Why Is San Francisco So Cold?


One of the most popular destinations in the United States is definitely San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge is a sight to behold, which is a common reason actually why most people around the world want to visit the city.

For starters, SF is a city in California. It is specifically located on a peninsula right at the entrance of San Francisco Bay along the Pacific Ocean. Its charm is mostly about how classic Victorian-style structures and modern skyscrapers mix in just one city.

However, a more important factor why SF is memorable based on tourist reviews is its climate. A typical question when talking about the city is: “Why is San Francisco so cold?” Stay with us and find out!

What Are the Specific Reasons?

There are two ways to answer the question, “Why is San Francisco so cold?” One is the constant fog while the other is about the so-called “microclimates.” Learn more about these particular factors:

  • Fog

    While many places around the world encounter fog only in the morning, SF goes the opposite way and embraces it in the late afternoon. By approximately 1:30 p.m., the fog rolls in from the Golden Gate and envelops the city. Sometimes, it even crosses the bay and reaches the Berkeley Hills. In fact, the outer areas near the ocean are foggier and colder most of the time. Also, fog hides the sun; let’s not forget about that.

  • Microclimates

    Finally, we are going to talk about the more interesting microclimates. These microclimates are found in the Bay Area. They simply refer to the various climates within the said zone. Overall, it is a Mediterranean climate because of the dry, hot summers and cool, rainy winters.

    In the case of SF, it is only chilly and rainy. Two reasons are behind this: its location in the peninsula and intersecting elements. SF is located at the top of the peninsula which is right at the mouth of the Golden Gate. Because of this setup, it sucks most of the cold air and fog coming from the ocean.

    Meanwhile, the opposing elements we were talking about are the cold North Pacific High and the hot Central Valley. During summer, these two spots on the map get more interactive with each other. First, the Central Valley builds a low pressure area when it gets hot so it can get North Pacific High’s cool air. The effect of this is cold air gushing through the Golden Gate into the San Francisco Bay. It results to fog and frosty wind in the city.

What Should People Wear?

Even though “Why is San Francisco so cold” is such a popular question by tourists, the weather is actually not always gloomy. The main thing you have to watch out for is the unpredictable weather. It may be sunny in the morning but as soon as afternoon sets in, it might get cold suddenly. That is why people there must always wear layers of clothing.

Residents in SF highly recommend bringing a sweatshirt or any type of jacket whenever you go out. Thick outer layers are essential because cold, strong winds are quite frequent there. However, these garments should be removable as well. Why? The rest of the afternoon might get warm after the fog passes through. So, better wear a thin long-sleeved top or just a simple T-shirt underneath the outer layer.

Just for Fun: What Other Things Should You Expect?

We compiled a list of dos and don’ts in SF from various tourist blogs and travel reviews. Get a ticket ready!

  • Go around the city – obviously.

    A common ride in SF is the cable car. It is popular for tourists while residents do not care much, probably due to the expensive cost. After the ride, the topmost part of Coit tower is a must-see. Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 are also good destinations. More importantly, try to hike across the one and only Golden Gate Bridge. Then, go back to earth again by driving along Lombard Street.

  • Do what the residents do.

    It is also nice to pause being a tourist for a while and just experience real life in SF. You can eat sourdough bread near the bay. In the Mission, you may have a burrito. If you are a bookworm, feel free to visit the bookstore named City Lights. When you take a break from reading, head to the Castro theatre and watch a movie.

  • Wear the right clothes and footwear.

    An extension from the previous section, remember to not wear shorts. Always stick to thick pants such as joggers and jeans made of denim just to be sure. Aside from jackets and sweatshirts, cardigans and sweaters are also nice outer layers. Go the extra mile by wearing a hat, boots and a scarf, especially when you go near the water.

    When it comes to footwear, always use sneakers. Most people in SF walk all the time. Four reasons are wide sidewalks, various attractions, steep hills, and the city’s small size. Talking about the hills, there are a lot in the city. They are concrete slopes that just appear everywhere.

  • Never talk about surfing.

    Why? Because it is pointless. Yes, the city is near a huge body of water – and that’s it. If you are a surf nut, then SF may not be the place for you. Most residents even have a pale complexion since the sun rarely shines here. It is quite amazing to think about how massive California is based on how different Los Angeles and SF are in terms of climate.

  • Be cool around quirky people.

    Another factor why SF is a colorful city is the people. Homosexuals here are more expressive than most cities because SF holds one of the biggest LGBT communities in the whole world. So, keep an open mind as you walk the streets if you are not used to flamboyance. Homeless people are also popular here for tourists. They may act obnoxious and strange, but never let them bother you.

  • Never use the word “Frisco.”

    You got that right; Frisco is not a cool word at all. Residents do not use that term. “San Fran” is said to be acceptable enough. Let’s face it; San Francisco can be a mouthful.

Why Is San Francisco So Cold?

The unusual location of SF has a lot to do with its strange climate. Since SF is located at the mouth of the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounded by a wide bay, the cold air from the water passes the bridge and goes directly to the city. That is why it always gets foggy in the area.

On the other hand, if you’re up for some interesting read, you may check out our article about Alcatraz.