Almost one of everything in the offing

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 12th January)

Best Days: Tues: fun mix of swell with OK conditions. Wed: great NE swell with good winds developing (probably) after lunch. Fri: decent south swell with good winds. Sat: fun mix of swells with early offshores. Sun: solid south swell. 

Recap: Saturday was OK with light NE winds freshening during the day and a peaky NE swell in the 3ft range at open beaches. Sunday’s southerly change came in a little fresher (and wetter!) than expected, but surf size tailed off and there wasn’t anything of great value on offer during the day. Today we’ve seen strengthening S’ly winds and a building short range S/SE swell across most beaches that has far exceeded expectations (at least across Sydney/Hunter/Illawarra coasts - this swell was meant to be more SE in direction, and really only benefiting the Far South and South Coasts).

This week (Jan 13 - 16)

The complexities outlined in last Friday’s forecast have held nicely through into this week. 

We have a seemingly unlimited range of inbound energy from most parts of our broader swell window, but in general no remarkable size or strength is expected - so the key factor to scoring waves this week will be to work around the funky winds.

Today’s building S/SE energy is not expected to last long (thanks to a rapidly retreating local fetch overnight), so wave heights will quickly ease through Tuesday morning

However, a small low in the western Tasman Sea (actually, there seems to be several low pressure centres within a broad trough line stretching offshore from the Sydney coast right up to SE Qld) is expected to drift westwards, and a broad NE thru’ E/NE fetch feeding into it from the northern Tasman Sea will generate some new short range swell that’ll build during the day - say, 2-3ft sets at NE facing beaches. 

This will then be superseded by a strengthening NE fetch along the coast later Tuesday which should kick up wave heights further into Wednesday, up to 3-4ft at NE facing beaches through the afternoon.

However, despite being less than 24 hours away, Tuesday’s winds are still somewhat uncertain due to the close proximity of the meandering low. We should see light variable winds for a period in the morning through until about lunchtime (although lumpy leftover conditions are possible due overnight southerlies) but freshening NE winds are likely at some point in the afternoon. So keep an eye out for that.

Wednesday is expected to see freshening N/NE winds ahead of an afternoon NW change. The timing on this is not yet clear but in any case there should be a good window of quality waves from about midday onwards - keep an eye on the Manly surfcam.

Also worth mentioning during this period: we’ll see a small undercurrent of long range trade swell from activity north of New Zealand over the weekend (see the pumping waves on the Goldy today? It’s the same swell, but smaller).

Thursday morning looks like we’ll be in between swells - a southerly change is expected in the morning, with a small increase in short range windswell into the afternoon - but of more relevance is a low pressure system SE of Tasmania (associated with the change) that should generate a stronger S’ly groundswell for Friday morning (3-4ft sets at south facing beaches). 

On Thursday we’ll also see a small pulse of distant E/NE swell from a small low north of New Zealand at the moment. There probably won’t be much in it but inconsistent 2ft+ sets at open beaches are possible. Otherwise expect very small waves at most beaches ahead of the small afternoon southerly windswell.

On Friday, the new southerly groundswell should be accompanied by light winds in the morning ahead of a freshening nor’easter in the afternoon, so at this stage we should end the week with something worthwhile at many beaches for a few hours at least.

This weekend (Jan 17 - 19)

At this stage the focus of the weekend of a reasonably strong southerly change due later Saturday, which should provide a solid, if not large southerly groundswell for Sunday. Ahead of this, expect easing S’ly swell early Saturday (from Friday) with a small concurrent E/NE swell in the water too (inconsistent 2ft+ sets). 

As an aside, one of the models has the source of the weekend’s E/NE swell bolstering a little over the coming days so we’ll leave it until Wednesday’s update to see if this warrants any further attention.

The weekend’s winds are a little uncertain at this stage but early Saturday morning should be favourably offshore at the open beaches, and early indications are that Saturday’s southerly change will pass quickly to the east, leaving us with rapidly easing winds for Sunday. More on this in Wednesday’s updates.

Next week (Jan 20 onwards)

The previously discussed potential Coral Sea cyclone activity still isn’t showing any promise for any decent swell - yet. 

The waters north of New Zealand look to be a focal point for long term swell generation, but it’s as yet unclear whether we’ll see a sizeable weather system remain in a favourable part of our swell window for long enough to kick up something memorable for the East Coast (and specifically, Southern NSW!). 

As I said last week, all of the ingredients are still there - we just need them to come together in the right way. Let's take a closer pass at this on Wednesday.


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 at 2:48pm

Jeez, how did the BOM get today's nor'wester wrong up until late yesterday? Was pretty clear to see on most models. This was issued at 4pm Tues: