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Weather Forecasting Advice: Understanding The Formation Of Fog

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Fog is one of those phenomena that could appear while we are busy on some outdoor activity, preventing us from fulfilling all our plans, but aside from the intriguing aspect that it lends to any landscape, fog can be really dangerous, especially for nautical, aerial and land vehicles.

From a meteorological point of view, the appearance of fog is quite difficult to forecast with high precision because there are many factors that could lead to its formation. Nevertheless, fog is well-known and considered simply as some sort of cloud formed at ground level.

Cloud formation is related to the condensation of water in the atmosphere. There is a magnitude in meteorology known as 'Dew point', which is used to know when the moisture contained in the air will turn visible. The dew point is a variable temperature.

When and where the air reaches the dew point, condensation of water in the atmosphere is produced; the dew point is generally lower to the ambient temperature.

One cubic metre of hot air contains more moisture than one cubic metre of cold air; this is related to its density, which decreases in any gas mixture as it is heated.

But when the air turns colder, it becomes less apt to contain moisture, and thus, the excess condenses generating clouds, fog or precipitation in the form of as rain, hail, snow, drizzle, etc.

Clouds appear high in the ski because temperatures up in the atmosphere are lower than in the surface. Whenever hot air climbs up to a point where the temperature is equal to the dew point, condensation occurs and clouds are created.

However, the temperature could approach the dew point at sea level as well, for example, due to a mass of cool air that approaches, dusk, etc. and this is what causes fog.

The dew point is a magnitude which is difficult to calculate without specific instruments, tools and knowledge; however, by looking at the proximity between this number and the temperature it is possible to forecast any kind of water precipitation and fog: you should expect these things to happen if the difference between temperature and dew point is lower than four degrees Celsius at any time, anywhere.

This also shows how we humans alter our weather: by inducing changes in the temperature due to industrial activity, the growth of large cities, etc. we alter the relationship between the dew point and average and seasonal temperatures, which causes in the long term more extreme weather like floods or drought. This is indeed so easy to underestand, yet so difficult to act upon.

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