Ways of the Weather: A Cultural Survey of Meteorology

By W. J. Humphreys | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
DISTRIBUTION OF TEMPERATURE

INTRODUCTION

The pull, as we call it, of gravity makes water run down hill. It also makes a heavy liquid underrun a lighter one in the same level; both are drawn in the direction of the bottom, but the pull on the heavier, or denser, is greater than on the lighter, and the stronger pull prevails. Gravity also makes an isolated mass of liquid or gas in a heavier one go up, not down; it is pushed or buoyed up by a force equal to the difference between the weight of the lighter and that of an equal volume of the heavier. Clearly, then, whenever two masses of air of unequal density come into free contact with each other the lighter is pushed up and away, except in the case of properly adjusted winds, as explained in the previous chapter. Now air rapidly increases in volume, and correspondingly decreases in density, with increase of temperature--roughly 1% per 5° F. at ordinary temperatures. Hence the hot air in a chimney is lighter than an equal volume of the cold air on the outside, and therefore is pushed up by the latter which, in turn, is heated and itself pushed up, and so on as long as there is a fire in the grate to supply the heat. To be sure, the combustion alters the composition of the air (makes it richer in carbon dioxide if coal is used, and in both carbon dioxide and water vapor if wood or gas is the fuel, and poorer in oxygen) in such manner as to render that in the chimney heavier, at the same temperature, than that outside, but this increase in density through change in composition is small in comparison to its decrease in density by heating. At most it could balance or offset a temperature increase of only about 40° F. over coal, or 10° F. over wood, while ordinarily the effect if much less, since commonly only part of the oxygen is consumed; hence the heating, being several times this maximum value, has, in any case, the best of the argument, as it

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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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