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 (12/21) North and Central CA surf was shoulder to head high and a bumpy lumpy mess with northwest winds on it. A good day for Christmas shopping. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high on the sets and clean but rippled. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high and clean but very weak, pure wrap around windswell. Down south waves were waist to chest high and crumbled but clean with a small south warble running through it. Hawaii's North Shore was 10-12 ft on the face and clean coming from the west. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting east windswell at chest high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Dateline swell arrived much smaller than anticipated in Hawaii from by all accounts was supposed to be a solid gale that developed in the far West Pacific Tues (12/17) with seas modeled to 42 ft targeting primarily the Islands. That swell is starting to fade now. Whatever energy travels east is expected to reach the US West Coast later in the weekend, but set your expectations low. Another smaller system is tracking east from Japan on Sat (12/21) with seas to 46 ft initially, but fading to the 32-34 ft range on Sun (12/22) before reaching the dateline and then fading to 30 ft Tuesday AM and dissipating on the dateline. Small longer period swell possible for all. After that a micro-gale is forecast in the Northwestern Gulf late Thurs (12/26) with 36 ft seas aimed east for 24 hrs then dissipating. Looks pretty quiet after that.
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 (12/21) the jetstream was tracking solidly off Japan with 170 kt winds weakly forming a trough just off the coast there then proceeding east to the dateline and splitting. A secondary trough was just east of the dateline tracking up with the northern branch of the jet pushing towards the Gulf of Alaska ridging hard over the Gulf then down the interior US West Coast. The southern branch was falling over Hawaii and heading towards the equator. Only the trough off Hawaii held any hope for support of gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds in the Japan trough to build to 180 kts on Sun (12/22) while tracking east reaching to the dateline on Mon (12/23) providing more support for gale development in the trough now repositioned near the dateline but loosing definition. 24 hours later the trough is to be gone though a good flow of consolidated winds at 160 kts to continue tracking from Japan to the dateline if not to a point almost north of Hawaii. The split in the jet is to be there now. Beyond 72 hours wind energy in the jet is to start dissipating with the flow becoming less cohesive by Fri (12/27) but a weak trough is to start building in the the far Western Gulf of Alaska with a little pocket of 150 kt winds feeding into it supporting weak gale development. But that trough is to pinch off by Sat (12/28) while a new pocket of 170 kt winds start tracking east off Japan. Maybe there more hope for gale development longer term.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (12/21) solid high pressure at 1028 mbs remained 700 nmiles west of North California locking down the entire East Pacific while a new storm was developing off Japan (see Japan Storm below). No other swell producing weather systems of interest were occurring. Over the next 72 hours only the Japan Storm is to be in play. High pressure off the US West Coast is to ease northeast and starting to ridge into the Pacific Northwest setting up an offshore flow (again) for California by Sun (12/22).
Large Dateline Gale (Downgraded from Storm #2)
On Sun (12/15) a broad gale was developing east of Japan with winds in the 30-35 kt range streaming east off Japan halfway to the dateline late. Seas built to 24 ft at 33N 154E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Fetch continued to build Monday AM with a solid pocket of 40 kt northwest winds. Seas built to 28 ft at 33N 165E targeting Hawaii somewhat. Northwest fetch built in the evening to 45-50 kts aimed well at Hawaii with seas to 38 ft up at 36N 157E targeting Hawaii. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the leading edge of the storm at 1Z and reported seas at 34.0 ft with one reading to 37.0 ft where the model suggested 34-35 ft seas. This was right on track. 40-45 kt west winds continued Tues AM (12/17) over a solid area with 40 ft seas modeled at 32N 162E (296 degs HI and barely not shadowed by Kauai relative to Oahu, 290 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the west quadrant of the storm at 11:30Z and reported seas at 33.1 ft with one reading to 37.8 ft where the model suggested 36 ft seas. Looks like the model was over hyping that area by about 10%. By evening the gale was holding with fetch still 40-45 kts and seas 42 ft at 31N 171E (297 degs HI and not shadowed relative to Oahu, 284 degs NCal and not really aimed there). Fetch was fading Wed AM (12/18) just west of the dateline from 40-45 kts but displaced north some with seas fading from 34 ft at 32N 178E (302 degs HI and 1400 nmiles out, 283 degs NCal and aimed a little better there, 288 degs SCal). 35 kt west fetch was fading in the evening with seas fading from 33 ft at 34N 177E (306 degs HI, 287 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the storm at 0Z and reported average seas at 26.9 ft with one peak reading to 34.9 ft where the model suggested seas of 28-29 ft. Looks like the model was over hyping the storm some. It looks like decent swell will result for Hawaii though nothing over the top and nothing in the significant class range with lesser size and less direct energy for the US West Coast.
Note: Due to the underwhelming amount of swell that hit both Hawaii and the outer buoys there, this storm has been retroactively stripped of its storm status. We are still waiting for Swell #2 to develop.
Hawaii: Swell fading Saturday (12/21) from 9 ft @ 16 sec early (14 ft Hawaiian) down to 7.5 ft @ 15 secs late (11 ft). Swell fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7-8 ft faces) on Sun (12/22). Decent Consistency.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival Sat (12/21) at sunset with period 21 secs and perhaps barely rideable. Swell to start peaking Sunday AM (12/22) at 6 ft @ 18 secs (11 ft) and maddeningly inconsistent. Based on what happened in Hawaii, this estimate is likely very much on the high side. Plan accordingly. Much variability between sparse sets. Period dropping to 17 secs at sunset with swell 6.3 ft @ 17 secs (10.5 ft). Swell fading Monday (12/23) from 6 ft @ 15-16 secs (9.5 ft). Tues (12/24) residuals dropping from 4.0 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 283-287 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival late Saturday (12/21) near 8 PM with period 22 secs and size slowly building. Period to turn to 20 secs near 8 AM Sun (12/22) with size rideable 2.4 ft @ 20 secs (5 ft faces) and coming up steadily, peaking near sunset at 2.8 ft @ 18-19 secs (5 ft with bigger sets) and holding over night. Based on what happened in Hawaii, this estimate is likely very much on the high side. Plan accordingly. Swell to still be 3.1 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft) at sunrise Mon (12/23) then tapering a little late afternoon. Tues (12/24) AM swell fading from 2.7 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 288-295 degrees
A small gale started developing off Japan on Friday (12/20) tracking east producing a tiny area of 45-50 kt west winds and seas building to 44 ft at 36N 152E in the evening targeting Hawaii and California. On Sat AM (12/21) a solid but small area of 50 kt west winds held pushing flat east with seas building to 46 ft at 37N 159E (302 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds to ease east into the evening generating 45 ft seas at 38N 164E (306 degs HI, 294 degs NCal). The gale to start fading Sun AM (12/22) with winds down to 40 kts and seas fading from 36 ft at 39N 171E (312 degs HI, 295 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). The gale to rebuild slightly in the evening to form a second pulse with 45 kt west winds redeveloping and 36 ft seas up at 42N 170E (312 degs HI, 294 degs NCal). The gale is to fade some Mon AM (12/23) with a small area of 40 kt west wind and mostly 40 kt west winds remaining and seas dropping from 33 ft over a small area at 41N 174E (317 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). Fetch is to hold at 40 kts in the evening with 31 ft seas holding at 40N 175E (not really aimed up the 315 degree path to HI, 294 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). West fetch fading Tues AM (12/24) from 35-40 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 30 ft at 41N 180W (293 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). The system is to dissipate from there. At this time most energy is to be pushing up the great circle paths to NCal, with a far more indirect energy into Hawaii but much closer. The swell to be a little too north to SCal to reach into many breaks. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Rough data for planning purposes suggests swell arrival on Tues (12/24) with period 18-19 secs ands well peaking at sunset. Swell to continue Christmas Day with period 16 secs and actually increasing some on Thurs (12/26) with period back up to 16 secs (from the second pulse of the storm) then starting to fade Friday. Swell Direction: 305 initially then turning to 312-317 degrees
North CA: Rough data for planning purposes has this swell arriving the day after Christmas with period 18-19 secs, fading some the day after, the rebuilding Sat (12/28) with period 16 secs. Size to be below 10 ft. Swell Direction: 293-295 degrees
Southern CA: Swell to arrive the day after Christmas and tiny, pulsing better on Fri (12/27) with period 17 secs, then rebuilding later Sat (12/28). Swell size to max around the head high range. Swell Direction: 298 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 (12/21) solid high pressure at 1030 mbs was 700 nmiles west of Northern CA ridging somewhat into the Central CA coast generating northwest winds at 15-20 kts and making a mess of conditions for North and Central CA. Southern Ca was in a calm eddy protected by Pt Conception. By Sunday (12/22) a light wind flow is forecast taking control as the day progresses for everywhere but Cape Mendocino (20 kt north winds there) and fading even there later in the day. A light offshore flow to take hold Mon (12/23) as the high starts ridging inland over the Pacific Northwest. But Tuesday a gradient to form over Cape Mendocino setting up north winds there to 25 kts with some north wind wrapping south to maybe San Francisco, then fading into Christmas Day. But by Thurs (12/26) an offshore flow is to again become established holding into the weekend.
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 tiny gale is projected developing on the dateline late Wed-Thurs (12/26) with 45 kt west winds producing up to 32 ft seas aimed mainly at the US West Coast, then building on Fri (12/27) with 45 kt west winds generating up to 36 ft seas aimed like before. still, the fetch area is to be tiny not offering much in term of swell production. Nothing else is on the charts.
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 (12/21) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -0.05. The 30 day average was down to 7.58 and the 90 day average was falling from 2.37. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a weak and fading 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 weak to modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending over the dateline then fading to neutral south of Hawaii and continuing into Central America. A week from now (12/29) neutral anomalies to finally take hold over the Maritime Continent and the dateline extending to a point south of Hawaii and continuing neutral on into Central America. In all this suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is currently over the West Pacific and fading expected to dissipate.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/20 are now more in-sync. Both suggest a weak Inactive Phase was fading while tracking east of the dateline. It is to be gone 15 days out with a new Active Phase currently building over the Philippines and slowly easing east, perhaps with it's leading edge reaching just to the dateline 15 days out. Even the conservative dynamic model is in agreement, though suggesting it will not be as strong as the Statistic model suggests. This is an upgrade from previous runs. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 12/21 suggests support for the Inactive Phase is gone and a weak Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 12/26 and slowly tracking east into Jan 5 before dissipating on the dateline. In parallel a new weak Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Jan 15 easing east and moving into the East Pacific 1/30 with a new Active Phase building behind it. 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 (12/19) 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 and has not stopped. A building pocket of warmer water continues over Chile and all of Peru now, 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 all the result of much offshore winds. 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 solid pocket of warm water 2 degs C above normal is down at 50 meters near 100W and is moving through the far East equatorial Pacific about ready to impact the coasts of Ecuador and Columbia. This is a eastward moving Kelvin Wave. This is great news in that it is expected to 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 over the next 2 months.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 12/21 remain unchanged and optimistic. The model previously had suggested rapid warming starting March 2014 building to +1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Then the model backed off some, but more recent runs started again suggesting warming expected. Today's run suggests warming to +1.1 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 through February, then on the increase. 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