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Fog

Fog

If the atmospheric visibility near the earth's surface is reduced to 0.62 mi (1 km) or less due to floating water droplets in the air, it is called fog. Fog can form in two ways: either by cooling the air to its dew point (e.g., radiation fog, advection fog, upslope fog), or by evaporation and mixing, when moisture is added to the air by evaporation, and then it is mixed with drier air (e.g., evaporation fog, frontal fog). Other types of fog include ice fog (a fog of suspended ice crystals , frequently forming in Arctic locations), acid fog (fog forming in polluted air, and turning acidic due to oxides of sulfur or nitrogen), or smog (fog consisting of water and smoke particles). While any type of fog can be hazardous because of its effects on atmospheric visibility for ground and air transportation, acid fog and smog can pose additional risk to human health, causing eye irritations or respiratory problems.

Radiation fog (or ground fog) occurs at night, when radiational cooling of the earth's surface cools the shallow moist air layer near the ground to its dew point or below, so the moisture in the air condenses into fog droplets. It occurs under calm weather conditions, when light wind , or no wind at all is present, since a strong wind would mix the lower-level cold air with the higher-level dry air, thus preventing the air at the bottom from becoming saturated enough to create fog. The presence of clouds at night can also prevent fog formation of this type, because they trap the earth's heat, not allowing the cooling of the air for condensation . Radiation fog often forms in late fall and winter nights, especially in lower areas, because cold and heavy air moves downhill, and gathers in valleys. Accordingly, radiation fog is also called valley fog. In the morning it usually dissipates or "burns off" when the Sun's heat warms the ground and air.

Advection fog forms when warm, moist air horizontally moves (which is called advection) over a cold surface, which cools the air to its dew point. Advection fog can form any time, and can be very persistent. It is common along coastlines where moist air moves from over the water to over the land, or when an air mass moves over a cold surface (e.g., snow), and the moisture in the air condenses into fog as the surface cools it. Advectionradiation fog forms when warm, moist air moves over a cold surface, which is cold as a result of radiation cooling. When warm, humid air moves over cold water, it is called sea fog.

Upslope fog forms in higher areas, where a moist air mass is forced to move up along a mountain. While the air mass is moving up the slope, it is cooled beyond its dew point and produces fog. It requires a fast wind, and warm and humid conditions at the surface. Unlike radiation fog, this type of fog dissipates when no more wind is available, and it can also form under cloudy skies. Upslope fog is usually dense, and extends to high altitudes.

Evaporation fog forms by the mixing of two unsaturated air masses. Steam fog is a type of evaporation fog, which appears when cold, dry air moves over warm water or warm, moist land. When some of the water evaporates into low air layers, and the warm water warms the air, the air rises, mixes with colder air, cools, and condenses some of its water vapor. Over oceans , it is referred to as sea smoke. Examples of cold air over warm water occur over swimming pools or hot tubs, where steam fog easily forms. It is common, especially in the fall season, when winds are getting colder but the water is only slowly turning colder.

Precipitation fog is a type of evaporation fog that happens when relatively warm rain or snow falls through cool, almost saturated air, and evaporation from the precipitation saturates the cool air. It can turn dense, persist for a long time, and may extend over large areas. Although it is mostly associated with warm fronts, it can occur with slow cold fronts or stationary fronts as well, hence the name frontal fog is also used.

See also Hydrologic cycle

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fog

fog1 / fôg; fäg/ • n. a thick cloud of tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the earth's surface that obscures or restricts visibility (to a greater extent than mist; strictly, reducing visibility to below 1 km): the collision occurred in thick fog. ∎  [in sing.] an opaque mass of something in the atmosphere: a whirling fog of dust. ∎  [in sing.] fig. something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone's thought processes: the origins of local government are lost in a fog of detail. ∎  Photog. cloudiness that obscures the image on a developed negative or print. • v. (fogged , fog·ging ) [tr.] 1. cause (a glass surface) to become covered with steam: hot steam drifted about her, fogging up the window. ∎  [intr.] (of a glass surface) become covered with steam: the windshield was starting to fog up. ∎ fig. bewilder or puzzle (someone): she stared at him, confusion fogging her brain. ∎ fig. make (an idea or situation) difficult to understand: the government has been fogging the issue. ∎  Photog. make (a film, negative, or print) obscure or cloudy. 2. treat with something, esp. an insecticide, in the form of a spray: Winnipeg stopped fogging for mosquitoes three years ago. PHRASES: in a fog in a state of perplexity; unable to think clearly or understand something. fog2 • n. the grass that grows in a field after a crop of hay has been taken. ∎  long grass left standing in a pasture and used as winter grazing.

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fog

fog, aggregation of water droplets or ice crystals immediately above the surface of the earth (i.e., a cloud near the ground). A light or thin fog is usually called a mist. Fog may occur when the moisture content of the air is increased beyond the saturation point. For example, fog usually results from the evaporation of warm water into cold air, which occurs when cold air streams over a warm water surface (steam fog) or when a warm rain falls through a layer of cold air near the ground (frontal fog). Fog also occurs when the air is cooled below a critical temperature called the dew point. Fog may be caused by radiation of heat from the ground during a windless, cloudless cool night (radiation fog); by the flow of warm air over a cold land or water surface (advection fog); or by air ascending a slope and cooling by expansion (upslope fog). In all cases condensation of the excess moisture takes place on the microscopic dust particles (condensation nuclei) in the atmosphere. Fog commonly found in valleys and depressions in the morning, especially during autumn, is of the radiation type, which because of its shallow nature is dissipated by the sun's heat as the day progresses. The extensive fog banks frequently occurring along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador are of the advective type and, being generally quite deep, often persist for days at a time, hindering shipping and aviation activity. In arid areas where fog is common, water may be harvested from the fog by using so-called fog nets.

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fog

fog Condition of atmospheric obscurity near the ground surface, caused by the suspension of minute water droplets in conditions of near saturation of the air. The formation of fog is aided by any concentration of smoke particles, as these act as condensation nuclei, and may cause fog at levels of humidity below saturation point. Visibility is below 1 km. The cause of condensation of the water droplets may be radiation-cooling of the ground, advection of warm air over a cold ocean or cold ground, or conditions at a front. See also SMOG. Compare MIST.

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fog

fog A condition of atmospheric obscurity near the ground surface, caused by the suspension of minute water droplets in conditions of near saturation of the air. The formation of fog is aided by any concentration of smoke particles, as these act as condensation nuclei and may cause fog at levels of humidity below saturation point. Visibility is below 1 km. The cause of condensation of the water droplets may be radiation cooling of the ground, advection of warm air over a cold ocean or cold ground, or conditions at a front. See also smog.

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fog

fog1 (dial.) aftermath grass, long or rank grass XIV; moss XV. prob. of Scand. orig.; cf. Norw. fogg long-strawed, weak, scattered grass in a moist meadow.
Hence foggy1 XVI. An earlier occurrence of fog is implied in AL. fogagium (c.1200) (privilege of) pasturing cattle on fog.

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fog

fog (mist) Water vapour in the atmosphere that has condensed around particles of dust at or near the ground, as opposed to water vapour condensed as clouds. Fog forms when moist air is cooled below its dew point.

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fog

fog2 thick mist. XVI. of unkn. orig.
Hence foggy3 XVI.

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fog

fogagog, befog, blog, bog, clog, cog, dog, flog, fog, frog, grog, hog, Hogg, hotdog, jog, log, nog, prog, slog, smog, snog, sprog, tautog, tog, trog, wog •hangdog • lapdog • seadog • sheepdog •watchdog • bulldog • gundog • firedog •underdog • pettifog • pedagogue •demagogue • synagogue • sandhog •hedgehog • warthog • groundhog •roadhog • backlog • Kellogg • weblog •eclogue •epilogue (US epilog) •prologue (US prolog) • footslog •ideologue •dialogue (US dialog) • duologue •Decalogue •analog, analogue (US analog) •monologue • apologue •catalogue (US catalog) • travelogue •eggnog • leapfrog • bullfrog •Taganrog •golliwog, polliwog •phizog • Herzog

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Fog

Fog

Causes and types of fog

Radiation fogs

Advection fogs

Evaporation fogs

Precipitation fog

Resources

Fog is caused by the condensation of water at or near Earths surface. The atmosphere is obscuredessentially by cloud formationnear the surface and fog conditions are generally characterized as existing when atmospheric visibility is reduced to about one-half mile (approximately 0.8 km).

Causes and types of fog

Fog forms either by air cooling its dew pointresulting in radiation fog, advection fog, or upslope fogor by evaporation and mixing, when moisture is added to the air by evaporation and then mixing with drier air to form evaporation or frontal fog.

Other types of fog include ice fog (a fog of suspended ice crystals, which frequently forms in Arctic locations), acid fog (fog forming in polluted air, and turning acidic due to sulfur or nitrogenoxides, or smog (fog consisting of water and smoke particles). While any type of fog can be hazardous because of the potential dangers of reduced atmospheric visibilityespecially for ground and air transportationacid fog and smog can pose additional risk to human health, causing eye irritations or respiratory problems.

Radiation fogs

Radiation fog (or ground fog) generally occurs at night, when radiational cooling of Earths surface cools the shallow moist air layer near the ground to its dew point or below. This causes moisture in the nearby layers of air to condense into fog droplets. Radiation

fog usually occurs under calm weather conditions, when no more than light winds mix the air layers near the surface. Strong winds normally mix the lower-level cold air with the higher-level dry air, thus preventing the air at the bottom from becoming saturated enough to create observable fog. The presence of clouds at night can also prevent fog formation of this type, because they reduce radiational cooling. Radiation fog often forms in late fall and winter nights, especially in lower areas, because cold and heavy air moves downhill to gather in valleys or other relatively low-lying areas. Accordingly, radiation fog is also called valley fog. In the morning, radiation fog usually dissipates when the suns heat warms the ground and air above the dew point temperature (i.e., the temperature at which moisture in the air condenses).

Advection fogs

Advection fog forms when warm, moist air moves horizontally over a relatively cooler surface. During such contact, the layer of air near the surface may cool to below its dew point to form advection fog, which can be very persistent. It is common along coastlines where moist air moves from over a water surface to a cooler coastal land mass. Advectional fog can also occur if an already cool air mass moves over a even colder surface (e.g., snow), so that even the reduced levels of moisture in the cold air can condense into fog as the surface continues to cool the air mass. Advection-radiation fog forms when warm, moist air moves over a cold surface that is cold as a result of radiation cooling. When warm humid air moves over cold water, a sea fog may form.

Upslope fog forms in higher areas, where a moist air mass is forced to move up along a mountain incline. As the air mass moves up the slope, it is cooled below the dew point to produce fog. Upslope fog formation generally requires a stronger wind along with warm and humid conditions at the surface. Unlike radiation fog, this type of fog dissipates as wind dissipates, and it can form more easily under cloudy conditions. Upslope fog is usually dense, and often extends to high altitudes.

Evaporation fogs

Evaporation fog forms as a result of the mixing of two unsaturated air masses. Steam fog is a type of evaporation fog that appears when cold, dry air moves over warm water or warm, moist land. When some of the water evaporates into low air layers, and the warm water warms the air, the air rises, mixes with colder air, cools, and water vapor condensation occurs to form a fog. Over oceans, this form of evaporation fog is referred to as sea smoke. Examples of cold air over warm water occur over swimming pools or hot tubs, where steam fog easily forms. It is also common in the autumn, when winds and air fronts turn cool as water bodies remain warm.

Precipitation fog

Precipitation fog is a type of evaporation fog that happens when relatively warm rain or snow falls through cool, almost saturated air, and evaporation from the precipitation saturates the cool air. It can turn dense, persist for a long time, and may extend over large areas. Although usually associated with warm fronts, precipitation fog also occurs with slow moving fronts or stationary fronts to form frontal fogs

See also Atmosphere, composition and structure; Atmospheric circulation; Atmospheric optical phenomena; Atmospheric temperature; Land and sea breezes; Wind.

KEY TERMS

Dew point The temperature at which water vapor in the air condenses to form liquid water droplets.

Resources

BOOKS

Hamblin, W. K., and E. H. Christiansen. Earths Dynamic Systems. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Hancock, P. L., and B. J. Skinner, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Earth. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Keller, E. A. Introduction to Environmental Geology. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

OTHER

AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc. Storm Display: All about Fog <http://www.stormdisplay.com/fog.asp> (accessed November 24, 2006).

National Center for Atmospheric ResearchMeteorology Education and Training. Radiation Fog: Module Script <http://meted.ucar.edu/fogstrat/ic31/ic311/script.htm> (accessed November 24, 2006).

Agnes Galambosi

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Fog

Fog

Radiation fog
Advection fog
Sea fog
Evaporation fog
Upslope fog
Freezing fog
Fog stratus
For More Information

Fog is a cloud that forms near the ground. Like clouds at higher altitudes, fog is formed when water vapor condenses in the air so that the moisture becomes visible. The process of water turning from vapor into liquid is called condensation. In temperate regions, fog is composed of water droplets. In polar and arctic regions, fog may be composed of ice crystals. Technically, fog is defined as condensation in the air that restricts visibility to a bit more than 0.5 mile (1.0 kilometer). If water has condensed in the low-lying air, yet visibility is greater than 0.5 mile (1.0 kilometer), the condition is defined as mist.

Fog production differs from cloud production in one significant way: While a cloud is usually formed as air rises and cools to the dew point (the temperature at which a parcel of air can no longer hold water in its vapor state), fog is formed within surface-level air. This happens in one of two ways. The air may be cooled to the dew point by contact with a cold surface. Or it is brought to the saturation point, the point at which it contains the maximum amount of water, when water vapor is added to the air by evaporation, the process by which water changes from a liquid to a gas.

On clear nights, surfaces that are open to the sky often cool faster than the air above them. When condensation takes place directly on these cooler surfaces due to contact between warmer air and the cooler surface, it is called dew or frost. Fog, on the other hand, is condensation in the air due to the air cooling below the dew point.

Radiation fog

Radiation fog is the fog that forms after sunset on clear summer nights when the air is almost, but not quite, still. The ground loses heat to space by radiation and cools to below air temperature. The cooler ground then conducts heat away from the layer of air just above the ground. This layer of air is cooled to below the dew point and fog forms. The fog layer can be anywhere from a few feet (around 1 meter) to a thousand feet (around 300 meters) thick. The layer of air above the fog layer is warmer, so the fog layer is stable, at least until the sun rises and warms the ground again.

A light wind of less than 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour promotes the circulation of the lowest layer of air, bringing all of it in contact with the cold surface. In this way the entire layer of air loses heat and cools to the dew point. If the winds are completely calm, only the very bottom of the surface air layer will come in contact with the ground. In that case, rather than producing radiation fog, moisture will either condense in a very shallow (less than 2 feet, or .6 meter) layer of air, forming ground fog, or it will condense only on the ground and form dew or frost.

Winds also hinder the formation of radiation fog. Winds stronger than 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour will cause mixing of surface air with warmer, drier layers of air above it. This either prevents the surface air from cooling to the dew point or, if the air does reach the dew point and fog develops, the wind rapidly disperses the fog.

Valley fog is radiation fog that forms in valleys. It may develop into a layer over 1,500 feet (450 meters) thick. Radiation fog forms in low-lying areas because of two factors. In the first place, cold air (in this case, air that has undergone radiational cooling) is heavier than warm air and flows downward into the valley. In addition, valleys often contain rivers which increase the amount of moisture in low-lying air.

In most cases, radiation fog evaporates within a few hours after sunrise, after the air and ground have warmed up. It typically reveals clear skies, since the absence of clouds was required for the formation of fog. Sometimes, however, the fog is so thick that it effectively blocks the sunlight from reaching the ground, and the ground remains cold. In such cases, which usually occur in winter, the fog may persist all day.

Radiation fog is most likely to form during long nights, when the surface air has more time to cool to its dew point. Thus, this type of fog is seen most often during winter, late fall, and early spring. Visibility in thick radiation fog may be reduced to as little as 10 feet (3 meters).

Advection fog

In contrast to radiation fog, in which a layer of air is cooled as the ground loses heat, advection fog is formed when there is horizontal movement of a warm, moist layer of air over a cold surface. The newly arrived air loses heat to the cold surface below by conduction, the process by which energy is transferred through contact between substances. Conduction lowers the air temperature. Once the air cools to the dew point, fog is formed. While it bears a resemblance to radiation fog, advection fog moves with the wind-blown warm air mass whereas radiation fog is stationary. In addition, while radiation fog usually forms at night, advection fog may form at any time.

In the spring, advection fog results when a mild breeze passes over ground that has not yet thawed. Throughout the summer, advection fog is produced by warm, moist air blowing across a lake that remains cold, such as one of the Great Lakes.

Another kind of advection fog happens in the winter, when warm air is carried northward. When this warm air encounters cold ground, it cools to the dew point and advection fog results. For instance, warm air from over the Gulf of Mexico may travel as far as the central United States before encountering a sufficiently cold surface for advection fog to form.

Experiment: Make fog in a jar

This simple experiment allows you to create fog conditions inside a glass jar. All you need for this experiment are:

  • a glass jar
  • strainer
  • hot water
  • ice cubes

First, fill up the jar with hot water and let it sit for about a minute. Then pour most of the water out, leaving about a finger's width at the bottom. Put the strainer over the top of the jar and place ice cubes on the strainer. In a little while, you will see fog in the jar. This is caused by the cold air from the ice cubes hitting the warm, moist air in the jar causing the water to condense into fog.

Advection fog is the thickest and most persistent type of fog. It sometimes reduces visibility to 650 feet (200 meters), the point at which airports are forced to close. Advection fog can form in layers that range anywhere from very shallow to 1,000 feet (300 that meters) deep.

Sea fog

Sea fog is a special form of advection fog that only occurs at sea and in coastal areas. It is produced by the interaction of two adjacent ocean currents, the major routes through which ocean water travels, of different temperatures. A prime example of sea fog occurs in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland, in Canada. There the warm Gulf Stream flows northward, parallel to the cold, southward-flowing Labrador Current. When the air that is warmed by the Gulf Stream travels over the iceberg-filled Labrador Current, it is cooled and moisture condenses, forming fog. For two out of every three summer days, the coastal region off Newfoundland is shrouded by the famous "Grand Banks fog."

This process is also responsible for the thick fog that is common in parts of the British Isles. In that case, the warm air comes from above the Gulf Stream and blows across cooler British coastal waters.

WORDS TO KNOW

advection:
the horizontal movement of a mass such as air or an ocean current.
condensation:
the process by which water changes from a gas to a liquid.
conduction:
the transfer of heat from one molecule to another.
dew point:
the temperature at which a given parcel of air reaches its saturation point and can no longer hold water in the vapor state.
evaporation:
the process by which water changes from a liquid to a gas.
radiational cooling:
the loss of heat from the ground upward into the atmosphere.
relative humidity:
a measure of humidity as a percentage of the total moisture a given volume of air, at a particular temparature, can hold.
saturation point:
the point at which a given volume of air contains the maximum possible amount of water vapor.
supercooled water:
water that remains in a liquid state below the freezing point.

Sea fog is also well-known to the residents of San Francisco, California, and other West Coast communities. It forms in the summer when warm air from over the Pacific Ocean is carried shoreward by westerly winds. As the air moves over the colder, coastal surface water, the air cools and fog forms. The fog is then blown inland by a sea breeze. This explains the fog that can often be seen rolling in past the Golden Gate Bridge on a breezy summer day. Conversely, if a land breeze is blowing out to sea, it will take the fog out with it.

As sea fog moves farther inland, it crosses over warmer ground and dissipates. The bottom of the fog layer evaporates first, revealing a low layer of gray clouds. As the surface temperature increases, ever-higher layers of the fog evaporate until it has completely disappeared. Fog also dissipates at a given location as the air becomes progressively warmer throughout the day. For this reason, coastal areas often have fog in the morning and at night, with clear skies in the afternoon.

Sea fog is extremely important to the vegetation of northern coastal California. Throughout the dry summers, the fog condenses on objects in its path. It provides moisture to the redwood trees; the redwoods absorb moisture through their needles. Some water drips off the trees and onto the ground, where it is absorbed by the trees' shallow roots.

Evaporation fog

Evaporation fog is formed in a completely different manner than the other types of fog discussed so far. Rather than being formed when warm air cools to the dew point, evaporation fog is formed when water evaporates into cool air and brings that cool air to its saturation point. The water may evaporate from a wide range of sources, such as a puddle, a lake, a river, an ocean, or even exhaled breath.

Weather report: Smothered by sea fog

The town of Argentia, situated on the Avalon Peninsula of southeastern Newfoundland, averages 206 days per year of thick fog. This makes it the foggiest place in Canada and among the foggiest places in the world. Argentia's fog is sea fog, generated by the passage of warm air over cold North Atlantic ocean water.

A similar process produces the fog at Cape Disappointment, Washington, one of the foggiest places in the United States. Cape Disappointment is situated at the point where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean. It is blanketed by sea fog 29 percent of the time, or about 106 days each year.

The reason why water molecules evaporate into unsaturated air (air which has less than 100 percent relative humidity) has to do with equilibrium. Water molecules are continually entering and leaving the surface of a body of water. If the relative humidity is less than 100 percent, water molecules will leave the surface faster than they enter. Thus the number of water molecules in the air will increase. At 100 percent relative humidity, the rates of entering and leaving are equal. The water vapor in the air is at equilibrium with the liquid water.

There are two main types of evaporation fog: steam fog, which occurs over a body of water, and frontal fog, which accompanies the passage of a cold or a warm front (the line behind which a cold or a warm air mass is advancing).

Steam fog

The production of steam fog requires cold air to travel over a warmer body of water. Steam fog can often be seen over inland lakes and rivers in the fall, when the air is cool but the water is still warm. Water evaporates from the lake or river, saturates the cold air, and condenses into a shallow (less than 2 feet, or .6 meter) layer of steam fog.

Steam fog occurs all year long over the thermal ponds (hot springs) in Yellowstone National Park. The reason for this pattern is that the temperature of the water is always greater than that of the air. In the winter, it is common to see steam fog over large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes, which can take several weeks to cool to air temperature. The fog there sometimes forms in dense, rising, swirling columns known as steam devils, because of their similarity to dust devils in the American Southwest.

In arctic regions, where the air is always extremely cold and dry, steam fog occurs over unfrozen waters on a large scale. Commonly called arctic sea smoke, this form of steam fog is patchy and wispy in appearance.

Frontal fog

Frontal fog, sometimes called precipitation fog, is a type of evaporation fog that forms when a layer of warm air rises over a shallow layer of colder surface air. The uplift of warm air forms clouds that often yield precipitation, or falling water particles. The precipitation, usually rain, is warmer than the cold air beneath it and evaporates into the air. This raises the cold air to its saturation point and fog is produced.

This type of fog is called frontal fog because the conditions that give rise to it occur just before the arrival of a warm front or just after the passage of a cold front.

Did you know? Driving in fog

Most people, when driving along poorly lit roads at night or in other conditions of reduced visibility, instinctively turn on their high-beam headlights. However, this is not a wise strategy for driving in fog. Light is scattered by fog droplets and is reflected into the driver's eyes. High-beam lights merely illuminate the fog directly ahead of the vehicle and make it difficult to see anything beyond. Close to the ground, the fog is usually less dense. Low-beam headlights point lower toward the ground than do high-beam headlights and are thus more appropriate for foggy, nighttime driving. Fog lamps are often installed just above or below the front bumper. This low mounting position reduces the amount of light scattered back to the driver's eyes.

Upslope fog

Upslope fog is formed by the slow passage of a moist parcel of air up the side of a hill or mountain. As the air rises, it expands adiabatically; that is, with no heat transfer. When air expands, it cools. Once the air cools to the dew point, condensation occurs. Upslope fog generally covers a large area, sometimes hundreds of miles, and may persist for days.

Upslope fog is common in all mountain ranges. It is prevalent on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the winter and spring. It occurs when cold air, following in the wake of a cold front, drifts westward from the Great Plains and rides up the gentle slopes. A similar phenomenon occurs in eastern Australia. There, moist air from the Tasman Sea is blown to shore and travels along the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range to a level where fog forms.

Freezing fog

Freezing fog is the term used to describe fog that develops in air that has a temperature below freezing. In most cases, freezing fog is comprised of supercooled water droplets. Supercooled water is water that exists in the liquid state below its freezing point. Freezing fog freezes onto any solid surface it comes in contact with, such as trees, telephone poles, cars, and roadways.

When freezing fog encounters a surface, it deposits a layer of frost called rime. Rime is not crystalline like true frost, which is called hoar frost. Rather, it is ice that contains trapped air, giving it a whitish appearance. Rime often persists long after the fog has cleared. It creates extremely hazardous driving conditions and is nearly impossible to walk on without slipping.

In very cold air, at temperatures below −22°F (−30°C), water droplets in freezing fog will freeze into ice crystals, becoming ice fog. One way in which ice fog is formed is from the water vapor released by the breathing of a herd of caribou or reindeer. Another way it is formed is from the passage of moist, marine air over an icy surface. Ice fog is the least dense type of fog. It glitters in the sun, earning it the nickname diamond dust.

Fog stratus

Fog stratus, also called high fog, is a layer of fog that does not reach all the way to the ground. Rather, it hovers a short distance above ground. Fog stratus represents the intermediate stage through which a layer of fog (most commonly valley fog) passes as it dissipates.

Typically, fog forms at night. When the sun rises the next morning it begins to warm the ground. This, in turn, warms the lowest layer of air, from which the fog evaporates.

Sometimes the process of fog evaporation proceeds smoothly, from the bottom to the top of the layer, in a relatively short time. Other times, however, the fog is so thick that little sunlight penetrates it, and the air remains cold enough that fog stratus persists. Fog stratus also requires calm conditions, since winds promote mixing of the air layers and speed up evaporation.

Fog stratus usually clears by late morning. Occasionally, however, when clouds have moved in and inhibit the sunlight's warming of the ground, fog stratus may persist all day. A thick enough layer of fog stratus may even bring drizzle or snow flurries.

[See AlsoClouds; Weather: An Introduction ]

For More Information

BOOKS

Aguado, Edward, and James Burt. Understanding Weather and Climate. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Barry, Roger G. Atmosphere, Weather and Climate. London: Routledge, 2003.

Binhua, Wang. Sea Fog. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1985.

WEB SITES

"Driving in Fog." California Highway Patrol. 〈http://www.chp.ca.gov/html/fog-tips.html〉 (accessed March 8, 2007).

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Fog

Fog

Introduction

In meteorology, fog is defined as a mass of liquid water vapor or solid ice crystals that has condensed and suspended itself in the lower layers of the atmosphere just above the surface of Earth. Fog is different from a stratus cloud only in that the cloud's base has dropped down so that it is in contact or in close proximity with the ground, whether it is on level ground, on the top of a hill, or within a valley.

Because of fog's location near the ground, it often causes reduced visibility of a normally clear sky. Specifically, meteorologists define fog as a cloud that reduces visibility on the surface of Earth to less than 0.6 mi (1 km). They have found that fog forms when the difference between the dew point and the outside temperature is 5°F (3°C) or less. When the relative humidity is 100%, fog is much more likely to form.

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

Fog is generally classified as four types, depending on how it is formed: advection, precipitation, radiation, and upslope. Advection fog is formed whenever wind or

current (formally called advection) of warm, moist air travels over a relatively cooler body of land or water. Precipitation fog, also called frontal fog, often develops when snowflakes or raindrops descend through an atmospheric layer that is cooler and drier. It also occurs frequently during the passage of warm and cold fronts, when the lower air near the surface is much different in temperature from the upper air.

Radiation fog, which forms only over land after sunset, is caused by the cooling of Earth—that is, land cools more rapidly than water; as a consequence, fog is formed over land. It often occurs in fall and early winter months. Radiation fog usually develops up to 4 feet (just over 1 meter) in depth, but winds and other atmospheric events can cause it to be larger in depth. Upslope fog is formed when air is uniformly cooled by rising and enlarging wind currents, such as when the wind blows up a mountain slope (what is called orographic lift), causing the moisture within it to condense.

Impacts and Issues

Changes in local and global climate make forecasting of fog difficult at best. Further meteorological studies are needed to decide if currently used forecasting tools provide accurate guidance to meteorologists and other professionals in various pursuits throughout the world. For instance, because aviation pilots and air traffic controllers need to be able to forecast the occurrence of fog when dealing with airplane flights, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizes studies to find better methods and devices to assist these professionals.

According to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the FAA provides research into soil and air temperature, cloud ceiling, visibility, rainfall, moisture levels, and other critical variables to better understand fog. Some of the research involves weather balloons and automated sensing systems placed in key locations in order to determine the behavior of fog.

The warming and cooling of Earth, locally and globally, is controlled to a large part by fog and clouds. They block the heat brought by the sun in the form of sunlight, reflecting it back into space. Such action helps to cool Earth. However, heat already beneath fog and clouds can become trapped by its water particles, which can quickly heat up the planet. Whether Earth becomes warmer or cooler depends in part by the frequency and amount of fog and clouds. A long-term change in their patterns could have a drastic impact on Earth's weather, either making it much colder or warmer.

Atmospheric physicist Anthony D. Del Genio, who is associated with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, states that even a small change in cloud cover can dramatically change the temperature of Earth's atmosphere. Del Genio studies the relationship between water vapor in the atmosphere and meteorological phenomena. He researches whether a warmer climate will result in cloudier or clearer skies; more humid or drier atmosphere; and more or less frequent and/or violent storms. As the world adds larger concentrations of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, Del Genio and many other scientists around the world are working on mathematical computer models based on satellite and ground-based observations to determine Earth's changing climate.

WORDS TO KNOW

BLACK CARBON: A type of aerosol (small, airborne particle) consisting mostly of carbon: includes soot, charcoal, and some other dark organic particles.

DEW POINT: The temperature to which air must be cooled for saturation to occur, exclusive of air pressure or moisture content change. At that temperature, dew begins to form, and water vapor condenses into liquid.

FOSSIL FUELS: Fuels formed by biological processes and transformed into solid or fluid minerals over geological time. Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are non-renewable on the timescale of human civilization, because their natural replenishment would take many millions of years.

GREENHOUSE GASES: Gases that cause Earth to retain more thermal energy by absorbing infrared light emitted by Earth's surface. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and various artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons. All but the latter are naturally occurring, but human activity over the last several centuries has significantly increased the amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in Earth's atmosphere, causing global warming and global climate change.

METEOROLOGY: The science that deals with Earth's atmosphere and its phenomena and with weather and weather forecasting.

OROGRAPHY: Branch of geology that deals with the arrangement and character of land altitude variations (hills and mountains); also, the average land altitude over a given region. In computer models of climate, orography in the second sense defines the lower bound of the atmosphere over land.

STRATUS CLOUD: Extensive, layer-like cloud form (“stratum” means layer in Latin). Stratus clouds occur worldwide but play a particularly important role in Arctic climate, where they are prevalent and affect vertical exchanges of heat, moisture, and momentum; this, in turn, affects global climate.

WATER VAPOR: The most abundant greenhouse gas, it is the water present in the atmosphere in gaseous form. Water vapor is an important part of the natural greenhouse effect. Although humans are not significantly increasing its concentration, it contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect because the warming influence of greenhouse gases leads to apositive water vapor feed back. In addition to its role as a natural greenhouse gas, water vapor plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the planet because clouds form when excess water vapor in the atmosphere condenses to form ice and water droplets and precipitation.

Other scientists are working at research to determine how artificially made substances affect fog and clouds. For instance, black carbon is a primary ingredient in soot left over when fossil fuels are not completely combusted (burned). When black carbon gets into the atmosphere, it becomes easily trapped in water vapor. When this action happens, scientists contend that fog and clouds absorb more heat from Earth's surface than normal, causing warmer temperatures. Such research to learn more about how human-made substances affect fog and clouds is important to Earth's evolving climate.

See Also Atmospheric Pollution; Climate Change; Clouds and Reflectance; Global Warming; Greenhouse Effect; Meteorology; Soot.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

Allaby, Michael. Fog, Smog, and Poisoned Rain. New York: Facts on File, 2003.

Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA). Introduction to Modern Atmospheric Effects. New York: ESTA, 2000.

Lutgens, Frederick K. The Atmosphere: An Introduction to Meteorology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.

Pretor-Pinney, Gavin. The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2006.

Periodicals

McConnell, J.C., et al. “20th-Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing.” Science 317 (September 7, 2007): 1381-1384.

Web Sites

“Clouds, Clouds, Clouds.” University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. < http://www.ucar.edu/news/features/clouds> (accessed November 4, 2007).

Jacobson, Mark Z. “Attribution of Regional and Global Climate Change: Relative Effects of Fossil-Fuel Soot, Methane, Other Greenhouse Gases and Particles, and Urbanization.” The Smithsonian/ NASA Astrophysics Data System. < http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2006AGUFM.A43A0110J> (accessed November 4, 2007).

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Fog

Fog

Fog is caused by the condensation of water at or near Earth's surface. The atmosphere is obscured—essentially by cloud formation—near the surface and fog conditions are generally characterized as existing when atmospheric visibility is reduced to about one-half mile (approximately 0.8 km).


Causes and types of fog

Fog forms either by air cooling its dew point—resulting in radiation fog, advection fog, or upslope fog—or by evaporation and mixing, when moisture is added to the air by evaporation and then mixes with drier air to form evaporation fog or frontal fog.

Other types of fog include ice fog (a fog of suspended ice crystals, frequently forming in Arctic locations), acid fog (fog forming in polluted air, and turning acidic due to oxides of sulfur or nitrogen ), or smog (fog consisting of water and smoke particles). While any type of fog can be hazardous because of the potential dangers of reduced atmospheric visibility—especially for ground and air transportation—acid fog and smog can pose additional risk to human health, causing eye irritations or respiratory problems.


Radiation fogs

Radiation fog (or ground fog) generally occurs at night, when radiational cooling of Earth's surface cools the shallow moist air layer near the ground to its dew point or below. This causes moisture in the nearby layers of air to condense into fog droplets. Radiation fog usually occurs under calm weather conditions, when no more than light winds mix the air layers near the surface. Strong winds normally mix the lower-level cold air with the higher-level dry air, thus preventing the air at the bottom from becoming saturated enough to create observable fog. The presence of clouds at night can also prevent fog formation of this type, because they reduce radiational cooling. Radiation fog often forms in late fall and winter nights, especially in lower areas, because cold and heavy air moves downhill to gather in valleys or other relatively low-lying areas. Accordingly, radiation fog is also called valley fog. In the morning, radiation fog usually dissipates or "burns off" when the Sun's heat warms the ground and air above the dew point temperature (i.e., the temperature at which moisture in the air condenses).


Advection fogs

Advection fog forms when warm, moist air moves horizontally over a relatively cooler surface. During such contact, the layer of air near the surface may cool to below its dew point to form advection fog. Because advection fog can form at any time, it can be very persistent. It is common along coastlines where moist air moves from over a water surface to a cooler coastal land mass. Advectional fog can also occur if an already cool air mass moves over a still colder surface (e.g. snow), so that even the reduced levels of moisture in the cold air can condense into fog as the surface continues to cool the air mass. Advection-radiation fog forms when warm, moist air moves over a cold surface that is cold as a result of radiation cooling. When warm, humid air moves over cold water, a sea fog may form.


Upslope fog forms in higher areas, where a moist air mass is forced to move up along a mountain incline. As the air mass moves up the slope, it is cooled below the dew point to produce fog. Upslope fog formation generally requires a stronger wind along with warm and humid conditions at the surface. Unlike radiation fog, this type of fog dissipates as wind dissipates, and it can form more easily under cloudy conditions. Upslope fog is usually dense, and often extends to high altitudes.


Evaporation fogs

Evaporation fog forms as a result of the mixing of two unsaturated air masses. Steam fog is a type of evaporation fog that appears when cold, dry air moves over warm water or warm, moist land. When some of the water evaporates into low air layers, and the warm water warms the air, the air rises, mixes with colder air, cools, and water vapor condensation occurs to form a fog. Over oceans, this form of evaporation fog is referred to as sea smoke. Examples of cold air over warm water occur over swimming pools or hot tubs, where steam fog easily forms. It is also common in the autumn, when winds and air fronts turn cool as water bodies remain warm.

Precipitation fog

Precipitation fog is a type of evaporation fog that happens when relatively warm rain or snow falls through cool, almost saturated air, and evaporation from the precipitation saturates the cool air. It can turn dense, persist for a long time, and may extend over large areas. Although usually associated with warm fronts, precipitation fog also occurs with slow moving fronts or stationary fronts to form frontal fogs.

See also Atmosphere, composition and structure; Atmospheric circulation; Atmospheric optical phenomena; Atmospheric temperature; Land and sea breezes; Wind.


Resources

books

Hamblin, W. K., and E. H. Christiansen. Earth's Dynamic Systems. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Hancock, P. L., and B. J. Skinner, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Earth. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Keller, E. A. Introduction to Environmental Geology. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.


Agnes Galambosi

KEY TERMS

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Dew point

—The temperature at which water vapor in the air condenses to form liquid water droplets.

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