Bringing back the Mojo

Craig Brokensha
Swellnet Analysis

A fortnight ago we discussed the tropical wave of activity know as the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) and its expected strengthening and movement from the Indian Ocean, east across northern Australia into the end of this month.

This followed a strong episode of southerly swell from a 'bombing low' at the entrance to the southern Tasman Sea, over-performing across some regions, while under-performing in others. As predicted, the MJO is currently intensifying across north-eastern Australia with it forecast to strengthen further across the Western Pacific, lingering there into mid-February.

The chart below shows where the MJO has been around the Earth (at tropical latitudes) through the end of December (purple) and January (red). The perspective is that of looking from the North Pole with the MJO currently strengthening in the Western Pacific Ocean (to our north-east) since January 21st.

It's forecast to intensify slightly further while hanging around the Western Pacific (our medium-range eastern swell window), triggering the coming tropical activity.

MJO forecast (green line), slow moving and strong through the Western Pacific

We're already seeing the impacts of the increase in tropical activity with a tropical low forming in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and another due to deepen adjacent to the Kimberley coast over the coming days.

Looking to our east and north-east though, we've got a ton of swell potential owing to said tropical activity in the vicinity of Fiji and Tonga. What we're looking at is a couple of healthy high pressure systems moving into the Tasman Sea just east of New Zealand on the weekend as the tropical depressions deepen to the north.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

As the tropical activity continues to strengthen, it'll drift south, squeezing and tightening the pressure gradient on top of the cradling highs, setting up a very healthy trade wind flow towards northern NSW and southeast QLD, extending into the Coral Sea.

This alone would generate a great run of moderate-sized easterly trade swell for mid-late next week onwards, but when we add in the strongest bursts of winds associated with the tropical low(s), larger pulses of easterly groundswell are expected across the entire East Coast.

Looking at the timing and we should see building levels of easterly trade swell across northern NSW and SE Qld from Tuesday, with any groundswell from the stronger embedded wind bursts due into Thursday/Friday. The groundswell will be better aligned for southern NSW and arriving around a similar time late week.

Locally, winds are still dicey with a couple of possibilities, but for the northern regions it looks like winds will be variable as the swell builds and then freshen from the south-southeast late week as a broad ridge of high pressure moves in across the country from the west.

With the MJO remaining active into the middle of the month we're likely to see swell activity persisting into the following week across the East Coast, but keep an eye on the local Forecaster Notes for a more accurate idea on the specifics like timing, local winds, and longevity.

For the rest of the country the coming pattern isn't favourable as the highs block Southern Ocean fronts while bringing onshore winds for Victoria and South Australia. Western Australia will be windy and cleaner, but swells look generally subdued aside from the odd larger outlier.

Comments

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:39pm

Good call Craig, from 14 days ago: "Over the coming fortnight this strengthening MJO signal is forecast to move east towards us and this will bring that injection of tropical instability to the region. With this we'll hopefully see the trade-pattern kick back in late in the month/February and depending on the strength of the MJO, likely a cyclone or two."

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:48pm

This forecast looks awesome.. the local loves any with east swell.. this will light up hopefully.. cheers boys fingers crossed

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:51pm

nice one Craig.

super awesome cross-equatorial flow right now too, which is adding to the vorticity in the SPCZ. little spinney things everywhere.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:08pm

Yeah, was gonna mark out the South Pacific Convergence Zone on the sat image but thought it'd be too much.

For those interested it's where the NE trades (or monsoonal NW winds) from the Northern Hemisphere/equator meet the SE trades from the Southern Hemisphere. An area on convergence and instability..

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:21pm

Come on Huey, this time Im ready!

monkeyboy's picture
monkeyboy's picture
monkeyboy Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:37pm
scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:45pm

Ah the timing, just as I crack my ribs ..

dr-surf's picture
dr-surf's picture
dr-surf Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:49pm

Disappointing La Niña so Far.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:51pm

Patience.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 6:47am

Like the Duke said, If you wait long enough, wave will come.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 6:46pm

A big middle finger to all you east-coasters as we southerners endure yet another week of onshores. Bring on winter.

Ash's picture
Ash's picture
Ash Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 11:28am

Autumn Surfstarved, autumn. Lets not skip the best season down here. Fingers crossed those effin blocking highs fuck off asap.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 11:30am

Another pulse to + SAM, not ideal for the southern states.

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 5:48pm

boarders open.
https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules/bor...

No permit required today... (unless your learning to ride a SUP)
permits available
https://www.digital.nsw.gov.au/success-stories/apply-for-digital-nsw-bor...
SUP permit for Captain Cook Monument site (not Ours)
http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/hawaii/kealakekua-bay-state-historical-...

mac396's picture
mac396's picture
mac396 Friday, 5 Feb 2021 at 9:26pm

If you are a bit further south still i.e. Tassie our East Coast has been pumping!!

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 6:47am

Get your arse up here surfstarved looks like we will have plenty to share

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 8:29am

Meanwhile in SA it's having the summer from hell and doesn't look like ending for quite sometime. Another winter blast forecast for next week and weekend.

Aaaandy's picture
Aaaandy's picture
Aaaandy Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 8:59am

Hey Craig and crew. Have you guys taken analysis on weather patterns in the last 20 years for southern Australia. Reason being just a thought, on autumn and spring westerly swells for sa have declined in size and consistency and also big size sw swells during winter? Do you see any change or just a lapse
Regards andy

hoodyollie's picture
hoodyollie's picture
hoodyollie Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 10:00am

I agree

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 10:55am

No we haven't unfortunately. Would be a great study to do to confirm or dismiss either way.

johpg's picture
johpg's picture
johpg Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 3:11pm

I remember a winter 3 (maybe 4?) years ago with 4-5 weeks of swell events all coinciding with light-mod NWers.

Last couple of winters have been shite tho.....

Aaaandy's picture
Aaaandy's picture
Aaaandy Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 3:32pm

Yeah remember that, also we've had pockets in the last few years of good times at weird times of the year. Do you think it's changed? I remember back in the day we would guarantee decent westerly swells for autumn and spring and usually big sw swells for winter even windy w to sw storms for the mid. It seems the wind pattern has changed for those times in the past several years. It could be a weird decade and things will go back. We're definitely talking about it in the water alot. Definitely you've brought back memories of that session even the vics probably remember too.

johpg's picture
johpg's picture
johpg Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 4:06pm

I think the seasons have shifted a bit later over the years, especially the transition to & from winter.
Winter water is warmer (or maybe wetsuits are much better these days so it seems warmer).
More W-NW winds in winter and less W-SW. Definitely less big SW stormies.

vicbloke's picture
vicbloke's picture
vicbloke Saturday, 30 Jan 2021 at 8:14am

agree. i remember in the early 80s Easter would come around and the swell and wind would kick like clock work. from memory, reckon the surf season changed from autumn/winter to more winter/spring when we went through the big drought around twenty years ago. winds still seem favourable but definately lack of consistent swell.

big wave dave's picture
big wave dave's picture
big wave dave Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:34am

lost opportunity with the headline...could have read "bringing back the Madjo"

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:41am

... the Cameroonian former footballer who played as a striker?

Didn't rate him anyway.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 12:06pm

All I can say is these current local sht-fck winds better fck right off come mid-late next week otherwise it will be weeks of back to back swells fcked over by local onshore poo!!!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 12:51pm

Yeah, that's the main issue ATM.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 1:40pm

Yep.

Endless fun trade swell + shit winds = Taking a viagra whilst alone ( lots of potential but inexorably leading to frustration)

sangsta's picture
sangsta's picture
sangsta Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 1:18pm

I love it when Craig talks dirty. Thanks mate.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 2:04pm

you got to make friends with the onshores.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 2:09pm

That’s a very philosophical solution.

What do you normally drink as chaser with that ?

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 6:57pm

Solo sessions on the rocks.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 10:01am

Models have been toing and froing but it looks like we're finally getting some consensus and winds are now looking much more favourable. Fingers crossed it holds.

Nistol's picture
Nistol's picture
Nistol Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 3:31pm

Hey Craig, what’s the long term forecast looking like from the 8th onwards? I’m driving from Sydney to the Sunny Coast from the 8th, thinking I’ll take about two weeks to do the trip.
Cheers

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 5:09pm

Still a bit too far out, but ATM it looks active and favourable!

Nistol's picture
Nistol's picture
Nistol Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 5:31pm

Thanks legend, appreciate your work!

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 4:34pm

Holy Toledo Batman, I think New Caledonie is headed for trouble.

Then the cyclone slips below and works over the swell sent in by the cyclone/low further east. Could be some carnage around. Wonder how those banks at Byron are holding up?

adsi's picture
adsi's picture
adsi Monday, 1 Feb 2021 at 10:29am

Main Beach looks pretty f'ed atm, lots of exposed rocks ive not seen before. Banks are decent though

Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy's picture
Jamyardy Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 4:56pm

" ....... aside from the odd larger outlier.", that outlier on Friday was sizey in the SW, keep sending those through every now and then Craig.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Sunday, 31 Jan 2021 at 5:10pm

Yeah, what I was referring to ha. Hopefully a few more.

mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Monday, 1 Feb 2021 at 9:01am

On Gold Coast at the moment surprising uncrowded and lighter winds than forecasted....run in tide banks come alive.

greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams Monday, 1 Feb 2021 at 3:02pm

Lookin good hopefully the on shores won't *#^! it!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 30 Mar 2021 at 9:34am

The MJO is currently approaching from the west and strengthening. This is the source of the tropical low forming in the Coral Sea over the coming week and following trade swell, but it'll be a drive-by hit, with it forecast to continue off into the Pacific through mid-April.

Below is the MJO forecast strength and movement by various weather models over the coming 1-2 weeks.