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North Florida Surf Forecast

Dean’s Forecast Discussion (22July2017)

The western extension of a weak ridge of high pressure responsible for the relatively dry/sunny east coast weather and light to moderate E/SE fetch stretching from the Florida peninsula well out into the Atlantic Ocean will re-establish leading into the weekend, keeping the scattered afternoon thunderstorms mostly inland as a weak steering flow. The general trend of rideable 1-1.5′ (+/-0.5′) surf will hold to start the weekend as the modest E/SE swell (noted by buoy 41046 last week) skirts the Bahamas and works in along Florida’s east coast. The PATCH discussion below the 4-7 day forecast looks ahead for potential wave-generating tropical activity in the Atlantic basin, and stay tuned

Links to NOAA’s offshore Florida east coast buoys:  St. Augustine , Fernandina Beach , Canaveral near shore and Canaveral east  Link to privately maintained nearshore Florida buoys: Daytona Beach , Cocoa Beach ,  Indiatlantic , Jensen Beach

Links to NOAA’s open ocean buoys further out in the Atlantic Ocean: NE Bahamas , East BahamasPuerto Rico and St. Martin

1-3 Day Wind/Wave Forecast

SATURDAY: Wind light in the morning, then S/SE 5-15 mph in the afternoon with waves “leveling off” at 1-1.5′ (+/-0.5′ with occ 2′ sets at key spots early) in moderate to occ longer period SE/ESE swell with a dominant period of 9 seconds.

SUNDAY(23July): Wind light W/NW in the morning, becoming onshore 5-12 mph with waves 1-occ 1.5′ (+/-0.5′ with occ/inc 2′ at key spots early) in moderate to occ longer period E/SE swell with a dominant period of 9 seconds.

MONDAY: Wind light offshore in the morning, becoming NE/E 5-13 mph in the afternoon with waves a less consistent 1-occ/inc 1.5′ (+/-0.5′) in moderate to occ/inc longer period ESE swell with a dominant period of 9 seconds.

4-7 Day Wind/Wave Forecast

Please Note: This extended portion of the surf forecast will periodically be extended and continually tweaked, or even radically changed (up or down), as model analysis of potential wave-generating weather systems warrant. In other words, don’t plan your sick days more than 3 days in advance based on this portion of the forecast.

TUESDAY: Wind light SW in the morning, becoming E/SE 5-14 mph with waves down some more to occ 1′  (+/-0.5′) in moderate period ESE swell.

WEDNESDAY(26July): Wind SW/S in the morning, becoming SE 5-15 mph with waves dropping down to 1/2-occ 1′ in moderate period E/SE swell.

THURSDAY: Will update later.

FRIDAY: Ditto.

PATCH (Potential for Atlantic Tropical Cyclones and Hurricanes):

Florida’s summer monsoon season is fully underway with seasonally hot/humid weather setting in. Given the seasonal absence of frontal activity and early season tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin early in the season, minor upticks in E/SE swell from the wave-generating fetch associated with the western Bermuda high will be our bread and butter for rideable to fun waves in July, which is usually our smallest dog-days of summer month. The latest NHC Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion does not highlight any systems at the moment. However, I’m watching two clusters of convection for signs of persistence. One is in our front yard over the very warm waters of the Gulf Stream just east of  Florida. It is basically a trough of low pressure associated with an old frontal boundary. The other area is former Invest 96L, now a WNW moving open wave nearing Puerto Rico. These areas of convection illustrated on the tropical water vapor loop are not organized and are struggling with dry air intrusion, and no development is forecast (regardless of well above normal SST’s providng ample latent heat energy). Still, any persistent convection over the warm waters of the tropical regions (loop) bear monitoring during hurricane season. Stay tuned…

2017 Hurricane Season Outlook

NOAA’s forecast suggested an above normal season due to neutral (“La Nada”) conditions in the Pacific and generally favorable environmental parameters in the Atlantic basin. I’m thinking last season’s action with Matthew and Julia tracking along Florida’s east coast from the Cape north may continue to be the trend in 2017, possibly with more activity impacting the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The tropical Atlantic could become more active in late August, with peak activity likely to follow climatology occurring during the first half of September. Watch the western Caribbean Sea and southern Gulf of Mexico as areas to monitor for tropical cyclogenesis, and the western Atlantic for systems entering  our swell window.

2016 Hurricane Season Summary

2016 was an exceptional and unusual record-setting hurricane season. This is a good link that highlights the 2016 Hurricane Season,  the most active in Florida in the past decade. Here is my summary of tropical activity impacting and/or producing surf in Florida last season:

During July the Atlantic Basin was remarkably devoid of easterly waves and significant convection, with the zero tropical cyclogenesis. After a remarkably quite July, the tropical Atlantic and western Caribbean Sea remained quite through mid-August. The second half of the month was increasingly active. Major Hurricane Gaston had 120 mph winds and generated 35′ seas well out to sea in the open mid-Atlantic during the last week in August, providing the best swell of the summer (to date). Then tropical wave 99L struggled through the Caribbean, entered the Gulf and transformed into Category 1 Hermine, slamming the Big Bend of Florida with 80 mph winds to start September before becoming a non-tropical low by Labor Day, then meandered offshore from the northeast coast for several days radiating a NE groundswell.

Tropical Storm Ian tracked NW/N in the central Atlantic in mid-September, then re-curved well east of Bermuda and accelerated off to the NE. The minor ground swell from this Ian peaked along Florida’s east coast on the 16th of September. Yo-yo Julia pumped in a moderate period NE swell as she meandered off the SE US coast as a depression/storm for nearly a week in mid-September. Looking ahead for the next tropical system, impressive tropical wave Invest 95L moved off the African coast early in the work week and quickly became TD12 and then tropical storm Karl on a WNW track across the central Atlantic. The fetch associated with distant Karl contributed a moderate-size weekend ground swell before the tropical storm departed into the North Atlantic.

Major hurricane Nicole slammed Bermuda as a strong Category 3, then weakened as she slowly tracked ENE over the cooler waters of the north Atlantic, then amazingly regained tropical characteristics and hurricane status (near 40N latitude!!) and is generating 40’+ seas with an expansive fetch while slowly meandering east before racing NE as an extra-tropical gale.

Hurricane Matthew progressed westward across the central Caribbean Sea, intensifying from a tropical storm into a Category 4/5 hurricane (inside of 36 hours!), then tracked north across western Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba, through the central/northern Bahamas, then just offshore along Florida’s east coast, pummeling beaches from the Cape northward with hurricane force clocking NE/N/NW winds.

While Category 1 Hurricane Hermine ended Florida’s record setting 10+ year absence of a hurricane landfall, Major hurricane Matthew’s near miss continued the lack of Category 3 or stronger hurricanes hitting areas along the state’s lengthy coastline, and many communities in Florida are still long over due for a Major Hurricane.

Of note, William Gray, the pioneer of long range hurricane activity prediction, died April 16, 2016 at the age of 86. Here is a link to the impact the 2016 hurricane activity had on our coast: Florida beaches face sand shortage

El Nino/La Nina Discussion
This section will be periodically evaluated and updated as Pacific Ocean sea temperature’s teleconnection (PNA) with Florida’s weather (and waves) dictates. Here is the link to NWS Melbourne’s page to monitor ENSO:
To monitor real-time wind speed/direction, here is the 10 meter wind and sea level pressure map for Florida:
And to monitor low/high pressure areas and associated fronts, here is the current surface map for the Eastern CONUS:
The real-time weather/wind/wave analysis satellite product above is a great tool to monitor for Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean storm systems and the generated swell’s height/direction as the winter 2015-16 El Nino pattern’s influence gradually wanes.
Given the cold weather outbreaks from mid-January (2016) into late February, sea surface temperatures (SST’s) observed in the near-shore waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s east coast bottomed out in the mid to upper 50’s north of the Cape early in February before recovering above 60F for good at the start of March. Several strong cold fronts produced unseasonably cool weather the first 10 days of April, and surf temps responded by lingering a few degrees either side of 70F into early May. Surf temps steadily climbed through the mid-70’s in May, into the low 80’s in June. Given the extremely warm/dry weather, stagnant local surface winds and weak sea breezes, SST’s in the mid to even upper 80’s were common in July, a month ahead of historical peak temperatures. A return to wetter weather and a more consistent S/SE wind flow in early August produced a long shore current and a consequent upwelling of much cooler offshore shelf water moved into the surf zone, briefly cooling surf temps down into the low 70’s (+/-2F) north of the Cape. The upwelling event petered out in mid-August and surf temps generally recovered to 80F (+/-2F) for the remainder of the month and held steady hrough September into the start of October. Hurricane Matthew then stirred up the ocean October 6-7th and knocked near shore water temps down into the mid-70’s by mid-October, then fall’s first significant cold front plowed through Florida on the 21st, notching SST’s down into the low 70’s north of the Cape the last week of October. Surf temps continued a slow downward trend in November, dropping into the mid to upper 60’sF north of the Cape by Thanksgiving where they held into mid-December. The downward trend to resumed leading up to Christmas as a brisk northerly flow behind several weak cold fronts pushed pockets of cold water off the Georgia coast southward into Florida.
After a minor recovery into the mid-60’s between Christmas and New Years, SST’s north of the Cape briefly plummeted to near 60F (+/-2F) in early January (2017) behind a strong Arctic blast. A nice recovery into the mid-60’s (+/-1F) mid-month to January 23rd kept surf temps exceptionally mild (for mid-winter). Unfortunately, the last week of January brought a period of the coldest weather this winter, briefly hammering nearshore SST’s down to 59F by the start of February. The return of unseasonably mild weather during much of February allowed surf temps to recover and hold in the mid-60’s (even upper 60’s north of the Cape). A vigorous low that moved across the Florida peninsula into the Atlantic just south of the Cape on February 23 generated sizeable seas that stirred up coastal shelf waters, allowing pockets of cool deep water to surface locally near shore. This, combined with a strong/cool high pressure area behind another front in early March ramping up the onshore flow held surf temps in the mid to upper 60’s. A strong east coast winter storm system combined with a radical dip in the northern jet stream allowed an Arctic air mass to pushed into Florida mid-March, dropping surf temps down into the low to mid 60’s north of the Cape for several days during spring break. A gradual return of mild to warm weather through the remainder of March allowed SST’s to rebound nicely into the upper 60’s by month’s end. Water temperatures continued to climb well into the 70’s in April and by month’s end ranged from 73-76F. After reaching the upper 70’s in early May, nearshore SST’s north of the Cape dropped back into the mid-70’s by mid-month, then climbed to near 80F in early June. A minor cool water upwelling that started in mid-June dropped surf temps from the Cape north to St. Augustine into the mid-70’s for the remainder of the month
Here is a useful link to the 7-day loop of sea height in the Atlantic Ocean (global perspective):
Here are a good link containing offshore (real and virtual) buoy forecasts:
Here is the link to weather conditions (updated hourly) throughout the state (includes nearshore buoys):
Here is the east coast wind/surface pressure loop to watch for lows forming off the southeast coast of the US:
This is the loop of primary swell heights in the western Atlantic: and a closer look at the southeast US:
Here is a link with eastern seaboard buoy readings (current and forecasted) all grouped together for your viewing pleasure:
Here is the link to all of the nearshore buoys surrounding Florida to monitor wave height, wind speed/direction, and barometric pressure:
Link to phenomenal wave heights measured on offshore buoys: huge open-ocean waves
What may lurk beneath our toes in the surf? Great White shark Katherine’s traveled along Florida’s east coast last winter.  Here is the link to OCEARCH’s shark tracking page:
Questions, comments, cat-calls, kumquats and kudos (keep’em coming)…