The Oregon coast is beautiful, no matter how you look at it. But it is also known for its winds in summer. All down the coast you will find hotels, shops, B&Bs with names like Ocean Breeze, Sea Breeze, Pacific Breeze, Summer Breeze – the list goes on. It all sounds so wonderful and elicits thoughts of a tropical island where the breeze helps keep you cool, or helps to dry you off quickly if you have taken a dip in the ocean.
Hah – fooled you!
If you look at the definition for breeze it is said to be a gentle wind. If you dig into it deeper, that means a wind of between 4 and 31 miles per hour. Now, in my book, a 31 mile per hour wind is far from gentle!
Thankfully, it does not happen all the time.
When the Wind blows
It usually starts in mid-May and continues through July. This is just when all of the tourists are coming to the coast. Perhaps we can conclude that the winds are caused by so many people rushing to the coast, that the wind has to go in the opposite direction to replace their mass. Just kidding.
They are caused by temperature differences. On the coast, the ocean plays a major impact on our air temperatures. In winter it keeps us mild and does the same for us in summer. In the inland valleys, the sun quickly causes land temperatures to rise. It takes a lot longer for the ocean to warm. Warm air rises and cooler air has to come in to replace it. That is what creates the wind. A cooler day inland and the winds don’t get started and that means a warmer day on the coast because we don’t get the cool marine air coming in.
It can be a difficult time for coast dwellers because just when think that spring is really here and the temperatures are getting nice enough to be out in the garden, we recess backwards and get colder and windier. The onshore winds can also bring moist air in, but that tends to be confined to lower elevations. Thankfully, my garden is at about 200 feet above sea level and that is often enough to keep us out of the fog. We do often get to see the clouds racing through the trees below us.
When to Visit
By late July, the ocean has warmer up considerably and so the temperature disparity starts to weaken. On average the water temperature varies by over 10 degrees, peaking in late August with the lowest point is usually in early March. August and September is when we get glorious weather on the coast and we can often be warmer than the valleys.
That is also when we welcome a nice breeze, and by my definition that means less than 10 mph! With a nice warm ocean, another even less welcome wind sometimes happens. In the photograph below you will see a waterspout that briefly formed. Thankfully it caused no damage when it came ashore because tornadoes hate elevation change.