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 (10/16) North and Central CA had Gulf swell peaking early at 8-9 ft but socked in with fog and clean. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing sets in the head high plus range and pristine clean and well lined up, though a bit on the soft side. Southern California up north was getting the same swell at chest high and pretty bumped up with afternoon wind taking it's toll at exposed breaks. Down south the same swell was producing sets at waist to chest high and modestly textured but well lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Gulf sideband swell with waves at waist to chest high with some slightly bigger sets and reasonably clean with moderate trades in effect. The South Shore was small with rare waist to maybe chest high sets and clean with trades the norm. The East Shore had east windswell at waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Continued fun sized swell expected for the Pacific Northwest down into California from a series of low pressure systems that tracked through the Gulf, the last of which developed Tues (10/16) in the Northeast Gulf with seas in the 22 ft range and barely in the Central CA swell window. Also a small system developed northwest of Hawaii late Mon (10/15) with seas to 28 ft but only over a tiny area, targeting mainly the Islands, then fading out Tues AM with seas dropping from 24 ft. Swell Wed-Fri (10/19) for Hawaii with dribbles for the US West coast. After that blocking high pressure associated with the building Inactive Phase of the MJO to take over the Western Gulf with no swell producing fetch of interest forecast. Down south another tiny gale formed just south of New Zealand Mon-Tues (10/16) with seas to 36 ft over a small area aimed well northeast, but effectively gone by Tues PM. A pulse of decently rideable swell is expected for Hawaii by Mon (10/22) and California a few days beyond.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/16) the jet continued fairly solid running almost flat east off Japan at 40N with winds in the 110-130 kt range forming a weak trough on the dateline, then ridging north and building to 150 kts driving into the Pacific Northwest. Only the trough on the dateline held any interest. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the dateline is to fade and lift northeast while another pocket of 160 kt winds start building on the dateline forming another steeper trough Thurs (10/18) but quickly pinching off late Friday. Maybe some fleeting gale energy to result, but not likely. Beyond 72 hours a big ridge is to build over the dateline through the weekend (10/21) driving the jet to the north and shutting down gale production for the West and Central Pacific. The jet is to fall into a trough off the British Columbia coast with 140 kt winds flowing into it and diving south off the CA coast early next week offering some support for low pressure development. But overall the Active Phase MJO pattern that dominated the past few weeks is gone, replaced by a Inactive Phase pattern dominated by high pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (10/16) remnants of the Hawaiian Gale were fading while lifting northeast (see details below). A gale in the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska was fading while lifting north (see Northeast Gulf Gale below). High pressure at 1024 mbs was off the US West Coast generating a generalized north wind flow in the 15 kts range. A second high at 1024 mbs was building over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians. In all a generally weak swell production pattern was in play. Over the next 72 hours the high off the US West coast is to ridge into the Pacific Northwest forming a pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino for 24 hours Wednesday (10/17) producing 20 kts north winds and local windswell for Central CA. Otherwise high pressure over the Central Aleutians is to build to 1036 mbs and locking down the North Pacific. A small low is to try and develop under it Thurs-Fri (10/19), but the resulting pressure gradient between the two system is to produce only east winds targeting Japan and the West Pacific, with no fetch aimed towards our forecast area.
Northeast Gulf Gale
Swell from low pressure that developed in the Central Gulf on Saturday (10/13) producing a broadish fetch of 30 kt west winds and seas peaking at 20 ft Sat PM (10/13) has already arrived in CA on Tuesday (10/16). Another fragment of 35 kt northwest winds developed in the Northeast Gulf Monday AM (10/15) producing 22 ft seas Tuesday AM at 53N 143W almost outside the Central CA swell window. Swell from this pulse to arrive in in Central CA on Thursday afternoon (10/18) at 5.5 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces) with more size earlier for the Pacific Northwest.
A new small gale developed 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Monday (10/15) with a small area of up to 45 kt northwest winds and seas to 28 ft over a tiny area at 37N 174W (320 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). The gale pushed east Tues AM (10/16) and faded out with seas dropping from 24 ft at 37N 170W. Most energy was targeting Hawaii with swell arrival expected late Wed afternoon (10/17) with pure swell to 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) peaking early on Thurs with swell 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft) and fading as the day wears on. Swell Direction (320 degs). Limited energy also possibly making it to the US West Coast peaking in Central CA on Sat AM (10/20) at at 2.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft) coming from 285 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/16) the remnants of Typhoon Prapiroon continued circulating 600 nmiles south-southwest of Southern Japan with winds 55 kts. No real change is forecast until late Wednesday (10/17) when this system starts accelerating to the northeast with winds still 55 kts, then fading as it beelines towards the dateline and then impacts strong high pressure there, deflecting it tot he north and into the Bering Sea by Sun (10/21). No swell of interest to result.
Hurricane Paul was 120 nmiles south of Southern Baja tracking north-northeast fast with winds 90 kts and scheduled to be onshore by Tuesday evening. An eventual curve to the northwest is forecast with the weak core tracking 150 nmiles south of the California border with winds down to 25 kts. No swell to result.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/15) high pressure at 1026 mbs was building off the North California coast generating the standard north wind flow at 15 kts for North and Central CA. southern CA remain mostly protected. By Wednesday a summer-like pressure gradient is to develop over Cape Mendocino and down the outer Central CA coast with north winds at 25-30 kts and a light eddy flow developing south of Pt Reyes. Local windswell possible. The gradient to fade Thursday (10/18) from 20 kts with a light local wind flow forecast everywhere but extreme North CA and holding into Friday. But by Saturday (10/20) a new strong high pressure system at 1038 mbs builds in from the Western Gulf with the tip of it reaching North CA and 25 kt north winds taking hold from Cape Mendocino down to Monterey Bay and less winds to Pt Conception holding if not falling south through Sunday. But by Monday (10/22) a broad local low pressure system is to set up off the US West Coast driving south winds as far south as Point Conception through Wednesday and solid rain moving into Monterey Bay by Monday night continuing into Wed and reaching as far south as Pt Conception. If this occurs, the first real taste of winter is possible.
Surface - On Saturday (10/13) 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).
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 high pressure is to remain locked over the Western Gulf of Alaska into mid-next week. A small pocket of low pressure is to develop between the high and the Canadian coast Mon-Wed (10/24) producing northerly winds at 25-30 kts and seas to 16-18 ft targeting the California coast. But this is still a while from forming with no defined result yet expected.
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 (10/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was not updated since 10/11. At that time it was 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 weak 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. A week from now (10/24) east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning to slightly west anomalies on the dateline and a little stronger over the East Pacific suggesting that the Active Phase of the MJO continues pushing east with the Inactive Phase building in the West. We've had a good long run of the Active Phase (since at least 9/1) but it's over.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/14 are in agreement suggesting a modest version of the Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 1.5 weeks and near neutral conditions expected 2 weeks out while the dynamic model is far more aggressive with a full strong Inactive Phase forecast 2 weeks from now. That seems a bit unbelievable as if right now. But if it does develop it will fully signal the death of any form of El Nino this season (as if it isn't already technically dead) .
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 fed my multiple Kelvin Waves earlier 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 10/15) 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 developed due to a prolonged WWB event 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 before finally dissipating on 10/9. The resulting Kelvin Wave is to provide reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). This Kelvin Wave is evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline as of 10/15. 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. Latest 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 with -0.25 deg C water temps by Jan into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013.
At this time there is only limited atmospheric evidence of a 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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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:
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
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table