Five Questions for an Atmospheric Enigma

By Anh-Minh Le

Karl the Fog, photographed by Fred Lyon.

While his identity remains unknown, Karl the Fog has become one of the Bay Area’s most beloved celebrities. He’s a social media sensation, with more than 355,000 followers on Twitter and close to 245,000 on Instagram (he’s @karlthefog on both). His followers are varied, from tech journalist Kara Swisher to director Ava DuVernay, and the National Weather Service’s Twitter account has been known to reference him.

He’s been a Jeopardy clue— unexpected recognition that “was out of left field,” Karl recalls, adding, “I’m just grateful the cloud community was recognized in such a positive, gamified way.” In case you missed that 2014 episode of the game show, the clue was: “This San Francisco weather condition has its own Twitter feed; it’s named Karl, & it notes, ‘not all those in’ it ‘are lost.’”

This month, he can add “published author” to his bio. Karl the Fog: San Francisco’s Most Mysterious Resident (Chronicle Books) comes out June 11. The book features photos of Karl in various locales, with captions showcasing his irreverent style. Although he’s intent on keeping his anonymity intact, the Gazette recently had the opportunity to get to know the meteorological phenom a little better. (One big surprise to us: He wasn’t born in San Francisco!)

Is Karl a family name? It’s a tribute to one of my great-grandparents, who fogged over London back in the Elizabethan era. He was known for his slow flow and portly shape. We have so much in common.

What neighborhood do you call home? I was born and raised in Point Reyes, but now I spend a lot of my time in the Sunset or Cole Valley or Western Addition or Portola or Upper Market or the Inner Richmond or West Portal. … I hear the view of me from Bernal Heights Park is stellar. I come across Twin Peaks like a tidal wave. You can watch me devour the whole city, from breakers to bay. My weight fluctuates any given day, and my reach is based on how much stretching I do after Barry’s Bootcamp, but you can generally find my center of gravity in San Francisco and extending up to Mount Tam and down toward Half Moon Bay.

What’s the best time of day to take in your beauty? Either early in the morning, or right around dusk. I’m thick in the morning so you’ll be wrapped in my embrace. But sunset is when I make the sky look like magic. Everyone knows I look great hovering over both bridges, but what most people don’t know is that I look even better at Mount Davidson.

Best way to stay warm on those days when you’re ever present? Drink lots of coffee, walk up Nob Hill to get sweaty and back down hill to cool off — and always carry a light sweater.

You’ve been on Twitter for almost nine years. Why did you decide to do a book? Clouds have traditionally relied on press releases, but Twitter felt like a better way to directly communicate with everyone in San Francisco. My parents don’t use Twitter, so [with the book] I wanted to make something they could enjoy.

Sneak Peek

In his soon-to-be-released book, Karl the Fog provides commentary alongside photography by Fred Lyon.

“Every day I’m in SanFrancisco is gray pride.”

“I highly recommend climbing Mount Tam. It’s one of the only times you can look down on me.”

“My presence at Lands End has inspired at least three horror movies.”

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