Dangerous waves - Long period swell

TitleDangerous waves - Long period swell
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsEvans, J
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers02-13

There has been considerable recent effort in understanding the weather and wave conditions leading to drowning fatalities along the coast of NSW and southern Queensland. Analysis of drowning events has shown that long period, but low amplitude swell conditions can be extremely dangerous to rock fishers, swimmers and small craft navigating river bars. A number of case studies will be presented.

These swells have generally travelled a long distance from the weather system where they were formed. While they are in deep water, these low amplitude waves are not a problem, but as they approach shallow water the wave height increases sharply and in the surf zone they can become extremely dangerous.

Along the east coast of Australia the low pressure systems that generate these swells can be over far off to the east, even beyond the date line, or to the far south of the continent. Hence they do not appear on the local MSL analysis charts and the weather conditions along the coast can be deceptively benign.

If the forecast significant wave height and peak period meet thresholds recently developed by the Queensland and NSW Regional Offices of the Bureau, Dangerous Surf alerts are now included on their coastal Districts and Coastal Waters Forecasts. The development of these thresholds will be discussed.

Learning Outcomes
  1. The problems caused by long period waves impacting eastern Australian coast south from Fraser Island.
  2. The types of weather systems which generate these waves.
  3. The swell height and period thresholds used to initiate warning statements in weather forecasts.