curve here given illustrates these conditions (fig. 14). The summer maximum is largely due to fogs, which are produced where warm, damp air is chilled by coming in contact with ice. They are also formed over open waters, as among the Faeroe Islands, for example, and open water spaces, in the midst of an ice-covered sea, are commonly detected at a distance by means of the “steam fog” which rises from them. Fogs are less common in winter, when they occur as radiation fogs, of no great thickness. The small winter cloudiness, which is reported also from the antarctic zone, corresponds with the low absolute humidity and small precipitation. The coasts and islands bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream drift usually have a higher cloudiness in winter than in summer. The place of fog is in winter taken by the fine snow crystals, which often darken the air like fog when strong winds raise the dry snow from the surfaces on which it is lying. Cumulus cloud forms are rare, even in summer, and it is doubtful whether the cloud occurs at all in its typical development. Stratus is probably the commonest cloud of high latitudes, often covering the sky for days without a break. Cirrus cloud forms probably decrease polewards.
|Fig. 14.—Annual March of Cloudiness|
in Polar Latitudes (marine type).
Cyclones and Weather.—The prevailing westerlies continue up into the margins of the polar zones. Many of their cyclonic storms also continue on to the polar zones, giving sudden and irregular pressure and weather changes. The inner polar areas seem to be beyond the reach of frequent and violent cyclonic disturbance. Calms are more common; the weather is quieter and fairer; precipitation is less. Most of the observations thus far obtained from the Antarctic come from this marginal zone of great cyclonic activity, violent winds, and wet, disagreeable, inhospitable weather, and therefore do not show the features of the actual south polar climate.
During the three years of the “Fram’s” drift depressions passed on all sides of her, with a preponderance on the west. The direction of progression averaged nearly due east, and the hourly velocity 27 to 34 m., which is about that in the United States. For the higher latitudes, most of the cyclones must pass by on the equatorial side of the observer, giving “backing” winds in the northern hemisphere. The main cyclonic tracks are such that the wind characteristically backs in Iceland, and still more so in Jan Mayen and on the eastern coast of Greenland, these districts lying on the north and west of the path of progression. Frightful winter storms occasionally occur along the east coast of Greenland and off Spitzbergen.
For much of the year in the polar zones the diurnal control is weak or absent. The successive spells of stormy or of fine weather are wholly cyclonically controlled. Extraordinary records of storm and gale have been brought back from the far south and the far north. Wind direction and temperature vary in relation to the position of the cyclone. During the long dreary winter night the temperature falls to very low readings. Snowstorms and gales alternate at irregular short intervals with calmer spells of more extreme cold and clearer skies. The periods of greatest cold in winter are calm. A wind from any direction will bring a rise in temperature. This probably results from the fact that the cold is the result of local radiation, and a wind interferes with these conditions by importing higher temperatures, or by mixing upper and lower strata. During the long summer days the temperature rises well above the winter mean, and under favourable conditions certain phenomena, such as the diurnal variation in wind velocity, for example, give evidence of the diurnal control. But the irregular cyclonic weather changes continue, in a modified form. There is no really warm season. Snow still falls frequently. The summer is essentially only a modified winter, especially in the Antarctic. In summer clear spells are relatively warm, and winds bring lower temperatures. In spite of its lack of high temperatures, the northern polar summer, near the margins of the zone, has many attractive qualities in its clean, pure, crisp, dry air, free from dust and impurities; its strong insolation; its slight precipitation.
Twilight and Optical Phenomena.—The monotony and darkness of the polar night are decreased a good deal by the long twilight. Light from moon and stars, and from the aurora, also relieves the darkness. Optical phenomena of great variety, beauty and complexity are common. Solar and lunar haloes, and coronae, and mock suns and moons are often seen. Auroras seem to be less common and less brilliant in the Antarctic than in the Arctic. Sunset and sunrise colours within the polar zones are described as being extraordinarily brilliant and impressive.
Physiological Effects.—The north polar summer, as has been pointed out, in spite of its drawbacks, is in some respects a pleasant and healthful season. But the polar night is monotonous, depressing, repelling. Sir W. E. Parry said that it would be difficult to conceive of two things which are more alike than two polar winters. An everlasting uniform snow covering; rigidity; lifelessness; silence—except for the howl of the gale or the cracking of the ice. Small wonder that the polar night has sometimes unbalanced men’s minds. The first effects are often a strong desire for sleep, and indifference. Later effects have been sleeplessness and nervousness, tending in extreme cases to insanity; anaemia, digestive troubles. Extraordinarily low winter temperatures are easily borne if the air be dry and still. Zero weather seems pleasantly refreshing if clear and calm. But high relative humidity and wind—even a light breeze—give the same degree of cold a penetrating feeling of chill which may be unbearable. Large temperature ranges are endured without danger in the polar winter when the air is dry. When exposed to direct insolation the skin burns and blisters; the lips swell and crack. Thirst has been much complained of by polar explorers, and is due to the active evaporation from the warm body into the dry, relatively cold air. There is no doubt that polar air is singularly free from micro-organisms—a fact which is due chiefly to lack of communication with other parts of the world. Hence many diseases which are common in temperate zones, “colds” among them, are rare.
Changes of Climate. Popular Belief in Climatic Change.—Belief in a change in the climate of one’s place of residence, within a few generations, and even within the memory of living men, is widespread. Evidence is constantly being brought forward of apparent climatic variations of greater or less amount which are now taking place. Thus we have many accounts of a gradual desiccation which seems to have been going on over a large region in Central Asia during historical times. In northern Africa certain ancient historical records have been taken by different writers to indicate a general decrease of rainfall during the last 3000 or more years. In his crossing of the Sahara between Algeria and the Niger, E. F. Gautier found evidence of a former large population. A gradual desiccation of the region is therefore believed to have taken place, but to-day the equatorial rain belt seems to be again advancing farther north, giving an increased rainfall. Farther south, several lakes have been reported as decreasing in size, e.g. Chad and Victoria; and wells and springs as running dry. In the Lake Chad district A. J. B. Chevalier reports the discovery of vegetable and animal remains which indicate an invasion of the Sudan by a Saharan climate. It is often held that a steady decrease in rainfall has taken place over Greece, Syria and other eastern Mediterranean lands, resulting in a gradual and inevitable deterioration and decay of their people. What Meteorological Records show.—As concerns the popular impression regarding change of climate, it is clear at the start that no definite answer can be given on the basis of tradition or of general impression. The only answer of real value must be based on the records of accurate instruments, properly exposed and carefully read. When such instrumental records