In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!

Dear Rain,

Being a city resident since 1956, I had never heard of the fog being called Karl? Recently a person that was born here said that everyone knows that our natural air conditioner, fog, is/was always called Karl? Would you agree or disagree? Do you have some facts that shows this to be true? And if true why the K spelling instead of C?

Thank you,


Dear Claudio,

Did you see those amazing fireworks over the Bay on Monday? Ha ha ha, of course you didn't! Monday was, as it tends to be every Fourth of July, completely fogged over, so at best all the city got to see, unless you were directly below those fireworks, was the fogged-in sky glowing with all those pretty Fourth of July colors.

Transplants to the Bay Area often complain that we don't have any "real" seasons. I tend to disagree. Sure, we don't have seasons in the boring cliched sense of "Oh, it's so hot in the summer I can barely stand it," and "Ugh, the winters are full of freezing snow, it's the worst!" Instead, our seasons are just long enough to bear, and don't follow some silly thing like a "calendar."

Our hottest days will take place for a week or so in May, and then a week or so in October. And "summer," especially July, is all about the fog. For me, the Fourth of July just isn't the Fourth if I am not huddled up in a winter coat, shivering outside, looking at some glowing fog. Traditions!

And one thing's for sure: As I was growing up and watching that glowing fog year after year, I never called the fog anything other than "the fog." And unless your friend was born in 2010 or later, and is somehow a really articulate child who loves to lecture people about our fog's moniker, they didn't either.

Karl the Fog was born as a Twitter account in 2010, by someone who remains anonymous. In this SF Weekly article, the account holder explains the origins, saying, "Friends were whining about the most recent fogpocalypse and I was loving it. ... I've always thought of the fog as mysterious and romantic and looked forward to its arrival. Since everyone was complaining, I started thinking, 'I wish the fog had a chance to defend itself,' and that's when I created the Twitter account."

Since then, Karl the Fog has added an Instagram account, and was hired by Virgin America to be their "official weather advisor." I'm not sure what that means, but if it resulted in a hefty payout, I'd just like Virgin America to know that I am behind the Twitter account @Rain, and if they need an "official precipitation advisor," I'm available!

As for the name, and why the K and not a C, "Karl" has said it comes from a character in the Tim Burton movie Big Fish, specifically a misunderstood giant named Karl.

That was actually pretty disappointing to me, as the name "Karl the Fog" always reminded me of an unseen character named "Carl LaFong" in the classic W.C. Fields movie It's a Gift, (especially since It's a Gift is a much better movie than Big Fish).

So, while it may be nice to believe that Karl the Fog has always been with us, the truth is Karl is a relatively new phenomenon, and one that could very well disappear; after all, that tech bubble could explode, taking Twitter and Instagram along with it, and the internet-created entity that is Karl could evaporate like any fad from this epoch, like vlog stardom or cat GIFs.

But even if that were to happen, or if the person behind Karl just decides to up and walk away from it all, I imagine the name "Karl the Fog" is going to stick around for a while. Perhaps not for generations to come, but long enough that more and more people in the future are going to be saying, "Oh, yeah. The fog's always been named Karl!"

Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.