Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/407

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RECENT SCIENCE.

However, the very progress achieved demonstrated the necessity of a more thorough knowledge of the too much neglected upper currents of the atmosphere. In Dove's scheme, the upper equatorial current, after part of it had been sent back to the equator, was entirely abandoned to itself, to make its way as best it could against the opposed polar winds; but the existence of a strong, nearly permanent, and relatively warm upper wind blowing toward the east in our latitudes—which was only probable thirty years ago[1]—became more and more evident, especially since the movements of clouds began to be systematically studied and observatories were erected on high mountains; and this wind remained unexplained in Dove's theory, while in Maury's scheme of atmospheric circulation, which is still in great vogue in our schools, there was even substituted for it a current in an opposite direction, which does not exist, and which Maury himself could not account for.[2] An entire revision of the subject was thus necessary, and this revision has been done by the American meteorologist Ferrel, in a series of elaborate works which are only now beginning to receive from meteorologists the attention they fully deserve.

Ferrel's theory is based upon considerations as to the laws of motion of liquids and gases of different densities. If the whole atmosphere were equally heated in all its parts, and at full rest, the air would be disposed in horizontal layers, of greater density at the bottom, and of decreasing density toward the top. Considering some part only of the atmosphere, from pole to equator, and neglecting the curved surface of the earth, we should thus have something analogous to a trough filled with layers of different liquids. If one end of the trough were now warmed, and the other end were cooled, the layers would be horizontal no more.


  1. Observations in Siberia—namely, at the graphite works on Mount Alibert, at a height of eight thousand feet (52° north latitude)—were especially conclusive. Alibert's observations, buried in the Russian Trudy of the Siberian expedition, proved the existence of a nearly permanent west and west-northwest wind on the top of the peak, and they showed at the same time that the average yearly temperature on the top of the peak was by some fourteen to eighteen Fahrenheit degrees higher than it otherwise ought to be. When I visited the then abandoned mine in 1864, and saw the peak dominating all surrounding mountains, and could judge of the force of the west wind from the immense works accomplished to protect the road which was traced on the western side of the peak, I could not refrain from explaining the extraordinary great height of the snow-line in east Siberia by the existence of a relatively warm equatorial current blowing with a great force at a height of from eight to ten thousand feet in the latitude of 52° north. Later on the observations which I brought from the Voznesensk mine (60° north, altitude twenty-six hundred and twenty feet) induced my friend Ferd. Müller, who calculated those observations, to conclude that in higher latitudes the same current descends still lower to the earth's surface, and still maintains some of its initial warmth.
  2. See James Thomson's paper On the Grand Currents of the Atmosphere, in Philosophical Transactions, A. 1892, p. 071.