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 (10/17) North and Central CA surf was chest high and clean and lined up but a bit on the weak side. A beautiful day regardless. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high with a few chest high peaks and clean. In Southern California up north waves were knee to maybe thigh high and lightly textured and weak. Down south waves were waist high and lined up and clean with texture on top but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting swell with sets about head high and lined up with a bit of intermixed warble but overall clean. The South Shore was flat 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 a gale formed Mon (10/14) off the North Kuril Islands producing 24 ft seas but faded fast before even reaching the dateline. A pulse of small swell is expected for Hawaii late Friday (10/18) and into North CA by later Sunday. Of more interest is a extratropical system in the far Northwest Pacific turning east and forecast to build with seas to 48 ft then tracking over the dateline with seas down to 42 ft Fri (10/18), then dissipating. Hawaii and California to fare about equal in terms of size but neither is to be optimal. with decent swell possible for California. Theoretically another small but solid storm is forecast on the dateline later next week. So the season is possibly about to get started, with some luck.
The South Pacific is in hibernation with no swell producing fetch forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (10/17) a pocket of solid wind was ridging up to the northern dateline at 170 kts falling into a steep trough over the Western Gulf providing some decent support for gale if not storm development, then ridging again hard north up into Alaska supporting high pressure in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. Over the next 72 hours the pinched trough in the Western Gulf is to push south to a point just north of Hawaii Fri-Sat (10/19) but pinching off and getting cut off, with most energy bypassing it to the north flowing from the dateline east up into Alaska. Some support for gale development possible, in this cutoff upper low, but not much. Another trough is forecast forming on the dateline Mon (10/21) as 170 kt winds start falling into it but fading and pinching off pretty fast on Tuesday. Some support for gale development possible. And the whole jet is to be down at 40N, a much better position than weeks past. By Thurs (10/24) a new large pocket of 180 kt winds are to build off Kamchatka falling into a developing trough on the dateline and growing. This is the best upper trough we've seen projected in a good long time.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (10/17) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging inland over the Canadian Coast while hanging south to a point off California providing a storm barrier there. To the west a small but strong storm was developing off Kamchatka (See Extratropical Storm Wipha below). A weak low pressure system developed late Wednesday (10/16) on the northern dateline and was falling southeast Thurs AM producing northwest winds at 35 kts and generating 20 ft seas at 42N 167W (1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on the 342 deg track) and fading. Small 13 sec period swell is to result for the Islands late Saturday (10/19) mixing with previous swell originating near Kamchatka (see Kamchatka Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the main focus is to be Extratropical Storm Wipha. But, the remnants of the little low 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii (see above paragraph) is to stall and start circulating in the Gulf of Alaska Sat (10/19) 800 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii. 25 kt northerly winds to develop on it's north and west flanks possibly setting up 15 ft seas late Saturday into Sunday (10/20) generating 9 sec period windswell pushing into Hawaii by late Monday, just serving to add some warble to the swell from Wipha.
Extratropical Storm Wipha
On Wednesday (10/16) the remnants of Typhoon Wipha were tracking north-northeast just off Northeastern Japan with west winds to 50 kts but getting little traction on the oceans surface aimed east. On Thurs AM (10/17) the gale turned east just off Kamchatka and just south of the Western Aleutians. Winds built to 55 kts with seas increasing to 48 ft at 50N 166E (323 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). 50-55 kt west winds to hold south of the Aleutians into the evening as the gale approaches the dateline with the core in the Bering Sea generating 49 ft seas at 51S 173E (329 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). Friday AM (10/18) the gale to continue east with a decent sized area of 40 kt west winds continuing south of the Aleutians with 42 ft seas forecast at 50N 179W (heading mostly east of the 335 deg path to HI, 306 degs NCal). Fetch fading in the evening with 35 kt west winds fading just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas fading from 37 ft at 50N 170W (306 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone Sat AM (10/19) with winds 30 kts or less over the Northwestern Gulf with seas dropping from 29 ft at 50N 165W (307 degs NCal).
In all this is to be a reasonably powerful little system but positioned too far north and taking a easterly heading that doesn't push optimal energy down the great circle paths to Hawaii. The northward and distant position also doesn't favor Northern CA. Still, it's the best thing so far this Fall (which isn't saying much). Rideable long period swell is possible if all develops as forecast. It's something to monitor.
Hawaii: Rough data for planning purposes suggest swell arrival late Sunday (10/20) to 5.1 ft @ 18 secs (9-10 ft Hawaiian) with lots of push behind it. Swell to hold Mon AM (10/21) at 5.0 ft @ 16 secs (8-9 ft) and fading. Swell Direction: 323-330 degrees
NCal: Forecast to be issued over the weekend, once this system completes it's lifecycle.
A broad low pressure system started developing off the Kuril Islands on Mon AM (10/14) with 35 kt west winds building in it's southwest quadrant and seas to 19 ft at 43N 160E and 24 ft up at 51N 168E and slowly fading while tracking east into the evening with winds down to 30 kts and seas 20 ft at 51N 170E. On Tues AM (10/15) 30-35 kt northwest winds barely were reaching south of the Aleutians near the dateline with 19 ft seas resulting at 50N 177E. On last patch of 18 ft seas to hold in the evening at 50N 176W before this system dissipates. Possible tiny 13-14 sec period swell for Hawaii and maybe dribbles for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Friday (10/18) with swell to 3.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft faces). Swell building Saturday (10/19) to 5.5 ft @ 12 secs late (6.5 ft faces). Swell fading Sunday from 6 ft @ 11 secs (6.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 335 degrees.
NCal: Small swell to arrive Sun (10/20) building to 3.0 ft @ 13 secs mid-day (4 ft faces) and very inconsistent. Swell continuing Mon (10/21) at 3 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft faces). Very inconsistent. Swell Direction: 305-308 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (10/17) Typhoon Francisco was positioned 1500 nmiles southeast of Southern Japan with winds 85 kts tracking slowly north. A turn tot he northwest winds expected with slow strengthening and gradual acceleration forecast. Francisco is to peak with winds 125 kts Sunday AM (10/20) 900 nmiles south of Kyoto Japan, then fading slightly while continuing north-northwest. The GFS model has Francisco moving over Southern Japan on Thurs (10/24), but that is too far off in the future to be believable just yet. there no immediate suggestion of swell radiating into our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/17) high pressure at 1026 mbs was locked over the Canadian Coast forming a very weak pressure gradient over North CA with north winds 15 kts but not reaching south of Cape Mendocino. Otherwise a light local wind flow was in effect. A light wind regime is forecast nearshore and is to hold through Sunday (10/20). Monday high pressure at 1024 mbs is to redevelop off Washington forming a very weak gradient to maybe 15-20 ks off Oregon, but then eroding early Tuesday as low pressure builds in the the Gulf and a dead local windswell pattern takes hold of California. No change is forecast through Fri (10/25). In short, a typical Fall pattern.
Surface - On Thursday (10/17) no swell producing weather systems were in play. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
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 things to settle down. The little low pressure system northeast of Hawaii is to regenerate some on Wed-Thurs (10/24) generating 30 kt north winds and 16-17 ft seas near 35N 141W aimed south mainly at open ocean. Then on Thurs (10/24) a small but strong storm is forecast developing on the southern dateline region with 55 kt northwest and west winds easing east with seas building to 39 ft over a small area at 38N 174W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. This one bears monitoring. And more tropical activity is forecast near Japan tracking north.
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 (10/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) fell to -2.45. The 30 day average was falling at 5.00 with the 90 day average nearly flat at 4.20. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was weakly indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was neutral if still not slightly biased toward Inactive Phase/La Nina territory but weakening.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated limited pockets of modest west anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing to the dateline and extending from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral wind anomalies dominated from there on into Central America. With westerly anomalies holding on, tropical development in the West Pacific should continue. A week from now (10/25) weak to modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning to light easterly anomalies on the dateline fading to neutral south of Hawaii, and continuing from there into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO is holding on, but not strong, and is to give way to the Inactive Phase by 10/23. And maybe the WWB of 10/7-10/12 will provide a much needed burst of energy to the North Pacific jetstream 9as it seems it is starting to do) and push some warm water eastward towards Central America long term, but it likely will not have enough duration for that.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/16 are generally in-sync. Both models suggest the Active Phase was gone in the far West Pacific. This neutral pattern is to hold for the next 8-10 days then start giving way with the statistic model suggests a weak Inactive Phase starting to build in the far West Pacific 10-15 days out while the dynamic model suggests it holding off till 12 days out. Either way, in the next 1-2 weeks some flavor of weak Inactive Phase seem possible. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is dissipating over the Central and East Pacific, all but gone by 10/27 with a modest Inactive Phase building to the west and over the West Pacific by 10/27, traversing the equatorial Pacific through 11/10 then moving into Central America. At that time a very weak Active Phase is to again start building over the West Pacific (11/11) and moving slowly east into 11/26. But the overall MJO signal is to be very weak. 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 (10/17) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer is dead with a pure neutral water temp pattern in-play. The 10/14 image hinted at cooler water building along the immediate coast of Peru, but that's gone as of todays update. Otherwise it looks like the Active Phase is starting to get the upper hand of surface water temps, or at least be in parity with the Inactive Phase. The sympathetic anomalous cool pool off West Africa is gone too, replaced by slightly warm water. Further north the plume of slightly cooler than normal water that had been radiating southeast off California for 2 years was gone but has returned slightly, displaced well east. A wall of warmer than normal water that was holding tight along the North CA coast has retrograded slightly, allowing cooler water to move in locally, the result of multiple north wind events. Still thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking just off the coast and moving east. And high pressure is breaking up along the CA coast, with water temps already on the increase. Still there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing either. In short, we're moving into a pure neutral pattern.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator have not changed since before the government shutdown, with a pure neutral pattern in play.A pocket of warm water 2 degs C above normal is down at 150 meters just west of the dateline (170E). Will monitor to see if it starts making eastward headway 9indicative of a Kelvin Wave).
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 10/17 remains unchanged. The model indicates water temps have been hovering near neutral since January within only a +-0.25 deviation. The model has consistently been suggesting a turnaround with a warming trend taking hold and accelerating early Oct 2013 (+0.2 C) and up to near +0.6 deg C by Dec then slowly tapering down to +0.5 by the end of the model run on May-June 2014. This would suggest a weak El Nino possible for next year. But for the immediate future a neutral pattern is expected. A consensus of other model suggest gradual warming too, but not passing into mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
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 models. Other models suggest a continuation of neutral conditions, though trending warmer. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 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 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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New - Stormsurf Video Surf Forecast for the week starting Tuesday (10/15) - http://youtu.be/bYvdDT04ZpU
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