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 (11/1) North and Central CA had residual west swell from the Gulf of Alaska hitting but heading down at head high to 1 ft overhead and clean but a bit warbled and foggy. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing wonky chest high peaks and clean but warbled and weak. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high and lined up and clean. Down south waves were waist high with some bigger peaks and well lined up and clean with just a little texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore was small with rare waist high or so sets and clean. The South Shore remained small with sets to maybe waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind windswell at waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell was fading out in California from a gale that was in the Western Gulf of Alaska last weekend producing seas in the 20-22 ft range. This swell will be nearly gone by Friday. Another system tried to develop on the dateline Mon-Tues (10/30) but not doing much with seas only in the 19 ft range, but good enough for a tiny pulse of swell for Hawaii on Friday (11/2). This system remains forecast to travel east and finally wrap-up in the Northern Gulf late Thursday into Friday with seas over a small area in the 32-38 ft range aimed south and southeast. Most swell energy is to be tracking towards the US West Coast but some energy is to run south into Hawaii if the models are to be trusted. There's suggestions of a weaker system developing on the dateline Tues-Thurs (11/8) but no real seas of interest are currently projected aimed at either Hawaii or the US West Coast. Still it bears monitoring. But for now the issue remains the unfavorable influence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the Pacific for the next 1.5 weeks. We're almost able to see light at the end of the tunnel.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/1) the jet continued running flat off Central Japan on the 37N latitude making it the whole way across the Pacific pushing over North California. There were two embedded pockets of 130 kt winds, one off Japan and the other just south of the Gulf of Alaska. There was weak evidence of troughs trying to develop with both pockets offering limited support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the wind pocket off Japan is to push east and form a bit more of a defined trough on the dateline Sat-Sun (11/4) with winds 140 kts offering limited support for gale development. The proto-trough on the dateline is to move to the Northern Gulf Fri (11/2) with winds to 140 kts offering some decent support for gale development, then quickly lifting northeast on Saturday and dissipating. Beyond 72 hours another weak trough is to try and build on the dateline Tuesday (11/6) but never really get much winds energy associated with it. Low pressure is likely the best that will result (no gale development). Overall the flow is to still be a bit fragmented and weak and not conducive to solid support for gale formation over the greater North Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/1) a new gale was starting to develop in the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). This system was previously over the dateline and developed a tiny fetch of 30 kt west winds during the day Monday (10/29) at 31N 175E pushing to 39N 179E Tuesday AM (10/30) resulting in a speck of seas to 20 ft on the dateline Tues AM (10/30) at 39N 179E, good for background swell of 13 secs for Hawaii with luck by Friday (11/2). Swell 3.5 ft @ 12 secs late (4.0 ft faces) there from 315 degrees.
Otherwise no no fetch or seas of interest forecast.
Over the next 72 hours a secondary gale low is to develop just 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Friday (11/2) racing northeast with winds 35 kts in it's north quadrant but all aimed back to the west and of no use to anyone. On Saturday AM (11/3) winds to build to 45 kts over a tiny area as the gale itself track north of Hawaii, generating up to 25 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii for a few hours at 36N 155W or 900 nmiles north of the Islands. Swell from this system to arrive in the Islands in sync with swell from the Gulf Gale below. This system is to race northeast in the evening and be impacting Central Canada Sunday evening. Maybe some 23 ft seas to target the US West Coast Sunday AM from 43N 145W (292 degs NCal). But for the most part this swell to look just like a more westerly extension of the Gulf Gale (below).
A weak system tracked from the dateline across the North Pacific and started developing in the Northern Gulf on Thursday AM (11/1) with north fetch building from 40-45 kts targeting Hawaii down the 180 degree path and also starting to take aim on the US West Coast. By evening 45 kt northwest winds are to be in the Northern Gulf aimed at both Hawaii and the US West Coast (Pacific Northwest down to Central CA) with seas building from 27 ft. A solid fetch of 50 kt north winds are forecast Friday AM (11/2) with seas to 34 ft over a tiny area up at 51N 158W aimed south at Hawaii (360 degs HI). 50-55 kt west winds to also be wrapping into the gales south quadrant with seas building to 36 ft at 49N 152 (306 degs NCal) aimed well at Oregon northward. In the evening 50 kt winds to be pushing up into the storms east quadrant with 40 ft seas from previous fetch at 48N 146W targeting the Central CA coast (306 degs) northward but aimed best at British Columbia. Saturday AM (11/3) west fetch to be fading from 35-40 kts with the gale tracking north towards Alaska. 26-28 ft seas fading at 48N 142W (311 degs NCal). This system to be gone by evening. This is not to be an ideal setup, but at least some small and very north angled swell could result for Hawaii with better size targeting the US West Coast
Detailed forecast to be issued on Saturday. But rough data suggests a short burst of swell for the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA on Sunday (11/4) and reaching into Hawaii late Sunday into Monday (11/5).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thursday (11/1) Tropical Storm Rosa was nearly stalled mid-way between California and Hawaii at 14N 118.5W with winds 45 kts and slowly drifting southwest. No real change forecast until Saturday (11/3) when Rosa is to start racing northwest and dissipating. No swell to result.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/1) weak low pressure was moving inland over Oregon while a larger gale was building in the Gulf of Alaska. High pressure was out of the picture for the time being. A light wind flow was in control of the entire coast and is to continue into Friday, but with high pressure also trying to get a toe in the door off Pt Conception with northwest winds there to 15 kts late in the day. Weak high pressure to try and hold on Saturday but is to be under severe pressure by a new low winding up well off the California coast and racing north. Northwest winds to remain isolated to Pt Conception at 15 kts. The low off the coast is to be gone by Sunday tracking into Canada and high pressure is to get a chance to build, ridging into Oregon late Sunday wit northwest winds 15 kts mainly off the immediate CA coast through the day. By Monday the high is to move inland with a neutral pressure pattern and light winds over all of CA and holding through Wednesday. But by Thursday (11/8) there's suggestions of strong high pressure building in from the north and north winds building strong over the entire CA coast at 20 kts late. Looks like a blow out.
Surface - On Thursday (11/1) a small storm was in the deep Central Pacific producing 50 kt west winds and seas to 38 ft at 55S 138W. It is to start dissipating in the evening with fetch fading from 45 kts but seas from previous fetch up to 41 ft at 53S 131W. No additional fetch of interest forecast. the mostly straight east trajectory is a problem for our forecast area. Just the same, Southern CA might see some small southern hemi swell from this one from 190 degrees starting Thurs (11/8) with period 20 secs (2 ft @ 20 secs late) peaking late on Friday (11/9) as period moves to 17-18 secs.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 new gale is to start organizing west of the dateline on Monday (11/5) with 30 kt northwest winds and seas to maybe 18 ft, reaching the dateline Tues (11/6) with more 30 kt northwest winds and seas still only 18 ft at 34N 175E targeting Hawaii down the 311 degree path. Given the weak jetstream forecast, no additional development is projected but the gale is to continue tracking northeast reaching the Western Gulf of Alaska late Thurs (11/8). Maybe some weak 11 sec period swell to result for Hawaii.
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 (11/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 4.01. The 30 day average was up some at 3.68 with the 90 day average up at 0.76. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated moderate east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with neutral anomalies on the dateline extending into Central America. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the West Pacific. A week from now (11/8) east anomalies are forecast starting to fade over the Maritime Continent reaching almost to the dateline then rebuilding south of Hawaii. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be moving east towards the Central Pacific, typical of the MJO (moving west to east).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/31 remain nearly in agreement suggesting a moderate Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific but is starting to fade. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 2 weeks and gone by 11/14 with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and pushing into the West Pacific. The dynamic model also suggests the Inactive Phase weakening and fading out 2 weeks from now but with the Active Phase also fading, moving towards a neutral pattern by 11/14. Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believe a return to a normal MJO cycle is likely with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. The current Inactive Phase is evidence of that, and if the theory is correct, the Active Phase should appear as scheduled and with equal intensity by mid-November. An increase in swell producing storms would seem likely then. But until then storm production in the North Pacific is to remain dampened (through 11/12).
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 10/29) 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 appears to be erupting along the Central American coast but is doing little to replenish the warm water pool and is only holding it at a steady state. 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 was evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline around 10/23, and has since (10/30) reached 3 deg C and is located to the east at 155W. But it will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix when it hits the Central American coast.
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 -0.6 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 no atmospheric evidence of a El Nino pattern in-play. Remnants of La Nina are almost gone in terms of their affects on the atmosphere. We believe we're in a hybrid atmospheric state with the trend shifting more towards the normal category. La Nina is dissipating but El Nino is not materializing.
Though no El Nino is imminent, we are in a better place than the previous 2 years under the influence of La Nina. We are in a neutral pattern with limited bias on the warm side. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible 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).
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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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
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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