Newfoundland Fog Facts

Season-by-season the Ode to Newfoundland, sings like some sort of musical weather forecast.  The sun gets mentioned, snow gets suggested, blinding storms and wild waves get name-checked but nowhere in there is a description of fog. How weird is that?  

For my money, fog is the definitive Newfoundland weather phenomenon.  If you visit and you don't find yourself in a fog bank, at least once, I'm not sure you've really had the full Newfoundland experience, and you certainly won't understand our penchant for colourful houses.  Fog is part of the rhythm of life around here.   Fog can swallow a blue sky in minutes and turn a warm summer evening into a sweater and jacket affair faster than you can sigh about it.

We've learned to live with it.  Argentia (on the Avalon Peninsula) gets over 200 days of fog a year and the Grand Banks is possibly the foggiest place on the planet!  What makes Newfoundland such a foggy place?

Image by Treeman, CC by 2.5.
The reason for Newfoundland's frequent fog comes down to geography. Newfoundland sits at the meeting point of two ocean currents.  Currents are streams of moving water in the ocean.  One of the currents near Newfoundland is called the Gulf Stream. It comes from the south and is warm.  The other is the Labrador Current.  It comes from the north and is cold.  When they meet, the cold Labrador Current causes the water vapour from the warm air above the Gulf Stream to turn back into water.  The tiny droplets of water cling to particles in the air (dust, pollution, salt), when enough droplets cling, they become visible and.... that's fog.

There's a pretty simple demonstration that can be done to illustrate the process.  It needs to be done by a responsible adult because it involves hot tap water and matches. Check it out:

Fog in a Jar



Things You Need:
  1. A responsible adult
  2. A large jar
  3. Hot tap water
  4. Ice cubes
  5. A plastic bag
  6. A match

Instructions:
  1. A responsible adult needs to fill a large jar with hot tap water, let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Place ice in the plastic bag. 
  3. A responsible adult needs to carefully pour most of the hot water from the jar, leaving 3-4cm in the bottom.
  4. A responsible adult needs to light the match and drop it into the jar. It will hit the water and go out.
  5. Cover the top of the jar with the bag of ice.
  6. Watch!

What's Happening:
The warmth of the hot tap water is is allowing the air above it to hold more moisture. It's like the warm Gulf Stream. The ice cools the air, making it release the moisture. The ice behaves like the Labrador current. The moisture is released as tiny droplets that cling to the smoke particles from the match (which stand in for the dust, pollution, or salt particles in the atmosphere) and that leads to fog... in a jar. 

Disclaimer: Product of Newfoundland is not liable for the actions or activity of any person who uses the information in this resource and assumes no liability with regard to injuries or damage to property that may occur as a result of using the information and carrying out the practical activity presented.

While I'd be hard-pressed to describe fog as 'nice' weather.  When it's not pea soup thick, it really brings an exciting and dynamic feel to our landscape. It plays with perspective and makes objects seem further away than they really are, remember that when you're traffic, and appreciate it when you're site-seeing. The fog makes our landscape look even more impressive and mysterious as hills, mountains and cliffs move in and out of view.  

That's my silver-lining of the fog bank, I guess.




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