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 (9/12) North and Central CA had surf 1-2 ft overhead and clean with some bump developing late AM and a bit soft with long lulls. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean but weak and inconsistent. In Southern California up north waves were knee to thigh high with no wind but a little warble in the water. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high peaks and clean but soft. Hawaii's North Shore was getting nice dateline swell with waves head high or so and mirror glass. Alot of sand on the reefs though. The South Shore was getting southern hemi swell with waves chest to shoulder high and better on the sets at top breaks and clean with light trades. The East Shore was knee high and lightly chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from the first semi real gale of the season is hitting California at exposed breaks. Another small system is developing in the Northwestern Gulf with 21 ft seas projected in the evening aimed east for a short duration targeting mainly the US West Coast. The models hint at weak Eastern Gulf energy is in the outlook during the week.
Relative to California no local windswell is occurring and none of real interest is forecast.
Relative to the Hawaii easterly tradewinds were below the 15 kt threshold and are not expected to return until maybe late Mon (9/16) and holding into Thursday as high pressure builds in the Gulf. No easterly tradewind generated windswell is in the forecast until then.
Swell from a weak cutoff low that started circulating in the mid-latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Monday (9/2) generating 24 ft seas is starting to hit California and Hawaii. It regenerated Thurs-Fri (9/6) producing 28 ft seas late in the period over a small area aimed decently north. Some small south swell is to continue for California into the early weekend. But nothing to follow behind it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (9/12) the jet was split in the west with the southern branch pushing off Northern Japan with the northern branch riding north of the Kamchatka Peninsula tracking through the Bering Sea with both stream merging in the Western Gulf. The consolidated jet was generating a weak trough south of the Eastern Aleutians with 120 kt winds flowing through it then ridged steadily north pushing inland over Eastern Alaska. Minimal support for gale development was occurring in the trough. A weak cutoff trough was 800 nmiles off the North CA coast too but of no real interest. Over the next 72 hours the split flow is to hold while drifting east into the Gulf of Alaska shutting down support for gale development there on back into the West Pacific. But the cut-off trough is to continue circulating 800 nmiles off Northern CA while easing slowly east into the early weekend finally getting caught in the main flow on Sunday (9/15) moving inland over Washington late. No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours a consolidated pocket of 130 kt winds is to be building over the Southern Kuril Islands Tues (9/17) then transferring energy into the jet causing it to consolidate some but ridge over the dateline pushing up into the Bering Sea and falling southeast into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska late in the workweek (9/19) forming a trough there with 130 kt winds falling into it and providing limited support for low pressure development.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (9/12) swell the Dateline Gale (see details below) was past it's peak in Hawaii and was starting to move into California. A new low was developing in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska and barely south of the Aleutians (see Gulf Low below).
No local windswell generation of interest was occurring relative to California or Hawaii. Trades were in the 10-15 kt range over the Hawaii Islands and doing nothing to produce easterly windswell.
Over the next 72 hours a weak cutoff low off the Coast of California is to continue circulating at the surface generating 20-25 kt north to northwest winds Thurs-Fri (9/13) and 9 ft seas near 37N 143W. Maybe some minimal background windswell to results with luck.
No local north winds nor windswell of interest is forecast relative to California.
No trades of interest are forecast for Hawaii with no easterly windswell resulting.
Low pressure tracked from west of the dateline while organizing just south of the Aleutians and just east of the dateline Wed PM (9/12). Northwest winds were 30 kts over a small area targeting Hawaii best. Seas building. On Thursday AM (9/12) the gale was better defined with a tiny area of 40 kt northwest winds falling south and clear of the Eastern Aleutians targeting Hawaii and California with seas building to 21 ft at 48N 170W. By evening the gale is to start fading while pushing into the Western Gulf. Winds fading from 30-35 kts out of the northwest with seas 19 ft at 49N 164W. The gale is to be gone by Friday AM with winds below 30 kts and no seas of interest being generated. 15 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 48N 160W. This system is forming about as forecast, likely to produce some small unremarkable swell mainly targeting The US West Coast and Canada. At least it's a step in the right direction towards Fall.
A gale starting developing west of the dateline Fri (9/6) generating a small but steady fetch of 25-30 kt west winds late. A broader fetch of 35+ kt northwesterly winds began to develop Sat AM (9/7) just west of the dateline generating 16 ft seas approaching the dateline. By evening this system started peaking with 40 kt northwest winds modeled on the dateline as the low tracked flat east with 22 ft seas building at 45N 178W. The gale held into Sun AM (9/8) with 40 kt northwest winds moving towards the Western Gulf aimed southeast and seas peaking at a surprising 27 ft over a small area at 44N 173W embedded in a broader area of 26 ft seas targeting Hawaii with sideband energy (1500 nmiles out on the 335 degree path) and California more directly (2200 nmiles away on the 296 degree path). By evening the gale is to start fading fast with only 25 kt northwest winds still in the gales southwest quadrant generating 22 ft seas at 43N 166W targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband swell still possibly pushing towards Hawaii. Monday AM (9/9) only 20 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Gulf of Alaska as the low lifts northeast and a small area of 17 ft seas fading fast at 45N 160W.
This system in and of itself was pretty ordinary by Fall standards, but ordinary is sure better than where we've been for 2 years now. So that's a good thing. Well rideable swell with period in the 15-16 sec range is expected for Hawaii and California. Nothing huge, but at least a real taste of Fall energy is expected.
North CA: Swell is to be fading Friday (9/13) from 3.6 ft @ 12-13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 294-297 degrees
Southern CA: Swell to hold Friday (9/13) morning at 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.5 ft faces), then fading as the day progresses. Swell Direction: 299-302 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (9/12) no tropical systems were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/12) low pressure at 1008 mbs was circulating 800 nmiles west of San Francisco blocking high pressure from ridging into the coast. As a result a light wind flow was in effect for the entire CA coast. A light northerly flow is to set up on Friday (9/13) for the North and Central coast late to 15 kts, strongest late near Pt Conception at 20 kts. Saturday 15 kts north winds forecast for outer waters of Central CA up to 20 kts over Pt Conception, but light elsewhere as the low pushes towards the coast. 15 kt northwest winds are to be limited to Pt Conception Sunday (9/15) and far lighter for all of North and Central CA with the low moving inland over Cape Mendocino. Monday strong high pressure starts building north of Hawaii but low pressure is to set up in the extreme eastern Gulf of Alaska holding the highs local impact at bay. Only north winds to 15 kts late for North and Central CA. The north flow to come up along the North and Central Coasts to 20 kts Tuesday and Wednesday pushing 25 kts over Pt Conception then fading Thursday (9/19) as more low pressure moves towards the coast.
Surface - On Tuesday (9/10) low pressure was just southeast of Zealand with strong high pressure at 1036 mbs northeast of New Zealand forming a pressure gradient generating a broad fetch of 30-35 kt west to northwest winds all aimed at the Ross Ice Shelf and not aimed north at all. Seas were 22 ft in fragments near 50S 180W. No swell was pushing towards Hawaii much less the US mainland. And even that fetch is to dissipate later Friday (9/13). The high is to hold in the northern reaches of the South Pacific Sunday (9/15) at 1032 mbs locking things down even though more low pressure is to be tracking under New Zealand generating another gradient and 22 ft seas. But again the swell vector is to be aimed southeast towards Antarctica. In short, no swell production is indicated.
The cutoff low above continued circulating and redeveloped 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 got 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 lifted northeast with seas 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 developed with winds up to 40 kts from the southwest with seas building to 27 ft at 36S 132W. Fetch faded some in the evening but still 40 kts but more southwest early rather than south with seas peaking at 28 ft at 33S 127W and then down to 26 ft at 31S 120W Sat AM (9/7) before tracking east out of even the Southern CA swell window and fading.
This system was 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 along the way. Maybe some small 15-16 sec period swell to result for California if all goes as forecast.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs later AM (9/12) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) building to 2.3 ft @ 16 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (9/13) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 180-190 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Thurs afternoon (9/12) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) building to 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft) Fri AM (9/13) and holding well into the afternoon. Swell fading Fri (9/13) from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 180-187 degrees
On Tuesday (9/10) high pressure was northeast of New Zealand at 1028 mbs with low pressure southeast of New Zealand and the low falling southeast producing up to 40 kt northwest winds with seas building to 26 ft at 51S 173E aimed more southeast than even east. By Wed AM (9/11) 45 kt west to almost northwest winds held over a small area easing southeast with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 58S 180W but pushing more towards the Ross Ice Shelf than northward towards our forecast area. In the evening the gale was fading fast with seas fading from 27 ft at 59S 178W over an infinitesimal area pushing towards the Ross Ice Shelf. There was no odds of swell radiating north up towards Tahiti, Hawaii or the US Mainland.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours high pressure at 1024 mbs is forecast building on the dateline on Sunday (9/15) and tracking east into the Gulf of Alaska by Monday building to 1028 mbs and locking that area down offering no odds for gale development other than a small area hugging the Canadian Coast. The high to lodge there with a gradient starting to build along the US West Coast Tues-Wed (9/18) displaced south of usual over Central CA with north winds to 25 kts. But at the same time low pressure is to be holding over the Canadian coast forming a pressure gradient in the Gulf generating 25 kt northwest winds Mon (9/16) with 12 ft seas pushing to 30 kts on Tuesday with seas building to 15 ft at 46N 135W (315 degs NCal) then fading Wednesday as it moves into Vancouver Island with 11 ft seas pushing into Washington and North Oregon. There's suggestion that additional low pressure to build into that area by late in the week (Fri 9/20) but it's way to early know with any certainty.
With high pressure building in the Gulf on Mon (9/16) easterly winds are to start building over Hawaii at 15 kts growing in coverage east of the Islands on Tuesday then fading some Wednesday before dissipating 24 hours later. Local easterly windswell possible if all goes as forecast.
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 (9/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) rose to 18.60. The 30 day average was up to -0.73 with the 90 day average down some at 4.13. Assuming we are at the end of the Active Phase, this downward pulse in the 30 day SOI 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 neutral if not 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 moderate east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (as has been predicted for a while) holding on the dateline continuing to a point south of Hawaii, then dying. Neutral anomalies continue from there into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/20) neutral to light east anomalies are forecast re-taking the Maritime Continent turning fully neutral over the dateline region and then light easterly south of Hawaii continuing into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control but is to rapidly fade a week out (a good thing).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/10 remain in sync. Both models suggests an Inactive Phase was already fading fast over the West Pacific. This pattern is to dissipate 5-7 days out. A weak pulse of the Active Phase to start building 8-10 days out per both models holding through the 15 day end of the model run. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Inactive Phase was already over the far-east equatorial Pacific with the Active Phase starting to set up over the Maritime Continent. The Active Phase is expected to slowly track east over the Pacific through 10/7 with a weak Inactive Phase building behind that in control for the second half of October. 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 (9/12) a very weak and fading 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 fading more, almost gone, 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 for Sept indicates this pattern has continued to dissipate, likely the result of the latest Active Phase of the MJO. Historically this is a little different from what has been occurring during the 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. At this point it looks like the Active Phase is getting the upper hand. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa appears to have lost ground if not dissipated now while the Active Phase is in control. Both these plumes are likely to resurge if a normal Inactive Phase develops. But we're thinking that may not happen. Further north a plume of slightly cooler than normal water that had been radiating southeast off California for 2 years fully closed off in July. In late August it tried to make a weak comeback off the California coast but was shut down by a considerably wall of warmer than normal water that had build off Japan and migrated east, slamming into California on 9/5 with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. Looking briefly at the historical record this is the result of the seasonal collapse of high pressure and north winds off the California coast (suppressing upwelling). And it also appears to be part of a oceanic exchange of warm water that has been pent up in the far tropical West Pacific through the early summer, and in this case 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 60 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 in a neutral pattern (and were tempted to say it's no longer biased slightly cool). A significant transition appears to be in-play. We're certainly nowhere near as cold as the previous 2 years.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a neutral temperature pattern. Of some interest is a warmer tongue of +2.0 deg C water radiating east down 125 meters extending from a point south of Hawaii almost to Ecuador. It certainly looks like a weak Kelvin Wave, but given the lack of strong Active Phase activity recently, that seems optimistic. But it's certainly worth monitoring. For now we'll say no Kelvin waves are present, but that could change.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/12 are 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 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 holding till the end of the model run on May 2014. This would suggest a weak El Nino possible for next year. But for the immediate future a neutral pattern is expected. 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. Other models suggest a continuation of neutral conditions. All 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 forecast with high pressure at 1032-1036 mbs in control over the upper reaches of the South Pacific driving the swell track decidedly to the south and away from our forecast area.
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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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.
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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
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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