Ways of the Weather: A Cultural Survey of Meteorology

By W. J. Humphreys | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
STRUCTURE OF THE ATMOSPHERE

After discussing the composition of the atmosphere it would seem appropriate next to consider its structure. "Structure?" we ask. "Wouldn't a chapter on the structure of the atmosphere be much like the famous chapter on snakes in Horrebow Natural History of Iceland--'There aren't any'?" Yes, it would seem so, we must admit, to any casual observer, as it did to every one until only a short while ago, comparatively. Now, however, we already know of various ways in which the air is streaked, laminated and otherwise divided into distinct portions, and presumably there still are many more parts, according to this or that basis of division, that yet will be found and studied.

Troposphere and stratosphere. At about the close of the last century, soundings of the atmosphere were begun with the aid of small balloons carrying light devices that automatically registered the temperature and pressure throughout both the ascent and the descent--a kind of exploration that soon was taken up at various places. From these records, in turn, the heights corresponding to given points on the traces were readily computed. In this way we gradually have come to know the average temperature and pressure of the air at every height from the surface of the earth up to at least 12 to 15 miles, under different weather conditions, for all the seasons, and in many parts of the world. Pretty soon a means of registering the humidity was further added to the apparatus carried, so that we now have a fair knowledge also of the average vertical distribution of water vapor that corresponds to each particular type of weather. Obviously, too, these sounding balloons, as they are called, afford some knowledge of the direction and velocity of the wind at various levels for the particular time and place at which a flight is observed.

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Ways of the Weather: A Cultural Survey of Meteorology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents *
  • Chapter I - Weather Perceptions 1
  • Chapter II - Weather Measurements 19
  • Introduction 19
  • Chapter III - The Atmosphere: Origin And Composition 47
  • Chapter IV - Structure of the Atmosphere 71
  • Summary 89
  • Chapter V - Distribution of Temperature 90
  • Chapter VI - Distribution of Water Vapor 113
  • Chapter VII - Distribution and Changes of Atmospheric Pressure 133
  • Chapter VIII - Wind 150
  • Chapter IX - Precipitation 172
  • Chapter X - Atmospheric Electricity 210
  • Chapter XI - Weather Music 250
  • Chapter XII - Atmospheric Optics 272
  • Chapter XIII - Climate, Present and Past 294
  • Chapter XIV - Weather Control 323
  • Chapter XV - What of It? 336
  • Chapter XVI - Meteorological Mileposts 357
  • Index 393
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