Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/47

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37
OCEAN METEOROLOGY.

already obtained, and probably entitle the whole to be regarded as among the most splendid achievements of the age. With this system established, and conducted as it ought to be, no ship need ever put to sea from any of our seaports in ignorance of the approaching storm. A like system for the British Islands and the Continent would lead to like results there; many storms, after visiting our shores, travel across the ocean and carry devastation there. Should the sub-Atlantic telegraph be laid, and, when laid, should it answer its ends, warnings of all such storms may be sent across the ocean several days in advance." —("Sailing Directions," by Lieutenant M. F. Maury, U. S. N., vol. i., p. viii. of Introduction.)

To recur to the problem of the meteorologist of to-day, it assumes three distinct phases: first, from a number of observations extending through many years and over a large expanse of land or sea, to discover the laws of atmospheric phenomena; second, from an unbroken series of observations at any one place, through a sufficiently long period to eliminate all merely adventitious changes, to determine the climate of that place; and third, from a number of simultaneous observations at different points of any circumscribed area, to predict what the weather will be over that area for any short time.

The solution of the first phase is all but complete: the great governing principles of our atmosphere are now quite well known—it is only the details that need defining. That of the second phase can scarcely be said to be more than begun: in only a few places on the globe have accurate observations been continued for a long enough period to reliably define their climates; but of late years, especially during the last twenty, such an interest has been awakened in this subject, that ere the century closes very many cities will possess the data for thoroughly describing the atmospheric changes to which they are subject, not according to the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, but by accurate records—figures that never deceive.

The effect of the weather upon mankind is only too well known: with the invalid or convalescent it is often a matter of life or death; with us all, how different our feelings on a fresh, genial day, when the air is dry and bracing, and a bright sun illumines an azure sky—how elastic, how full of vigor are we, compared with the lethargy that seizes us in somber, bleak weather, when dense, misty clouds hang in heavy folds around us, and shade even our very sensations with their gloom!

In Boston, the east wind of spring and autumn is a source of annoyance to its inhabitants; it comes laden with moisture and—coughs. In California, it is an equally unwelcome visitor, but for a very different reason: it parches and all but cracks the skin. In both places, the relative prevalence of this wind is a fact important to know. In Buffalo, the storms that sweep in from the lakes are disagreeable in the extreme; in Texas, the fierce blast of the norther is often very