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The Russia Weather Connection to Some Intense Oregon Coastal Sunsets

Published 5/01/24 at 3:55 a.m.
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – Wildfire smoke in and around Oregon that gets especially intense is – sadly – something we're all getting used to. Along the coastline is where it always seems rather surreal, quite out of place. Certainly, it creates some paradoxically beautiful shots at times. Indeed, unhealthy amounts of smoke coming from here are becoming increasingly regular elsewhere around the country, even the world. (Photo of Cape Foulweather / Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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When that happens, as ugly as it is, it's fascinating to see how smoke from one place on the globe can affect another area thousands of miles away. The meteorological conditions that have to coincide to create that are definitely on the wondrous side.

Yet at one time it was rare for Oregon to make the news in that way. In fact, in April of 2015 a remarkable set of sunsets out on the coastline had more to do with fires in Russia and near Mongolia. Before that, there was another such instance in 2012 and in 2010.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection was around to catch the event in 2015. All over Oregon there was a distinctive, intense pink and red to sunsets, including around Depoe Bay and Lincoln City. The weekend of April 18 and 19 was a sometimes eerie display all over the western U.S.

This was nothing you could smell, however. It just looked wild.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Just photographing the thing you wouldn't know what was going on. The result was fiery skies that were simply impressive. As in the above shot, at Otter Loop Road: a deep orange on this tiny coastal backroad was paired with one of those forested blobs of land this area is known for. There's kind of a Novaya Zemlya effect happening with the clouds, too.

Last summer in Bandon created this wild scene. Photo Courtesy Manuela Durson Fine Arts

It wasn't until you got home – or at least your motel room – and listened to the news that you heard what all this was from.

The fires were taking place in the southeastern Siberian region of Khakassia, where more than 60 villages were eventually affected and more than 29 dead. Over 6,000 people ended up homeless then. They started on April 12 and lasted through the 16th, but it took that haze awhile to spread across the Pacific Ocean to reach the U.S.

It was a terrible, insane blaze, with photos of the scenes looking downright apocalyptic.

The smoke particulates at the time were said to have cooled Oregon by about two degrees below what the original forecasts were calling for.

At the time, there was new tech the National Weather Service (NWS) had been using called the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS). As the event progressed, the NWS was watching the plumes cross the ocean.

The smoke layers were first spotted over the Pacific on April 15. NWS scientists later pieced together various images and saw its movements from Russia to China, out into the ocean, and then eventually to the Pacific Northwest.

Siletz Bay produced this weird orb. Oregon Coast Beach Connection

On Saturday the 18th, Oregon Coast Beach Connection was seeing some unusual sunsets – different than what you usually saw in spring. The Lincoln City photos here display that.

On Sunday, you were getting the distinct oranges and reds rather than the softer pinks of the night before. It was a fun photo expedition, until you found out why.

At the time the NWS wrote:

Siletz Bay - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

“You can see the main plume on the borders of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho, with some smoke moving into central Canada,” the NWS said. “The plume has stayed surprisingly intact (and rather intense). You can also see hints of a big plume over Alaska (unfortunately, one of the areas we don't have a lot of OMPS data for today). And you can see a narrow plume wafting all the way across the Pacific.”

Along the central coast, there was a bit of a fog anyway, but those muddled pinks of Saturday night turned to searing tones the next night. Atop Cape Foulweather, halfway between Newport and Depoe Bay, you saw this rather intense scene, with the sundown reflected in the lookout building / gift shop.

Below Otter Rock, blue hour took on an interesting look as well.

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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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