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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/246

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

if you live on the equator—I use ordinary terms instead of astronomical ones for simplicity's sake—-is so comparatively small that within the tropics themselves you never notice much difference as to the amount of heat between one period of the year and another. In equatorial countries the day and night temperature is much the same all the year round: if the country be plain, it is always hot; if mountainous, like the district about Bogotá, it is "a perpetual spring"; one day is always much the same as the one that went before and the one that comes after it. Even on the actual tropics, again, the difference is too slight to make any marked change in the temperature; people living on the northern tropic (Cancer), for example, have the sun vertical to them on June 21st, and some forty-three degrees south of them on December 21st. Nevertheless, the sun is still as near them and as powerful as he is at Milan or Venice in the height of summer; and the consequence is that, as a matter of fact, the thermometer within the tropics and at sea level seldom descends below 75° or 80°, even at midnight in the relative winters. For the heating power of the sun depends, of course, upon the directness of his rays, and lessens with their obliquity; in Venice and Milan they are strong enough to make the ground very hot in July and August, though it has been cooled before by a northern winter; much more than in Jamaica or Madagascar, which have never been cooled, does the accumulated heat keep everything warm even when the sun is most oblique—and he never reaches the same obliquity as in an English summer. The ground is hot, the houses are hot, wood and stone are hot, and they have all been hot from time immemorial.

Yet tropical and equatorial trees and plants have their definite seasons to flower and fruit, just the same as elsewhere. This seems surprising at first when one visits the tropics. You can not see why everything should not flower and fruit the whole year round. And yet, at one time pineapples are "in," at another mangoes. And these seasons differ in the northern and southern hemispheres; what is mango winter in the one being mango summer in the other. I do not say the seasons anywhere in the tropics differ markedly; still, they do differ; the tropical year is divided into times and months for agriculture just as much as any other. Thus there are regular dates in each hemisphere for planting, tending, and cutting the sugar cane. Now, what is the reason of these changes in vegetation, when temperature remains so constant? Why do not trees and shrubs of each kind flower up and down throughout the year irregularly—now one individual and now another? Why are there seasons for things at all in the tropics?

The answer is, because the same causes which produce summer