Ice fog

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"Pogonip" redirects here. For the Santa Cruz park, see Santa Cruz, California.
Ice fog over Fairbanks, Alaska in winter 2005. Temperature approximately minus 30F. Note the mirage at the base of the Alaska Range
Ice fog in Virginia City, Nevada, from an early 20th-century postcard

Ice fog is a type of fog consisting of fine ice crystals suspended in the air. It can happen only in cold areas of the world since water can remain liquid down to −40 °C (−40 °F). It should be distinguished from diamond dust, a precipitation of sparse ice crystals falling from a clear sky.[1]

In the United States[edit]

In the western United States, ice fog may be referred to as pogonip.[2][3] It occurs very rarely during cold winter spells, usually in deep mountain valleys. Ice fog can be quite common in interior and northern Alaska, since the temperature frequently drops below -40° in the winter months. Pogonip only forms under specific conditions; the humidity has to be near 100% as the air temperature drops to well below 0 °C (32 °F), allowing ice crystals to form in the air. The ice crystals will then settle onto surfaces.

The word pogonip is derived from the Shoshone word paγi̵nappi̵h, which means "cloud".[3][4] Supposedly, early settlers called it "white death" because they believed the crystals got into their lungs and caused death.

In The Old Farmer's Almanac, in the calendar for December, the phrase "Beware the Pogonip" regularly appears. In Smoke Bellew Jack London described Pogonip which happened to the main characters, killing one of them.


  1. ^ "AMS Glossary - Ice fog". Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  2. ^ "Pogonip". 
  3. ^ a b "Pogonip - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  4. ^ "Pogonip - Definition from the". Retrieved 2013-01-02. 

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