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 Saturday (12/14) North and Central CA surf was 1-2 ft overhead and clean and pretty well lined up early but a little warbled from the high tide. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high with overhead sets and clean but again warbled from the tide. In Southern California up north surf was knee to thigh high and clean and well lined up. It looked like swell was trying to move in but was swamped by the tide. Down south waves were waist high wit a few bigger sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting dateline swell at 13 ft Hawaiian early and clean. Swell peaked overnight. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting warp around dateline swell from the north at chest high and pretty hacked from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a small and weak gale previously off Oregon on Mon-Wed (12/11) with seas in the 20-22 ft range was hitting California making for rideable surf north of Pt Conception. Swell from a stronger gale that developed on the dateline Wed-Thurs AM (12/12) falling towards Hawaii with up to 37 ft seas had already peaked on the Islands. The gale then turned it's energy east Thurs-Fri (12/13) producing a tiny area of 34-38 ft seas, aimed well at California up into Oregon. Swell expected for California Mon (12/16). And long term a broad gale remains forecast in the far West Pacific Mon-Tues (12/17), but significantly downgraded from previous estimates with seas now only 37 ft but targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Another small system is forecast behind that. So it's looking like winter is finally starting to wake up.
Note: NDBC has issued a schedule to start repairing buoys as of 11/12/13. Unfortunately no buoys of interest to California are scheduled through September 2014. TOA Array (El Nino Monitoring) buoys are set for maintenance in April 2014.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (12/14) the jetstream was starting to push off Japan solidly with winds near 180 kts over japan with lesser energy pushing flat off the coast to the dateline falling gently into a small trough there. A little bit of support for gale development on the dateline possible. East of there then jet split with the northern branch tracking northeast up into British Columbia and the southern branch splitting again with energy tracking into Baja and the equator. No support for gale development east of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of energy pushing off Japan is to track east building to 190 kts reaching the dateline and falling in to a well developed trough there with good circulation supporting gale development into Tuesday (12/17). East of there the jet is to remain split (starting at 170W) with the northern branch lifting north then turning east pushing into British Columbia with the southern branch drifting over Hawaii then splitting again tracking into Baja and the equator like before. Beyond 72 hours the dateline trough is to have 180 kt winds feeding it through Wednesday, then starting to back off as the trough itself starts lifting northeast and fading. Most energy east of there is to move into the northern branch of the split flow ridging hard north up into North Canada support high pressure down in lower levels of the atmosphere into Friday (12/20). Beyond winds are to again start building off Japan reaching 160 kts on Sat (12/21) but no real troughs indicated. A far weaker split flow is forecast in the east with the split point moved east to about 160W (north of Hawaii). Perhaps some limited support for gale development is possible in the West Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (12/14) weak low pressure was circulating in the Northern Gulf of Alaska with winds 35 kts, remnants of a solid gale previously positioned north of Hawaii tracking east and producing solid swell (see Dateline Gale below). Swell from a weak gale previously in the Gulf of Alaska was hitting the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below). Weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was tracking into Oregon providing clear skies and a developing offshore flow for California. A new gale was trying to develop over North Japan but not doing anything of interest yet. This is forecast to become a system of interest and is documented below (see Large Dateline Gale in the Long term forecast). Also a small gale was developing on the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the Large Dateline Gale is to be the primary system of interest. But until that one actually starts developing starting near Japan, a small system was over the dateline producing a tiny area of 35-40 kt west winds in it's southern quadrant aimed somewhat at Hawaii. Seas had built to 24 ft over a tiny area at 40N 178W on Sat AM (12/14). Westerly fetch to hold into the evening generating 24-26 ft seas over a tiny area at 39N 174W (325 degs and 1500 nmiles from Hawaii). This system to dissipate quickly after that and be gone by Sun AM (12/15). Small swell possible in Hawaii on Tues (12/17) peaking at 4.5 ft @ 14 secs at sunrise (6 ft faces) from 325 degrees.
A small gale developed north of Hawaii on Mon AM (12/9) lifting northeast with a small area of 35 kt west winds and seas on the increase. In the evening west-northwest winds were up to 40 kt with seas building to 20 ft at 42N 159W (287 degs NCal). By Tues AM (12/10) 35 kt west winds were fading with seas holding at 20 ft over a modest sized area 42N 154W (290 degs NCal). By evening winds to be holding at 35 kts out of the west-northwest but retrograding west some with seas 20 ft at 45N 157W (296 degs NCal). The gale to be lifting northeast and fading Wed AM (12/11) with 35 kt winds in the Northern Gulf and seas 20 ft at 46N 155W (297 degs NCal). Fetch was fading in the evening with 20 ft seas fading at 47N 149W (306 degs NCal). This system was gone after that.
At this time some degree of limited 13-14 secs period swell looks likely for the US West Coat late in the week. No energy was aimed into the Hawaiian swell window.
NCal: A second pulse from this system to hit on Saturday (12/14) at 4.8 ft @ 13 secs early (6 ft faces) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area then fading from there. Swell Direction: 296+ degrees second pulse. Residuals fading on Sunday (12/15) from 4 ft @ 10-11 secs (4 ft).
On Tuesday (12/10) a gale was starting to build on the dateline and positioned well south of normal. No fetch was aimed at Hawaii or the US West Coast. The gale lifted gently northeast and built with 35-40 kt north winds developing aimed due south on the dateline Wed AM (12/11) with seas on the increase. In the evening a solid fetch of 45 kt north-northwest winds were in the gales west quadrant with 29 ft seas building at 38N 176W (323 degs HI). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the fetches north quadrant and confirmed seas at 27.8 ft with a peak reading to 31.2 ft where the model suggested 27 ft seas. The model was right on the money. On Thurs AM (12/12) the gale was lifting gently northeast with 45 kt northwest winds turning more to pure west winds aimed both at Hawaii and the US West Coast with seas to 37 ft at 37.5N 170W (330 degs HI, 286 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite made a passover the extreme eastern edge of this system and reported seas of 22.3 ft with one reading to 24.9 ft where the model suggested 23 ft seas. The model was on track. In the evening 40-45 kt west winds to hold in the gales south quadrant aimed exclusively at the US West Coast with seas fading as the fetch regroups to 34 ft at 40N 162W (287 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). By Fri AM (12/13) a small fetch of 45 kt west winds are to be fading in the gales south quadrant with the gale tracking northeast with seas fading from 38 ft at 41N 163W (287 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Friday evening winds to be fading from 35 kts in the Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 32 ft at 43N 156W (293 degs NCal). On Sat AM (12/14) this system is to be gone.
A solid shot of swell is already in the water heading towards Hawaii from the initial push of this gale. Swell relative to California from the second pulse of this gale is still undetermined, as the system is still evolving. A rough estimate is provided below for planning purpose though. All this assumes the storm progresses as forecast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri late afternoon evening (12/13) with swell reaching 8 ft @ 17 secs at sunset (13-14 ft Hawaiian). Swell to peak near 11 PM HST and then holding into Sat AM (12/14). Swell 9 ft @ 15-16 secs at sunrise (14 ft Hawaiian) then slowly easing through the day, but still solid with period 15 secs at sunset. Swell fading from 6.6 ft @ 14 secs Sun AM (9 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 321-326 degrees with some energy to 330 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival late Sunday (12/15) with period 18 secs and size building overnight, peaking near 11 PM at 7.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (13 ft) and holding into Monday sunrise (12/16) with period 16 secs, then slowly fading through the day with swell dropping to 7 ft @ 15 secs late (10-11 ft). Swell Direction: 286-293 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival late Sunday evening and to be solid by Monday AM (12/16) pushing 3 ft @ 17 secs mid-day (5 ft faces) with period still 16 secs at sunset. Swell fading Tues (12/17) from 2.7 ft @ 14 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 291-294 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (12/14) modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was pushing into Oregon and poised to set up an offshore flow for California in the days ahead. But a weak northerly winds flow was in place on Saturday at 10 kts over outer CA waters, though weaker nearshore. Sunday a light offshore flow is forecast with high pressure starting to push inland over Oregon. A bit of a gradient is forecast over Cape Mendocino on Sun-Mon with north-northeast winds 15+ kts, but light to calm from Pt Arena southward. A light to calm flow is expected on Tues and early Wed (12/18). But by Thurs (12/19) high pressure is to build strong in the Gulf at 1034 mbs with low pressure inland setting up a local pressure gradient with 35+ kt north winds forecast over all of North and Central CA with 30 kt northwest wind wrapping into Southern CA late Thursday. Friday the gradient to relax some but 20 kt north winds are still forecast for North and Central CA dropping to 10 kts for Southern CA. A weak winds pattern to take over Saturday. There's a hint of light show for Tahoe and liquid precipitation for Southern CA ahead of the gradient on Thurs (12/19).
Surface - 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 a broad gale remains forecast to build east of the Northern Japan (See Large Dateline Gale below). Beyond that a tiny gale is projected developing off Japan on Friday evening (12/20) tracking east producing a tiny area of 45 kt west winds and seas to 36 ft mid-day Sat (12/21) at 40N 165E targeting Hawaii initially. Something to monitor.
Large Dateline Gale
On Sun (12/15) a broad gale is to be developing east of Japan with winds in the 35-40 kt range streaming east off Japan halfway to the dateline late. Sea building to 24 ft at 33N 155E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Fetch is to continue to build Monday AM with one small pocket in the 45 kt range wit others at 35-40 kts. Seas building to 27 ft at 31N 167E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Northwest fetch to build in the evening to 40-45 kts aimed well at Hawaii with seas to 33 ft down at 32N 162E targeting Hawaii. 40-45 kt west winds are forecast Tues AM (12/17) over a solid area with 30-34 ft seas projected at 34N 160E (298 degs HI and barely not shadowed by Kauai relative to Oahu, 287 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). By evening the gale is to be holding with fetch still 40-45 kts and seas 37 ft at 31N 170E (296 degs HI and shadowed relative to Oahu, 285 degs NCal and not really aimed there). Fetch fading Wed AM (12/18) just west of the dateline from 40-45 kts but displaced north some with seas fading from 36 ft at 35N 172W (305 degs HI and 1800 nmiles out, 290 degs NCal and aimed a little better there). 35 kt west fetch is to be fading in the evening with seas fading from 35 ft at 35N 176E (306 degs HI, 287 degs NCal). This most recent data is a downgrade from previous projections and is not surprising. Consider this system is still a very long ways from forming, and the models will undoubtedly downgrade and upgrade as we get closer to it's formation (assuming it even forms at all). Certainly something to monitor.
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 Saturday (12/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 12.04. The 30 day average was up to at 6.99 and the 90 day average was falling from 3.13. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a very weak Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was just above neutral territory suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO also. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends, so the move into positive readings is not unexpected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading to light strength on the dateline and continuing light south of Hawaii before fading to neutral east of there and continuing into Central America. A week from now (12/21) weak to modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to light or even neutral over the dateline and turning fully neutral south of Hawaii on into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is over the West Pacific and is slowly fading (per the dynamic model).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/13 are a bit at odds with each other. Both models suggest a modest Inactive Phase was established over the West Pacific centered near the dateline. The statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to slowly dissipate while easing east over the next 15 days while the Active Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean into the far West Pacific 8 days out and takes over 15 days out. This is a positive outlook. The dynamic model is more conservative suggesting the Inactive Phase has already peaked on the dateline and is to quickly dissipate 5 days from now, but is to give up no ground, with it's remnants locked over the dateline keeping the Active Phase bottled up in the Indian Ocean for the next 15 days. The Active Phase is to die there. This would be bad if it were to occur. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/14 suggests support for the Inactive Phase is gone, with a weak Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 12/19 and slowly tracking east into Jan 3 moving over the East Pacific at that time. In parallel a new weak Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Jan 8 easing east and moving into the East Pacific 1/23. 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 (12/12) a completely neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines if not biased on the warm side of neutral (+0.25 degs C). This is the best we've seen in quite a while. A weak tongue of warmer than normal water started developing over the East Pacific mid-October in sync with a building Active Phase of the MJO. Some slight erosion occurred thereafter, but has stopped and a neutral to warmish pattern started setting up in Dec. A building pocket of warmer water continues over Chile and Southern Peru and is building north, almost covering all of Peru and Ecuador, a good sign. Water temps off West Africa remain slightly warm. The California cool plume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California remains modest but still in-place. The wall of warmer than normal water just off the North CA coast remains displaced west, held off by high pressure and local upwelling. A week or more of offshore winds isn't helping either. Still, thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. In short, there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing yet, but there are some interesting suggestions of such a pattern trying to develop. And certainly there's no troubling cool water on the charts and if anything, warm water is getting the upper hand. We remain in a pure neutral pattern (as neutral as it can get). It will take 3 months from the time the cool eddy ended off the Galapagos and a fully neutral pattern developed (mid-Sept) till anything helpful to the jetstream manifests in the upper atmosphere (mid-Dec).
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a large pocket of warm water 2-3 degs C above normal is down at 150 meters and has been moving from just west of the dateline (170E) to the dateline (180W) then to the Central Pacific (140W) and now to the East Pacific (110 W). Temps are up to +3.0 deg C too off Central America at depth. NOAA is calling this an eastward moving Kelvin Wave. Today's chart indicates 3+ deg C waters are positioned 100 meters down at 110W and pushing east, suggesting the Kevin Wave has crossed the dead spot in the East Pacific sensor array and the warm pocket is in-fact still coherent and pushing east . This is great news. The expectation is it will now impact Ecuador and provide slight warming to the already warming surface warm pool near the Galapagos (a good thing) over the next 30-45 days. The hope is this will add some fuel to the jetstream.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 12/12 remains stable. The model previously had suggested rapid warming starting March 2014 building to +1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Previous runs backed off some, but more recent runs are suggesting warming expected to +0.9 deg C by Aug-Sept 2014. For the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering near 0.0 deg C. A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond 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 Summer 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 Updated 12/4/13
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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Epic TV goes to Rapa Nui and scores. Nice Stormsurf plug too: Rapa Nui
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