Difficult short term; exciting though windy long term with stacks of swell for the points
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 11th February)
Best Days: Tues/Wed may see a slim window of NW winds early, otherwise N'ly winds are likely to ruin conditions. Thurs onwards will see a combo of swells, mainly out of the east then building SE over the weekend with an extended run of action on the points under fresh SE winds.
Recap: Easing E’ly swells on Saturday still managed 3-4ft sets early, and light morning winds gave way to freshening N’ly breezes throughout the day, strongest in Northern NSW (particularly the south). A gusty S’ly change extended across the region on Sunday morning with the E’ly swell maintaining size around 3ft. Today we’ve seen early light winds and afternoon sea breezes, and a slight increase in E’ly swell back up to 3-4ft, though the sets are rather inconsistent.
This week (Feb 12 - 15)
I’m really not very confident in the surf outlook for the next few days.
Fortunately - from a forecast perspective - the threat of fresh N’ly winds both Tuesday and Wednesday eases the risk, as most locations are likely to be blown out.
Anyway, the source of our inbound E’ly swell didn’t perform quite as well as expected over the weekend, and seemed to shift a little faster into the swell shadow of New Zealand.
Additionally, the models seem to have erased all reference to any swell out of the east on Tuesday. Instead, they’re expecting the main swell front to kick in around Wednesday. This is at odds with my manual calculations.
Unfortunately, with no wave buoys in the central Tasman Sea to monitor the incoming swells and provide verification on their size and strength, we can only wait to see what transpires.
As such, I’m going to slightly downgrade the outlook for the next few days (from this swell window). The large travel distance coupled in with the poorly consolidated fetch (as detailed in last week’s notes) and then the greater-than-anticipated swell shadowing from New Zealand has really dented my confidence in this swell event.
We’ve seen today push into the 3-4ft range and we should see similar size surf into Tuesday, though apart from an early window of NW winds, expect most beaches to become blown out throughout the day with gusty N’lies.
The same goes for Wednesday across SE Qld and Northern NSW, but the Mid North Coast (early) and Northern Rivers (late) will feel the effects of a fresh southerly change throughout the day. There’ll be some short range S’ly swell trailing behind but it may not arrive until Thursday.
Based on model guidance, we should see a little more size out of the east later Wednesday and early Thursday (3-5ft open beaches) but again, I’m not especially confident that this will eventuate.
Thursday and Friday will then see a mix of swells impacting all coasts. In addition to the E’ly swell - which should ease from 3-5ft early Thursday down to 3ft by Friday - we’ll see a mix of S’ly swells; some short to mid range energy trailing Wednesday’s change, then some long period S’ly swell from the parent low south of Tasmania, arriving later Thursday and into Friday but only across Northern NSW.
We’ll actually see a new E’ly swell build during this time too, from a series of small tropical lows retrograding westward below Fiji. They look impressive on the synoptics and there’s certainly a chance for a mild captured fetch scenario but they’re also poorly consolidated. So I’m keeping my size expectations around the 3-4ft mark from this source (more so Fri than Thurs).
More importantly a strong ridge will become established across the region, driving fresh SE winds into all coasts (perhaps a slight delay on the Sunny Coast to begin with) and also generating a healthy short range SE swell, around 3-4ft at exposed beaches and smaller along the points.
This means conditions for the second half of the week will only be suitable for the sheltered points anyway, but with a blend of swells in the mix there’ll be plenty of options.
This weekend (Feb 16 - 17)
Some of the forecast charts are very impressive for the weekend, with a broadening ridge through the Tasman Sea combining with a widespread trough of low pressure to the north to create a large, strong SE fetch aimed into the Coral Sea.
On the surface charts it looks like one enormous low centred east of New Caledonia; this is mainly related to the broad scale circulation associated with the monsoon trough to the north. In fact there will be several small low pressure centres within the primary system, of which we may even see a ‘Fujiwhara’ effect later this week whereby two tropical lows or cyclones rotate around a central point.
However, not all models have the same setup to the same degree of intensity on the weekend’s synoptics, nor within the same part of the swell window either. As such we should be cautious about how high we set our expectations for the weekend.
As it is, there’ll be decent mix of easterly and southerly swells this weekend, from the same swell sources mentioned above.
However the primary fetch in the Central Tasman Sea will certainly be the dominant factor. At this stage it’d be pretty safe to call 5-6ft surf at exposed beaches in Far Northern NSW, with slightly smaller surf on the Mid North Coasts and across SE Qld. And, because of the SE swell direction, wave heights will be smaller again across SE Qld points, say around 3-4ft.
With fresh winds out of the SE just about everywhere, it’ll be points-only anyway.
Let’s see how Wednesday’s model runs are shaping up with this Tasman system, as there’s certainly the potential for an upgrade.
Next week (Feb 18 onwards)
Long term activity is centred around the South Pacific, with a multitude of tropical lows (and possible tropical cyclones) moving through our swell window at various points in time. Although there’s nothing concrete to pin down at this stage, it does look like we’ve got at least two or three weeks of persistent E’ly swell ahead as a series of tropical lows and tropical cyclones migrate across the South Pacific through our swell window. There is certainly a good chance for some very big easterly swell during the last week and a half of February.
Tune back in Wednesday to see how things have evolved.