Coastal fog not following climate change script

Dec 28, 2010

Ever had a summer beach vacation chilled by dense fog? Then you might be interested in new research at the University of Washington. A scientist there is looking at how fogginess along the coast has changed over time. 

UW climate researcher Jim Johnstone has a little mystery on his hands. Johnstone is analyzing 60 years worth of cloud and fog observations recorded by airport weather stations along the West Coast.

He explains that under global warming coastal fog should be increasing over time.

“The idea being that as land areas warm more rapidly than the ocean, you get a stronger pressure gradient between the land and ocean that pulls fog onshore more strongly. But that actually doesn’t seem to be what’s going on,” says Johnsotone.

Johnstone has found Washington coastal weather stations and Astoria, Oregon are getting foggier over time. But fog along the rest of the Oregon coast hasn’t really changed over the last sixty years and California is slightly less foggy, not more.

Johnstone is now searching for other large scale trends that might influence fog production in our region.