Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/666

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that is to say, they do not face the wind like the pointer of a wind- vane.

When all this is done, we can see at a glance whether or how wind, rain, cloud, and blue sky are connected with the shape of the isobars. In fact, a synoptic chart gives us, as it were, a bird's-eye view of the weather at the particular moment for which the chart is constructed, over the whole district from which reports have been received. Sup- pose, now, that after an interval of twenty-four hours another chart is constructed from observations taken over the same area, then we generally find that the shape of the isobars and the position of the areas of high and low pressure have considerably changed, and with them the positions of those areas where the weather is good or bad. For instance, suppose that at 8 a. m. on one morning we find pressure low over Ireland and high over Denmark, with rain over Ireland, cloud over England, and blue sky in Denmark; and that by 8 a. m. on the following day we find that the low-pressure area has advanced to Denmark, and that a new high pressure has formed over Ireland, with rain in Denmark, broken sky in England, and blue sky in Ireland; suppose, too, that the record of the weather, say in London, for those twenty-four hours had been as follows—cloudy sky, followed by rain, after which the sky broke—how can an inspection of the two charts help us to explain the weather as observed in London during that day? Our bird's-eye view would show that the rain-area which lay over Ireland in the morning had drifted during the day over England, in- cluding London, and covered Denmark by next morning. It would also tell us that the position of the rain was identified with and moved along with the low pressure. This is the fundamental idea of all synoptic meteorology, but one which can only be thoroughly grasped after a considerable experience in tracing actual cases.

Such, then, is a synoptic chart. Many thousands have been con- structed for all parts of the world, and by comparing them the follow- ing important generalizations have been arrived at:

1. That in general the configuration of the isobars takes one of seven well-defined forms.

2. That, independent of the shape of the isobars, the wind always takes a definite direction relative to the trend of these lines, and the position of the nearest area of low pressure.

3. That the velocity of the wind is always nearly proportional to the closeness of the isobars.

4. That the weather—that is to say, the kind of cloud, rain, fog, etc.—at any moment depends on the shape, and not the closeness, of the isobars, some shapes being associated with good and others with bad weather.

5. That the regions thus mapped out by the isobars were constantly shifting their position, so that changes of weather were caused by the drifting past of these areas of good or bad weather, just as on a small