San Francisco’s Fourth Gift to the World: Fog
Fog, whether it is coming on little cat feet or rising like a tidal wave of spun sugar over the summit of Twin Peaks or gnawing our bones with dull wet teeth, the fog of San Francisco is remarkable.
When I first moved here I lived for a year up in the Richmond on Geary, and the fog was a near constant companion. In the mornings it would haze everything like a reverse snowfall, while in the evenings it would lay wetly across the neighborhood like a cast-off towel or swimsuit. The beauty and surreality of the fog soon gave way to annoyance, acceptance and a lust for sunshine. Living in the Haight the fog isn’t quite so present, except during the winter months. But we do get a spectacular view of Twin Peaks being devoured by fog some evenings.
British comedian Eddie Izzard had this to say about our fog: And you don’t tell tourists about the weather in July and August. You don’t fucking tell anyone. They’re all going around in summer shirts, going, “Jesus Christ! I can’t see! I can’t see! Fog! There’s fog!” And it really shifts it, your fog! I saw John Carpenter’s film, “The Fog,” seen it a few times, and that fog shifts it. I thought, “Well, that’s Hollywood, that’s fog moving really fast,” but your fog is that speed! ( mimes running ) Busy, busy, busy! It could be late to get in someone’s face somewhere! It runs down the road, doesn’t it? Faster than the fucking taxis!
Whereas fellow midwestern transplant Robin Williams said: “There are so many beautiful parts of the world . . . Thailand, Italy, the south of France. There are places in Spain that are astonishing. But here . . . 25 miles and you go up on Mount Tam to see the fog come in; 25 miles the other direction and you’re somewhere else that takes your breath away. There’s no question this is where I want to live. Never has been.”
The Exploratorium (possibly our 4.5th Gift to the World) explains our unique fog this way: the fog forms off the coast of San Francisco. And as the rest of California–especially the central valley–heats up during the day, the hot air rises and sucks in cooler air from the coast. The San Francisco bay becomes the sucking mouth drawing all of this cool air down into the valley, and as a result the fog gets sucked in off of the ocean and into our fair city. The fog cools the rest of California, blankets the western half of San Francisco, gives the eastern half an occasional show and it is our gift to the rest of California as well as the greater world.
Additional fog resources:
The Chronicle offers an animated time-lapse fog forecast, which is oddly beautiful and makes one think of nothing so much as waves lapping a beach.
Here is a Google image gallery of San Francisco’s Fog.