Lots of size expected this week as cyclone drifts through the Coral Sea
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Fri 3rd Feb)
Forecast Summary (tl;dr)
- Mostly light/mod SE winds all week (more E’ly south of Yamba), light in the morning
- Small kick in E swell Tues across the region
- Late pulse of S swell to MNC Tues, Wed for rest of NENSW (v. small in SEQLD)
- Small increase in E/SE tradewind swell Wed into Thurs
- Likely rapid rise in NE cyclone swell for Sunshine Coast Thurs PM, into the Gold Coast and NENSW Fri
- Large cyclone swell peaking Fri for Sunshine Coast/Gold Coast, with plenty of size over the weekend
- Swells continue to build NENSW into Sat, likely peaking Sun
- Light winds over the weekend
- Easing but still strong E swells into early next week as ex TC smashes the North Island
Nice mixed bag over the weekend with Sat seeing mostly E swell, clean early under offshore winds with a’noon sea breezes. Size was in the 2-3ft range for most of the day with some longer range E swell in the a’noon seeing inconsistent 3ft surf. Sunday eased in size from the E with early light winds tending E/SE-E/NE as the day worn on. Today is seeing more small E swell in the 2ft range with a few traces of S swell at NENSW S swell magnets. Early light winds have quickly tended to onshore breezes with surface conditions rapidly becoming ordinary. Looks like we have some juicy tropical developments on hand this week, with a chunky swell expected from a southwards tracking cyclone. Read on for details.
This week (Feb6-10)
We’ve got a return to a typical Summer synoptic pattern after a large, mid-latitude low cleared Tasmania on the weekend and quickly exited across the Tasman Sea. Weak high pressure has now moved into the lower Tasman, with light/mod onshore flow across the Eastern Seaboard- NE in temperate NSW, tending more SE in the sub-tropics. A convective cloud mass between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu is expected to consolidate and deepen into a tropical cyclone by mid week, tracking back into the Coral Sea towards the tropical QLD coast before recurving and drifting Southwards through the Coral Sea and eventually towards the North Island. Solid swell from this system is expected across most of the Eastern Seaboard.
In the short run and both swell sources from the E and S perk up overnight and through tomorrow, leaving a small mixed bag topping out around 3ft+ at open beaches. Light morning landbreezes will tend SE through the day with some small peelers expected on Points as the tide drains.
A front briefly tracks NE into the lower Tasman today and tomorrow sending a pulse of refracted S swell up the NSW Coast. Wind speeds are decent and the entire fetch is long so swell periods in the 13-14 second band are expected. An undersize start is on the books for tomorrow with S swell filling in across the Mid North Coast late in the day. E swell supplies most of the wave energy with size in the 2-3ft range expected, clean early before onshore SE winds kick in, tending more E’ly to E/NE’ly on the Mid North Coast.
No change to winds on Thurs, more light/mod SE-E winds. S swell should hold into the morning at 3ft or so at S facing beaches in NENSW- before easing during the day.
All eyes will be to the North where a tropical cyclone is likely to be dominating the charts (see below). A precursor tradewind fetch through the Southern Coral and Northern Tasman seas will see small amounts of short period E/NE swell start to fill in. No great size is expected, just a weak 2-3ft or so. We may see a rare NE-NNE swell start to filter down from the tropics as potential TC Gabrielle develops gales to severe gales across the NE quadrant as it drifts Westwards back into towards the QLD coast. These swells, when they occur are usually very flukey but models are in reasonable agreement on the fetch and the track. We’ll flag for now some potential 2-3ft sets winding down the beach Thurs a’noon, although Fri looks a safer bet.
The Sunshine Coast is more favourably oriented for these rare NE cyclone swell events and we’re likely to see a rapid rise in size there Thurs a’noon into the 4-5ft range.
More of the same winds to round off the working week- straight SE with a lighter period of SW-S winds south of the Gold Coast. By this stage, under current modelling TC Gabrielle is likely to be a large, potentially Cat 3 storm moving through the sub-tropical swell window. Gales and severe gales from the NE quadrant begin to extend to the southern and south-western quadrant with large swells beginning to make landfall. Expect size to ramp up considerably Fri, likely into the 6-8ft range on the Sunshine Coast, 6ft+ on the Gold Coast and grading smaller into NENSW with increasing S’ly latitude. Points only for most of SEQLD with some beach break options still likely through NENSW in the morning under light winds. Stay tuned for revisions to size and timing.
This weekend (Feb 11-12)
The TC is likely to tracking slowly SE by this weekend, just on the inside track of Norfolk Island, and likely to be undergoing extra-tropical transition as it does so. Local pressure gradients are likely to weaken as the system moves away, with light S-SE breezes expected Sat, tending light/variable Sunday.
We’ll finesse size and timing as we move through the week but Sat is likely to see size begin to roll off in SEQLD as the system moves SE and swell direction does a classic slow counter-clockwise shift from E/NE to E/SE. This will see a rapid roll off in size for more sheltered North facing Points, with plenty of size to 5-6ft across more open beaches and exposed Points on the Sunshine Coast, solid 6ft on the Gold Coast. In NENSW size will still be building, likely pushing into the 6-8ft range during the day, with bigger surf a possibility.
Size continues to build into Sunday across NENSW with E/SE gales aimed directly at the region, and size in excess of 8ft likely. Experts only at the few spots handling the size. Smaller but still pumping 4-6ft surf on the Gold Coast, a half notch smaller on the Sunshine Coast.
Next week (Feb 13 onwards)
Strong E/SE swell maintains plenty of size into Mon, with a conservative expectation of solid 6-8ft sets in NENSW, smaller 4-5ft in SEQLD . Light NW-NE winds are on the menu as a trough stalls on the Mid North Coast.
A slow easing trend is then likely through Tues/Wed as the system( likely a serious extra-tropical storm smashing the North island) becomes slow moving with the fetch truncated by the North Island.
Pencil in easing E swell through Tues/Wed with light winds likely in weak, troughy synoptic pattern.
Further ahead and looks frontal activity into the Tasman by mid next week, suggesting the next swell cycle will be another small series of S pulses.
Confidence is low this far out and we have a potential cyclone to deal with before then.
Check back Wed and we’ll start to dial in size and timing of the upcoming cyclone swells.