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 Tuesday (10/22) North and Central CA surf was 8-9 ft but pretty foggy early and clean. Most beach breaks were closed out with too much swell energy present. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high with maybe a few bigger sets. Clean early. In Southern California up north Kamchatka swell was 3 ft on the sets and well lined up when it comes. Some light north texture. Down south waves were up to chest high on the sets and decent, with lightly textured conditions but a long wait between sets. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting Kamchatka swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and clean and well lined up. 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 more swell expected for California from an extratropical system that developed in the far Northwest Pacific tracking east Thurs-Fri (10/18) with seas in the 41-48 ft range through Thursday (10/24). A small gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf Thurs (10/24) with 22 ft seas aimed mainly at Canada. Maybe small swell down into Central CA. And another stronger but small gale is forecast on the dateline Sat (10/26) with 32 ft seas targeting Hawaii. More swell to result but nothing over the top is indicated.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/22) the jet was pushing flat off North Japan at 120 kts on the 40N latitude with no stronger pockets of wind energy, reaching to the Western Gulf of Alaska then splitting north of Hawaii with the northern branch pushing up into Alaska and the southern branch tracking southeast and just east of Hawaii then turning east and into Baja. There was almost a weak trough trying to organize off the Kuril Islands offering minimal support for gale development there. The ridge in the gulf was supporting high pressure down at the surface. Over the next 72 hours the trough off the Kuril Islands is to start building with 160 kt winds flowing into it on Thurs (10/240 and the bottom of the trough just east of the dateline down at 37N offering good support for gale development, and building into Friday with up to 190 kt wins projected. Beyond 72 hours that broad trough is to hold east of the dateline into late Sunday (10/28) then starting to pinch off some and with less energy flowing into it and lifting north, continuing to offer good support for gale development, then fading out on Monday. This is to be the best upper trough we've seen projected in a good long time. And this trough is to erase the split flow with and singular flow tracking up into Canada. By Tuesday (10/29) a generally flat flow is forecast with 130 kt winds off Japan and the whole jet down near 40N, gently tilting northeast and pushing onshore over British Columbia.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (10/22 a weak pressure pattern was off California with a cutoff low at 1004 mbs in the Southern Gulf, high pressure at 1020 mbs over the dateline and a weak gale developing off Northern Japan racing east. Two tropical systems were in the far West Pacific. No swell production was occurring. Otherwise swell from Extratropical Storm Wipha (see details below) was fading in Hawaii and hitting California.
Over the next 72 hours the cutoff low in the Gulf to develop slightly generating 30 kt north winds and 16 ft seas Wednesday (10/23) at 41N 142W but mainly aimed south-southeast offering no windswell potential for California or Hawaii.
Of more interest is to be the gale tracking off Japan, forecast to be in tracking northeast in the Western Gulf on Wednesday (10/23) with 35 kt west and northwest winds forecast but those winds getting little traction on the oceans surface with the gale moving as fast northeast and the winds it's producing. The gale is to stall Thurs AM (10/24) just shy of the Eastern Aleutian Islands with winds building to 45 kts with seas 26 ft at 54N 161W near 18Z before moving over the Aleutians. There's some possibility for small swell to be generated pushing towards the US West Coast affecting Central CA northward. It's something to monitor.
Extratropical Storm Wipha
On Wednesday (10/16) the remnants of Typhoon Wipha tracked 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 47 ft at 50N 166E (323 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). 50-55 kt west winds held south of the Aleutians into the evening as the gale approached the dateline with the core in the Bering Sea generating 48 ft seas at 51S 173E (329 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). Friday AM (10/18) the gale continued east with a decent sized area of 40 kt west winds continuing south of the Aleutians and 42 ft seas at 50N 179W (heading mostly east of the 335 deg path to HI, 306 degs NCal). Fetch was fading in the evening with 35 kt west winds just south of the Eastern Aleutians and seas fading from 34 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 27 ft at 50N 165W (307 degs NCal).
In all this was 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 heading towards all Northeast Pacific locations.
NCal: Swell fading Wednesday (10/23) from 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8 ft). Residuals on Thursday fading from 4 ft @ 13-14 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 303-308 degrees
Southern CA: Swell peaking Wednesday (10/23) at 2.7 ft @ 16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft early at exposed breaks). Residuals on Thursday fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 305-311 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/22) Typhoon Francisco was positioned 700 nmiles south-southwest of Kyoto Japan with winds 75 kts tracking north-northwest. This track to continue into Wednesday with winds holding, then turning north in the evening and turning northeast Thurs AM (10/24) with winds down to 65 kts. Francisco to rapidly accelerate to the northeast with winds down to 35 kts Sunday AM (10/27) forming into a gale tracking off the Kuril Islands (Mon-Tues 10/30) (see long term forecast).
Also on Tuesday Typhoon Lekima was in the far West Pacific 1500 nmiles southeast of Tokyo with winds 125 kts tracking northwest. Lekima to peak out Wed PM (10/23) with winds 140 kts (161 mph) still tracking northwest and 900 nmiles southwest of Tokyo, then turning north and northeast, positioned 600 nmiles east of Northern Japan on Sat AM (10/26). The GFS model has Lekima and Francisco merging east of Japan. This is something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/22) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was locked over the Canadian Coast with the tail end of it draped off California. A light north wind pattern was in effect for the North and Central Coast at worst. Low pressure northeast of Hawaii is to build a little Tuesday and moving northeast, setting up near dead local wind pattern over California through Saturday (10/26). There's suggestions of high pressure building just off British Columbia late Saturday setting up north winds at 20 kts off Oregon to Cape Mendocino Sunday but with a near calm local flow south of there holding into Monday. But by Tuesday (10/29) the high and north winds to fade to calm with light winds for the entire state.
Surface - On Saturday (10/19) 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 a small gale is forecast falling southeast from Kamchatka and developing on the southern dateline region Fri AM (10/25) with a broad area of 30-35 kt northwest winds generating 20 ft seas at 43n 180W. Winds to build into the evening to 35-40 kts over a broader but still small area aimed southeast at Hawaii with seas holding at 18-20 ft at 40N 180W. Sat AM (10/26) winds to build to 45 kts with with seas building to 30 ft over a small area at 44N 181W targeting Hawaii best. Winds fading and falling southeast from 40 kts in the evening with 30 ft seas at 42N 178E again targeting the Hawaiian Islands. Sunday AM 30 kts residual winds to be inplay with 24 ft seas fading at 37N 174W. The gale to fade and lift north after that with residual seas of 20 ft Sunday PM at 35N 168W. Maybe some swell mainly for Hawaii to result if all goes as forecast.
And another weak gale is to be pushing off the Kuril Islands on Mon-Tues (10/29) with 35 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas reaching to 42N 167E if one is to believe the models.
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 (10/22) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -4.26. The 30 day average was falling at 0.89 with the 90 day average falling from 2.84. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was neutral if not just barely biased toward Inactive Phase/La Nina, but weakening.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light to modest west anomalies over the Maritime Continent and light to moderate easterly anomolies over the dateline progressing 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 (10/30) weak easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning dead neutral on the dateline to a point south of Hawaii, and then turning westerly from there into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO is to be exiting to the east while the Inactive Phase tried to make an entrance over the West Pacific a week out.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/21 are generally in-sync. Both models suggest a neutral pattern was over the Pacific today, with a weak Inactive Phase expected to get a toehold in the far West Pacific 5 days out and holding, and not progressing over the next 15 days. The dynamic model suggests it making more eastward headway that the statistic model. The ultra long range upper level model suggests the Active Phase is dissipating over the East Pacific, and is to be all but gone by 10/31 with a very weak Inactive Phase building in the west 10/31 and over the Central Pacific by 11/15. Another pulse of the Inactive Phase is now forecast developing over the far West Pacific 11/25, but fading before going anywhere. 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 (10/21) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer is dead with a pure neutral water temp pattern in-play. There's even some small pockets of warmer water building off the immediate coast of Peru. this suggests 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 remains gone. In the North Pacific the plume of slightly cooler than normal water that has been driven by high pressure off California is weak. A wall of warmer than normal water that was holding tight along the North CA coast remains slightly retrograded from the coast, allowing cooler water to move in locally. Still thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. And high pressure is gone off CA, with water temps already on the increase. Still there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing either. In short, we've moved into a pure neutral pattern.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a pocket of warm water 2 degs C above normal is down at 150 meters and now relocated from just west of the dateline (170E) to the dateline 9180W ) and tracking east. Will monitor to see if it continues making eastward headway (indicative of a Kelvin Wave).
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 10/21 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 +0.5 deg C by Dec and holding into 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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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/
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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
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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