The Northern Caribbean Set to Experience its Worst Swell Event for the Season

5 02 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

Strong winds from a low-pressure system, some distance away, are pushing relatively large swells toward the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas, including Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Leeward Islands. Swells have started to arrive and will reach warning levels tonight through much of Saturday night.

NOAA Station 41044 – NE ST MARTIN – 330 NM NE St Martin Is showing relatively tall swells heading toward the northern Caribbean

This will be no Swellmageddon but it will be the worst swell event of the swell season: December to April. This event will see swell waves coming from the north-northeast at 2 to 3 metres (7 to 10 ft). Occasionally, they will reach 4 metres (near 13 ft). Though it will be no Swellmageddon, it will not be your garden variety swell event, as surf warnings are required.

Video by Windy.com showing swell heights
The possibility of significant wave heights (SWH) equaling or exceeding 3 metres or 10 feet. This is likely to expected in the northern coastal waters, according to the ECMWF IFS Model.

These swells will be virtually harmless in open waters, but they will be a very different “kettle of fish” when they run up on reefs and exposed northern and eastern coastlines which are relatively shallow and gentle to moderately sloping. In these environs, surfs (breaking swells) could be as much as twice the height of swells, as they crash onto shorelines.

Surfs at Fort James during a past swell/surf event

Such high swells and surfs will produce a high threat to life and property in the surf zone. There is the potential for extensive impacts. High surfs will result in beach closures, as swimming conditions will be extremely dangerous for beachgoers. Not entering the waters of affected areas would be a great safety idea and best advice.

The event will likely cause major beach erosion; possibly flooding of low-lying coastal roads; disruptions to marine recreation and businesses; financial losses and damage to coral reefs.

Although relatively small, this swell episode may also cause disruptions to potable water from desalination, as turbulent seas, will increase the turbidity of the water above tolerable levels for the desalting plants.

A high surf warning has been issued by the Met Office for Antigua and much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean. Other offices, as far west as the Bahamas, are expected to issue requisite marine alerts, if they have not done so already.

Precautionary actions: No one should enter the waters of the main warning areas: northern and eastern coastlines. All are also urged to stay away from rocky and or coastal structures along affected coastlines.

The impact on shorelines will not be the same everywhere. Depending on the depth, size, shape and the natural shelter of the coastal waters, the impact will be different. Shallow north-facing shorelines are expected to see the highest swells and surfs.

Seas are to return to safe levels by Monday morning.

Please continue to follow me for more on this event and all things weather and climate via TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Also, share this blog, if you found it useful.





Another Bomb Cyclone to Push Impactful Swells to the Caribbean

7 03 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

Another bomb cyclone is expected to cause another episode of  large and damaging swells across much of the Caribbean Basin. The impactful swells will start to reach the shorelines of the Basin this Sunday. These swells are forecast to reach a few metres and break at higher heights on coastlines.

Visualization of northerly swells forecast to come to the Caribbean from the bomb cyclone

Swells will rise to at least 3 metres (at least 10 feet) across most of the Atlantic waters of the islands. These swells will produce even higher surfs or breaking waves. Surfs could be as much as twice the height of the incoming swells, depending on the bathymetry/topography of the near shore seafloor. The swells and surfs are expected to cause beach closures, as swimming conditions will become quite hazardous. Other impacts include:

  • major beach erosion;
  • flooding of some low-lying coastal roads;
  • disruptions to marine recreation and businesses;
  • disruptions to potable water from desalination;
  • damage to coral reefs and
  • financial losses.

Advisories and warnings will be required for much of the upcoming week. Please be guided by the bulletins coming out of your national weather services.

The event will be cause by an average extratropical cyclone transitioning to a bomb cyclone – a drop of 24 millibars/hectopascals or more in 24 hours or less. This will result in the system developing gale-force or tropical-storm-force winds that will push large waves to the Caribbean.

8 pm local time Friday, 6 March, 2020: Bomb cyclone with centre marked by the X near the red L, just off the coast of New York
Visualization of Bomb Cyclone 6 am UTC Saturday or 2 am local time Saturday, 7 March, 2020: Pressure – shaded areas, isobars – circular fixed lines (1012, 1008, 1004 etc.) and wind direction – lines circling inwards toward the centre of the bomb cyclone
Visualization of Bomb Cyclone 6 am UTC Saturday or 2 am local time Saturday, 7 March, 2020: Wind speed – shaded areas, wind direction – lines circling inwards toward the centre of the bomb cyclone

The cyclone will remain very far away from the area – thousands of miles; however, it will have a significant impact on the region, by way of swells transforming into high surfs on our shores. Associated with these surfs are potentially very powerful and life-threatening rip currents.

The first set of these swells will reach the Bahamas on Sunday; the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, by Monday and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean by Tuesday. The event will likely last three days from its start time. So, for the northeast Caribbean, its Monday through Thursday.

As usual, the impacts on shorelines will not be the uniformed. The impacts will depend on the depth and the natural shelter of the coastal waters. Northern islands with moderately sloping, shallow, northern and or north-facing shorelines are expected to see the highest swells and surfs, and hence; the greatest impacts.

This event is not expected to be worse than the last notable one which took place in January 2020. Notwithstanding, it will not be your “garden variety” event.

The event will also be felt along the East Coast of the United States. The same powerful cyclone will also cause extreme weather across Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern Europe next week.

Please share my blog, if you find it useful and keep following it and my other media – TwitterFacebook and Instagram for more on this swell event and all things weather and climate.








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