In a year of constant talk in the media about increasing the visibility and amplifying the voices of women and people of color, SF's famed weather mascot has been — at least for now — replaced by a woman. Yes, after 10 months of Twitter and Instagram silence, Karl the Fog has been declared on hiatus, or retired, or like so many other people he's just moved out of town during the pandemic. And Karla the Fog has stepped in to fill the void.
First off, for the newcomers who quickly took to calling the fog Karl: San Francisco's persistent fog layer has not always been named Karl. Writing in SFist's Ask a Native column in 2016, local scribe Rain Jokinen explained that no, Karl the Fog has not always been a thing. "Karl the Fog was born as a Twitter account in 2010, by someone who remains anonymous," she wrote. And, she said, growing up in San Francisco and always being stuck watching glowing fog on the Fourth of July instead of fireworks, "I never called the fog anything other than 'the fog.'"
The anonymous person behind the decade-old account who presumably identifies as male — but I would never make such presumptions — told SF Weekly way back then, "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."
The account, of course, took off and became something much larger than just a social media presence — as so many influencers have done with their own senses of humor or good taste in clothing, Karl became his own "brand," with Virgin America naming him the airline's "official weather advisor," and all manner of media personalities interacting with Karl. Karl boasts 355,000 followers on Twitter (70,000 more than SFist!), 254,000 followers on Instagram, and as of last year, the person behind the account published a novelty book through Chronicle Books.
"After throwing shade on the internet for almost 9 years, I’m taking my drama to paper," Karl wrote.
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After throwing shade on the internet for almost 9 years, I’m taking my drama to paper. Introducing “Karl the Fog”, coming to a bookstore or internet near you on May 7, 2019. It’s the story of my life: growing up in the Bay Area, learning how to cloud from my mom, and eventually taking over as the fog of San Francisco. And bonus for you fog haters: the cover is a removable cloud. 🌁🌁 Order the book by clicking on the link in my bio ⬆️.
But it was only about seven months after the book's publication, in January 2020, that Karl the Fog tweeted his last tweet: "The fog horn blows because the #49ers are going to the Super Bowl!!"
Enter Karla the Fog. As SF Weekly reports today, having DM'd with the person behind Karla's Twitter account that launched September 15, Karla is calling herself the "unofficial replacement" for Karl, and we'll have to wait and see if Karl reemerges and the two accounts get to have a back-and-forth.
Good morning, North Beach! May I have my morning espresso? pic.twitter.com/2wa55G4uWj— KarlaTheFog (@fog_karla) September 24, 2020
"It was kind of like he ghosted SF," Karla says to SF Weekly. "The Fog went through a period of voiceless[ness] and confusion, but I felt like what our world needed was a different kind of Fog for these unprecedented times."
Karl the Fog, in reality, had not been wildly active on social media the past year-plus, and it could very well be that the owner of the account doesn't live here anymore, ten years on. There were only four Instagram posts from Karl in 2019, and a couple dozen on Twitter. But some of the pun and humor magic was gone from the early days.
A classic, from 2018, when Salesforce Tower's lights came on for the first time:
Salesforce Tower: I’m gonna make my big debut tonight and everyone’s gonna see what I can do— Karl the Fog ☁️ (@KarlTheFog) May 23, 2018
Me: LOL no
Karla only has 1,655 followers as of this writing, but you, dear SFist readers, can easily help with that. Follow Karla the Fog and perhaps we can score an exclusive interview in the coming weeks to see how she's handling her newfound fame. Or to find out if any book deals have come her way.
Photo: Karla the Fog/Twitter