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 (9/22) North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and clean but a bit jumbled and foggy early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high on the sets at top breaks and clean but weak. In Southern California up north waves were waist high and clean and fairly consistent. Down south waves were waist high and a little more on the sets and weak but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was waist to chest high and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was near flat with knee high sets and clean. No report was available for the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific swell from the first legitimate gale of the season was fading along the California coast. But another gale was tracking though the Northern Gulf Sat-Mon (9/23) with seas in the 28 ft range providing opportunities again focused for Canada, the Pacific Northwest and with a north angle on down into California. A smaller system is forecast for the Northwestern Gulf Tues-Wed (9/25) with 26 ft seas over a small area again focusing on the US West Coast. And yet maybe one more is possible for the Northern Gulf over the weekend with seas in the 28+ ft range. Nice little early season pattern.
In the South Pacific a tiny system formed under New Zealand on Sun (9/15) tracking northeast with seas to 31 ft for 18 hours. Some minimal energy expected for Hawaii on Mon-Tues (9/24). Another area of 28 ft seas developed southeast of New Zealand Thurs (9/19). Minimal swell for Hawaii on Wed-Thurs (9/26), but nothing remarkable. Summer is over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (9/22) the jet was falling somewhat south off the Kuril Islands dipping into a small trough just east of there, then ridged gently north over the dateline before falling into a gradual trough than was pushing inland over Oregon. Winds from the dateline into Oregon were generally 120 kts offering limited support for gale development in the Eastern Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to amplify some with the Kuril Island trough building some and moving over the dateline but somewhat pinched while the ridge east of it pushes up into the Bering Sea and the trough currently in the Gulf moves fully inland over the Pacific Northwest bottoming out near Monterey Bay late Tuesday. Winds in the dateline trough to be in the 110 kt range and up to 140 kts in the Gulf trough late Monday. Limited support for gale development in both troughs. Beyond 72 hours the dateline trough is to push east into the Gulf on late Thursday (9/26) with 160 kt winds falling into it and holding in the Gulf through Sunday (9/29) with winds still 140 kts there. Good support for gale development if this were to occur. But overall the jet is to be displaced north some near 50N with the exception of the previously mentioned troughs suggestive of a weak La Nina, and clearly no signs of a El Nino pattern. If the average jet locations was down at 45N or less, then there would be more room for long term excitement.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (9/22) a gale was continuing to track through the Northern Gulf of Alaska (see Second Gulf Gale below). Otherwise broad high pressure at 1020 mbs was in control north of Hawaii but ridging west to the dateline and east almost to California and pushing a bit south of the Hawaiian Islands with trades there below the 15 kt threshold to generate east windswell.
Over the next 72 hours a small gale is forecast building just north of the Eastern Aleutians Tues AM (9/24) with 30 kt west winds building and seas on the increase. By evening a small area of 35-40 kt west winds is to be tucked up against the Aleutians with seas building to 22 ft at 51N 170W. On Wed (9/25) 30-35 kt northwest winds to continue barely south of the Aleutians with 22 ft seas at 52N 162W aimed mainly at the Pacific Northwest and points north of there (310 degs NCal). By evening 30 kt west winds to be fading with seas fading from 18-19 ft at 51N 158W (310 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by Thurs AM (9/26). If this were to develop as forecast some small background 13 sec period swell might results for the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy pushing down to maybe Pt Conception.
Second Gulf Gale
On Saturday (9/21) a mixture of tropical and Siberian energy converged over the Eastern Aleutians dropping southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska in the morning with west winds building to 35-40 kts over a moderate sized area targeting mainly Canada with seas building to 26 ft over a small area at 53N 158W. By evening winds turned more northwest and held at 40 kts with seas building to 28 ft over a decent area at 51N 150W (310 degs NCal). On Sun AM (9/22) additional 35 kt northwest winds built in the Northern Gulf aimed at Oregon and points northward. Seas held at 28 ft over a decent sized area at 41N 142W (319 degs NCal) and 22+ ft seas down to 47N 144W (306 degs NCal). Winds to hold into the evening unchanged with seas 25 ft at 49N 146W (317 degs NCal) and 22 ft seas down to 47N 140W (310 degs NCal). By Monday AM (9/23) 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the Northeastern Gulf with seas fading from 23 ft at 50N 140W (319 degs NCal). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds to be fading off the coast of Canada with 21 ft seas on the edge of the NCal swell window 52N 142W (319 degrees) and fading. If all goes as forecast some very north angled 15 sec period swell could result for Central and North CA with more size north of there but also good odds for poor weather. No real energy is expected arriving in Hawaii.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (9/24) near 1 AM with pure swell 7 ft @ 15-16 secs with lesser period energy intermixed. Swell holding through the day with swell in the 7 ft @ 14-15 secs range (10 ft) but shadowed in the San Francisco Bay area. Residual swell fading on Wednesday (9/25) from 5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft) with locally generated short period north windswell intermixed. Swell Direction: 310-319 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (9/22) the following tropical systems were being monitored:
Typhoon Usagi was pushing inland over mainland China 60 nmiles northwest of Hong Kong with winds 80 kts. No swell production is forecast for this system relative to our forecast area.
Tropical Storm Pabuk was 700 nmiles south of Central Japan with winds 50 kts and tracking north-northwest. This motion is to continue Tuesday (9/24) mid-day with winds up to 70 kts positioned 450 nmiles south of Kyoto Japan, then taking a northeast track with winds holding and accelerating in forward speed through Fri (9/27) with winds down to 60 kts. This system is to race north to almost the Bering Sea nd get sheared with it's energy feeding a developing gale in the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend (9/28) (see NPac Long term forecast).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (9/22) high pressure was trying to ridge into the coast but was being held off by another gale in the Gulf of Alaska pushing south to barely Cape Mendocino. Interesting, rain on Saturday was more than expected in the San Francisco Bay area with up to 0.4 inches accumulated. And even more interesting was about 4 inches of snow that fell Sat PM in Tahoe starting above 7200 ft. A very early start. Monday a light north winds pattern is forecast for the Central Coast with winds up to 15 kts near Pt Conception, but less north of there and near calm over Cape Mendocino. Tuesday high pressure is to start and get a little better footing with north winds 10 kts over all of North and Central CA building to 15 kts late and pushing 20 kts over Pt Conception. Light rain for North CA. Wednesday high pressure to be in control with a gradient and 20 kt north winds forecast for the entire state late, continuing north of Pt Conception Thursday then finally dissipating Friday through the day as another broad gale builds in the Gulf. Light winds Saturday as a front approaches the North end of the state hitting Sunday with south winds down to Pt Reyes maybe and light rain down to Pt Arena, but neither making any progress into Central CA.
Surface - Otherwise over the next 72 hours no swell production is forecast.
A tiny gale formed under New Zealand on Sun AM (9/15) producing a tiny area of 45 kt southwest winds tracking northeast though the evening. Seas built to 31 ft for 18 hours centered on Sunday PM at 54S 171E. Maybe some minimal energy for Tahiti and even less for Hawaii stating Mon (9/23) 1.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (2 ft faces). Swell to continue Tues (9/24) at 1.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft) then dissipating. Swell Direction: 195 degrees
On Thursday AM (9/19) southeast of New Zealand a small gale was generating 45 kt west to southwest winds producing seas to barely 28 ft over a tiny area, peaking in the evening at barely 30 ft but over a small sized area at 52S 167W. The gale faded and fell southeast on Friday (9/20) bound for the Ross Ice Shelf. A small pulse of 15-16 sec sideband background swell to result for Hawaii stating Fri (9/27) at 1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5 ft), then all but gone on Sat (9/28). Swell Direction: 188 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 high pressure at 1036 mbs is to be lodged over the dateline with tropical low pressure riding up it's western flank Thurs (9/26) then rapidly tracking through the Bering Sea and falling southeast in the the Northern Gulf of Alaska late Friday (9/27) with 45 kt northwest winds building over open waters and seas building from 24 ft at 53N 162W. 45 kt northwest winds to hold Sat AM (9/28) falling southeast with seas building to 32 ft at 49N 153W (308 degs NCal). 45 kt northwest winds to hold into the evening with 35 ft seas at 47N 143W (308 degs NCal) with 30 ft seas down to 44N 145W (298 degs NCal). The gale to fade Sun AM (9/29) while pushing into British Columbia Sun AM (9/29) with seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 135W (309 degs NCal). If this were to occur some solid swell might result for the US West Coast. Certainly something to monitor.
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 (9/22) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) faded some to 15.81. The 30 day average was up to 5.78 with the 90 day average up some at 5.58. We are in a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak Inactive 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 weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning moderately east on the dateline continuing south of Hawaii almost half way to South America, then dying. Neutral anomalies continued from there into the coast of Central America. A week from now (9/30) neutral to light east anomalies are forecast on the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region and south of Hawaii then falling back to neutral and continuing into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was weak on the dateline region but stronger east of there, and is forecast to hold in some fashion for the next week.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/21 are in sync. Both models suggests the Active Phase was already in control of the far West Pacific. This pattern is to hold effectively unchanged for the next 15 days though strongest 5-8 days out. This is very strange how one model and the SOI say we are in an Inactive Phase while other models suggest were are in the Active Phase. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is already set up over the Maritime Continent and is expected to slowly track east over the Pacific through 10/9 with a modest Inactive Phase building behind that on 10/09, but then gone by 10/29 with the Active Phase again starting to take over. 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 (9/19) an exceedingly weak and fading La Nina-like pattern is all but gone over the far eastern equatorial Pacific. A small pocket of cooler water that we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is gone now, with the weak outflow from previous remnants of it tracking to the Galapagos Islands, then dissipating west of there. Imagery for Sept indicates this pattern has continued to dissipate, likely the result of a weak Active Phase of the MJO occurring simultaneously. Historically this is starting to be a departure from what has been occurring during the summer (with a cool pool off Peru fluctuating and sporadically spitting pockets of cool water westward along the equator). At this point it looks like the Active Phase is starting to get the upper hand. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa is gone. Further north a plume of slightly cooler than normal water that had been radiating southeast off California for 2 years is all but gone. Instead a wall of warmer than normal water that previously built off Japan has migrated east, slamming into California on 9/5 with thousands of nmiles of warmer water behind it moving east. No change is forecast. This is the result of the 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 for two + years, now released and following the jet across the northern latitudes into the US West Coast. This appears to be the final demise of La Nina and the start of the Fall season. But there's 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.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a neutral temperature pattern. Of some interest was a warmer tongue of +2.0 deg C water that was radiating east down 125 meters extending from a point south of Hawaii almost to Ecuador. But as of today it has dissolved. No Kelvin Wave is present, but no cold pool is present either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/22 remain 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 taking hold by September into Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.4-0.5 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 still 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.
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
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