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CLIMATE AND CLIMATOLOGY

Interesting confirmation of Brückner’s 35-year period has been found by E. Richter in the variations of the Swiss glaciers, but as these glaciers differ in length, they do not all advance and retreat at the same time. The advance is seen during the cold and damp periods. Brückner has found certain districts in which the phases and epochs of the climatic cycle are exactly reversed. These exceptional districts are almost altogether limited to marine climates. There is thus a sort of compensation between oceans and continents. The rainier periods on the continents are accompanied by relatively low pressures, while the pressures are high and the period dry over the oceans and vice versa. The cold and rainy periods are also marked by a decrease in all pressure differences. It is obvious that changes in the general distribution of atmospheric pressures, over extended areas, are closely associated with fluctuations in temperature and rainfall. These changes in pressure distribution must in some way be associated with changes in the general circulation of the atmosphere, and these again must depend upon some external controlling cause or causes. W. J. S. Lockyer has called attention to the fact that there seems to be a periodicity of about 35 years in solar activity, and that this corresponds with the Brückner period.

It is clear that the existence of a 35-year period will account for many of the views that have been advanced in favour of a progressive change of climate. A succession of a few years wetter or drier than the normal is likely to lead to the conclusion that the change is permanent. Accurate observations extending over as many years as possible, and discussed without prejudice, are necessary before any conclusions are drawn. Observations for one station during the wetter part of a cycle should not be compared with observations for another station during the drier part of the same, or of another cycle.

There are evidences of longer climatic cycles than eleven or 35 years. Brückner calls attention to the fact that sometimes two of his periods seem to merge into one. E. Richter shows much the same thing for the Alpine glaciers. Evidence of considerable climatic changes since the last glacial period is not lacking. But as yet nothing sufficiently definite to warrant general conclusions has been brought forward.

Geological Changes in Climate.—Changes of climate in the geological past are known with absolute certainty to have taken place: periods of glacial invasion, as well as periods of more genial conditions. The evidence, and the causes of these changes have been discussed and re-discussed, by writers almost without number, and from all points of view. Changes in the intensity of insolation; in the sun itself; in the conditions of the earth’s atmosphere; in the astronomical relations of earth and sun; in the distribution of land and water; in the position of the earth’s axis; in the altitude of the land; in the presence of volcanic dust;—now cosmic, now terrestrial conditions—have been suggested, combated, put forward again. None of these hypotheses has prevailed in preference to others. No actual proof of the correctness of this or that theory has been brought forward. No general agreement has been reached.

Conclusion.—Without denying the possibility, or even the probability, of the establishment of the fact of secular changes, there is as yet no sufficient warrant for believing in considerable permanent changes over large areas. Dufour, after a thorough study of all available evidence, has concluded that a change of climate has not been proved. There are periodic oscillations of slight amount. A 35-year period is fairly well established, but is nevertheless of considerable irregularity, and cannot as yet be practically applied in forecasting. Longer periods are suggested, but not made out. As to causes, variations in solar activity are naturally receiving attention, and the results thus far are promising. But climate is a great complex, and complete and satisfactory explanations of all the facts will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to reach. At present, indeed, the facts which call for explanation are still in most cases but poorly determined, and the processes at work are insufficiently understood. Climate is not absolutely a constant. The pendulum swings to the right and to the left. And its swing is as far to the right as to the left. Each generation lives through a part of one, or two, or even three oscillations. A snapshot view of these oscillations makes them seem permanent. As Supan has well said, it was formerly believed that climate changes locally, but progressively and permanently. It is now believed that oscillations of climate are limited in time, but occur over wide areas.

Literature.—Scientific climatology is based upon numerical results, obtained by systematic, long continued, accurate meteorological observations. The essential part of its literature is therefore found in the collections of data published by the various meteorological services. The only comprehensive text-book of climatology is the Handbuch der Klimatologie of Professor Julius Hann, of the university of Vienna (Stuttgart, 1897). This is the standard book on the subject, and upon it is based much of the present article, and of other recent discussions of climate. The first volume deals with general climatology, and has been translated into English (London and New York, 1903). Reference should be made to this book for further details than are here given. The second and third volumes are devoted to the climates of the different countries of the world. Woeikof’s Die Klimate der Erde (Jena, 1887) is also a valuable reference book. The standard meteorological journal of the world, the Meteorologische Zeitschrift (Braunschweig, monthly), is indispensable to any one who wishes to keep in touch with the latest publications. The Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (London), Symons’s Monthly Meteorological Magazine (London), and the Monthly Weather Review (Washington, D.C.) are also valuable. The newest and most complete collection of charts is that in the Atlas of Meteorology (London, 1899), in which also there is an excellent working bibliography. For the titles of more recent publications reference may be made to the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature (Meteorology).  (R. De C. W.) 

Climate in the Treatment of Disease.—The most important qualities of the atmosphere in relation to health are (i.) the chemical composition, (ii.) the solids floating in it, (iii.) the mean and extreme temperatures, (iv.) the degree of humidity, (v.) the diathermancy, (vi.) the intensity of light, (vii.) the electrical conditions, (viii.) the density and pressure, and (ix.) the prevailing winds. Generally speaking, the relative purity of the air—i.e. absence of septic solid particles—is an important consideration; while cold acts as a stimulant and tonic, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled in the twenty-four hours. Different individuals, however, react both to heat and cold very differently. At health resorts, where the temperature may vary between 55° and 70° F., strong individuals gradually lose strength and begin to suffer from various degrees of lassitude; whereas a delicate person under the same conditions gains vigour both of mind and body, puts on weight, and is less liable to disease. And a corresponding intensity of cold acts in the reverse manner in each case. Thus a health resort with a moderate degree of heat is very valuable for delicate or elderly people, and those who are temporarily weakened by illness. Cold, however, when combined with wind and damp must be specially avoided by the aged, the delicate, and those prone to gouty and rheumatic affections. The moisture of the atmosphere controls the distribution of warmth on the earth, and is closely bound up with the prevailing winds, temperature, light and pressure. In dry air the evaporation from both skin and lungs is increased, especially if the sunshine be plentiful and the altitude high. In warm moist air strength is lost and there is a distinct tendency to intestinal troubles. In moist cold air perspiration is checked, and rheumatic and joint affections are very common. The main differences between mountain air and that of the plains depend on the former being more rarefied, colder, of a lower absolute humidity, and offering less resistance to the sun’s rays. As the altitude is raised, circulation and respiration are quickened, probably as an effort on the part of the organism to compensate for the diminished supply of oxygen, and somewhat more gradually the number of red blood corpuscles increases, this increase persisting for a considerable time after a return to lower ground. In addition to these changes there is a distinct tendency to diminished proteid metabolism, resulting in an increase of weight owing to the storage of proteid in the tissues. Thus children and young people whose development is not yet complete are especially likely to benefit by the impetus given to growth and the blood-forming organs, and the therapeutic value in their case rarely fails. For older people, however, the benefit depends on whether their organs of circulation and respiration