logoMarys Peak Observatory Cloud Atlas

The Marys Peak Observatory webcam was set up to provide a visualization of the beauty of natural fluid flows. Clouds trace these flows, providing an educational glimpse into fluid motions in our atmosphere. Time-lapse movies depicting different types of flows can be linked to this website. Ongoing research in the College of Oceanic & Atmospheric Sciences examines the physics of flows like these in both the atmosphere and the ocean.

Marys Peak

Marys Peak Annotated

Marys Peak is located in the central portions of the Oregon Coastal Range, approximately 26mi (42km) east of the Pacific Ocean and 15mi (24km) south west of Corvallis in the Willamette Valley. It reaches an elevation of 4,097ft (1249m) making it the highest point on the coastal range. Nearby lies Grass Mountain, which is the 3rd tallest peak on the Oregon Coastal range. The Marys Peak Observatory was set up to better understand land and air interactions regarding Marys Peak. In a unique place like the Oregon Coastal Range there are plenty of microclimates, as multiple airmasses tend to reside in such close proximity (especially during the summer). The marine layer is often low, putting Marys Peak up above it. When weak summertime cold fronts push inland, the marine layer is sometimes thick enough that marine stratus can be seen pouring over or around Marys Peak. Note the ragged shape of the marine layer when it is low during the summer (denoted by the marine stratus layer in the satellite images below). The marine layer fills the lowest areas (in this case one of the Coastal Range gaps located just north of Marys Peak, as seen below in the graphic), causing certain areas to remain more cloudy, damp, and cool during some of the hot summer months.

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On days when the flow is weak, it will not quite get into the entire valley, but it does move around Marys Peak to fill some of the nearby low spots, sometimes as far inland as Philomath. The unique topography around Marys Peak allows for a certain microclimate to exist at certain times during the summer when more inland areas are hot and dry. The land to the north of Marys Peak is realtively low, along Highway 20 and into Kings Valley along Highway 223. This area often feels the affects of the marine layer much more often than areas such as Corvallis. More days tend to be more cloudy and damp here, allowing for a microclimate sutable for a winery. Three wineries exist in this small area as noted by the stars on the map below. This is also why orographic stratus tend to be found tracking south and east across the peak. More information on Orographic Stratus and Marine Stratus can be found here.

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Our Mission

This webcam was funded by the National Science Foundation, with the original camera being installed by the Ocean Mixing Group on the roof of Burt Hall at Oregon State University on April 28th, 2010. The webcam is a part of experimental investigations into the physics of form drag in geophysical flows. The Biomicrometrology Group maintains the site as part of ongoing studies to understand and quantify interactions between the air, vegetation, and the land surface. The images obtained here are intended to complement studies of controlled flows over topographic obstacles in ocean and atmosphere. On August 4th, 2014, the Biomicrometeorology group at Oregon State University installed a new camera with near-infrared sensitivity to increase the window of viewability.

A collaborative, NSF-funded project by
C. Thomas, S. deSzoeke, L. Mahrt & E. Skyllingstad / OSU Atmospheric Sciences
J. Moum & J. Nash / OSU Ocean Mixing Group

Cloud Atlas compiled by REU student M. Spagnolo