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 (10/11) North and Central CA surf from the second pulse of Storm #1 was less than hoped for, generating waves only in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and relatively clean but with some warble intermixed. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing sets in the chest high range and clean but kinda soft. Southern California up north was getting the same swell at waist high with some bigger sets and winds was blowing pretty good chopping it up and exposed breaks. Down south the same swell was producing sets at waist high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more swell from the second part of the dateline storm producing waves at 3 ft overhead and clean with trades in effect. The South Shore was getting some southern hemi swell at waist high and clean with trades in effect. The East Shore had wrap around dateline swell at chest high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a extratropical storm that was off the Kuril Islands Fri (10/5) then moving tot he dateline Sun (10/7) has peaked at all locations and is on the way down. Still some degree of rideable swell is to hang around into the weekend for the US West Coast. A tiny system was tracking through the Western Gulf Thurs (10/11) with seas expected to 32 ft in the evening then forecast to redevelop in clusters in the Central Gulf Sun-Tues (10/16) with seas in the 20 ft range. Minimal north angled short period swell expected from the US West Coast with sideband dribbles for the Islands. A somewhat stronger but still small system to follow tracking north of Hawaii late Mon (10/15) with seas to 32 ft, then fading while moving east. 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. Minimally rideable swell to result expected for Hawaii over the weekend and California early next week (10/15). 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 Thursday (10/11) the jet was running flat east off Southern Japan at 35N with winds to 120-130 kts in pockets pushing the whole was to within 600 nmiles of the North CA coast. The faintest hint of a trough was on the dateline but not supportive of gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold but with winds building to 170 kt in a new pocket on the dateline Fri (10/12) possibly feeding development of low pressure there. The jet is to also push into the Pacific Northwest late Friday ushering in the first signs of winter there. Beyond 72 hours on Tues (10/17) additional wind energy is to be building off Japan forming a broad trough on the dateline with 180 kt winds flowing down into it possibly supportive of gale development. But the trough is to quickly pinch off late Thursday (10/18). Some support for gale development possible.
Surface - On Thursday (10/11) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was set up north of Hawaii ridging east to a point just off the Central CA coast making for light trades over the Islands and a light northerly flow down the North and Central CA coast. Remnants of Swell #1 were pushing over Hawaii with much less tracking into the US West Coast. A tropical system remained locked off the Philippines similar to many similar systems previous.
Of more interest was a broad but ill-defined low circulating over the entire Aleutian Island chain. Embedded in it's southern quadrant was small closed isobar gale positioned just east of the dateline Thurs AM (10/11) with winds 45 kts over a small area seas modeled at 32 ft at 45N 172W. In the evening winds to be fading from 45 kts over a tiny area with seas 32 ft at 48N 168W but gone by Friday AM (winds down to 35 kts). Some small longer period swell could radiate east possibly arriving in Central CA Sunday evening (10/14) with 15 sec energy Mon AM from 300 degrees.
Remnants of the above gale are to redevelop in the Central Gulf on Saturday producing a broadish fetch of 30 kt west winds and seas peaking at 22 ft Sat PM (10/13) at 46N 152W. Additional 18 ft seas to result from this fetch Sunday evening (10/14) off the southern Oregon coast at 42N 142W. And yet another fragment of 35 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Northern Gulf Monday AM 910/15) producing 20 ft seas into Monday evening at 51N 145W. The net result is to be a steady pulse of northerly angled proto swell in the 12-13 sec range Tues-Thurs (10/18) for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. Nothing remarkable size wise though.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (10/11) Typhoon Prapiroon was located 600 nmiles south-southwest of Southern Japan with winds 90 kts and getting ready to change direction from the west-northwest drift it has been maintaining for the past 4-5 days. This system is forecast to slowly strengthen while turning northeast Thursday evening, peaking Friday AM (10/12) with winds 100 kts. A steady acceleration to the northeast is forecast with winds settling down some to 80 kts Sunday still 450 nmiles south of Southern Japan. The GFS model has Prapiroon continued nearly stalled there through Tuesday (10/16) then accelerating on a northeast track Wednesday racing into the Western Bering Sea late Thursday (10/18) and becoming landlocked there. No swell production is forecast for the greater East Pacific.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/11) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was trying to hang on along the California coast, but was under much pressure from a building pool of low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska. By Friday a weak front is to push close to the Central CA coast perhaps setting up a light south wind flow from Bodega Bay northward but fading through the day Saturday. A northerly flow building near Pt Conception to 15 kts as high pressure tries to get a toe in the door. Sunday northwest winds to continue and building even up into the San Francisco area to 15 kts late. More of the same forecast Mon-Tues with northwest winds 15 kts over all of North and Central CA (though maybe less in the mornings nearshore). By Wednesday a small summer like pressure gradient to develop over Cape Mendocino at 20 kts with a light eddy flow south of there. The gradient to bloom Thursday (10/18) as new high pressure at 1034 mbs builds in from the Western Gulf with 30 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino (but an eddy flow continues for Pt Reyes southward). Nearshore Southern CA to remain in a relatively calm wind pattern for the duration.
Surface - On Thursday (10/11) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. Summer is taking over the South Pacific.
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 the models suggest a new small gale developing northwest of Hawaii on Mon (10/15) with 35-40 kt northwest winds building to 45 kt late and seas to 32 ft over an infinitesimal area at 37N 167W. The gale is to fade Tuesday while tracking east-northeast with seas fading from 30 ft in the AM at 38N 161W. Most energy is to bypass Hawaii targeting the US West coast (285 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal).
There some movement finally suggested for the tropical system off the Philippines too (see Tropics).
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 (10/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 23.14. The 30 day average was up some at 2.17 with the 90 day average up to -0.88. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light east anomalies had developed over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with neutral anomalies on the dateline and 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 WWB was great for setting up a Kelvin Wave and feeding warm water eastward. A week from now (10/19) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning to slightly west anomalies on the dateline on over the East Pacific suggesting what would be expected, that the Active Phase of the MJO was pushing east. We've had a good long run of the Active Phase (since at least 9/1) but now it's over.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) have not updated since 10/3 but at that time remained in agreement suggesting the Active Phase had runs it's course. The Inactive Phase is seeping from the Indian Ocean into the far West Pacific. The Inactive Phase is expected to take control through about mid-November followed by a weak Active Phase late late Nov into early Dec.
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 continue tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/11) 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 developing due to the prolonged WWB event that occurred 9/2-10/6 in the far West Pacific with additional reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). A pool of 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water is building under the dateline, evidence of this Kelvin Wave. But it will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix.
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 (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
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:
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