Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/58

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52
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

who walk the earth and those who fly the air, do not exist. We will now consider some of the things that do exist and produce effects such as actual holes and half holes would produce—sudden drops, and occasional disastrous falls.

 

Aerial Fountains

A mass of air rises or falls according as its density is less or greater respectively than that of the surrounding atmosphere, just as, and for the same reason that a cork bobs up in water and a stone goes down. Hence warm and therefore expanded and light air is buoyed up whenever the surrounding air at the same level is colder; and as the atmosphere is heated mainly through contact with the surface of the earth, which in turn has been heated by sunshine, it follows that these convection currents, or vertical uprushes of the atmosphere, are most numerous during warm clear weather.

The turbulence of some of these rising columns is evident from the numerous rolls and billows of the large cumulus clouds they produce, and it is obvious that the same sort of turbulence, probably on a smaller scale, occurs near the tops of those columns that do not rise to the cloud level. Further, it is quite possible, when the air is exceptionally quiet, for a rising column to be rather sharply separated from the surrounding quiescent atmosphere, as is evident from the closely adhering long columns of smoke occasionally seen to rise from chimneys.

The velocity of ascent of such fountains of air is, at times, surprisingly great. Measurements on pilot balloons, and measurements taken in manned balloons, have shown vertical velocities, both up and down, of as much as 10 feet per second. The soaring of large birds is a further proof of an upward velocity of the same order of magnitude, while the fact that in cumulus clouds water drops and hailstones often are not only temporarily supported, but even carried to higher levels, shows that uprushes of 25 to 30 feet per second not merely may but actually do occur.

There are, then, aerial fountains of considerable vertical velocity whose sides at times and places may be almost as sharply separated from the surrounding air as are the sides of a fountain of water, and it is altogether possible for the swiftest of these to produce effects more or less disconcerting to the aeronaut. The trouble may occur:

1. On grazing the column, with one wing in the rising and the other in the stationary air; a condition that interferes with lateral stability, and produces a sudden shock both on entering the column and on leaving it.

2. On plunging squarely into the column; thus suddenly increasing the angle of attack, the pressure on the wings, and the angle of ascent.

3. On abruptly emerging from the column; thereby causing a