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.
Next update will be posted early next week (12/3). Going to get some surf.
On Thursday (11/29) North and Central CA had larger than expected raw westerly swell producing jumbled stormsurf in the double overhead range. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were 1-2 ft overhead and blow to bits. Unrideable. Southern California up north was fairly impressive with waves 2 ft overhead and clean but pretty warbled. Well lined up. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead but pretty scalloped by southerly wind. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover swell with waves shoulder high and clean. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting north windswell with waves head high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A broad gale is started wrapping up in the Eastern Gulf Tuesday evening (11/27) peaking late Wednesday with seas in the 27 ft range and expected to hold into Thursday evening unchanged before fading slowly Friday while drifting closer to the CA coast. Stormy local conditions and much rain forecast for that area with larger raw windy swell hitting and sideband energy for Hawaii too. After that, the gale pattern to back off into at least late next week.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/29) a split jetstream flow continued in control with the split point well west of the dateline. A consolidated flow barely tracked clear of Japan then split heavily with the northern branch tracking hard north into the Western Bering Sea, arching east then dropping hard south down into the Gulf of Alaska forming a broad trough with 130 kts winds feeding it off the US West Coast then tracking east into North CA. Good support for gale development in this trough. The southern branch fell southeast from the split point then tracked east pushing over Hawaii then into Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours the trough off the US West Coast is to slowly ease east but still remain over exposed waters of the Eastern Gulf with winds 140 kts in one small pocket. Continued support for gale development expected through Sunday (12/2). Beyond 72 hours the trough is to push inland over North CA late Sun (12/2) while the northern branch of the jet pushes further north above the Bering Sea and start decaying. Yet another trough is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska late Monday into Tuesday (12/4) but winds are to only be 100 kts and not covering much area offering little in terms of support for gale development. By Thurs (12/6) a solid area of 170 kt winds to be building over and just off Japan. It's not clear what affect this wind energy will have on the split point as it migrates east.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/29) a broad area of low pressure at 968 mbs was circulating in the Central Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). A second low at 996 mbs was trying to develop over the dateline. A third gale was landlocked west of the Kuril Islands. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to eventually push inland over the Pacific Northwest. The dateline gale is to develop (see Dateline Gale below).
North Dateline Gale (Hawaii)
A new small gale was developing in the Northern Dateline region Friday AM (11/23) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas to 26 ft at 48N 178E targeting Hawaii (331 degs). It is to be falling southeast Friday evening (11/23) with northwest winds down to 35 kts over a small area and seas 25 ft at 48N 177W (333 degs HI). Saturday AM 35 kt northwest winds to continue falling southeast with seas 24 ft at 45N 174W (335 degs HI). By evening the gale is to be fading with winds 30 kts and seas dropping from 22 ft at 41N 168W (337 degs HI). This system is to be gone by Sunday AM.
Swell arrived in Hawaii on Monday afternoon (11/26) building to 4 ft @ 15 secs (6 ft faces) and holding overnight. Swell still 5.1 ft @ 13 secs Tuesday AM (11/27) (6.5 ft faces) slowly fading through the day. Residuals fading on Wed (11/28) from 3 ft @ 11 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 331-337 degrees
Gulf Gale - Swell #1
Starting Monday AM (11/26) a primer gale developed 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco in the bottom of a steep upper trough located there and from the remnants of the North Dateline Gale (see above). 30 kt north winds were modeled at 37N 147W targeting only open ocean (east of Hawaii and aimed south of the US West Coast). Seas building. Winds built to 30-35 kts in the evening with the same results. Tuesday AM (11/27) the gale was starting to fall apart while easing east off the US West Coast. Still 30-35 kt northerly winds were indicated with seas 18-20 ft over a broad area at 40N 150W. This was serving to rough up the oceans surface but not generate any real swell. But by the evening a far stronger batch of wind energy was falling southeast towards the remnants of the primer gale with a broad fetch of 35-40 kt northwest winds forecast in the Western Gulf targeting the US West Coast with a small area of 45 kt northwest winds just south of the Eastern Aleutians falling southeast. Seas 26 ft at 48N 162W but 20 ft seas covering a broader area extending south to 44N 144W. Wednesday AM (11/28) 35-40 kt northwest winds were tracking southeast with 28 ft seas at 40N 153W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal) and 20 ft seas down to 36N 148W (270 degs NCal, 283 degs SCal). Northwest to west winds were fading from 35 kts in the evening over a broad area off the US West Coast. 27 ft seas were modeled centered roughly at 38N 143W (284 degs NCal, 293 SCal) and lesser seas over a broad area south of there down to 35N 140W (281 degs SCal). The gale was still solid Thursday AM (11/29) with 35 kt west winds and 25 ft seas over a broad area centered roughly at 37N 139W (273 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal) but reaching down to 33N 140W (275 degs SCal). Seas to build to 27 ft Thursday evening at 35-40N 140W then fading Friday AM (11/30) with 30 kt west winds and 25 ft seas at 38N 135W. The gale is to finally dissipate Friday PM with seas fading from 24 ft at 40N 134W 600 nmiles west of San Francisco (284 deg path NCal, 295 SCal). Persistent 20-25 kt west fetch to continue off the Pacific Northwest down to Central CA through mid-Sunday (12/2) resulting in westerly windswell.
The net result is to be larger raw and windblown west swell for the entire California Coast up into Southern Oregon, with better conditions possible for Southern CA.
North CA: Expect core swell arrival mid-day Friday (11/29) with energy from all previous swell generating time periods hitting nearly simultaneously producing pure swell 11.0 ft @ 15 secs (16.5 ft) and holding well overnight. Swell to be fading slowly Saturday (12/1) from 10.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (15 ft). Solid residuals expected fading Sunday from 7.8 ft @ 12-13 secs (9.5 ft). Conditions very raw and warbled. Proceed with caution. Swell Direction: 265-275 degrees
South CA: Expect core swell arrival Friday (11/29) near sunset and peaking near 2 AM Saturday with energy from all previous swell generating time periods hitting nearly simultaneously producing pure swell 10.5 ft @ 15 secs (16.0 ft) at exposed breaks. Swell 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8.5 ft) at shadowed breaks and holding well into day light hours of Saturday. Solid residuals expected fading Sunday sunrise from 9.1 ft @ 13 secs (11 ft) at exposed breaks and 4.7 ft @ 13 secs (6 ft) at shadowed breaks. Conditions very raw and warbled. Proceed with caution. Swell Direction: 280-290 degrees
Another gale was developing over the Dateline on Thursday (11/29) just east of the jetstream split point and between the two flows, effectively cut off from any real upper level energy. Pressure was 996 mbs with 30 kt north winds developing in it's west quadrant aimed south and mostly bypassing any route to Hawaii to the west. Seas building from 18 ft. The gale is to have 35 kt north winds and hold and position in the evening with 22 ft seas building at 43N 177E aimed a bit better at Hawaii down the 320 degree path. Winds building to 40 kts Friday AM (11/30) over the same area with seas 22 ft at 40N 175E (314 degrees HI). Winds fading from 35-40 kts Friday evening falling south with 24 ft seas at 38N 176E aimed a bit west of the 312 degree path to Hawaii. The gale is to be fading Sat AM (12/1) with seas 22 ft at 35N 177E aimed a bit west of the 307 degree path to Hawaii. Residual 30 kt west winds to start traveling east in the evening with 18 ft seas at 30N 178W (300 degs HI) generating what would effectively be windswell. Fetch to fade through mid-Sunday (12/2) with seas dropping from 18 ft at 30N 170W (312 degs HI). More windswell being generated.
Assuming all this occurs some degree of 14 sec period northwest swell is possible for the Hawaiian Islands by late Sunday (12/2) with pure swell 3 ft @ 14 secs (4 ft) peaking Monday AM at 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell fading from 6 ft @ 12 secs early Tues (12/4). Swell Direction: 300-314 degrees
No swell expected to result for the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (11/29) Tropical Storm Bopha was located in the far West Pacific about 600 nmiles north of eastern New Guinea. Winds were 45 kts and it was traveling due west. Steady strengthening occurred and by Thursday (11/29) winds were 50 kts with a turn to the west-northwest expected. Bopha to reach hurricane/typhoon status Friday AM and building over the next 5 days with winds to 105 kts by Monday (12/3) while approaching the Central Philippines. Bopha to continue on a west-northwest track positioned just off the Central Philippines Tues (12/4). At this time no swell production potential exists for our forecast area, but it does bare monitoring.
Otherwise no tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/29) solid low pressure was filling the Gulf of Alaska with the leading edge of it pushing into North CA reaching south to nearly San Francisco. South winds were in control down to Pt Conception and in pockets over Southern CA. Wednesdays front produced limited rain along the Central Coast with 4-5 inches of snow in upper elevations of Tahoe (above 700 ft) and up to 8 inches at Kirkwood. This was just the start. Possible moderate rain starting Thursday night for San Francisco. 3 inches of snow to Tahoe. More south winds Friday at 30 kts near San Francisco early but only 15 kts down to Pt Conception as another front pushes in. Heavy rain for San Francisco early and light rain down to Pt Conception and even into Southern CA. 20-25 inches of snow for Tahoe. Saturday south winds 15 kts for Pt Conception northward. Light rain for Pt Conception northward building in the evening for North CA down to San Francisco. 2 inches snow accumulation for Tahoe but also rain at high elevations. Sunday the last front pushes south with south winds 25+ kts down to Big Sur and 15 kts to Pt Conception late and 5 kts for all of Southern CA. Cold air building in. Heavy rain for North and Central CA in the morning pushing south while fading to Pt Conception late. 16-20 more inches of snow for the Sierra possible. Total frozen snow accumulations of 40-50 inches starting 4 AM Thurs-4 PM Sun. Monday (12/3) a light wind pattern and clearing skies to take hold until late, when another front starts setting up off the coast and south winds build for North CA. Rain in the north late. South winds and rain down to Monterey Bay Tuesday (12/4) with limited snow confined to the highest elevations in Tahoe. Finally trying to clear with high pressure and north winds in control everywhere by Wednesday (12/5).
Surface - 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 no obvious signs of swell production are forecast.
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 (11/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 8.01. The 30 day average was up to 3.41 with the 90 day average down at 2.99. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated a small area of west anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) associated with Tropical Storm Bopha fading to neutral anomalies over the dateline turning easterly off Central America. This is suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO moving into the far East Pacific. A week from now (12/7) moderate east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent and the dateline fading fast east of there and neutral on into South America. This suggests the Inactive Phase is not done with the West Pacific yet. But that seems a bit inconsistent with other data. Regardless, the split jetstream flow over the North Pacific is likely a result of no coherent MJO signal or an Inactive signal. In short, we're in a weak meandering weather pattern with no forceful direction one way of the other.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/28 suggest a weak Inactive Phase in-play over the West Pacific/Maritime Continent. The statistical model suggests this to hold for one week at most, then give way to a weak Active Phase 8-15 days out (starting 12/6) The dynamic model is now tracking with the statistical model suggesting the Inactive Phase holding for the next 7 days, then rapidly collapsing with the Active Phase (currently in the Indian Ocean) migrating west into the far West Pacific. There's actually some hope for an improving North Pacific Storm Pattern starting 8 days from now (if one is to believe the models).
Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believed a return to a normal MJO cycle was occurred with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. But this latest collapse/stalling of the MJO has us rethinking that position. Maybe El Nino is not completely gone? The interesting part of this equation is warm surface water is still present in the equatorial Pacific and if anything building every so slightly over the Central Pacific. The update on 11/29 depicts cold water intrusion again showing up over the equator off Ecuador. But otherwise pockets of embedded warmer water to maybe +1.0 C were out near the dateline. Perhaps the last Kelvin wave was more beneficial than previously suspected. But the split jetstream throws the El Nino supposition into question. A split jet suggests a very weak wind flow aloft. If any flavor of El Nino or an Active Phase was in play, the jet would not be split. If anything, perhaps we're still in the netherlands between a weak El Nino in the ocean and a dissipating La Nina in the upper atmosphere - A true neutral pattern. Until such time as some sort of Active Phase develops strong enough to reunite the split jetstream flow over the North Pacific, storm potential is to remain dampened. So we will likely remain in a weak but consistent gale pattern favoring the Eastern Gulf of Alaska for now.
The 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 and initially we thought it did little to replenish the warm water pool, only holding it at a steady state. But the latest analysis suggests a more positive impact (see above). Fragments of it showed up in the Nino1+2 temp analysis mid-November and have migrated west now, centered in the region south of Hawaii to the dateline while a small pocket of cooler than normal water is in the East Pacific. This is looking almost like a weak Midoki El Nino (a guess). 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 in pockets under the equator centered near 140W. 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 to slightly enhanced range.
And what initially appeared to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggested a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. But that has collapsed (see above). 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 Winter in terms of storm production. But looking at the atmosphere, there's no overt signs of anything remotely resembling El Nino, and if anything, with a split jetstream pattern over 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 exact outcome for this Winter is in doubt. A complete lack of ENSO energy typically signals a lack of storm energy, and is perhaps a harbinger of the coming 5 months. But it's still a bit early to tell. 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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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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table