) producing 30 kt southwest winds, building in the evening to 35 kts with seas building to 26 ft at 50S 178W aimed well to the northeast. Fetch was fading from 30-35 kts Thurs AM (6/27) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 44S 168W. Maybe some 14-15 sec period background swell to result for Hawaii starting Tues PM (7/2) at 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) building to 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft) early Wed (7/3). Swell Direction: 191 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 high pressure is to be centered in the Gulf of Alaska at 1024 mbs on Sunday (7/7) still generating 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino CA producing short period north windswell down into Central CA, but fading with fetch down to 20 kts on Monday and 15 kts Tuesday (7/9). Windswell relative to CA fading.
Relative to Hawaii the high is to start moving south by Tues (7/9) starting to affect the Islands with trades starting to develop at 15 kts with increasing odds for small short period easterly windswell developing.
No other swell sources 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 (7/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding near 0.31. The 30 day average was down to 10.43 with the 90 day average down to 6.35. 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 mostly neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline region extending east and continuing the whole way to Central America. A week from now (7/10) weak to modest easterly anomalies are forecast building over the western Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline, and holding neutral into Central America. This suggests that perhaps the Inactive Phase is to be try and build some in the far West Pacific with a neutral MJO over the rest of the equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/1 are in agreement suggesting the Inactive Phase was pushing over the Philippines and far West Pacific but displaced some north of the equator arching up into Hawaii. Both models are in agreement suggesting a fragment of the Active Phase of the MJO is holding on the intersection of the dateline and the equator for the next 8 days, while the Inactive Phase of the MJO tracks just north of it. A new Active Phase is to be building in the Central Indian Ocean. But, the part of the ocean that really matters, and the part where anomalous winds move warm and cold water around, is on the equator. If neutral winds hold on the equator, regardless of what happens north of there, then the neutral to warm water that is trying to build in the East Pacific off Ecuador will be preserved. For now there models suggest this is to be the case for the next 8+ days. 15 days out the Inactive Phase is to be fading over the West Pacific with a greatly weakened Active Phase trying to push into the West Pacific and likely having no impact but to beat back the Inactive Phase. Longer range models suggest a weak Active Phase is to move over the West Pacific late in July.
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 (7/1) a La Nina like pattern continues fading in the East Pacific over the equator, almost gone, but not completely. This is good news. Cooler water continues to significantly reduced it's footprint off the South American Coast. Pockets of limited cooler water extend over the Galapagos Islands and pushing just a bit west from there but gone half way to Hawaii. The cold pool has been steadily shrinking over the past 33 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 holding it's own 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. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America. but as of now it's limited to the immediate West Africa coast and appears to be fading. This was a direct reflection of what was occurring in the Pacific, a global teleconnection. But with the East Pacific cold pool seemingly eroding some, and the African pool now eroding too, 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, returned in June when the cold pool emerged off Peru, but is in full retreat now. If anything only a small pocket of cool waters remains extending starting well off the California coast to almost Hawaii, but mostly gone west of there. The teleconnection suggests this cold water pattern (driven by high pressure aloft) has a global component. With the cold pool fading down south, it make sense the cold pool of CA is fading too. 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 late in July. 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, and continues to remain suppressed. Warm water from the West Pacific migrated east over top of the previous cold pool - reducing it's impact. +3.0 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 the models are suggesting some flavor of weak Inactive MJO is going to set up. 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 6/30 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 and holding in the +0.1-+0.2 range into Nov before fading to neutral in Jan 2014. A consensus of other ENSO models suggest a less wide spread of outcomes compared to earlier projections all centered near neutral to just a bit cooler than that into Summer and early Fall 2013. The dynamic models favor slight warming, while the statistical models favor slight cooling. We are out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the models are starting to get a better handle on the long term outlook. That said, the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but 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 no swell producing weather system are forecast with no odds for swell radiating northeast towards US interests.
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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Jason-1 Satellite in Safehold - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. NOAA/JPL is analyzing the cause of the error now. It is unknown if or when the satellite will return to service.
'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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Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
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The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature=player_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
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