Wednesday, December 29, 2010

big ground swells this week in Antigua (forecasting)


There is a new publication in Antigua at the moment called Enjoy which generally has the goal to make sure visitors to Antigua and Barbuda know what's happening during their stay. Anyway, it comes out every two weeks and is put together by The Observer Group of Companies with help from
I have a regular column in Enjoy and hope that I can interest you to go check it out. Anyway, my last piece was about ground swell and since today Antigua and Barbuda will be getting some huge ground swell, I figure it would be good to "reprint" it here.

Many people are often surprised by the size of the waves or “swells” that can roll into the leeward or Caribbean side of Antigua during the winter months. How can these big waves turn up without warning, coming in from what is clearly the opposite direction of the prevailing winds? These waves are properly called Ground Swells and usually are generated by strong storms up to two thousand miles away in the North Atlantic. In the winter months extremely powerful cold fronts sweep across North American and often turn into low pressure systems or “Nor-Easters” as they roll into the Atlantic Ocean. If you have ever seen the film The Perfect Storm then you know all about how powerful they can be. These large Atlantic storms are the generators of the ground swell and can send waves all the way to the South American coast. Typically we see these swells once a month from November until May with varying frequency and size. All surfers eagerly check sites like and know exactly when the swells will arrive in Antigua. Unfortunately the only people who really like ground swell are the surfers as beaches and reefs can take a beating when the swells are really big. Historically many fishermen and mariners have lost boats and even crew by being caught in vulnerable bays or coves when swells have turned up without warning. These days accurate swell forecasting on the internet is so advanced that most yacht skippers and owners manage to move their boats from unprotected bays before the swells roll in. What’s so great about Antigua is that with our famous 365 beaches, off shore islands and barrier reefs, there are always many areas that remain calm even during the biggest ground swells. In fact, it’s beaches on the Atlantic side of Antigua that are usually nicest when the swells are rolling. When the waves are too big at your resort or favourite beach, jump in a car and go explore the south or east side of Antigua. Ground swells usually come in from the North East to the North West and typically only last a few days. They don’t have to keep you off the beach but be careful as they always pack more power than one would expect. If you would like to learn more about how to understand the modern forecasting tools like please visit