The forecast was not looking good. There was the melodic pitter, patter of rain combined with stimulating gusts of 50+ mph winds, friendly warnings of high surf and the cozy guarantee of fog. The cherry on top was the encouraging statistic of 100% chance of precipitation, leaving not much on the positive percentage side for good weather. They don’t call this the wet side of Oregon for nothing, you know.
But this is not just Oregon. This is the Coast of Oregon and anything can happen.
Having spent close to 3 weeks out here I’m already well versed in the fact that the weather forecasts are…well…pretty much useless. It may rain like a monsoon madness in the morning, blow over with fog by noon and then spring out in summer-worthy sun just a few hours later.
You just never know….
Nonetheless my curiosity was piqued. IS there a perfect time to visit the wild and moody Oregon coast? DOES there exist the idyllic panacea of perfect weather window for the enterprising traveller? These philosophical questions demanded an answer and so I did a little research:
1/ The Oregon Coast Is Wet
Now, there’s really no disputing this. Much like the Eskimo’s have over 100 words for snow, local Oregonites are very liberal and forgiving in their description of rain. Having lived for 3 years in England I totally understand this phenomenon. A “light dusting of pleasant drops” would simply be described as a great, bloody rain-cloud anywhere else. It rains here and..well..it rains alot. But there ARE what you would call drier seasons. As it turns out July is consistently the driest month in Oregon and the description holds (more or less) through September. Winter is consistently the wettest month.
Then again, this was the news on weatherundergound as of this morning:
“A record rainfall of 1.18 inch(es) was set at Astoria or yesterday. This breaks the old record of 0.82 set in 1948″
Which leads me back to the original conclusion of you just never know…
2/ The Oregon Coast is Foggy
So, let’s say you’ve scrutinized the numbers and finally decided to come visit the coast in summer. Ahhh, but you see you’ve forgotten to take into account the altitude of the inversion boundary layer combined with the multitude of hygroscopic particles over the coast. In other words you forgot to think about the bleedin’ fog. To put this into perspective you need only remember those famous words popularly attributed to Mark Twain (altho’ there’s some controversy on that point) that ”the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco“.
He was talking about the fog and the point is it can get reaaly foggy on the coast, especially during summer when the hotter inland temperatures essentially “suck in” the humidity on the coast (called advection fog). Generally fog is less likely to form in winter and spring when temperature gradients are more moderate, suggesting late spring or early fall as the best options, but I’ve seen other reports saying you can get fog just about anytime out here. Case-in-point, Cape Dissapointment (just North of Astoria) is well known as one of the foggiest points on the coast. Once again we land back at the wise original statement of you just never know….
3/ The Oregon Coast Can Surprise You
No matter what you read or how you interpret the data it seems that, anytime of year the Oregon Coast can surprise you. The weather here is such a complex dance of interacting factors, compounded by outside events such as El Niño/La Niña that you really can’t tell. September, from everything I’ve seen, seems to be one of the best months -> it’s relatively dry, less foggy and more moderate than most other, but I’ve also heard of great moments in Spring and even days of warmth in Winter.
The bottom line is if you’re coming to the coast you better expect a bit of everything. There will almost certainly be rain, most likely fog, undoubtedly some wind, but also bursts of beautiful and stunning weather. In truth…you just never know…