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 Thursday (7/18) North and Central CA had surf at thigh to waist high and clean with intermixed warble and light fog with a light westerly flow. Down in Santa Cruz surf was near flat with occasional knee high sets and clean. Southern California up north was flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high and weak with a light onshore flow but still pretty clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting fun sized southern hemi swell with waves shoulder high with sets head high and occasionally more and clean with trades pushing slightly offshore in effect. The East Shore was getting small easterly tradewind generated windswell at waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific no large scale swell producing weather systems of interest have occurred nor are forecast to occur, typical of the summer. North winds near Cape Mendocino were starting to gather some speed pushing near 20 kts, but no real windswell was yet resulting along the coast. Relative to the Hawaiian Islands easterly tradewinds were fading in coverage from 15 kts making for somewhat rideable easterly tradewind generated windswell along east facing shores.
Beyond high pressure is to rebuild over the Northeast Pacific later Friday (7/19) producing 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino and holding through the weekend into early Monday (7/22) resulting in rideable north windswell for North and Central CA, then fading out. For Hawaii high pressure is to get cut off as low pressure builds north of the Islands resulting in fading trades falling below the minimal 15 kt threshold and windswell dropping below rideable levels. Tradewinds and windswell to remain suppressed through the coming workweek (7/25).
The item of most interest is a modest gale that formed in the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (7/11) with seas in the 34 ft range aimed well to the northeast which then turned pure east with seas in the 30-32 ft range Friday offering limited sideband potential. Rideable swell is hitting Hawaii and expected to slowly taper off by the early weekend. Swell is just starting to show at the buoys in California and should be rideable starting later Fri (7/19) continuing nicely through the weekend.
Beyond the South Pacific is forecast to try and produce some minimal gale activity, but the pattern is to remain generally weak. A tiny gale developed well east of New Zealand in the Central South Pacific on Wed-Fri (7/19) with 32 ft seas aimed due north towards Tahiti but very small in coverage. Small sideband swell likely for Hawaii with better energy tracking towards the US West Coast. another system is forecast just off the Ross Ice Shelf Sat (7/20) with 28-30 ft seas aimed due east but then quickly falling southeast and crashing into Antarctica 24 hours later with no real potential indicated. A third stronger system is forecast forming under New Zealand hovering over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf Sun-Mon (7/22) with up to 36 ft seas, but again the pure easterly track is problematic for everywhere but Chile. And perhaps a weaker system to track under New Zealand pushing better to the northeast Tues-Wed (7/24) but it's way too early to believe it will even form.
Take what you can get and be happy for it. If El Nino were in-play we'd say we've only got till mid-August till the Fall season opens. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the season start will likely be delayed well into September if not early October. We're still paying the price for the 2009-2010 El Nino. There's no free lunch.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (7/18) high pressure at 1032 mbs was trying to rebuild in the Gulf of Alaska but positioned a bit too far north and west to be effective at producing winds and windswell relative to California. Only a small area of 20 kt north fetch was occurring over Cape Mendocino generating only bare minimal north windswell for exposed breaks in mainly Central CA. But the high was slowly building to the east with fetch forecast to increase. Relative to Hawaii, low pressure was starting to build to the northeast and cutting the legs out of the Gulf high. Trades were still blowing at 15 kts, but becoming fragmented as compared to days previous with local windswell along east facing shores loosing some period.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build to 1036 mbs moving into the Central Gulf Fri-Sat (7/20) with a small fetch of 25 kt north winds building over Cape Mendocino (late Friday) with 20 kt north winds extending south to Pt Conception starting to revive north windswell production for exposed breaks mainly in Central CA. By mid-Saturday north winds to push 30 kts near Cape Mendocino with a local eddy (south winds) starting to develop along the Central CA coast. The gradient to hold through Sunday AM (7/21) then start fading with winds dropping to 25 kts and the wind vector aimed more to the southwest than south, with windswell stating to loose some punch. The gradient and resulting fetch is to be all but gone by Monday.
Relative to the Hawaiian Islands high pressure to to continue loosing it's toehold Friday (7/19) with only a tiny area of 15 kt east trades remaining and even that gone by evening. The low (really a cutoff low) is to build some over the weekend and slowly retrograding west only increasing it's affect on trades, with winds down to 10 kts and continuing well into next week. As a result, tradewind generated east windswell to drop out by Friday and remain below rideable levels.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (7/18) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/18) a weak eddy flow was barely in control of the Central coast with a light north wind pattern trying to build over North CA and down near pt Conception. Regardless, weak high pressure was trying to build into the North coast. Friday this pattern is to hold if not amplify with north winds to 25 kts over Cape Mendo and maybe 5-10 kts for exposed breaks in Central and Southern CA later. By Saturday the gradient is to mature with north winds at 25-30 kts over Cape Mendocino with a weak eddy flow (south winds) setting up for Bodega Bay southward and strengthening Sunday. But in all, a seasonal pattern. Monday (7/22) the gradient to start fading with the eddy flow slackening for Central and South CA with a light neutral flow forecast by Tuesday. Light northerly winds for the area Wednesday afternoon at 10 kts. Then Thursday (7/25) the gradient is to return to North CA at 25 kts with north winds 15 kts in the afternoon down into Central CA. Southern CA to remain under a light wind flow for the duration.
Jetstream - On Thursday (7/18) the jet was fully split starting over Eastern Australia and continuing from New Zealand over the South Pacific finally merging somewhat over Southern Chile. The southern branch of the jet was tracking flat west to east down at 65S effectively unbroken over the width of the South Pacific and actually ridging south to 70S over the far Eastern South Pacific. A cutoff trough was in place over the Central Pacific stuck between the two branches of the jet with no winds energy of interest associated with it. That said, it was supporting some degree of low pressure formation in lower levels of the atmosphere below it. Otherwise there was a pocket of 130 kts winds building south of New Zealand perhaps signaling the formation of a trough there. Over the next 72 hours the wind pocket under New Zealand is to push east and build with winds to near 190 kts Friday feeding into a developing small and somewhat pinched trough over the deep south Central Pacific. Limited support for gale development but fading by early Sat (7/20). Another pocket of winds energy is to build under New Zealand Sunday (7/21) with winds 150 kts and nudging northeastward but not really growing in coverage or strength while racing east into Monday and still displaced pretty far south. Perhaps there's some minimal odds to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours a better pocket of 130 kt winds are to be pushing well north on Wed (7/24) but weakening pretty fast. Limited support for gale formation in lower levels of the atmosphere with luck.
Surface - On Thursday (7/18) swell from a gale that tracked through the South Central Pacific last week (see Central Pacific Gale below) was past it's peak in Hawaii and was starting to arrive along the US West coast. Smaller swell from a cut off low in the Central Pacific mid-week is pushing north (see Tiny Cut-off Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a broad gale is forecast building southeast of New Zealand on Fri (7/19) producing a decent sized area of 40 kt northwest by the evening with winds all targeting Antarctica and right over the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. By Sat AM (7/20) winds to build to 45 kts but again all aimed southwest with seas building to 30 ft at 58S 165W. In the evening winds to build to 65 kts from the southwest aimed northeast but with the fetch falling southeast towards Antarctic Ice with seas to 38 ft at 59S 139W. By Sun AM (7/21) 55-60 kt west winds to be barely clear of Antarctic Ice aimed due east and almost east of the CA swell window with seas to 46 ft at 62S 122W. This system to move east of the Ca swell window in the evening with the core of the storm crashing into Antarctica. Given this storms extremely easterly track and fast forward speed, and close proximity to Antarctica, little if any swell expected to radiate north. Best target in the non-frozen world to be Southern Chile.
On Sat PM (7/20) a moderately powerful storm is forecast forming under New Zealand with 50 kt southwest winds building and seas pushing 32 ft at 58S 173E. By Sun AM (7/21) the storm is to be tracking flat east fast with southwest winds still 50 kts and seas building to 38 ft at 60S 170W right off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf and pushing a little to the northeast. Additional 45 kt west fetch to be fading in the evening aimed due east with 39 ft seas expected at 58S 157W. Secondary 45 kt southwest winds to build Mon AM (7/22) with 38 ft seas at 55S 145W. This system is to to continue east from there with 39 ft seas Mon PM at 55S 135W aimed pretty much flat east and fading from there. At this time there is only marginal odds of limited swell energy radiating northeast towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, assuming it forms at all. Chile and Peru to be the best targets.
Central Pacific Gale
A small gale built in the Southwest Pacific on Tues AM (7/9) with pressure 968 mbs and winds to 45 kt over a tiny area aimed somewhat northeast and it turned more to the northeast in the evening resulting in seas to 28 ft at 60S 172W. By Wed AM (7/10) winds were down to 40-45 kts over a decent size area aimed well northeast resulting in seas of 30 ft at 56S 165W. By evening 40-45 kt south winds were holding pushing well north with seas building to 34 ft at 50S 161W. 45 kt south winds were pushing northeast Thurs AM (7/11) with seas to 36 ft at 47S 153W. 40-45 kt southwest to west fetch held in the evening with seas of 34 ft up at 41S 143W. 35 kt southwest fetch was fading Fri AM (7/12) with seas dropping from 32 ft at 43S 133W aimed mainly east with sideband fetch pushing northeast. In the evening the original fetch was falling southeast and of no interest to anyone but Antarctica. But a new small secondary fetch of 40 kt southwest winds was building west of the core of the old low resulting in 30 ft seas at 45S 135W. Sideband energy tracking northeast. By Sat AM (7/13) residual 35-40 kt southwest winds were holding resulting in 29 ft seas at 43S 133W. By evening this system was gone.
Swell is in the water pushing towards Tahiti with sideband swell for Hawaii. More solid direct energy is forecast pushing up into the US West Coast, Mexico and Central America. This will be nothing exceptional, just rideable surf.
Hawaii: Swell fading out on Fri (7/19) with swell 1.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (7/18) with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs late (4.5 ft with sets pushing 6 ft). This might be an optimistic projection. Swell peaking on Fri (7/19) midday with pure swell to 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs early (5.4 ft with set near 7 ft). Additional swell energy to fill in Saturday (7/20) with swell still 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.4 ft with sets near 7 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell Direction 198 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (7/18) with swell building to 2.0 ft @ 18-19 secs late (3.5 ft with sets pushing 4.5 ft). This might be an optimistic projection. Swell peaking late on Fri (7/19) with pure swell to 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft with set near 5.5 ft). Additional swell energy to fill in Saturday (7/20) with the first pulse 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft with sets near 4.5 ft) and the new pulse 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/21) from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft). Swell Direction 195 degrees
Tiny Cut-off Gale
Hawaii: Expect tiny swell arrival early Tues AM (7/23) with period 18 secs peaking near noon at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues Wed AM (7/24) at 2.1 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday 2.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 175 degrees.
A cutoff low pressure system developed well east of New Zealand late Tuesday (7/16) producing 40 kt south winds aimed due north with seas building while traveling north. On Wed AM (7/17) 45 kt south fetch built over a small area with seas 30 ft at 43S 150W targeting mainly Tahiti. Fetch started breaking up in the evening from 40 kts over a tiny area aimed due north with seas from previous fetch peaking at 32 ft at 40S 148W targeting Tahiti and California (201 degs) with some sideband swell for Hawaii (174 degs). Fetch was fading from 35 kts Thurs AM (7/18) with seas dropping from 26 ft at 37S 147W. This system developed stronger than originally forecast but still was very small in areal coverage. In all some rideable swell expected for Tahiti with background energy for Hawaii and better energy directed at California but with small size given the tiny fetch. Expect peak size in the 16 sec period band.
Southern CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near 8 PM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday. Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
North CA: Expect tiny swell arrival on Thurs near 1 AM (7/25) with period 18 secs peaking near noon at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues Fri AM (7/26) at maybe 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading out on Saturday. Swell Direction: 202 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 retrograde north and west Monday (7/22) with the normal pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino fading from 20-25 kts and then down to barely 20 kt Tuesday over a tiny area aimed southwest (away from the coast). The eddy flow is to collapse along Central CA too. The net result is local north windswell to drop out and not be rideable with no change in status forecast until Thursday (7/25). At that time the high is to start slowly easing east in the Gulf of Alaska some with north winds rebuilding to 20 kts over a small area over Cape Mendocino with perhaps an incremental increase in north windswell mainly for exposed breaks in Central CA.
Relative to Hawaii high pressure is to remain suppressed by weak low pressure tracking west and positioned north of the Islands with trades below the 15 kt threshold through Thursday (7/25) with no easterly windswell of interest expected along east facing shores of the Islands.
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 Thursday (7/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -4.80. The 30 day average was up to 6.89 with the 90 day average down some at 6.20. Overall this is holding stable in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino and illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing somewhat weaker over the dateline then fading more south of Hawaii before dying off the coast of Central America. A week from now (7/26) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral over the dateline. Neutral anomalies are to be south of Hawaii into Central America. This suggests a continuation of a lightly Inactive Phase holding over the equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/17 are in agreement initially suggesting no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. Both models are in agreement suggesting a neutral MJO pattern is to hold 5 days from now. But beyond the statistic model has a modestly building Active Phase pushing from the West Pacific 8 days out to the dateline region 12-15 days out while the dynamic models depicts the exact opposite, with a building Inactive Phase taking control on the same locations and time periods. The even longer range model has a weak Active Phase holding into early August while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean, moving into the far West Pacific mid-August. It's anyones guess what will happen.
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 (7/17) a weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator, almost gone, but not completely. In fact - a pocket of cooler water continues in control off the immediate coast of Peru with the outflow from it tracking to the Galapagos, then breaking up with pockets of cooler water radiating west almost to a point south of Hawaii. This is a step back from what we thought was the death of this pattern just last week (7/10). The anomalously cool pool off West Africa, thought to be eroding some, is still in-place and not completely dispersed. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. But as of now it's still in-play. This was a direct reflection of what previously occurred in the Pacific, an unforeseen burst of cool water gurgling up off both South America and West Africa simultaneously - a global teleconnection. 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 and Africa, but has since fully closed off with warmer than normal waters the rule for the North Pacific. That said - some signs of weakness in that warm pool are now appearing. For now cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a mainly neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact. But starting 7/16 a small pool of -2 deg C water was developing centered at 110W and down 75 meters. This is similar to what has been going on all Spring. So no real change is occurring.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/18 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation and no significant change is forecast into April 2014. In short, a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the outlook remains nothing stellar, not trending towards anything that would be considered warm, but not anything particularly cold either. Instead the ocean is in recharge mode, with cold water dispersing and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any kinda of El Nino pattern were to occur, it would have started 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 a weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina, but we're still not in a pure neutral pattern either. We're still recovering from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). 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 fetch of interest is 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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Nantucket Marine Mammals has documented a short video concerning whale conservation and awareness off the Northeast US Coast. See it here: https://vimeo.com/68771910
Jason-1 Satellite Decommisioned - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. The satellite has since officially been decommissioned. It's last working transmitter failed on 6/21. All efforts have been made to get a response to no avail. The satellite has been placed in a parking orbit with it's solar panels turned away from the the sun. It's batteries are to discharge in the next 90 days. No additional data is expected from this satellite. We are working to start capturing data from the Jason-2 satellite, but that will take some time. More information to follow.
'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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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:
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table