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 Sunday (11/11) North and Central CA had fading northwest windswell at chest high on the sets early and clean with light offshore winds. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were thigh to waist high and clean but weak. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high on the sets and getting ruffled with the winds starting to come up. Down south waves were thigh to waist high and also starting to get ruffled and weak. Hawaii's North Shore was looking fun with waves in the chest to head high range and clean with trades in effect. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Surf to settle down at all locations for a few days till the next weather system gets organized and starts producing swell. Late Monday the new gale is to be wrapping up in the Bering Sea with fetch just barely south of the Aleutians near the dateline generating seas to 32 ft building to 42 ft Tuesday then fading while pushing east with 28 ft seas holding in the Northern Gulf through Thursday (11/15). Remnants of this system to fall southeast through the Gulf into next weekend with seas to 20 ft likely resulting in possible north angled swell for the US West Coast. Weather a possible concern though. Some sideband swell expected for Hawaii too from early in the storms life. Nothing else is charted immediately behind but that should change with the impending switchover to the Active Phase of the MJO.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (11/11) a weakly split jetstream flow was in control with the split point on the dateline. The northern branch was tracking on the 42N latitude pushing into Oregon with winds very weak. The Southern branch was down at 20N pushing into Baja. A weak trough was just west of the dateline west of the split point with 130 kt winds wrapping under it offering limited support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours that dateline trough is to lift hard northeast moving fast reaching the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Tues (11/13) offering some support for gale development. Also a weak backdoor trough is to set up off the California coast at the same time easing east into Wednesday and possibly making it to the coast by Friday. Maybe low pressure development is the best that can be hoped for. Beyond 72 hours a split flow is to continue with the split point retrograding further west and most energy pushing northeast into the northern branch of the jet arching to the Aleutians then falling south into the Eastern Gulf. By Saturday (11/17) a solid 160 kt flow is to be falling through the Gulf forming a trough and possibly supporting gale development down at the surface there with the trough easing southeast and pushing to the Central CA coast by Sun (11/18). Possible support for gale development and weather for the US West Coast.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (11/11) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was just north of Hawaii with a second lobe pushing into Central CA making for a rather placid weather pattern. Weak low pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska but offering no swell producing fetch. A new gale was developing just west of the dateline and pretty far south at 37N. This is the system to watch over the coming 5 days (details below - North Dateline Gale). Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather system are forecast.
North Dateline Gale
On Sunday (11/11) a new gale was developing in the West Pacific while lifting northeast generating 35-40 kt north winds aimed at open ocean. Seas were building. In the evening the gale is to continue it's northward trek approaching the Aleutians near the dateline still producing 35-40 kt north winds and seas to 22 ft aimed south into open ocean not targeting our forecast area. By Monday AM (11/12) the gale is to strengthen to storm status with 50 kt northwest winds forecast over a small area just south of the Aleutians on the dateline with seas building. Limited fetch aimed at Hawaii. In the evening 55 kt west-northwest winds are forecast just south of the Aleutians with the core of the storm in the South Bering Sea on the dateline. 32 ft seas forecast at 49N 179E. On Tuesday AM (11/13) a solid area of 50-55 kt west fetch is forecast on the dateline free and clear of the Aleutians aimed east with seas building to 39 ft at 50N 177W (336 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 45 kts over a solid area aimed east with seas peaking at 39-40 ft at 50N 175W (same headings as before). On Wednesday AM (11/14) fetch is to be fading from 35-40 kts over a broad area aimed solely to the east with seas fading from 32 ft at 51N 166W (308 degs NCal and bypassing HI to the east). In the evening a moderate area of 35 kt west winds is forecast moving into the Northern Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 30 ft at 52N 160W (309 degs NCal, 313 degs SCal).
Assuming the models are correct some degree of decent longer period energy is to be pushing towards the US West Coast with smaller sideband energy targeting Hawaii.
The gale is to try and hold together in some form Thursday AM (11/15) with 35-40 kt west-northwest winds regenerating and seas holding at 28 ft at 51N 154W, then winds down to 35 kts in the evening but coming more from the northwest with seas fading from 25 ft at 49N 146W (311 degs NCal). 30 kt northwest winds forecast Friday AM (11/16) falling southeast with seas 20-22 ft at 46N 148W (302 degs NCal). Limited 30 kt northwest winds holding in the Gulf in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 144W (297 degs NCal). The gale to be fading Saturday with residual seas at 20 ft up at 48N 143W, then dissipating by evening. Residual low pressure energy to push up to the California coast by late Sunday (11/18).
Assuming this to be true a rather long run of north angled lesser period swell is possible for the US West Coast followed by possible weather. At least it's something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (11/11) a weak offshore flow developed as high pressure was ridging into Central CA. More of the same expected Monday and Tuesday other than weak northwest winds over Pt Conception Tuesday. A front is to be pushing down the North Coast Monday with light rain likely reaching Pt Reyes Tuesday but making it no further south. No precipitation for Tahoe expected. A new weak low is to develop well off the Central CA coast Wednesday (11/14) pushing east moving into nearshore waters Thursday generating modest south winds for all of Central CA and rain late evening for the Morro Bay and Big Sur areas. South winds to continue Friday for Central CA with southeast winds for the San Francisco Bay area northward and maybe weak southwest winds for Southern CA Thursday. Light rain for Santa Barbara County northward over the rest of the state at some point in the day. Maybe 1 inch of snow for Tahoe. Saturday rain is gone and south winds reappear as a new front edges up to the North Coast. Light rain possible for the entire North and Central Coast Sunday daytime with south winds building reaching to Pt Conception late at 20+ kts. Possible moderate plus rain for the Central coast by sunset with more behind the front. This is looking like a semi-real Winter like storm.
Surface - On Sunday (11/11) no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change 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 high pressure at 1032 mbs is forecast to be holding over the dateline region (wed 11/14) slowly easing southeast into Sunday (11/18) driving the storm track north over the top of it. No swell producing weather systems are forecast other than what is noted above.
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 Sunday (11/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding near -3.76. The 30 day average was down to 1.53 with the 90 day average up at 2.09. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) but not getting much coverage yet. Weak east anomalies were over the dateline extending to a point well south of Hawaii, and then neutral from there eastward. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO moving east and the Active Phase trying to get a toe-in-the-door in the West Pacific. A week from now (11/19) weak east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline to a point south of Hawaii then fading. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be fading but still holding in the Central Pacific, with the Active Phase not doing much in the West Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/10 remain in agreement over the short term suggesting a fading Inactive Phase was over the dateline with a solid Active Phase in the Indian Ocean starting to seep into the extreme West Pacific. The statistical model suggests the Inactive Phase it is to slowly loose strength while tracking east over the next 2 weeks positioned south of Hawaii by 11/24 and nearly gone with a large and solid Active Phase building while pushing into the West Pacific reaching the dateline over the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model continues to be conservative suggesting the Inactive Phase to weaken and fade out 1 week from now but with the Active Phase also fading, barely making it into the West Pacific a week out and then dissipating 2 weeks out. Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believe a return to a normal MJO cycle has occurred 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 if not stronger intensity by mid-November. The statistical models clearly indicates that. An increase in swell producing storms would seem likely then. But until then, storm production in the North Pacific is to remain dampened (through about 11/16).
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east erupting along the Central American coast late October but did little to replenish the warm water pool only holding it at a steady state. That said, fragments of it are showing up in the Nino1+2 temp analysis. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific between Sept 2 and Oct 9. That Kelvin Wave has 2-3 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water and is located on the equator at 125W. It's actually racing east. It is expected to reach the Central America coast by December (if not sooner) and will possibly provide a little boost to water temps at that time. At a minimum it should keep things in the normal range.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. That said, projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but rather a return to a neutral state by November or almost a return to La Nina with -0.4 deg C water temps by late January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. But virtually all the other ENSO models predict a slow decline from El Nino threshold temps into Spring 2013, but never dipping into negative territory. The CFSv2 model is a minority opinion, if not a complete outlier. This is a bit better than hoped for and still gives us a glimmer of hope for a normal if not slightly enhanced storm production Winter. But looking at the atmosphere, there's no overt signs of anything remotely resembling El Nino, and if anything, with a split jetstream pattern developing in the North Pacific, it looks still like some vestiges of La Nina. Regardless, the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start.
It appears that neither El Nino or La Nina is imminent. But we are in a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). 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 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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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
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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