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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On Thursday (3/28) North and Central CA was seeing fading Kuril Island swell producing waves in the chest to head high range and clean but wit intermixed warble from local light southerly wind. Fog obscuring visibility. Down south in Santa Cruz residual southern hemi swell and wrapping Kuril swell was producing waves at waist high with a few bigger sets and clean. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high and clean. Down south waves were primarily coming from the Kuril Island swell at waist high and weak with some light texture building in. Hawaii's North Shore was small with minimal background windswell was producing waves at waist to maybe chest high and fairly clean but with some northeast texture. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting knee high local windswell and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale developed just west of Kamchatka Tues-Wed (3/27) tracking east producing 32 ft seas just west of the dateline, then quickly faded 24 hours later on the dateline with seas dropping from 24 ft. Another smaller gale is forecast for the dateline Tues (4/2) with 32-34 ft seas over a small area aimed east. Nothing else projected to follow. Down south a small gale peaked on Wed (3/27) southeast of New Zealand producing 38-40 ft seas over a small area then fading while lifting well to the northeast. Maybe another small pulse of sideband swell for Hawaii and shadowed energy for the mainland. But nothing to follow. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (3/28) the jetstream was .cgiit over Japan with the northern branch tracking northeast over the Kuril Islands to Kamchatka then falling southeast into a trough over the dateline but only 70 kt winds flowing into it. No real support for gale development there. The jet then tracked northeast into the Northern Gulf of Alaska before falling hard south into a weak trough just off the California Coast with 110 kt winds feeding it. Some support for low pressure development in the trough off California was indicated. The southern branch tracked southeast from Japan then turned east flowing directly over Hawaii and into Baja. Over the next 72 hours the Kamchatka trough is to push east into the Western Gulf with winds building to 110 kts but very pinched, offering no real support for gale development. The trough circulating just off the California coast is to become cutoff by Sat (3/30) then fading and moving over California within 24 hours. Beyond 72 hours the two streams of the jet are to become more undefined and diffuse with winds in the 90 kt range and no real troughs of interest forecast. Perhaps a small dip in the northern branch is forecast east of Kamchatka by Wed (4/3) offering support for low pressure development. Otherwise it looks like the North Pacific is to continue it's steady decent into hibernation.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (3/28) swell from a gale that pushed off the Kuril Islands last Thurs (3/21) was fading along the California coast. Otherwise new swell from a gale that formed off Kamchatka on Wednesday (3/27) was pushing towards Hawaii and California (see Kamchatka Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a small cut-off low is forecast developing north of Hawaii on Sun PM (3/30) producing a tiny area of 30-35 kt north winds and seas to barely 20 ft at 33N 158W aimed south at Hawaii and southeast of the US West Coast. The gale is to hold position Monday AM (4/1) while fading with seas fading from 16-18 ft at 31N 156W. Maybe some north windswell to result for Hawaii with luck.
A gale started developing off the Northern Kuril Islands and Kamchatka producing a modest sized area of 40 kt west winds winds on Tues AM (3/26) with up to 45 kt winds in the evening and seas pushing 30 ft at 46N 165E (304 degs NCal and pushing east of the 321 deg path to HI). On Wed AM (3/27) a modest fetch of 40 kt west winds held while pushing east almost reaching the dateline with seas building to 32 ft at 46N 172E (318 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). Winds were fading in the evening pushing east at 35 kts with seas fading from 28 ft at 44N 178E (325 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). A quick fade occurred Thurs AM (3/28) as the gale hit the dateline with winds falling to 30 kts and seas dropping from 24 ft at 44N 180W (329 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). No swell producing fetch is expected in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 44N 173W (334 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Some degree of modest utility class swell is expected for Hawaii with smaller energy from the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Friday night (3/29) peaking mid-day Saturday (3/30) with pure swell 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.5 ft) and holding. Swell to continue on Sunday (3/31) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.0-8.5 ft), fading as the day goes on. Swell Direction: 320 degrees
Northern CA: Small swell to arrive near sunset Sunday (3/31) at 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft). Swell to peak on Monday (4/1) at 4.0 ft @ 15-16 secs early (6 ft) then slowly fading. 13 sec residuals expected on Tues (4/2). Swell Direction: 300 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (3/26) a weak low pressure system was developing 600 nmiles west of the Central CA coast making for light south winds and cloudy skies over Central CA, but calm conditions down into Southern CA. The low is to build some and drift east Thursday night into Friday with light south to southeast winds the norm from Pt Conception northward. Heavier drizzle possible especially toward nightfall Thursday for all of North and the northern half of Central CA. Saturday the low is to continue it's slow drift to the east, with south to southeast winds 10 kts for Central CA but calm down into Southern CA. No rain Friday but then a weak front to start pushing from the west Saturday afternoon covering all of Central and North CA. Maybe a few inches of snow for Tahoe but snow levels to be very high. The low to finally move onshore late Sunday over San Francisco with winds still southerly for Central CA and turning offshore for Northern CA. Light winds for Southern CA. more light precipitation for the coast and a few more inches of snow for Tahoe but with high snow levels. A light wind flow is forecast for Monday. Scattered patches of precip for North and Central CA and a few flakes of snow for Tahoe. Wind turning light north Tuesday but quickly fading Wednesday as yet another low is forecast moving towards the coast with south winds taking control of Central and north CA late Thursday (4/4). Rain building into the North and Central Coast. Light snow possible for high elevations.
Surface - On Thursday AM (3/28) a gale was fading southeast of New Zealand (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
New Zealand Gale
On Tuesday AM (3/26) a gale was trying to organize in the deep Southwest Pacific south of New Zealand. By the evening the gale was building southeast of New Zealand lifting northeast with southwest winds 50 kts over a decent sized area of ice free waters with seas building to 34 ft at 63S 180W (205 degs SCal, 190 degs HI). The gale was pushing slightly northeast Wed AM (3/27) with winds fading from 45-50 kts over a smaller area and seas peaking at 40 ft at 61S 170W (203 degs SCal, 186 degs HI). Residual 40 kt southwest winds were fading in the evening with 34 ft seas at 59S 160W (201 degs SCal, 181 degs HI). 35 kt southerly winds were starting to push almost due north Thursday AM (3/28) with 30 ft seas lifting to 54S 157W (180 degs HI, 201 degs SCal). The fetch is to dissipate in the evening with 26 ft seas at 49S 150W (201 degs SCal). Assuming all goes as forecast some modest swell to radiate northeast. Sideband energy for Hawaii and somewhat shadowed energy (by Tahiti) for California.
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 gale is forecast developing just weest of the dateline Mon PM (4/1) generating 45-50 kt west winds over a very small area. By Tues AM (4/2) 45 kt west winds to continue on the dateline with seas building to 32 ft at 45N 177E (325 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). In the evening 45 kt west winds to hold but light north slightly generating more 32 ft seas at 46N 178W (330 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold into Wed AM (3/3) with 32 ft seas at 47N 172W (300 degs NCal). All fetch is to fade by evening with residual 26 ft seas at 48N 168W (302 degs NCal). If all goes a forecast some degree of utility class swell could reach the US West Coast with limited sideband swell for the Hawaiian Islands. Will 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.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 (3/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 14.22. The 30 day average was up some to 7.84 with the 90 day average holding in positive territory at 0.71. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated very light westerly anomalies confined to the extreme Western Maritime Continent with light to modest easterly anomalies over the Eastern Maritime Continent starting at 160E extending to the dateline. Neutral anomalies continued from the dateline the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates perhaps a slight version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in.cgiay. A week from now (4/5) modest east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and points east of there. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to remain in control in the West Pacific. This scenario provides no real support for storm development in the North Pacific attributable to the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/27 are in general agreement suggesting a small and weak version of the Inactive of the MJO was located near 165E. Over the next 15 days this minimal Inactive Phase is to hold it's ground with the statistic model having it fade some while the dynamic model has it holding on just west of the dateline. At the same time the Active Phase of the MJO is to be building in the Indian Ocean, just barely pushing west 15 days out and not fading at all. At this time it's too early to tell if it will make it to the West Pacific. But one thing is clear, there is no support from the MJO towards development of even a weak El Nino. Conversely there's no support for a La Nina either.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (3/28) a faint pool of slightly warmer water is developing in the equatorial East Pacific, but very faint. The .cgiume of slightly cooler water continues radiating off the California coast tracking southwest typical of the effects of a stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. Subsurface waters temps continue indicating cooler water (-3 deg C) in.cgiace at 135W and down at 115 meters, blocking the transport path and growing in coverage. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path blocked with the coastal pattern off the US mainland also suggested increase high pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 3/28 continue retreating slightly. They suggest a slow build up to barely warm temps by April (+0.1 degs C) only to give that up in July (-0.3 degs C) and falling into Oct and November (-0.5 deg C). A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring, Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated. We are moving into the Spring unpredictability barrier with accuracy of all the ENSO models historically low.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better.cgiace than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to even reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far small and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) 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 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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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) r.cgiaying again on Sunday (2/10) at 7 PM. Set your DVR.
'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
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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.cgiayer_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,.cgiease 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/
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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an acco.cgiished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table