Strong cyclone swell ahoy!
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 12th February)
Best Days: Thurs/Fri: building, sizeable cyclone swell peaking Thurs in SE Qld and Fri in Northern NSW, only suitable for sheltered locations. Sat/Sun: initially strong but rapidly easing surf in Northern NSW, with good beaches in SE Qld. Lots of fun waves next week too, initially small then a good SE swell.
Recap: Surf size maintained 3-4ft sets across SE Qld on Tuesday, slightly bigger south of the border with 4ft+ sets, and 4-5ft+ across parts of the Mid North Coast. Wave heights have eased a little across the Mid North Coast today, but muscled up ever so slightly throughout Far Northern NSW and SE Qld, with sets in the 3-5ft range. What’s interesting is that whilst this size increase is sourced anecdotally (and from yours truly), including a corresponding swing in the swell direction, the regional buoy network doesn’t support these observations so I’m a little cautious to use them as a proxy for inbound energy. We are however seeing new lines of cyclone swells at Agnes Water (see below), so we know it’s on the way!
This week (Feb 13 - 14)
On the balance, there are no major changes to the Forecaster Notes for this upcoming cyclone swell event.
There are a few small points of discussion worth tabling though.
Thursday will see a step-ladder increase in surf size through the day. Since Tuesday, TC Uesi has been nicely positioned within our swell window, though its initial developments were slightly off axis. It’s really only been the last 24 hours where NE gales have had time to generate strong, (relatively) long period surf for our region.
To give some bearing, TC Uesi is expected to be at Port Macquarie latitudes by Friday morning. However, most of the swell generating fetch (relative to our coasts) will be on TC Uesi’s south and east flanks, which means by Friday morning, our swell window will effectively shut down - though remember, there is a half to one day lag on the swell's arrival.
As mentioned on Monday, SE Qld will see the upwards trend and peak size earlier than locations to the south. As a general rule of thumb, late Thursday will probably see the biggest waves across the Sunshine and Gold Coast, whilst early Friday is more likely across Northern NSW (early afternoon across the Mid North Coast). However, its forward speed will result in a much shorter peak of maximum of surf size, so let’s hope it doesn’t peak under the cover of darkness Thursday night (SE Qld is at greatest risk of this happening).
For what it’s worth, I think TC Uesi is travelling a little too fast (and also slightly off-axis of the swell window) to allow for a captured fetch scenario, which could otherwise significantly enhance wave heights.
We also have to remember that TC Uesi will spend a greater amount of time in the swell window for more southern locations (i.e. Mid North Coast) than northern locations (i.e. Sunshine Coast), which means when assessing the overall size potential, we’ll probably see the largest waves south of the border for this event.
One of the interesting points about the peak in size is that we’ll see a concurrent mix of swell trains in the water.
There’ll be a mix of smaller NE swell being overtaken by larger E/NE swell, and late Friday will see a new E’ly tending E/SE mid-range swell (mainly just the Mid North Coast), originating from a new E’ly tending E/SE fetch across TC Uesi’s southern flank, as it pushes against a ridge to the southwest and decouples its internal structure under an extra-tropical transition.
Because each beach responds to different combinations of swell sizes, periods and directions (and tides!), you can be sure that your local will undergo a number of significant mood changes throughout the day as each swell train pulses and ebbs.
So, how much size?
TC Uesi is a great looking system, and we’re going to see some sizeable waves over the coming days. Exposed Northern NSW coasts should reach 8-10ft at the height of the swell on Friday (earlier in the north, later in the south), and we’ll probably see smaller surf across SE Qld (say, late Thursday 8ft+ Gold Coast, 6-8ft Sunshine Coast). Expect an easing trend across SE Qld on Friday, whilst wave heights will be reaching a peak in Northern NSW.
Local winds are the only wildcard, as they’ll tend anti-clockwise as TC Uesi passes to our south. We’ll see freshening SE tending S’ly winds across northern regions on Thursday, but freshening easterlies are a risk across the Mid North Coast. Into Friday, winds will become S’ly across most of Northern NSW - moderate to fresh at times in the morning, but easing through the day. Conversely, we’ll see SW breezes throughout SE Qld.
This weekend (Feb 15 - 16)
And as quickly as it came, it looks like the departure will also be swift over the weekend. Though, conditions look great with mainly light winds.
Wave heights will ease steadily on Saturday, with early sets around 3-5ft across SE Qld, 4-6ft throughout much of Northern NSW and some bigger bombs across the Mid North Coast, thanks to the secondary E/SE swell. However, size will be easing steadily from the get go and by mid-late morning will be down by a foot or two, before levelling out into Sunday.
All in all, lots of fun options just about everywhere this weekend.
Next week (Feb 17 onwards)
Steady trades will provide fun small beachies across most open stretches for Monday and early Tuesday.
Ex-TC Uesi will merge with a cold front in the Southern Ocean on Sunday, near the SW tip of New Zealand’s South Island. This will result in strengthening S/SE gales, that will tend more SE and slide below the South Island into Monday and Tuesday (see below).
This will be better aimed towards Southern NSW but we’ll see some nice waves across Northern NSW mid-week. The first SE swell will build throughout Tuesday afternoon (2-3ft sets), with larger waves filling in later Wednesday and Thursday. Max surf size should reach about 4-5ft at south facing beaches though it’ll be smaller elsewhere, and I’m not expecting much across SE Qld, just a few stray 2-3ft sets at the exposed northern end of the Gold Coast (smaller on the Sunshine Coast).
The long term still has tropical cyclone potential in and around the Fijian region, though it’s a long time away and will probably occur in our far swell window, which will limit surf size. So, there’s no shortage of options to look forward to, but future significant swell events will more than likely be sourced more locally.
So, that’s it for now - see you Friday!