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What is a dry line?

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Severe weather season is getting a relatively late start, especially in North Carolina. Even on the Great Plains, last week was the latest into the season a major tornado – an EF-4 – was recorded. The reason was how long into spring the wintry weather extended.

Major storms require a strong difference in air masses to develop. Here in NC, we usually see them develop along a cold front or warm front. In the Great Plains, another type of boundary often sets up in the spring and summer called a dry line. While cold and warm fronts delineate the boundary between air masses with notable differences in temperature, a dry line is the boundary between a moist air mass and drier air mass.

In the US, the moister air is usually on the eastern side of the dry line because the moisture streams up from the Gulf of Mexico. The drier air is on the western side of the boundary because it’s coming from the desert southwest. The trigger for storms popping up along the dry line is often the surface temperature warming enough to break the cap.

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deep river triassic basin

How much do the great rock formations of the Deep River Triassic Basin coming up from Sanford to just west of Durham and on up toward Virginia affect the weather? After decades of living in this area it seems like more than cooincidence that so many storms coming from the west seem to take a turn to the north once they near Durham and roughly follow the path of the basin's edge. There's a major drop off just east of Chapel Hill and I think that basin.

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About the blogger

Like most meteorologists, Niki Morock has been interested in weather since she was a child. After earning a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from N.C. State University in 2007, Niki moved to Minnesota and worked at Weather Eye Radio Network as a broadcast meteorologist, doing daily, live call-ins to morning radio show hosts across the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains and covering severe weather as it happened. While there, she also volunteered as a Skywarn storm spotter trainer, teaching civilians and first responders how to identify parts of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and how to call in storm reports to the National Weather Service. Niki is now the vice president of the Central North Carolina Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and a member of the national American Meteorological Society.
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