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 (10/31) North and Central CA surf was head high with sets to 3 ft overhead rarely at top spots and clean and well lined up coming from across the dateline. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean and pretty lined up. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high with rare waist high sets and pretty textured with west winds building. Down south waves were chest to shoulder high on the sets and clean with just a little texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore was getting swell from the dateline with waves 3 ft overhead and 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 swell from the extratropical remnants of Typhoons Lekima and Francisco that merged off Japan on Saturday AM (26) then tracked east approaching the dateline with seas 26 ft were just starting to hit California while peaking and starting to fade in Hawaii. Another gale tracked from Japan to the dateline Mon-Tues (10/29) with seas up to 26 ft and that swell was poised to peak in Hawaii by early Fri (11/1). And one more compact gale is tracking northeast from the West Pacific reaching the dateline Friday (11/1) with seas in the 36 ft range over a small area then fading fast early Saturday. A tiny and weak system is to follow in the Northern Gulf on Mon (11/4) with 21 ft seas possibly followed by another system over the Northern Dateline Tues (11/5) again with 25 ft seas. No solid storm development is indicated but at least there's waves in the water and on the charts.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (10/31) the jet was tracking flat off Southern Japan down at 35N with 130 kt winds feeding a trough west of the dateline offering some support for gale formation down at the surface. The jet jogged northeast on the dateline with another weak trough tracking through the Northern Gulf with 140 kt winds feeding it also offering some support for gale development. A ridge was over the US West coast supporting weak high pressure there down at the surface. Over the next 72 hours the weak trough west of the dateline is to develop more Fri (11/1) while lifting northeast but with winds barely 120 kts in one tiny pocket (and much less elsewhere in the trough) offering only marginal support for gale development and bound for the Bering Sea. But continued 'troughiness' is to persist west of and moving to the dateline through Sun-Mon (11/4) though winds to remain generally weak (120 kts) feeding it limiting support for gale formation down at he surface. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to remain well to the south with a singular flow over the West Pacific forming another broad trough just east of the Kuril Islands on Tues (11/15) and well defined, but with only 110 kts winds associated with it and peaking out well before even reaching the dateline. Maybe some minimal gale support is possible. But by 180 hrs out (late Thurs (11/7) there's some suggestion of a split jetstream flow developing near the dateline. That would not be surprising given the turn in the MJO towards the Inactive Phase (more below).
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (10/31) swell from the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Lekima had peaked and was fading over Hawaii but starting to hit California (see Extratropical Storm Lekima below). Also swell from a second follow-on gale was starting to hit Hawaii (see Dateline Follow-on Gale below).
Yet another gale was developing mid-way between North Japan and the dateline with pressure 988 mbs producing west winds over a small area at 45 kts and seas building form 30 ft at 39N 163E (306 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). In the evening 45 kts west winds to hold with the gale tracking east with seas building to 36 ft over a small area at 40N 172E (312 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). The gale is to lift hard northeast on Fri AM (11/1) with winds building in coverage still at 45 kts out of the west but getting less traction on the oceans surface given the hard northeast track with seas holding at 37 ft at 43N 178E (322 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). In the evening the gale is to move north of the Eastern Aleutians with 40-45 kt west fetch holding just south of there with seas dropping from 35 ft at 48N 175E bypassing any route to Hawaii and aimed somewhat up the 304 degs path to Central CA. By Sat AM (11/2) residual 35 kt west winds to hold just barely clear of the Eastern Aleutians with seas fading from 30 ft up at 52N 169W (306 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by evening. For the most part all this systems swell energy is to be targeting the US West Coast and bypassing Hawaii. The down side is this is to be a small system relative to the US west coast and a long ways away. Only modest mid-period swell is expected for Hawaii and smallish longer period energy possible for the US West Coast. Will monitor.
Also a tiny gale is forecast forming just south of the Central Aleutians on Sun AM (11/3) with 35 kt west winds and seas to 21 ft at 49N 172W over a tiny area. In the evening 30-35 kt west winds to hold with seas 21 ft at 50N 167W (307 degs NCal) and fading from 18 ft Mon AM (11/4) at 51N 160W. Maybe small 13-14 sec period swell to result for the US West coast late on Thurs (11/7).
Extratropical Storm Lekima
On Sat AM (12/26) the extratropical remnants of Typhoon Francisco were being absorbed by Typhoon Lekima off North Japan and tracking northeast with winds fading from 65 kts and seas near 40 ft at 37N 155E aimed well up the 297 degree track to NCal and decently towards Hawaii down the 300 degree track. This system was reorganizing in the evening with winds down to 35-40 kts and seas mainly from previous fetch fading from 28 ft over a small area at 40N 161E (297 degs NCal, 306 degs HI). Residual 30-35 kt westerly fetch was racing east Sun AM (10/27) producing 24 ft seas at 39N 167E (310 degs HI, 294 degs NCal). 35 kt west winds continued approaching the dateline in the evening with seas to 26 ft at 38N 173E (312 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). By Mon AM (10/28) this system was fading out with seas from previous fetch 23 ft at 38N 178E (314 degs HI, 290 degs NCal). This system dissipated after that with no additional fetch expected.
Small swell to continue building for Central CA Fri (11/1) building to 2.4 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft faces). Swell to peak Saturday (11/2) at 4.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (6.5 ft faces). Swell fading Sunday (11/3) from 4 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft faces) but totally overrun by locally generated north windswell. (Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees).
Dateline Follow-On Gale
A second weak gale pushing off the Kuril Islands on Sun PM (10/27) with 35-40 kt northwest winds generating 26 ft seas at 43N 155E. That gale tracked southeast with winds down to 35 kts Mon AM (10/28) with seas 27 ft at 41N 162E, continuing southeast in the evening with winds still 35 kts and seas 24 ft at 40N 171E. This gale was gone Tues AM (10/29) with seas fading from 20 ft over a broad area at 40N 180W. Hawaii to get a second pulse of swell.
Swell to peak in Hawaii first light Fri (11/1) at 5.7 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft) fading through the day. residuals on Sat AM (11/2) fading from 3.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310 degrees
This swell to hit Central California on Sun (11/3) at 4 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft ft faces) but overrun by locally generated north windswell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being tracked. On Thurs AM (10/31) Typhoon Krosa was tracking west over the north most tip of the Philippines with winds 90 kts bound for Vietnam. Winds to generally hold while tracking west-southwest till 12 hours before making landfall on Monday AM (11/4), down to tropical storm force then. No swell to result for our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (10/31) high pressure at 1026 mbs was centered 800 nmiles off the Central CA coast, far enough away so no local gradient was in effect with a light north flow over all of CA. A light north wind pattern is expected Friday, but up to 15 kts over the immediate Cape Mendocino area early and fading as weak low pressure builds off Washington tracking east. Light winds are forecast Saturday AM from Central CA southward. But as the low off Oregon builds and moves inland later Saturday, high pressure is to build in behind with a front and north winds building over North CA by the afternoon pushing 25 kts down to Monterey Bay by late afternoon. A full coastal gradient to be in effect Sunday AM at 30 kts with horrible conditions, perhaps weakening some Monday AM but still 25 kts out of the north, down to 20 kts Tuesday and 15 kts early Wednesday. More high pressure and north winds are to be queuing up in the Gulf too. In short, the party is to be over with the Inactive Phase of the MJO and high pressure taking over.
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 yet one more gale is forecast west of the dateline on Tues (11/5) with a decent fetch of 40 kt northwest winds developing in it's west quadrant late while lifting northeast getting less than optimal traction on the oceans surface. 24 ft seas forecast at 48N 171E targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. 40 kt northwest winds to be lifting north of the West Aleutians Wed AM (11/6) with 24 ft seas up at 52N 173E. This system to be totally encased in the Bering Sea by evening.
A weak cut off low is forecast forming north of Hawaii late Thurs (11/7) with a small area of 35 kt north winds targeting the Islands. Low odds of swell generation at this early date.
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 (10/31) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some to 4.25 (previously negative for 16 consecutive days). The 30 day average was down to -2.56 and the 90 day average was down to 0.56. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was neutral and weakening. But assuming the Active Phase is over, the average will rise again into positive territory and suggest a hint of Inactive/La Nina influence. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator of surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light west anomalies holding over the Western Maritime Continent turning lighter if not neutral near the dateline, only to rebound out of the west on the dateline. Anomalies turned light westerly south of Hawaii holding on into Central America. With light westerly anomalies holding on, tropical development in the West Pacific should continue. A week from now (11/8) modest or more east anomalies are forecast over over the Maritime Continent turning light east over the dateline, then turning neutral south of Hawaiian and holding into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO is still in control and is to be fading while tracking east over the East Pacific while a modestly Inactive pattern sets up over the West Pacific a week out. This will cut the legs out of the storm track if it happens.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/30 are in-sync. Both models suggest a modest Inactive pattern was building over the West Pacific today, with the dynamic model suggesting the Inactive Phase peaking in the far West Pacific 5 days out and the statistic model having it not as strong. From there the dynamic model is more aggressive than the statistical model, with the dynamic model showing the Inactive Phase of the MJO holding and slowly decaying over the West Pacific but still modest in strength 15 days out while the statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to be all but gone 15 days out. It will be interesting to see what happens. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 10/31 suggests the Inactive Phase is building in the west and is to peak 11/10 over the mid-Pacific, but quickly tracking east moving into the East Pacific by 11/16. At that time a new pulse of the Active Phase is forecast developing over the far West Pacific 11/20 and meandering slowly east holding into 12/5. Overall MJO signal is weak but favoring the Active Phase. 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 (10/31) the weak La Nina-like pattern that has held all summer and for the past 3 years is dead with a pure neutral water temp pattern in-play. Neutral water temps cover the equator from Central America to the Philippines with just a few small pockets of slightly cooler water mainly south of Hawaii. If anything a weak tongue of warmer than normal water is in the East Pacific at 2N extending west from Ecuador to 120W, starting developing about mid October. This is interesting and signals the strength of the current Active Phase of the MJO. Slightly cooler water is just off the coast of Peru. Water temps off West Africa remain neutral if not slightly warm too. The North Pacific plume of slightly cooler than normal water tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California remains weak. The 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 upwell locally. Still, thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. High pressure remains off CA, with water temps holding in the cool range. So there's neutral to warm water over the balance of the North Pacific (which is to good news). Still there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. In short, we're in a pure neutral pattern. And even that neutral pattern is just a month old (starting late Sept), with any effect on the atmosphere probably 3 months from developing (mid-Dec).
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a pocket of warm water 2 degs C above normal is down at 150 meters and moving from just west of the dateline (170E) to the dateline (180W) and now to 165W and tracking east. And warm subsurface waters are in-place off Central America. Will monitor to see if it continues and is a real trend or just a momentary spike. It it's real, then a a eastward moving Kelvin Wave is in flight.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 10/31 have backed off more. The model has consistently been suggesting a turnaround with a warming trend taking hold and accelerating early Oct 2013. It now suggests temps hovering at +0.2 C above normal in Nino region 3.4 slowly building to near +0.3 deg C by April 2014 and up to +0.4 C by July. This would suggest a weak El Nino possible for next year. But for the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected. A consensus of other models suggests slow 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/
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