Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/905

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round, but the immense demand for air to supply the ascending currents over the heated land surfaces in summer causes the normal descending movement to be largely reinforced; hence the “North Atlantic anticyclone” is much larger, and its circulation more vigorous, in summer than in winter. Again, during the winter months pressure is relatively high over North America, Western Eurasia and the Arctic regions; hence vast quantities of air are brought down to the surface, and circulation must be kept up by ascending currents over the ocean. The Atlantic anticyclone is, therefore, at its weakest in winter, and on its polar side the polar eddy becomes a trough of low pressure, extending roughly from Labrador to Iceland and Jan Mayen, and traversed by a constant succession of cyclones. The net effect of the surrounding land is, in fact, to reverse the seasonal variations of the planetary circulation, but without destroying its type. In the intermediate belt between the two high-pressure areas the meteorological equator remains permanently north of the geographical equator, moving between it and about 11° N. lat.

The part of this atmospheric circulation which is steadiest in its action is the trade winds, and this is, therefore, the most effective in producing drift movement of the surface waters. The trade winds give rise, in the region most exposed to their influence, to two westward-moving drifts—the equatorial currents, which are separated in parts of their course by currents moving in the opposite direction along the equatorial belt. These last may be of the nature of “reaction” currents; they are collectively known as the equatorial counter-current. On reaching the South American coast, the southern equatorial current splits into two parts at Cape St Roque: one branch, Currents. the Brazil current, is deflected southwards and follows the coast as a true stream current at least as far as the river Plate. The second branch proceeds north-westwards towards the West Indies, where it mingles with the waters of the northern equatorial; and the two drifts, blocked by the <-shape of the land, raise the level of the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and in the whole area outside the West Indies. This congestion is relieved by what is probably the most rapid and most voluminous stream current in the world, the Gulf Stream, which runs along the coast of North America, separated from it by a narrow strip of cold water, the “cold wall,” to a point off the south-east of Newfoundland. At this point the Gulf Stream water mixes with that from the Labrador current (see below), and a drift current eastwards is set up under the influence of the prevailing westerly winds: this is generally called the Gulf Stream drift. When the Gulf Stream drift approaches the eastern side of the Atlantic it splits into two parts, one going southwards along the north-west coast of Africa, the Canaries current, and another turning northwards and passing to the west of the British Isles. Most of the Canaries current re-enters the northern equatorial, but a certain proportion keeps to the African coast, unites with the equatorial return currents, and penetrates into the Gulf of Guinea. This last feature of the circulation is still somewhat obscure; it is probably to be accounted for by the fact that on this part of the coast the prevailing winds, although to a considerable extent monsoonal, are off-shore winds, blowing the surface waters out to sea, and the place of the water thus removed is filled up by the water derived either from lower levels or from “reaction” currents.

The movements of the northern branch of the Gulf Stream drift have been the object of more careful and more extended study than all the other currents of the ocean put together, except, perhaps, the Gulf Stream itself. The cruises of the “Porcupine” and “Lightning” which led directly to the despatch of the “Challenger” expedition, were altogether within its “sphere of influence”; so also was the great Norwegian Atlantic expedition. More recently, the area has been further explored by the German expedition in the ss. “National,” the Danish “Ingolf” expedition, and the minor expeditions of the “Michael Sars,” “Jackal,” “Research,” &c., and since 1902 it has been periodically examined by the International Council for the Study of the Sea. Much has also been done by the discussion of observations made on board vessels belonging to the mercantile marine of various countries. It may now be taken as generally admitted that the current referred to breaks into three main branches. The first passes northwards, most of it between the Faeroe and Shetland Islands, to the coast of Norway, and so on to the Arctic basin, which, as Nansen has shown, it fills to a great depth. The second, the Irminger stream, passes up the west side of Iceland; and the third goes up to the Greenland side of Davis Strait to Baffin Bay. These branches are separated from one another at the surface by currents moving southwards: one passes east of Iceland; the second, the Greenland current, skirts the east coast of Greenland; and the third, the Labrador current already mentioned, follows the western side of Davis Strait.

The development of the equatorial and the Brazil currents in the South Atlantic has already been described. On the polar side of the high-pressure area a west wind drift is under the control of the “roaring forties,” and on reaching South Africa part of this is deflected and sent northwards along the west coast as the cold Benguella current which rejoins the equatorial. In the central parts of the two high-pressure areas there is practically no surface circulation. In the North Atlantic this region is covered by enormous banks of gulf-weed (Sargassum bucciferum), hence the name Sargasso Sea. The Sargasso Sea is bounded, roughly, by the lines of 20°-35° N. lat. and 40°-75° W. long.

The sub-surface circulation in the Atlantic may be regarded as consisting of two parts. Where surface water is banked up against the land, as by the equatorial and Gulf Stream drift currents, it appears to penetrate to very considerable depths; the escaping stream currents are at first of great vertical thickness and part of the water at their sources has a downward movement. In the case of the Gulf Stream, which is not much impeded by the land, this descending motion is relatively slight, being perhaps largely due to the greater specific gravity of the water; it ceases to be perceptible beyond about 500 fathoms. On the European-African side the descending movement is more marked, partly because the coast-line is much more irregular and the northward current is deflected against it by the earth’s rotation, and partly because of the outflow of salt water from the Mediterranean; here the movement is traceable to at least 1000 fathoms. The northward movement of water across the Norwegian Sea extends down from the surface to the Iceland-Shetland ridge, where it is sharply cut off; the lower levels of the Norwegian Sea are filled with ice-cold Arctic water, close down to the ridge. The south-moving currents originating from melting ice are probably quite shallow. The second part of the circulation in the depth is the slow “creep” of water of very low temperature along the bottom. The North Atlantic being altogether cut off from the Arctic regions, and the vertical circulation being active, this movement is here practically non-existent; but in the South Atlantic, where communication with the Southern Ocean is perfectly open, Antarctic water can be traced to the equator and even beyond.

The tides of the Atlantic Ocean are of great complexity. The tidal wave of the Southern Ocean, which sweeps uninterruptedly round the globe from the east to west, generates a secondary wave between Africa and South America, which travels north at a rate dependent only on the depth of the ocean. With this “free” wave is combined a “forced” wave, generated, by the direct action of the sun and moon, within the Atlantic area itself. Nothing is known about the relative importance of these two waves.  (H. N. D.) 

ATLANTIS, Atalantis, or Atlantica, a legendary island in the Atlantic Ocean, first mentioned by Plato in the Timaeus. Plato describes how certain Egyptian priests, in a conversation with Solon, represented the island as a country larger than Asia Minor and Libya united, and situated just beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar). Beyond it lay an archipelago of lesser islands. According to the priests, Atlantis had been a powerful kingdom nine thousand years before the birth of Solon, and its armies had overrun the lands which