Hurricane Joaquin Surf Outlook

Ben Freeston

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Updated 2313d ago

Updated: Wed 30th September

What a difference a day makes – Joaquin is now a hurricane. Last night's model updates show an increasing chance of a powerful surf making storm developing in the Atlantic. Debate over the track remains but the surf situation is a lot more interesting; tempered by a risk of destructive Mid Atlantic landfall and localised flooding.

There's still a wide variation in model outcomes the NHC has upgraded its five day guidance to include the likelihood that Joaquin could reach Hurricane status, wind shear is low and the storm is over an area of water warm enough to drive intensification. The model divergence seems to be as a result of understanding how long the storm will stall, or head south, before all models predict a more northerly track. And the extent to which a low pressure system will develop mid Atlantic and affect the otherwise relatively predictable steering north. European models see a longer southerly journey and a northerly track that keeps, at this stage, a hurricane system away from the coast - obviously the best case for surf and local residents. US models, on the other hand, see the storm steering into the Mid Atlantic coast, with strong winds potentially bringing a high level of flood risk and poor surf outlook.

Comparing very different outcomes between US and European models.

Comparing very different outcomes between US and European models.

© 2022 - MSW / NOAA / ECMWF

Experts are divided in their predictions and we'll have to wait and see. The situation should be a lot clearer by the end of the week. Check your local forecast, it'll be using the US model data that'll give the Mid Atlantic landfall scenario as I write this.

As always, to keep us honest, the original outlook is below and I'll update again when the situation is clearer.

Message me in the comments with any questions or find me on Twitter @ben_freeston.


While Tropical Storm Joaquin will produce no more than modest swell in its own right, it's a building block – along with an area of low pressure labelled 'Disturbance 2' and a large anticyclone further north – for a setup creating a large fetch, bringing consistent but wind affected swell to the US East Coast. While things aren't going to look like a typical hurricane swell, there are some magic beachbreak numbers sneaking onto the latest forecast – with offshore winds at times.

  • Fun beachbreak numbers for Florida with offshore winds.
  • Solid mid period swell for the Outer Banks but with strong winds – onshore at times.
  • Larger swell for New Jersey and Long Island but with strong winds, very strong at times as ex-Tropical Storm Joaquin is forecast to brush the coast.
A complex setup with Joaquin playing its part but the fetch principally from a large anticyclone.

A complex setup with Joaquin playing its part but the fetch principally from a large anticyclone.

© 2022 - MSW

Waves for days. In many ways a better setup than a short-lived long range hurricane swell. With a band of low pressure (notable for TS Joaquin and a possible secondary storm) sitting to the south of a large high pressure system, the combination offers a relatively wide band of east–west winds bringing mid period swell in a good fun beachbreak range (for the most part) and variable winds. As the swell is running now, directly from Joaquin in Central Florida and mostly from the anticyclone further north, we've got almost a week long swell event. While winds will be an issue in many locations there should be windows for everyone at times. Check your local forecast for details.

As always, images of the action can be uploaded here.

Message me below with any questions or find me on Twitter @ben_freeston.