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 (8/27) North and Central CA had surf that was flat and pretty bumped up with northwest winds on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat with sets to knee high and clean but chopped outside the kelp. Southern California up north was flat to knee high and chopped with westerly wind on it. Down south waves were thigh high and fairly clean with just a little texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was chest high and clean and well lined up. It actually looks like fun. The East Shore was getting tradewind produced east windswell at waist high and and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific on Tuesday (8/27) a weak pressure pattern was in control of the North Pacific with no large scale swell production occurring. Limited 15-20 kt northwest fetch was in the Gulf targeting the US West Coast. Maybe some small windswell to result later in the week. Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring.
Relative to California the local pressure gradient was non-existent with no fetch nor local windswell indicated. And no change is forecast for the workweek.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were barely reaching the 15 kt threshold early and expected to drop out by Tuesday afternoon with whatever minimal windswell in the water expected to fade out by Wednesday.
Beyond another small fetch to track through the Gulf Fri-Sat (8/31) with small windswell possible for the US West Coast. And maybe some more to follow with luck.
Over the past 7 days a small weak gale developed in the deep Central Pacific Mon-Tues (8/20) with seas 25 ft peaking late Tues (8/20) to 32 ft over tiny area. Barely rideable 14-15 sec period swell is expected for the US West Coast Thurs-Fri (8/30). Beyond the models continue to predict a very weak gale tracking under New Zealand Tues (8/27) with 32 ft seas and another Thurs (8/29) with 28 ft seas, but both are to be fading before making any serious inroads into the Southwest Pacific. Low odds of any swell resulting.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (8/27) the North Pacific high pressure system was retrograded west positioned over the far Western Gulf of Alaska at 1024 mbs with low pressure over the Eastern Gulf producing a pressure gradient between the two generating northwest winds 20-25 kts targeting Oregon down into Central CA. Seas were 10 ft. In the evening fetch is to hold while falling southeast with seas 11 ft at 43N 147W. The fetch to start fading off the Oregon coast Wednesday with seas dropping from 10 ft early. Minimal northwest windswell possible for North and Central CA starting late Friday into Saturday (8/31).
Over the next 72 hours, with low pressure in the vicinity of California, high pressure and northerly winds are not in the forecast. Relative to Hawaii the same situation is true, with no high pressure nor trades of interest forecast with no rideable easterly windswell projected.
At the same time a steady stream of weak low pressure system are to be progressing northeast just off the Kuril Islands and over the Aleutian Islands tracking east. One of these little lows is to drop into the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thurs PM (8/29) with a tiny area of 30 kt northwest winds projected falling southeast and holding into Fri AM (8/30) with seas 14 ft at 51N 151W. Fetch to fade from barely 25 kts in the evening then possibly regenerating Sat AM (8/31) with winds 25 kts and seas 11 ft. Possible windswell for Oregon down into Central CA for early next week if all goes as forecast.
Otherwise no other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (8/27) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Tropical Storm Kong-Rey was positioned 150 nmiles northeast of the northern Philippines tracking north with winds 50 kts. Slow strengthening is forecast as it moves north, reaching typhoon strength on Thurs AM (8/29) off mainland China, then turning northeast and weakening while accelerating, moving over the southern most pf the Japan peninsula Friday later morning with winds 55 kts. Kong-rey to tracking inland over the length of Japan re-emerging into the North Pacific on Sun (9/10 with winds 25 kts heading northeast. No redevelopment forecast.
The GFS model hints at weak tropical activity developing for the area South of Cabo by late in the workweek, but none of it strong enough to result in swell production.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (8/27) weak high pressure at 1016 mbs was trying to get a nose into the coast, but was being cut off by low pressure moving into the region from the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska. North winds were 10 kts near Pt Conception and outside the Channel Islands, but nothing more. And winds were much less over North and most of Central CA. More of the same is forecast Wednesday with even lighter wind on Thursday as the low pushes into Oregon. High pressure to try and return Friday with north winds to 15 kts near Pt Conception but much less off the Northern CA coast and fading through the weekend as another low tracks from the Gulf to a point just off Oregon, moving onshore Monday. High pressure to try and build in behind on Tues (9/3) with north winds 15 kts over outer waters, but not reaching nearshore till late in the day. But yet another low pressure system is to be tracking into the Gulf. Not a bad little pattern if it were to strengthen some.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (8/27) the jet was split over the entire South Pacific with the southern branch mostly tracking over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in the west and pushing inland into Antarctica in the east. The one exception was a weak trough trying to push north some under New Zealand but with no real velocity of interest occurring offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours 140 kt winds are to start pushing north into the trough on Wed (8/28), holding for about 24 hours, then quickly fade with the trough collapsing southward. Limited support for gale development during that window. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to remain very split with the influential southern branch of the jet running effectively flat west to east down at 60S or deeper. No support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Tuesday (8/27) high pressure at 1032 mbs was tracking east over the Southeast Pacific ridging south to 62S driving all east moving gales into Antarctica in that region of the Pacific. A small gale was falling southeast under New Zealand with winds 45 kt over a small area and seas 32 ft over a tiny area at 59S 180W with swell energy radiating primarily due east if not southeast towards the Ross Ice Shelf. No swell energy is likely to be radiating northeast. Over the next 72 hours another gale is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Wednesday AM (8/28) with 40 kt west winds initially turning more southwesterly in the evening aimed better to the northeast. Seas building to 28 ft in the evening at 54S 172E. Winds fading to 35 kts on Thursday Am with seas fading from 25 ft early at 53S 180W. If all goes as forecast perhaps tiny swell is possible for Tahiti and Hawaii with next to nothing for California. Will monitor.
Otherwise, no swell producing fetch is forecast.
On Sunday (8/18) a weak gale developed in the Central Pacific but abutted against solid high pressure at 1028 mbs under New Zealand setting up a nice pressure gradient producing 40 kt south winds just north of the Ross Ice Shelf with the whole fetch lifting slowly due north. Seas built to 23 ft at 55S 160W in the evening. On Monday AM (8/19) winds faded to 35 kts over the same area of the ocean with seas 25 ft at 53S 155W pushing die north, with more of the same in the evening with seas 25 ft at 49S 150W. Tuesday AM (8/20) winds were still 35 kts from the south with seas holding at 25 ft at 48S 144W. Fetch built to 45 kts in the evening over a small area with seas building to 30 ft at 53S 132W. The gale was fading Wed AM (8/21) with winds dropping from 40 kts out of the south over a small area and seas 32 ft at 50S 130W. The gale was gone by the evening.
If all goes as forecast some degree of rideable 15 sec period swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, and the US West Coast.
For Hawaii swell to be 1.6 ft @ 13 secs (2 ft) on Wed (8/28), then fading. Swell Direction: 175 degrees
Swell to arrive in SCal on late Wed (8/28) at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) peaking Thurs (8/29) at 2.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Dribbles on Fri (8/30) fading from 2.2 ft @ 14 secs early (3 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees.
Swell to arrive in NCal later Thurs (8/29) at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) peaking Fri (8/30) at 2.0 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Dribbles on Sat (8/31) at 2.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 192 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 tropical low pressure is to move north to the Aleutians joining forces with another low tracking east through the Bering Sea late Sun (9/1) and building into Mon (9/2) with a broad area of 25-30 kt west winds forecast just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas building to 18 ft late Monday into Tues (9/3). Most fetch to be pushing northeast, though sideband swell could possibly radiate southeast towards the Pacific Northwest. But that's just a wild guess at this early date.
Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs is to start ridging south into Hawaii on Sun (9/1) pushing trades there up to 15 kts and holding into Mon (9/2) possibly resulting in minimal easterly windswell along east facing shores.
That same high is to start easing east and ridging into the Pacific Northwest late Tues (9/3) at 1020 mbs possibly setting up a weak local pressure gradient over North CA with north winds 20 kts. Minimal north local windswell possible for CA if this comes to pass.
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 Tuesday (8/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was back up to 11.05. The 30 day average was down to 0.49 with the 90 day average down some at 6.03. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO while overall the pattern was still 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 easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline and continuing that way south of Hawaii on into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/4) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning weakly westerly over the dateline region and continuing on to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast into Central America. In all this suggests a mild pulse of an inactive Phase trying to get a toe in the door, then faltering back to a neutral pattern.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/26 remain in lock step. Both models suggests a weak Inactive Phase is taking hold over the far West Pacific. This pattern is to continue easing east per both models over the next 15 days with the peak expected 5-10 days, then moderate 15 day from now. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase was exiting over the far East Pacific while the Inactive Phase was moving over the West Pacific, strongest right now, and the slowly fading while tracking east through 9/16. After that the pattern is to fall back towards neutral if not lightly Active continuing into the first week of October.
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. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. As of now (8/26) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the East Pacific on the equator. The small pocket of cooler water we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is fading, with the outflow from it tracking to the Galapagos Islands, then fading west of there, breaking up into small pockets of cooler water radiating west almost to a point south of Hawaii. Imagery from 8/5-8/15 suggested the cool pool had been re-generating, but the 8/19-8/26 images suggest a warming trend in play, likely the result of the current weak Active Phase in play. Historically this is no different from what has been occurring all summer with the cool pool fluctuating and sporadically spitting occasional larger pockets of cool water westward along the equator and keeping a lid on any legitimate warm water from developing. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa appears to be loosing some ground recently as the Active Phase gets a toe in the door. It had previously built almost to the coast of South America then retrograded in late June. The African cool pool is a direct reflection of what has been occurred in the Pacific, an unexpected burst of cool water gurgling up off both the South America and West Africa coasts simultaneously - suggestive of a global teleconnection. Further north 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. 8/12-8/22 it appeared to be rebuilding off the California coast with a small but well defined track radiating off California almost reaching a point south of Hawaii. But a considerable pocket of warmer than normal water is also building west of California tracking east and will likely shut the cool flow off again, especially given the lack of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). One thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years, pushing near 60 degrees. Looking at the big picture, cooler waters over the equatorial East Pacific are under control, but still present, with no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. In short, we're still under some weak influence of La Nina or at least a neutral pattern biased slightly cool. But we're nowhere near as cold as the previous 2 years.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a pure 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. No Kelvin waves are present, but at the same time no cold water waves are present either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 8/27 remain unchanged and 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 bit of a turnaround with a warming trend (up to +0.25 degs C) taking hold by September into Oct 2013 and up to near +0.6 C by April 2014. This would suggest a weak El Nino possible for next year. 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 a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersing and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any kind 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 by early 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 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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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
Jaws Redbull Contest Forecast Explained By Stormsurf
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