Surprising Science Factoids About Oregon Coast Weather
(Oregon Coast) – These beaches are known for their tempestuous states of weather, wind-blown hairdos and soaked visits to the edge of this continent. But there's a lot more to the story than this, and those kinds of patterns aren't a constant. In fact, there are some surprises that come with the science of winter on the beaches, daylight hours and how much more sunscreen you need (above: Manzanita).
It turns out there's something like ten minutes more of daylight on the coast than inland. Thanks to the coastal mountains getting in the way a little and the pure horizon view the beaches have, the sun actually goes down just a tad later along the Oregon coast than in places like Portland, Eugene or Bend. The mountains between inland and the coast block the sundown a little. Then once you're on the beaches, you have a clear, unobstructed view of the sun going down.
Hence a few extra minutes of sunlight.
If it's sunny out, the beach is probably a lot warmer than just beyond the vegetation line – warmer on the sand than if you're walking around towns like Cannon Beach, Yachats or Lincoln City. Even if the temps are fairly cold in general, it can feel warmer on the beach.
This all depends on wind factors, of course, which can ruin that aspect entirely. But according to KOIN 6-TV weatherman Bruce Sussman, the sun reflects off the ocean and can warm things up considerably. On sunny days, especially if there’s little to no wind, the beach can seem a very warm place. You can head just a few miles inland – or maybe even less than half a mile – and you definitely feel a chill.
This, and the reflective qualities of sand, are why you really need to watch the sunburn factor on nice days like this. Together, the ocean and the sand shoot back a lot of the sun's rays and you can burn much faster.
This warmer beach dynamic can happen in winter, too. It takes the right conditions of blue sky and no wind. When it does occur, however, it's spectacular to feel yourself in a balmy place right next to a sometimes raging ocean, when a few hundred feet away it can be quite chilly.
For yet another surprise: winter is often warmer on the coast than inland. True, it doesn't seem like it with stormy, rainy conditions and all. But technically, the temperature is higher in towns like Seaside, Newport or Oceanside than in places like Portland or Salem during the winter.
Actually, some of the coldest winter days in the valley are created by blue skies or sporadic cloud cover, because the clouds tend to keep in the heat – like a blanket. But on the coast, since the climate is much more temperate there – hardly ever going outside 30 to 50 degrees during the winters – these same conditions often create vastly warmer temps for the beaches. It can be 30 degrees or less in the valley on one of those dry, sunny and freezing days. But on the coast, these atmospheric conditions often raise it to 40 degrees or even 50 degrees.
Mostly, if Portland or Eugene are in the 30’s or lower, you won’t find the coast getting much lower than 40 degrees, whatever the state of the skies.
This is definitely the big dynamic in February, when the beaches get a kind of “secret spring” phenomenon. There's usually about ten days scattered throughout the month that are blue, windless and quite warm, while the valley is still dealing with freezing temps.
Again, that aspect of the sun reflecting off the ocean comes to play here as well, and can make these days in February downright balmy if you're walking next to the water.
You can take a look at past statistics for temps and wind conditions on the coast at the Hatfield Marine Science Center's log for past years. Especially interesting are the stats for February of each year.
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