Victoria's Dire Strait

Craig Brokensha picture
Craig Brokensha (Craig)
Swellnet Analysis

If you had to book a surf trip in advance, deep into the middle of winter anywhere around Australia, the Victorian Surf Coast would be a great bet.

During the winter months the Roaring Forties are usually up and erm...roaring, producing swell aplenty while the topographical steering effects of Cape Otway swings winds more offshore when everywhere else is blowing hard from the south-west.

Rolling the dice on the East Coast would be a gamble owing to the likelihood of clean conditions but limited, refracted southerly swell energy, as is usually the case during winter.

Enter La Niña.

Nowhere else around the country has experienced the adverse affects of the cold water signal in the Pacific Ocean like the Surf Coast has.

La Niña years develop thanks to stronger than normal easterly trade-winds blowing across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, upwelling cold water in South America (where the phenomenon was first observed and named), while piling up warmer water to the north and east of Australia.

This sets off a chain of events.

Such a setup brings lower than normal pressure to our north, which shifts the sub-tropical high pressure belt further south, and subsequently suppresses the westerly storm track down to polar latitudes. This is the pattern seen through summer but as we enter autumn and winter months, the synoptic patterns shift, but not for the better.

With the help of warm water developing to the north-west of the country (read: A negative Indian Ocean Dipole) instead of the normal polar frontal systems firing up through the Southern Ocean we see mid-latitude lows and fronts forming further north, just to the west-southwest of Western Australia.

As the Margaret River region gets smashed by large, stormy swells and gale-force onshore winds, South Australia at least picks up some of the westerly energy moving through the Bight, along with windows of lighter offshore winds.

The position off these mid-latitude storms, and more so the shadowing effect of Cape Otway where swells lose size refracting around the cape, limits any major size developing on the Surf Coast.

The beaches have been the main beneficiaries of the La Niña winters. Photo: Steve Arklay

There are benefits, however, as exposed beaches across the state, which are usually a no-go in winter, respond well to these patterns. That said, most Victorian surfers long for the large winter swells.

This has been the pattern the last couple of years, yet 2022 seems to have taken the cake with the last memorable swell arriving during the waiting period of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

Below is the Mean Sea Level Pressure anomaly for the past month, that being July. Anomaly means difference from the long-term climate average and what's perfectly clear is the large area of higher than normal pressure smack bang south of the country, in Victoria's prime swell window.

Mean Sea Level Pressure anomaly (difference from normal) for July

What's also visible is the lower than normal pressure to the west-southwest of Western Australia, the spawning ground for all the mid-latitude activity. On the East Coast the signature of the out of season tropical low late month is evident, as is the source of the historic Teahupoo and Maalaea swell, south-east of New Zealand.

While the chances of a third La Niña continue to strengthen, Victorian surfers should find solace in knowing that a fourth has never occurred and we should see a quick rebound out of a possible third la Niña at the end of next summer.

Comments

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 12:50pm

"While the chances of a third La Niña continue to strengthen, Victorian surfers should find solace in knowing that a fourth has never occurred".

Well, that all but guarantees Round Four.

blackers's picture
blackers's picture
blackers Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 4:55pm

Cheers Ben, thus it becomes set in stone.

mrkook's picture
mrkook's picture
mrkook Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 6:42pm

So heavy!

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 9:49pm

Kiss of death.

lomah's picture
lomah's picture
lomah Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 11:14am

“fourth has never occurred” is this just in the time frame since we defined the term/pattern?

Tim Fisher's picture
Tim Fisher's picture
Tim Fisher Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 3:00pm

Given we know global heating is impacting ocean temperatures, how likely would you say it is that La Ninas will become the norm?

zoddle's picture
zoddle's picture
zoddle Wednesday, 10 Aug 2022 at 1:11pm

been wondering this also

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:09pm

I have a question. If the weather systems move from west to east down there, how does the Southern Ocean directly below Australia have a higher anomaly but the Indian Ocean off WA has a lower anomaly? Wouldn't the low pressure systems SW of WA continue across below Australia?

Interested to see the anomaly charts for the Indian Ocean around this time also please Craig?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:16pm

The mid-latitude storms have been moving east but weakening on approach to South Australia and Victoria while generally also dipping south east.

So they've been stronger than normal to the west of Western Australia, though weaker from about the Bight, further east. We're seeing this currently happening if you check the synoptic charts.

Here's the Indian Ocean..

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:21pm

Thanks Craig, and yep seeing the current charts play out exactly as described (as heading to Bali next week so been looking at the forecasts). So that would imply the larger swells hitting Indo this winter have been more south in direction than say WSW-SW and of a lower swell period?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:21pm

Yep!

Walk around G's picture
Walk around G's picture
Walk around G Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:46pm

More southerly into the Ment's or focused further East?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 2:02pm

It's generally been that way, swells focussed more to eastern Indonesia, coming in more south and with less period.

spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 4:11pm

Seems to have been plenty of action for a particular break on Savu this year, which needs heaps of W in the swell. There's been plenty of action lately firing up below S Africa sending long period swell that way

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 6:12pm

Agh that's mostly from the mid-latitude systems pushing high into the Indian Ocean. There's been a couple of long-range swells from south-east of South Africa but not as many as usual.

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 6:03pm

Warmer than Vico...


"Made" in Indonesia

Stok's picture
Stok's picture
Stok Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:22pm

Is this likely to happen again next time La nina rocks around again in the future?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:23pm

Under a strong event, yes very similar. It's the back to back events that have really taken their toll though. One offs usually break down into the end of summer.

Stok's picture
Stok's picture
Stok Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 1:43pm

Ugh....thanks

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 2:07pm

There have been some joy shapely little longboard days, but yeah

How dry/wet has the winter been Craig? Any chance of Ash Wednesday style fuel loads when this Nina ends?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 2:21pm

July slightly below average..

June/July about average..

Seeing the fuel loads on the East Coast after all the rain, once it does dry out it's going to be scary.

3vickers's picture
3vickers's picture
3vickers Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 9:53pm

i was shocked to see on the news the other night that melb’s rainfall was below average in july….seemed to me (mornington peninsula) that it rained nearly every freakin day….

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 1:22pm

I think you'll find the falls for the MP are average or above. Yeah has been wet particularly early July.

nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 2:49pm

Craig - If a fourth La Nina eventuates, would you suggest this change may be permanent?

I am trying to weigh up the likely hood of my marriage surviving.

Seriously, I've had more surf when I sold my soul for money and worked landlocked. At least then I had an end in sight and cross-training had purpose.

What a great big stinking turd these past few years have been for so many reasons. The shit surf just crushes the last hope.

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 2:58pm

All the chest beating and dick swinging by 'Vic Local' actually does have negative consequences...

Bob Hawke Surf Team's picture
Bob Hawke Surf Team's picture
Bob Hawke Surf Team Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 5:24pm

…and the tossing. Don’t forget the tossing.

pigdog's picture
pigdog's picture
pigdog Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 5:24pm

ha ryder you are a funny man:) you are up there with garry g.

Bob Hawke Surf Team's picture
Bob Hawke Surf Team's picture
Bob Hawke Surf Team Thursday, 4 Aug 2022 at 5:25pm

!

AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 8:45am

Bob Hawke Surf Team
I just laugh everytime I see that written. Travelling around WA in the early eighties, two cars, shit heaps but good shit heaps, one Holden, one Ford , crap roof racks with boards piled to the heavens. Get pulled over in Albany by a copper with attitude, claims the Ford is too unroadworthy, much dialogue between us and him, he asked us where we were from, said Victoria, basically told us in unfriendly terms to fuck off back to there, he asked us if we had guns, and what we were doing for work and money, i said we were on the dole, unemployed and basically on the Bob Hawke Surf Team, he chuckled. One of our mates was about six years older than most of us was getting a bit angry with him and got out of the car and said ‘I’ll have you know, I’ve surfed (served) under three Prime Ministers’ ,at which point the cop laughed, goes back to his car, comes back and slaps a yellow canary on the Ford and said ‘have an enjoyable holiday, boys’. He drove off (smart arse), once out of view, peeled off the sticker, drove another 3500km unregistered. Uninhibited youth, miss those days.

nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 11:29am

Alfred, I love your style.

AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 11:46am

Nasigoreng. I pissed myself laughing just at your reply because that whole year was a laugh a minute. I could walk out the front door tomorrow, all the guys on that trip are miraculously still alive and would join me in a flash. Only three out of eight still surf, that’s mostly to do with change in geographic locations. How you give up surfing is beyond me, late fifties here and I’m still frothing, unfortunately my coast has been asleep for near on three years. Ive found photos of those two cars we had, I'll leave it up to the SWN family to decide Roadworthy or Unroadworthy . Looking for help, I’ve never uploaded before. Please somebody

Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68 Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 5:08pm

Classic stuff AlfredW. Great memories :-)

_Roachy_'s picture
_Roachy_'s picture
_Roachy_ Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 7:09am

Lake surf coast…..
Worst winter in 30 years.
Thanks Craig.

Mr.Tee on a long board's picture
Mr.Tee on a long board's picture
Mr.Tee on a lon... Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 9:01am

I should not read these explanations of why La Nina has killed off the surf in Victoria. It is bad news but the Bob Hawke surf team on tour in W.A. story was funny .

ringostarr's picture
ringostarr's picture
ringostarr Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 9:54am

Some good marine life on display in the 7.19 and 7.29am replays on the Winki cam this morning.

ShaneK's picture
ShaneK's picture
ShaneK Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 11:28am

Hi Craig,

Looking at that map it looks like La Nina is good for central America and Southern Mexico. Is that right? Looks like the mid-Pacific low is perfectly placed.

nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 11:36am

Its almost hard to believe once again, checking the long-range forecast (5/8) and there is nothing on the horizon. When hope is gone, things get dark real quick.

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 12:55pm

They have a wave pool

Stok's picture
Stok's picture
Stok Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 2:58pm

Which is currently closed for maintenance and during winter has a water temp around 9-10deg

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 2:59pm

Haha fair enough

nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng's picture
nasigoreng Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 4:45pm

Yep, they leave the water temp off the website & marketing. Its fucken painfully cold.

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 4:49pm

Much colder than the ocean in winter and you have to pay a lot for the privilege of surfing fake waves

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 4:52pm

Ouch 10 degrees is colder than mid-winter tassie water temp

anthony.olsen's picture
anthony.olsen's picture
anthony.olsen Sunday, 7 Aug 2022 at 2:43pm

10 is luxury… last surf I had there was around 8!!!!

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 1:29pm

As Craig says, there is always a silver lining still getting plenty on the MP which is usually a write off in winter, with all the usual derision spat our way - hoax coast, rippermatta, etc.. have to catch the ferry to the west for a surf with the masses. At the moment it is a walk or a short drive to good waves with some local knowledge. Third year in a row we are happy vegemites down this way.

greyhound's picture
greyhound's picture
greyhound Friday, 5 Aug 2022 at 5:30pm

Yes memla, we know..
Let us sook without repeatedly adding a little more salt.
East =summer , west =winter.

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Sunday, 7 Aug 2022 at 10:19am

No complaints from my little stretch of Victorian coastline

Stok's picture
Stok's picture
Stok Sunday, 7 Aug 2022 at 3:00pm

Highly doubt that

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 12:09pm

Some interesting observations here in regards to the westerly storm track and lack of strength through the Southern Ocean.

The polar vortex is the area of low pressure that circles the poles and when its strong and tight through winter, it powers up the westerly storm track, producing strong storms through the Southern Ocean. Read more zonal (west to east) activity.

When it's weaker it becomes wider and broader, resulting in wobbles and deviations and cold outbreaks pushing south to north (meridional).

Here's the size (area) of the polar vortex across the Southern Hemisphere and it's at record highs for this time of year (red line).

This is another reason for the lack of zonal frontal activity through the Southern Ocean and persistent mid-latitude systems.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 3:29pm

Great chart Craig, I can understand that.
Future climate predictions had the polar vortex contracting toward Antarctica and thus taking the fronts further south with it - bad for rainfall in southern Oz. With the polar vortex being extended further out, wouldn't that tend to be a good thing for bringing storm fronts further north?

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 7:32pm

VJ I'm afraid the head forecaster clocked off at the first sign of a new swell. What I think we're looking at is a storm track so out of alignment, we're on the wrong side of it?
Upside? Was a nice day with perfect beginner waves? Is this an anomaly or the new Winter? Huey can just pull the plug, just like that? 'I'll just change this setting, there we go, wandering aimlessly in random directions storm track, click [mumbles -and you can go and play tiddlywinks in your baby pool]

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 8:05pm

Yeah exactly SL. Kinda like being on the wrong side of it.

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Wednesday, 10 Aug 2022 at 10:34am

Just to be clear, if you Craig, after spending the day trying to get us into as many quality waves as possible, publishing mind expanding, thought provoking content and answering our ridiculous queries, manage to forecast yourself a knock off surf then I have nothing but admiration. I'm sure I couldn't begin to imagine the time and energy you and the SN crew have put into creating this amazing internet phenom.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 8:04pm

Cheers, and nah it isn't a good thing. What we get is more chaotic cold/warm outbreaks as the jetstream meanders north and south in multiple wobbles. So feast or famine type setups.

Instead of say a stronger more focussed pattern feeding deep from polar latitude.

greyhound's picture
greyhound's picture
greyhound Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 3:58pm

Is that a sneaky storm building towards the end of the forey period ? Long way off but I need some hope.

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Tuesday, 9 Aug 2022 at 4:05pm

Umm it's outside the 'maximum' !?
Could it peak early and then slide back under?