SWELL ALERT: NTH NSW/SE QLD, 30 December, 2015

30 Dec 2015 2 Share

Matt McKay

Swell Forecaster

An active monsoon pattern over Northern Australia and the adjacent Coral Sea is often conducive to delivering some decent swell for the QLD/ Nth NSW coast. This pattern is no exception and so, there will be plenty of wave action for surfers to see in the new year.

A quasi-stationary high-pressure system situated in the Tasman Sea is currently extending a ridge along the QLD coast; establishing a relatively broad fetch of moderate SSE winds. According to the latest satellite data, winds ranging between 25-30 knots have been recorded and are responsible for whipping up the short range SSE swell that surfers are already enjoying. Waves ranging between 2 and 4 feet will continue to propagate across the SE QLD coastline throughout Thursday and Friday whilst those further south will see larger waves due to the southerly bias of this initial swell.

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A low pressure system will retrograde toward the coast within the next 24hrs. At this stage, it is forecast to stall off the NSW coast on Friday morning. Source: BOM

A low pressure system will retrograde toward the coast within the next 24hrs. At this stage, it is forecast to stall off the NSW coast on Friday morning. Source: BOM

It gets better though. Over the course of the next 24 hours, all major computer models (GFS, ECMWF and ACCESS) are forecasting the development of a low-pressure system along the southern flank of the monsoon, just south of New Caledonia. Upon development, this storm is forecast to consolidate over the warm Coral Sea waters and migrate toward the southwest. By early Friday morning, our storm will stall some 1000km off the NSW Nth Coast, generating strong east to east southeast winds in the 30 to 35-knot range. At this stage, there is still some disagreement in regard to the specific direction of the impending swell due to some slight variations as to the track of this storm. Regardless, we should see a new SE/ ESE groundswell propagate toward the coastline, reaching our shores late Friday/ early Saturday.

SEE ALSO: Video - Dbah's Post Christmas Delight

Due to the dynamic characteristics of this system, it is still quite difficult to forecast exact wave heights. As it stands, a peak in wave energy is due to arrive during the very early hours of Saturday morning; Northern NSW breaks may see wave heights ranging between 4-5ft+, grading to 3-5ft across Southeast Queensland (of course this will vary depending on the eventual direction of the swell). Although the high-pressure ridge will weaken as this week progresses, it will still be pushing southerly winds across our coast during this swell episode (with the exception of early mornings, where SSW or even SW winds should be on offer); so it goes without saying that southern corners and points will be the best options. By Sunday, our low will begin to break down but should still be located off the NSW North Coast. Consequently, a small decline in wave energy is expected on Sunday morning; 3-4ft+ along Northern NSW, grading to 3-4ft across the border. 

This Wavetracker image shows a broad fetch of easterly winds (circled).

This Wavetracker image shows a broad fetch of easterly winds (circled).

This offshore virtual buoy allows us to see the gradual shift in wave direction that is expected. We can also see an abrupt change in wave period (box) as our swell reaches the coast

This offshore virtual buoy allows us to see the gradual shift in wave direction that is expected. We can also see an abrupt change in wave period (box) as our swell reaches the coast

Short Forecast

Thursday
Short period SSE swell. 4-5ft across Nth NSW. 3-4ft QLD beaches, grading to 2-3ft inside points and bays. WIND: S/ SSE 20 knots tending S 20-30 knots.

Friday
Short period SE swell. 4ft across Nth NSW. 2-4ft QLD beaches, grading to 2-3ft inside points and bays. WIND: SSW 20 knots tending SSE 20 knots.

Saturday
Mid-period ESE swell. 4-5ft across Nth NSW. 3-5ft long QLD beaches and points. WIND: SSW 10-20 knots tending SE 15-20 knots.

Sunday
Easing mid-period ESE/ SE swell. 3-4ft+ across Nth NSW. 3-4ft long QLD beaches and points. WIND: SSW 10-20 knots tending SSE 15-20 knots.

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If, for some reason, you can’t make it to the beach on the weekend, don’t stress, as there’s more to come. Our broad area of monsoon activity doesn’t look like going anywhere soon, and with this type of instability, the long-range forecast is looking promising. In fact, next week is shaping up to another decent one for surfers. Yet another high-pressure system will make its way into the Tasman, setting up another fetch of E/ ESE winds.

The long range Wavewatch III model is in agreement with this scenario, showing another spike in ESE to E swell occurring on Monday, January 4. The JTWC have also recently identified a system in the SW Pacific as an “invest area”; this means there exists plenty of potential for the formation of a tropical cyclone. Judging by the latest model data, this could possibly spin up somewhere near Fiji (similar location to TC Tuni) by early to mid-next week. However, there is divergence amongst models; the ECMWF model favours quite a significant storm, the GFS is only showing a weak tropical low; and the Bureaus Global ACCESS model lies somewhere in between.

Of course, there is still plenty of scope for revision regarding this longer term forecast. However, all the ingredients are in place, so let’s just wait and see how it unfolds. 

The BOM's Global ACCESS model shows the possible formation of a tropical cyclone near Fiji taking place next week

The BOM's Global ACCESS model shows the possible formation of a tropical cyclone near Fiji taking place next week

Tags: swell , alert , surf , queensland , forecast (create Alert from these tags)

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