Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/441

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437
CIRCULATION OF THE ATMOSPHERE

THE CIRCULATIONS OF THE ATMOSPHERES OF THE EARTH AND OF THE SUN
By Professor FRANK H. BIGELOW

U. S. WEATHER BUREAU

The Two Causes of Circulation on a Non-Rotating Earth

Gravity, Temperature and Pressure

IT must seem rather ambitious to attempt to treat so great a subject as that of the circulation of the atmospheres of the earth and the sun in a single lecture. It is true that if it should be discussed fully, in the technical way, it would require a great many lectures, but of course there are at the same time certain fundamental principles which are common to all circulations that can easily be studied, and then illustrated by the known facts of the circulation in these two atmospheres. All circulation depends upon two primary causes, the first being the attraction of gravitation, by the laws of the action of the earth upon its atmosphere or the great body of the sun upon its atmosphere; and, secondly, the difference of temperature which exists in different parts of a given atmosphere. If we had an earth standing still in space without rotation upon its axis and the sun were withdrawn for a considerable time, the atmosphere of the earth would gradually settle down into a quiescent state, which may be described as consisting of a series of concentric shells, each shell having a certain fixed temperature passing around the earth at the same distance from a center, as if a balloon were floating at the same height above the surface, where will be found the same barometric pressure and the same temperature in all latitudes and longitudes. If the balloon falls from one shell to another it would pass into layers of greater density, and if it rises, into layers of less density. The boundary of each shell may be conceived as a surface having the same force of gravity acting upon it, and this is called the gravity level. In this case the surfaces of equal pressure or the isobars, and the surfaces of equal temperatures, isotherms, both coincide with their own gravity levels. Everything is quiescent and there is no circulation. It is quite important to secure a clear idea of the fact that the isobars, isotherms and gravity levels coincide wherever the layers in the atmosphere have the same temperature. As a matter of fact the earth is not without rotation, and the sun is shining upon it, sending enormous masses of heat which fall upon the tropics, and it is our problem to study the effect of this heat, at certain layers in the earth's atmosphere, upon the circulation of the entire mass.