Swell Alert: TC Oma Is Heading Our Way

15 Feb 2019 17 Share

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

Issued 15 February, 2019

Well folks, there now appears very little doubt that Category 2 Tropical Cyclone Oma, currently located about 222 nautical miles northwest of Vanuatu, is about to emerge as a major source of swell for the Eastern Seaboard. Indeed, no matter which model or model-run you look at, the system looms as an historical swell-producer; right up there with other tropical cyclone driven events of the last decade.

Whether or not TC Oma moves towards the QLD coast, or tracks south-east bound for the North Island, surf like this is looking like a distinct possibility across the NSW coast late next week.

Whether or not TC Oma moves towards the QLD coast, or tracks south-east bound for the North Island, surf like this is looking like a distinct possibility across the NSW coast late next week.

As of Friday evening, TC Oma remains in an ambivalent synoptic environment; characterised by competing steering influences and hence very slow, or near-quasi stationary movement. To date, the cyclone has been inching its way SSW at low speeds ranging anywhere from 3 to 7 knots – and while it’s eventually projected to accelerate southwest, it looks like this won’t get underway until Sunday.

For now TC Oma, tucked up northeast of New Caledonia, is nothing to worry about. That's all set to change early to mid next week. Source: Met Fiji.

For now TC Oma, tucked up northeast of New Caledonia, is nothing to worry about. That's all set to change early to mid next week. Source: Met Fiji.

However, once TC Oma does begin to accelerate southwest, the forecast starts to get very interesting to say the least. In the first instance its approach will bring a broad, 20 to 35kt fetch area towards the Queensland coast – not to mention much stronger core winds of 50 to 70 knots wrapping around TC Oma’s eye. This south-westward movement towards the coast will heavily compound associated wave-growth; setting up a heavy increase in ENE swell for the region mid-next week.

Although there's some uncertainty surrounding the exact timing, TC Oma is widely projected to curve southwest and move towards the Queensland coast early next week. Source: JTWC.

Although there's some uncertainty surrounding the exact timing, TC Oma is widely projected to curve southwest and move towards the Queensland coast early next week. Source: JTWC.

At this early stage WW3 readings are through the roof; showing deepwater heights in the 13 to 15ft range at peak periods of 15 seconds inbound on Wednesday. For now, there’s still plenty of wiggle room for alterations to both height and period, depending on the timing of TC Oma’s south-westward acceleration, along with the strength of the gradient wind developing in conjunction with a subtropical ridge developing to its south.

There appears little doubt TC Oma's south-westward track will culminate in a major E swell event for the Eastern Seaboard. This latest GFS run shows excellent surf potential for late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

There appears little doubt TC Oma's south-westward track will culminate in a major E swell event for the Eastern Seaboard. This latest GFS run shows excellent surf potential for late next week. Source: Wave Tracker.

The pressing question arising out of latest modelling is derived from diverging GFS/EC scenarios, pertaining to TC Oma’s forecast track mid to late next week. The former now picks up a sharper poleward curve, just east of the 160E meridian, starting on Wednesday. This would culminate in a gradual SSE to SE curve, taking it towards New Zealand’s North Island into Friday 22 and the weekend of Saturday 23 February.

For now TC Oma is still just a cat 2 system located NW of Vanuatu, but a further strengthening and south-westward movement will follow in due course. Source: Met Fiji.

For now TC Oma is still just a cat 2 system located NW of Vanuatu, but a further strengthening and south-westward movement will follow in due course. Source: Met Fiji.

The upshot of this scenario would be a still very large easterly groundswell under moderate southerly quarter winds; with the swell gradually transitioning ESE and eventually SSE in line with the low’s south-eastward track. This is undoubtedly the preferred option as it hints at pumping, well organised groundswell along the points and bays under moderate southerly winds; generating epic surf ranging anywhere from double to quadruple overhead plus depending on time and place.

In contrast, the EC solution has TC Oma bearing directly down on the Queensland coast throughout Thursday, Friday and the weekend; bringing the storm and associated 40 to 50knot core-winds inside of 100 kilometres of the Sunshine coast on Sunday 24th April. This scenario would of course, translate into a monumental storm-swell of historic proportions; wreaking all manor of havoc to the entire southern Queensland coast as it delivers torrential rain, phenomenal seas and swell under gale force onshore winds.

TC Oma's impact on southern QLD could be epic, as shown here, or potentially very destructive as it approaches the coast next weekend.

TC Oma's impact on southern QLD could be epic, as shown here, or potentially very destructive as it approaches the coast next weekend.

Further south, Sydney and the South Coast would also benefit from the GFS solution most – but at this point both outcomes hint at onshore winds of varying strengths through the height of this event. This will all become clearer as the models start to nail down TC Oma's trajectory and strength early next week.

Both GFS and EC scenarios hold major NE swell potential for Sydney and surrounds, but onshore winds may spoil the party.

Both GFS and EC scenarios hold major NE swell potential for Sydney and surrounds, but onshore winds may spoil the party.

For now, the upshot of these diverging possibilities is low confidence in the forecast for mid to late next week. It’s not unusual for long-range forecasts depicting such spectacular outcomes to come crashing back down to earth within two or three days – so revisions of some sort are a certainty. That said, the chances of a large or heavy easterly swell arriving across the region is looking highly probable – we’ll just have to wait until some time next week to nail down the specifics.


Tags: Swell Alert , Ben Macartney , Tropical Cyclone Oma , topnews (create Alert from these tags)

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