Friday, January 30, 2009

Vancouver, Canada’s “Cloud City”


Last week an incredible veil of heavy fog blanketed the Lower Mainland and the City of Vancouver. It got the photographers snapping some incredible pictures and the newspapers soliciting them for those pictures like the ones posted on this site by thumper.

Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is no stranger to fog and morning mists, particularly this time of the year. But this last foggy phenomenon was just a little out of the ordinary in its persistence and generated a lot of buzz in the blogosphere and internet chats as a result.

There followed a whole lot of buzz last week when a close relative of the photo above (but not the same; you can see it in the clouds)--the top photo of a Vancouver sunrise in the clouds-- started appearing in email boxes and blogs across the city and worldwide eventually. The other photo eventually appeared in the Vancouver Sun last Thursday and was attributed to Scott Miller. Others attributed it to photographer Blair Kent. Obviously, a number of people took photographs from that same perspective. I don’t know who took this particular one, but it’s beautiful, as are the others I’ve posted below (sent to me by a friend and unattributed). If you are one of the photographers, please let me know and I would be happy to credit you. I’d be delighted to take you on board Vinnie and interrog—uh… interview you, even!

Fog is basically a cloud on the ground, only the processes that form it are different. Clouds form when rising warm air cools from expansion. Like clouds, fog is made up of condensed water droplets which form when the air near the ground is cooled to a point (the dewpoint, actually) where it can no longer hold all of the water vapor it contains. Fog forms when rain cools and moistens the air near the ground. Infrared cooling can also occur when a cloud-free humid air mass at night creates what’s called “radiation fog”. This is most common in the fall, when the night gets longer and land and water surfaces that have warmed up during the summer are still evaporating a lot of water into the atmosphere.

Fog can form suddenly, and can dissipate just as rapidly, depending what side of the dew point the temperature is on. This phenomenon is known as flash fog. Steam fog, also called evaporation fog, is the most localized form and is created by cold air passing over much warmer water or moist land. It often causes freezing fog, or sometimes hoar frost.

Vancouver is nestled on the coast, surrounded by mountains. This makes it a prime candidate for Valley Fog, which forms in mountain valleys, often during winter. It results from a temperature inversion caused by heavier cold air settling into a valley, with warmer air passing over the mountains above. It is essentially radiation fog confined by local topography, and can last for several days in calm conditions.

What caused the spectacular fog phenomenon in Vancouver last week was either a warm moist air mass blowing over the cold snow and ice covered water and land of Vancouver, called “advection fog”, or more of Vancouver’s typical valley fog. Hard to tell. It was pretty cold but we had a spate of warmer weather too.

Fog and mist provide a photographer’s dream for strange and wonderful lighting. Fog shadows are the coolest phenomenon, as the spectacular photo below by Mila Zinkova of Golden Gate Park demonstrates. The thin fog is just dense enough to be illuminated by the light that passes through the gaps in a structure or in a tree. The path of an object shadow through the "fog" therefore appears darkened. In a sense, these shadow lanes are similar to crepuscular rays, which are caused by cloud shadows, but here, they are caused by the shadows of solid objects. Crepuscular rays, in atmospheric optics are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from a single point in the sky. These rays, which stream through gaps in clouds or between other objects, are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions. The name comes from their frequent occurrences during crepuscular hours (those around dawn and dusk), when the contrasts between light and dark are the most obvious.

11 comments:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Fog is a wonderful chance for the professional photographer to show what he can do.

SF Girl said...

It is, indeed, Jean-Luc. I recall with very fond memories my first visit to England in the fall and the ghostly oak trees in the green fields of England's southwest. Fog has a way of adding a kind of lens on a scene that adds "character", "mood", "attitude" and provokes reflection. It is quieting, like snow...

Quercus said...

Those photos are beautiful!

SF Girl said...

Aren't they?... :)

wow gold said...
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Simon Stargazer III said...

A Tribute to Poe…

It was a dark and foggy night
Complete with surreal light

Slinky shapes were oozing around
Hovering closely above the ground

Approaching sounds whispered eerily
As I hurried through the night stealthily

Turning the next corner, I came face to face
With a familiar door and quickly entered my place

I was finally away from the dark foggy night
Where I’d just about died from fright!

(Photo: Golden Gate Park by Mila Zinkova, poem by Simon Stargazer III) AKA Jim Haworth

SF Girl said...

Oh, wonderful! Thank you, Jim! That was delightful. I'm honored that you graced my post with a poem (I love poetry!)

I recall driving home from my signing in Victoria in that pea-soup fog. I was driving home from the ferry terminal and suddenly shuddered at the realization of just how very dark it was out there...I couldn't see beyond two meters...beyond that lurked a thick wall of inky nothing the color of Mordor...the fog had extinguished all the artificial light that normally lights our nocturnal cityscape. It was positively eerie...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we were on the same ferry back to Vancouver? I was on the 9 p.m. one (it ran late due to the fog). I stood outside on one of the bow decks just under the navigation windows. There were no outdoor lights shining and I could see the stars over the ocean. It was beautiful.

On the horizon though I could see a dark band, and I realized it was the fog bank. Sailing into it gave me the delicious shivers as I pretended I'd sailed into the veil between the worlds (bad scientist, bad :-). Then I got the real shivers...it was darn damp and cold in that fog bank and I eventually retreated inside back to the world of normal. If anyone asks what 'normal' is like, you can tell them it is warm and cozy.

-Myrdinn

SF Girl said...

LOL! Yes, we probably were! Mine was the 9pm too and it was late. How funny... :) Well described, Myrdinn. And I see you are a poet too... :)

blackburn1 said...

Wasn't that a raft of fog we had? Seems like almost a week of barely seeing the surrounding buildings. I was crossing the Granville first thing one morning and seeing nothing but the immediate bridge. No skyline, no lights, nothing. It was like being in a strange, unknown place... with who knows what on the other side.

Beautiful pictures, with a great mood. You can't buy special effects like that. =] We do live in an incredible corner of the world.

SF Girl said...

Yes, we certainly do, Blackburn! And the world is changing...

About the fog... it was both eerie and neat to see a familiar scene transformed into something unfamiliar. Unsettling in a thrilling way...