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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/813

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WEATHER FREAKS OF THE WEST INDIES.

WEATHER FREAKS OF THE WEST INDIES.
By F. L. OSWALD.

A UNITED STATES army officer, who describes the trials of garrison life in the far Southwest, remarks that the valley of the Rio Gila, though an inferno of dyspeptics, would be a paradise of weather observers, as they could stereotype their reports for a year in advance, and then go to sleep, merely leaving instructions to be waked at the approach of the one annual rain shower.

With a similar precaution for a possible lucid interval of showers, certain districts of western Oregon might enable an employee of the Signal Bureau to indulge at least the luxury of hibernation; but with every mile farther east the use of stereotypes would become more precarious, and the busiest American colleague of those Pacific sinecurists would probably be a "forecast manager," stationed on the southeast coast of Cuba.

Weather changes depend upon a variety of local conditions, modified by external influences, and on the two main islands of the West Indies the aggregate of those factors is complex indeed. A number of densely wooded mountain ranges, varying from low hill chains to Alplike sierras, alternate with arid plains and reeking jungles, and air currents from the eight principal points of the compass are apt to cause as many different modifications of humidity and temperature.

These imported meteorological tendencies have often to be taken into account to explain the curious weather freaks of special districts. The almost infallible visitations of cold waves that interrupt the summer heat of our Atlantic coast States about the beginning of July have been ascribed to the transit of iceberg chains drifting southward after the melting of their arctic moorings; but in the province of Santiago de Cuba these cooling and even chilling breezes come from the southwest, and have been traced to a reduction of temperature caused by the tremendous rainfalls in the coast forests of Honduras and Yucatan.

Straight west winds, on the other hand, often raise the mercury thirty degrees above the average of the summer season. The Gulf of Mexico has failed to neutralize the sirocco breath of the burning sand wastes flanking the valley of the Rio Grande. In the coast towns of Puerto Principe southern breezes may cool a midsummer night sufficiently to drive the natives from their house-top dormitories, and make foreigners supplement the scant bed cover of their posada with the contents of the dry-goods trunk; but the next night the northward shifting of the sea wind will illustrate the wisdom of the architect who has crowned the conveniences of the dwelling house