E/NE swell for the next few days

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 16th March)

Best Days: Tues: early morning for some building E/NE swell and early light winds. Wed: freshening nor'easters will cause problems but there's a chance for a period of light variable winds in the afternoon. 

Recap: Fun, easing SE swell on Saturday with early light winds and afternoon sea breezes. Small leftovers early Saturday with a gusty S’ly change bringing a solid afternoon increase in short range windswell. Easing S’ly windswell this morning and early light offshore winds, easing into the afternoon but with a small new long period E/NE swell and an afternoon sea breeze. 

This week (Mar 17 - 20)

Our main focus for the next few days is a distant E/NE swell courtesy of TC Pam, which finally tracked through our far NE swell window over the weekend.

Phenomenal surface winds were recorded by satellites around TC Pam on Saturday morning however the large distance between these winds and our coast, as well as TC Pam's steady SE track - perpendicular across the Great Circle paths - significantly limited swell potential from this part of the storm for us.

Indeed, we’re already seeing resulting long period energy from these phenomenal winds right now. The Sydney buoy has picked up peak swell periods in the 18 second range this afternoon (rare for an E/NE swell), but set waves at Manly - one of Sydney’s more reliable NE swell magnets - are only 2-3ft or so. As such, this confirms last week’s outlook that the cyclone would not directly contribute any significant swell to southern NSW waters.

[note: there’s still some room for movement on this, for example we could see the onset of larger waves from this source overnight, however surf observations to the north of Sydney suggest last Friday’s forecast was on target. Ideally, we'd have a wave buoy off Lord Howe Island that'd assist in tracking and calibrating inbound E/NE groundswells from the tropics. But alas, we don't.] 

Therefore, with all of the available data at hand, I am still holding steady that our surf potential for the next few days will originate from the supporting ridge south of TC Pam as it tracked south-east.

Our wave model isn’t picking this energy up very well, so I’m calling for bigger waves than the automated system is estimating - I think open NE facing beaches will see inconsistent 3-4ft sets at times on Tuesday. I'm not very confident on the timing of the upwards phase of this swell, so we'll need to give it some leeway if its undersized at dawn.

There’ll also be a smaller fading SE swell in the water leftover from today at south facing beaches (2ft+ sets). 

Tuesday’s conditions will deteriorate throughout the day as a fresh NE wind develops across the coast, so you’ll have to surf early for the next waves (winds should be light and variable at dawn). Expect bumpy conditions from about lunchtime onwards

On Wednesday, we’re likely to see freshening NE winds for much of the day as a weak southerly change approaches the South Coast into the afternoon. This change may disrupt the local NE airstream and cause a period of variable winds in some regions through the afternoon, but confidence is not high on this happening at many beaches. 

As for surf, we’re looking to see a continuation of E/NE swell but perhaps a little smaller and less consistent than Tuesday, perhaps some 3ft sets at NE facing beaches early, but smaller throughout the day. Tuesday’s SE swell will be all but gone by this time too so expect very small surf at south facing beaches. A small NE windswell is also possible at some NE swell magnets.

Also worth keeping an eye out for - mainly on the buoys - is a small long period south swell late in the day, originating from a polar low well below the continent a few days ago. This swell won't be very large and it'll be very inconsistent but south swell magnets may pick up a few stray 2ft sets in the few hours before dusk (hopefully it'll push ahead of the unrelated southerly change). This swell should persist through into early Thursday too.

By Thursday we’ll be down to small residual leftover E/NE swell (1-2ft open beaches) and a small short range south swell in the wake of an overnight S’ly change Wednesday night, plus the aforementioned easing S'ly groundswell (inconsistent 2ft sets at south facing beaches). Wednesday's change will have cleared to the east so conditions should be nice and clean but there probably won’t be much size around. Freshening NE winds are expected later in the day.

And to finish the working week, Friday looks like seeing small leftover surf with freshening NE winds ahead of a late S’ly change - hardly anything to plan around. So definitely make the most of the next few days.

This weekend (Mar 21 - 22)

Saturday looks a little average right now, with gusty southerly winds and a building short range S’ly swell that’ll probably reach 4ft at south facing beaches, bigger in the Hunter. But it’ll be very small at those locations offering protection from the wind. 

Lighter, more variable winds (and possible sea breezes) are then expected on Sunday as the change clears to the east, but surf size will fall away steadily. So at this stage not a great weekend of waves but I’ll firm up the specific in Wednesday’s notes. 

Next week (Mar 23 onwards)

We’ve got a fun, small to moderate SE swell due on Monday from a cut-off low modelled to form off the SW tip of New Zealand’s South Island on Saturday. At this stage we’re looking at set waves around 3ft from this source but I’ll reevaluate things over the coming week. 

Otherwise, there are no other major weather systems appearing in the long range models at this stage. TC Nathan continues to remain a non-event for Southern NSW (even Northern NSW of that matter), and although a couple of systems are expected to form way out in our distant E/NE swell window (most notably a developing trade flow NE of New Zealand from Saturday onwards), there’s nothing of any great substance for our region on the cards right now.