Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/60

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more freely through dry air than through moist air, and so a greater amount of heat would reach the land surfaces of the globe under the conditions of extremes of elevation and depth, than during the periods of relative lowness and shallowness. Dry phases in the history of the earth mean, therefore, hot days. But they also mean cold nights, because for the same reason that the heat comes abundantly to the earth, it will be abundantly radiated away. Moist phases mean, on the other hand, cooler days and warmer nights. The same principle applies to the seasons, and so a phase of great elevations and depressions of the surface would also be another contributory factor on the side of extreme climatic conditions.

And a stage of greater elevation and depression would intensify its extreme conditions by the gradual accumulation of ice caps upon the polar regions and upon the more elevated mountain masses. This accumulation would be at the expense of the sea, whose surface would thus be further shrunken in comparison with the land.

Here, then, is another set of varying influences that will play in with and help or check the influence of the astronomical variations stated in § 1 and § 2. There are other more localized forces at work into which we cannot go in any detail here, but which will be familiar to the student of the elements of physical geography; the influence of great ocean currents in carrying warmth from equatorial to more temperate latitudes; the interference of mountain chains with the moisture borne by prevalent winds and the like. As in the slow processes of nature these currents are deflected or the mountain chains worn down or displaced by fresh upheavals, the climate over great areas will be changed and all the conditions of life changed with it. Under the incessant slow variations of these astronomical, telluric, and geographical influences life has no rest. As its conditions change it must change or perish.


§ 4

And while we are enumerating the forces that change climate and the conditions of terrestrial life, we may perhaps look ahead a little and add a fourth set of influences, at first unimportant in the history of the world so far as the land surface is concerned,