Why has this winter been terrible for surf in Florida? #SurfReport

VIA – WPTV

 

Why has this winter been terrible for surf in Florida?

Will we pull out of the small surf blues?

High surf advisory and risk for strong rip currents Monday
Posted: 1:00 AM
Last Updated: 16 hours and 34 minutes ago

This winter has been dismal for quality surf in Florida.  We started the winter with a bunch of wind chop, had a couple swells, and now we’re barely seeing anything.  We could blame the peaking La Niña’, but last year was an even stronger La Niña and we had some great surf for at least the first half of the winter.

So what is it? and when the heck is it going to change?  There is one phenomenon that trumps El Niño’s and La Niña’s….and that’s the North Atlantic Oscillation, or NAO.  I’ve talked about it before in my seasonal surf outlooks, and I’ve been trying to find a correlation between the NAO and the surf we get here in Florida.  It’s definitely not a cut-and-dry situation, but I do feel the NAO gives us clues to how the overall long term surf will be.

Here’s how it works.

I won’t get into all the very complicated science on what exactly the NAO is( you can read all about that here ), I will just simplify it for our purposes.  The NAO is either positive, negative, or neutral.

When the NAO is negative, the jet stream comes out of Canada, makes a bee line right to the southeast, then straight out into the Atlantic. The jet stream is pretty much the track that low pressure storm systems take. (our potential groundswell makers).

This is when big lows will roll off the Carolinas and out toward Bermuda, passing right through our swell window.  This also means cold arctic air has an interstate highway to ride down to the south, making us pull out the full suits.

When the NAO is positive, the jet stream is farther north, and rides up the northeast coast into the Canadian Maritimes.  A strong sub-tropical ridge  (High pressure) is parked out in the Atlantic, pretty much blocking, or deflecting all low pressure storms from going out to sea and creating a nice groundswell for us.  That also means cold air stays up in Canada, we get more onshore winds, and stay warm.

Check out this graphic:

So back to our original question of what’s the difference between last year and this year?  Both years were La Niña’s, but last year, most of the winter in a negative/neutral phase of the NAO.  Which allowed some big cold fronts, chilly air, and great swells to arrive in South Florida!

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