Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/524

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Service would meet with opposition, even among those who would be most benefited by such extension. Yet the demands of science are daily becoming more inexorable, and the progress of meteorology toward the stand-point of an exact science is assured by the labors of those who have charge of the Signal Service.

At one time most of our American colleges and universities conducted meteorological observations. These observations were industriously made and conscientiously carried on, but were very much like private measurements of rain-fall and barometer heights—notes of the first coming of the golden robin in spring—and journals of cold or hot days. Meteorological observations which are not taken simultaneously over extended areas are of little value, save to the compilers of local almanacs. The Signal Service, having relieved four universities of their onerous meteorological responsibilities, doubtless feels indebted to them for pointing the way, and would be grateful if the universities could lead them one step higher, since it is one of the functions of a university to be always a little in advance of the ruling conditions of popular knowledge. Some plan of co-operation might be devised, by which the universities and colleges along our Atlantic sea-coast could aid the Signal Service in testing the value of more delicate investigations upon atmospheric changes than can be carried on at the present Government stations. Harvard University, Yale, Columbia, Princeton Colleges, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University could, doubtless, provide suitable rooms and experienced assistants for testing the value of simultaneous observations upon various phenomena which are not at present taken into account in weather predictions. We judge at present of climatic changes by observations aboveground; it may be that the presence of earth-currents of electricity, of fluctuations in the earth's magnetism, of waves of heat through the superficial layers of the earth, may reveal important factors in announcing meteorological changes. Simultaneous observations, upon the slight earthquake-shocks which are continually pulsating beneath the apparently calm surface upon which our great cities are built, may have important relations to conditions of heat and cold. The mere mention of these unobserved phenomena is sufficient to show the state of our ignorance, and to lead us to expect that investigations in physical laboratories will be of practical value in leading the Signal Service to extend its usefulness.

The electrical state of the air is supposed to have great influence upon the proper conditions for fair weather and for storms, and to also affect the states of health and disease; but no definite information has been collected which bears upon these points. The Signal Service would aid the science of meteorology very greatly by extending observations on the electrical state of the air over large areas of territory.

The apparatus for studying the electricity of the atmosphere is