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Fog is a cloud that is in contact with the ground. A cloud may be considered partly fog; for example, the part of a cloud that is suspended in the air above the ground is not considered fog, whereas the part of the cloud that comes in contact with higher ground is considered fog. Fog is distinguished from mist only by its density, as expressed in the resulting decrease in visibility: Fog reduces visibility to less than 1 km, whereas mist reduces visibility to no less than 1 km but less than 2 km. For aviation purposes in the UK, a visibility of less than 2 km but greater than 999 m is considered to be mist if the relative humidity is 95% or greater - below 95% haze is reported.

The foggiest place in the world is the Grand Banksmarker off the island of Newfoundlandmarker, the meeting place of the cold Labrador Current from the north and the much warmer Gulf Stream from the south. The foggiest land areas in the world are Menomonie, Wisconsinmarker, Point Reyes, Californiamarker, and Argentia, Newfoundland and Labradormarker, all with over 200 foggy days per year. Even in generally warmer southern Europe, thick fog and localized fog is often found in lowlands and valleys, such as the lower part of the Po Valley and the Arnomarker and Tiber valleys, as well as on the Swiss plateau, especially in the Seeland area, in late autumn and winter.


Fog forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is generally less than 2.5 °C or 4 °F.

Fog begins to form when water vapor (a colorless gas) condenses into tiny liquid water droplets in the air. Conversely, water vapor is formed by the evaporation of liquid water or by the sublimation of ice. Since water vapor is colorless, it is actually the small liquid water droplets that are condensed (turn gas into liquid) from it that make water suspended (left) in the atmosphere visible in the form of fog or any other type of cloud.

Fog normally occurs at a relative humidity near 100%. This can be achieved by either adding moisture to the air or dropping the ambient air temperature. Fog can form at lower humidities, and fog can sometimes not form with relative humidity at 100%. A reading of 100% relative humidity means that the air can hold no additional moisture; the air will become supersaturated if additional moisture is added.

Fog formation requires all of the elements that normal cloud formation requires, the most important being condensation nuclei, in the form of dust, aerosols, pollutants, etc., for the water to condense upon. When there are exceptional amounts of condensation nuclei present, especially hygroscopic (water seeking) particles such as salt, then the water vapor may condense below 100% relative humidity.

Fog can form suddenly, and can dissipate just as rapidly, depending what side of the dew point the temperature is on. This phenomenon is known as flash fog.

Another common type of formation is associated with sea fog (also known as haar or fret). This is due to the peculiar effect of salt. Clouds of all types require minute hygroscopic particles upon which water vapor can condense. Over the ocean surface, the most common particles are salt from salt spray produced by breaking waves. Except in areas of storminess, the most common areas of breaking waves are located near coastlines, hence the greatest densities of airborne salt particles are there. Condensation on salt particles has been observed to occur at humidities as low as 70%, thus fog can occur even in relatively dry air in suitable locations such as the California coast. Typically, such lower humidity fog is preceded by a transparent mistiness along the coastline as condensation competes with evaporation, a phenomenon that is typically noticeable by beachgoers in the afternoon. Another recently-discovered source of condensation nuclei for coastal fog is kelp. Researchers have found that under stress (intense sunlight, strong evaporation, etc.), kelp release particles of iodine which in turn become nuclei for condensation of water vapor.

Fog occasionally produces precipitation in the form of drizzle or very light snow. Drizzle occurs when the humidity of fog attains 100% and the minute cloud droplets begin to coalesce into larger droplets. This can occur when the fog layer is lifted and cooled sufficiently, or when it is forcibly compressed from above. Drizzle becomes freezing drizzle when the temperature at the surface drops below the freezing point.

The thickness of fog is largely determined by the altitude of the inversion boundary, which in coastal or oceanic locales is also the top of the marine layer, above which the airmass is warmer and drier. The inversion boundary varies its altitude primarily in response to the weight of the air above it which is measured in terms of atmospheric pressure. The marine layer and any fogbank it may contain will be "squashed" when the pressure is high, and conversely, may expand upwards when the pressure above it is lowering.

Fog as a visibility hazard

Road signs are hard to see in the fog on Golden Gate Bridge.

Fog reduces visibility and thus contributes to accidents, particularly with modes of transportation. Ships, trains, cars and planes cannot see each other and collide. Notable examples of accidents due to fog include the crash of a B-25 Mitchell into the Empire State Buildingmarker, the collision of the ocean liners the and and more recently when the MV COSCO Busan struck the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridgemarker. Although most sea vessels can penetrate fog using radar, road vehicles have to travel slowly and use low-beam headlights. Localised fog is especially dangerous, as drivers can be caught by surprise. On busy highways, multiple-vehicle collisions have resulted -- such as Florida's Interstate 4 70-vehicle pileup that occurred on .

In aviation, fog normally prevents aircraft from taking off or landing at airports other than those equipped with an Instrument Landing System. Fog can be especially deceptive for light aircraft because often they will overfly the airfield to assess the surface conditions before landing. When the pilot is looking straight down at the field, he will usually be looking through only about 100 or 200 meters of fog. If the fog is thin enough, the pilot will be able to see the runway with a minimal amount of interference. However, when the pilot lines up for the final approach phase, instead of looking vertically through the fog, he will be looking through it at an angle, thus increasing the amount of haze he has to see through, often completely obscuring the runway. This presents a hazard, because the pilot may think that the visibility is (or soon will be) suitable for landing when it is not.

The worst accident in aviation history occurred in the fog when two Boeing 747s collided in 1977 in the Tenerife airport disastermarker. One captain had clearance to taxi his airplane down a foggy runway; the other captain, who could not see down the runway, decided to take off without proper clearance.

At airports, some attempts have been made to develop methods (such as using heating or spraying salt particles) to aid fog dispersal. These methods enjoy some success at temperatures below freezing.

Fog shadows

These fascinating shadows look odd since we are not used to seeing shadows in three dimensions. The thin fog is just dense enough to be illuminated by the light that passes through the gaps in a structure or in a tree. As a result, the path of an object shadow through the "fog" appears darkened. In a sense, these shadow lanes are similar to crepuscular rays, which are caused by cloud shadows, but here, they are caused by the shadows of solid objects.

Image:Fog shadow of GGB.jpg|Fog Shadow of the South Tower of the Golden Gate BridgeImage:Fog shadow tv tower.jpg|Fog Shadow of Sutro Towermarker


Fog can form in a number of ways, depending on how the cooling that caused the condensation occurred:

High speed photo of the above.

air temperature produces immense steam fog over Lake Ontario which is still above freezing.

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. Examples of this phenomenon include the Tule fog.

Ground fog is fog that obscures less than 60% of the sky and does not extend to the base of any overhead clouds. However, the term is sometimes used to refer to radiation fog.

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 Californiamarker 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.

Steam fog, also called evaporation fog, is the most localized form and is created by cold air passing over much warmer water or moist land. It often causes freezing fog, or sometimes hoar frost.

Precipitation fog (or frontal fog) forms as precipitation falls into drier air below the cloud, the liquid droplets evaporate into water vapor. The water vapor cools and at the dewpoint it condenses and fog forms.

Upslope fog or hill fog forms when winds blow air up a slope (called orographic lift), adiabatically cooling it as it rises, and causing the moisture in it to condense. This often causes freezing fog on mountaintops, where the cloud ceiling would not otherwise be low enough.

Valley fog forms in mountain valleys, often during winter. It is the result of a temperature inversion caused by heavier cold air settling into a valley, with warmer air passing over the mountains above. It is essentially radiation fog confined by local topography, and can last for several days in calm conditions. In California's Central Valleymarker, valley fog is often referred to as Tule fog.

Freezing fog occurs when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, forming white soft or hard rime. This is very common on mountain tops which are exposed to low clouds. It is equivalent to freezing rain, and essentially the same as the ice that forms inside a freezer which is not of the "frostless" or "frost-free" type. In some areas such as in the State of Oregon, the term "freezing fog" refers to fog where water vapor is super-cooled filling the air with small ice crystals similar to very light snow. It seems to make the fog "tangible", as if one could "grab a handful".

Ice fog is any kind of fog where the droplets have frozen into extremely tiny crystals of ice in midair. Generally this requires temperatures at or below −35 °C (−30 °F), making it common only in and near the Arctic and Antarctic regions. It is most often seen in urban areas where it is created by the freezing of water vapor present in automobile exhaust and combustion -products from heating and power generation. Urban ice fog can become extremely dense and will persist day and night until the temperature rises. Extremely small amounts of ice fog falling from the sky form a type of precipitation called ice crystals, often reported in Barrowmarker, Alaskamarker. Ice fog often leads to the visual phenomenon of light pillars.

Artificial fog is artificially generated fog that is usually created by vaporizing a water and glycol-based or glycerine-based fluid. The fluid is injected into a heated block, and evaporates quickly. The resulting pressure forces the vapor out of the exit. Upon coming into contact with cool outside air the vapor condenses and appears as fog.

Garua fog is a type of fog which happens to occur by the coast of Chilemarker and Perumarker. The normal fog produced by the sea travels inland, but suddenly meets an area of hot air. This causes the water particles of fog to shrink by evaporation, producing a transparent mist. Garua fog is nearly invisible, yet it still forces drivers to use windshield wipers.

Hail fog sometimes occurs in the vicinity of significant hail accumulations due to decreased temperature and increased moisture leading to saturation in a very shallow layer near the surface. It most often occurs when there is a warm, humid layer atop the hail and when wind is light. This ground fog tends to be localized but can be extremely dense and abrupt. It may form shortly after the hail falls; when the hail has had time to cool the air and as it absorbs heat when melting and evaporating.

Morning Fog is this part of Radiation fog

Image:GGB in fog 2007 edit.jpg|Golden Gate Bridgemarker in fogImage:Empirestatefoggy.jpg|Empire State Buildingmarker in a foggy summer afternoonImage:Crepuscular rays with reflection in GGP.jpg|Crepuscular rays created by tree shadows over fogImage:Lienz SG8.JPG|The morning fog in the Rhine Valleymarker between Lienz / Altstättenmarker and Rüthimarker.Image:Nebelostfriesland.jpg|Ground fog in East Frisia (Moordorf)Image:NeblinaJBCuritiba.JPG|Fog in the Botanical Garden of Curitibamarker, Southern BrazilImage:Fog at night.jpg|Fog at nightImage:Fog&Sunny.png|A foggy day (right) reduces visibility as compared to a sunny day (left)

See also


  1. Gleissman, 2007, p. 73
  2. Miles, Kathy (October 2007). Just About Everything You Wanted to Know about Fog.
  3. Stressed seaweed contributes to cloudy coastal skies, study suggests
  4. Allred, 2009, p. 99.
  5. Ahrens, 1991, p. 158, 168
  6. Cox, Robert E. Applying Fog Forecasting Techniques using AWIPS and the Internet. National Weather Service, 2007.
  7. Climate education update: News and information about climate change for teachers and students. Atmospheric Radiation Measurement. Climate Research Facility. U.S. Department of Energy.
  8. Frost, 2004, p. 22.
  9. Understanding Weather - Fog. BBC Weather.
  10. Haby, Jeff. What is the difference between ice fog and freezing fog?
  11. Karukstis; Van Hecke, 2003, p.23.
  12. Cowling; Richardson; Pierce, 2004, p. 192.
  13. Marshall; Hoadley, 1995.


  • Ahrens, C. (1991). Meteorology today: an introduction to weather, climate, and the environment. West Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0314809056.
  • Allred, Lance (2009). Enchanted Rock: A Natural and Human History. University of Texas Press.
  • Cowling, R. M., Richardson, D. M., Pierce, S. M. (2004). Vegetation of Southern Africa. Cambridge University Press.
  • Filonczuk, Maria K., Cayan, Daniel R., Riddle, Laurence G. (1995). Variability of marine fog along the California coast. SIO-Reference, No 95-2, Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego.
  • Frost, H. (2004). Fog. Capstone Press. ISBN 978-0736820936.
  • Gleissman, Stephe (2007). Agroecology: the ecology of sustainable food systems. CRC Press.
  • Karukstis, K. K., Van Hecke, G. R. (2003). Chemistry connections: the basis of everyday phonemena. Academic Press.
  • Marshall, T., Hoadley, D. (1995). Storm Talk. Tim Marshall.

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