San Francisco Travel Guide

Geography

San Francisco is located on the West Coast of the United States at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula and includes significant stretches of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay within its boundaries. Several picturesque islandsAlcatraz, Treasure Island and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island, and small portions of Alameda Island, Red Rock Island, and Angel Island—are part of the city. Also included are the uninhabited Farallon Islands, offshore in the Pacific Ocean. The mainland within the city limits roughly forms a "seven-by-seven-mile square," a common local colloquialism referring to the city's shape, though its total area, including water, is nearly .

San Francisco is famous for its hills.

There are more than 50 hills within city limits. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Potrero Hill, and Russian Hill.

Near the geographic center of the city, southwest of the downtown area, are a series of less densely populated hills. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills forming one of the city's highest points, forms a popular overlook spot. San Francisco's tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is high and is capped with a tall cross built in 1934. Dominating this area is Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower.

The nearby San Andreas and Hayward Faults are responsible for much earthquake activity, although neither physically passes through the city itself. The San Andreas Fault caused the earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. Minor earthquakes occur on a regular basis. The threat of major earthquakes plays a large role in the city's infrastructure development. The city constructed an auxiliary water supply system and has repeatedly upgraded its building codes, requiring retrofits for older buildings and higher engineering standards for new construction. However, there are still thousands of smaller buildings that remain vulnerable to quake damage.

San Francisco's shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Entire neighborhoods such as the Marina, Mission Bay, and Hunters Point, as well as large sections of the Embarcadero, sit on areas of landfill. Treasure Island was constructed from material dredged from the bay as well as material resulting from tunneling through Yerba Buena Island during the construction of the Bay Bridge. Such land tends to be unstable during earthquakes. The resulting liquefaction causes extensive damage to property built upon it, as was evidenced in the Marina district during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Most of the city's natural watercourses, such as Islais Creek and Mission Creek, have been culverted and built over, although the Public Utilities Commission is studying proposals to daylight or restore some creeks.

Climate

A popular quote incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain is "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco". San Francisco's climate is characteristic of the cool-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb) of California’s coast, "generally characterized by moist mild winters and dry summers". Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, which moderate temperature swings and produce a remarkably mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation.

Among major U.S. cities, San Francisco has the coldest daily mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures for June, July, and August.

During the summer, rising hot air in California's interior valleys creates a low pressure area that draws winds from the North Pacific High through the Golden Gate, which creates the city's characteristic cool winds and fog. The fog is less pronounced in eastern neighborhoods and during the late summer and early fall, which is the warmest time of the year.

Because of its sharp topography and maritime influences, San Francisco exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates. The high hills in the geographic center of the city are responsible for a 20% variance in annual rainfall between different parts of the city. They also protect neighborhoods directly to their east ("banana belts" such as Noe Valley) from the foggy and sometimes very cold and windy conditions experienced in the Sunset District; for those who live on the eastern side of the city, San Francisco is sunnier, with an average of 260 clear days, and only 105 cloudy days per year.

Temperatures exceed on average only 29 days a year. The dry period of May to October is mild to warm, with average high temperatures of and lows of . The rainy period of November to April is slightly cooler, with high temperatures of and lows of . On average, there are 73 rainy days a year, and annual precipitation averages . Variation in precipitation from year to year is high. In 2013, a record low 5.8 inches of rainfall were recorded in San Francisco (low records were shattered in all of California). Snowfall in the city is very rare, with only 10 measurable accumulations recorded since 1852, most recently in 1976 when up to fell on Twin Peaks.

The highest recorded temperature at the official National Weather Service office was on July 17, 1988, and June 14, 2000. The lowest recorded temperature was on December 11, 1932. The National Weather Service provides a helpful visual aid graphing the information in the table below to display visually by month the annual typical temperatures, the past year's temperatures, and record temperatures.

source: Wikipedia

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