Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast (issued Friday 7th February)

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thermalben started the topic in Friday, 7 Feb 2014 at 1:00pm

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 7th February)

Best Days: Sat: small clean leftover SE swell. Sun: fun but inconsistent E’ly swell. 

Recap: Residual short range SE swell on Thursday morning gave way to a strong SE groundswell that arrived mid-late afternoon, producing 4-6ft waves across southern NSW with light onshore winds. Surf size has hung in there this morning with most locations reporting unreal 4-5ft surf and perfectly clean conditions under light offshore winds and cloudless skies.

This weekend (Feb 8-9)

Hands up who scored filthy waves over the last 24 hours? This much discussed swell event seemed to fit in very close to forecast expectations, which is very pleasing. But we’re now on the backside of this pulse so it’s time to move on to the outlook period.

As discussed on Wednesday, the low responsible for the current SE groundswell is currently stalled (in a weakened state) just to the west of New Zealand’s North Island. Although wind speeds aren’t very strong, there is a healthy 30-35kt E’ly fetch extending out into the Tasman Sea. In fact, the latest OSCAT pass has recorded 50-55kt winds at the head of the fetch, however this covers a very small area and being positioned at the western periphery isn’t very beneficial, especially as the low is expected to weaken throughout the forecast period.

Nevertheless, this fetch is expected to generate a decent pulse of east swell, and it’ll probably push above the heights currently predicted by our forecast graph. The leading edge of this swell is expected to arrive very late in the day on Saturday afternoon, so I’m not confident that we’ll see much activity before the sun goes down (but, there is still an outside chance so it’s worth checking the surf cams from about 5pm onwards just in case). For most of Saturday expect residual, easing swell from today with light winds tending NE and freshening. 

Now, this incoming east swell is not expected to hold its peak for as long as the current event, so you will absolutely have to make the most of the dawn session on Sunday because wave heights will taper off during the day (although, the ever present threat of a freshening nor’easter will favour an early session too). Wave heights should be in the 2-3ft range at open beaches (maybe a few bigger bombs if we’re lucky), and there’ll be a reasonable wait for the sets. We'll also see a small peaky NE windswell in the water, originating from Saturday afternoon's freshening winds. 

Locally, winds should be light and variable right at dawn but will quickly swing N’ly by early-mid morning and then freshen from the NE from mid-late morning onwards, becoming gusty into the a'noon. Smaller surf is expected throughout the day, so the early bird will catch the worm.

Next week (Feb 10-14)

Nothing major on the cards for next week. A broad high pressure system is expected to develop in the Tasman Sea over the weekend, and it’ll kick up a minor NE windswell for Monday morning.

A deep low pressure system traversing the waters south of Tasmania on Sunday will push a southerly change along the southern NSW coast overnight Sunday (arriving in Sydney Monday morning), but we’re not expecting anything great from it. The change itself won’t be very broad nor very strong, so the resulting S’ly windswell (building into Monday afternoon) won’t have much size or quality. 

The low pressure system itself looks to be a big beefy thing that’ll generate a very large ocean state south of the continent. However, the Tasman high will act as a blocking pattern during its development cycle, forcing it on a SE track which is unfavourable for East Coast swell prospects.

The low is expected to maintain strength as it tracks closer to New Zealand but all of the wind around the low will be aimed well away from the East Coast, so we can only expect small levels of long period sideband energy to glance the NSW coast. This energy is expected to arrive on Tuesday - probably no bigger than 2ft or maybe 3ft at exposed south facing beaches - and at this stage it appears we’ll see a lingering SE wind thanks to a moderate ridge along the coast. All in all, hardly worth getting excited about. But I'll confirm the specs on Monday's notes as there is some disagreement between the models as to how Monday's southerly change will impact the region. If the ridge ends up being weaker than modeled, the south swell magnets might have some small fun waves. 

Long term (Feb 15 onwards)

Looking further ahead, and although the long range weather charts look a little bleak right now, there is one system I’d like to keep an eye on next week, that has some surf potential for southern NSW.

Once the deep low (mentioned above) pushes south of New Zealand, another broad high is expected to develop south of the Tasman Sea. At the same time, a trough of low pressure is modeled to deepen along the northern half of New Zealand. The squeeze between these two systems (sometime around Tuesday) is expected to generate a strong S/SE fetch, which  - although not perfectly aimed towards the East Coast - could generate a fun SE swell for parts of the East Coast sometime around next Thursday. Let’s take a closer look in Monday’s update.