Why Does San Francisco Get So Foggy?

San Francisco fog © runner310/Wikipedia
San Francisco fog © runner310/Wikipedia
Photo of Courtney Holcomb
30 December 2016

We’ve all heard the cliché: ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.’ While Mark Twain may not have actually said this, the quote certainly rings true to anyone who has experienced the San Francisco climate. While visitors tend to assume that since San Francisco is in California, the weather will be warm, they are often faced with a rude awakening when they find themselves shivering in summer clothes under the city’s notoriously fog-filled sky.

One of the most common questions asked by visitors is what causes this unique fog. The answer is fairly simple. The Northern California climate gets very hot, especially in the summer, creating a low-pressure zone. San Francisco, on the other hand, is surrounded by water on three sides. The hot air rises, creating a vacuum for the cold, high-pressure, moisture-filled ocean air to rush in – hence, the fog.

San Francisco has a well-documented history of affection toward its notorious fog, dubbing the phenomenon Karl. Karl the Fog has become a beloved character in the city’s day-to-day activities, with a personality displayed on his various social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Locals love to interact with Karl, arguing with him over days of teeth-rattling cold, or begging him to return from vacation during heat waves.

If you want to embrace Karl in the ways that locals do, we’ve got you covered with some of the best ways to experience his majesty. In the morning, wander through some of the most iconic destinations in the city while they are shrouded in fog. You can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or the Golden Gate Promenade, or visit Crissy Field, the Marina Green, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Alternately, experience the fog from up high, try going for a hike in Sutro Forest, which will transport you into a magical, ethereal experience. You can also head out of the city to the Marin Headlands for a hike that will give you a view of the city fog from outside.

San Francisco | © Jitze Couperus/Flickr

A more extravagant way to experience the fog is to drink it in the form of a $43 fog martini served at Epic Steak on the Embarcadero. To be specific, the Fog Point Martini is made with Hangar Point’s Fog Point vodka, which is made with Bay Area fog. The Hangar Point vodka itself is sold in bottles for $125 each, and the martini contains three ounces of it. If you’d prefer, you can purchase an ounce of Fog Point alone at Epic Steak for $23.

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