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 (8/8) North and Central CA had surf that was flat with a maybe a few knee high sets and clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was knee high on the sets and clean. Southern California up north was flat and clean with some windswell bumps at best. Down south waves were maybe knee to thigh high on the sets and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting minimal weak southern hemi swell with waves waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting small easterly tropically generated windswell at thigh to maybe 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 on Thursday (8/8) residual low pressure was in the extreme Eastern Bering Sea with only limited 20 kt west winds dangling south of the Aleutians and of no use from a swell generation perspective. It previously produced a short burst of 35 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas, good for minimal background swell for the US West Coast (north of Pt Conception) arriving late in the week. Otherwise no other large scale swell producing weather systems of interest have occurred or are forecast for the next 7 days, typical for this time of year. The models do show another weak low traversing the North Pacific early next week but fading before reaching the Gulf of Alaska and with no winds grater than 20 kts aimed east over it's life. At least the North Pacific is starting to wake up out of it's summertime slumber. Relative to California no local north fetch of interest was occurring and none is forecast until maybe Tues (8/13) and then only at 15 kts and shallow meaning only bare minimal odds for local windswell.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were suppressed not reaching the 15 kt threshold due to a weak high pressure pattern north of the Islands. But by the weekend that might change with trades up to 15 kts, not due to any change in high pressure, but due to inbound tropical activity. Concerns about what was Tropical Storm Gil have dissipated, with that system and it's fetch now gone. Some minor easterly windswell from it is already hitting east facing shore. Of more interest was Hurricane Henriette was 1200 nmiles east-southeast of the Islands with winds at 85 kts tracking west on the 90 degree great circle path to the Big Island. There some potential for small easterly swell to result arriving on Friday and building some depending on how well Henriette holds together over the coming days. But a quick fade is likely starting early Friday. At least there's something to monitor relative to the Islands. the models suggest more is to form behind Henriette, but that is far from likely at this early date.
Over the past 7 days no swell producing weather system of interest have occurred in the South Pacific. And looking forward no storms of interest are forecast for the same region. Maybe some 26 ft seas aimed north on the eastern edge of the California swell window on Tues (8/13), but that is just a drowning man grasping at straws. The reality is a swell drought is underway and expected to last for at least the next 2 weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/8) the normal East Pacific high pressure system remained retrograded well west centered over dateline at 1024 mbs with a very weak pressure pattern between Hawaii and the US West Coast at 1020 mbs. Weak low pressure at 1016 mbs was just off the Oregon coast. Remnant low pressure from a system previously in the Gulf (see paragraph below) was fading over the Eastern Aleutians. This resulted in weak winds along the California coast and no local northerly windswell and suppressed easterly trades in the 10 kt range pushing into Hawaii, with bare minimal easterly windswell along along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Comparatively larger easterly windswell was arriving from tropical origins (see Tropical forecast below).
Previously - Weak low pressure developed just south of the Eastern Aleutian Islands Monday evening (8/5) lifting northeast with northwest winds building near it's core to 35 kts and held into Tuesday morning (8/6) with seas peaking at 22 ft at 50N 155W (309 degs NCal). It dissipated by Tuesday evening. There's low odds for a minimal pulse of northwest windswell for NCal starting Fri AM (8/9) with period 13 secs and size building to near 3 ft @ 12 secs later in the day (3.5 ft). See QuikCASTs for details.
Over the next 72 hours remnant low pressure energy from the system above is to fade in the Eastern Bering Sea but still no significant high pressure development is forecast along the US West Coast with no northerly fetch nor windswell of interest expected to develop through Sun (8/11).
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure at 1020 mbs is to continue north of the Islands generating a weak easterly flow with trades remaining just below the 15 kt threshold through Fri (8/9) with tradewind generated east windswell remaining just barely in the rideable range. Tropical Storms Gil and Henriette will have a little influence swell wise (see Tropical Forecast below) with the better odds for swell development from Henriette. Easterly trades to increase to 15 kts on Saturday and hold into Mon (8/12) not due to any increase in high pressure, but more from the presence of low pressure/Henriette moving closer to the Islands. Windswell on the increase.
Otherwise no other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (8/8) windswell from what formally was Tropical Storm Gil were arriving on exposed east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Size was minimal. Gil itself had dissipated and is no longer producing fetch of interest. Residual windswell swell to continue into the early weekend.
Hurricane Henriette was positioned 1200 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii on Thurs AM (8/8) tracking west and peaking with winds estimated at 85 kts. A slow turn to the west-southwest is forecast Friday with winds starting to fade, down to 55 kts Friday PM and falling to 35 kts Sunday AM as the center approaches a point 300 nmiles southeast of the Big Island. Rough data suggests swell starting to arrive on exposed breaks of Hawaii on Friday (8/9) with period 13-14 secs and size building to 2.6 ft @ 13 secs late (3 ft) from 100 degrees. Saturday (8/10) a mixture of longer period swell and local windswell to arrive in the 5 ft @ 12 sec range (4.5 ft faces) coming from 90 degrees. Windswell fading Sunday from 5 ft @ 10 secs (4 ft faces) as the core of the tropical depression passes south of the Islands.
If one is to believe the GFS model two more tropical systems are to form behind Henriette tracking west and on a similar path. But there is no belief that will happen at this early date. The large scale models are horrible at predicting tropical storm formation.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/8) a weak local wind flow was in control of the entire California coast with winds not exceeding 10 kts other than 15 kts near Pt Conception south over the Channel Islands. Low pressure was off Oregon holding high pressure at bay. Low pressure is to fall south off Central CA on Friday keeping high pressure out of the picture, with winds 10 kts or less other than off Pt Conception. No real change is forecast through the weekend. Monday high pressure is to finally start getting a little more influence with north winds 10-15 kts everywhere but Southern CA, building to 15 kts everywhere late. The same 15 kt wind pattern is to take hold Tuesday AM (8/13) and not relenting into Fri (8/16). but that will likely be the end of it with low pressure forecast moving into the Eastern Gulf and towards the US West Coast.
Jetstream - On Thursday (8/8) the jet remained fully split over the width of the South Pacific with the two streams running parallel to each other until the merged just off Southern Chile, well east of even the Southern California swell window. The northern branch had the most wind energy and was centered up at about 30N while the southern branch remained displaced well south near 63S and mostly tracking over Antarctic Ice. No troughs of interest were indicated offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is forecast but with a ridge building just off New Zealand in the northern branch on Sat (7/10) pushing it south and colliding with the southern branch while tracking east Sunday into early next week (8/13). A weak trough is to build south of the ridge in the southern branch of the jet, but wind speeds are to only in the 70 kt range offering no support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to be building in the southern branch southeast of New Zealand starting Tues (8/13) pushing it into and over the Ross Ice Shelf for about 48 hours further disabling support for gale development. After that the southern branch of the jet is to all but disappear continuing to support a slack weather pattern at the oceans surface.
Surface - On Thursday (8/8) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Weak low pressure at 980 mbs was in the Central Southeast Pacific producing 25-30 kt south winds and no seas of interest. A neutral pressure pattern and no fetch was in the West Pacific. In all, very calm.
Over the next 72 weak low pressure is to develop over northern New Zealand on Sun (8/11) but having no fetch of interest. A cutoff low is to also start circulating in the Southeast Pacific but with only 25-30 kt south winds offering no seas capable of producing rideable swell for our forecast area.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours no real change in the high pressure pattern is forecast relative to California through the end of next week with no local windswell expected to result. This is bad for windswell production but good for water temperature increases and is symptomatic of a return to a normal/neutral ENSO pattern.
Low pressure is forecast developing off the Kuril Islands on Saturday (8/10) arching east over the North Pacific south of the Aleutians and tracking into the Gulf of Alaska on Tues (8/13) before dissipating off Oregon. This is significant in that it is to hold intact the entire journey east. But the downside is winds are to not exceed 20 kts at at time through this systems life aimed east, meaning no swell development is expected from it. Still, it's a start.
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure is to hold with easterly trades in the 15 kt range all of next week. But again those trades are to be more a function of residual energy from Tropical Depression Henriette and possible additional tropical storms passing south of the Islands rather than of any force of the high pressure by itself. Small rideable east windswell is to continue along exposed east facing shores punctuated by some longer period energy if additional tropical storm develop.
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 (8/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to -3.16. The 30 day average was down to 5.61 with the 90 day average down some at 8.89. 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 surface wind analysis indicated light east wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline and moderating there turning neutral and continuing south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies extended from there into the coast of Central America. A week from now (8/16) weak east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral if not slightly westerly over the dateline region continuing to a point south of Hawaii, then turning neutral on into Central America. This suggests the weakest odds for weak Inactive Phase developing over the far western equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/7 are in better agreement now. Both models suggests no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. No change is forecast until 8 day out with the statistical model continuing a dead neutral pattern for the next 15 days while the dynamic model has the weakest signs of some Inactive Phase building while tracking east off the Philippines, peaking 15 days out but not even worthy of notice. The ultra long range upper level model now favors the formation of the Active Phase of the MJO through the entire month of August.
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 (8/8) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator. A small 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. Todays imagery suggests the cool pool is a little stronger than the image from 3 days previous. But this is no different from what has been occurring all summer with the cool pool fluctuating and sporadically spitting small pockets of cool water westward along the equator and keeping a lid on any legitimate warm water from developing. The sympathetic anomalously cool pool off West Africa appears to be eroding more and is not having any real influence. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. The African cool pool was a direct reflection of what previously occurred in the Pacific, an unexpected 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, then fully closed off in July with warmer than normal waters the rule for the North Pacific. It appeared to be making a comeback as of 8/1-8/5 with a solid cold pocket mid-way between California and Hawaii. But closer inspection reveals that cool pool is attributable to upwelling from multiple tropical systems that have tracked through that area. 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 or at least a neutral pattern biased cold.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a neutral temperature pattern. Warm water from the West Pacific previously migrated east over top of a cold pool - eliminating it's impact and continues holding.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 8/8 indicate water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation. recent runs of the model have consistently been suggesting a slow trend towards water temps moving positive (up to +0.3 degs C) by Nov 2013 and near +0.5 C by April 2014. But for the immediate future a neutral pattern is expected. So overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Spring 2014, assuming one were to believe the model. This is good news. If anything 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 in 2013, 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 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern for 2014.
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 a weak pressure pattern is to continue typical of the late stages of winter in the Southern Hemi with no swell producing fetch of interest forecast. A gale is forecast developing in the far Southeast Pacific on Tues (8/13) producing 45 kt south to southwest west winds by Wednesday AM aimed barely at Southern CA and better at Chile with 26 ft seas building at 51S 121W. That's not enough to be of any interest at this early date though. Nothing else is forecast behind it.
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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Wall of Skulls - Here's a great video featuring Tahiti's famous wave. There's also a nice little plug for Stormsurf in it too. http://vimeo.com/70308073
Super Natural - Powerlines Productions has released their new big wave surf video chronicling the epic El Nino winter of 2009-2010 plus many other big wave event through the 2012-2013 winter season. It's a must see event for any big wave rider. It should be posted for sale on Mavfilm.com shortly.
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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Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
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:
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table