Northern NSW and South East Queensland Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 31st January)
Best Days: Plenty of waves right throughout the period, although local winds will confine the best waves to protected spots. Looking quite active later next week too.
Recap: Plenty of solid waves over the last few days but local winds have really taken the sheen off things. Interesting to see lots of references to ‘cyclone swell’ across SE Qld at the moment, when this isn’t the case - TC Dylan is way too far north to have any direct influence on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast's surf. Sure, there’s a robust easterly flow in our immediate swell window but this is mainly due to a strong ridge across the region (thanks to a broad high pressure system in the Tasman Sea), and is pretty common for this time of year anyway. The only influence TC Dylan is having is that it’s swung the wind direction more to the east (than typical SE), which is resulting in average conditions. But cyclone swell this ain’t.
This weekend (Feb 1-2)
Nothing of major interest this weekend, but there will be something surfable on offer. Wave heights will slowly ease all weekend as the ridge of high pressure relaxes in response to ex-TC Dylan’s inland movement. Winds will still be onshore E’ly on Saturday tending more SE on Sunday but there is a chance for early periods of lighter SW winds in the Coolangatta region both mornings (less chance of this on the Sunny Coast). Overall keep your expectations low but you’ll certainly get wet.
Next week (Feb 3-7)
There’s an impressive low pressure system currently north of New Zealand, which looks quite good on the pressure charts. Indeed, the OSCAT satellite returns are showing a reasonably broad area of 50kt E’ly winds near 31S, 178W - winds of this strength are not especially common, and if positioned in the right environment has the potential to generate large swells with long periods. These winds are also marginally higher than what the computer models were estimating (so, we should adjust the swell output correspondingly). They’re also more E’ly in direction (model forecasts have a SE direction).
However there are a few factors working against the East Coast’s swell potential from this system. Firstly, the low is a very long way from the mainland. Secondly, it’s tracking slowly south/southeast, which is perpendicular to our swell window. Thirdly, the fetch is about to slip into the swell shadow of New Zealand’s North Island (although, this will initially affect the southern NSW coast more so than Northern NSW and SE Qld). And fourthly, the majority of the existing - and forecast - fetch is SE in direction, aimed up into the Coral Sea, so the eventual swell size will be smaller at the coast due to it being mainly sideband energy as it arrives.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the strength and size of this low. And although it’s moving unfavourable S/SE, this forward track is very slow. So, it should kick up a reasonable groundswell event that is estimate to make landfall in the early hours of Monday morning.
In fact, there’ll be two swells in the water on Monday - this E/SE groundswell plus a rebuilding E/SE trade swell thanks to a restrengthening of the high pressure ridge across the lower Coral Sea on Sunday and into the new week.
Unfortunately, our swell model is not resolving the E/SE groundswell very well, so I’m expecting much more size than it's projecting (somewhere in the 3-4ft range) however set waves will be VERY inconsistent. Maybe 15-20 minutes between the bigger waves. But, the short range E/SE swell will be of a similar size so it’ll fill in the gaps nicely. Don’t be surprised to see occasional bigger sets too, as the irregular swell trains converge every now and then. Winds will probably be fresh SE at times so this will obviously favour the points.
From Tuesday thru’ Wednesday we’ll then see a combination of easing E/SE groundswell and steady E/SE trade swell. There’s no suggestion for anything interesting in the wind department during this time, so expect more of the same SE tending E/SE airstream as the ridge ebbs and flows in our immediate swell window.
Thursday looks interesting. We’ve got a southerly change expected to advance along the East Coast during Tuesday/Wednesday, and some interesting tropical developments expected to spin up within the monsoon trough near Vanuatu around the same time, before it tracks south below New Caledonia.
Although no major weather systems are expected to develop as a result (at this point in time, anyway) their convergence could reignite the local SE flow up into the Coral Sea which could really super-charge the short range SE swell energy across this region. As such Thursday and Friday have the potential for some consistent, solid waves across the exposed points.
In fact the monsoon trough looks to remain an active feature across the New Caledonian region into the long term, which will probably be an ongoing source of decent swell for the SE Qld region. But we'll deal with that in more detail on Monday.
Looking further to the south, and there’s one other interesting system we should really keep an eye on (although its swell prospects will probably favour southern NSW). Following the Tues/Wed southerly change along the East Coast, it appears that a decent cut-off low will form just west of the SW tip of New Zealand’s South Island later Tuesday and into Wednesday. There’s good agreement between the models that such a scenario will eventuate, but we’ll have to wait a few more days before firming up the specifics regarding size/strength/timing etc. Either way, this should kick up a SE groundswell for Southern NSW around Friday and with some luck we’ll see long period energy making its way to the Northern NSW and SE Qld coasts by Saturday. More on this in Monday’s update.
Hmmmm, in my experience Ben, surfing two very different swell periods (8 seconds and 12-13 seconds) doesn't mix cause 9 times out of 10, when the 12-13 second sets arrive, there's an 8 second wave just in front of it, causing double ups and wobbles in the 12-13 second swell. So I'm not so sure early next week is going to be that good IMO.
I'm not expecting it to be amazing either.. fresh SE winds and a mix of swells in the 3-4ft+ range is pretty bog standard for this time of year. The excitement in my notes seems to be contained within the description of the weather system generating the E'ly groundswell.
It can sometimes turn high tide back bank mushburgers into easy entry back bank drainpipes... I reckon the main problem is thinking you have a shoulder, then seeing the entire wave shutdown.
Good run down and worded forecast Ben.
Yeah thanks for the nice forecast. It might save me copping 6 waves on the head in the 'ol 10-12 wave set!
Lot more detailed then the normal forecasts, i like !!
Thanks for mentioning the sunny coast Ben. Makes a nice change. Usually we have to read between the (Nth NSW and Gold Coast) lines with regards to the forecast for the forgotten coast.
Good work with the detail re the sunny coast, cheers.
ACCESS's barred the cut off low :-(
Great work on the forecast mate! Really interesting reading!
Yeah, great to have the master back at the controls but it'll be interesting to see how much comes to pass.
Already less than 24hours from this update we've got TC Edna in the Coral Sea with reasonable surf prospects and the latest GFS showing another low spinning up along vorticity associated with the SE surge into the monsoon trough. GFS shows this system tracking straight into the SEQLD/NENSW coast.
Not that GFS has had much of a handle on the erratic monsoon trough in the last couple of weeks but it shows how fast and unpredictable developments can happen this time of year along an active MT.
Quite funny you say that FR76,
All advanced forecasting 5+ days etc, is like a baby sipping on mothers milk, you can take so much in then ya puke or sleep or something.
This morning Access G is so much different to what it is now, 3 days ahead is fine but can still change with the blink of an eye.
Forecasting ahead of this period is great which I totally respect, but it always changes from day to day especially with an active MT like you said.
We are lucky to have such great info at our finger tips now, compared to getting the newspaper and looking at the 1 day synoptic chart.
Thanks to weather techs and computers :)
Edna back to tropical low......poor old Edna.
Freeride, or anyone, any insights into why the coolie & Ballina winds tweaked W this morn, but Byron didn't?
MV, you need to note the location of the Ballina and Cooly weather stations compared with Byron. Byron is elevated and quite east of the remainder of the coastline either side of it.
Cooly and Ballina weatherstations are actually not even at the coast, but inland at the airports and quite low in elevation compared to the Byron weatherstation. So landbreezes will always show more so at Ballina and Cooly compared with Byron, but that's not to say that there's actually any real landbreeze at the coast (beach and for some distance offshore) at either of these locations (cooly and Ballina).
Ahhhh of course, thanks Don. I always applied that logic to the readings out at DI Point and Moreton, but never backwards to Cooly, etc. That's why the coastwatch (not coastALwatch) site makes note of the position, I just don't look at those graphs anymore.
I always just thought that the further south you go, the cooler it gets and the better the winds are. Then I assumed the local topographic effects of the range behind Cooly, amplified the difference to the Seaway readings. But it always baffled me how Byron seemed to have worse winds, yet be more topographically 'diverse'.
DonW is correct. Also quite often the seabreeze/landbreeze layer is very thin and weak and it can read W at the Ballina AWS and be blowing straight E'ly on the coast.
Cheers guys. I tried guessing what the winds would do over the Aus day long weekend, but nothing beats an "ignorance is bliss" attitude sometimes. I surfed Flat Rock and got some real shreddable faces, which only became apparent until you were actually dropping in. Don't think I'm giving away any worthy secrets, cos it was still helllll bumpy and messy overall.
Mate there is a surprising amount of variability in windspeeds during these deep mean E'ly flows which seems to be affected by time of day and tidal phase.
Actually the mate I was staying with was saying this too, heaps of random little windows he has seen or heard of , but missing himself cos of work and now injury :(
in my experience little micro climate type off shores that can occur in some parts of byron shire but not others. Not naming' names though. Its shit where I am....
Absolutely. Classic case in point this morning. Look at the Ballina/Byron wind obs. Now compare that to the surf report.
Yeah and what a weirdo, throwing up some pre frontal STH-lies as well ;-)