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 (9/1) 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 waist high on the sets and clean with no real winds present early. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was flat with maybe a stray thigh high set sneaking through and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore was thigh to maybe waist 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 (9/1) high pressure was ridging into Hawaii weakly generating 15 kts trades and some bare minimally rideable east windswell, but was doing nothing for California. Small residual windswell from a weak low previously in the Eastern Gulf was lapping into the US West Coast. A stronger low that migrated from the Northern Gulf now fading off Oregon was poised for the Pacific Northwest down into Central California. And a slightly stronger and larger low is brewing on the Northern Dateline expected to peak on Tuesday (9/3) with 18 ft seas aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. A weak Fall pattern is trying to get some traction in the North Pacific.
Relative to California no local pressure gradient capable of generating northerly windswell was occurring nor forecast to develop till Fri (9/6).
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were barely back up to the minimal 15 kt threshold but only expected to hold into Monday evening (9/2) resulting in minimally rideable easterly tradewind generated windswell for Sunday on into Monday.
Looking south a very weak gale tracked under New Zealand Tues (8/27) with 32 ft seas and another developed behind it Wed-Thurs (8/29) with up to 27 ft seas, but both faded 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 Sunday (9/1) the North Pacific high pressure system was weak at 1020 mbs and centered in the western Gulf of Alaska miraculously ridging south barely to Hawaii generating a hint of the usual tradewind induced pressure gradient resulting in easterly trades at 15 kts with barely rideable easterly windswell on the rise. The high was making no inroads to California though, with low pressure that previously was in the Gulf of Alaska now 500 nmiles off Northern Oregon generating a fetch of 20 kt northwest winds targeting the California coast somewhat. This low previously tracked from the Kuril Islands over the Aleutians then started developing in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thursday (8/29) with a tiny area of 30-35 kt northwest winds by evening falling southeast with seas 17 ft at 53N 155W . The low continued falling southeast Fri AM (8/30) with 30 kt northwest winds and seas 17 ft at 49N 152W. Fetch faded from barely 25 kts in the evening with seas 14 ft at 46N 150W. The gale degenerated Saturday while falling southeast but still producing 20 kt northwest winds and seas to 11 ft through Sat PM 41N 143W. Some modestly rideable windswell is expected for Oregon down into Central CA for Mon-Tues (9/3). Nothing solid, in the 4 ft @ 10 secs range for Central CA later Monday (9/2), but at least it should be rideable (see QuikCASTs for details).
Over the next 72 hours high pressure to continue ridging into Hawaii through Monday (9/2) generating easterly trades at 15 kts resulting in barely minimally rideable windswell, then dropping out. The high is to remain weak and have no effect relative to California.
Tropical low pressure that developed on the dateline late Friday (8/30) was tracking north to the Aleutians expected to arrive there late Sunday (9/1) joining forces with broad Arctic low tracking east through the Bering Sea forming a single cohesive gale with a broad area of 30 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface south of the Central Aleutians. By Monday AM (9/2) 25-30 kt west winds are to continue just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas building to 17 ft at 50N 173W, 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 Monday evening with a small fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds forecast and seas holding at 17 ft at 49N 177W (a long ways from Hawaii and the US West Coast). By Tuesday AM (9/3) the gale is to be fading fast with seas peaking at 18 ft at 49N 175W. A quick fade to follow. Assuming all this to be true some small pulse of windswell could radiate southeast to Hawaii and the US West Coast. At least it's something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (9/1) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Tropical Storm Kiko was positioned 350 nmiles west-southwest of Cabo San Lucas Baja Mexico tracking north at 7 kts with winds 60 kts and seas 18 ft. It was 750 nmiles south southwest of Dana Point CA. A quick fade is forecast over the next 48 hours with Kiko falling to depression status. There's minimal odds for southerly swell from this system to reach exposed breaks in Southern CA. Low odds of small 11 sec period windswell reaching Dana Point late Monday evening into Tuesday AM (9/3) from 175 degrees.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/1) weak low pressure was high pressure was 500 nmiles off the Oregon coast completely suppressing high pressure relative to the US West Coast. As a result, a weak wind pattern was in-play for California. An even weaker flow is forecast 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 Point Conception to 15 kts late, holding there Wednesday and building northward reaching San Francisco late. By Thurs (9/5) high pressure is to start getting a better grip on things with north winds to 20 kts late from San Francisco southward to Pt Conception, then lifting north with a gradient forming over Cape Mendocino Friday (9/6) and north winds 25 kts there late building to near 30 kts over the weekend there while a weak eddy flow builds into Central CA. Southern CA to remain protected
Jetstream - On Sunday (9/1) the jet was split over the entire South Pacific with the southern branch ridging south over the Ross Ice Shelf in the west but then forming a trough east of there with 120 kt winds pushing north but not pushing north of ice free waters of Antarctica. No support for gale development was indicated in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours this trough is to fade out on Monday (9/2) with the southern branch riding south in the west and easing north in the east, but all still trapped by Antarctic Ice. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to remain very split with the influential southern branch of the jet running south of Antarctic ice. The models suggest a trough is to try and form over the far Southeastern Pacific on Fri (9/6) possibly pushing north of the Ice Sheet there on Sat (9/7) but east of even the Southern CA swell window at that time. No clear support for gale development indicated in the jetstream levels of the atmosphere.
Surface - On Sunday (9/1) high pressure at 1016 mbs was lodged southeast of New Zealand down at 62S completely blocking the storm track into the Southwest Pacific. A tiny cut-off gale (no access to jetstream energy) was circulating at 43S 145W but of no immediate interest. Over the next 72 hours the models are hinting that this cutoff low is to develop some in the upper reaches of the Central Pacific on Mon AM (9/2) generating a small area of 45 kt south to southeast winds with seas building to 26 ft over a pinpoint sized area midday into the evening at 43S 152W aimed well north. The gale is to dissolve some Tuesday (9/3) with winds only 25 kts and seas fading below 20 ft. Maybe some decent swell in the 15 sec range to result for Tahiti with far less size for Hawaii with luck. Not much to be aimed at California though.
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.
Small swell expected for Hawaii on Fri (9/6) with swell 1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195 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 another weak low is to try and develop south of the Central Aleutians on Fri (9/6) but organize enough to be of interest. Theoretically a second stronger system is forecast off the Kuril Islands on Sun (9/8) but that's so far away to not be believable. t
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 coalescing over Northern California late Friday (9/6) with a gradient forming and north winds building to 25 kts then to 30 kts Sat-Sun (9/8). Possible local windswell developing relative to North and Central CA.
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 (9/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) fell back to -5.52. The 30 day average was down to -0.70 with the 90 day average down some at 5.54. 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 weak easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline and then lightly westerly from a point south of Hawaii halfway to the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/8) moderate east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent fading to near neutral over the dateline region and continuing weak westerly from a point south of Hawaii towards Central America. In all this suggests a mild pulse of an Inactive Phase trying to get established.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/31 remain in sync. Both models suggests a 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 if not dead 15 day from now. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase was all but gone over the far East Pacific while the Inactive Phase was peaking over the far West Pacific, expected to slowly fade while tracking east through 9/15. After that the pattern is to fall back towards neutral if not lightly Active late Sept into early October (10/6). But the upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 9/1 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 (+0.2 C) 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 cutoff low above is to continue circulating and redevelop some on Wed (9/4) with southwest winds to 35 kts late and seas building to 20 ft. The gael is to get slightly better organized late Thurs 99/5) with a broader area of 35 kt southwest winds forecast lifting northeast and seas building to 24 ft at 35S 133W targeting the US West coast down into Central and South America. Some virtual fetch to develop from the 35 kt southwest winds on Friday AM (9/6) with seas 27 ft at 35S 128W pushing to 31S 124W in the evening before tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window and fading. At this time this all seems like just a fantasy of the model.
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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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/
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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