Monday of the vernal equinox is the official spring of the Oregon Coast and the Washington Coast: scientific curiosities

Monday of the vernal equinox is the official spring of the Oregon Coast and the Washington Coast: scientific curiosities

Published on 03/19/23 at 05:23
By the staff of the Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Astoria, Oregon) – You gotta love the vernal equinox. It’s the first day of official spring. It contains some interesting astronomical aspects in that it is the day when the Earth’s north and south poles are equidistant from the sun – while any other day of the year is always tilted closer. (Above: Long Beach, Washington – Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Additionally, on the Oregon Coast and the Washington Coast, this means more and more sunshine and often warmer days even at the end of March (although it is often known that it rains during the two spring holidays). However, there are some real intricacies that arise for the region that might surprise you.

According to Jim Todd, astronomy expert at OMSI in Portland, March 20 is the big day for the official change of seasons. The vernal equinox brings true balance to Earth: these poles are both 92.6 million kilometers from our family star. It all really starts at 2:24 p.m. here in the Pacific Northwest, the exact moment the sun stands directly above the earth’s equator.

Todd said the term “vernal” comes from the word green, and “equinox” means “equal night”. Both are derivatives of Latin. The Equinox also represents the idea that the hours of night and day are absolutely equal on this date. However, there is a caveat – keep reading.

If you’re on the Washington Coast or the Oregon Coast, as well as Portland or Seattle, you can experience stellar entertainment.

“As seen from Portland on March 20-21, the midday sun will reach its midpoint in the sky at nearly 45 degrees from the southern horizon,” Todd said. “On the day of an equinox, it’s a good day to find due east and due west from your own backyard. Just go out at sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun at the horizon against familiar landmarks.

Todd said the Earth’s axis tilts 23.4 degrees in the summer, giving us the sun’s rays more directly and keeping things warm. When winter comes, we here in Oregon and Washington move away from the sun, which means the sun has to pass through more layers of atmosphere, cooling its rays.

There are some weird possibilities there, if you think about what would happen if there was no Earth-tilting action.

“If the Earth rotated on an axis perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, there would be no variation in day length or temperature throughout the year, and we would have no seasons,” he said.

Now, there is a little catch in all of this. The most scientifically accurate time of equal day and night actually happened on March 17, at least for Portland. The exact times and dates of this 12-hour effect differ somewhat for the Washington Coast and the Oregon Coast, due to their positions away from Portland or the inland areas closest to them. Towns on these coasts have a difference of about 7 minutes or less between sunset and sunrise times than the towns in the valley closest to them. And those differences change dramatically as you move north into Washington or down the southern Oregon coast.

The fact that Portland is near the 45th parallel comes into play. March 17 being the date when the region around the parallel had 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Sunrise was at 7:18 a.m. and sunset was at 7:19 p.m.

On March 20, sunset in Seattle, Washington will be at 7:22 p.m. Sunset at Moclips is at 7:29 p.m.

For Portland, Oregon, the exact sunset is 7:23 p.m. It is 7:28 p.m. in Seaside, on the north coast of Oregon.

For Bandon, it is 7:30 p.m., while in Medford sunset is at 7:24 p.m.

“At the 45th latitude north, the time it takes for the sun to fully rise and set, which is several minutes, is added to the day and subtracted from the night, and so the equinox day lasts just over 12 hours. “, says Todd. “Another reason the day lasts longer than 12 hours at an equinox is that the Earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight.”

Now those hours after dark will start to decrease faster and faster. This will continue until September 25, when the autumnal equinox begins. Even so, and this is very true even in winter, there is another fun fact for the Washington Coast and the Oregon Coast: as you can see at these times, if you just want a few extra minutes of daylight, head to the beaches.

Another intense surprise: Sunset Science: Twilight is not what it seems on the coast of Oregon, Washington

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