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That Thing They Don't Tell You About February Weather on Oregon / Washington Coast

Published 02/03/22 at 6:43 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

That Thing They Don't Tell You About February Weather on Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Astoria, Oregon) – One rather wacky fact about winter weather on the Oregon coast and Washington coast gets overlooked: February can bring some incredibly, surprisingly warm, sunny days. In fact, this science is better than a lot of fiction: it can be warmer on the beaches and beach towns than inland under a certain of conditions, which you've already seen on the Oregon / Washington coast in the last week and you'll see more of again this coming week. (Photo above Arch Rock near Brookings, courtesy Oregon State Parks)

It's nicknamed the “mini spring” of February, and granted it does not happen every year. But often, as what just happened in January, you'll get quite warm, sunny days sprinkled throughout February that are more springlike than spring itself on the coast. Some years, you'll get as much as ten days of such almost-balmy weather scattered throughout the month, in bursts of two- to four-day runs.

You'll find the beaches of the Washington coast and Oregon coast in the 50s or higher, very little wind, and that sun can be in sunburn territory thanks to the reflectiveness of the sands and ocean. It can feel downright balmy if there's no winds – something that the two coastlines just experienced.

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This year looks to have a nice run of it, and sooner than usual as well.

Almanac statistics show you can get an average of seven to fourteen days scattered throughout February that are extraordinarily warm and inviting. They also show that while Portland can have a sunny but chilly day in the 30s in February, the coastline is more often than not basking in temps well over 40.

However, the key here is that it will feel much warmer thanks to the lack of wind and the way the ocean and sand reflect the sun back. This can add some 10 to 15 degrees to your body while you're out there, according to meteorologists.

The effect can be much stronger farther down on the southern Oregon coast when you get past Port Orford. The Chetco Effect takes over there at times, making the region of Gold Beach and Brookings the “banana belt” of the Oregon coast, creating temps close to 70 on some days. This mini spring of February phenomenon starts to back off the farther north you go along the Washington coast, being more prevalent in areas like Long Beach to Raymond, and temps start to dip the closer you get to the Olympic Peninsula. But the amounts of sun don't always nosedive during these extraordinary days of February. It's just chillier the closer you get to Canada.

Even more extraordinary: windless beaches (like recently) will feel as much as 20 degrees warmer. Hit the sands and you'll notice. Part of this is the fact the ocean reflects the sun back and can really heat things up.

What's going on here? The weather science behind it is intriguing, according to the conversations Oregon Coast Beach Connection has had in the past with the National Weather Service (NWS) and Portland weather pundits such as KGW's Matt Zaffino.

Cape Disappointment, Washington coast (courtesy Long Beach Visitors)

Much of the U.S. starts to get some warming by February, but the moderating factors of the ocean can keep this climate shift above average out here.

It all begins with the longer days starting to happen: this warms things up a bit. Weather patterns themselves are warmer on average, but the extra hours of daylight warm the ground and air to some degree.

Clear and calm days happen no matter the time of year, and such conditions can coincide just right along the coastlines of Oregon and Washington. Colder air settles in the valley, say meteorologists, but the ocean keeps things a bit more temperate along beach towns. At around 50 degrees, the ocean can keep a lot of freezing events from happening on the beaches, which is why you'll periodically see temps dip below 30 in Portland or Eugene but stick higher along the coast.

The coast range also blocks the cold air dynamics from the east, helping to keep the moderate temps trapped by the seashore. It also keeps the chilling winds away to some degree, if they're coming from the east.

Ironically, if these warm, sunny conditions kick in on the Washington coast or Oregon coast, February can wind up warmer than spring break, even most days in April.

As Kramer on Seinfeld put it: “Nature's a mad scientist.”

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(Above: Bandon. Courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees about 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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