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 (8/16) North and Central CA had Gulf windswell producing waves in the chest high range and relatively clean early. Down south in Santa Cruz surf was in the waist high range on the sets and pretty textured with a good breeze blowing. Southern California up north had a thigh high windswell-Gulf swell mix with wind blowing enough to put a small chop on it. Down south waves were maybe waist high and heavily warbled. Hawaii's North Shore was thigh to waist high and clean with trades in effect. The South Shore was near flat with 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 had retrograded west away from the California coast resulting in no local windswell production. Trades were suppressed to over the Hawaiian Islands, only in the 10-15 kt range also offering no local windswell production. Minimal windswell from a broad closed isobar low pressure system that was in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sunday (8/12) was hitting both Hawaii and the mainland, but unremarkable. After that, things to remain quiet until high pressure starts rebuilding in the East Pacific by late Sunday (8/19) with north winds starting to build to 15-20 kts along the North and Central CA coast and trades return at 15 kts over Hawaii holding well into the middle of next week, but never exceeding those modest wind speeds. In short, not too much indicated in terms of swell production. tropical activity to remain isolated to the far West Pacific, if at all.
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. Swell from it is currently hitting Central America with dribbles starting to build 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. A drought is guaranteed at this point starting next week with no end in sight.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast, with the high only getting slightly better defined north of Hawaii on Sunday (8/19) resulting in trades barely reaching 15 kts over the Islands and a more dominant northerly flow materializing over California pushing down the North and Central coasts at 15+ kts. No real windswell to results in either location.
Surface - On Thursday (8/16) the North Pacific high pressure system was weak and diffused at 1020 mbs centered vaguely 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. It was producing no fetch of interest anywhere in the North Pacific. As a results winds were generally light down the California coast and as were trades over Hawaii.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression Hector was positioned 110 nmiles northwest of the island of Clarion or 900 nmiles west-southwest of Cabo San Lucas with winds 25 kts and tracking north-northwest and fading. No swell generation expected relative to California or Hawaii.
Typhoon Kai-Tak was just off the southern coast of China Thursday (8/16) tracking northwest with winds 65 kts. It is expected to push over land well south of Hong Kong in the evening. No swell for our forecast area expected.
The models suggest some form of tropical system forming off the Northern Philippines on Monday (8/20) tracking north and approaching Southern Japan mid-week and then moving just west of South Korea late Thursday (8/23). Odds very low at this early date.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/16) a weak northerly flow was in control of North and Central CA waters with high pressure displaced to the north and east and weak low pressure at 1012 mbs off the CA coast. More of the same forecast Friday with northerly winds less than 10 kts except to 15 kts near Pt Conception. High pressure to try and get better footing over the weekend with north winds 10 kts most location and up to 15-20 kts over Pt Conception and building to the north Sunday afternoon at 15 kts all locations (expect Southern CA), finally impacting the entire North and Central coasts Monday with north winds 15 kts building to near 20 kts on Tuesday nearshore. A steady nearshore north flow at 15-20 kts is forecast through the workweek, pushing 20-25 kts up near Cape Mendocino by Friday (8/24). This seems like a symptom of the Inactive Phase of the MJO and the requisite high pressure build up. 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 Thursday (8/16) a split jetstream pattern remained locked over much of the South Pacific with the southern branch displaced well to the south running slightly to the northeast starting down at 72S. Winds were 110 kts. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours a weak trough is forecast forming in the extreme Eastern South Pacific barely clearing the northern edge of the Ice Sheet there but winds fading all the while, down to 80 kts. 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 Sunday (8/19) 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. Another push of east moving wind energy is to move into the southern branch on Wed (8/22) down at 65S and continue the flat west to east momentum with no end in sight.
Surface - At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday (8/16) no swell producing fetch was present over ice free waters. High pressure was locked in southeast of New Zealand at 1028 mbs reaching south to 60S and pushing any fetch in clear water to the south. A broad but weak low pressure center was off Southern Chile but generating winds of only 30-35 kts, and half of those over Antarctic Ice, good for only windswell pushing towards Chile. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with no swell producing fetch forecast.
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 plays out as forecast.
Southern CA: Expect swell to continue 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 to continue 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 get a little better foothold on Monday (8/20) with north winds building to 15-20 kts over North and Central CA finally hitting 20 kts late on Tuesday and starting to produce small northerly short period windswell for Central CA and holding well into the end of the workweek.
Easterly trades over Hawaii to rebuild to 15 kts Monday (8/20) covering a larger area then stalling and holding into Friday (8/24), suggesting only small easterly short period windswell at best for that timeframe.
Weak low pressure to move through the Bering Sea over the weekend (8/18) with another forming off the Kuril Islands Wed (8/22) but not even making it to the dateline before fading out. No swell producing fetch is expected to result. We're just waiting for Fall to start.
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 (8/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -21.97 (negative or nearly so for 26 consecutive days). The 30 day average was down some at -10.89 with the 90 day average down to -7.93. 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 has faded south of Tahiti, the SOI is expected to start trending back into neutral if not positive territory within 24 hours.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated a small area of light east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) near 140E with light west anomalies extending from the dateline 1/2 way to Central America. This suggests the Active Phase was all but gone and has moved east of the Pacific Basin. A week from now (8/24) moderate east anomalies are forecast over the entire Maritime Continent fading on the dateline and then regenerating over most of the East Pacific in the light range suggesting the Inactive Phase building over the West and Central Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/15 are in agreement suggesting that the Active Phase is gone relative to the Pacific, tracking into the Atlantic while a moderate strength Inactive Phase was in-place over the Maritime Continent and starting to reach the dateline area pushing east. Both suggest the Inactive Phase is to peak in the next 5-7 days over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline and east of there more, then tracking east 2 weeks from now and slowly fading but not dissipated. Interestingly, it is to be displaced north some with a small area of enhanced precipitation holding over the dateline over the 2 week period. Still this projected Inactive Phase raises concerns that it will 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 projected favorable conditions forecast 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 and 8/16 updates did finally depict a slight reduction in warmest waters off Central America, the result of previous Inactive Phase activity. But they also depicted a modest increase in the coverage of the warm water pool, with it finally reaching up into Southern CA waters up to Pt Conception. But with no apparent reinforcements in the form of a Kelvin Wave forecast, and the Inactive Phase now in control, it seems possible 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. In short, we'll be watching the actual data closely to see how close the projections track to it.
Only limited atmospheric evidence of a possible El Nino pattern is in-play 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 place 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, 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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table