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.
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We just want to thank you for continuing to support Stormsurf and the folks who advertise with us. It's been a good year and we have new project and new content in development and coming your way. We hope you have a great holiday and get some waves, or fresh tracks! Forecasts will be sporadic over the next 2-3 weeks while we try and have a little fun ourselves. Again, thank you and have a happy and safe holiday!
On Monday (12/24) North and Central CA had residual windswell from the Northern Gulf producing surf in the 3 ft overhead range at top breaks and pretty wonky and warbled but with light local winds early. Rideable none the less. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were waist to chest high with head high sets and clean but a bit warbled and not very powerful. Southern California up north was knee to thigh high and pretty warbled and junky looking even though winds was light. Pure windswell. Down south waves were waist high with maybe chest high sets and pretty funked up by onshore winds. Hawaii's North Shore was getting no real swell with waves waist high or so and clean and lined up but weak and inconsistent. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting north windswell at waist to chest high and somewhat chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A small gale developed on the dateline falling southeast Sun-Mon producing 33-34 ft seas over a small area. Swell is in the water heading towards Hawaii. Another stronger system is forecast developing Tues (12/25) on the dateline tracking east-northeast Wednesday with seas building to to 43-44 ft then fading in the Northern Golf. Modest longer period swell possible focused mainly on the US west Coast late week. And a broader but weaker system is forecast for the dateline region Fri-Sat (12/29) with seas in the 34 ft range targeting Hawaii well initially. An more is expected behind that. Looks like Winter is finally arriving.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (12/24) the split jetstream pattern had finally healed with a singular flow now tracking flat from Japan eastward pushing inland over North CA. Winds were up to 180 kts off Japan approaching the dateline then fading just east of there, then rebuilding to 160 kts in a small pocket off California. A broad trough was trying to organize off Japan and a small one was in the Gulf of Alaska, both supportive of some limited degree of low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold, but with the winds in the west fading then rebuilding in the same location pushing 210 kts by Thurs (12/27) and starting to form some degree of a broad trough above it supportive of gale development. Beyond 72 hours that wind pocket is to start moving east reaching the dateline by Fri (12/28) with winds down to 190 kts then moving north of Hawaii by Mon (12/31) and getting steeper and almost pinching off. Behind a solid flow of 150-160 kts winds to continue reaching from Japan falling into the trough, then ridging up into British Columbia. Continued support for gale development in the trough.
Surface Analysis - On Monday (12/24) leftover wind energy associated with the first dateline gale were fading in the Gulf of Alaska (see 1st Dateline Gale below). Another conglomeration of wind energy was starting to set up in the Western Pacific (see 2nd Dateline Gale below). Over the next 72 hours yet a third gale is forecast developing over the West Pacific tracking east (see 3rd Dateline Gale below). In all a pretty active pattern is forecast all thanks to a vastly improved jetstream flow aloft.
1st Dateline Gale
On Saturday (12/22) a gale developed over the Northern Dateline region producing 40 kt northwest winds over a small area at 45N 173E falling southeast. By evening 50 kt northwest winds were in place over a small area with seas up to 35 ft at 43N 180W (325 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Sunday AM (12/23) a small area of 45 kt northwest winds were hanging on producing 34 ft seas at 40N 177W (323 degs HI, 292 NCal). In the evening winds were down to 35 kts over a modest area and seas were fading from 29 ft at 37N 170W (329 degs HI, 285 NCal). Monday AM (12/24) winds were fading from 35 kts with residual sea at 25 ft at 37N 160W (280 NCal, 287 SCal). This system is to be gone by evening. This system was targeting Hawaii best with only limited swell generation potential for the mainland.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues (12/25) just before sunrise with period 18 secs and size building, peaking near 10 AM with pure swell 7.6 ft @ 17 secs (13 ft Hawaiian). Size dropping by sunset as swell moves to 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 323-329 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wednesday evening (12/26) at 6 PM with period 18 secs, then size peaking from 4 AM Thurs (12/27) to noon at 5.3 ft @ 16 secs (8 ft). Swell Direction: 285-2965 degrees. Much local windswell on top.
2nd Dateline Storm
On Tuesday AM (12/25) a small storm is forecast building on the dateline generating a tiny area of 50 kt northwest winds. Seas on the increase from 28 ft. By evening a compact area of 55+ kt west winds are forecast in place with seas on the increase from 41 ft over a tiny area at 41N 174W targeting primarily the US West Coast (292 degs NCal, 330 degs HI). This system is to be lifting northeast on Wednesday AM (12/26) with a solid area of 50 kt northwest winds in place and seas 40 ft over a building area at 44N 165W targeting both Hawaii (347 degs) and NCal (295 degs). In the evening a broad area of 45 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Western Gulf with 44 ft seas at 47N 160W (302 degs NCal). On Thursday (12/27) west winds are to be fading in the Gulf from 40 kts winds seas dropping from 39 ft at 47N 154W (304 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by evening.
If all goes as modeled some degree of longer period swell is likely for most US targets. Rideable sideband swell is possible for Hawaii later in the workweek and more direct energy and larger swell for the US West Coast by the weekend. Will monitor.
3rd Dateline Gale
Also starting Wed PM (12/26) another gale is forecast building off Japan with a broad area of 40-45 kt westerly winds and 37 ft seas forecast at 40N 160E. A fading area of 40-45 kt westerly winds to continue Thurs AM (12/27) with seas 37 ft at 39N 170E. That fetch is to dissipate in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 38N 176E. A new fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds are to build on already agitated seas Friday AM (12/28) with seas rebuilding from 28 ft at 36N 168E. The fetch to remain unchanged while pushing west to the dateline with seas building to 34 ft at 35N 178E. Fetch is to be fading Sat AM (12/29) from 40 kts with seas 34 ft at 36N 174W. This system is to be gone by evening. If all to go as forecast some degree of larger utility class swell is possible for the Hawaiian Islands with lesser and well decayed energy for the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (12/24) low pressure was building in the Gulf of Alaska pushing towards the US West Coast with weak high pressure at 1024 mbs trying to hang on locally generating a weak northerly flow over the California coast. By Tuesday the low is to start impacting the coast late with south winds and rain the norm down to Monterey Bay reaching Point Conception late then wind turning north as the front pushes through. Snow for Tahoe starting at 4 PM continuing through 4 PM Wednesday with accumulation of 15-19 inches. High pressure and north winds expected everywhere Wednesday but instability to continue scattered rain slowly fading into Thursday. Light winds Friday as a cutoff low builds off North CA. The low to fall south Saturday setting up offshore winds for most of the North and Central coasts. Rain to remain barely off the Central Coast. Wind turning northeast Sunday but calm in Southern CA.
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 a small and weak gale is forecast forming north-northwest of Hawaii on Sun (12/30) with 35-40 kt winds and 28 ft seas pushing fairly close to the Islands and directing westerly energy towards the US West Coast. Also a stronger and more organized gale is forecast pushing off Japan by Mon (12/31).
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 Monday (12/24) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up at 9.55. The 30 day average was up to -9.06 with the 90 day average up some at -0.47. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) giving way to modest east anomalies over the dateline continuing in pockets all the way to Central America. This suggest a weak version of the Inactive Phase. A week from now (1/1) solid east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline then fading east of there going neutral on into South America. This suggests a continuation of Inactive Phase of the MJO over the Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/23 suggest a modest Inactive Phase was in-play over the Pacific with the Active Phase of the MJO locked in the Indian Ocean. Both models are now in agreement indicating the Inactive Phase is to hold for at least a week if not continuing 2 weeks out while the Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean trying to ease east. Theoretically this should support a split jetstream pattern offering no real catalyst for gale development over the coveted dateline region. Take anything you can get now before this pattern re-establishes itself.
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 occurring with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. But the collapse/stalling of the MJO in November and December rendered that projection false. As of now (12/23) it seems the MJO is dead or weakly Inactive. Conversely the singular jetstream flow aloft is symptomatic of the Active Phase. Regardless, if the long range models are correct regarding a building Inactive Phase of the MJO, the split jet will return and the storm pattern will falter. At this point in the season we're now thinking on significantly downgrading the long range outlook, being that it appears we're in a dead neutral pattern and no energy pushing the global weather pattern in any direction. This would result in a long term pattern of depressed levels of storm potential.
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. Some data suggested a slightly strong impact, but nothing remarkable. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific between Sept 2 and Oct 9. That Kelvin Wave had 2-3 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water and was located in pockets under the equator. It has reached the Central America coast and has provided a little boost to water temps, but nothing dramatic. At a minimum it should keep things in the normal range. Water temps off Ecuador have returned to normal of even slightly warmer as of 12/13.
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 almost a return to La Nina with -0.5 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. So the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start.
It appears we are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. Based on current data the outcome for this Winter is not looking good. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell, but the total lack of any real activity so far is going to make us downgrade that projection. A complete lack of ENSO energy typically signals a lack of storm energy, and is perhaps a harbinger of the coming 5 months. Longer term 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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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:
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table