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“We’re Not Prepared For This Weather…”

 

It's Nice Today...It seems like every year I hear the same thing from places all over the Bay Area, We’re not prepared for this weather! It’s summer. It gets hot. Be Prepared. OK, maybe in San Francisco that isn’t completely true except for this year where we’ve been hit by warmer than average temperatures for this time of year, but it’s the same type of heat we get in September so we got hit a few months early. It’s not like everyone puts their air conditioning in cold storage until September. Oh wait, San Franciscans don’t have air conditioning.

I’ll try and explain weather to all of you since it seems everyone forgets what it is every year around here. This could be due to all the newcomers that rotate in and out of the city every year, but summer in San Francisco isn’t supposed to be warm. It might be warm compared to Alaska [or Alturas which has got to be the coldest place in California], but it’s not what people expecting summer weather expect.

The reason it’s so odd is that [my apologies, I’m not a meteorologist] we get warm air over the water that hits the cold air over the land. The warm ocean air contains more moisture which condenses when it hits the cold land giving you…fog. Summer’s in San Francisco tend to be foggy around the coast with a few places like Potrero and the Mission where it burns off very quickly because they get the sun earlier in the day to warm the land and create a bit of equilibrium between the two.

For people who grew up here we have an old saying, You know you’re in San Francisco when you put on your heavy winter jacket to barbecue in July and make sure you’ve got a tank top on when you run out for a six pack in October.

San Francisco is kind of backwards weather wise and even then we don’t really have weather. It might get a few days into the freezing temperatures in December and January and we might get into the upper 90’s a couple of days in September and October. That’s pretty much the extremes we get. Snow is pretty much unheard of since 1976 and we don’t get tornados or hurricanes here either. We do get rain and hail, but our weather hasn’t gotten that message lately. We’ve been experiencing a rather dry year so far and while I can’t say that’s why it’s hot it’s just one of those things you should be prepared for.

Most San Franciscans already know to dress in layers so that shouldn’t be a problem and most people also carry water bottles so dehydration isn’t really a factor. Most of the companies that I’ve worked for also have air conditioning installed even though they hardly ever need it so the whole, we’re not prepared for this weather is kind of a joke to me.

We all have to go outside and even if you’ve been here only a couple of months you should know how to deal with the weather. If not then I suggest San Diego where the meteorologists are overpaid because every day is, nice.

Embrace The Fog

I’ve decided that after living in San Francisco for a little over 49 years that I’ve chosen to select, Embrace The Fog as my new catch phrase. I’ll start signing emails with it partly because no one signs sincerely any more because that sounds insincere or best which always makes me thing best what? or the usual, regards…regarding what? Your best insincerity? But anyway, let’s get back to the fog.

San Francisco while not being the foggiest place on earth is certainly the best known [Labrador is the foggiest]. The fog is caused by warm moist air hitting colder drier air. When the temperature outside gets close to the temperature needed to get water to condense out of the air as a liquid [dewpoint] you get fog.

San Francisco is odd in that it gets three types of fog and I’ll go into explaining the three types without hopefully putting any of you to sleep the three types are radiation, advection and tule fog. Here we go:

  1. Radiation fog:  is formed by the cooling of land after sunset by thermal radiation in calm conditions with clear sky. The cool ground produces condensation in the nearby air by heat conduction. In perfect calm the fog layer can be less than a meter deep but turbulence can promote a thicker layer. Radiation fogs occur at night, and usually do not last long after sunrise. Radiation fog is common in autumn and early winter. This is what we see at night and in the morning that usually burns off. Tule fog is included in this, but it’s a little different.
  2. Advection fog: occurs when moist air passes over a cool surface by advection (wind) and is cooled. It is common as a warm front passes over an area with significant snowpack. It is most common at sea when tropical air encounters cooler waters, including areas of cold water upwelling, such as along the California coast. The advection of fog along the California coastline is propelled onto land by one of several processes. A cold front can push the marine layer coastward, an occurrence most typical in the spring or late fall. During the summer months, a low pressure trough produced by intense heating inland creates a strong pressure gradient, drawing in the dense marine layer. Also during the summer, strong high pressure aloft over the desert southwest, usually in connection with the summer monsoon, produces a south to southeasterly flow which can drive the offshore marine layer up the coastline; a phenomenon known as a “southerly surge”, typically following a coastal heat spell. However, if the monsoonal flow is sufficiently turbulent, it might instead break up the marine layer and any fog it may contain. Moderate turbulence will typically transform a fog bank, lifting it and breaking it up into shallow convective clouds called stratocumulus. This is the daytime fog that we get from time to time. It’s also when higher up the overcast cloud layer that we see so often in the Sunset and Richmond districts.
  3. Tule fog: is a radiation fog, which condenses when there is a high relative humidity [typically after a heavy rain], calm winds, and rapid cooling during the night. The nights are longer in the winter months, which creates rapid ground cooling, and thereby a pronounced temperature inversion at a low altitude. This is the nasty fog that it’s so thick you can sometimes not see your hand in front of your face. It’s the most dangerous type of fog to drive in as it can even obstruct car headlines and don’t even think that turn on your high beams will help as it only shines the light back into your face.
Now after reading this many of you will say, why embrace the fog then? Well, here’s the truth. Fog is actually good for you, or so many have said in the past. It was actually used as a selling point for homes in the Sunset District. It’s wet and not salty so it offers moisture to your skin. It’s also said to help people with respiratory problems. If you go to a place that’s hot and humid like say Hawaii, the heat makes you sweat and the high humidity keeps the water salty water on your skin which most people don’t like too much so they cool off with a beer which makes them sweat more causing them to actually feel worse.
Hot dry air is a different story. I made a trip many years ago to my cousin’s place in Arizona. Oddly enough I had never experienced near zero humidity weather before. To beat the heat we hit the pool and when I got out suddenly the nice wet water was sucked off my body into the dry air and I was freezing cold in 112° weather. It turns out when water evaporates quickly it sucks body heat away with it which explains how someone could be freezing in 112° weather. We’re talking like the feeling of waking up in a bathtub full of ice. It’s hard to breath as your body adjusts and people usually use some for of the phrase kill me after exiting a pool in a place like this.
We don’t have to deal with that in San Francisco. We have blankets of fog in many places unless you live in the SOMA, Bayview or Mission then you might see overcast more than fog. The term blanket of fog is actually a very good thing. Blankets keep you warm and the thick fog does hold the heat in a bit. This is why in a place like Las Vegas at night where the sand doesn’t absorb much heat the temperatures can drop pretty quickly. There’s nothing like a February morning in Las Vegas to make you scratch your head.
While we do have a couple of bad months in December and January and sometimes February where it gets wet and cold that’s not cold like people back East have to deal with. We don’t have snow [except for 1976]. We do get hail and mostly rain, but we rarely get temps that drop into the 30’s here. This is why I like the fog. It pretty much mediates any temperature extremes.
For a guy of 49 I have hardly any wrinkles starting to develop on my face and I breath pretty good. I’m beginning to believe the fog is therapeutic if for no other reason than on those few cloudless days when the West facing back of my house gets the direct attack from the sun. It is blinding and we have to close up the curtains and open up the windows because the back of our house was covered with concrete with slate shingles which love to soak up the heat and radiate it back into the house. Our heater is almost never used anymore because if we open blinds during the day our house can be 80°’s upstairs well into the evening.
Besides, if you’re a real San Franciscan the idea of falling asleep and hearing the fog horns off in the distance remind you that you’re home. So come on, join with me and embrace the fog. @KarlTheFog, this article goes out to you.

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San Francisco Rain

“Here comes the rain again, falling on my head and it’s drizzly, falling on my head, but it’s not an ocean.” —with apologies to Annie Lennox.

Yes, we have some rain for the first time since the end of January. This contrary to what many people are thinking is not a bad thing. It used to be that San Francisco was a city with two kinds of weather, raining and gonna rain. I never remember it quite like that as there was a fair amount of heavy fog mixed in that my friends from Los Angeles who didn’t know better thought was rain. No that’s not rain, for you guys it’s rain when water from the sky stings your eyes and rusts out your cars.

San Francisco rain is different. It’s usually pretty mild and we have less stormy days with heavy rains than we do sunny days. Thank you global warming. I can’t even remember the last time I needed an umbrella when I went out in the rain, but I usually only had a short distance to walk to get to my car so that isn’t so bad. Here’s a few things that I like about San Francisco rain:

  1. I don’t have to water my garden: My father always disagreed with me on this. He was always out there every day rain or shine watering the lawn and the garden in the back. I have found this caused him to grow more weeds that he had to get out there on nice days to pull. Now while our lawn is a little patchy at the moment, but that’s from the gophers we had, we don’t have to run the sprinkler system from December to April cutting our water bill by tons.
  2. I don’t have to wash the car: Everyone’s car looks wet in the rain. When it’s dry out you have to think about how to make your car gleam and shine if you’re into trying to bag ultra sexy women who will drain your bank account, but I’m happily married and have no need to drain my already drained bank accounts for a piece of eye candy on my arm.
  3. It helps clean the dirt off the streets: Well, maybe not as much as a power sprayer, but you’d be surprised at how much dirt there is out there on your house and trees and cars. Previous to the rain of Monday morning my car was beginning to look like something from King Tut’s tomb when it was first opened now it looks brand new. San Francisco tends to have rather loose soil that is easily moved around by our rather breezy wind conditions so the rain helps this out somewhat, but it leads to another condition as well…

Pollen run off. This should have been number four, but it’s so big right now that it deserves its own section. When you’re walking down the streets you might see puddles with yellowy streaks running through them, kind of like the picture to the left, but not so much. I was reading sfgate.com about the upcoming storms and someone commented that they were happy because it would wash away the pollen and her allergies would go away for awhile.

I hadn’t really thought of that until we made our trip out to the local Trader Joe’s to try and find some produce that wasn’t already past it sale date. In the puddles as we were walking towards the doors to the shop you could see these yellow streaked puddles everywhere. I was wondering if it was really pollen or not and dropped pollen run off into google and found the picture to the left.

Yep, it is definitely pollen run off you’re seeing in the streets. The storms are supposed to be strongest Tuesday night through Wednesday so hopefully we will get all of this washed away and be left with a much cleaner city in the end. Somewhere along in my life I realized I had developed allergies to pollen and I have no idea why. I suppose I was having too much of a good time and the gods said, “This should fix that.” I’ve notice that I haven’t had as much need to blow my nose as much so I like the rain. It makes the plants grow for free and keeps our city clean. Now maybe if we could have it be a warm rain for a couple of days we could make it OK for the homeless to go naked and get a free shower and wash their clothes.