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Wild Weather Shockers for Oregon Coast: Mini Summer of February


Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.


Secrets of the Season

Wild Weather Shockers for Oregon Coast: Mini Summer of February

Seaside on a balmy, sunny day in February of 2004

(Oregon Coast) – Winter on the Oregon coast isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in February. The truth about this part of late winter is that there are a surprising amount of really nice, even warm days on the coastal region, with its temperate climate generally making it even warmer than the valley.


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This is all statistically speaking, and each year is different, of course. But there’s often more than a sprinkling of blue skies and nice vibes in the winter than you’re probably aware of. By February, there’s even a kind of secret miniature summer tucked away near the end of winter.

These runs of winter goopy slorp either chase valley visitors away or draw them in to watch the tidal drama. But if you’re looking for a break from the rains and cold, the coast is often the place to look to during this. There are, on average, about ten or more days with no precipitation, little or no clouds, and almost no winds.

Newport from above

It’s in February where the real shockers begin. There’s what is nicknamed the “mini-summer” scattered around the month, with something close to 10 days – on average – of exceptionally warm, sun-filled weather that mimics nice summer days.

Lorna Davis, Tourism for the Newport Chamber of Commerce, said that “mini-summer” of February is really spectacular. “It’s always really weird,” she said. “It’s so warm. There’s always about six days of really banner, balmy weather in February. Then you can turn around and have a half a foot of snow in early March.”


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There’s more than a little science behind it, too. KATU-TV meteorologist Rod Hill said this is not all that unusual, except that on the coast, the moderate climate element can heighten the glorious weather factor.

Depoe Bay

“In fact, a lot of areas of the country have that,” Hill said. “By this time, you’ve gone through the early sunsets, dark days and the wettest three months of the year. February is over that hump.

“The days are have been getting longer for five weeks and you’ve added enough daylight hours so that the weather is warmer. You get that much daylight increase and you start to get a climate shift.”

When those clear days of late happen – and it’s not all the time, that’s for certain – they’re colder in the valley because of the east winds bringing colder air. Basically, cold air settles in the valley. But on the coast, weather is automatically more moderate because it’s next to the ocean, which is about 50 degrees, keeping things from straying too far away from that temperature. Because of this you get a lot of days on the coast more around 50 in the winter, while the valley regions are much colder and more winter-like. In the summer, this same dynamic keeps the temperature down.

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The coast range also blocks the cold air dynamics from the east, helping to keep the moderate temps trapped by the seashore.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, near Florence

Statistics also back this up – just look at an almanac that displays weather averages for the coast and the valley. These indicate a trend throughout the whole winter that shows the Oregon coast often getting less rain than the valley – a myth that is overdue to be busted.

One statistic you’ll find says that the average percentage of cloudy days in Astoria in the month of January is 66 percent – meaning 66 percent of days in January were cloudy and not so nice in Astoria. Yet in Portland, the average is 68 percent of days in January were cloudy.

The average for Portland in December was 70 percent cloudy conditions through the month, while the north coast experience only 64 percent of those kinds of days. February was a dead tie at 63 percent. While that’s no surprise to any amateur or professional weatherman, other statistics show the coastal region as being much warmer in February.

Intriguing weather floating above Arch Cape

Weather data collected over the years by the Hatfield Marine Science Center also backs this up. It fortifies another bit of local wisdom about weather trends as well: things tend to get a little drier and nicer in winter until you get a host of really nice days in February.

According to the Hatfield's web site, http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/weather/summaries/index.html, you can see an increase of pleasant days over the three months.

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If you look at December 2001, there were five days where there was zero precipitation, and a total of five days where there was only about a tenth of an inch of rain. Temperatures were usually in the low 40's and winds were around 28 mph. While none of the data indicated anything about whether it was sunny or not, it’s a safe assumption that there was at least some sun among those dry days. Only two days rained over an inch, and temperatures throughout that month ranged from 47 to 54 degrees.

The following month, January of 2002, had a total of seven days that had a tenth of an inch of precipitation or none at all. Two days were at 60 degrees, but these had winds of around 50 mph and precipitation of two inches, however.

Above Manzanita and Nehalem Bay

In February 2002, a total of eleven days had zero rain, and four had .02 inches or less. Highest wind gusts on those days ranged from 19 to 30 mph, and temperatures on these days were generally in the low- to mid-50's. Half the month was less than .02 inches of rain or less.

Fast forward a year. According to the Hatfield site, six days in December of 2003 had either zero precipitation or less than .02 inches (nearly nothing). All these happened after the 15th, and were in the 40 and 50 degree ranges.

In January of 2004, February of that year continued the legend, with ten days mostly in the low 50's and less than .02 inches of rain. Winds were 20 mph or less on these days. Two days were about 60 degrees, however. Most of the other days had half an inch or less of rain.

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And who can forget the incredible dry/warm spell of February and March of 2005?

In short, it means most years have the same pattern: by February, you've often got almost two weeks of no rain and somewhat spring-like temperatures that beat that stereotype of nasty coastal weather.

Slightly warmer than winter in the valley? You bet. And the data from these years - and other years - seems to show a general tendency that corroborates the locals.

“Every month brings really different weather,” Davis said. “It’s not just storms during winter and fall, but there are instances of glorious weather.

“It’s full of incredible opportunities. Like whale watching in winter. It might be crisp and cool, but it will be blue skies and the coast will be clear. You’ll have unencumbered travel. If there’s great weather predicted in summer, Newport’s population of 10,000 jumps to 30,000. But if the weather is nice in winter, you’ll just get some traffic. Tourists are looking for an authentic experience, and the coast has it this time of year. Besides, you’ll want to scoop up the lodging discounts and two-for-one specials.”

“It’s as typical as it is not typical, if that makes any sense. These days do happen. You just don’t know when.”

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