Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/451

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

all levels. The first theory can be illustrated by sliding the fingers of the smooth hands over each other in opposite directions, while the second theory can be illustrated by sliding the fingers between one another on the same level; the fingers of the one hand will represent the warm currents and the fingers of the other hand the cold currents. This new view is really revolutionary because it renders inapplicable the integrations which were attempted by previous authors. Unfortunately the problem has become in this way so very complicated, that no one of sufficient ability has yet been found to carry out the necessary mathematical analysis with anything like fullness or precision. At present meteorologists are engaged, by means of balloon and kite ascensions, in determining the nature of the currents from the south and from the north which prevail in different localities. Europe has already done a great deal of work in this direction, and the United States has recently made a beginning. A few soundings have also been made over the Atlantic Ocean. Generally speaking, however, this is a great field of research which it will require much money and time to adequately complete. The circulation of the atmosphere, therefore, is a great and fascinating problem for future development, and indeed it may require more than one generation of scientists to bring it into subjection.

We have described the cold and warm currents as interpenetrating on the same levels like the fingers of the two opposite hands. Gravitation takes these warm and cold masses and seeks to make them interpenetrate yet more intimately, so that the warm masses will become more cooled, and the cold masses more warmed, and the isobars and isotherms coincide with each other and the gravity levels. It is a curious fact that masses of warm and cold air having any size are exceedingly reluctant to mix with one another; that is to say, the interchange of heat is a molecular process which naturally goes on slowly, and in accomplishing it, in the atmosphere, a great deal of energy must be expended. The great masses are first torn into shreds along their edges, and are gradually fritted away in the local cyclonic circulation. The energy that is felt in storms of any kind is merely an illustration of this thermodynamic process of interchanging temperature.


The Local Circulations

Historically speaking, the year 1896-7 marks the beginning of a period of transition in the history of local as well as general theoretical meteorology. There have been two schools of meteorology: one American, whose head is Ferrel, and one German, of which Guldberg and Mohn, Sprung, Oberbeck, Margules and Pockels are leaders. These two schools agreed in one particular, namely, in that they assumed that the cyclonic and anticyclonic circulations are symmetrical about a center.