El Nino not sighted, yet
Last week the Bureau of Meteorology released an El Nino alert, but those of us on the East Coast might doubt that forecast.
After an average winter of surf, the last fortnight has been positively autumnal despite being smack bang in the middle of spring. We've had a run of good swells from the eastern quadrant with generally light winds instead of those dreaded north-easters.
And since the weekend a deepening coastal trough has squeezed a strong, stationary high resulting in torrential rain, gale-force onshore winds, and large storm surf. This synoptic setup is more typical of late summer.
All this rain and onshore wind is usually associated with La Nina - hence the skepticism over the El Nino prediction. However, this weather appears to be an outlier before we see the effects of El Nino kick in over summer.
El Nino events are typically associated with drier and warmer than normal weather across most of Australia, and this is where the current weather doesn't quite fit in.
This is because we're only at alert level, with signs of El Nino just starting to show in the tropical Pacific Ocean. All forecasts don't have it kicking in until December.
The deluge has been welcomed by farmers who were staring down another six months or so of dry weather, however it's been less well received by surfers, especially those in northern NSW and Queensland. Following six months of below-average waves there were many impressive sand deposits, yet this close-range swell event will eat away at them.
Word is that banks have been great from Byron to Newcastle (less so across southern NSW), but they'll now be reshaped, most likely into storm bars. Under storm conditions - such as we're seeing now - sand is gouged from the inshore banks, then deposited offshore as 'storm bars' which protect the local coastline from the greater impact of the swell. Great for halting erosion, terrible for surfing.
Current forecasts have the unseasonal weather and swell continuing into the end of the month, but how the banks fair after the current event is to be seen.