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 (10/23) North and Central CA had Gulf windswell producing waves at head high and walled up but pretty bumpy and burgery. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing waves at waist high with sets maybe chest high on the peak at best spots and clean but weak. Southern California up north was thigh high and blown out. Down south it was even smaller and heavily textured - not even rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was getting residual northwest sideband swell with waves to head high on the sets and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was getting southern hemi swell with wave to head high and clean and looking pretty fun. The East Shore was waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Weak low pressure was just off the Pacific Northwest and starting to move inland producing northwest winds at 20 kts and limited windswell pushing into the US West Coast. This system has also produced rain and snow accumulations since late Sunday pushing to 2.5+ ft as of this morning at select Tahoe resorts. A gale was also forming Tuesday (10/23) over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands falling southeast towards Hawaii initially with seas to 26 ft. It's to make a turn towards the east later in the week and trying to regenerate but not quite making it with seas holding in the 20-22 ft range, moving no closer than 1500 nmiles from California. Best guess is some small but rideable swell to result for the mainland with overhead surf for the Islands by the weekend. But the overriding issue is that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control not favoring storm development for at least a few weeks. Down south one last tiny gale formed just south of New Zealand Mon-Tues (10/16) with seas to 36 ft over a small area aimed well northeast. A pulse of rideable swell is hitting Hawaii and scheduled for California by late Wed (10/24).
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 having fits ridging off Japan then falling into a tight pinched trough on the dateline only to ridge extra hard north in the Western Gulf up into the Bering Sea and falling south over the Eastern Gulf forming a trough over the Pacific Northwest. Winds did not exceed 130 kts in either trough and the extreme north-south movement of the jet limited either troughs ability to produce meaningful gale activity down at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to push southeast and pinch off Wednesday with winds barely 120 kts only to redevelop in the Western Gulf Thursday before fading out. Some limited gale activity to result, but nothing of real interest. Beyond 72 hours a cut-off upper circulation is forecast holding over the Bering Sea while the main part of the jet flows generally flat west to east down at 37N pushing directly into the California-Oregon border with a bit of a trough trying to organize on the dateline through the middle of next week, but winds remaining 130 kts or less and just not very powerful. Limited support for we gale development possible there and a wet but warm pattern for the Pacific Northwest.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (10/22) weak low pressure was edging inland over the Pacific Northwest generating more 20 kt northwest winds and producing the last pulse of northwest windswell expected to push down the California coast on Thursday (10/24). Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was between Hawaii and California doing nothing to produce windswell, just resulting in light trades over Hawaii and a northwest flow over the Channel Islands.
Of far more interest on Tuesday (10/23) was a gale developing on the northern dateline region associated with the remnants of Typhoon Prapiroon and a trough that was pushing off Kamchatka producing 40 kt northwest winds in the morning with seas to 28 ft at 48N 177E. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold into the evening resulting in seas to 26 ft at 48N 178E targeting Hawaii up the 330 degree path. The gale and associated fetch is to fade while falling southeast Wednesday AM producing 35 kt northwest winds and 25 ft seas at 44N 179W. By evening the gale is to try and start reorganizing still falling southeast with near 40 kt northwest winds building in it's southwest quadrant. Seas holding at 25 ft at 37N 177W (318 degs HI). Thursday AM (10/25) 30-35 kt west winds to be building in the gales south quadrant with the gale now turning away from Hawaii and heading east towards the US West Coast. A small area of 22 ft seas forecast at 37N 171W (283 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade in the evening from 30 kts with 20 ft seas holding at 35N 165W still targeting Hawaii (336 degs) and some energy for the US West Coast (280 degs NCal). Friday AM (10/26) the gale is to almost stall in the Central Gulf with 30 kt west winds holding and 19-20 ft seas forecast at 38N 157W targeting the US West Coast solely (284 degs NCal/290 SCal).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/22) no tropical system of interest were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/22) low pressure at 1000 mbs was over the Pacific Northwest Coast and high pressure at 1020 mbs was ridging into the South CA coast resulting in a weak but steady onshore flow relative to CA. Additional light rain was possible mainly for the Central Coast from Monterey Bay northward with 1-3 inches of snow for Tahoe. Wednesday another shortwave trough is forecast pushing into the North Coast with light northwest winds for the North and Central coasts at 10 kts and up to near 20 kt north winds for Southern CA with light rain early in the morning down to Monterey Bay and 3-4 inches of snow to Tahoe. Thursday clearing high pressure start building into the Southern Coast with 25 kt north winds over the Outer Channel Islands and Pt Conception but light to near Calm over the North Coast. High pressure is to start slowly be lifting north with north winds building northward reaching Pt Reyes Saturday then faltering some Sunday as more low pressure starts pushing into the area. North winds finally backing off on Monday and holding that way into mid-next week except in the extreme northern edge of the state where a southerly flow is possible. Rain next week for the Cape Mendo region pushing south to Pt Reyes briefly late Monday into early Tuesday. Light rain possible for Tahoe Tuesday night.
Surface - On Tuesday (10/22) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Another Small New Zealand Storm
On Monday AM (10/15) a gale developed under New Zealand with 45 kt south-southwest winds at 58S 177E in the HI and CA swell windows. Seas were building from 30 ft over an tiny area at 58S 177E. In the evening fetch peaked at 45-50 kts (minimal storm status) with seas reaching 36 ft at 53S 178W (pushing right up the 210 degree path to CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and aimed a bit east of the 192 degree path to Hawaii. Fetch was effectively gone Tues AM (10/16) at barely 40 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 50S 170W (208 degs CA and shadowed, 188 degs HI).
Expect swell fading on Hawaii Wed (10/24) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell fading out late Thurs.
Expect swell arrival in California on Wed (10/24) with pure swell building to 1.3 ft @ 18 secs late (2.0-2.5 ft) and very inconsistent. Swell peaking Thurs AM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Long waits between sets. Swell Direction: 208-210 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 remnants of the Dateline Gale (above) to continue circulating in the Central Gulf Fri-Mon (10/29) producing 30-35 kt west winds in the vicinity of 42N 160W with 18-20 ft seas forecast in that same area. Limited sideband north angled swell could radiate southward towards Hawaii but the lions share of the fetch and swell is to be pushing flat east towards California up into Oregon. But given the long travel distance and limited wind speeds, swell to be only in the 4 ft @ 12 secs range upon arrival along the US West Coast. That said - and assuming the models play out as forecast, at least there is to be a steady supply of rideable surf. There's even suggestions the gale could redevelop some on Mon-Tues (10/30) while starting to move east with more 30 kt west winds and 18-20 ft seas projected before moving inland over Oregon Halloween night.
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 up some at 14.37. The 30 day average was up some at 2.53 with the 90 day average up some to -1.52. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated near neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) but with modest easterly anomalies over the dateline fading to neutral the rest of the way across the equatorial Pacific into Central America. A week from now (10/31) stronger east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent but with west anomalies over the dateline then turning neutral the rest of the way into Central America. This suggests that the Active Phase of the MJO is continuing to push east and now located mostly over the East Pacific with the Inactive Phase building in the West.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/22 are in agreement suggesting a moderate or even stronger version of the Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 2 weeks and nearly gone by 11/5 with the Active Phase starting to push from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific while the dynamic model suggests virtually no change with a full Inactive Phase continuing 2 weeks from now. We don't consider that realistic. 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). As of right now the Inactive Phase is already stronger than originally predicted by the reliable Statistical model.
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 10/18) signaling it's demise. A neutral water temp pattern is taking shape. 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 10/23 at 170W, but not as strong as even a week earlier. At best 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