Experts warn San Francisco's iconic fog is fading away - and fast

Kristen Sze Image
Monday, September 19, 2022
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Is San Francisco's iconic fog disappearing? Climate change experts explain why this is happening and what can be done to stop it.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's fog is legendary.

Tony Bennett wrote about it...

It inspired a Twitter account with its own personality... And of course "Karl the Fog" became so popular, it even inspired a "Jeopardy" question.

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But what if the beloved fog could one day be a thing of the past?

Scientists say that's a real possibility.

U.C. Berkeley ecology professor Todd Dawson joined ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze on 'Getting Answers' to explain why San Francisco's iconic fog is fading away - and fast.

Are we in fact seeing our famous fog less and less?

The records show very clearly that the fog has been on the decline since really, about the 1950s when our records go back to and our temperature records even go back further than that. So it definitely has been on the decline for the last 70-plus years. We're seeing a shorter daily fog time and we're also seeing a shorter fog season. As you know, the San Francisco fog usually rolls in sometime in May and goes well into October and now that season is definitely getting truncated both in the spring and also in the fall. We've lost maybe 12 to 15 of those (fog) days. And we've also lost about three hours of a day during the fog season.

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Why is this happening?

We think it's associated with the climatic changes that are taking place across the globe, but especially here in coastal California where we're getting warming land surfaces and sea temperatures. And those two things together actually lead to conditions that are not very good for fog formation here along the coast.

What can we do to prevent the disappearance of San Francisco's fog?

Well, it comes down to what we can do to combat overall ongoing global climatic changes. As you know, the warming temperatures around the Earth are going up because we're trapping more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. So we need to figure out how to stop producing as much greenhouse gas that means then our temperatures will begin to cool and hopefully we get back the conditions that also favor the fog if we do that kind of thing.

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If we remain on our current track. How long do we have before the fog is gone for good?

Some of the forecasts are being done. I don't think that any of those forecasts currently say that we're going to lose the fog altogether. But I think what we're going to get is like we're already seeing shorter fog seasons, less water input, warmer summertime temperatures, and particularly maybe around the Bay Area or south of the Bay Area. We may end up having many many fewer foggy days. In Northern California, the forecasts are pretty much for the climate to be fairly stable there but the Bay Area and south will be much, much less stable when it comes to fog and temperature.

Watch the full interview in the media player above.

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