Seven fun and fun science facts about the Oregon coast

Seven fun and fun science facts about the Oregon coast

Posted 7/17/21 5:55 PM PDT
By Andre ‘GW Hagestedt, editor

(Oregon Coast) – What lies below you and above these beaches will surprise you. Things on the beach that glow, sing, flash and move in mysterious ways, the Oregon coast has some science tricks up its sleeve. Here is a simple seven to ponder. (Above: Face Rock in Bandon, courtesy Manuela Durson Fine Arts )

South Oregon Coast a geological puzzle. There’s a big difference between the South Oregon Coast and the North Coast, and it’s right under everyone’s feet. In the north it is much easier to describe many old forces that created these landmarks, but in the south it is a huge puzzle in the geological sense.

Various parts of the south coast exist atop different gigantic terranes, mostly large rocky land masses. Stranger still, they were all created elsewhere, far away, and then slowly fell into place over millions and millions of years. Some of these terranes are as old as 200 million years.

This is also true for the north coast, but not to the same degree of complexity. Yet on the north coast, most of the large features like Tillamook Head or the rocks of Depoe Bay can be carbon dated by geologists and they will provide a precise number: around 13 to 17 million years old. But with most of the deeper rocks on the south coast, including these terranes, there is a mishmash of geological ages in there.

For example, Bandon’s Face Rock is a great example: inside are rocks from different periods, all glued together. See more explanations / origin of Face Rock.

Green flash at sunset and her cousin, Novaya Zemlya. Sunsets are always a much anticipated moment on the Oregon Coast, but there are a few that put on an extra show. There is a phenomenon known as “Green Flash at Sunset”, which is a little more likely to occur during the good weather of summer and the “Second Summer” of fall on the coast.

Under the right conditions, you can see a brief flash of green lightning directly above the sun, just before the last sliver dips below the horizon. This can only happen on cloudless days, and is the result of a variety of conditions that block certain bands of color for a fraction of a second. Slightly more common – but harder to discern – is a slightly longer green patch that lingers just above sunset.

Its cousin sometimes creates a green lightning bolt. This is called the Novaya Zemlya effect, where you see a two or three headed sunset. It is actually a projection of the sun, projected onto different layers of air beyond the horizon, requiring a series of unique conditions. According to most documents, this is a rarity in the world, but it seems to be happening almost every month along the Oregon coast. If you see this, take a close look: it may produce a green flash, although generally quite indistinct or weaker than usual. See Weird Weather Cousins ​​on the Oregon Coast: Green Flash and the Novaya Zemlya


Glowing waves at Fort Stevens, courtesy Solution 7 Media

Sand that shines – Sand that sings. Glowing sand occurs because of tiny bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates. They resemble fireflies – but smaller – emitting a faint glow to the touch.

Under the right conditions, if you are on wet sand near the tide line at night, you can see tiny green / blue flashes under your feet. Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes the Sand Glow Glowing on the Oregon Coast, Washington

Singing Sands are much, much rarer and actually only occurs in two places on the coast: in parts of the National Dunes Recreation Area south of Florence and just south of Cannon Beach.

Sometimes it sounds like distant voices singing. Others, it’s a bit like a violin or a strange, elongated squeak. This too only happens under certain conditions, when two different types of sands grind together under the right degree of humidity.

It’s a little more common in the National Dunes Recreation Area than near Cannon Beach. Even so, the forest guards who have worked at the Dunes for 20 years have not heard it. The sands of Arcadia Beach sometimes make a little squeaking noise when stepped on, which may be the origin of the legend of the Singing Sands in this region. But at dune level, it would look more like the standard singing sands anomaly. Oregon Coast Weird Singing Sands: Cannon Beach, South Coast & Beyond | Video


Dunes devoured by winter waves in Manzanita, courtesy of Barb Gould

The beaches change dramatically depending on the season. There is more to the coastal sands than you might think.

Your favorite beach can be drastically different in summer compared to winter. Sand levels are very low in winter, but in summer they can stack dozens of feet higher. The two create something very different, like gaining access to new places you couldn’t access before, or even weird dangers like massive holes in puddles you can’t see.

Winter brings insane amounts of erosion, like last year when winter waves ate the beach dunes to alarming degrees. It also reveals an ancient bedrock that you don’t normally see or mysterious ghost forests. See the difference in sand levels

Secrets of sand dollars. Finding a whole one on the Oregon coast is quite a precious moment. But if you find a Sand Dollar still hazy, you’ll want to leave it alone. It’s still alive. Grabbing one and putting it in your car will give you a nasty surprise. It will soon stink the sky.

Stick to the clay-like and grayish ones you find. Fortunately, encountering a Sand Dollar that is still alive is quite rare. Learn more about Oregon Coast Sands Dollars.

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