Fog

October 19, 2021

We received a good rain last week and the field behind our house still had standing water as the sun began to go down.  When Melissa looked out our back window, she called me over to see the eerie fog which had formed over the field.  The fog layer was very thick, but only extended a few feet above the ground.  Since this is October and near Halloween, I was reminded of the scary slasher films where the antagonist would appear within the fog and proceed to carve up the residents of the small town.  I was glad I could see above the low fog bank.  I did not feel in the mood to be carved up.

When I looked online, I found that fog forms when the difference between air temperature and dew point is less than 4.5F (2.5C).  Fog begins to form when water vapor condenses into tiny water droplets that are suspended in the air.  Water vapor normally begins to condense on condensation nuclei such as dust, ice, and salt to form clouds.  Fog, like its elevated cousin stratus, is a stable cloud deck which tends to form when a cool, stable air mass is trapped underneath a warm air mass, and normally occurs at a relative humidity near 100%.  This can occur from added moisture in the air or falling ambient air temperature.  Fog may also occur at lower humidity’s and can sometimes fail to form with relative humidity at 100%.  I think that explanation left me in a fog.

It was interesting to find that fog can form in several different ways, and that each type of fog has a different name assigned to it.  I found 10 different types of fog, and these types were broken further into other names given depending on where it forms, how it forms, and the conditions in which it forms. The ground fog that we had encountered is fog obscuring less than 60% of the sky and does not extend to the base of any overhead clouds.  The term is usually a synonym for shallow radiation fog.  Radiation fog is formed by the cooling of land after sunset by infrared thermal radiation in calm conditions with a clear sky.  The cooling ground then cools adjacent air by conduction, causing the air temperature to fall and reach the dew point, forming fog.  In perfect calm, the fog layer can be less than a meter thick.  Radiation fog is most common in autumn and early winter.  This was the type of fog we had.  For me, rather than all the different names, it was just fog.

Thoughts:  When I took a linguistics class in college, I found the Inuit Indians of Alaska have dozens of words to refer to snow and ice.  Anthropologist John Steckley, in his book White Lies about the Inuit (2007), notes that many often cite 52 as the number of different words for snow in Inuktitut (the Inuit language).  This belief in a high number of words for snow and ice has been sharply criticized by many linguists and anthropologists.  Regardless, Inuktitut has a far superior ability to distinguish between the different types of snow than most languages.  The point being made was language is used to distinguish between things that are important in your life.  For the Inuit, the different types of ice and snow mean survival.  While fog may not be important to me, I do use other words to differentiate between valued things (Nana vs. Grandma).  We need to recognize the important things in our lives and keep them dear.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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