Pardon me for putting on my Grandpa voice, but back in my day the idea of air conditioning in San Francisco was something nobody ever considered. Yes, most of the houses didn’t have insulation or double/triple pane windows so they were always a bit drafty. We did have hot weather, but as soon as it was gone everyone forgot we had hot weather and started talking about how foggy it was.
Things have change though. People did these things called upgrades to their house and when we get warm weather the houses can get hot. The San Francisco mindset is that you don’t need air conditioning here and for the amount of day we get really hot weather I tend to agree, but there are some simple ways to remedy the heat when the problem comes up [like now].
If you look at the picture I’ve included I found this on YouTube and in its various forms has been called a Redneck air conditioner, Ghetto air conditioner or homemade swamp cooler. If you have a fan then the rest of the parts should cost you about $5. All you need for the simple form I have here is a 5 gallon paint bucket with a lid. You cut a hole in the top where the fan is and drill out 3 holes in the sides [I choose 2 ?” holes because that was the diameter of the PVC scrap tubing I got was. Inside you can fill it up with ice from the local store or freeze gallon milk jugs with water and put them inside. My house even with the window’s open gets up to almost 90° in hot weather and this brought the room down to just below 70° in about 15 minutes.
I’ve also attached a video that shows the full instructions if you want to pimp out this home-made AC for few more bucks. If you want to beat the occasional heat that we get this is a much cheaper and easier way of doing it and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it. It’s not really a swamp cooler as that entails pulling or pushing air over circulating water. San Francisco also has a few higher humidity days that makes the evaporative cooling principles not work so well. If you have a couple of jugs of water to swap out this will keep you going 24/7 for those few days of hot weather we have.
As a last note if you’ve read this far I’ve got a collection of things to write about now that I’ve taken a much needed rest so keep checking back!
Have you been enjoying our warm weather lately? I sure have. I just recently put on jeans for the first time in over 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn shorts for that long in my entire life in San Francisco. It’s a sign — El Niño is coming.
I predicted this last year. Summer last year was freezing and I also don’t think I had heard more people misquoting Mark Twain talking about The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. It was cold alright, but when our San Francisco Indian Summer kicked in it became kind of magical here. The problem was that usually around late November it starts to get cold — it didn’t. It was a bit on the cool side, but nothing near what it should have been. As time went on we had more warm weather with a freak downpour in February that lasted about 15 minutes after which I was seeing steam coming off the ground in the Sunset District.
It was then I knew that I was right and El Niño would be coming. NOAA has been saying we’ll have one, but it won’t be huge. I’m predicting it will be a pretty big one. We had a big one in 1999 which means only about five people were here to experience it. Let me tell you what it was like…
Expect rain, lots of rain. It’ll be different than the usual rain in that it will be more like it’s raining in Hawaii. It will be like someone turned a firehose on San Francisco for 15-20 minutes and then it will stop. The rain will be so heavy that when it stops if you are driving that you will have to drive through a temporary river that takes another 10 minutes to flow away. It will then be sunny and warm again. The general weather will change from overcast to sunny all throughout the day with weird downpours every now and then. The weirdest part of the rain is that it’ll come from smaller clouds that won’t be blocking out the sun so you’ll get a fierce downpour combined with sun which can look like diamonds falling from the sky. In 1999 it was so bizarre that on New Years Eve I was sitting out in front of my house BBQ’ing Ostrich steaks [I had money back then].
Rain is good. California needs it badly. It will help our drought problem, but it won’t make it go away. California is one of the largest agricultural providers in the entire United States so any water we can get we’ll take. You have to keep in mind though that will lots of sudden rain there will be problems — like land slides.
If you live in Marin or on the Peninsula expect to encounter the hills flowing into your backyards. I remember reading about lots of people losing their homes last time the big El Niño hit us. If you have even a little bit of survivalist in you I’d stock up now just in case. If you’re in San Francisco expect to see the storm drains overflowing to the point that you’ll see a few manhole covers rising up from water pushing its way out. If you’re living in the eastern part of the city where you might have a lower apartment, get sandbags. You’ll be flooded. If there’s any drainage system in place make sure it works because it will be overloaded.
El Niño is a weird phenomenon that hits us about every 5 years where the water temperature in the ocean rises considerably. The warmer it gets the worse El Niño is for us. I remember in 1999 a friend of mine who was a scuba diver bought a dry suit to keep him warmer during his dives and he ended up never putting it on once that year. San Francisco will become a little more tropical for a few months so the best thing I can say is to enjoy it and hope that it’s big enough to put a dent in our drought.
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.
It looks like winter has finally arrived in San Francisco. Winter here is different that in other parts of the country. We don’t get snow [well maybe every 30 years we get an inch], we don’t get ice, we don’t get below zero temperatures, but for some reason you are freezing when it’s 60° outside. It’s a different kind of cold. It’s a very wet cold that soak through to the bone and there are a few things you have to keep in mind.
If you have a fireplace check to see if you can close the flu. I have to do that today because even though we have our fireplace blocked off with our daughter’s toys I was still gettiing hit by 50-60 mph wind gusts blowing down the chimney and around the boxy toys blocking the fireplace. Make sure the windows are closed because cold air will blow in and if have your heater on it’s just sucking the heat out the window. If you have gas heating, use it. It’s cheap compared to electric space heaters and will keep your PG&E costs down. It will also warm the whole house and not just a room. Don’t use your fireplace, especially if you’ve closed the flue as it will heat only the one room and might flow over a bit to a closer room. Things like this will make your home life more comfortable. It’s also more eco-friendly not to use your fireplace.
When you have to leave your house, always bring a small umbrella. It might be clear when you leave, but an hour into it you’ll be hit by a downpour. You’ll also have to make sure you wear layers just the rest of the year, but it’ll be time to pull out the sweaters and other long sleeve shirts. Think of how the people dress on the TV shows in New York. You’ll want that. You might sweat a bit on your way in, but trust me, you’ll be warm.
If you’re one of the lucky few that gets to drive into work you’ve got another thing to deal with and that is the manhole covers on hills. I haven’t been out today, but I’m sure with the rain that’s been coming down that we have a few manhole covers being lifted up by too much water and flooding the streets as it rolls down the hill. You won’t need to sandbag your house if you live in an area like this unless it’s a heavy downpour and you live in the downward corner houses. The streets are also not very even so you’ll get puddle build up especially near corner drains that get blocked with pine needles and leaves being blown off the trees. I would suggest you keep to the middle lanes when driving. I remember a horrible experience I had when driving in San Rafael one winter where I was driving and underpass and saw a line of water all the way across and thought to myself…PUDDLE JUMPING TIME! Turns out as I speed up the water was over three feet deep and spewed everywhere soaking my engine and stalling out my car. Luckily I had time to get off to the side, but this was before cell phones so I just put on my blinkers and luckily a tow truck came by and took my AAA card and helped me out.
Another thing you’ll need to think about is power outages. Even in San Francisco where it gets wet and windy, but not as bad as the North Bay we get power outages. If it happens after you go to bed then your alarm doesn’t go off and you’re late for work. You’ll get up and have no power to cook yourself breakfast unless you’ve got a gas stove [we don’t]. It helps to have one of those butane burners on hand if the powers out for awhile. Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer very often to make sure you keep things cold. The frozen stuff will stay frozen for a day or so, but your refrigerator might get warm because it’s used more often within 12 hours. It’s also nice to have an old style oil burning lamp. I have my grandmothers for when we’re sitting in a room together, but we also have several rechargeable very bright lights that will last for 12 hours we can carry around with us. It’s kind of interesting showering and shaving in the dark with nothing but a bright LED light to brighten the room. We also have a gas grill outside that we can cook on if it’s not a downpour. If it is we should think about getting an awning to cover it.
If you need to kill time hopefully your iPhone/iPad/Tablet/SmartPhone has 3G or 4G that can pick up a connection. I learned how to turn my iPhone into an alarm clock with out it buzzing with every email or tweet I get. Just be careful that you don’t overuse your time or you’ll have to pay big time. I always kind of liked the quite during a power outage. It just makes me feel like I’m not being attacked by electrical energy from all the devices in the house. The power outages only last about four hours, usually less unless it’s an earthquake then it could be 12 hours without power. I have some friends who own a Victorian they restored to its original form so if they get a power outage they light the gas ceiling lamps and are fine. Most of their appliances are gas powered which saves them money and keeps them going during a blackout. Just a little something to think about.
Yes, winter is the magical time of Christmas, but there’s nothing magical about living in a freezing house or working in a freezing office. I do like coming home from work and opening the door and feeling heat hit my face. To me that’s the magical part of winter for me.
Summer is here and it’s time for weird weather. San Francisco has four distinct microclimates, the fog belt [where I live], the banana belt [Mission area and everything East], Wind belt [downtown which is made possible by all the high rises funneling the air and the Marine Belt [just around the Golden Gate Bridge and extending down to the Embarcadero.
I had the chance to travel to the Potrero District [banana belt] this morning. I left the house to overcast foggy 55° weather and hopped in my car and started to drive East. Suddenly I noticed it starting to get brighter. I had to pull out my sunglasses and when I arrived out on Rhode Island street it was perfect blue skies and sunny. As I opened the door to my car I was hit by 73° according to my iPhone. That’s almost a 20° difference within a half hour’s drive.
There are even sub-microclimates, but for people who move to San Francisco they have to learn the city to understand it best. The first thing you need to learn is layers. In the Sunset District my Dad would go out in the backyard on weekends in the morning to work the garden. He’d have a tank top, t-shirt, sweatshirt and jacket on. As the day wore on the clothes would soon start to come off. Then around 3pm he’d have to start putting them all back on again.
While the Sunset has a bit of temperament about it’s weather, it’s not constantly foggy. We’re actually getting more sunny days than we used to, but I remember my brief stint living in the mission and I don’t think I owned a single long sleeved shirt unless it was for work downtown. Sure it will get overcast upon occasion in the Mission and Potrero, but you never see fog like you do in the outer Sunset and Richmond Districts. Now at least I know if I’m in need of some sun on a cold foggy day in San Francisco all I have to do is head East for a few miles.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I read Carl Nolte’s article on sfgate.com about people who have left San Francisco because of fog, high crime, fog, change and fog. These people obviously don’t get San Francisco. Did they fly in from Corpus Christi on one of our few sunny days and then moved in to experience the fog and thought they were a part of a bait and switch?
I don’t think so. My mother was lucky enough to start to go blind and then die before she really got to see the changes in San Francisco. I took her down by AT&T park a few years ago and she couldn’t believe that people wanted to live there. I agreed, but for a different reason, the price of housing down there. Change happens. I was looking at pictures today of the Sunset District in the 40’s and what I saw were mounds of sand everywhere. Today, you don’t see that. That last bit of inland sand dunes were changed into a soccer field years ago.
What doesn’t change is the fog. Once touted to have medical benefits by doctors they may be right. My father smoked a pack of non-filtered cigarettes a day and drank a 12 pack of beer and lived to be 83 — longer than the current expected life span of a man. Some parts of SF have less fog than others, but they usually have overcast weather at least. I was sitting on the deck of my employer yesterday in Mill Valley looking back on San Francisco. What I saw was a wall of white really, no skyline or anything. It wasn’t until 6pm that the fog started to move over the hills in Mill Valley and I got a mild feel of being in San Francisco.
Now out in the Sunset District we have fog on a daily basis. The kind of fog they made in the movies for all those horror films where you couldn’t see 20 feet in front of you. I experienced that full on during my drive home yesterday. After exiting the Waldo tunnel at around 60 mph I had to hit the brakes because the cars around me were fading out with ten feet. Once I got across the bridge and away from the inlet of the bay the fog was pretty much gone. The reality is that the fog here isn’t as bad as in other places in California where you get what they call tule fog that’s thick and to the ground and you really can’t see five feet in front of you. My Uncle Al used to talk about a trip up to the country where he’d have to get out in front of the car with a lantern so the car could follow him. THAT is fog.
I like fog. It’s kind of an insulating blanket that keeps in some heat, but not a lot of heat. It’s makes us have to use sunglasses less than other cities and if you’re a goth you look better in San Francisco than in say, Honolulu [yes, I have seen Hawaiian goths and they look pretty funny].
I like the fact that I don’t have to hop in my car to get to the corner store or grocery store or if I do get into my car I can eat food from at least 30 different countries within five minutes. I like the fact that when I call 911 I’ve got a fire station two blocks away and a police station a quarter mile away. Response is fast. In Mill Valley I looked on a map and couldn’t find a police or fire station within a five mile radius. When my wife went into labor in the middle of the night we were at the hospital within ten minutes and didn’t need to use a freeway to get there.
The crime rate is localized to a couple of areas of the city. Out here in the Sunset there’s an occasional robbery or car theft, but most are pot grow houses. It’s really not so bad here and I live having the close amenities and weather predictable. For the people who don’t like it here, try a year in say, Phoenix or Houston, then tell me how much you hated it here.