Solid second half of the week, potential large weekend
Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 16th February)
Best Days: Entire period: plenty of E/NE swell - getting solid Thurs/Fri then possibly quite large Sat/Sun. Just gotta work around the NE wind.
Recap: Plenty of great waves over the weekend, with reasonable winds on the balance (good in some areas, sea-breezey in others at times) and a punchy combo of E/NE and NE swells that held in and around the 3-4ft mark both days. Wave heights eased to 2-3ft this morning but despite freshening NE winds we’ve seen continuing fun surf at most open beaches.
This week (Feb 17 - 20)
As per Friday’s notes, we’re looking at slowly weakening surf on Tuesday and early Wednesday, from the E/NE.
Whilst the trades remained active over the weekend, they did pull back relative to our swell window and as a consequence we’ll see marginally smaller surf than today. However, it’s hard to see it dropping below 2ft+ at exposed NE facing beaches (due to the broad, sustained nature of the trades over the last few weeks), so there should be plenty of options across open beaches. We’ll also have some peaky NE windswell in the water from a local fetch off the coast but these winds will create a few problems at times. It’s hard to imagine there being a period of light variable winds early tomorrow either.
Models also have a minor (and easing) SE swell in the water on Tuesday, from a weak fetch that developed off the SW tip of New Zealand’s South Island on Friday but this probably won’t be worth very much size. A small but robust E/SE fetch developed immediately west of Cook Strait on Saturday but this won’t supply much more size either than the pre-existing E/NE swell.
Although the models don’t really show it right now, late Wednesday may herald the start of a steady upwards trend in size from a fresh new swell. As it is Thursday will certainly see a pronounced increase, thanks to the trades below New Caledonia which are strengthening today and will reach a peak on Tuesday. However the girth of the broader trade belt is quite wide, and will edge westward through Tuesday - with a reasonable 20-25kt fetch between 30-32S (Mid North Coast latitudes) nudging quite close to the mainland.
As such I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some 3ft+ sets at NE facing beaches later Wednesday afternoon. Again, moderate to fresh NE winds will create bumpy conditions at many beaches but we may see a brief window of light N’ly winds in the early morning (although, given the overnight nor’easter conditions are unlikely to be especially clean).
So, Thursday is where we’ll really see things kick into gear. The current intensification phase of the trades will generate a good E/NE groundswell that’ll arrive overnight Wednesday and provide 3-5ft waves at exposed NE facing beaches throughout all of Thursday. Unfortunately we’re still likely to see some form of moderate to fresh nor’easter; let’s wait and see if there are any possible pockets of lighter and/or more favourable winds throughout the day.
As this is happening, we’ll be seeing an intensifying tropical low in the southern Coral Sea, tracking south-west towards SE Qld, which will enhance the trades closer to the mainland, within a deep, broad flow encompassing the northern half of the Tasman Sea - quite an impressive looking forecast chart at this point in time!
In the interim, the northern parts of the state are looking at a very large and windy swell event to end the working week but in southern NSW we’ll probably see a smaller, less windy version: still persistent NE thru’ E/NE winds through Friday but with wave heights probably holding 3-5ft at most NE facing beaches. The surf will probably veer more NE in direction (as the initial E/NE trade pulse on Thursday will be easing) and there’s every chance that we could see some bigger 6ft sets at swell magnets (particularly late Friday), depending on how the models evolve.
Either way, there will absolutely not be any shortage of surf to finish off the working week. Let’s hope the winds swing a little more in our favour.
This weekend (Feb 21 - 22)
Long range model forecasts always need to be taken in context, and with a liberal grain of salt. But it’s very hard not to get excited about the upcoming developments later this week.
What increases the confidence levels (in the forecast) is that most of the major atmospheric models are in fine agreement as to the broadscale synoptic trend. Sure, there are small differences between them all but in general we’re looking at southward tracking tropical low reasonably close to the East Coast that’ll greatly enhance the easterly flow about the Northern Tasman Sea, whilst also raising the possibility of a super-charged fetch located within close proximity to the mainland.
In short - we could see some very big waves about parts of the East Coast from late Thursday (in the north) thru' the weekend (further south).
For now, because it’s still five days away, the best approach is to ball-park the size and wind possibilities, as there’s always a chance for an upgrade or downgrade. And weather systems (modelled) close to the coast are always at risk of major revisions in the long term, compared to weather systems that are nudged across ocean basins. So this has to be carefully considered too.
Right now there are many ingredients for a very large swell both Saturday and Sunday but we’ll be best off waiting for Wednesday’s update to firm up the deets. At the moment I can see exposed beaches pushing well north of 6ft+ but I’ll feel a hell of a lot more comfortable when the model data is saying the same thing in a couple of days time.
Winds are also very tricky for the weekend (at this stage) as there's a suggestion for a closed low to form off the southern NSW coast, which could cause a swing from the week's incessant nor'esasters around to a sou'wester at some point, in some regions. But that is looking at the optimistic end of the scale - a lot needs to happen between now and then. I'll update more comprehensively on Wednesday.
Next week (Feb 23 onwards)
Looks like whatever swell we see over the weekend will begin a steady downwards trend from about Monday onwards. There’s nothing major on the long term charts beyond this, which is good as it’ll allow us to focus on this incoming swell event without other distractions! See you Wednesday.