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 (10/25) North and Central CA had Gulf windswell fading but still producing waves at shoulder high and reasonably clean but soft. Down south in Santa Cruz rare signs of southern hemi swell were producing waves at waist to chest high at best spots and clean. Southern California up north was knee to thigh high and pretty heavily blown. Down south sets might be waist high and weak with northwest winds on it. Hawaii's North Shore was small with waist high background windswell rolling in and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was getting southern hemi swell with waves chest high or so but pretty tattered by southeast trades. The East Shore was effectively flat and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The only real swell source as of today is from a gale that formed Tuesday (10/23) over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands then fell southeast towards Hawaii initially with seas at 26-28 ft fading to 25 ft late Wednesday. It's to make a turn towards the east Thursday evening and try to regenerate but not quite making it with seas holding in the 20-22 ft range, moving no closer than 1400 nmiles from California. Overhead surf expected for the Islands starting late Friday with small but rideable swell resulting for the mainland early next week. This system is to stall in the Western Gulf and continue to generate 20-24 ft seas aimed well at the US West Coast through the weekend, with more modest sized swell likely. 2 weak system are forecast behind later next week but of no real notice. The overriding issue remains that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control of the West and Central Pacific and not favoring storm development for at least 2 more weeks. Down south swell from one last tiny gale that formed just south of New Zealand Mon-Tues (10/16) with seas to 36 ft over a small area aimed well northeast was hitting California.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (10/25) the jet was a fragmented mess dominated by a large ridge over the dateline. Winds were weak, generally below 100 kts. Still energy was consistently dropping as far south as 30-35N over the width of the North Pacific, pretty well placed for having no organization. A weak backdoor trough was trying to hold together in the Western Gulf. But over all no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the big ridge over the dateline is to cut off and move north leaving a weak but flat moving stream tracking from Japan into Oregon with winds building to 120 kts on Saturday in the Western Gulf with some incarnation of and upper low circulating there. Some support for surface level low pressure development possible holding into Sunday. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the main flow tracking flat west to east on the 35N latitude, but diving to 20N off Japan on Monday. Winds to be weak though not offering much to support low pressure development there. In the Gulf the upper low and weak trough to persist through Tuesday, then fading while pushing into the Pacific Northwest. Limited support for surface low pressure development possible. 2 pockets of 130 kts winds are forecast developing in the jetstream mid-next week offering hope for low pressure development at the surface, but nothing remarkable.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (10/25) a gale low was circulating 900 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii (see Dateline/Gulf Gale below). High pressure at 1024 mbs was between Hawaii and California generating north winds over the Channel Islands up to Pt Conception, good for chop production but that's all. Over the next 72 hours only the Dateline Gale is be of any interest.
On Tuesday (10/23) a gale developed 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. In the evening winds were fading from 35 kts over a modest sized area resulting in seas to 25 ft at 47N 178E targeting Hawaii up the 330 degree path. On Wed AM (10/24) the gale and associated fetch were fading while falling southeast with northwest winds 35 kts and seas at 25 ft seas at 44N 179W. By evening the gale was starting to reorganize while still falling southeast with 40 kt northwest winds building in it's southwest quadrant. Seas holding at 25 ft at 38N 177W (318 degs HI). Thursday AM (10/25) 30-35 kt west winds were building in the gales south quadrant with the gale now turning away from Hawaii and heading east towards the US West Coast. A moderate sized area of 22 ft seas from previous fetch were at 37N 172W (283 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade in the evening from 30-35 kts with 23 ft seas building at 36N 167W still targeting Hawaii (338 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 35 kt west winds holding and 22 ft seas forecast at 37N 158W targeting the US West Coast solely (284 degs NCal/290 SCal). The gale to fade in the evening but not out.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Friday (10/26) with pure swell reaching 7.5 ft @ 14-15 secs late (11 ft faces). Swell to peak over night holding till Saturday at 8 ft @ 14 secs (11.0-11.5 ft) backing off some through the day. Swell fading Sunday AM (10/28) from near 6 ft @ 12 secs (7 ft) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 320-325 degrees
North CA: Expect tiny sideabnd energy arriving on Saturday (10/27) 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell slowly building Sunday (10/28) to 2.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft ) late. Monday (10/29) swell is to peak at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft - but even that might be overstated). Residuals fading Tues (10/30) from 4.0 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 282-287 degrees
Dateline/Gulf Gale (Part 2)
On Saturday AM (10/27) the Dateline gale is to redevelop while stalled in the Western Gulf with a moderate area of 30-35 kt west winds building and seas regenerating to 18 ft. In the evening those winds to build to near 40 kts with seas up to 23 ft at 44N 161W (295 degs NCal). The gale is to start pushing east Sunday AM (10/28) with winds still 35 kts and seas 24 ft at 42N 157W. The gale to fade from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 152W. The gale is to die on Monday.
In all if this system redevelops as forecast somewhat larger 13-14 sec period swell could be generated pushing towards the US West Coast with very limited sideband energy reaching down into Hawaii. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (10/25) no tropical system of interest were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/25) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into the North CA and Oregon coasts generating a pressure gradient and north winds at 20 kts from Pt Conception southward over the Channel Islands. This high is to slowly lift north with north winds building northward reaching Pt Arena Saturday (15-20 kts off the coast from Pt Conception northward) then starting to dissipate from 15 kts 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 as the low moves into the coast there on up in to the Pacific Northwest. Rain possible starting Tuesday (10/30) for the Cape Mendo region pushing south to Pt Reyes late Wednesday and then on down to Morro Bay by Thursday AM (11/1).. Light rain possible for Tahoe later Thursday. A light wind flow to hold along the coast through Thursday (11/1).
Surface - On Thursday (10/25) 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).
Swell peaked in California on Thursday AM at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Long waits between sets. residual energy continuing into Saturday (see QuikCASTs for details). 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 another small and weak gale is to develop on the dateline Tues (10/30) producing 30 kt northwest winds in spurts while traveling fast to the east, finally getting really organized Thursday evening (11/1) in the Northeast Gulf. At that time it's to be producing 45 kt northwest winds if one is to believe the models. Something to monitor.
Also on Thursday (11/1) another small gale is forecast developing off North Japan with 35-40 kt west winds. But it's way to early to believe any of this yet.
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 (10/25) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at 4.96. The 30 day average was up some at 2.91 with the 90 day average holding at -1.27. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) extending to the dateline fading to neutral beyond and even turning slightly westerly in the equatorial Pacific off Central America. A week from now (11/2) stronger east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent but fading to neutral anomalies over the dateline and holding there the rest of the way into Central America. All this suggests that the Active Phase of the MJO is now effectively out of the Pacific and moving over the Caribbean Sea (evidenced by the formation of Hurricane Sandy) while the Inactive Phase builds into the West Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/24 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 11/7 with the Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean and starts to push from into the West Pacific while the dynamic model suggests only a slight weakening in the Inactive Phase 2 weeks from now. We don't consider that realistic.
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, and is now almost gone. Pulses of cooler than normal water continue tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/25) 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 120W and off the charts by 9/17. It has not done much to replenish the warm water pool. 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 or almost a return to La Nina with -0.5 deg C water temps by January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. Likely another false start or at best a weakly warmer pattern developing.
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. This suggest La Nina is dissipating but El Nino is not materializing.
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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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/
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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