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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Fog

Fog

Cloud forest Mount Kinabalu, Borneo (credit: Wikipedia)
 
I love fog, no two ways about it.
 
Growing up in coastal California, there were times during the 'fog season' when everything became shrouded in thick mists that many thought gloomy. I never saw it that way. Fog season always seemed an opportunity to wander on the beach and experience a special but irregular feature of my environment. I was reminded of all this when a remarkable satellite photograph of Southern California and Baja was released by NASA showing both coasts bathed in low clouds laden with moisture.
 
 
 
                                  Southern California and Baja fog banks with photo animation of fog moving into the San Francisco Bay area (credit: NASA & New York Times)

Fog is the essential environmental component for several specialized ecosystems. Without this regular humidity, the coastal redwoods and their spongy understory plants and mosses would wither and turn brown. Likewise, tropical Cloud Forests would lack the ability to create water from their constantly dripping fog condensation. Cities and farms receive water from fog shrouded mountains and these environments provide habitat for a riot of biodiversity. One cloud forest report illustrated how aggressively these specialized forests utilize fog. A number of trees in Central American cloud forests "slurp" fog droplets through their leaves. Sadly, such remarkable forests are endangered due a changing climate that is less "foggy". The findings raise concerns these forests are more fragile than previously thought.
 
 
 
                              Cloud Forests (credit: Fray Jorge NP, Chile)
 
In other landscapes, fog plays an essential ecological role as well. The Namib and Atacama deserts receive virtually no rainfall so life has had to adapt to hyper-aridity. In The Namib is so dry, beetles have evolved specialized hairs which they use to comb dense fog banks for water droplets. The beetles stick the gathered moisture to their bodies for consumption later. In the Atacama, plants sense moisture and grow quickly to reproduce only when fogs bath the desert soils. Plant adaptations to the Atacama's hyper-aridity are highly specialized. In some bulb species, roots grow upwards into a zone where fog moisture has penetrated.

Even with the ecological importance of fog, the biodiversity and beauty this weather produces, all this may be jeopardized if fogs decline. Likewise, where will film noir movie producers find a better backdrop for their misty thrillers? WHB
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