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One of my first childhood memories of the beach was a trip to the Jolly Roger Inn at Topsail. It was my first experience "fishing". Truth be told, I was a little too young to grasp the mechanics of fishing, but that didn't stop me from trying.

It was one of those sultry summer nights when my family pulled up to the Jolly Roger. We left home fairly late on a Friday evening, and it was nearly midnight when we reached our destination. Of course, children don't really have a sense of "late" verses "early". I was just happy to be on vacation. Dad and mom bought me a small rod and reel, little more than a toy. But to me, that little black and white device was a wonder to behold. I was so excited I could barely sleep.

The next morning, we headed for the pier. In my own little mind, I had envisioned catching a fish to keep as a pet. I watched attentively as dad cast his own rod and reel, making everything look so easy. I figured I could do the same, so I scooped up my tiny equipment. With a quick flick of the wrist, I cast my line. Unfortunately, I failed to grasp the rod securely. With a sad face and no fish, I watched as the great Atlantic Ocean took my little rod and reel out to sea. And thus ended my first official fishing trip.

Apart from the trauma of losing my prized toy, I especially remember the unrelenting heat and humidity. I don't recall the exact day (or year, for that matter), but I remember sweating almost constantly- even at night. In the study of meteorology, the concept of "relative humidity" is easily one of the most misunderstood. We tend to think of relative humidity as being a gauge of how "sticky" the air feels, but that is a gross oversimplification. By definition, relative humidity is the amount of atmospheric moisture present relative to the amount that would be present if the air were saturated.

The concept of saturation is tied to air temperature. Therefore the relative humidity is partially a function of temperature. By increasing the air temperature, you can actually lower the relative humidity, even though the amount of moisture has remained constant. If you follow hourly observations on a summer day, you will often see lower relative humidity readings at 3 PM than 9 PM. However, it may feel just as sticky (if not more) in the afternoon than at night.

A better measure of comfort is actually the dewpoint temperature. As a general rule, the higher the dewpoint, the more "uncomfortable" the air feels. Dewpoints over 72 are usually indicative of a "muggy" environment. Dewpoint may be able to help you better express the apparent forecast, but it offers no consolation for the loss of your toy fishing rod...


By: Jerry Jackson