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Weather Tips and Quirky Science Finds for Oregon Coast Spring Break

Published 2/27/24 at 2:05 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Quirky Science Finds and Weather Tips for an Oregon Coast Spring Break

(Oregon Coast) – Get ready to get your shorts on. And your coat. And your long pants. And raingear. And your t-shirt and flip flops. After all, it will be spring on the Oregon coast. (Photo above: glowing waves at Fort Stevens by Steven Smith / Solution 7 Media)

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The truth is you may need them all when it comes to spring break and later in spring. Sometimes you'll need all in the same day.

Also what you'll need: a true sense of exploration. Get ready to go beyond the usual and to think outside of that box. There's more to this coastline than than you realize for spring.

What to Pack for Weather

Spring break in Oregon is probably mislabeled. Though it happens as the season begins, meteorologically it's really more like Late Winter Break. That being said, semi-heat waves do happen then. Even more freakishly: that strange, yellow orb in the sky that we've often forgotten about does break out in spring.

China Beach near Brookings courtesy Coastwatch / Pete Chesar

Kidding aside, spring becomes a mish-mash of weather on the Oregon coast. In late March and early April – when Oregon and Washington have their spring breaks – it tends to be on the chilly side and often rainy. Pay attention to the immediate weather reports, of course, but you may want to consider packing for all possibilities. Starting late March to mid April the coast has a dizzying tendency to switch gears every couple of hours. You can have bouts of sun one minute, and just wait another 10 to 40 minutes and you may have a good rain squall.

Photo of Sujameco shipwreck near Coos Bay, Kara J. Long

Certainly as spring waxes on through April and even early June, weather systems frequently weave in and out the same day. Bring several changes of clothing; more if you plan to hang for a week or so. Often, spring squalls are followed by periods of sunshine and calm, and vice versa. Why Spring Weather is So Erratic on Oregon / Washington Coast: Meteorologist Explains

Odd Science Finds

Given the coastline's penchant for the switch-a-roo, natural wonders are created that will be memorable. Wild storms can continue through spring, and you may spot some whopper wave action.

Also, spring is when phytoplankton bloom in incredible numbers, and that can cause other moments of sheer amazement. One species called dinoflagettes glows in the dark when stepped on or disturbed in the water. Under certain conditions, this can cause what's called "glowing sands" on the beach, where you'll encounter tiny, greenish sparks at your feet if you're walking near the tideline at night. See Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes Glowing Sand On Oregon Coast, Washington.

Phytoplankton are also largely what's responsible for sea foam - and these can combine with storms to create another incredible spectacle. If conditions are right, and you have an especially large bloom of phytoplankton seriously stirred up by storms, you may spot huge chunks of sea foam flying onto the highways.

In some cases, it's been seen at places like the Devil's Churn at Cape Perpetua, in flurries of foam flying upwards - looking like snow going the wrong direction. The great chasm in the rock here accentuates the wave action and amplifies whatever effects the flurries can create (as seen here in this picture from such an event at the Churn in April of 1993).

More unusual weather facts: later in spring is really the best time to photograph the Oregon coast or Washington coast. That mix of hefty clouds with dark spots and areas of blue sky between makes for interesting lighting conditions at sunset. You get a form of pastel you usually can't get any other time of year.

Looking for agates? This is a great time. There are less wave warnings and safety issues this time of year, but enough wave action to keep sand levels a little low. That can create gravel beds, which is your cue to find agates.

Gravel beds in Lincoln City

Agate beds can come and go quickly, however. They can pop up on one beach and then two miles down the way the latest gravel bed goes away.

Gray whales start to show up in great numbers, and that culminates in Whale Watch Week at the end of every March, coinciding with spring break week. Orcas are seen more and more (it seems – but not proven), and your chances of spotting those amazing killer whales get much greater in March as that's when they start to show up too.

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

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