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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/344

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340
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

warmed water is, of course, lighter than the cooler water below and tends to float upon it. The difference in density thus caused makes it increasingly difficult for the wind to create and maintain a complete circulation of the water. For a time the action of the wind may continue to mix each successive stratum of water with that below it, the mixture extending to the bottom of the lake. But this action is a very different thing from a complete overturning of the water; and while it results in raising the temperature of the lower water, it does not carry freely oxygen to the bottom. Thus, when the surface becomes decidedly warmer than the water below it, the bottom water, though it continues to warm, is withdrawn from direct contact with the air and is therefore at a disadvantage in the matter of gaining a new supply of oxygen.

As the season advances this stratification of water dependent on temperature becomes accentuated, and the lake becomes separated into two parts: an upper warm stratum of nearly uniform temperature, beneath which lies the cold water consisting of a transition layer—the thermocline—in which the temperature is rapidly falling, and below this the mass of the cold water whose temperature ordinarily falls rather slowly with the depth until the bottom of the lake is reached. The thickness of the upper layer varies with the size of the lake, from ten to twelve feet to thirty or forty feet. It is present as a definite and permanent layer at a date varying with the area of the lake from late April to the middle of July. It increases in thickness after the cooling of the lake begins, but does not change much before that process commences.

This upper layer is subject to the direct action of the wind, is kept in circulation, and may be saturated with oxygen, or nearly so, but the only new supply of oxygen which the lower water can gain must come to it indirectly from the upper stratum. This condition of permanent stratification of the water comes on at the time when the life of the lake and its consequent need of oxygen are rising to the maximum, with the increasing warmth of summer and the development of life. The consumption of oxygen for the purposes of decomposition is also at a maximum. The separation of the lower water from the atmosphere in summer by a thick layer of warm water is therefore a much more serious thing than the separation of the water from the air in winter by ice. In winter the demand for oxygen is at a minimum and the stock contained in the water is at a maximum. In summer both of these conditions are exactly reversed. It is therefore necessary for us to inquire as to the means which the lake has for absorbing oxygen from the air and its means of transporting the gas from the surface to the place where it is to be used, and to note the efficiency of these processes as compared with the call for oxygen in the summer life of the lake.