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 Tuesday (10/9) North and Central CA surf was small coming from across the dateline in the chest high range, well lined up and textured but not as big as hoped for. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing rare sets to near head high on the peak and a little textured. Southern California up north was effectively flat with waves knee high or less and textured. Down south southern hemi leftover swell was producing sets at waist high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was coming up with the second part of the dateline swell hitting producing waves at 15 ft late and clean. The South Shore was getting minimal southern hemi swell at thigh to maybe waist high and a bit textured from southerly wind. The East Shore had wrap around dateline swell at 3 ft overhead and growing and clean at select breaks.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A strong extratropical storm developed just off the Kuril Islands Fri (10/5) with seas to 49 ft then faded while tracking east, redeveloping again on the dateline Sun (10/7) with seas to 39 ft. Small significant class swell is already hitting Hawaii with less size to eventually reaching the US West Coast. A tiny system is forecast tracking through the Western Gulf Thurs-Fri (10/12) with seas to 32 ft then fading only to redevelop in some form in the Northern Gulf Sun-Tues (10/16). Down south a small but strong system formed under New Zealand Friday (10/5) with seas to 46 ft over a small area aimed mostly east and fading fast, effectively gone by Saturday morning. Decent swell to result for all locations. Nothing else of interest to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/9) the jet was running flat east off Southern Japan at 38N with winds to 130 kts setting up a bit of a trough just west of the dateline and north of Hawaii somewhat supportive of gale development. East of there some energy extended on into the Southern California coast but generally weak. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to fade while pushing east, reaching a point 1100 nmiles west of San Francisco early Thursday. Amazingly 120 kts winds to continue tracking off Japan running flat all the way up to where the trough dies with a new pocket of 150 kt winds building on the dateline and embedded in it trying to form a trough but never succeeding. Beyond 72 hours additional wind energy is to be dropping out of the Bering Sea joining the main flow north of Hawaii on Sunday (10/14) building a pocket of 170 kt winds off North CA and pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest while lifting likely forming a ridge off the California coast. By Tues (10/17) additional wind energy is to be building off Japan forming a trough on the dateline possibly supportive of gale development. The jet is to be displaced well south over it's entire width, a good thing as compared to years past.
Surface - On Tuesday (10/9) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was providing limited protection to the US West Coast while the remnants of Storm #1 continued circulating but fading north of Hawaii and lifting north. A broad tropical system was off the Philippines similar to many like systems this entire late summer. Spin-off energy from the tropical system was tracking towards the dateline, showing no signs of development. Over the next 72 hours a broad but ill-defined low is to set up over the Eastern Aleutians Thurs (10/11) and easing east into Sun (10/14) absorbing the spin-off tropical energy and forming a tiny fetch of 45-50 kt west winds Thursday with seas peaking at 32 ft in the evening at 48N 165W but gone by Friday AM. Some potential for limited small swell radiating east is possible.
West Pacific Storm - Storm #1 (Hawaii)
On Wed-Thurs (10/4) the remnants of Tropical Storm Maliksi were racing northeast off the Japan coast turning extra tropical, then stalled some Thursday evening off the Southern Aleutians with winds building. Seas were 36 ft at 42N 155E (307 degs HI/302 degs NCal).
Friday AM (10/5) 55 kt west winds were modeled generating 46 ft seas at 44N 160E (312 degs HI/303 degs NCal). Seas peaked at 18z at 49 ft at 44N 163E. Winds faded in the evening from 45-50 kts while the system headed due east with seas fading at 46 ft 43N 164E (314 degs HI/300 degs NCal).
Fetch was fading coming from the north and northwest at 40-45 kts Sat AM (10/6) with seas dropping from 40 ft at 41N 173E (315 degs HI/295 degs NCal). In the evening the gale is forecast to redevelop relocated to the dateline with 45 kt north winds building in the systems west quadrant with seas 33 ft at 45N 179E.
50 kt northwest winds occurred Sunday AM (10/7) with 37 ft seas at 45N 175W (335 degs HI/296-297 degs NCal/302 degs SCal). Additional 45 kt northwest winds fell southeast Sunday evening with seas dropping southeast at 36 ft at 42N 175W (329 degs HI/293 degs NCal/298 degs SCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western edge of the storm and confirmed seas at 34.6 ft with a peak reading at 37.4 ft where the model suggested seas at 30-31 ft. The storm was actually doing a bit better than what the model suggested.
On Monday AM (10/8) 35-40 kts fetch was fading while falling southeast towards Hawaii with seas fading from 32 ft at 38N 172W moving right towards Hawaii (328 degs Hi/286 degs NCal/292 degs SCal). Still Monday PM 35 kt northwest fetch is to be circulating just 900 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii generating more seas in the 30 ft range at 35N 165W (336 degs HI).
By Tuesday AM (10/9) the gale is to be fading and lifting northeast with 25 ft seas at 35N 158W 800 nmiles north of Hawaii but targeting locations mainly east of there on the 284 degree path to Southern CA.
Solid long period swell from the extratropical fetch that developed off the Kurils on Friday is already in the water heading towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Hawaii will fare better given the storm closer proximity to them (18Z Fri - 2400 nmiles from HI versus 3300 NCal). Still, this was a strong extratropical storm with solid seas, and some degree of energetic swell is expected. And with the planned redevelopment of the system on the dateline, additional energy is to follow.
Hawaii: Swell to be fading some but still most solid on Wednesday AM (10/10) with swell 9.5-10.0 ft @ 15-17 secs (14-17 ft Hawaiian) but most of that is to be interaction between swell from the first and second parts of the storm.
North CA: Period dropping to 18-19 secs on Wed AM (10/10) with swell still 4.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (8.5 ft Hawaiian) and effectively holding through the day, as period drops to 17 secs near sunset (8.0 ft faces). Additional energy from the second part of the storm to start intermixing arriving on Wednesday evening after sunset with period 18 secs peaking Thurs AM (10/11) at 5.3-6.0 ft @ 17 secs (9.0-10.0 ft Hawaiian), dropping to the 15-16 secs range late in the day. Note: There is more than the usual uncertainty in this forecast regarding swell size.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/9) Typhoon Prapiroon was located 800 nmiles south of Southern Japan with winds 70 kts and drifting west-northwest. This system is forecast continuing to slowly strengthen and tracking very slowly northwest then turning northeast on Thursday, peaking Friday AM (10/12) with winds 100 kts. A steady acceleration to the northeast is forecast with winds settling down some to 85 kts Sunday still 400 nmiles south of Southern Japan. The GFS model has Prapiroon stalling then returning to a northeast track. This looks to be a direct result of the Active Phase of the MJO and a byproduct of a long lasting WWB that has been occurring in the West Pacific for a month or more.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/9) high pressure at 1020 mbs was hanging off the California coast with an upper level low off Morro Bay serving only to reinforce a light winds pattern for most of the state. No change is forecast until Friday when remnants of a front are to push close to the Central CA coast perhaps setting up a light south wind flow from San Francisco northward but fading by Saturday. Another front from a large but weak low in the Gulf of Alaska to reach extreme Northern CA Sunday but make no further southward progress, with a light wind flow forecast for the rest of the state. Then on Tuesday (10/16) clearing high pressure is to build in with north wind at 20 kts forecast by afternoon for all of North and Central CA likely knocking water temps down a bit. Too bad cause it's finally gotten comfortable for the first time in 2 years.
Surface - On Saturday (10/6) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
New Zealand Storm
On Friday AM (10/5) a storm developed under New Zealand with 55 kt southwest winds at 56S 160E in the CA swell window and pushing unshadowed right up the 218 degree path (shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI) and seas building to 42 ft over an tiny area at 56S 160E. In the evening fetch was fading from 45 kts with seas 46 ft at 53S 165E (pushing right up the 218 degree path to CA and still just barely shadowed relative to HI on the 201 degree path). Fetch was effectively gone Sat AM (10/6) at 35 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 36 ft at 51S 175E (215 degs CA and 197 degs HI).
Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Friday (10/12) with period 20 secs and size tiny if even noticeable reaching 1 ft @ 19 secs late (2 ft). Swell to peak on Sat (10/13) at 1.4 ft @ 17 secs early (2.0-2.5 ft faces). Note: the best part of this storm was shadowed by New Zealand relative to the Islands.
Some small long period but well spaced out swell is possible for California starting Sat (10/13) with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable, building some on Sunday (10/14) with period at 20 secs at 9 AM (1 ft @ 20 secs - 2 ft faces), peaking late Monday (10/15) at 1.5 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft faces). Period turning to 17 secs at 5 AM Tues (10/16) with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Long waits between sets but a decent number of waves per set when they come. Swell Direction: 217-219 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 there's suggestions of additional gale energy building in the Gulf of Alaska on Sat Am (10/13) with west winds 30 kts and seas to 22 ft at 45N 152W in the evening then dissipating. A similar fetch to build in the Northern Gulf Sun (10/14) up to 35-40 kts on Monday resulting in seas 26-28 ft at 54N 145W barely in the 319 degree window for Northern CA. Much other potential lurks, but nothing firm is projected yet.
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 Tuesday (10/9) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 17.66. The 30 day average was down some at 1.21 with the 90 day average steady at -1.04. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated fading west anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with light east anomalies on the dateline and neutral anomalies the rest of the way across the equatorial Pacific into Central America. This suggests that a weak Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started Sept 2 in the West Pacific and continued for 21 days in a row through 9/22 then faded on 9/25 only to return with gusto on 9/28 was finally gone as of 10/9. This is great for setting up a Kelvin Wave and feeding warm water eastward. A week from now (10/17) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning to slightly west anomalies on the dateline then neutral over the East Pacific suggesting perhaps a weak flavor of the Active Phase pushing east. We've had a good long run of the Active Phase (since at least 9/1).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/3 remain in agreement suggesting the Active Phase has about runs it's course. The Inactive Phase is building in the Indian Ocean, stronger than anytime so far this year and is forecast starting to move into the far West Pacific about 10/13. The Inactive Phase is expected to take control.
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A warm pool that built and peaked off Ecuador 7/2 has been steadily loosing ground, but is not gone. That said - pulses of cooler than normal water are tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/8) likely signaling it's demise. A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east both subsurface (2-3 deg C anomaly at 118W) and at the surface (1 deg C anomaly), moving east of 120 and off the charts by 9/17. It should help to replenish the warm water pool sometime in October, but nowhere near the levels it was in July. A second Kelvin wave is likely in development due to a prolonged WWB event that occurred 9/2-10/6 in the far West Pacific with additional reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). But that will only be enough to keep things in the normal range.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests that El nino is not forming, but instead is dissipating. Projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development either but rather a return to a neutral state by November into February, then a return to a slowly building warm pattern thereafter.
At this time there is only limited atmospheric evidence of a possible El Nino pattern in-play. Remnants of La Nina are still affecting the atmosphere and will likely continue for several months into the middle of Fall (mid-Oct), but steadily degrading. We believe we're in a hybrid atmospheric state with the trend shifting more towards the normal category. The atmosphere is like a big ship, it takes a long time and alot of energy to turn. The good news is there is confirmed evidence of tropical systems recurving northeast and migrating to the dateline. This suggest La Nina is dissipating.
As of right now its seems the Active Phases of the MJO are not strong enough to usher in some flavor of real El Nino, but the Inactive Phases are not strong enough to shut off the warm water pump to the East Pacific either. Regardless, we are effectively past the La Nina hump and the tendency will be for a return to a normal if not slightly El Nino-like enhanced state. This is way better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina). The preference is that El Nino does not form this year, because that would only usher in another La Nina the year or two beyond. Rather, a neutral pattern biased slightly warm would be good, followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger El Nino 2-3 years out. And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts before a legit El Nino forms). We think we are in a slowly building multi-year pattern that will culminate with a real El Nino 2 or more years beyond.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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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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
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Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table