« AnteriorContinuar »
lead us to indulge the hope that the application of these results to meteorology will be attended with discoveries equally brilliant and important.
METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETIES AND STORM-WARNINGS.
19. The establishment of Meteorological Societies during the last twenty years must also be commemorated as contributing in a high degree to the solid advancement of the science, which, more than any other, depends on extensive and carefully-conducted observations. In this respect the United States stand pre-eminent, the observers there numbering about 800. Great Britain is also well represented in the English and Scottish Societies, which together number about 150 observers. In Austria, Switzerland, France, Prussia, Italy, Russia, Norway, the Netherlands, and other European countries, meteorology is being widely cultivated. In Austria alone the number of stations is 118, and in Switzerland 83. Considerable attention has also been given to the rainfall in Great Britain and Ireland; and, chiefly through the self-denying exertions of Mr G. J. Symons, London, about 1500 rain-gauges are now registering the rainfall of the British Islands. An inquiry has been carried on during the last six years, having for its object the determination of the causes which affect the rainfall in the basins of the Rhône and Saône. Observers in Germany and Great Britain have been secured to co-operate with the French observers, and under the able management of M. Fournet, important results respecting the rainfall and the progress of storms will be obtained, from which it is hoped measures may be taken to avert the calamity occasioned by those great floods which periodically carry devastation and ruin over that part of France.
20. A special object of meteorological inquiry is to ascertain the degrees of heat, cold, and moisture, peculiar to different localities, and the usual periods of their occurrence, with a view to discover their effects on the health of the people, and on different agricultural products. With regard to questions of such general interest affecting the health and food of the people, these societies have already collected much valuable information, which but for their aid could not have been obtained.
21. But perhaps none of the arts have benefited to so large an extent by the labours of meteorologists as navigation. The knowledge thereby acquired of the prevailing winds in different parts of the earth during the different seasons of the year, the region of calms, the parts of the oceans swept by devastating storms at particular seasons, and the laws of storms, has saved innumerable lives and much property; and by pointing out the quickest routes to be followed, has shortened voyages between distant countries. In connection with this department of the science, the name of Captain Maury will always be remembered with gratitude for the signal service he has rendered to navigation. The good work thus begun by him has rendered intercourse among nations safer and more expeditious; and when future observation has supplied the materials requisite to enable us to correct the inevitable mistakes and fill up the blanks of his ocean charts, the benefits this celebrated meteorologist has conferred on the human race will more conspicuously appear.
22. Prediction of Storms.- Another fruit of the multiplication of meteorological stations is the prediction of storms and the foretelling of the weather. It is impossible to overestimate the value of storm-warnings to the shipping interests. In the north temperate zone, observation shows that storms almost invariably come from some westerly point, and thence follow an easterly course. In the United States of America, it is easy to warn seaports of the approach of storms; for as soon as a storm appears in the western States bordering on the Rocky Mountains, it is intimated to the central office in Washington, followed in its march by the telegraph, and timely warning of its approach is sent to the coasts which it will visit. The United States of America is thus favourably
circumstanced for carrying out effectually the system of stormwarnings.
23. On the contrary, Great Britain, France, and the rest of Western Europe, are unfavourably situated to allow of timely warning being given of coming storms. If no warning is sent till the storm has made its appearance, it is too late for the western seaports. In Europe, however, stormy weather is accompanied by a diminution in the atmospheric pressure, the centre of which, after traversing more or less of the Atlantic, arrives on the coast of Europe. The existence of this diminished pressure is made known by the barometer when the maximum depression is still at a considerable distance out in the ocean ; and collateral information pointing to an advancing storm is to be obtained from the direction of the wind and the cirrus cloud. Here, then, we have the materials for foretelling the approach of storms on the west coast of Europe. For though we have not the same advantages towards arriving at the degree of certainty of the American predictions, and so of telegraphing to ports on the west coast that a storm is actually seen advancing on them, yet from the premonitions afforded by the barometer, the wind, and the cirrus cloud, we can warn them to prepare for a storm likely to visit them. The giving effect to this idea constitutes the splendid contribution to practical meteorology made by Admiral Fitzroy in February 1861, by the system of storm-warnings which has since been adopted by almost every country in Europea service which has made his name a household word, and entitled him to be considered as a public benefactor.
24. Considering the practical application of the knowledge of storms towards the saving of life and property, it is a duty incumbent on European meteorologists (being the most important practical problem they have to solve) to examine, analyse, and carefully study in detail the storms which have traversed Europe during the last few years,— when, from the growing popularity of the science, meteorological stations have largely increased—with the view
of ascertaining the course storms usually follow, and the causes by which that course is determined, so as to deduce, from meteorological phenomena observed, not only the certain approach of a storm, but also the particular course it will take in its passage over Europe. In carrying out this extensive investigation, the 'Bulletin International' of Le Verrier, published daily, if supplemented by additional observations from places in the British Islands, and in Northern, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe, will furnish the required materials. This admirable publication, which must be regarded as the latest important step taken in the progress of meteorology, shows graphically the atmospheric pressure, and the direction and force of the winds, each morning over Europe, together with tables of temperature, rainfall, cloud, and sea disturbance.
25. The next important step to be taken in the development of the capabilities of the science to promote the interests of humanity, will, we trust, be the giving practical effect to a suggestion made by a writer in the ‘Athenæum' of the 28th September 1867, to the effect that Mr Reuter should add to his telegraphic messages a line, which need not consist of more than six letters and as many figures, announcing the state of the weather from all points of his world-wide correspondence. Thus, B. 30.15, T. 51, N. E., with R., S., F., would indicate that the barometer was 30.15 inches, the temperature 51°, the wind from the N. E., and R., S., and F., rain, snow, or fair, as the case may be. The benefit of such a practice would, it is justly added, be incalculable, for ere long all who are interested in the weather would be better prepared to take advantage of the warnings of storms on all occasions, particularly during the seasons of the year when gales most frequently occur. Much might also be contributed to the meteorology of the globe by missionaries sent out to the islands of the Pacific, and other parts of the world remote from civilised society. If possessed of the principal meteorological instruments, and of a moderate knowledge of the science, the missionary could not fail to benefit his fellow-men, and legitimately increase his influence over them, by often warning them of approaching storms and other changes of the weather. This can be done more easily and with great certainty in tropical and subtropical countries, where a fall of the barometer slightly greater than usual, and a change of the wind from its ordinary direction, indicate the presence of a storm at no great distance. By closely watching the wind and the barometer, the course the storm is taking can be readily known.
26. In the schools of the United States of America, Meteorological Observations, and the keeping of Meteorological Registers, form a part of the common education of the people. Also in the higher schools of France, and some other European countries, systematic instruction is communicated on this subject. But in this country few even of the liberally educated classes are able to read from a vernier; they are ignorant of the use of the movable cistern of a barometer; they have not the elementary knowledge to give an intelligible interpretation to the fluctuations of the barometer as indicative of coming changes of the weather; and when required to send their barometers to a distance for repair, so ignorant are they of their construction, that they forward them by rail as ordinary parcels, thus almost to a certainty securing their destruction. This state of things is the necessary consequence of the general neglect which meteorology receives in our educational system. There are, however, a few noteworthy exceptions. Meteorology has been taught for upwards of thirty years in the Dollar Institution, which has long been distinguished for the lead it has taken in incorporating science into its curriculum of study. This example has recently been followed by the Roman Catholic College at Stonyhurst, the Grammar School of Aberdeen, the High School of Inverness, Lerwick Educational Institute, Elgin Institution, Larchfield Academy, and other schools in the country. But the objects of meteorology can never hold that place in the public mind to which they are entitled, till the science becomes, as in America, a recognised branch of education. As contributing towards this desired result, the name of Mr Thomas H. Core,