Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/February 1906/Recent Advances in Meteorology and Meteorological Service in Japan

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 68 February 1906  (1906) 
Recent Advances in Meteorology and Meteorological Service in Japan by S. Tetsu Tamura




TEN years ago, after Japan's sweeping victory over China, the world was awakened to realize that the Japanese were more than yellow barbarians. And only a score of months ago, when Japan made a declaration of war, Russia scoffed at Japan's overtures, and the world pitied her. To the American and the European eye, it seemed like simple suicide for Japan to go to war with the seemingly most powerful nation on the earth. The opinion that Japan would be wiped out of existence once prevailed even in well-informed military and naval circles. Japan has, however, crushed the faith and the fear. She has triumphed so completely that the world now recognizes that this nation possesses a great fighting power and mighty fighting machines. But how few, indeed, realize that, behind this warlike scene, our men of science are industriously and ingeniously attacking great problems of nature, making discoveries and inventions, valuable not only for warfare, but also for the welfare of humanity, and for the progress of science itself. Saying nothing of the knightly spirit of old Samurai, which has been the soul of Japan, the most important factor in the making of new Japan has been her readiness in scientific research and the applications of science to the arts of peace and war. Japan is preeminently a land of science. It is said that there are more people in Japan who read the books of Darwin and Huxley, Spencer and Mill, Faraday and Tyndall, than in England, the land where these great thinkers lived. "What will Japan do after peace is attained?" This question is often asked, and all intelligent Japanese will unanimously answer that "Japan will once more fight a great battle, not naval or military, but intellectual, for the recognition of her scientific achievements in the world."

Elsewhere I expect to give a full account of the recent progress of science in Japan, but my present task is an attempt to give, within a short space, some idea of the Japanese meteorological service[1] and recent advances in meteorology. One of the Washington newspapers stated some time ago that even Japan has a weather-bureau system. The fact is that the U. S. Signal Service, which was the forerunner of the present U. S. Weather Bureau, was established in 1870, and that Japan had, as early as in 1872, a meteorological observatory at Hakodaté, and the Japanese meteorological service was organized in 1875, the exchange of international simultaneous reports with the U. S. Signal Office of Washington having been established twenty-eight years ago. The organization of the Japanese Meteorological Service, however, was not completed until a system of weather telegraphy was inaugurated and weather maps with forecasts were printed in 1883.

The Meteorological Service of Japan is placed under the direction of the Central Meteorological Observatory and under the supervision of the Minister of State for Education; it maintains 134 meteorological stations, of which 70 are the provincial stations of the first order, 2 are attached to the Central Observatory, 7 are controlled by the Governor General of Formosa and the rest are the stations of the second order. All of these first and second stations send their meteorological reports to the Central Meteorological Observatory and exchange daily telegrams with the latter. Besides these, there are 1,214 stations of the third order which consists of village offices, district offices, police stations, schools, etc. Each is provided with a set of maximum and minimum thermometers, an ordinary thermometer, rain gauge, etc., and each observer makes daily observations at 10 a. m. (135th meridian time or 8 p. m. 75th meridian time). They send their reports by mail to the respective provincial stations to which they belong.

The stations of the first order make their observations every hour and those of the second order six observations daily. The principal instruments in use at a station are a standard barometer of the Fortin design; a portable mercurial barometer; a psychrometer of August's pattern; a standard thermometer (Cassella or Fuess); maximum and minimum thermometers (Fuess); Robinson cup-anemometer with electric contact device; a wind vane; a rain gauge; and an evaporometer. In addition to these instruments, the stations of the first order and most of second-order stations are furnished with solar radiation-thermometers, terrestrial radiation-thermometers, earth-thermometers for the depths of 0.0, 0.3, 1.2, 3.0 m., etc., and a seismograph of the Gray-Milne type. All these instruments are minutely examined and compared with the standard instruments of the Central Meteorological Observatory. The method of observation and reduction conforms strictly to the decisions of the International Meteorological Committee. The Abercromby-Hildebrandsson classification is adopted for the observation of cloud forms, and the International Meteorological Tables are used for the reduction of observations. For computation of humidity from psychrometric observations, Angot's tables are used. The provincial stations publish monthly and annual reports, and exchange their publications with one another. The employees of the stations consist of the chief, the meteorologists, the assistants and the clerks. The chief and meteorologists are appointed with His Majesty's approval, and the assistants by the governor of the prefecture. Stations are inspected about once every three or four years by the staff of the Central Meteorological Observatory.

The Central Meteorological Observatory of Japan, which is situated at Tokyo, is the center of our meteorological service. Most of the important investigations are conducted by its staff either at this observatory or elsewhere. It is organized into four divisions: (1) cabinet of the director, (2) service of predictions, (3) service of observations and (4) service of statistics. The present director of the observatory is Professor K. Nakamura, D.Sc, a former student of Professor von Bezold at Berlin. The service of predictions has been for the last twenty-five years in the most able and experienced hands of Professor Y. Wada, who is now completing the organization of the similar meteorological service in Korea and Manchuria. Dr. T. Okada now succeeds Professor Wada as the chief of the service of predictions and Dr. W. Oishi is chief of the service of observations at the Central Meteorological Observatory.

The instrumental equipment of this observatory is so complete that it may well be called a meteorological laboratory. Here one can execute meteorological research in barometry, thermometry, hygrometry, nephoscopy, pluviometry, anemometry, actinometry and other lines. There are various instruments and apparatus for verifying the meteorological instruments that are to be distributed to all stations or elsewhere. The observatory also undertakes observations on seismic, magnetic and electrical phenomena. For seismometry, there are the Gray-Milne seismograph, the Ewing seismograph, Tanakadaté's seismograph, the Milne horizontal pendulum, the Omori pendulum. Seismic observation and study form an important feature in the meteorological service of Japan. Each station is equipped with a set of seismographs. Professor F. Omori, of the Tokyo Imperial University, is most active in seismological research, backed by the Imperial Earthquake Investigation Committee, which is composed of such eminent men as Baron Kikuchi and Professor Tanakadaté. For further information along this line of work, the reader should consult Baron Kikuchi's monograph, 'Recent Seismological Investigations in Japan,' which was originally prepared as an address to the International Congress of Arts and Science (in 1904) at St. Louis. For the measurement of atmospheric electricity, there are used at the Central Observatory Exner's portable electrometer, Mascart's self-registering electrometer, Kelvin's collector, etc. The hourly values of electric potential are published in the annual reports.

The periodic publications of the Central Meteorological Observatory are the daily weather-map, the monthly report, the annual report and the monthly weather review. In addition to these, the Bulletin of the Central Meteorological Observatory is published in foreign languages. This contains the results of investigations of meteorological and allied problems.

Turning from the practical to the educational side of meteorology in Japan, we find that in the College of Science of the Tokyo Imperial University a chair for meteorology has recently been established in the department of physics. In the College of Agriculture of the same university Professor Diro Kitao has been giving excellent lectures on meteorology for the last twenty years. Lectures on the same subject are also given by Professor Goto at Tokyo Higher Normal School, by Professor Baba at Tokyo Navigation School, by Professor Y. Wada at the Naval School and by Dr. Inagaki at Moriaka Higher Agricultural School. It is also to be understood that meteorology is taught in all other schools of agriculture, navigation, commerce and technology, as well as in military and naval academies. At the Central Meteorological Observatory a temporary school is opened every year for the training of meteorological observers at provincial stations. The term of this school is usually six months, during which period are given courses of lectures on meteorology, seismology, physics, instruments and methods. This temporary school has been an important factor for securing a uniformity and a higher standard in the attainments of observers.

The most convincing evidence of the popular interest in our science is the fact that Japan has supported the Meteorological Society of Japan for more than twenty years. We understand that meteorology has no recognized place in such a popular gathering as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and that the American Meteorological Journal was long since discontinued. The Meteorological Society of Japan is composed of two hundred and sixty-four active members, only three being honorary. This society publishes a monthly journal, partly in Japanese and partly in foreign languages. At its general meetings held annually in May meteorological papers are read and discussed.

So much for Japan's contributions to practical meteorology and its diffusion. Now let us examine what has been done by Japanese meteorologists for theoretical meteorology. Any one who has paid close attention to meteorology must be aware that the progress of this science lags far behind that of some other physical sciences. Within a century the world has seen astronomy, physics, chemistry and other well recognized sciences emerge from their previous uncertain and indefinite condition; but meteorology is at present inchoate, and its ascertained facts are too scanty to allow of organizing any system of fundamental principles. Fifteen years ago, von Helmholtz turned his attention to the hydrodynamics of the atmosphere, but, so far as meteorology is concerned, this great man left his work unfinished. Recently theoretical researches have been undertaken by von Bezold, Neuhoff, Brillouin, Pockels, Margules, Sprung, Bjerknes, Bigelow, Wild, Pernter, Ekholm and many others. It appears, however, that not very much has been added to dynamic or theoretical meteorology since the publication of the works of Ferrel, Mohn and Oberbeck. The present status of the science being such in the professed countries of science, Japan can not be criticized if she has not done very much towards developing theoretical meteorology. She may, however, be proud of Professor Diro Kitao, a profound mathematician, and of his work, comparable with the elegant analysis of Oberbeck and Helmholtz, in fact, reminding us remarkably of the work of Kirchhoff. While Japan was still in the national turmoil of forty years ago, Diro Kitao was sent by the government to Germany for study. He went through the gymnasium at Berlin and studied mathematical physics at Berlin and Göttingen. After an absence of about sixteen years, he returned to his native land and in 1886 was appointed as professor of physics at the College of Agriculture of the Tokyo Imperial University. Professor Kitao has published many important memoirs, the most noteworthy of which is his 'Beiträge zur Theorie der Erdatmosphäre und der Wirbelstürme.' This work was published in three volumes, volume I. in 1887, volume II. in 1889 and volume III. in 1895, in the Journal of the College of Science of the Tokyo Imperial University. This most elaborate memoir covers some four hundred pages. On account of its great length and of its highly mathematical nature, it is impossible to reproduce here all its important results; but it may be worth while to give here the title of each part. The first volume contains the introduction and the discussions of hydrodynamic equations with consideration of the earth's rotation; the general differential equations for the motion of the atmosphere; the general relations between isodynamic lines, wind-directions and vortex-axes; space integration; the equations of atmospheric motions under special assumptions; vorticular motions of the atmosphere; circular cyclones and anticyclones (§I.—VI.). The second volume, including §VIII.—XI., treats of a vortex field of rectilinear isobars; the formation of complex vortices in the atmosphere; special motions in a vortex-field; the change of wind-direction, strength and pressure for a given external point in the case of a double vortex formation. The third volume treats of the condition for a stationary vortex when two vortices exist; vertical atmospheric circulation; variable vortex formation in the atmosphere (§ XII.—XIV.).

Several important meteorological memoirs have been published, mostly by the members of the Central Meteorological Observatory. Among these we note 'Sur la marche diurne de la température de l'air,' by Nakamura; 'Studies on Atmospheric Electricity,' by Homma; 'Earth Temperature at Tokyo,' by Oishi; 'Température moyenne annuelle de la température de la mer dans l'Océan Pacifique Occidental,' by Wada. Okada has published several papers on the evaporation in Japan, on the underground temperature at Nagoya and Osaka and on the thermal conductivity of snow. Among the papers officially published by the Central Meteorological Observatory are 'Typhoon of September 13-14, 1881'; 'Typhoon of September 26-27, 1881'; 'Forms of Clouds'; 'Some Researches on Agricultural Meteorology'; 'Typhoon Tracks in Japan'; 'Low Pressure in Japan'; 'Normal Pressure, Temperature and Rainfall in Japan,' etc. Since 1880 the Central Meteorological Observatory and some provincial stations have made several meteorological expeditions to high mountains in various parts of Japan to investigate the atmospheric phenomena and processes in the high strata. The results of these investigations have been published in several volumes. There may be, besides, many important meteorological papers and books written in Japanese that have not come to the notice of the present writer, who has been absent from the country for many years.

The preceding paragraphs show how excellent is the work that Japan is doing for the progress of theoretical as well as practical meteorology. A glance at a map of the Orient will clearly show how serious and difficult a matter it is to predict weather in Japan. Japan stands under the direct influences of the Pacific Ocean and the Asiatic continent, and also of the tropical and polar ocean currents, so that meteorological as well as climatic conditions in Japan are very complex. Very often a continental cyclone and a typhoon which, of course, comes from the tropics, pass through Japan simultaneously, thus bringing complexities to the weather. In spite of all these difficulties, storm tracks and other meteorological conditions have been very carefully investigated and the daily predictions that issue from the Central Meteorological Observatory are said to be most trustworthy. Our meteorological service has recently extended to Korea and China. Under the charge of Professor Y. Wada, five stations have just been completed in Korea, the Chemulpo Meteorological Observatory being the center of the system. Several stations have been established in Manchuria, and it is said that a large magneto-meteorological observatory is now planned to be established in Pekin by the government of Japan. As the writer has already described in Science (July 28, 1905), the establishment of the Mt. Tsukuba Meteorological Observatory by His Imperial Highness Prince Yamashina is another great advance. All these material items together with the alertness and native ability of Japanese meteorologists give assurance that she will make great contributions to the dynamics and physics of the earth's atmosphere and to the allied sciences in general.

  1. A full account of the Japanese Weather Service is given in the monograph, 'The Organization of Meteorological Service of Japan,' published by the Central Meteorological Observatory, 1904.