‘Super fog:’ Weather event creates zero visibility along stretch of I-95

Fog, smoke, temperature inversion create perfect storm along Florida’s coast

Fog on I-95 Thursday morning

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Visibility was reduced to zero early Thursday along a stretch of Interstate 95 in Volusia County as the combination of fog and smoke from a nearby controlled burn created a phenomenon known as super fog.

Super fog can be extremely dangerous near highways, as was the case Thursday. The foggy conditions were believed to have played a factor in a massive, deadly pileup on I-95.

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Fog typically develops on nights when skies are clear and winds are calm. As the air near the ground cools and enough moisture is present, the air will become saturated and fog will develop.

Another phenomenon that develops in this scenario is known as a temperature inversion. Temperatures typically decrease with height in our portion of the atmosphere.

Temperatures typically decrease with height. During the day the atmosphere is well mixed and things such as smoke are easily dispersed.

On clear and calm nights, warmth generated from the afternoon radiates back into the atmosphere, creating a sliver of warm air just above the surface.

The warm sliver of air above the surface, known as a temperature inversion helps to trap the air and anything in it close to the surface during the evening and early morning.

This layer of warm air acts as a lid and keeps anything near the ground trapped, unable to clear out until surface temperatures warm up.

The smoke, from a controlled burn in this case, could not disperse due to the inversion and light winds.

Temperature Inversion

Patchy fog was observed elsewhere in Central Florida, but did not significantly reduce visibility on a widespread scale. The smoke likely significantly played a role in the zero visibility on I-95.

The National Weather Service later tweeted, “Unfortunately, super fog contributed to the incident on I-95 in Volusia Co early this AM. With super fog, visibility is lowered to <10ft. It has caused several large pileups, namely on I-4 near Davenport (2008) & on I-75 S of Gainesville (2012). Our thoughts are with the victims.”

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.