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Four Unusual Oregon Coast Weather Phenomena: What They Don't Tell You

Published 06/04/2017 at 6:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Four Unusual Oregon Coast Weather Phenomena: What They Don't Tell You

(Oregon Coast) – It's like a real life X-Files. The Oregon coast is truly stranger than fiction sometimes, especially when it comes to weather phenomena. The green flash, a double-headed sunset, when beaches are ten degrees warmer in winter, and the wild mini-summer that February can bring: expect the absolutely unexpected. (Above: the green flash at sunset taken in Seaside in the early 2000's).


One very interesting aspect of the Oregon coast that many don't realize is the vast difference in temperature that can happen between the tide line and the vegetation line. This is full of surprises.

In summer, this is more obvious – and yet more complex. A town like Manzanita, Cannon Beach or Newport – with sands very close to the sidewalks of city streets – can drastically cool down next to the water. On those rare occasions when it gets into the 80's or even 90's, being next to the ocean – often just a few hundred feet – can put you in the midst of cooling winds and a ten-degree or more temp drop.

Usually, this cools you down. However, in some instances, being up against the tide line can make things a lot warmer. If there's little to no wind, especially in spring, it is warmer next to the ocean. That's because the sands and the sea reflect the sun back. These are the times you really have to worry about sunscreen, too. Even though the temps may be in the 50's or 60's, the sun is strong enough to begin cooking your skin.

This phenomenon is even wilder in February, when winter dissipates at times and the beaches can be at their warmest until summer kicks in. Under these conditions, the town streets can be in the 40's or 50's, but if there's no wind and the sun is just right, the beaches feel more like the 60's, and often the 70's.

Mini-Summer of February. Thus begins the second fascinating fact about Oregon coast weather: the “mini-summer” of February. This doesn't happen every year (it did not at all in February of 2017), but it does most years.

What happens is there are about 10 to 14 days interspersed throughout the month (not consecutive at all), where things get downright balmy in the middle of winter. The beaches can rise into the 50's to twenty degrees more with bright, cloudless skies and little to no wind. Meanwhile, inland Oregon can be frozen in the 30's. It's downright astounding.

The cause of this? It's a complex set of circumstances that have to do with the coast's temperate climate reacting to the slow warming of this region because of longer days and calming storm patterns. All this equals a bit of a warming trend.


Famed Green Flash at Sunset. This one is also downright jaw-dropping, and often people seeing it for the first time are either shocked or in simple disbelief.

What you see is a kind of a green blob hovering just above the sun, right before it pops out of view at the end of the day. It lasts for a second to nearly ten seconds at times. The exact configuration differs as well. It can be a blob, or just the top of the sun turning green, or it turns the whole glowing ball a shade of green, and other shapes.

It is not, however, literally a flash.

What happens here is the Earth's atmosphere is so thick at that point between you and the sunset that it blocks out certain light bands. In this case, if conditions are right, it will block all but the green bands.

Related to Green Flash: Novaya Zemlya. In most cases, the green flash requires a completely clear and empty horizon, free of clouds. But some cloud formations create the unusual Novaya Zemlya effect and they in turn bring the green flash with them.

The Novaya Zemlya is apparently very rare in many parts of the world, but not so much on the Oregon coast. This is when the clouds create a double-headed sunset, creating an illusion where it seems the sun is setting later than it really is. The upper part is often distorted in appearance, most of the time showing as a series of lighted bands of a rectangular shape. Yet you always see at least part of the real orb just below, descending below the horizon.

This too is the result of refraction, but more complex. In order for the Novaya Zemlya effect to occur, there has to be a large inversion layer in the weather offshore, interacting with what are called atmospheric thermoclines (transition layers between cooler and warmer air and / or ocean). The light of the sunset essentially refracts – or is bent – around those layers.

All this bending and twisting of sunset light can bring the green flash with it. So it's kind of a double feature. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour -- Keep an eye on Oregon Coast Weather for these conditions

Above: the Novaya Zemlya is showing a hint of green

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