UPDATE: As of midday today (Thursday Jan 31) a powerful low is located just west of Ireland and is steaming southeast, expected to be centred in the middle of Biscay by 12:00 Friday. A strong moving fetch on its southwest flank is generating a massive swell, with open-ocean wave heights exceeding 30 feet.
The system is not quite as strong as initial thoughts and looks to be tracking a few hundred miles further south than originally predicted. This means that the bulk of the swell will hit Portugal, with wave heights well over 20 feet on Friday afternoon, along with very lumpy conditions in gale-force westerly winds.
Northern Spain will also be very large, with a possible window of lighter winds sometime during the day, but quickly swinging northwest as the eye of the system tracks east.
The swell will swipe mid-areas such as northwest France, Cornwall, Wales and Southwest Ireland, with considerably smaller wave heights, but northeast winds, meaning better conditions at west and southwest-facing spots.
EARLIER: An XXL swell pulse is due to rifle into Europe towards the end of the week, thanks to an anticyclone currently churning over the Azores.
In terms of huge waves associated with a European winter, it's been a fairly quiet few weeks in the North Atlantic – Nazare's been taking a post-Christmas nap after an active few months and other spots haven't quite had the season they'd like. But this latest storm could be about to rumble some of those locales that require a more steely approach to surfing. This system is currently on track to slam into north west Spain – wave heights are going to be gigantic, but it'll be difficult to find clean conditions with strong wind forecast. The best bet is to seek shelter.
“Wave heights will be gigantic," says MSW forecaster Tony Butt. "It's this large anticyclone over the Azores that has been directing the traffic over the last month or so in the North Atlantic.”
“Typically, this means low pressures arcing around the northern periphery of that high and ending up somewhere around Biscay.
“This week sees another system following the same route, but deepening explosively as it dives down towards Iberia. It develops off Cape Farewell on Wednesday and reaches full strength by Thursday, centred in the Celtic Sea.
“A moving area of storm-force winds on its western flank generates open-ocean wave heights exceeding 40 feet just west of Biscay late Thursday, which hardly diminish as they hit Spain and Portugal.
“Galicia will receive the bulk of the swell early Friday, with wave heights at exposed spots well over 30 feet. Along the rest of the Biscay coast and down into Portugal, wave heights will also be humungous. Gale-force westerly winds will also coincide with the peak of the swell in these areas, so expect very bumpy conditions.
“In mid-areas such as Cornwall or northwest France you might be lucky as the eye of the storm creates fluky wind conditions for a while, although this is extremely difficult to predict. Further north in Ireland expect considerably smaller wave heights with strong northerly winds.
“In summary, the swell will be massive, but not many places will have clean conditions. Best bet will probably be hoping for cleanish conditions in the eye of the storm in mid-areas, or perhaps heading for those rare, extremely sheltered spots in Spain or Portugal.”
Trying to figure out where to surf? Keep an eye on the North Atlantic swell charts by going HERE.