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8.4: Fog

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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Where is the most famous fog in the U.S.?

San Francisco, the city by the bay, is known for its fog. There's an old joke: "I spent the coldest winter of my life in San Francisco one summer." That's because of the fog! There is a big difference in temperature between the two sides of the city. On the Pacific side, where there is fog, temperatures are low. On the bay side, where there isn't fog, temperatures are much higher.


Fog (Figure below) is a cloud on the ground. Fog forms when humid air near the ground cools below its dew point. Each type of fog forms in a different way.

  • Radiation fog forms at night. Skies are clear, and the relative humidity is high. The ground cools as temperature goes down. Air near the ground cools below its dew point. Tule fog is an extreme form of radiation fog. This type of fog strikes the Central Valley of California in winter.
  • Advection fog is famous in San Francisco, California. Warm, moist air comes in from the Pacific Ocean. The air blows over the cold California current. When the air cools below its dew point, fog forms. Sea breezes bring the fog onshore.
  • Steam fog appears in autumn when cool air moves over a warm lake. Water evaporates from the lake surface. As the water vapor cools, it condenses. The fog appears like steam.
  • Warm humid air travels up a hillside and cools below its dew point to create upslope fog.

Pictures of tule, advection, steam, and upslope fog

(a) Tule fog in the Central Valley of California. (b) Advection fog in San Francisco. (c) Steam fog over a lake in Algonquin Park, Canada. (d) Upslope fog around the peak of Sanqing Mountains in China.

Fog levels are declining along the California coast as climate warms. The change in fog may have big ecological changes for the state.


  • Fog forms when there is a difference in temperature between the land and the air.


  1. Why does fog form?
  2. What makes tule fog distinctive?
  3. Compare and contrast the different types of fog.

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advection fog Warm, wet air from a water body is cooled below its dew point as it travels over cold water
fog Air condensed below its dew point that is near the ground like a cloud.
radiation fog Air chilled by cold ground at night chills below dew point.
steam fog Cool air moves over a warm lake evaporates water from the lake forming fog that looks like steam.
upslope fog Warm humid air cools below its dew point as it travels upslope.

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6 , 7
Date Created:
Jan 04, 2013
Last Modified:
Aug 29, 2016
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