O Roaring Forties, Where Art Thou?

Craig Brokensha picture
Craig Brokensha (Craig)
Swellnet Analysis

Where art thou strong winter cold fronts?

This is the question many Victorians are wondering, not because the cold and rain haven't hit, quite the opposite, but because we're not seeing the strong Southern Ocean frontal progressions we usually see at this time of year moving through.

As you may have read across the site over the past year, the Victorian winter of 2020 was a non-event for swell, further compounded by lockdowns, and once spring and summer kicked into gear, a developing La Niña didn't offer much in the way of quality surf at all.

Moving into 2021, there was one month of great waves on the Surf Coast, that being April, but since then the Southern Ocean has fallen relatively quiet. Instead of the classic Southern Ocean frontal progressions, we've had mid-latitude lows and troughs following a more northerly path. This isn't great for swell generation as the storms themselves are small in scope and their northerly track results in westerly swells which get blocked by Cape Otway.

On the plus side, these mid-latitude systems bring out-of-season winds from the north-eastern quadrant, favouring the the exposed beaches. You just had to have a good patch of sand up your sleeve.

With the winter solstice passing yesterday (the shortest day of the year), the winter proper is now underway, but having a quick look at the long-range charts, there's still nothing quite like what we saw in April shaping up for the southern states.

I've brought up the probability charts from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) regarding the outlook into the middle of July.

What's shown is the forecast Mean Sea Level Pressure weekly anomalies for next week (Monday 28th June - Monday 5th July) and the following week (Monday 5th July – Monday 12th). The anomaly is the difference from the long-term climate average and what can be clearly seen into the first week of July is a high sitting across the southern Tasman Sea, spread out across New Zealand (and further east), with a low pressure anomaly dip to the north of New Zealand's North Island, through the Coral Sea.

Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) weekly mean anomalies for the week Monday 28th June - Monday 5th July 

Also a low pressure anomaly extending from west of WA, across into the Bight, though stopping just east of Adelaide also stands out.

The second week which heads towards the middle of July (displayed at the bottom of the article) shows a weaker version of next week, with the same main features.

So what does this equate to for surf? Knowing that highs spin anti-clockwise and lows clockwise, unfortunately for Victoria with that high stretching across the southern Tasman Sea and low sitting across Western Australia, we'll see storms projected up from the Southern Ocean, towards Western Australia and quite high in latitude, before dipping back down to the south on approach to Victoria.

This is a continuation of the current poor setup, with mid-latitude systems pushing in from the west but sliding south-east, bringing favourable northerly winds but no swell of significance.

If the low pressure anomaly was further east and positioned, directly west of or over Tasmania, we'd be looking at a more favourable forecast for swell generating fronts for the Surf Coast, but alas. Yet this isn't the case.

Instead, Western Australia will cop frontal activity from Sunday, with large, stormy surf due most of next week, improving the following weekend though with no quality swells to follow.

Looking to the east and we've got quite a juicy setup projected for all locations.

That low pressure anomaly being cradled by the broad high, persisting even into the following week indicates that we're in for some form of a quality swell producer from the east.

Similar to other setups we've already seen this year, easterly trades extending out into the western Pacific Ocean should produce a prolonged easterly swell event from late next week, into the following week, biggest across south-east Queensland and northern NSW, grading smaller further south.

Whether we see a more substantial low developing around the New Zealand region is still unsure but the outlook is positive.

At this stage there's still no indication on when we may see the 'Roaring Forties' kick back into gear under the country, and the reason for this still isn't too clear, though keep an eye out for a second article in the coming week outlining one of the possible contributing factors.

For now, the wait continues for Victorian surfers.

Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) weekly mean anomalies for the week Monday 5th July - Monday 12th July

Comments

cdawg's picture
cdawg's picture
cdawg Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:01pm

Thou. Where art thou.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:05pm

D'ough!

tiger's picture
tiger's picture
tiger Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:06pm

Thanks for your sacrifice Stu!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:08pm

Agh, oops, slipped through during the edit.

cdawg's picture
cdawg's picture
cdawg Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:16pm

Auto-correct strikes again! Gotta say though, while correcting spelling in internet forums is high on the douche list, I kind of enjoyed it!

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:46pm

I share your pleasure in grammatical errors and their corrections.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:53pm

While we're revelling in the joys of pedantry I was quietly pleased to note the avoidance of the common 'wherefore' pitfall.

Heaps good article but.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:56pm

You might be surprised to learn just how much we workshopped title ideas before publishing. The common pitfall was proposed at once stage and then quietly retracted.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:57pm

I researched that one deeply, ha. Paid off, thanks!

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:28pm

Typical La Nina pattern, which will hopefully fade as ENSO moves towards neutral phase.

Sydney surfers won't complain, though.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:29pm

Hold that thought IB.. Niña might not be done with yet ;)

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:13pm

Had enough, Craig :-)

Got my 8'6 in March, and we haven't seen a single 8ft day since.

geek's picture
geek's picture
geek Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:31pm

“This is a continuation of the current poor setup,”

It’s only poor on the surf coast, and there’s a whole lot more to Vicco than the surf coast :)

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:40pm

Yes of course, as mentioned further up in the article "On the plus side, these mid-latitude systems bring out-of-season winds from the north-eastern quadrant, favouring the the exposed beaches."

But autumn/winter are the months Surf Coast surfers look forward to regarding the reefs and we're currently looking at a continuation of the average outlook.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:27am

Craig that is their problem 21-6 solstice doesn't get much better, glass, good sized swell, 2 out and a ripper red ball disappearing into the west on sunset. Love La Nina.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:54am

How good, love those moments!

thermalben's picture
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thermalben Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:50pm

I wonder if the negative MSLP anomoly across eastern Indonesia (extending westwards in the long term) will cause an extended disruption of the trades.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:57pm

That looks to be linked to a developing negative Indian Ocean Dipole signal, warm water off Indonesia and cooler over towards east Africa. As can be seen here..

Kellya's picture
Kellya's picture
Kellya Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:02pm

Was wondering what was happening with the unseasonal rain up north. Good article on the ABC regarding the impending negative IOD.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:28am

Ben purely academic for us.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 3:52pm

Victoria…..lol.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:29am

Has been fun Blowin.....not west though.

Tim Bonython's picture
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Tim Bonython Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:09pm

I might have to purchase a new hard drive.. Great & interesting read. Thx Craig.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
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Ray Shirlaw Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:18pm

Below average surely

conrico's picture
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conrico Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:29pm

Great read!

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 4:43pm

I think this shows the value of living somewhere which gets swell from a number of sources, and has setups that handle a variety of winds. As has been pointed out there's much more to Victoria than The Surf Coast, but that particular stretch of coastline does appear to be prone to long periods of poor surf.

mattlock's picture
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mattlock Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:24pm

And also prone to periods of good surf.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:24pm

Yep swings and roundabouts but at this current point more roundabouts it seems. 

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:26pm

“For now, the wait continues for Victorian surfers.”

“ For now, the wait continues for some Victorian surfers.”

There ya go Craigos, fixed it for you. No complaints here with the run we’re having.

Edit.. although in saying that some good chunky waves would be nice too

gannet's picture
gannet's picture
gannet Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:35pm

That’s two ‘where art thou’ s in a week!
What’s going on with the headlines at swellnet?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:43pm

Craig! Hark! Can thee answer this query?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 6:23pm

Haha oh dear. Must have been in the subconscious thanks to Stu's Flyer. Doh. 

gannet's picture
gannet's picture
gannet Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:05pm

Tis but a trifle dudes.

Love thine work

Yew

gannet's picture
gannet's picture
gannet Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 5:36pm

I predict next week will be bubble bubble toil and trouble

Mr.Tee on a long board's picture
Mr.Tee on a long board's picture
Mr.Tee on a lon... Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 6:26pm

At least I can go for a paddle and get wet. There is no snow for Nordic skiing at present or for weeks ahead by the looks of things.

pigdog's picture
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pigdog Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:31pm

understanding there are so many factors in driving a storm up to vicco. remember bells forecast 2 years ago a week before the comp was due to start, it looked unsurfable it was so pox. every cat and dog were bashing the venue ect...and then it copped a 10ft storm swell in the waiting period. im a glass half full guy. things can change quickly.
as for snow we are in a pickle at the moment....we need a base to even start with....then snow.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 6:55pm

it's a strange coastline that vicco one.

you'd think with the southern ocean exposure it would be bombarded with swell and never flat.

NSW seems to have far more consistent swell energy, despite being a lee shore.

geek's picture
geek's picture
geek Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:48pm

It is never flat and it is bombarded with swell. Its just the ~40km of the Surf Coast is very different to most other surfable coastlines in Victoria and gets much less size. Nothing matches the quality when its on though

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Saturday, 26 Jun 2021 at 10:38am

Yes and to add to that, most of the Victorian coastline is hoping it will drop in size and the wind to go somewhere from the north if you are on a beachie. I think it might go almost dead flat 2 times a year. Just look at the swell for other areas bar the west coast for the next few days - no shortage.

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:54pm

I reckon for the last 18 months NSW has had consistently better surf conditions than Vic (especially on the Surf Coast where I am).

This is the first time I can recall this happening for a sustained period in my 40 odd years of surfing. (admittedly I wouldn't have really known either way for most of the 80's)

Since Corona arrived it's been pretty fucken sad surf wise around here for most of the time. Hope normal service resumes soon cause I aint getting any younger.

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:40pm

You ever head west for a wave ringy?
Bit too far for an after work splash I understand but weekends?

ringmaster's picture
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ringmaster Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 9:24pm

From the late 80's until about 5,6 years ago I used to to get down there heaps mate. Often enough so that you had a fair idea where the best banks were on any given trip. Still an unspoiled low key coast line. Don't go often these days.......if there's no waves around here I just find something else to do. To be honest the sort of conditions I used to love down there are too much hard work for me now. As you probably know, plenty of hard paddling and inevitable clean up sets with a heapa power. When you're on top of your game the rewards are worth it though. What about you?

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 10:53am

Not a great deal. Probably about 3-4 times a year.
Used to camp at Joeys over Xmas holidays before mates started having kids etc. should start doing it again now that they’re getting a bit bigger.
Such a nice part of the world though. So wild

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 6:18am

And interestingly the NZ west coast has been pumping for months, with lots of long period WSW swell.

tango's picture
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tango Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 4:01pm

Strange, indeed, FR and it's taken me almost 20 years to get my head even partly around it after having east coast conditions hardwired in.

Swell is rarely the issue, as it's very rarely goes flat if you know where to look. It's much more often the wind down here that gets you, with the coastline orientated to the predominant SW swell direction afforded by Cape Otway/King Island/Tassie. As a result, the local exposure to winds from WSW through to ESE is pretty high for most places, and there aren't the nooks and crannies of the east coast with its variety of swell directions where the devil wind is much narrower. There's also the issue of the local winds vs the regional winds, with local offshore conditions and good swell regularly affected.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 8:38pm

It's not that hard to work out. Victoria is bombarded with swell. Never goes flat. The coast you're talking about is also a lee shore. Stand at Pt Nepean and you'll be looking directly across at coast facing back at you all the way to Apollo Bay/Cape Otway, which shadows tonnes of swell.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 24 Jun 2021 at 10:23am

True.
I consider the Pass in Byron Bay a far more sheltered bay and it's had access to far more swell than the surf coast in the last 12-18months since I've been looking.

Obviously just looking at a particularly bad time.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond Thursday, 24 Jun 2021 at 11:17am

Yep. The difference between the Pass and the Surf Coast is Tasmania....not like SW facing coasts down there. The pass at size would be considered a flat day around those parts.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:15pm

Victoria is often judged by what long clean groundswell can produce on the reefs. But consistent beachbreaks abound and many of those reefs can have fun waves on funky swells with the right board and attitude. It is far from wave starved even in a bad run.

Not as photogenic as say a funky day at dbah where a flashy aqua blue barrel can appear out of nowhere and make a WOTD photo on almost any day.

I was watching a board test surf on YouTube a while ago and recognised crosshore sectiony winki. It looked a bit ugly, grey water etc but lots of fun.

I have stood on the headland overlooking jan juc and listened to fussy locals grumble about a 3 ft wobbly sw swell that was a lot of fun to surf.

Don't feel too sorry for them.

greyhound's picture
greyhound's picture
greyhound Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:33pm

Never flat west of cape Otway..

Fatnuts's picture
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Fatnuts Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 7:57pm

Looking at wind in polar jet steam at 250hpa it appears to have split and maybe the 60th parallel is the new roaring 40’s?
could the northern hemispheres extra heating ( as in they in summer we not) be contributing to keeping East Indian and EAC water temps warmer and causing a lag for more normal winter patterns? Decreasing SW grunt and more frequent weak S swells seems to be an increasing winter pattern in Tassie over the last couple of decades :(

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 9:05am

Interesting Fatnuts.
Might be something worth keeping an eye on there.

Craig's picture
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Craig Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 7:37pm

Been keeping a close eye on the jet stream and like last year it continues to split on encountering the Australian continent. Or through the Indian Ocean. I think the reasoning has to be closer to home in our tropics/hemisphere rather than the higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere but it's hard to pin down.

In any case check out these 850hPa wind anomalies (about 1500m above the surface), continuing out until July the 9th.

Purple (negative) = easterly winds and red (positive) equal westerlies and even the latest 00z have anomalous easterly winds across the southern Tasman Sea and south-east of Tasmania and also north-east of New Zealand. Also across the central Indian Ocean.

tango's picture
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tango Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 10:35pm

Those bastards on the east coast.

Jono's picture
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Jono Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:05pm

Off topic but that pink and blue chart looks a lot like a Ding Alley watercolour at first glance. Thought we were getting a Craig/Gra crossover for a second there.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 8:51pm

Been having a ball on my log, with those nice north winds and runs of sunny days. That said, as per the article, don't come to Victoria, the land is forsaken, the SC has no waves and has much flat spell and the reef days are few and far between. And it's cold. Surfing in the cold - enough to turn anyone off surfing and never go into the ocean again. Who wants to see gannets when they can see boobies in warm water areas?

geek's picture
geek's picture
geek Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 9:26pm

And don’t forgot vic being in lockdown every other week. Need to be able to afford real estate within 5km of the coast if you want to surf regularly!

evosurfer's picture
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evosurfer Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 10:48pm

I guess this also applies to Bali swells as well I mention some where long ago that Bali
has been very mediocre this year. At least the east coast has been pretty damn good
since the Chinese attack on the world.

nasigoreng's picture
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nasigoreng Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021 at 11:45pm

"You just had to have a good patch of sand up your sleeve."

And time release from work, family and all other responsibilities. Fucken anus.

Distracted's picture
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Distracted Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 7:08am
belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 7:24am

The south coast NSW automated model (GFS) is not showing much for the early July period from the east. Is showing a spike from the south right at the end of the run 8-Jul.
When a big spike from the south is seen I have found this a good quasi indicator for snow bearing systems, but long way out etc from 23-Jun to 8-Jul.

Solitude's picture
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Solitude Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 8:31am

Does this current set up effect WA very much? Or is it business as usual there?

Weatherman's picture
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Weatherman Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 9:20am

Thanks for the analysis Craig, interesting and informative as usual. Good luck to the East Coasters and others who are benefiting from the current weather patterns. I have been getting a few decent sessions over recent weeks, just not what you would expect at this time of year. As I've said before, I live in hope the SC will kick into gear soon.

wiseautogas's picture
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wiseautogas Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 9:32am

been surfing sa for 45 years i had the same thought a month ago what's happened to the roaring forties seems this is a dud year for the southern ocean, east coast looks the goods though, i wasn't just imagining it, thanks for the heads up

Numbatt's picture
Numbatt's picture
Numbatt Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 10:03am

NOt a lot if opportunity in WA.
Heaps of lows still squeezing down from equatorial origins. No good, strange. Lots of rain and on shores. Nice to have a shit season so all the blow ins and hasslers leave though. It all balances out in the end.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 11:32am

I suppose WA a very big coast, there'd be some regions having a better time than others no doubt

Craig's picture
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Craig Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 7:38pm

Yep, besides the swells during the WSL events and that one a week ago, it's not looking too flash and either is Indo.

plops's picture
plops's picture
plops Thursday, 24 Jun 2021 at 8:01am

Craig you may have put a hoodoo on this period by posting this article. All signs of easterly swell for the next few week seem to have evaporated since Tuesday night?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 24 Jun 2021 at 8:14am

Yeah looks like the action is now initially over behind New Zealand and only favourable for up south-east Qld and northern NSW. Still there's potential for a Tasman Low following this.

The article is more about the general synoptic pattern over the coming few weeks, but it would have been nice if that stronger low that was forecast off the North Island was still there.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 8:40pm

Yep. Been way more swells with South tendencies than West this year. Most of the South facing beaches have the Western end chewed out of them, some with stairs and fences undercut and laid bare. Wasn't like that last winter. Another big S/SE mush monster swell today off the back of that mid lat low.

Trentslatterphoto's picture
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Trentslatterphoto Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 11:34am

wa been off the boil long time im dying inside help me stu

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 2:16pm

Remember 2007 being very shitty year on the surf coast. ( winter woes).

goodes's picture
goodes's picture
goodes Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 2:48pm

In my view is a result of Global Warming in that the Highs are getting hotter and pushing to a lower latitude. The lows are being kept down, no Roaring Forties Westerlies. I feel for the Albatross. Can be a political discussion but in my view us surfers have an intrinsic feel of the weather / ocean and they
has changed heaps in my lifetime (am 60).

dr-surf's picture
dr-surf's picture
dr-surf Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 4:22pm

Time to Get the Woolamai Cam Going. It’s gone from Best Vic Cam to Unwatchable for Two Years.

Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 6:50pm

The Juliets of the surf coast are rightfully missing their Romeo cold fronts , however for those of us a bit to the right of stage west , there has been some excellent late autumn juice .

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 24 Jun 2021 at 10:25am

this needs an upvote.

tubeshooter's picture
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tubeshooter Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 at 8:07pm

'Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting , it is a most sharp sauce'.

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted Sunday, 27 Jun 2021 at 7:50pm

Cool stuff Craig.
Curious though about the mid latitude systems which while not so good for surf but are delivering some rain. Are they a reflection of warmer sea temperatures and left over La Niña impacts?

Makes a change from the drought years when the cold fronts stay too far south. For the southern coasts sounds like an El Niño season is good for the surf but not good for rain?

Craig's picture
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Craig Wednesday, 30 Jun 2021 at 9:03pm

Thanks. They're grabbing moisture from the north-west and those warm sea surface temperatures off Indonesia. Linked to the developing negative Indian Ocean Dipole event.

And El Niño's are better for surf regarding swell activity for the southern states but yes less moisture. 

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Wednesday, 30 Jun 2021 at 9:31pm

Salute Craig & #1 swellnet...dedication to the Austral Ocean { The Southern Ocean }

8th June 2021 - On World Oceans Day proclaimed as 'The Southern Ocean' as the "Worlds 5th Ocean"

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/wave-hello-earths-newest-ocean...

Comes with bonus Disney Video "Planet Impossible"
Song ( Kajagoogoo mix ) The Forms ~ Southern Ocean

mattlock's picture
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mattlock Wednesday, 30 Jun 2021 at 9:46pm

As I said. Bring back the drought. Big fuck of highs sitting for days, nay weeks, on the continent with lows pushing and buffetting against the bottom of them.
SA surf heaven.
I remember once having fourteen days in a row of northerlies with multiple swells. Late winter/spring 1993 me thinks.