Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/447

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

The picture which is presented by these ideal rings starting from latitude 33° in each hemisphere and moving respectively towards the poles and towards the equator is not very complete, because the rings do not continue to move as a whole with an increase or decrease of velocity. If we examine the actual velocity of the air in a given latitude, as over the city of Washington or again in the tropics, as over the Barbadoes, we shall find the following facts: At the ground in Washington the wind averages about six meters per second eastward; at an elevation of 2,000 meters the eastward velocity is about eighteen meters per second; at 4,000, it is about twenty-four meters per second; at 6,000, it is about twenty-eight meters per second; and at 10,000, it is about thirty-four meters per second.

Above this level the air moves eastward at a rate of about forty meters per second; that is, ninety miles per hour. That is to say the eastward velocity or the eastward drift increases upwards with the distance from the ground. Now these velocities are maintained throughout the year with certain seasonal variations, though, of course, they are at times disturbed by certain local circulations as when storms disturb the normal movements of the air. The gyrating rings then which we first considered may be more accurately described as sheets of air parallel with the earth's surface which flow over each other at different speeds, the upper sheets flowing faster than the lower sheets. This may be practically seen in the cirrus clouds which are higher than the cumulus clouds, and move eastward as a whole with twice as great velocity. It is evident that we have here another type of vortex motion. What we first considered in the course of our definition was a vortex in which the inner rings rotate faster than the outer rings, but in this case of the torque in the northern hemisphere, for example, we have the upper rings moving faster than the lower rings. This apparent inconsistency may be reconciled by assuming that the axis of the upper rings instead of being a line, as in the other case, is really a spherical surface high above the ground outside the earth's surface, to which the actual motion has to be referred. Mathematically considered such a spherical sheet is in certain aspects equivalent to a line so far as the reference of motion is concerned; that is, the motion may be a maximum along a spherical sheet in one case, or a maximum around an axial line in the other case.

Turning now to the tropics and examining the motion of the air in a vertical section just as we did in the north temperate zone, we find that the westward motion is distributed very differently. At the surface the westward motion is greatest, and it decreases gradually on going upwards from the ground till at 10,000 meters or so it has decreased to zero, and above that region an eastward motion sets in, gradually increasing with the height. The westward branch of the torque