The Fog of Distress

March 15, 2012

Imagine you are standing just outside your home, surrounded by a dense fog, so thick you can’t see the other side of the street in front of you. You look to the right, then to the left, but you cannot see more than fifty feet in any direction. You are surrounded.

How much water do you suppose it takes to create that blanket of fog that has completely isolated you from your world?

Before you read on, think about this for a moment. Don’t worry if you’re not good at math or have no background in physics. Just take a commonsense guess. How much water do you think it took to create this fog that surrounds you?

Now, are you ready for the answer?

A few ounces.

The total volume of water in a blanket of fog one acre around and one meter deep would not quite fill an ordinary drinking glass.

How is this possible? First the water evaporates, and the resulting vapor then condenses into minuscule droplets that permeate the air. In that one-acre block of fog, one drinking glass’s worth of water disperses as some 400 billion tiny droplets suspended in the air, creating an impenetrable cloak that shuts out light and makes you shiver.

This is exactly what happens with certain painful or difficult experiences.

Human beings are remarkably adaptable. Most of the time, when negative events occur, we are able to learn from them, shrug them off, and go on with our lives. The experience simply evaporates, leaving us a bit older and wiser.

But not always.

Sometimes, especially when we are very young, we have experiences that we cannot shake. Even if they seem insignificant — no more substantial, you might say, than a glass of water — when these upsetting experiences evaporate, they then condense into billions of droplets of anger, fear, self-doubt, guilt, and other negative feelings, surrounding us with a suffocating blanket that suffuses every aspect of our lives for years to come.

We call this the fog of distress.…

# # #
The above is an excerpt from the introduction to a brand new book, coming on April 3.

Coauthored with two remarkable psychologists, the book does three things.

It explains what that fog of distress is and where it comes from.

It explains what it takes to make it go away.

And then it walks you through doing exactly that.

I can’t wait to share the whole book with you!


  1. John you have done it again. This much makes me want more.
    Blessings to you and Ana

    Mary Jo

  2. Hi John,

    I had the opportunity to read the pre-published galley version. WOW, what a fantastic book. Can’t wait to tell everyone about it. Just let me know when I can post about it. It will touch (and change for the better!!) many, many lives!!

    • Thanks, señor! I plan to pull away the curtain and reveal the title and cover next Tuesday ~ so if you don’t mind, hold off till then … and then post away! 🙂

  3. Are you sure that one acre of fog by one meter deep is equal to a cup of water? Note that a cubic mile of fog is 450,000 lbs. of water.
    Just a bit of mathematics, since a cubic mile is not the same as an acre with a meter in depth, and you will see that a cup of water is not what you get. Not even close.

    • Jack – No, not 100% positive. I did a *lot* of work to verify and validate these numbers, but I am no oceanographer (nor mathematician, for that matter), so I cannot swear full accuracy. Below is some of the work I did in an effort to accurately document what we wrote — for what it’s worth. Regardless, I think the principle works.

      # # #

      In his book “The Essence of Success,” the famed broadcaster and sales trainer Earl Nightingale wrote: “According to the Bureau of Standards, a dense fog covering seven city blocks, to a depth of 100 feet, is composed of something less than one glass of water.”
      I am trying to verify this data for a book project. Can you offer any help with this?

      Fogs and Clouds, W.J. Humphreys, U.S. Weather Bureau (Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, 1926). Cites U.S. Coast Guard Bulletin No. 5, GPO, Wash. D.C., 1916. May 9, 1915 measurement from a sample taken from the Grand Banks off Newfoundland: “A block of fog 3 feet wide, 6 feet high, and 100 feet long contains less than one-seventh of a glass of liquid water. Barely one good swallow!”

      “To gain some idea of the order of magnitude of the quantities involved in this dense fog, assume that one can not see beyond 100 feet. A block of fog 3 feet wide, 6 feet high, and 100 feet long contains less than one-seventh of a glass of water. This water is distributed among 60 billion drops.”

      1 glass of water => about 420,000 droplets, or nearly half a trillion.

      Fog is the same as a cloud except that it touches the ground, whereas a cloud has a base that is above the ground. When a cloud is moved by the wind and flows over and around a mountain, fog is present wherever the cloud touches the terrain. To a meteorologist, fog is present when the visibility is less than 1000 ft (about 300 m). What is important in the fog collection process is that fog is composed of tiny liquid water droplets from 1 to 40 micrometers (μm) in diameter. A typical droplet diameter is 10 μm.
      There is typically from 0.05 to 0.5 grams of liquid water in a cubic meter of fog.
      — FogQuest:


      1 fl oz = 30 gm
      240 gm = 8 fl oz (1 glass of water)
      0.05 gm = 1 cu meter fog
      1 fl oz = 30 gm = 600 cu meters of fog
      8 fl oz = 240 gm = 4,800 cu meters = 1/10th of a NYC block to a depth of 2 meters
      = 1 avg city block (9,000 sq meters) to depth of ½ meter
      = ¼ avg city block to depth of 2 meters
      = 1 football field (6,050 sq meters) to a depth of not quite a meter
      1 acre = 4,046 sq meter

      1 glass of water —> more than one acre of fog to a depth of one meter

      0 x 10-4%

      In New York City, the average length of a north-south block is 1/20th of a mile, or 264 feet. An east-west block is about 1/5th of a mile, or 1,056 feet. So, a square block would be 264 x 1056 = 278,784 square feet, which is equal to 6.4 acres.
      Chicago city blocks (if you count each block as 100 in the grid addressing system) are 1/8 mile long so a square mile is 8 blocks x 8 blocks. Since there are 64 square blocks in one square mile and 640 acres in one square mile, we know that Chicago city blocks (e.g. from Ashland to Paulina and Addison to Waveland) would be equal to exactly 10 acres per square block.
      278,782 sq ft = 25,899 sq meters

      block in Chicago = 10 acres
      block in NYC = 6.4 acres = 278,782 feet = 25,900 meters x 2 meters = 51,800 sq meters
      51,800 sq meters x 0.06 = 3,108 gm

      3.108 x 0.035273 = 110 oz.

      1 gm – 0.035273 oz
      8 oz = ± .25 liter (0.23658)

      0.25 X 10,000 = 2,500
      1 glass water = 2,500 liters of fog

      In most clouds (including fog), droplets mke up less than one-millionth of the volume.

      0.06 gm per cubic meter.

      USA Today:
      Q: How much water is in a cubic yard of fog?

      A: The amount is going to vary depending on the location, the temperature , the number of condensation nuclei in the air, and other factors. When water vapor begins to condense to form clouds, the vapor condenses on tiny particles such as dust or sea salt, to form droplets.

      I did find a page on the University of Wyoming Atmospheric Sciences Department Web site that lists theoretical cloud liquid water content.

      This chart lists continental fog has having 0.06 grams of water per cubic meter. By the way, the only kinds of clouds listed that have less water are high cirrus clouds where the water is mostly ice crystals, not liquid. A -50 degrees C, very high cirrus clouds averages only 0.002 grams per cubic meter. At the other end of the scale, a cumulus cloud in polluted air with plenty of condensation nuclei, can average 1,300 grams of liquid water per cubic meter.

      You want to amount of water per cubic yard. The cloud liquid water chart is another example of how almost all scientific work even in the USA uses the metric system.

      Instead of grinding out the numbers with pencil and paper, or with a hand calculator as I used to, you can go to the Civil Engineer Web site’s conversions page and click on “volume” to convert a cubic meter to a cubic yard and get the amount in the U.S. system.
      Translating grams into a U.S. liquid measure, such as liquid ounces, is a little tricky since grams are a measure of mass while measurements such as ounces are measures of volume. One way is to assume that the water is at 4 degrees C, since a gram is the weight of one cubic centimeter of distilled water at that temperature.

      You could safely assume that the water in fog is distilled water since it evaporated into vapor – leaving behind particles such as salt if it came from the ocean – before condensing back into fog drops. You could ignore the weight of the condensation nuclei in the drops since the figure we’re starting with is an approximation, an average.

      Anyone who’s interested in basic information about clouds and fog can go to the Understanding clouds and fog page.
      (Answered by Jack Williams, weather editor, July 22, 2004)


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