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 (9/5) North and Central CA had surf that was thigh to maybe waist high and warbled with modest onshore winds if not stronger at exposed breaks. Not good. Down in Santa Cruz surf was occasionally knee high and weak but at least it was clean. Southern California up north was knee to thigh thigh on the bigger sets and heavily textured with northwest winds building. Down south waves were thigh high with a waist high sets and fairly clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was thigh to waist high on the sets and reasonably clean and almost rideable. The South Shore was getting rare waves in the waist high range and a bit ruffled with side shore trades wrapping in. The East Shore was flat with no rideable easterly windswell indicated and lightly chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific a slightly stronger and broader low developed on the Northern Dateline Monday (9/2) peaking early Tuesday with 16-17 ft seas aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. But it was a long ways from either location with only very small and weak windswell expected to result by Fri-Sat (9/7). A smaller but stronger gale is forecast for the dateline region by Sat-Sun (9/8) with up to 24 ft seas. But after that the pattern falters.
Relative to California no local pressure gradient capable of generating northerly windswell was occurring, but that is to change by Saturday (9/7) with the Cape Mendocino gradient coming weakly on-line and holding into Tues (9/10) with small windswell expected for exposed breaks.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were below the 15 kt threshold and are not expected to return for the next 7 days. No easterly tradewind generated windswell is in the forecast.
Looking south the Southern Hemi is effectively asleep. 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.
A weak cutoff low started circulating in the mid-latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Monday (9/2) generating 24 ft seas, then quickly faded, but was starting to regenerate Thurs-Fri (9/6) with up to 28 ft seas late in the period over a tiny area aimed decently north . Maybe some tiny swell for Southern CA down into Central America with luck.
But with the North Pacific becoming marginally more active, the focus is turning away from the Southern Hemi.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (9/5) windswell from a previous low near the dateline had produced windswell pushing southeast (see Dateline Low below). Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was centered in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska mildly ridging towards the south end of the US West Coast generating 15 kt northwest winds over Pt Conception down into Southern CA, but doing nothing in terms of windswell production. Weak low pressure continued just off the Oregon Coast. The high was centered too far east to have any impact on Hawaii with trades below 15 kts offering no windswell production capacity. Generalized weak low pressure was hovering near the dateline and into the Western Gulf but was not organized with no fetch of interest occurring just yet.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure to slowly ease east and start ridging into the California coast late on Thurs (9/5) generating northerly winds at 15 kts over Pt Conception and building northward, reaching San Francisco on Friday and finally becoming centered over Cape Mendocino Saturday (9/7) with north winds building there to 25 kts resulting in the production of small but rideable north local windswell. The high and associated gradient to weaken Sunday with north winds down to 20 kts, then rebuilding early Monday with north winds to near 30 kts over Cape Mendocino and holding till sunset, then fading fast Tues (9/10) from 25 kts early. Windswell size to be directly proportional to the speed of the wind.
No trades of interest are forecast for Hawaii with no easterly windswell resulting.
Of more interest is a gale forecast developing west of the dateline stating Fri (9/6) generating a small but steady fetch of 25-30 kt west winds late. A broader fetch of 35 kt northwesterly winds to develop Sat AM (9/7) generating 17 ft seas approaching the dateline at 47N 174E. By evening this system is to reach gale status with up to 40 kt northwest winds forecast on the dateline as the low tracks flat east with 22 ft seas building at 45N 178W. The gale is to fade slightly Sun AM (9/8) with 35 kt north winds moving into the Western Gulf aimed southeast with seas peaking at 24 ft at 44N 173W targeting Hawaii (1500 nmiles out on the 335 degree path) with sideband energy and California directly (2200 nmiles away on the 296 degree path). By evening the gale is to start fading with a decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds still holding in the gales southwest quadrant generating 22 ft seas at 45N 168W targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband swell still possibly pushing towards Hawaii. Monday AM (9/9) residual 30 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Gulf of Alaska over a small area with 20 ft seas at 46N 164W. Fetch is to fade in the evening from 25 kts with seas fading from 18 ft at 46N 160W targeting the US West coast exclusively. Fetch fading from 20-25 kts Tues AM (9/10) as the gale lifts northeast into the Gulf of Alaska with seas 15 ft at 46N 155W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest.
This system in and of itself is to be unremarkable by Fall standards, but the fact that it is even modeled and that it is to track completely across the North Pacific while holding together is certainly a step in the right direction. Will monitor.
Tropical low pressure that developed on the dateline late Friday (8/30) tracked north to the Aleutians arriving there late Sunday (9/1) joining forces with broad Arctic low that tracked east through the Bering Sea. The two systems started forming a single cohesive gale Sun AM (9/1) with a broad area of 30+ kt west winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface south of the Central Aleutians continuing east in the evening. Seas up to 18 ft were modeled at 51N 172E. By Monday AM (9/2) 25-30 kt west winds continued just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas holding at 15-18 ft at 50N 173W, though the bulk of the wind energy was north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea. Some of that energy fell south in the evening with a small fetch of 30 kt northwest winds indicated generating seas holding at 16 ft at 48N 176W (a long ways from Hawaii and the US West Coast). By Tuesday AM (9/3) the gale was fading fast with seas fading from 16 ft at 49N 170W.
Some small pulse of windswell is expected to radiate southeast towards Hawaii and the US West Coast, but nothing too much.
Swell to peak in Hawaii on Fri (9/6) at 3 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft) from 330 degrees and in Central CA on Sat (9/7) at 2.6 ft @ 12 secs (3 ft) from 303 degrees. See QuikCASTs for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (9/5) no tropical systems were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/5) weak low pressure was fading over the Oregon coast barely suppressing high pressure relative to Northern CA. But high pressure at 1024 mbs was building 650 nmiles west of Central CA and was ridging into Southern CA. As a result, north winds at 20 kts was over Pt Conception with 15 kt north winds extending northward to San Francisco and southward to a point off northern Baja. The high is to take control on Friday (9/6) with north winds 15-20 kts over the North and Central Coasts and light into Southern CA. By evening the high is to be ridging into Oregon with a gradient forming over Cape Mendocino with north winds 25 kts there holding Sat AM and a weak eddy flow from Bodega Bay southward. The gradient to fade some late down to 20 kts as low pressure moves through the Eastern Gulf taking some of the bite out of the gradient. 20 kt north winds to hold Sunday with a weak eddy flow from Pt Arena southward. By late Sunday the high to again regain it's footing with 25-30 kt north winds building in the gradient over Cape Mendocino with and eddy flow south of there holding through Monday. The gradient to start collapsing Tuesday (9/10) with north winds fading from 25 kts off Cape Mendocino down to 20 kts late, but with and eddy flow still in effect south of Cape Mendo. North winds to be gone by Wednesday (9/11) with a light flow in effect through Friday.
Jetstream - On Thursday (9/5) the jet was split over the entire South Pacific with the southern branch ridging hard south under New Zealand effectively over the Ross Ice Shelf and Antarctica and staying there the entire width of the South Pacific. No support for gale development was indicated in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the strong ridge (above) is to rapidly decay and dissipate by Sun (9/8) with a weak trough instead starting to form under Australia and easing east under New Zealand late. Winds speeds to be light though with no upper level support for gale development suggested. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to hold under New Zealand but a large ridge is to remain over the Southeast Pacific with the southern branch of the jet falling steadily southeast and crashing into Antarctica over the Southeast Pacific, driving the storm track southeast as well, directing any fetch towards Antarctica rather than northeast. No clear support for gale development indicated in the jetstream levels of the atmosphere. Note: This is likely the last Southern Hemi jetstream update for the season. Will instead be performing detailed analysis on the North Pacific jetstream (seasonally appropriate).
Surface - On Thursday (9/5) a cutoff low was building in almost in the mid-latitudes of the Southeastern Pacific (see Cutoff Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours nothing of interest is forecast.
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
Maybe swell from this pulse arriving in Hawaii late on Mon (9/9) with swell 1.3 ft @ 15-16 secs late (2 ft) building to 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft) on Tues (9/10). Swell fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs on Wed (9/11). Swell Direction: 175 degrees.
A low developed some in the upper reaches of the Central Pacific on Mon AM (9/2) generating a small area of 40 kt south to southeast winds with seas building to 25 ft over a small area midday into the evening at 50S 148W aimed well north targeting only Tahiti and Hawaii. The gale lost definition on Tuesday (9/3) with winds only 25-30 kts and seas fading below 22 ft. Maybe some small swell in the 14-15 sec range to result for Tahiti with far less size for Hawaii with luck. Nothing was aimed at California though.
The cutoff low above continued circulating and redevelop some on Wed (9/4) with southwest winds to 35 kts late and seas building to 22 ft at 40S 139W aimed mainly at South America. The gale is to get slightly better organized late Thurs (9/5) with a broader area of 35 kt southwest winds aimed better to the north while the whole low lifts northeast with seas forecast building to 23 ft at 35S 135W targeting the US West coast down into Central and South America. On Friday AM (9/6) some virtual fetch to develop with winds up to 40 kts from the southwest with seas building to 27 ft at 36S 132W. Fetch to fade from 35 kts in the evening with seas peaking at 28 ft at 34S 126W and then to 32S 121W Sat AM (9/7) before tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window and fading.
This system to be very far to the north reducing the travel distance to CA (3900 nmiles to Dana Point based on the Sat AM final position) thereby reducing swell decay on the way. Maybe some small 15-16 sec period swell to result for California if all goes as forecast.
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 a small and poorly organized low is to track east from a point off Northern Japan Sun (9/8) reaching the dateline and a bit east of there by Thurs (9/12), but not developing any swell producing fetch.
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 (9/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) rose to -14.44. The 30 day average was down to -1.36 with the 90 day average down some at 4.22. 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 longer term pattern was still in weak La Nina territory and not indicative of El Nino. This was illustrative of a dominance of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline continuing south of Hawaii on into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/13) moderate east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region then fading to neutral south of Hawaii continuing into Central America. In all this suggests a modest pulse of an Inactive Phase of the MJO is to develop.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/4 remain in sync. Both models suggests an Inactive Phase is supposedly in control over the West Pacific. This pattern is to continue easing east per both models over the next 5 days with the peak occurring now, then moderating 8 days out and dead 10 day from now. Perhaps a weak pulse of the Active Phase to start building 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Inactive Phase was firmly in control over the West Pacific, expected to slowly fade while tracking east through 9/17. After that the pattern is to reverse turning 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 (9/5) a very weak La Nina-like pattern continues in the far East Pacific on the equator. The small pocket of cooler water we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is holding having built slightly the past week, 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 suggested a warming trend in play, likely the result of the current weak Active Phase in play. But the 8/29-9/5 images suggested 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 was building west of California (originating off Japan) tracking east and as of 9/5 had fully impacted the North and Central CA coast with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. This is likely the result of the collapse of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). And it also appears to be a full oceanic exchange of warm water that has been pent up in the far tropical West Pacific for two + years, now released and following the jet across the northern latitudes into the US West Coast. One thing is for sure, water temps are up in Central CA, the first time in a few years, pushing near 61 degrees. This appears to be the final demise of La Nina and the start of the Fall season. 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 a significant transition appears to be in-play. 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 9/5 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 Nov-Dec holding till the end of the model run on 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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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
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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