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 (8/29) North and Central CA had surf that was knee to maybe thigh high at best and clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high and bigger on the rare sets and clean but winds blowing outside the kelp. Southern California up north was maybe knee high on the sets and heavily textured with north westerly wind on it. Down south waves were waist high but pretty bumpy with northwest winds on it. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was thigh to maybe waist high on the sets and clean with light trades in effect. The East Shore was even flat with no real tradewind produced east windswell in effect and textured from weak trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific on Thursday (8/29) high pressure was not a factor at any location. Small windswell from a weak low previously in the Eastern Gulf was tracking towards the US West Coast. Another stronger low was building in the Northern Gulf. And yet a stronger low is to follow behind that. A hint of Fall is possible for the North Pacific, and not a moment too soon.
Relative to California no local pressure gradient capable of generating northerly windswell was occurring nor forecast to develop.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were below the 15 kt threshold and not expected to develop until later Saturday, with maybe low odds of minimally rideable easterly tradewind generated windswell possible Sunday into early Monday.
Swell is arriving in California from 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 into Fri (8/30). Also a very weak gale tracked under New Zealand Tues (8/27) with 32 ft seas and another was developing Thurs (8/29) with up to 26 ft seas projected, but both are to be fading before making any serious inroads into the Southwest Pacific. Low odds of any swell resulting except for maybe Tahiti.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/29) the North Pacific high pressure system was almost non-existent, retrograded west and positioned over the far Western Gulf of Alaska at 1020 mbs. No windswell was being generated by it.
Over the next 72 hours, with low pressure in the vicinity of California, high pressure and northerly winds are not in the forecast for the Golden State. Relative to Hawaii the models suggest that weak tropical low pressure is to develop southeast of the Islands late Saturday setting up a weak pressure gradient with trades barely reaching the 15 kt threshold late Saturday and holding into Sunday, then fading as the low tracks west of the Islands Monday (9/2). Low odds for barely rideable east windswell possible for east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
In the Northern Gulf of Alaska low pressure that has tracked from the Kuril Islands and over the Aleutian Islands was starting to develop in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thursday (8/29) with a tiny area of 30-35 kt northwest winds projected falling southeast with seas 18 ft at 53N 156W continuing into Fri AM (8/30) with seas 17 ft at 49N 152W. Fetch to fade from barely 25 kts in the evening with seas 14 ft at 46N 150W. The gale to degenerate some while falling southeast but still 20 kt northwest winds holding and seas to 11 ft continuing to Sunday evening at 42N 138W. If all this comes to pass slightly larger windswell is possible for Oregon down into Central CA for the Labor Day holiday. Nothing solid, but at least rideable with luck. Monitor the models.
Weak Low - On Tuesday (8/27) high pressure near the dateline at 1024 mbs was interacting 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 held while falling southeast with seas 11 ft at 43N 147W. The fetch started 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) pushing 4 ft @ 10 secs (4 ft) from 295-298 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (8/29) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Tropical Storm Kong-Rey was positioned 120 nmiles north of the northern Philippines tracking north with winds 40 kts. No strengthening is forecast as it moves north and then northeast, weakening while accelerating Friday. Kong-Rey is to move over the southern most end of the Japan peninsula late Friday with winds 35 kts then tracking inland over the length of Japan re-emerging into the North Pacific on Sun (9/1) with winds 30 kts heading northeast. Limited redevelopment is forecast as it's remnants track over the dateline on Wed (9/4). See details in the long range forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/29) weak high pressure at 1018 mbs was trying to get a nose into the California coast, but was being held at bay by low pressure moving into the Pacific Northwest. North winds were 15 kts near Pt Conception but less everywhere else. High pressure to try and return Friday as low pressure to the north moves inland, with north winds building to 15 kts over most of the North and Central Coast late AM, though lighter near Pt Conception. On Saturday the high is to start fading as another low moves near the Pacific Northwest with winds 10 kts along most of the CA coast but less in Southern CA. An even weak flow is forecast Sunday and Monday as the low nuzzles up to Oregon. Late Tuesday (9/3) high pressure is to start getting a toe in the door as low pressure moves inland and north winds build over North and Central CA to 15 kts late, holding there Wednesday and then building Thurs (9/5) at 15-20 kts, and 20 kts solid late with a full on gradient starting to develop. Southern CA to remain protected
Jetstream - On Thursday (8/29) the jet was split over the entire South Pacific with the southern branch tracking over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in the west and pushing inland into Antarctica in the east. A pinched and weak trough was embedded in the southern branch southeast of New Zealand with 110 kt winds barely feeding up into it offering bare minimal support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours this trough is to pinch off on Friday (8/30) with just a flat and southward displaced flow tracking over Antarctic Ice. A new trough is forecast building over the Antarctic Ice Sheet south of the Southeast Pacific on Sun (9/1), but not getting any traction north of ice covered waters. No support for gale development forecast. 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 63S or deeper. No support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Thursday (8/29) high pressure at 1032 mbs was tracking east over the far Southeast Pacific ridging south to 62S driving all east moving gales into Antarctica in that region of the Pacific. No gales of interest were occurring anywhere in the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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.
Some degree of rideable 15 sec period swell to result for the US West Coast.
Swell to peak 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.
New Zealand Mini-Gales
First One - On Monday evening (8/26) 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 56S 170E with most fetch east to southeast. On Tues AM (8/27) the gale fell southeast with 45 kt west winds producing seas of 32 ft 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.
Second One - A second gale developed 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 but fading from 35 kts. Seas built to 27 ft in the evening at 54S 171E. Winds fading from 35 kts on Thurs AM (8/29) with seas fading from 25 ft early at 53S 176E. this system to be all but gone in the evening.
If all goes as forecast perhaps tiny swell is possible for Tahiti and Hawaii with next to nothing for California.
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 develop on the dateline late Friday (8/30) then track north to the Aleutians early Monday (9/2) joining forces with another low tracking east through the Bering Sea forming a single cohesive gale with a broad area of 25-30 kt west winds forecast just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas building to 17 ft late Monday, though the bulk of the wind energy is to be north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea. Some of that energy is to fall south Tues AM (9/3) with a small fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds forecast and seas building to 22-23 ft at 51N 170W (a long ways from Hawaii and the US West Coast. By evening the gale is to be fading fast with seas dropping from 22 ft at 50N 166W. Assuming all this to be true some small pulse of legitimate swell could radiate southeast to Hawaii and the US West Coast. At least it's something to monitor.
A secondary fetch of tropical origins (the remnants of TS Kong-Rey) are to rebuild to 25 kts blowing from the west and tracking directly behind the above gale moving over the dateline Wed (9/4) and into the Gulf and building Thurs (9/5) with winds up to 35 kts late. 13 ft seas forecast and possibly on the increase.
Relative to Hawaii trades to remain weak with no easterly windswell in the forecast.
But high pressure is forecast developing to 1024 mbs just off the Oregon coast on Thurs (9/5) forming a pressure gradient over North and Central CA with north winds building to 20+ kts then. Possible local windswell developing.
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 (8/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) fell back to 2.31. The 30 day average was down to -0.04 with the 90 day average down some at 5.95. Assuming we are near the end of the Active Phase, this Phase from an SOI perspective is still higher than any Active Phase since March of 2012. 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 moderate easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline and then lightly westerly from a point south of Hawaii almost into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/6) light east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to near neutral over the dateline region and continuing weak easterly 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 established (not unexpected).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/27 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 out, then moderating 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 and peaking, and expected to slowly fade while tracking east through 9/16. After that the pattern is to fall back towards neutral if not lightly Active continuing into early October (10/8).
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 (8/29) 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 now appears to be building some, 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. But the 8/29 image now suggests a return of cooler waters. 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). As of 8/29 it looks like the warm pool has impacted the Central CA coast, at least up towards Monterey Bay. One thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years, pushing near 61 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 8/29 have retreated 0.1 deg C over the long haul, but otherwise is unchanged. The model indicates 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 +0.5 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 the models are hinting at some degree of a cutoff low forming in the upper reaches of the Central Pacific on Mon AM (9/2) pushing storm status in the evening with a small thing area of 50 kt south winds developing aimed due north at 40S 140W easing east into Tues AM (9/3) with winds still 40-45 kts. 40 kt south winds to hold into the evening and into Wed AM (9/4) but taking aimed a bit more to the east from 42S 138W. A small fragmented area of 30 ft seas possible near 42S 140W aimed well to the north. Maybe some small background swell in the 16 sec range to result for California with luck. This system is to be east of the Hawaiian swell window.
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