Ever since moving to North Carolina, one of my biggest complaints is that the weather is pretty much bipolar. One hour, it'll be pouring buckets and then the next hour, it is as sunny as a summer day. One of the more common sayings I've heard here is, “If you don't like the weather today, wait until tomorrow.”
Personally, I keep several items of clothing in the back of my car just to be prepared for anything. A rain coat is essential, along with a pair of socks in case yours get soggy if you happen to get caught in a downpour. I also have some old shirts and shoes just in case I am overdressed during a particularly hot day. I honestly have a box of clothes in the back of my car just for the crazy weather in NC.
Why the Crazy Weather?
So why is the weather here so crazy? I decided to do some research and find out. The short answer is that NC's proximity to a jet stream is the primary reason its weather can vary so much. A jet stream is an area of fast-moving air at the top of the atmosphere. Extreme temperature change is more likely to occur near areas where there is a jet stream. Warm air pushes up form the south near the equator and colder air comes in from the north pole. Where these two differing temperatures meet, there can be crazy consequences.
There are two jet streams that directly affect the weather in the continental US: the polar jet and the subtropical jet. According to the climate page by NC State, the polar jet moves significantly over the course of the year.
The polar front is the boundary between the cold North Pole air and the warm equatorial air. The polar jet sits at roughly 60°N latitude because this is generally where the polar front sits... The subtropical jet is located at 30°N because of the temperature differences between air at mid-latitudes and the warmer equatorial air.
From the image above, you can see that NC is smack dab in the path of the polar jet's annual migration up and down the states. This is the primary reason that the weather here can be so volatile, going from thunderstorms and pouring rain to sunny and warm overnight.
What People Say about NC's Weather
Ask anyone in NC about the weather and they will have an opinion about it. Some think it is too hot, some think it is too cold, but almost everyone agrees that it can be crazy. A commenter on Colleges.Niche.com had this to say about NC weather:
North Carolina weather in general is crazy. On Monday it could be perfect outside with sunshine and a calm breeze, but then Wednesday it could be snowing and you have to miss classes the next day. You never know what's going to happen so just make sure you have all kinds of clothing throughout the entire year.
Several other users called the weather “bipolar,” which is a rather apt description given the variability in temperature. Other people add further thoughts to NC's weather. NARNIAROSE2003 writes:
It was almost 80 on Friday and so humid you could wash a donkey's butt. Yesterday it was beautiful. Today is overcast, rainy and in the '50's. LOL - Welcome North Cackalacky!
There is even a Facebook Group called Central & Eastern NC Weather that is a community-driven source for weather in NC. Twitter users, too, comment and post pictures about NC's weather all the time.
First "omg NC weather is so crazy" tweets of the season today. This is why I get up in the morning
— Ross Harris (@Str8OutaCothran) September 14, 2015
Big storm coming =crazy clouds. #clt #nc #cloudyclouds #clouds #storm #weather
— Kellie Coffey (@coffeyka) May 13, 2016
So... What's the Bottom Line?
The jet stream is the primary reason the weather is so variable in NC and in many of the states that lie in its path. If you're going to live in NC, then you need to be prepared for the variable weather. Be prepared! Keep at least an umbrella and a rain jacket in your car for times when you find yourself caught in a rainstorm. And, of course, check the weather reports.