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 (8/14) North and Central CA had local windswell producing waves in the waist high range and pretty torn up by southerly winds with a low fog deck. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was in the thigh to waist high range with a few bigger peaks and clean with upper level fog obscuring the sun. Southern California up north had thigh to maybe waist high windswell and warbled if not outright chopped. Down south waves were waist high and nearly chopped and unremarkable. Hawaii's North Shore was flat with trades and clean conditions. The South Shore was near flat with maybe knee to thigh high sets and clean with moderate trades in effect. The East Shore report was not available.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Up north high pressure was retrograding west with the typical pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino fading and expected to be gone by Thursday (8/16). Modest trades were in control over the Islands at 15 kts expected to hold into Wednesday with no real windswell resulting, and then even that is to drop off by Thursday. A broad closed isobar low pressure system was in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (8/12) with westerly winds to 25 kts and seas to 15 ft, good for only minimal windswell expected into the US West Coast and Hawaii later in the workweek. After that, things get very quiet in the North Pacific until high pressure start tracking east again setting up the typical North CA pressure gradient maybe the middle of next week with trades maybe starting to regenerate over the Hawaiian Islands Monday (8/20) at 15 kts offering a hint of tiny east windswell. We're really just waiting for Fall to start making an appearance, and that will likely be a while longer.
Down south a solid storm developed well off Southern Chile on Thurs (8/9) and just barely in the California swell window with up to 38 ft seas pushing northeast then developed further with seas to 42 ft but pushing out of even the Southern CA swell window. This one has produced swell that is peaking in Peru and expected to reach up into Central America with dribbles into California (slightly more in Southern CA). Nothing else is expected to follow with no swell producing fetch forecast for the entire South Pacific for the next week. In short, a wave drought looks certain by stating next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
A broad low pressure system maxed in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (8/12) at 992 mbs producing northwest and west winds at 25 kts holding into early Monday AM. Seas peaked at 17 ft well off Southern Oregon targeting Central CA northward up into Oregon Sunday afternoon and with 14 ft seas targeting Hawaii on Monday afternoon. Maybe some minimal windswell to result for those locations (see QuikCAST's for details). Regardless, a quick fade of the low occurred Monday evening with no further fetch forecast.
Surface - On Tuesday (8/14) the North Pacific high pressure system was at 1024 mbs centered 750 nmiles west of North CA ridging into the Pacific Northwest and Southern Canada generating the usual pressure gradient off Cape Mendocino with north winds to 25 kts there producing small short period local north windswell reaching into exposed breaks in Central and South CA. The high also was generating weak easterly trades at 15 kts over the Hawaiian Islands resulting in small weak easterly windswell along east facing shores. Remnants of a low pressure system in the Gulf were easing northeast into the Gulf of Alaska and expected to help degrade this high in the days ahead.
Over the next 72 hours the high is to retrograde west with the pressure gradient over North CA gone and remaining that way through the weekend. No swell producing fetch forecast for the California region. Trades relative to Hawaii to also drop out by Thursday (to 10 kts) as the high retrogrades west, and not expected to return until maybe late Sunday (8/19) and then barely at 15 kts.
Typically on a good year one could start seeing some form of tropical systems developing south of Japan with the potential to recurve northeast by 8/15. In fact, swell from such systems have reached into Central CA near that date. But as of today there is no evidence that such a system could or will develop anytime soon with the remnants of La Nina still in control over the Northern Hemisphere.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Hector was just south of the Islands of Clarion or 800 nmiles southwest of Cabo San Lucas with winds 40 kts and tracking just north of due west. A turn to the northwest is expected in the next 12-24 hours with winds fading even more, falling below even minimal tropical storm status. No swell expected relative to California or Hawaii.
Tropical Storm Kai-Tak was just off the northern coast of the Philippines on Tuesday AM (8/14) tracking northwest with winds 55 kts. It is expected to push over land there, then re-emerge in the China Sea and regain strength to typhoon status (up to 70 kts) on Thursday before moving inland just north of Hong Kong. No swell for our forecast area expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/14) an eddy flow was in control of Central and Southern CA waters with high pressure di.cgiaced to the north and east. More of the same forecast Wednesday and Thursday. Perhaps a light northerly flow to set in to North and Central CA on Friday but less than 10 kts. high pressure to try and get better footing over the weekend with north winds to 15 kts over Pt Conception and building to the north Sunday afternoon, finally impacting the entire North and Central coasts Monday with north winds 15 kts building to near 20 kts on Tuesday nearshore. Southern CA to remain in an eddy flow for the next 7 days.
Jet stream - We're thinking of starting to switch jetstream monitoring to the North Pacific. But for now we'll continue Southern Pacific monitoring.
On Tuesday (8/14) a .cgiit jetstream pattern remained locked over much of the South Pacific with the southern branch di.cgiaced well to the south running flat west to east down at 70S. Winds were 140 kts. No support for gale development was indicated. A trough was present over the extreme East Pacific but outside our forecast window. Over the next 72 hours the winds in the ridge are to push east and lift north some forming a weak trough in the extreme Eastern South Pacific barely clearing the northern edge of the Ice Sheet there and tracking flat east. No support for gale production in the CA swell window indicated. Beyond 72 hours a strong ridge is to push hard south under New Zealand by Saturday (8/18) moving well into Antarctica and tracking east with reinforcements behind that and completely locking down the South Pacific through Tuesday (8/22). No support for gale development indicated. A persistent trough to remain int he far Southeastern Pacific, but east of our forecast area. There's some suggestion a new trough might try to get a toehold in under New Zealand by Wed (8/22), but that's pure speculation at this early date.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Tuesday (8/14) no swell producing fetch was present over ice free waters. High pressure was building southeast of New Zealand at 1036 mbs reaching south to 62S and pushing any fetch in clear water to the south. Over the next 72 hours a little gale off Southern Chile is to produce a tiny area of 34 ft seas at 38S 89W aimed well to the north on 06Z on Wed (8/15) for maybe 6-12 hours, then tracking and taking aimed east. No swell expected for our forecast area. Also a cutoff low is to form in the extreme Southeast Pacific on Thurs (8/16) but tracking southeast and offering nothing of interest. Otherwise the New Zealand high pressure system is to ease east fading to at 1028 mbs and locking the West Pacific down eliminating odds for swell production.
A gale developed in the deep Southeast Pacific over Antarctic Ice Wednesday (8/8) with 45-50 kt southwest winds becoming exposed to ice free waters in the evening while lifting northeast with seas building to 35 ft at 59S 125W. Thursday AM (8/9) a large fetch of 45-50 kts southwest winds were building seas to 39 ft at 56S 119W on the edge of the Southern CA swell window. In fact the Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch at 14Z and confirmed a 15 reading average of 39.9 ft with a single peak reading to 41.3 ft, right in line with what the wave model projected. The fetch lifted northeast in the evening with winds fading from 45 kts and seas to 43 ft at 56S 110W and effectively out of even the Southern CA swell window but targeting Central America and South America well. Fetch faded from 40-45 kts Friday AM (8/10) with seas dropping from 40 ft at 54S 103W targeting Chile and Peru well. A quick fade followed with seas fading from 36 ft at 52S 98W in the evening.
This system was just barely in the Southern CA swell window Thursday AM and was moving out by the evening. But that should be enough to push some small sideband swell northward and provide a much needed diversion for an otherwise lackluster summer surf season. Far better energy is to be tracking towards Chile and Peru assuming this system.cgiays out as forecast.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival Thursday AM (8/16) with pure swell 2 ft @ 21 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft) building to 2.3 ft @ 19 secs (4.4 ft with sets to 5.5 ft) late. Swell to continue on Friday (8/17) at 2.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft) then fading Saturday from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction very southerly at 176-180 degrees.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thursday (8/16) with pure swell building to 1.8 ft @ 21 secs late (3.8 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) late. Swell to continue on Friday (8/17) at 2.3 ft @ 20 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 6 ft) holding Saturday at 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft). Swell fading Sunday from 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) Swell Direction very southerly at 174-179 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 finally start pushing east on Sunday with north winds building to 15 kts on Monday (8/20) over the Pacific Northwest down into North CA finally hitting 20 kts on late Tuesday and starting to produce small northerly short period windswell for Central CA .
Easterly trades over Hawaii to rebuild to 15 kts by Monday (8/20) and holding into mid-week, but not getting any stronger and holding a rather small footprint, suggesting only small easterly short period windswell at best for that timeframe.
Weak low pressure to move over the Eastern Aleutians Sat-Sun (8/19) with a secondary low moving through the Gulf of Alaska the following 2 days. But no swell producing fetch is expected to result.
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.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 (8/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was at -15.11 (negative or nearly so for 24 consecutive days). The 30 day average was down some at -8.77 with the 90 day average down to -7.68. The 30 and 90 days averages were moving back into preferred negative territory courtesy of the latest Active Phase of the MJO and also aided by low pressure tracking just south of Tahiti. But since the Active Phase has all but faded and low pressure is fade over Tahiti in the next 24 hours, it is expected trend is for the SOI to start moving into neutral territory.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated a small area of light east anomalies over the eastern Maritime Continent (WPac) near 155E with neutral anomalies over the dateline and east to Central America. This suggests the Active Phase was all but gone and has moved east of the Pacific Basin. A week from now (8/22) moderate east anomalies are forecast over the far western Maritime Continent with light west anomalies over the dateline and light east anomalies in the East Pacific suggesting the Inactive Phase building in the far West Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/13 are in agreement suggesting that the Active Phase is gone over the Pacific, tracking into the Atlantic while a moderate strength Inactive Phase was building over the Maritime Continent pushing east. Both suggest the Inactive Phase is to build to moderate strength over the Maritime Continent and dateline 7 days out (8/20) tracking east 2 weeks from now and fading. Interestingly, it is to be di.cgiaced north some with a small area of enhanced precipitation holding over the dateline over the 2 week period. The concern is the building Inactive Phase is likely to halt or significantly degrade what is already a weak eastward moving warm water transport pattern, possibly interrupting the established warm water build-up in the East Pacific. How much and how long is open for debate. If this were to occur it could disrupt the buildup of favorable conditions for the coming Fall and Winter season.
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). In fact warmer than normal water accumulated off Ecuador through 7/2 (part of a continuous pattern that started in Jan 2012). And a pocket of blocking cold water that had been under the equator south of California the bulk of the past Winter (2011-2012) evaporated in April allowing warmer water to slowly but steadily pushing east into the vacuum (Kelvin Wave). This activity was the result of an Active Phase of the MJO (early April) and a continued weak MJO signal beyond, and appeared to be reinforcing itself. If one inspects the water temperature anomaly charts, through 7/2 an unmistakable El Nino-like pattern developed extending from south of Hawaii into Ecuador and extending north to Cabo San Lucas and south well into Chile. Updates through 8/6 indicated no effective change in the warmest anomalies occurring off Columbia, regardless of ongoing MJO phases. But the 8/9 update did finally depict a slight reduction in warmest waters off Central America, the result of previous Inactive Phase activity. With no apparent reinforcements in the form of a Kelvin Wave in the pipe or in the forecast, it seems likely continued erosion of the warm pool could occur. The preference is for a weak MJO pattern to continue (a sign of some flavor of El Nino, and preferably a weak multi-year event) and no Inactive Phases of any magnitude.
Only limited atmospheric evidence of a possible El Nino pattern is in.cgiay right now (as of 8/12). Remnants of La Nina are still affecting the atmosphere and will likely continue for several months if not into the middle of Fall. One such indicator is the continued presence of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific. It has been locked in.cgiace for 2 years now and is not going to be easily dislodged. Drought conditions over portions of North America are another indicator. The high continues to generate consistent/unrelenting north winds pushing down the California coast (the reason for non-stop windswell in Central CA) and stronger than normal trades over Hawaii. This is evidenced by a large pool of cooler than normal water radiating southeast off California and over Hawaii reaching the equator at the dateline, the result of enhanced upwelling. Cooler than normal nearshore water remains an issue for much of the CA coast per the imagery, though periodic declines in nearshore north winds have occurred with some eddy flow working its way up into Central CA with water temps on the rise, but only to be beat back down as the high rebuilds and north winds regenerate. The presence of 3 hurricanes in mid-July in the East Pacific, and then subsequent weaker systems are all attributable to the warmer waters temps building near the equator and period Active MJO activity over that portion of the Pacific. But the larger picture still reflect La Nina. So in reality, we're in a hybrid atmospheric state. The longer the MJO remains biased towards a neutral or Active state, and the more warm water the builds off Central America, the more the atmosphere will respond (especially come Fall) turning more towards at least a neutral if not an El Nino-like configuration. We remain on the bubble as of this date. Historical Note: It is unusual for El Nino (of any magnitude) to develop directly following 2 years of La Nina.
As of right now its seems the Active Phases of the MJO are not doing much to usher in some flavor of El Nino, but the Inactive Phases are not quite strong enough to shut off the warm water buildup in the East either. Regardless, where we are is better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are 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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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,.cgiease 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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Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the.cgianet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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 acco.cgiished 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