“The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” – Mark Twain

“Holy f*ck, it’s FREEZING.” – The Everywhereist

Last week, we were waiting in line at a huge, popular ice cream shop with a group of our friends. We all wore jackets. A few of us had scarves. We clustered together for warmth, joking that perhaps ice cream was not the best choice on such a chilly night.

This is August in San Francisco.

Rand and I have learned, thankfully without too much discomfort on our own parts, to check the weather report before leaving for any trip. In the case of San Francisco, we check it two or three times before our flight.

It was 95 degrees in Seattle on this same day.

It was 95 degrees in Seattle on this same day.

Sometimes, it is out of incredulity.

When Rand and I saw the forecast for our last trip, we stared, blankly, at the screen.

“How,” I asked him, “How exactly can it be 50 degrees in August?”

But 50 degrees it was. At night, anyway. And with the strong wind coming off the bay, it felt even colder. Of course, it may simply have been the street we were on. In addition to shockingly cold summers (apparently October is when it really starts to get warm there, and I remember a few early springs that were quite toasty),  the city experiences a menagerie of microclimates: localized weather patterns that vary greatly from one another, despite being ridiculously close together.

The phenomenon isn’t unique to San Francisco, but seems to be a prime example of it.   The patchwork weather patterns are a result of the city’s rumpled landscape. Fog and cold winds from the bay beat against the hills, but never reach the valleys on the other side, which remain warm and sun-drenched (this is a huge over-simplification, but considering how terrible I am at geography, let’s call this a “win” for me, okay?).

Fog dissipates before our eyes in the Castro district.

Fog dissipates before our eyes in the Castro district.

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The result? Dressing for San Francisco is an exercise in layering, a constant dance of removing sweaters and unzipping jackets. Sometimes, you wonder if it’s worth it, since the next block will bring something new all together. I’ve been known to freeze or roast through a few streets, because I can’t be bothered.

What’s worse is my resistance to believe that it’s actually going to be as cold as meteorologist and empirical evidence suggest. In the end, I find myself pulling together random layers. It is the logic behind this photo, which I initially posted yesterday:

Sigh. And I look so CONFIDENT, too, in my craziness.

Sigh. And I look so CONFIDENT, too, in my craziness.

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When I realized that neither my fleece or my cropped jean jacket would be enough, I had to layer them. The result is … well, whatever. I was warm enough, thankfully, to go for a stroll with my husband through the city. And based on how many freezing tourists I see, wearing newly acquired San Francisco sweatshirts (purchased out of desperation, I’m sure), no one is going to judge.

So if you’re going to go, check the weather report. And bring layers. Many of them. Don’t be fooled by your preconceived notions of the city. The greatest trick San Francisco ever pulled was convincing the world it was part of California.

I hear you, babe.

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Comments (6)

  1. 1

    Man, I could have told you that! It’s my third summer in SF and the worst thus far (and allegedly the worst ever on record). It’s downright depressing! Good thing, I’m in the Caribbean at the moment…and wouldn’t you know, naturally the second I leave it gets up to NINETY-EIGHT freakin’ degrees in SF on Monday?? And of course it’s back to 54 Saturday when I return. OF COURSE.

  2. 2
    philip says:

    My darling wife, who spent a few long ago summers in SF, has always said you could spot the tourists by their shorts and brand-new SF sweatshirts. It’s a fine skill to have (tourist-spotting) if you are a pick-pocket. Which my wife is not. At least as far as I know.

  3. 3
    Heguiberto says:

    what a great description of what the weather here is like. I have been living in SF for 7 years now and confess I am still not quite used to climate. I remember running the heat for the entire month of July back in 2003 :)
    I don’t miss though the oppressive heat of the summer or the 6 month winter of my other beloved city NYC.
    Cheers,
    H

  4. 4
    Andi says:

    “The greatest trick San Francisco ever pulled was convincing the world it’s part of California”
    I think that’s one of the greatest lines I’ve ever read.
    When I was living in England and I would tell people I was from California they would automatically say, “Ooo it’s so warm there! You don’t get cold like this in California”, assuming I was from LA or San Diego. I would just tell them that I was from the Other California, where there are seasons. But now I’ll just say I’m not from California at all. I’m from San Francisco.

    • 4.1
      Everywhereist says:

      Wow – thanks, Andi. :) I was kind of proud of that line. I’m so glad you liked it. And, yes, being from San Francisco and being from California are two very different things.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Everywhereist » Blog Archive » Getting to the Presidio: Part 1 - 31. Aug, 2010

    […] this time, I had been walking for well over an hour. And thanks to San Francisco’s schizophrenic microclimate, I had taken my jacket on and off roughly a dozen or so times. I was starting to sweat through my […]

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