Winter 2019 recap
And just like that, the seasons have turned!
With winter gone we can now look forward to longer days, warm northerly winds, and a deterioration in surf quality. Though it seems that last point is a way off, as most regions have had a good start to spring with offshore winds and swell from the right directions.
Looking back on the winter that was, and after a slow start to the season, which followed on from an appalling autumn, the East Coast has had one of the better runs of surf and favourable winds for the past few years. The Mid North Coast was one region that had some semblance of normality through autumn and it continued its stellar run magnifying any swell on offer.
The swells kicked off with an out of season E/NE groundswell that arrived in the back end of June. It wasn't just the direction that surprised, but the duration and spread too: everywhere from the Sunshine Coast to the Victorian border saw waves between 4'-8' for the better part of a week. Though not unheard of, it was a rare event.
Aside from swell, the story in the north was sand loss, with many of the right points denuded on their lee sides, a result of prolonged north winds through autumn shutting down the sand transport system.
Following the east swell a series of typical south swells brushed the coast beginning in late July moving the sand to the north again. Since then, a constant progression of frontal systems moving up the Tasman Sea, plus lows spawning off the East Coast, have produced excellent waves across the points.
Newcastle hasn't stopped pumping and if we take one look at the Mean Sea Level Pressure and wind anomalies (difference from the long-term climatological mean) for the month of August, it all points north.
We can see that there was a large low pressure anomaly positioned south-east of New Zealand, with stronger than normal SW winds aimed from below Tasmania, north-east into the Tasman Sea and further afield. This provided endless swells for Cloudbreak and Teahupoo, while also fairing well across Tasmania's sheltered South Arm and East Coast. There have been a handful of windy point days and quality options at the marquee breaks when winds shifted back offshore.
Both Victoria and South Australia had great autumn seasons and it felt like things were shaping up for a bumper winter, however it didn't eventuate.
The Surf Coast had persistent offshore winds from the western quadrant and usually some sort of swell on offer. It never went flat. Yet most of the swell-generating storms sat too far north to produce anything major so a steady diet of mid-size swells kept the punters happy, though not if you like the big stuff. Testament to this is the Bells Beach 50 Year Storm which, despite having its size threshhold lowered, still didn't get the opportunity to run.
The wind anomaly from July paints this picture clearly, with a positive westerly wind bias shown under the country, through Victoria's swell window. South Australia has suffered the same pattern, though with the swells not overpowering the exposed beaches there have at least been plenty of quality days going down around Victor Harbor. The Mid Coast has been hit and miss but generally below average until the past week.
Western Australia has gone through big ebbs and flows. Stormy, large and onshore for a week and then pumping at others times when the storms stayed at arms length from the continent. There have been some standout windy paddle days across the deepwater reefs, and with all the strong fronal activity, Indonesia has also reaped the benefits as has the North West. Perth and Mandurah have had more than their fair share of swells along with more favourable winds, with a wave on offer most days through winter.
Looking at the coming weeks and it looks like most of the country will continue to receive quality swells as the remnants of winter push into early spring, and we'll keep an eye on any possible significant developments following the Sudden Stratospheric Warming event last week.
On a final note, those who've been to the Mentawais the last month would have noticed the persistent and fresh S/SE winds across the region, linked to a negative Indian Ocean Dipole mode. This can also clearly be seen in the anomaly chart below.