To some it evokes the romance of a moody film noir, for others it’s a depressing and bone-chilling reality of life in the Bay Area. Fog has always been a signature feature of our local weather, but it seems to be having its moment in the sun. San Francisco’s fog even has its own Twitter persona, Karl the Fog. We talk all about fog with weather watchers and filmmaker Sam Green, whose new project “Fog City” premieres next week at the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Q & A With Karl the Fog

What do you say to people who find fog depressing?

If the most depressing part about living in the Bay Area is my fluffy and loving embrace for a few months in the summer (while everyone else is sweltering in the 90s & 100s), I think you've got it pretty good.

If you were going to move, where would you move?

I'm spoiled here with the dramatic hills and sweeping views and delicious neighborhoods to eat. It would have to be somewhere similar. Maybe Cape Town (South Africa) or Rio de Janeiro.

What's your favorite kind of fog? Whispy? Thick? Rolling? Sitting?

While Lil' Jon thinks everyone looks best when they "get low"… I look like a real stud when I'm sitting high enough that I cover the top of our hills and you see a definitive line where my clouds end and the pastel houses begin.

What's your favorite place to view the fog?

Lots of great places to view me, but 2 of the best are McKinley Square in Potrero Hill and the top of Corona Heights Park above the Castro. Especially when I stop at Twin Peaks and it looks like I'm doing laps by tagging Sutro Tower and heading back to sea.

What prompted you to create the Karl the Fog persona?

I know people complain a lot about me so this has been a chance to defend myself and show everyone that my intentions are not ill and my love for San Francisco is deep. Also, I've been here way longer than you. I could have gone all NIMBY when you started colonizing but I'm cool like that. You're welcome.

What are you doing when you're not tweeting as Karl? It seems like tweeting and taking photos would keep you pretty busy — do you have another job?

I work all summer and then I holiday during the fall. Other than that, I chill out in Point Reyes and spend the winter catching up on all the TV I missed. I plan to binge watch all 5 seasons of "Breaking Bad" when I get home in December.

You recently signed on to do some work with Virgin America. Is this the beginning of a media empire? What's your response to critics who say that you have "sold out"?

I'm not really doing work for VA. Just giving them sassy weather tips, exactly like I have for other companies and organizations who have reached out before. When people ask me to brag about San Francisco, it's hard for me to refuse. VA just gave me a fancy title to make it sound official. No media empire in the works. Making you "always carry a light sweater" is my full-time gig.

Jan Null, meteorologist in the Department of Earth and Climate Science at San Francisco State University and former lead forecaster for the National Weather Service
Sam Green, filmmaker whose film "Fog City" premieres Oct. 2 at the Exploratorium
Capt. Gregg Waugh, retired San Francisco bar pilot
Marina McDougall, director of the Center for Art and Inquiry at the Exploratorium

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Fog horns I can hear on the bridge are very pleasantly mellow. Interestingly, one can call the phone of the GGB and while hearing the fog horn there and counting the seconds until it’s heard by bare ear, estimate the distance of a storm. Yes, sounds crazy, but I heard it on Forum a few years ago (weather person, I think). Any idea about that?

  • Adam

    I grew up on the coast just south of San Francisco, where it was foggy most days of the year. I had thought that I couldn’t stand it; I thought it made days gloomy and dark. But having since moved away, I now realize that I miss it. Thick fog in the early morning is always a pleasant experience, and fog is a wonderful thing to watch roll in.

  • Jessica

    I love it and I hate it. It’s reliable, maddening, inspiring, cozy, lonely, cold, awesome. I love the sound of the distant foghorns at night. I love stepping out at 11pm to walk the dog and seeing the fog rushing past, swirling in the sycamore leaves in the light of the lamppost.

  • Mayela

    Seeing the fog roll over Twin Peaks reminds me of the promise the Mission holds of seeing and feeling the sun while the other side of the City is enveloped by cold and darkness (ok, a little extreme). Entering the fog brings back memories of taking hour bus rides to go to good schools. I am fortunate to be in the sunny Mission.

  • Kathryn

    San Francisco’s fog is like Seattle’s rain. I have lived in both cities, and each natural phenomenon brings its own definitive charms and challenges. Fog and rain envelope, comfort, and sooth. They keep our secrets, and give rise to endless queries from outsiders about “how can you stand all that … ?” We smile knowingly, welcome the sunny days that seem to take visitors by surprise, but revel in the diverse gray and white atmospheres … tactile weather pictures that welcome us home.

  • Elizabeth

    My favorite part of my morning commute from San Francisco to Mountain View is the stretch of 101 just south of the 280 split where the highway is right along the water. There’s something so beautiful and delightful about watching the fog dance on the water near the San Mateo bridge and looking across at Alameda through the fog. My favorite part of the afternoon commute is watching the fog roll over the western hills from the ocean onto the peninsula.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The bad part of fog is the COLD, CLAMMY feeling. I feel like the only antidote is a fireplace to bake some heat into my bones! The COLD, CLAMMY fog of January, for example, is like being stuck out in the ocean in a chilling seaspray.

    Fog messes with people’s complexions. I notice when it warms up and there is some humidity, I look years younger. You guys are discussing the LOOK of fog, but not the chilly, biting temps that typically go with it.
    PS – I live out by ocean beach in the City so I know it well! I do like it and I welcome it when – shudder – when the temps reach 80!

  • Luz

    Has anyone commented yet about “Adrift”? it’s a meerizing film by Simon.Christen. Took two yars to capture! On Vimeo.https://www.google.com/url?q


  • Geoffrey Lee Paulsen

    When I was a park ranger at Fort Point (which is under the Golden Gate bridge) my semi-literate boss wrote in the Park Service log: “Heavy condemnation from the bridge.”

  • Eddie Hosey

    I live near Vallejo and Hyde Streets. When I work late enough or hang out downtown in the evening I can often catch the Hyde Street cable car to head home. I try to hang out in back with the brakeman and as we climb Nob Hill it is a thrill to watch the Bay Bridge with its light sculpture and the fog swirling around us as we clank along up the hill. A very San Francisco memory which I shall carry with me (and which I am able to reproduce — when the fog cooperates).

  • wizardofx

    I lived there for 1 year, and couldn’t hack the cold, damp air. As beautiful and enchanting as the fog is, I needed to move to SoCal to enjoy the warm sun. Ironically, my name is Karl.

  • jan elfman

    We just moved from an obnoxious, unrelenting, always and forever sunny L.A. to the Bay Area where I get to experience fog instead of smog as welll as *actual* weather! Listening to this amazing show on fog, I know one more reason I moved was the pull of that Northern, CA. fog. It’s an elusive thing and I can’t even talk about it without employing a thousand cliches. That fog…it’s something else.

  • Bill Tutuki

    Wow I remember that Daly City is more Foggier than Downtown San Francisco during the Summer Months.

  • Kimberley

    I love the fog. It took 10 years of living here to finally come around to it. I used to regard the wall of fog cresting over Twin Peaks most summer afternoons as a menacing force. Now I look forward to it. It’s great for walking too; you never get too hot.

  • Lynda McLeod

    I love the fog. It makes me feel at home. I have such wonderful memories, like when growing up in the city & the fog would come over the wall along upper Market St. & my dog Tippy would bark at the fog, it was so funny. Or when we would go away & driving home & seeing the fog on the bridge, I knew I was back home. Falling asleep to the sounds of the foghorns, it was comforting.

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