Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So, what's the weather like where you are?

So, it was foggy here this morning.

This is not unusual in the San Joaquin Valley, but if you were to see the news reports the local television news organizations organize when it's going to be foggy, you might think it was a once-in-a-blue-moon event. For example, last night, once it became clear (see what I did there?) that the fog was beginning to roll in and that it could be a very foggy morning commute, at least one local station decided to lead with "team coverage" of the incipient fog event.

Now, I'm not saying that driving in the fog is a picnic. But since it has been being foggy here as long as anyone can remember, one would assume that people would be used to driving in it by now. As far as that goes, one would think that any reasonable human being would figure out very quickly that when driving in the fog, one should slow down, turn on their headlights (but not on bright), and that one should not drive in heavy fog at all unless it is absolutely necessary.

In other words, the media should not have to remind drivers how to drive in the fog every freaking time it gets foggy. That appears not to be the case, in a couple of ways. First of all, the media does give these warnings every time it is foggy, even if it was foggy the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that....And, goodness knows it can do that around here. Although it hasn't done so in a long time, in the first years I lived in this area, you could go for weeks in the winter and never see the sun. The fog wouldn't remain low all that time, but I can recall times when the fog remained in at least it's high form, for as long as three weeks. It also appears that people do need to be reminded that they need to slow down or not go out at all when the fog is particularly bad, since every single time it is foggy, people go out and drive like maniacs and cause accidents in the fog. I know, I've been driving in fairly low fog and had cars pass me doing sixty miles per hour or more, which is just stupid.

Going back to what I was saying here yesterday, some people don't seem to possess any common sense whatsoever. Which is why we have to listen to these news reports every single time it gets foggy.

It is also true that the fog here in the San Joaquin Valley is sort of a special case. We get what is called Tule fog. Tule fog is a radiational fog that comes up from the ground rather than, say, drifting in from over a body of water. This happens when the humidity is high and the ground is damp from recent rains. It remains close to the ground, never getting any higher than about 1,000 feet above ground level. I've seen it where the top of the fog is much lower than that. There are times when you can go into a multistory building in downtown Fresno in fog so thick you can barely see a few feet in front of you, and by the time you're on the fifth or sixth floor, it is clear and sunny, with a blanket of gray fog below.

And, literally, you can sometimes only see a few feet when Tule fog is especially thick. Some of us here classify the fog by how many broken white lines you can see ahead on the road when you're driving. I have driving in one-line fog, where I could only see one line. I've also seen it so thick that when sitting in the driver's seat of the car, I could not see the end front end of the hood of the car. I was not driving in that voluntarily, believe me. But this sort of fog can be patchy, where you go from reasonable visibility to zero visibility in the space of a few hundred feet.

This valley is one of the few places in the world that gets this kind of fog on a regular basis. It has to do with being in a huge basin where cold, damp air gets stuck under inversion layers and so the fog doesn't get a chance to mix out and clear out until it warms up or a storm comes through to get the air moving. In the winter, that means persistent fog if there has been any precipitation at all. In the summer, it means days and days in a row of over 100 degree F temperatures. You kind of can't win for losing with the weather around here.

Here were I am, the sun came out at around 11:30 a.m., but some of the local TV stations were still showing updated foggy day school bus schedules at that time, so it's a good bet that the outlying areas haven't cleared out and probably won't unless a predicted storm moves into the area tonight. And then, after the new rain, in a couple of days, we will likely have another round of fog. And the TV local reporters will be doing their team reports all over again.

I guess we're lucky here, though. We don't get hurricanes. We don't get (very many) tornadoes, and if we do, they're fairly insiginficant things. We don't get snow very often, at least here in the flatlands. So, I guess I shouldn't complain.

On the other hand, three weeks of fog or three or four weeks of above 100-degree temperatures can wear on the nerves after a while.

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