There is a crispness about this time of year that does my heart good. Gone are the hazy, lazy days of summer where high temperatures suffocate my soul, cladding me in a bad-humoured apathy as I fail to get much of anything done.
The good Lord saw fit not to bless me with ankles and instead give me calves only a cow could love, so rather than embrace the scantiness of summer fashion, the only part of me rejoicing is my feet. Now that we’ve seen off the thirties, and although we may still toy with the twenties, I take joy in knowing that we’re slowly counting down the teens to single digits. Oddly, when we get there the only part of me to complain will be my feet. They’re never happy.
There’s a magic that happens on autumnal mornings if you’re up early enough to see it and you have the good fortune to live near wide, open spaces. It’s as if the earth can’t decide whether it needs a coat. A blanket of mist hangs above the ground, hovering, wondering, knowing that it will soon dissipate but staying the course regardless.
Curious as to why it happens, I did some digging.
What I saw this morning was mist. Not to be confused with fog. Both can be described as cloud at ground level. Both can cover vast expanses of land and vary in density. Which term you use depends on the level of visibility. If you can’t see 180 m (or 1 km if you’re flying a plane) ahead of you, you’re in fog. Heavier than mist, fog takes longer to dissipate.
All this happens when the air has had its fill of water vapour and can’t take any more, given the temperature. What’s left over condenses into droplets that hang together. Strangely, for fog to form, the droplets need to mix with dust or sea salt or other pollutants. I found this hard to believe given my view. What dust? What sea salt? What pollutants?
I read that the term mist can also be used to describe your breath on a cold day, I had a vision of thousands of spectres hanging over the fields, breathing out in unison.
On discovering the various types of fog, what I saw this morning might well have been radiation fog or ground fog. There was a clear sky, increasing air temperature, and no wind and it had formed over the marshier side of the kis-Balaton.
I know it wasn’t advection fog (aka sea fog, coastal fog, haar, or fret) because there was neither sea nor snow. It wasn’t evaporation fog, which can lead to freezing fog and results in the wonderfully artistic rime – that white ice-look that happens when supercooled water droplets freeze on contact with gates and fence posts and telephone wires. Sea smoke or steam fog, that mist you see when cold air moves over an outdoor heated spa, is also an evaporation fog.
The land was completely flat, so it wasn’t upslope, or hill fog. Likewise, it wasn’t valley fog – this is a dangerous one as it can hang around for days in polluted areas and cause health problems.
And, as it was white in colour rather than a brownish-yellow, and coal isn’t typically burned around here, it definitely wasn’t a pea-souper. I hadn’t known that
the Great London Fog of 1952 killed 12,000 people in the city and resulted in the Clean Air Act to regulate the coal industry and air pollution.
I’m grateful that I had cause to be out early enough this morning to catch this. I feel all the better for it.