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Oregon Coast Spring Surprise: Now is Most Photogenic Time of Year

Published 04/23/2013

(Oregon Coast) – A little known fact about spring on the coast, especially April, is that this season can yield the best photographs of the whole year. Ironically, it's among the least visited times of year on the coast, yet it has more to offer than many others. (Above: Oceanside)

All photos here were taken during spring.

In spring, conditions are ripe for some of the most stunning sunsets and sky conditions during daylight. This tends to last from late March through to May, and sometimes into June, with big, fat puffy clouds and quickly-rotating weather patterns that can create some remarkable colors and sights you may not find any other season.

More often than not, April and May are the high points of these weather patterns, where dark, moisture-laden clouds that seem ready to burst at any moment get lit up by the sun breaking through in key spots, creating some magnificent and distinctive colors. Sometimes the sights are downright unusual. (Above: Cannon Beach)

Above: Manzanita.

Then, at sunset, if the conditions stay right, the last rays of the sun bounce off these huge clouds in intriguing ways, creating color schemes and even patterns you've never seen before.

Steve Pierce, head of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, said there is some real science behind this.

“These 'puffy' clouds are referred to as cumulus clouds and are typically associated with springtime heating and convection caused when the atmosphere destabilizes,” Pierce said. “Some of the most exciting weather is usually in the spring when the different layers of the atmosphere contain buoyancy. In simple terms, a wintertime layer of air is rather constant, lacking any lifting mechanism. In the springtime the air becomes more unstable, associated with daytime heating and how it interacts with the surface of the earth.”

It's during spring when the dynamic changing weather creates these clouds, which in turn can create more vibrant and vivid sunsets.

Above: near Lincoln City at Gleneden Beach

“When the air is more unstable, it tends to bubble up and create these types of clouds,” Pierce said. “These types of clouds are most typical in the air mass just after a frontal passage.”

Spring will have less particulates in the air, allowing for purer colors. Although summer's higher particulate levels can make for fascinating colors along the Oregon coast as well at the end of the day.

There is yet another aspect of atmosphere that affects sunsets at any time of year, Pierce said. This can bend and twist the light wavelengths into contortions that are glorious to the human eye.

“There is also a greater amount of refraction near the horizon, due to the curve of the earth,” Pierce said.

Most people think of summer as when the best sunsets happen, and that can be true to an extent. Those conditions tend to have less clouds, which will yield extraordinary colors. Often, however, an offshore cloud layer will dampen the sunset's glory.

Depoe Bay in spring

Winter's extremely clear conditions often make for incredibly distinctive sunsets, and fall – the warmest time of the year on the coast – can be full of dramatic colors as well.

However, spring tends to create conditions where the entire atmosphere is colored some vibrant, even strange colors much more so than any time of year. You'll also find more of these dramatic cumulus clouds creating startling scenes.

More examples of stunning Oregon coast spring colors and scenes.


Yachats in purple in spring. Three Cape Loop: Pacific City, Oceanside, Netarts - Astoria - Lincoln City


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