Small, small, small for the foreseeable future

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 28th May)

Best Days: Sat: small south swell. Sun: keep an eye out for a sneaky east swell in SE Qld and Far Northern NSW (but keep your expectations low)

Recap: Strong but easing S’ly swell Tuesday with early light winds tending fresh N/NE during the day. Smaller mix of rapidly fading S’ly swell and local NE windswell this morning, with freshening NW thru’ N’ly winds. 

This week (May 27-30)

No major changes for the rest of the week. Small residual swells are expected on Thursday with early offshore winds expected to swing moderate southerly in association with a shallow change. 

A small short range southerly swell may materialise at south facing beaches in Northern NSW on Friday in the wake of this system, but we’re not going to see much more than a foot or two tops. And SE Qld won’t see much, if anything from this source - possible a tiny level of residual trade swell in the water but that’s about it.

This weekend (May 31 - June 1)

A small southerly groundswell is expected to build along the Northern NSW coast on Saturday, generated by a polar low of mainly moderate strength that formed well south of the Tasman Sea on Monday. Right now it’s exhibiting a broad S/SW fetch (25-30kts) through our far southern swell window. 

Due to the mediocre strength of the fetch and the large travel distance, the resulting swell won’t be very strong nor very large but we should see a reasonable push in size  across most south facing beaches, with sets in the 2ft to possibly 3ft range if we're lucky. It’ll be much smaller elsewhere due to the swell direction, and conditions should be OK with mainly light variable winds and sea breezes. Size will fade from this source throughout Sunday, so get in early for the biggest (!) waves and best conditions.

SE Qld won’t see much, if anything from this southerly swell either. However there is one other source of new swell for Sunday that wasn’t mentioned in Monday’s notes but was mentioned last Friday - a broad ridge of high pressure across the North Island of New Zealand is cradling a trough/low to the S/SE of Tonga, which looks pretty good on the synoptic charts - all except that its fetch is primarily aimed up into the Fijian region.

As such, the dispersed swell energy we will eventually see at the coast will be much smaller than what we have seen from similarly placed (but more favourably aligned) systems over the last few months. Furthermore, I doubt that locations south of about (say) Yamba will see any energy from this low - wave heights will be biggest on the Sunny Coast with very inconsistent 2ft+ sets, a shade smaller on the Goldy and a shade smaller again in Far Northern NSW, and so on.

Overall I definitely wouldn’t pin your hopes on anything notable from this source, but with there being a small concurrent south swell in the water, it may be worth sniffing out a location that can pick up both swells in order to produce peaky beachies. My only concern is that this small east swell may not arrive until Sunday afternoon, which is when (1) the south swell will be well and truly on the way out, and (2) the sea breeze will probably be up. So, definitely don’t plan any major highway miles around this pulse.

Long term (June 2 onwards)

Nothing of any major interest on the cards, all thanks to a dirty great big blocking pattern across the Tasman Sea.

However what’s interesting about this particular blocking pattern is its shape and alignment. The block is angled across the broader Australian continent, in a NW/SE orientation down to the South Island of New Zealand. What this means is that - unlike a more ‘zonal’ block across the Tasman - most of the synoptic activity in the South West Pacific is aimed up into equatorial regions (ie SE in direction) which doesn’t benefit the East Coast. And the trades are located too far north to be of any benefit (although, this is generally expected around this time of the year).

In tandem with this, the NW flow along the bottom of the block is essentially the downstream part of the Long Wave Trough (SW of Western Australia), which is deflecting all Southern Ocean storm activity well away from our southern swell window. 

And the blocking high itself is suppressing any major activity in the Tasman Sea at the same time. A triple header if you will, all of which points to another possible lengthy spell of small waves in the long term (see the Sydney swell trains below.. all blue!). I'll hopefully have some better news on Friday.