Anyone who has spent more than a few days in the Bay Area knows that fog is an iconic feature of the region. In the late afternoon you can often see it welling up over the ocean and beginning to roll in. By the evening many areas remain blanketed by its cool embrace until the heat of the morning sun burns it away. Fog tends to follow different flow patterns in each of the unique geographies of our area but no matter where it occurs you can be sure that it carries cool air and moisture and as a result plays an integral part in the function of our ecosystems.
|Morning fog in front of the Dwight Center
Pepperwood’s Dr. Lisa Micheli explains that “fog is the most mysterious piece of current and future climate science.” Unlike other meteorological processes, there are no physical models capable of predicting fog formation to date. So while meteorologists forecast rain based on climatic factors like temperature and relative humidity, no such equivalent has been established for fog. “Basic empirical research is needed before we can even think about formulating accurate climate models to help us understand the role of fog in the Bay Area’s ecosystems,” says Dr. Micheli.
So what is it that makes fog so mysterious? There is a complex set of drivers that shape advective fog formation including ocean upwelling, wind speed and direction, and the differential in temperature between the ocean and the land. The challenge is determining how these factors interact with each other to create the poorly understood “flow” of fog from the sea to the land that we observe on an almost daily basis.
Pepperwood is participating in a landmark fog monitoring project with Alicia Torregrosa of the U.S. Geological Survey and other researchers from the Pacific Coastal Fog Team, a multidisciplinary group of scientists including oceanographers, meteorologists and climatologists supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s TBC3 to Pepperwood. The goal of the project is to map historical fog frequency distributions using archival satellite images and to develop field-based monitoring protocols that will complement these remote data sources moving forward.
|Fog sensor near Pepperwood's Bechtel House
Learn more at the Bodega Ocean Observing Node website.
Get real time data from Pepperwood’s weather station.