So, sounds like a good bit of hype, right? Well, as you’ll see below, I’m speaking in the literal sense: comparing Tropical Cyclone Oma’s (TC Oma) forecast track and intensity to previous Coral Sea cyclones. More to the point, we’re finally seeing several of the major atmospheric models falling into pretty tight agreement surrounding the storm’s immediate future – and they all definitively point towards the southern Queensland coast. The associated surf-implications are still staggering to say the least.
Category 2 TC Oma is now positioned approximately 547 nautical miles northeast of the Gold Coast and is steadily closing the distance on a south-southwesterly heading; albeit at a near-snail’s pace of 4 knots.
Over the next couple of days TC Oma maintain its southwesterly track; thereby bringing it within incrementally closer range of the southern Queensland coast. As it draws nearer, the storm’s impressive, clockwise wind-field will also gravitate closer to the coastal fringes; giving rise to a rising easterly groundswell that will already be kicking in at serious size on Thursday.
However, it’s the impending development of a broad, gale force south-easterly fetch across the cyclone’s southern quadrant that really holds phenomenal surf-potential for the region leading into Friday and the weekend. This fetch develops within point-blank range of the coast in conjunction with a sub-tropical ridge extending from a high pressure system stalling west of Bass Strait – and based on latest model guidance this will generate wind-speeds of 40 to 50 knots immediately off – and potentially across the southern Queensland coast this weekend.
The good news is the majority of latest model runs are now keeping TC Oma offshore; the former moving the storm slowly northward early next week – and the latter favouring a north to north-westerly track, parallel to the central Queensland coast. While that reduces the chances of coastal impact, the region is by no-means out of the cyclone woods yet – and as discussed in more detail below, there’s still a high degree of uncertainty surrounding TC Oma’s forecast track from Saturday onwards.
At the same time, latest virtual buoy readings have come off the boil a bit since Tuesday – but they’re still producing staggering wave data; picking up a monster south-easterly swell peaking in the 25ft plus range offshore later Saturday through early Sunday.
These readings are contingent on the most recent GFS and EC model runs that unanimously move TC Oma to within approximately 155 nautical miles east of Frazer Island by Sunday morning. However, before you start waxing up your 10’2 or better yet, tuning your jet-ski, hold up a sec. TC Oma looks likely to stall, or become quasi stationary as a transition in steering influences occurs during Friday and Saturday – but from that point onwards, the door remains wide-open to which way TC Oma will move.
Potential revisions to TC Oma’s forecast track aside, the aforementioned, quasi stationary phase forecast for Friday and Saturday is clearly the big-ticket development on the radar. The negligible movement of the storm will allow both the point-blank SE fetch and the intense NE/ENE winds wrapping around the low’s eastern quadrant to rapidly compound seas and swell to produce a phenomenal sea-state – and yes, perhaps unprecedented surfing conditions across many a Queensland point-break.
Historically, WW3 is often a poor guide to surf potential when it comes to tropical cyclones – so usually I go hunting around for analogue events; ie searching for other tropical cyclones that might have set up in the same region at a similar intensity. That is pretty much like looking for a needle in a haystack. A quick scan of cyclone activity inside Queensland’s swell window over the last few years reveals no shortage of candidates: There’s the big ones, like TC Winston (2016) and TC Gita (2018) and others, that probably don’t jog the surfing memory – like TC Marsia, TC Ula, TC Victor and TC Debbie. The first two, big swell producers on the list evolved much further offshore – and are therefore of little use here.
To cut to the chase, it’s looks clear that TC Oma will produce phenomenal storm-swell along the exposed stretches of coast this weekend; peaking in the scale-invariant 10 to 15ft range, while producing powerful surf along the sheltered points ranging anywhere from 4 to 8ft or more. Stay tuned for more as TC Oma makes its approach.