UPDATE Friday Feb 7: The upper airstream over the North Atlantic has lost its meander and is now in a classic fluid state, with a strong, straight jetstream and a solid north-south pressure gradient. This is signalling the start of a run of powerful storms and big surf.
The next few days sees a complex area of low pressure developing near Iceland with peripheral systems running around its southern flank. These systems combined with a stable area of high pressure to the south will generate a continuous area of storm-force westerly winds across the northern half of the North Atlantic.
Several pulses of swell are expected to hit west and northwest exposures, with the largest wave heights and stormiest conditions in the north, and much cleaner conditions in the south.
In northwest Ireland, for example, the first pulse arrives on Saturday followed by another pulse on Sunday, hitting 20 feet at exposed spots with strong to gale-force southwest winds. Wave heights continue to ramp up through Monday and into Tuesday, perhaps reaching 30 feet as winds increase to storm-force westerlies.
In southwest England things are very similar, with wave heights increasing from late Saturday onwards, increasing through Sunday and peaking on Monday, with gale-force winds throughout, southwest at first then going west.
Further south into Biscay, the situation is a lot less hectic. Mundaka will get some epic swell: around six to eight feet on Sunday, then exceeding ten feet on Monday and early Tuesday, with moderate south or southwest winds throughout.
Down at Nazaré, the open-ocean swell arrives smaller but the long periods and north-westerly direction help to push wave heights over 20 feet. The first pulse arrives on Sunday, and then a second, more solid pulse hits sometime on Monday and continues into Tuesday. Conditions are expected to be very clean, with light variable winds for most of the time.
Be sure to keep an eye on your local forecasts as this system continues to roll in. See our North Atlantic chart, HERE.
EARLIER Wednesday Feb 5: Now, this could be a pulse of swell to get excited about. A huge black blob is forming right now that might set off numerous spots across north and western Europe. Let's caveat this by saying it is a long way out yet but it is certainly one you're going to want to keep on the radar.
We could see clean Nazare go off with figures like this, should the forecast hold. The real grunt of the swell will rifle in on Monday and continue with four days of solid surf until Thursday. The peak for Portugal's behemoth (at the moment) looks to be Wednesday Feb 12, with a massive 20ft@19secs NW swell, accompanied by a light NE wind, set to unload on the shores of Praia do Norte. Remember, if you don't fancy the flight/trip over to Portugal, you can watch the drama unfold on our live cam, HERE.
Of course, other spots across Europe are likely to blow up too. Let's swing it over to MSW forecaster Tony Butt for the run down: “At the moment, the current charts show a large area of high pressure centred over the Low Countries, associated with a large meander in the upper airstream on the eastern side of the North Atlantic. Namely, small, weak surf and onshore winds in many places.
“But most of the models agree that that is about to change. The forecast charts for the end of this week and beyond show a very strong north-south pressure gradient and a much stronger, straighter upper airstream – in other words, favourable conditions for the formation of large low pressures, storm-force surface winds and giant surf.
“The forecast charts for Sunday and Monday show a massive area of low pressure centred around Iceland, dominating the northern two-thirds of the North Atlantic, with a broad area of storm-force to hurricane-force westerly winds on its southern flank. This will generate large or very large surf for all west- and northwest-facing coasts, and extremely stormy conditions anywhere north of Biscay.”
Tony reiterates: “It is a long way ahead yet, so the forecasts are changing all the time. But without sticking my neck out too far, I’d say that something big is definitely coming. I’ll give an update towards the end of the week, with some more specific details.”
Remember, keep an eye on our North Atlantic chart to see how this swell is forecast to play out, HERE