The peninsula region of the Bay Area extends from the area northwest of San Jose to the
Golden Gate. The Santa Cruz Mountains extend up the center of the peninsula, with elevations
exceeding 2000 feet at the south end, and gradually decreasing to 500 feet elevation in South San
Francisco, where it terminates. On the west side of the mountains lie small coastal towns, such as Half
Moon Bay and Pacifica, that due to coastal ocean upwelling and northwest winds, experience a high
incidence of cool, foggy weather in the summer. On the east side of the mountain range lie the larger
cities. Cities in the southeastern peninsula experience warmer temperatures and few foggy days,
because the marine layer, with an average depth of 1700 feet, is blocked by the 2000 foot ridge to the
west. At the north end of the peninsula lies San Francisco. Because most of topography of San
Francisco is below 200 feet, the marine layer is able to flow across most of the city, making its climate
cool and windy.
The blocking effect of the Santa Cruz Mountains can be seen in the summertime maximum
temperatures. For example, at Half Moon Bay and San Francisco, the maximum daily temperatures in
June through August are 62 to 64 degrees F, while on the eastern side at Redwood City, the maximum
temperatures are in the low 80s for the same period. Daily maximum temperatures throughout the
peninsula during the winter months are in the high 50s. Large temperature gradients are not seen in the
minimum temperatures. Average minimum temperatures at Half Moon Bay are about 43 degrees in
winter, and 50-52 in summer. The east peninsula, represented by Redwood City, reports winter
minimum temperatures of 40 degrees, and summer minimum temperatures of 52-54 degrees.
Annual average wind speeds range from 5 to 10 mph throughout the peninsula. The tendency
is for the higher wind speeds to be found along the western coast. However, winds on the east side of
the peninsula can also be high in certain areas because low-lying areas in the mountain range, at San
Bruno Gap and Crystal Springs Gap, commonly allow the marine layer to pass across the peninsula.
The prevailing winds are westerly along the peninsula's west coast. Individual sites can show
significant differences, however. For example, Ft Funston in western San Francisco County, shows a
southwest wind pattern, while Pillar Point in San Mateo County to the south shows a northwest wind
pattern. Sites on the east side of the mountains also show a westerly pattern, although their wind
patterns show influence by local topographic features. That is, a few hundred feet rise in elevation will
induce flow around that feature instead of over it during stable atmospheric conditions. This can
change the wind pattern by as much as 90 degrees over short distances. On mornings without a strong
pressure gradient, areas on the east side of the peninsula often experience eastern flow in the surface
layer, induced by upslope flow on the east-facing slopes and by the bay breeze. The bay breeze is
rarely seen after noon because the stronger sea breeze dominates the flow pattern.
On the peninsula, there are two important gaps in the Coast Range. The larger of the two is
the San Bruno Gap, extending from Ft Funston on the ocean side to the San Francisco Airport on the
bay side. Because the gap is oriented in the same northwest to southeast direction as the prevailing
winds, and because the elevations along the gap are under 200 feet, marine air is easily able to
penetrate into the bay.
The other gap in the Santa Cruz Mountains is the Crystal Springs Gap, along the highway 92
route between Half Moon Bay and San Carlos. The low point is 900 feet, with elevations of 1500 feet
north and south of the gap. As the sea breeze strengthens on summer afternoons, the gap permits
maritime air to pass across the mountains and its cooling effect is commonly seen from San Mateo to
Rainfall amounts on the east side of the peninsula are somewhat lower than on the west side
with San Francisco and Redwood City reporting an average of 19.5 inches per year. On the west side,
Half Moon Bay reports 25 inches per year. Areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains are significantly higher,
especially west of the ridge line, due to orographic-lifting induced condensation, close proximity to a
moisture source, and fog drip.
Air pollution potential is highest along the southeastern portion of the peninsula because this
area is most protected from the high winds and fog of the marine layer, the emission density is
relatively high, and pollutant transport from upwind sites is possible. In San Francisco, to the north,
pollutant emissions are high, but winds are generally fast enough to carry the pollutants away before
they can accumulate.