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Manzanita Is Indeed 'Banana Belt' of N. Oregon Coast - Science Behind It

Published 05/20/21 at 6:55 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Manzanita Is Indeed 'Banana Belt' of N. Oregon Coast - Science Behind It

(Manzanita, Oregon) – There's a bit of a rumor, or maybe it's a legend, going around that Manzanita is the “Banana Belt of the north Oregon coast.” It's talked about a little by locals, and it seems to have gathered a little more steam in recent years, but it feels like maybe that old north coast saga of spooky Bandage Man: it builds up in bits and pieces until someone debunks them. (Above and below: you can see the marine layer missing Manzanita)

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Yet maybe there's something to this. It's certainly insisted upon by Sunset Vacation Rentals owner Amy VanDyke.

“When I go north to do shopping in spring/summer/fall it's foggy in Seaside, Cannon and north beaches,” she said. “When I go south to head home: foggy. Until I get right past Oswald West then....... aaaaahhh…. sunshine and clear blue skies. Same happens south. Manzanita is tucked in enough that the fog doesn't reach us.”

OK, there is a lot to this, actually. It turns out there is actual science behind this and it is not a legend, according to Tyler Kranz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Portland.

“A couple of things going on here,” Kranz said. “There is definitely a meteorological reason that the Manzanita area tends to be sunnier/slightly warmer.”

How much warmer is it? Maybe five or ten degrees on a good day, and depending what the clouds and winds are doing north or south.

In fact, over the years Oregon Coast Beach Connection has caught part of the reason on camera numerous times. From the famed Neahkahnie Overlooks, where it's practically an aerial view, you can often see the cloud line at a kind of diagonal, stretching from just beyond the western points of Neahkahnie and Cape Falcon to Rockaway Beach or maybe the Nehalem Bay. Yet it leaves a wide open, cloud-free space just offshore from Manzanita itself.

That's a marine layer – or marine stratus as Kranz called it.

Kranz explains further.

“The first reason is due to the concave shape of the coastline at Manzanita (the coastline bends eastward a bit),” Kranz said. “In the spring and summer months, we typically have northerly winds along the coast and over the coastal waters. Marine stratus is also around most of the time, which seeps inland overnight depending on the wind direction/pressure gradient pattern.”

Then, the daytime brings more warmth, which keeps the marine stratus away.

“During the daytime, the sun will typically heat up land enough to scatter out the marine stratus and keep it hugging the coastline. In these scenarios, marine stratus that ‘hugs' the coastline has a better chance of affecting the Cannon Beach and Rockaway area, simply because these beaches are more convex (the coastline juts out to the west a little more than Manzanita).”

If you're thinking, well, the area is protected by Neahkahnie Mountain – that's indeed part of it, but not quite. It's more complex and certainly more interesting than that. Since the Oregon coast tends to get winds from the north, Neahkahnie not just blocks them but it changes them, and thus how dry and how much warmer Manzanita's beaches can be.

“The second reason would be due to the higher terrain to the north of Manzanita (Neahkahnie Mountain),” Kranz said. “With the typical northerly winds, air will flow up and over Neahkahnie Mountain and produce clouds. Once the air flows down the south side of the mountain, it dries out and warms up a little as it sinks down the mountain (due to compressional warming). As a result, skies will be sunnier and temperatures will be slightly warmer (from both the sunshine and the compressional warming of the air).”

Another fun ‘n funky fact about this part of the north Oregon coast is how drastically temperatures can shift in the Nehalem Bay, just by wandering maybe even a mile inland from Manzanita. It's maybe a foggy day in Manzanita or perhaps one of those summer days where the beach is a lot cooler, but there's a heatwave inland. Get just a ways into Nehalem and temps can jump ten to 30 degrees quickly. By the time you're in the hamlet of Wheeler – where you can see Neahakhnie Mountain and hints of the ocean – you may be right back in heatwave territory.

There's an interesting weather science behind that, Kranz said.

“When it comes to weather conditions changes very quickly while going farther inland, that is typically explained by the sea breeze boundary,” he said. “A sea breeze usually kicks in by late morning along the coast, especially if conditions are sunny and calm to start. This will significantly cool down coastal locations, and the temperature will rise VERY quickly as soon as you go east of the sea breeze circulation. The strength of the sea breeze circulation determines how far inland it will push.”

From the visual proof to this knowledgeable weatherman, to the locals touting “Banana Belt” with a bit of a smirk: you can take this one to the bank. Manzanita can be a bit warmer and sunnier than the rest of the north Oregon coast around it. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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