Forecaster Blog: Potential Coral Sea Cyclone Hints at Large/ Heavy Easterly Swell Mid February

6 Feb 2020 4 Share

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

Monsoonal onset over northern Australia finally brings much needed rain to the East Coast this weekend. Moderate to heavy falls are forecast just about everywhere you look: starting with southern Queensland and mid-northern NSW over the next couple of days, before extending to Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast this weekend. At the same time, the heavens are also well and truly opening up on our tropical, easterly swell window over the southwest Pacific.

As you might already be aware, we’re now in the early stages of a sustained increase in short-range easterly swell across the region this weekend. Locations from mid-northern NSW south are forecast to receive the bulk of wave-energy arising from this pattern - for the most part arriving under fresh onshore easterly winds for several days. However, the longer-term forecast encompassing the week beginning Monday 10th February is looking, for want of a better term, next level.

Tropical cyclones can have many weird and wonderful effects across the East Coast. Photo: Uploaded to CW by Luke Gordon.

Tropical cyclones can have many weird and wonderful effects across the East Coast. Photo: Uploaded to CW by Luke Gordon.

Over the last 24 hours we’ve seen the more reliable atmospheric models starting to fall into some loose agreement surrounding a tropical cyclone forming north of New Caledonia this weekend. The models are initially closely aligned on the early stages of its development; indicating the storm will drift slowly south with intensification throughout Sunday 9th and Monday 10th before moving clear of New Caledonia’s western tip on Tuesday 11th.

The convective signature encompassing Vanuatu is projected to coalesce into a south-bound tropical cyclone over the coming week. Source: Fiji Met.

The convective signature encompassing Vanuatu is projected to coalesce into a south-bound tropical cyclone over the coming week. Source: Fiji Met.

Model consensus places the tropical cyclone just west of New Caledonia early next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

Model consensus places the tropical cyclone just west of New Caledonia early next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

Departure in model guidance starts to impact the outlook from Tuesday onwards, leading to increasing uncertainty in easterly swell potential from Wednesday 12 onwards. However, going on the last couple of GFS runs, the storm will accelerate south-westward: a trajectory bringing it within close proximity of the far northern NSW coast on Thursday 13th. Although still too early to be calling with much certainty, this points to an ideal scenario featuring powerful easterly cyclone-swell groomed by SW to southerly quarter winds, lighting up southern Queensland’s points like they haven’t been lit in a long while.

If latest GFS runs are anything to go by, conditions will go ballistic as the cyclone nears the NSW coast late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

If latest GFS runs are anything to go by, conditions will go ballistic as the cyclone nears the NSW coast late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

At the date of publication, (Thursday evening) alternative forecast model guidance is nothing but encouraging. The most noticeable trend depicts the cyclone located roughly 200 nautical miles further east that the GFS solution – and that wouldn’t be a bad thing; making for a notably smaller, but better organised and less wind-affected East groundswell impacting the region late next week.

On top of that, there are longer-term suggestions Sydney and the South Coast will also feel the brunt of the storm in the big way. Latest model runs continue to move the storm poleward with extratropical transition late next week; speculatively culminating in a large and stormy, combined East and SSE swell late next week – but this will invariably change in shape and form over the next few days.

Stay tuned to the detailed forecast for further updates on Friday. 

Abnormally high sea surface temps off the NSW coast are high enough to sustain a hypothetical southward track of a tropical cyclone along the northern NSW coast. Source: BOM.

Abnormally high sea surface temps off the NSW coast are high enough to sustain a hypothetical southward track of a tropical cyclone along the northern NSW coast. Source: BOM.

Latest WW3 runs depicting peak wave period show a powerful NE groundswell spreading down the NSW coast as a result of the cyclone late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

Latest WW3 runs depicting peak wave period show a powerful NE groundswell spreading down the NSW coast as a result of the cyclone late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.


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