Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/317

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299
THE INTERNATIONAL WEATHER-SERVICE.

vations and amasses its corresponding charts. Every cooperator in the work, it should be added, is encouraged and stimulated by the fact that a daily copy of both the "International Bulletin" and "Chart" is furnished by the United States, without cost, to each observer, on land or at sea, of whatever nation, who, at the request or with the sanction of the Chief Signal-Officer, cooperates in the enterprise.

We come now to the question of the practical application and utility of the data and charts published in connection with the international weather-service. And here the embarrassment arises from the multiplicity of matters, affecting almost every interest and industry of mankind, upon which this service will bear. There is not a profession, or trade, or handicraft in society which is not at every turn more or less influenced by the weather, and compelled to act upon some kind of weather-forecasts. No sooner had the Weather Bureau commenced its daily publication of "Probabilities" or "Indications," in 1870, than "whole troops of practical applications" of the data sprang into existence. It will be so with the international bulletin and charts of simultaneous meteorology.

One of the first practical applications of the simultaneous observations over the northern hemisphere will be realized in the elucidation and correction of "the law of storms," and of the rules for the extrication of ships from the storm-vortex. Great have been the intellect and learning employed in the settlement of this question, so important to commerce and navigation. The time-honored researches of Redfield, Reid, Espy, Piddington, Thom, and others of the past, supplemented and harmonized in a measure by those of living laborers in the storm-field, have indeed established the existence of a "law of storms" upon an unassailable foundation. But they have not defined some of its cardinal conditions. The definition of storms as "revolving gales," in which the winds blow in concentric circles around a calm center, has been rudely damaged by the facts every day brought to light. And the contrary theory, that the storm-winds blow in radial lines toward the vortex, has not fared much better. The intermediate hypothesis, that the winds blow in regular spirals around the center, while it apparently reconciles some of the otherwise conflicting facts, and has given a temporary quietus to the storm controversy, strictly speaking, is not less objectionable than either of the theories it affects to correct: for it apparently obliterates, or seemingly ignores, the two large and distinct classes of indisputable wind-phenomena upon which the rival deductions of Redfield and Espy were respectively based. Time has fully demonstrated the insufficiency of both the "circular" and the "centripetal" theory to account satisfactorily for all the salient and phenomenal features of a cyclone, but it has attested the immense value of them both as scientific approximations to the truth. But, it must also be said, the theory of "spiral" currents arranged symmetrically around the storm-center does not furnish a complete so-