East Coast Swell Alert: Tropical Cyclone Gita

16 Feb 2018 5 Share

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

Issued by Ben Macartney on Friday, 16 February 2018

Well, talk about the 11th hour, but here we go folks. The first major cyclone swell-event since 2016 is now well underway across the East Coast. Friday morning saw a building trend in long-range easterly groundswell setting in as the leading edge of a first, long-period pulse originating from the early stages of Tropical Cyclone Gita’s (TC Gita) lifecycle began filling in across the region. This marks the beginning of a steady building trend that’s likely to culminate in large to extra-large surf across the entire Eastern Seaboard over the weekend and early next week.

A recent satellite image depicts the mainland on the left and the west-bound TC Gita on the right. Source: BOM

A recent satellite image depicts the mainland on the left and the west-bound TC Gita on the right. Source: BOM

In summary:

  • A strong building trend in easterly groundswell generated by Tropical Cyclone Gita sets in across the entire East Coast throughout Friday and the weekend.
  • E groundswell is projected to peak in the 8ft+ range across exposed southern Queensland and northern NSW coasts later Sunday and early Monday before steadily easing from there.
  • Moderate SSW (early) to SSE/SE winds coincide with the height of the swell across southern Queensland to produce excellent, albeit challenging conditions along the points and inside the bays throughout Sunday.
  • A large ENE groundswell steadily builds across Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast at 3 to 6ft throughout the weekend, before reaching peaks of 6 to 8ft+ across exposed coasts on Monday.
  • Early light winds on Sunday morning are likely to offer up the best conditions for this event.
  • An easing trend in E swell follows early to mid next week in tandem with a minor increase in SE windswell.

This latest MSLP depicts TC Gita's south-westward curve and steady weakening now well underway. Source: Met Fiji.

This latest MSLP depicts TC Gita's south-westward curve and steady weakening now well underway. Source: Met Fiji.

Summary of surf potential for southern Queensland and northern NSW

Saturday
Large E groundswell generated by Tropical Cyclone Gita continues to build. Consistent 4 to 6ft+ with less frequent larger sets along exposed beaches. Wrapping at anywhere from 3 to 6ft inside the points and bays with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early light and variable SSW inshore, tending variable, then ESE to SE 5 to 15 knots during the afternoon.

Sunday
Powerful E groundswell running at a consistent 6 to 8ft+ exposed coasts with larger sets hitting 8 to 10ft during the day/ afternoon. Wrapping at anywhere from 4 to 8ft along the points and inside the bays with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early lighter SSW tending SSE 10 to 15 knots plus.

Monday
E groundswell gradually eases and transitions ESE. Solid 6 to 8ft+ along exposed open beaches early, settling to 5 to 6ft+ during the day and down to 4 to 6ft later. Wrapping at lower levels inside the points and bays with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early lighter SSW 10 to 15 knots tending SSE 15 to 20 knots during the day.

Tuesday
Leftover E and SE swell slow ease. Sets around 3 to 4ft exposed breaks early, grading to 2 to 3ft+ inside the points and bays, smaller later. WIND: Early light SSW, tending SSE to SE 15 to 20 knots during the afternoon.

Overview
Wave heights were already pushing into the 3 to 5ft range by lunchtime Friday and it’s going to keep coming at incrementally larger levels this weekend. Southern Queensland is most proximate region to the phenomenal core winds being generated by TC Gita. This, coupled with its steady WSW to SW movement over the last couple days and continued SW track on Saturday implies a heavy increase in E swell will follow over the weekend; ramping up into the 6 to 8ft plus range on Sunday and will probably maintain peaks of 6 to 10ft early on Monday morning.

TC Gita's southwest track brings it's phenomenal wave-field into closer range of southern Queensland this weekend, setting up a heavy pulse of E swell for later Sunday and early Monday. Source: Wave Tracker.

TC Gita's southwest track brings it's phenomenal wave-field into closer range of southern Queensland this weekend, setting up a heavy pulse of E swell for later Sunday and early Monday. Source: Wave Tracker.

From there a steady easing trend will follow throughout the day. This follows the by now ex-TC Gita’s continued poleward movement, progressively drawing the easterly fetch out of range of our swell window this weekend. The more sheltered points and bays will be the big beneficiaries of this event; pulling in powerful 4 to 8ft sets throughout Sunday under favourable SSE winds. These conditions should continue throughout Monday as the swell begins to taper off.

By Tuesday we're likely to be looking at much smaller E swell leftover, mixing in with a weaker component of SE windswell to maintain surf in the 3 to 4ft range across the region. This is linked to a moderate to strong onshore SE flow developing as the ridge reaches maximum strength over the coast. The ridge will combine with the south-eastward accelerating ex TC Gita to generate a moderate SE fetch over the southern Tasman; adding some shorter period SE windswell into the mix from Tuesday onwards.

Surf Potential for Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast

Saturday
Mid-period ENE groundswell reinforced by new long period energy from the ENE and S during the afternoon. Inconsistent sets ranging from 3 to 4ft along exposed open breaks early, inconsistent in the upper range. Strong push towards 3 to 5ft+ likely during the day/ afternoon. WIND: Early light ESE around 10 knots tending ENE to NE and freshening into the afternoon/ evening.

Sunday
ENE groundswell mixing with underlying S groundswell. Sets ranging from 4 to 6ft exposed beaches, bumping up during the afternoon. Potential for larger 6ft+ bombs at standout breaks, otherwise grading smaller elsewhere with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early WNW to variable 0 to 5 knots, tending ESE to ENE 5 to 15 knots during the afternoon.

Monday
Larger ENE groundswell peaks. Solid sets to 6 to 8ft+ exposed breaks, possibly undersized early. Wrapping at 4 to 6ft+ elsewhere with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early ESE 5 to 10 knots, freshening to 5 to 15 knots during the afternoon.

Tuesday
Leftover ENE groundswell mixing with short range SSE windswell. Choppy, windblown 3 to 5ft exposed breaks, easing later. WIND: SE to ESE 10 to 15 knots, freshening during the afternoon.

TC Gita's poleward acceleration leads in a large push in ENE groundswell across Sydney and the South Coast on Monday. Source: Wave Tracker.

TC Gita's poleward acceleration leads in a large push in ENE groundswell across Sydney and the South Coast on Monday. Source: Wave Tracker.

Tropical Cyclone Gita Overview
In case you’ve been out in the Boonies and haven’t tuned in over the past week, here’s a short history of TC Gita so far. The system originally developed as a tropical depression north-east of Fiji last week before being named TC Gita by the Fiji Meteorological Service on Saturday 10th February. Since then, Tropical Cyclone Gita has tracked steadily westward across the Southwest Pacific Ocean; initially sweeping below Tonga on Monday before tracking just below Fiji on Wednesday. Over this period the category 5 TC Gita supported core winds of 110 knots with stronger gusts reaching 135 knots. 

This satellite pass depicts the phenomenal core wind-speeds being generated by TC Gita. It also shows the rapid drop-off in speeds departing the eye of the storm. This typical feature of a tropical cyclone adds considerable complexity to the task of assessing surf-potential. Source: NOAA.

This satellite pass depicts the phenomenal core wind-speeds being generated by TC Gita. It also shows the rapid drop-off in speeds departing the eye of the storm. This typical feature of a tropical cyclone adds considerable complexity to the task of assessing surf-potential. Source: NOAA.

During Thursday TC Gita started curving west south-westward with some weakening of the storm downgrading it to Category 4. By Friday afternoon the now Cat 3 storm was positioned within 240 nautical miles of Noumea, New Caledonia. Over this period TC Gita has commenced a weakening trend under increasing vertical wind shear and cooling sea-surface temperatures – but as of early Friday was maintaining sustained winds of 100 knots around its core.

For the remainder of Friday and throughout the weekend we’ll continue to see TC Gita curving poleward as it further weakens; eventually turning to the southeast on Monday before sweeping across New Zealand on Tuesday.

Latest forecast guidance shows TC Gita's projected curve across the Tasman Sea over the weekend; eventually taking it over NZ as it goes extratropical early next week. Source: Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Latest forecast guidance shows TC Gita's projected curve across the Tasman Sea over the weekend; eventually taking it over NZ as it goes extratropical early next week. Source: Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.



Tags: Swell alert , Ben Macartney , Tropical Cyclone Gita (create Alert from these tags)

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