Travel & Day Trips

Is San Francisco Dry or Humid? What to Know

San Francisco, an iconic city on the west coast of the United States, is known for many things: the Golden Gate Bridge, picturesque cable cars, and its renowned foggy microclimates. Many travelers, and even residents, find themselves debating whether San Francisco’s climate is dry or humid.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the city’s unique weather conditions, delving into San Francisco’s diverse microclimates and humidity levels.

San Francisco’s Weather: A Tale of Microclimates

San Francisco is famous for its multitude of microclimates, largely due to the varied topography and ocean-influenced weather systems. Microclimates are small, localized regions with specific weather patterns that differ from the surrounding areas. This can lead to dramatic temperature and humidity differences across neighborhoods that are just a few miles apart.

Average relative humidity in San Francisco, the United States of America

The Role of the Marine Layer

The marine layer—a cool, moist air mass that forms over the Pacific Ocean—plays a substantial role in moderating temperatures and providing moisture to the city. When the marine layer rolls in, it can blanket San Francisco in fog, creating more humid conditions, especially along the coast.

On the other hand, during the summer, parts of the city can experience unusually dry and warm conditions, primarily when the marine layer is absent.

Exploring the San Francisco Microclimates and Weather Variations

Coastal Areas

Coastal neighborhoods such as the Outer Sunset, Outer Richmond, and Ocean Beach typically experience higher humidity levels, mainly due to their proximity to the ocean and the ever-present marine layer.

Inland Neighborhoods

The Mission District is often warmer and dryer

Inland areas like the Mission District or Noe Valley often bask in warmer, drier conditions. They are usually shielded from the fog and marine layer by the surrounding hills, making these neighborhoods less humid than their coastal counterparts.

North Bay

Positioned north of the Golden Gate Bridge, areas like Sausalito and Marin County tend to experience variable microclimates. However, these regions generally have lower humidity levels compared to coastal San Francisco, as they are on the leeward side of the coastal mountain ranges.

The exception is areas right along the coast, like Muir Woods. Muir Woods is legendary for its fog, which helps nourish its redwood trees.


So, is San Francisco weather dry or humid? Well, the answer is, it depends.

The city’s unique microclimates make it nearly impossible to label it with just one description. Ultimately, San Francisco’s climate can be both dry and humid, with conditions varying drastically from one neighborhood to another, and even from one block to the next.

As a long time resident, here’s what I tell visitors: wear layers!

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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