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There are 2 types of people in North Carolina- those who like slaw on their barbecue sandwich, and those who do not. To be honest, I prefer a plate of barbecue to a sandwich. In any case, I don't like slaw and I really don't like brunswick stew. This may sound a bit strange for someone who grew up in southeastern NC, and I confess that my mom always accused me of being a picky eater. As the fates would have it, I now have a 2-year old son who doesn't even like barbecue. Go figure.

My first memory of a barbecue sandwich is tied to an old restaurant in Mount Olive called "Dubs". My dad and I would frequently have lunch there in the summer. The seats were typical "diner" style, with lacquered swivel tops and shiny metal bases. My feet barely touched the floor, and I used to drive dad crazy by spinning around in circles while we waited for the food. Most days we ordered take-out, bringing our sandwiches back to the field to eat under the shade of the trees.

Of course, barbecue sandwiches were also a popular treat during the 4th of July celebrations. Our town had a small fireworks display, usually set-off by the airport. My family tended fields nearby, so we always had a prime location for viewing. It was our custom to have a picnic in the bed of dad's red Ford pick-up truck. The menu usually consisted of homemade lemonade, barbecue sandwiches, and watermelon for dessert. Most of our fireworks displays started around 9 PM. I was always amazed at how "muggy" the air felt. The temperature was much cooler at 9PM than 3PM, but that didn't really stop you from sweating. Of course, being a kid, I had no concept of "relative humidity". As a meteorologist, I can't escape it.

"Relative Humidity", in a gross over-simplification, is the amount of moisture present in the air compared to how much moisture COULD be present at that temperature. True meteorologists will bristle at this explanation, since a proper understanding of the concept involves knowledge of more heady terms such as vapor density and saturation vapor density. Still, for a basic conceptual model, the above explanation works just fine. In essence, the "relative humidity" is tied closely to air temperature.

Imagine the atmosphere is a glass tank. The size of the tank varies with temperature. In the afternoon, the tank is bigger. If you fill it half full with "moisture", the relative humidity is 50%. At night, the size of the tank shrinks as the air cools. Therefore, even though you have not really added any more "moisture", the tank becomes more "full" since there is less room for storage. A more "full" tank means that the relative humidity has increased. In other words, as a general rule during the summer, relative humidity will usually increase during the evening.

This is why meteorologists often prefer to use dew point temperature as a more reliable measure of comfort. Anytime the dewpoint temperature begins to climb above 68F in the summer, the atmosphere becomes rather muggy. Then it's time to break out the lemonade... and the slaw too, if you must.

Switching gears, if you would like to read about the biggest snowfalls in the history of southeastern NC, please visit our new facebook page. You might be surprised at what you find! Here's the link:  Chief Meteorologist Jerry Jackson


By: Jerry Jackson