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 Sunday (8/11) North and Central CA had surf that was waist high plus coming from the Gulf with a bit of southerly texture intermixed. Rideable but weak. Down in Santa Cruz surf was knee high with a few thigh high sets and clean but very weak. Southern California up north was flat to knee high and clean. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and clean and fun looking early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was barely rideable with leftover background southern hemi swell producing waves at knee to thigh high on the sets at top breaks and clean with solid trades in effect. The East Shore was getting easterly tropically enhancedgenerated windswell at chest to shoulder 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 Sunday (8/11) residual swell from a low previously in the Gulf of Alaska was lapping onshore over Central CA. Otherwise a weak pressure pattern and no swell producing fetch was occurring. A weak low was approaching the dateline and expected to turn north moving into the Bering Sea on Tues (8/13) offering no swell production capacity. Another little low is to spin up in the Northern Gulf on Fri (8/16) perhaps generating some fetch of interest if one is to believe the models. 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 short period windslop at best.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were blowing at 15+ kts, not due to any change in high pressure, but due to the remnants of Henriette passing 350 nmiles south of the Big Island. But by Monday that is to be out of the picture. Easterly windswell to be fading. The models suggest more tropical low pressure is to migrate west following a track similar to Henriette's through the workweek with trades remaining in the 15 kt range and increasing some late Mon (8/12), Wed (8/14) and again late Friday (8/16) as they pass south of the Big Island. Rideable windswell to result along exposed east facing shores.
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 25-28 ft seas aimed north on the extreme eastern edge of the California swell window are possible start late on Tues (8/13), but that is just a guess. Otherwise the swell drought is underway and expected to continue for the future. We're just waiting for Fall to kick in over the North Pacific now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (8/11) the normal East Pacific high pressure system remained weak and ill defined only at 1020 mbs centered over a broad area between the dateline and the US West Coast and displaced south some. A clear track was open north of it and south of the Aleutians enabling low pressure to migrate from Siberia into the Gulf of Alaska, a good thing. Now all we need is a solid low to develop and make the migration. One such low was trying with pressure 992 mbs and positioned just west of the dateline, generating only 20-25 kt west winds and expected to track northeast and into the Bering Sea late Monday (8/12) with no swell production forecast. Local to California a slack winds pattern continued along the Northern coast offering no potential to generate local northerly windswell. Relative to Hawaii easterly trades were blowing in the 15+ kt range resulting in easterly windswell along along east facing shores. These trades were more a result of the remnants of Hurricane Henriette tracking south of the Big Island rather than of any influence of high pressure (see Tropical forecast below).
Over the next 72 hours a new weak low pressure system is to try and develop in the Eastern Gulf Mon-Tues (8/13), but winds to not exceed barely 25 kts for a short duration with seas no greater than 12 ft, with no swell of interest being generated. High pressure to remain generally suppressed along the US West Coast, though trying to get a nose into the Central CA coast later on Tuesday into Wednesday (8/14) with north winds building to 15-20 kts along the North and Central coasts perhaps generating bare minimal sloppy windswell, but then fading fast on Thursday as low pressure moves back into the area. .
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure at 1020 mbs is to continue north of the Islands generating a weak easterly flow with trades just barely at the 15 kt threshold and tradewind generated east windswell remaining barely in the rideable range. But three more tropical lows (not even depression status) are modeled tracking west positioned 300 nmiles south of the Islands Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening (8/16) perhaps enhancing trades to the 20 kt range resulting in steady rideable easterly windswell along exposed shores, peaking in-sync with the passage of the lows south of the Islands. At least they should provide something to monitor.
Otherwise no other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (8/11) windswell from what formally was Hurricane Henriette were hitting exposed east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands. Size was rideable. If one is to believe the models three more tropical lows are to form and tracking west and on a path similar to Henriette, passing 300 nmiles south of the Big Islands on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings (8/16) generating more easterly windswell. But be forewarned, the large scale models are not good at predicting tropical low formation.
Super Typhoon Utor was just off the Northern Philippines Sunday AM (8/11) with winds 130 kts (150 mph) tracking west-northwest with seas estimated at 40 ft. Utor is expected to continue on this heading tracking through the China Sea with winds down to 85 kts on Monday AM (8/12) eventually moving into China on Wed AM (8/14) with winds 95 kts. No swell is expected radiating into our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/11) 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. Weak low pressure was trying to build in the Gulf of Alaska keeping high pressure out of the picture. Monday high pressure is to try and get a toe in the door relative to Central CA with north winds to 15 kts over Cape Mendo and Pt Conception, but less in between with low pressure building in the Gulf. More of the same expected Tuesday AM (8/13) but with north winds 15 kts over all of North and Central CA continuing Wednesday as low pressure moves closer to the coast from the Gulf. Finally Thursday the low moves too close, the high breaks up and north winds subside with a weak wind pattern forecast. After the low dissipates over the coast later Saturday a more normal high pressure pattern is to set up with 25 kt north winds forecast for Cape Mendocino on Sunday (8/18) with north windswell on the upswing. 10 kts winds forecast down the Central CA coast. Southern CA to remain under a light wind flow for the week.
Jetstream - On Sunday (8/11) the jet was split over the Southwest Pacific then starting to merge over the Southeast Pacific with a ridge in the northern branch pushing it south into the southern branch. Winds remained weak over the length of the influential southern branch not exceeding even 90 kts. 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 southern branch on Mon (8/12) pushing it south and into the Ross Ice Shelf eliminating support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours a weak trough is to build ahead of the trough over the far Southeastern Pacific starting Wed (8/14) perhaps offering a chance for low pressure to develop there and tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window later Thurs (8/15). Perhaps some limited support for gale development possible then. After that the southern branch is to remain displaced with another ridge building under New Zealand on Sun (8/18) pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf continuing the lockdown on support for gale development there.
Surface - On Sunday (8/11) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Weak low pressure at 980 mbs was just east of northern New Zealand producing 30 kt west winds and 20 ft seas, but that was it. A neutral pressure pattern and no fetch was over the remainder of the South Pacific. In all, things remained very calm.
Over the next 72 weak that low pressure system is to ease east producing 35 kt west winds and a tiny area of 24 ft seas on Monday (8/12) of interest to nobody other than maybe Tahiti, and dissipating 24 hours later.
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 the workweek with no local windswell expected to result. There are now suggestions of high pressure starting to return late Saturday (8/17) with north winds building to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino over a small area by Sunday AM with windswell production on the upswing, if one is to believe the models.
Low pressure is falling from the Bering Sea into the Northern Gulf on Fri (8/16) generating a brief burst of 35 kt west winds and 18 ft seas over a small area. If this were to occur perhaps a small dribble of northern swell would result for the US West Coast down to Pt Conception, but that is just idle speculation at this early date.
Relative to Hawaii weak high pressure is to hold with easterly trades in the 15 kt range through the weekend (8/18). But again those trades are to be more a function of tropical low pressure passing south of the Islands rather than of any force of the high pressure by itself. And by Sunday (8/18) those tropical pulses are to come to an end. Small rideable east windswell is to continue along exposed east facing shores punctuated by some larger windswell if all goes as planned.
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 Sunday (8/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 17.18. The 30 day average was up to 6.42 with the 90 day average up some at 9.04. 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 (8/18) neutral anomalies are forecast taking over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region continuing to a point south of Hawaii, then turning easterly on into Central America. This suggests a neutral phase of the MJO with the Inactive Phase exiting over the far eastern equatorial Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/10 are in general agreement now. Both models suggests no MJO activity was occurring with a neutral pattern over the West Pacific. No change is forecast for the next 15 days while the dynamic model refuses to accept this fact, with just the weakest sign of some Inactive Phase building while tracking east off the Philippines 15 days out, but not really worthy of notice. The ultra long range upper level model favors the continuation of some flavor of weak Active Phase of the MJO through the end of August with a weak Inactive Phase building for mid September.
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. Today's 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 8/11 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 40 kt south to southwest west winds by Wednesday AM aimed barely at Southern CA and better at Chile with 28 ft seas building at 52S 121W then quickly racing east by evening. Maybe a dribble of swell to radiate north but most energy is to target Chile. But by later Thursday it's to all be inland over extreme Southern Chile. 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's for sale here: http://www.mavz.com/movies/super-natural/
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