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.
Note: NDBC has no immediate plan to replace or repair any non-operational buoys due to funding shortages and the sequester. Expect inoperable buoys to remain off-line for the 2013-2014 winter season. Even if NOAA is fully funded in 2014 (unlikely) maintenance of the buoys will likely not start occurring till at least late Spring of 2014.
On Thursday (9/26) North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and weak, mostly windswell with a modest northwesterly flow nearshore making for warbled conditions. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean but weak and a bit warbled. In Southern California up north waves were flat and chopped. Down south waves were waist to near chest high and pretty wind blown. Hawaii's North Shore was maybe knee high and clean. The South Shore was waist high with some bigger sets and clean but with some sideshore tradewind lump intermixed. 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 residual swell from the second gale of the season was fading in California with much local windswell on top. A small system formed in the extreme Northwestern Gulf Tues-Wed (9/25) with 23 ft seas over a tiny area focusing on the Pacific Northwest. A stronger gale is forecast falling out of the Northern Gulf Fri-Sun (9/29) with seas peaking in the 31 ft range. After that things settle down for a few days.
In the South Pacific a gale developed in the West Pacific Tues (9/24) with 26 ft seas peaking late Wed 99/25) with seas up to 26 ft offering limited hope for Hawaii and the US West Coast. Nothing to follow with the summer season effectively over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (9/24) the jet was ridging hard up into the Bering Sea with winds 190 kts then starting to fall southeast over the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska, but with no real trough in-play yet. No swell production was indicated. Over the next 72 hours all the wind energy in the Bering Sea is to start spilling southeast into the Gulf of Alaska late Friday (9/27) with a solid trough forming on Saturday with 170 kt winds feeding it and falling southeast into late Sunday (9/29) bottoming out just off the Oregon Coast with winds still 140 kts. Good support for gale development in this trough. Back to the west a diffuse and weak flow is forecast. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf energy is to move inland with a generally weak and flat flow traversing the North Pacific behind it centered near 45N. By late Wed (10/2) a weak trough is to develop in the Gulf pushing east, but winds only in the 110 kt range and not capable of supporting gale development. By Thurs (10/3) 180 kt winds to again be building off Kamchatka ridging up into the Bering Sea. Maybe another Gulf trough to result long term.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (9/26) residual swell from a gale that tracked through the Gulf of Alaska was hitting CA but buried in windchop. Otherwise a double barreled high pressure system at 1028 and 1032 mbs was over the dateline and in the Gulf forming a pressure gradient along the California coast generating 20 kt northwest winds over exposed waters and producing local north windswell. The high was too far north to have any effect on trades relative to Hawaii. A tropical system was tracking north off the coast of Japan. Swell from a small gale previously east of the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians was pushing towards the US West Coast (see Small Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to retrograde west with the tropical energy off Japan racing northeast into the Bering Sea, getting sheared, with it's remnants forming a gale in the Gulf of Alaska (see Third Gulf Gale below).
Small Dateline Gale
A small gale built just north of the Eastern Aleutians Tues AM (9/24) with 35 kt west winds building and seas on the increase from 18 ft near 49N 180W. By evening a modest area of 35 kt west winds held tucked up against the Aleutians with seas building to 24 ft at 52N 171W (308 degs NCal). On Wed AM (9/25) 30 kt northwest winds were fading barely south of the Aleutians with 20 ft seas at 52N 162W (309 degs NCal) aimed mainly at the Pacific Northwest and points north of there. By evening this system was gone.
Some small background 13 sec period swell might result for the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy pushing down to maybe Pt Conception late in the weekend. Relative to NCal swell of 3.4 ft @ 13 secs (4.0-4.5 ft faces) could result by Sunday AM (9/29). Swell Direction: 308+ degrees
Third Gulf Gale
On Friday AM (9/27) high pressure at 1032 mbs is to remain lodged over the dateline with tropical low pressure riding over top of it falling southeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska with 40 kt northwest winds building over open waters and seas building from 20 ft at 53N 151W. By evening 40-45 kt northwest winds to build with seas on the increase from 25 ft at 53N 153W (313 degs NCal). Sat AM (9/28) a broad fetch of 40 kt northwest winds to be in place almost filling the Gulf while falling southeast with seas building to 30 ft at 50N 148W (316 degs NCal). In the evening winds are to be holding at 40+ kts out of the northwest with seas holding at 31ft at 48N 143W (315 degs NCal). The gale is to be nearly gone Sun AM (9/29) with winds 35 kts the core starts pushing into British Columbia with seas fading from 28 ft at 47N 140W (309 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be gone with 24 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 44N 137W (307 degs NCal). Northwest winds at 30 kts to be pushing inland over Northern Oregon Mon AM (9/30) with 20 ft seas at 44N 130W (319 degs NCal).
If all this were to occur some solid swell might result for the US West Coast from a very north angle with lesser period energy behind it. Swell well shadowed in San Francisco. Something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday AM (9/26) the remnants of Typhoon Pabuk were 300 nmiles east of Tokyo Japan accelerating to the northeast with winds down to 45 kts This system is to race northeast to the intersection of the Dateline and the Aleutian Islands on Sat (9/28) while getting sheared with it's energy feeding a developing gale in the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend (9/28).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/26) high pressure at 1028 mbs was ridging hard into the entire CA coast generating north winds at 20 kts sweeping down the North and Central Coast with water temps falling off nearly 8 degrees in 2 days. These winds to start dissipating Friday through the day down to 10-15 kts late 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 maybe Pt Reyes with light rain down to Pt Arena, but neither making any progress into Central CA. A light wind pattern is forecast Monday (9/30) and Tuesday as high pressure remains shunted north touching only Pt Conception (mainly Tuesday with north winds 20 kts there) and another small low pushes into Washington. High pressure to move into North and Central CA later on Wednesday (10/2) with 15 kts north winds building and a full gradient in effect for Cape Mendocino on Thursday evening with north winds there 25 kts.
Surface - On Thursday (9/26) a gale continued chugging east through the Deep South Pacific with fetch aimed north towards mainly the US West Coast (see details below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no gales of interest forecast.
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
On Tuesday AM (9/24) a broad but weak gale was circulating in the Southwest Pacific generating 35-40 kt southwest winds and 26 ft seas just off the Ross Ice Shelf aimed decently north at 58S 171W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Winds built to 35-40 kts in the evening with 26 ft seas at 55S 161W. Wed AM (9/25) 35-40 kt southwest winds held easing east with seas still 26 ft over a broader area at 55S 155W. The fetch turned more northerly in the evening at 35 kts with seas building to 28 ft at 52S 150W targeting Tahiti and California but mostly east of Hawaii. Fetch started fading Thurs AM (9/26) from 35 kts with 28 ft seas at 48S 143W. The fetch is to hold at 35 kts by evening with seas from previous fetch still 28 ft at 47S 136W then dissipating and turning more easterly targeting only South America after that. Assuming all goes as forecast some 15-16 sec period swell could be generated targeting primarily the US west Coast with sideband swell for Tahiti and 14-15 sec range sideband energy for Hawaii. Background swell for Hawaii starting on Wed (10/2) at 1.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (1.5-2.0 ft) from 180 degrees. Southern CA to see swell starting on Thurs (10/3) at 2 t @ 18 secs late (3.5 ft) from 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 a weak low is forecast wrapping up in the Northeast Gulf on Thurs (10/3) with winds 30-35 kts and seas barely reaching 20 ft. No other swell producing fetch is 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 (9/26) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) dropped to -27.57. The 30 day average was down to 5.56 with the 90 day average down some at 4.46. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a building 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 neutral to weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent building from the west on the dateline holding to a point south of Hawaii, then turning easterly half way to South America and continuing on into Central America. A week from now (10/4) neutral to light east anomalies are forecast on the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline region fading to pure neutral south of Hawaii and continuing that way into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was in control of the dateline and migrating east, with the Inactive Phase moving into Central America. Given this we should see some boost to the North Pacific jetstream and storm track the next week or so.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/25 are in sync initially. Both models suggests the Active Phase was already in control of the far West Pacific. This pattern is to hold for the next 15 days though strongest now and for the next 5 days then starting to slowly fade 15 days out if not gone by the statistical model. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is already 1/2 way across the equatorial Pacific bound for Central America moving inland there through 10/9 with a modest Inactive Phase building behind that on 10/09, but then gone by 10/31 with a weak Active Phase again starting to take over in the west. 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 (9/26) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer is dead with a pure neutral water temp pattern now in-play. The small pocket of cooler water that we've been monitoring off the immediate coast of Peru is gone, with no real outflow from it present except near the Galapagos Islands, and dissipating immediately 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. 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). That said, high pressure is in control and local water temps have dropped 8 degrees in 2 days. The good news is the high is to fade in the next 24 hours. This long term pattern 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 moving into a pure neutral pattern no longer biased slightly cool. The transition to a fully normal pattern has occurred in the ocean.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a neutral temperature pattern. No Kelvin Waves are present, as are no cold pools present either.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 9/26 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 then accelerating early Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.6 deg 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. The weak prevalence of the Inactive Phase of MJO still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into Dec 2013). This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered 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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Wall of Skulls - Here's a great video featuring Tahiti's famous wave. There's also a nice little plug for Stormsurf in it too. http://vimeo.com/70308073
Super Natural - Powerlines Productions has released their new big wave surf video chronicling the epic El Nino winter of 2009-2010 plus many other big wave event through the 2012-2013 winter season. It's a must see event for any big wave rider. It's for sale here: http://www.mavz.com/movies/super-natural/
Nantucket Marine Mammals has documented a short video concerning whale conservation and awareness off the Northeast US Coast. See it here: https://vimeo.com/68771910
Jason-1 Satellite Decommisioned - On June 21 an error occurred on board the Jason-1 satellite and it automatically shut down all critical functions. The satellite has since officially been decommissioned. It's last working transmitter failed on 6/21. All efforts have been made to get a response to no avail. The satellite has been placed in a parking orbit with it's solar panels turned away from the the sun. It's batteries are to discharge in the next 90 days. No additional data is expected from this satellite. We are working to start capturing data from the Jason-2 satellite, but that will take some time. More information to follow.
'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
Jaws Redbull Contest Forecast Explained By Stormsurf
Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature=player_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table