I have lived in San Francisco now for about 5 years. For 10 months of that, I lived in the East Bay in the sometimes significantly warmer Berkeley, and have lived in various parts of San Francisco including the Inner Sunset, Outer Sunset, Alamo Square and a short stint in the Mission.
I am also a part of a website called Postcrossing. (It is amazing, I get and send postcards all over the world and have a wonderful time learning about other people’s way of life. )
9 times out of 10 when I receive a card, someone mentions something about ‘staying cool’ or ‘what lovely weather you must have in California!’
Yeah, if I was in LA or San Diego Maybe. But its July and I’m cold.
Northern California – specifically San Francisco has a climate very much unlike the climate of what everyone assumes the climate of all California is -warm and sunny always. Beach bonfires. Ladies in Bikinis. VENICE BEACH! Well those who don’t know anything about the climate of Northern California – I shouldn’t assume.
THIS is California:
But what they don’t realize is that there is a huge difference between Southern CA (seen above) and Northern California – especially when it comes to climate.
San Francisco is very unique in that we have many many Microclimates and even submicroclimates and essentially our year is backward.
So I’m going to get a few things straight.
If it is Late May – Late/Mid August – tell me to bundle up.
Mid August/Early September through early November? – tell me to stay cool!
December – April? – Tell me to stay dry! and warm!
Like I said, the weather is backward. While the rest of the country has a pretty standard climate, things in San Francisco are San Francisco Standard.
January – April-ish = Historically we, though over the last few years, in case you didn’t know, we’re in a major drought. This year, thankfully, was an El Nino year. It rained! It rained so much! But a lot of rain here is like nothing elsewhere. Between June 2015 and June 2016, we had a whopping 72 days of rain -most of which were in December, January, and March! That is so much rain! Well it isn’t… but it is! From all of those rain days, we only received 23.17 inches of rain. I used this chart. It was also cold. Cold and Rainy.
[As a side note, I grew up in Northwestern PA where summers were just weeks of straight downpours. San Francisco rarely has a day of downpour. usually its a somewhat steady rain for a few hours and then its done]
[Another side note. When I say cold, it does get into the upper 30s F at night in the winter and even in the summer it can still go down to the upper 40s (last night the low was 48). But the highs can be in the upper 40s in the winter and 60s in the ‘summer’. 60 in SF is colder than 60 elsewhere. There is wind and a bone chilling cold in the air. We’ve had friends leave their 60 degree weather in Boulder in a T-shirt and pants and arrive in SF’s 60 degree weather and need a coat. It’s weird. I don’t get it, but its true.
We’re still in this massive drought.
So staying dry, never an issue. It is ridiculously dry here.
May – mid August-ish = Winter. Late June, we had a 9:30 PM softball game out by the Golden Gate Bridge. My outfit: Thick work out pants (which weren’t thick enough), a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, hoodie, coat, a hat and gloves.
You might just be saying that I lost my ability to handle cold weather. And while that might partially be true, it was also just plain cold. And the wind. Oh the wind.
Wind is an essential part of SF summer.23-25 mph winds are normal. Sometimes it gusts to 30-35. Sometimes we get a reprieve and it is only 15-20 mph. And the wind itself is cold. It is whipping off of the ocean full of water that flows straight from the arctic area!
Here is a screenshot of the morning temperatures using the SF Climate app from last week:
Late August – Mid November (usually) = Summer time! This is the time where we get our warm days. Usually mid to upper 70s to mid 80s. When I first moved here we had few 85+ days but since then they have become more prevalent and so have 90+ degree days. Though it still cools off quickly after around 3pm.
This is the most wonderful time to visit San Francisco. Before the rain falls (hopefully) and after the summer chill has burned away and the fog hangs out elsewhere.
Not all of SF is frigid in the summer. Because of the many microclimates, the temperature can change from neighborhood to neighborhood. For example, I live in Alamo Square. It is a central neighborhood in SF and when I left my house last Friday, it was warm. I could walk outside with a t-shirt and pants and be comfortable. But when I got off the bus near my job – 3 miles toward the ocean in the inner sunset, it was 12 degrees cooler, foggy, and windy. I didn’t take a heavy enough sweater. Great neighborhoods to thaw out are the Mission, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, and SOMA.
Again, around 3-5pm this changes and the fog and wind really move in and cover the rest of San Francisco with its chilly blanket.
The SF Chronicle actually wrote a good article on the microclimates (and why we have them) of the San Francisco Bay Area – definitely read it. It’s important.
Also the fog is named Karl.