Ways of the Weather: A Cultural Survey of Meteorology

By W. J. Humphreys | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
CLIMATE, PRESENT AND PAST

It commonly is said that the climate of a given place is its average weather, yearly, seasonal, monthly, or by whatnot other given period; a definition easily remembered, but wholly useless because weather, being a composite of temperature, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, and all the other meteorological elements, is not averageable. It is absurd to talk about averaging even two of these elements, such as temperature and humidity, for instance. They may exist together, but they cannot be added, the one to the other, into some sort of a whole that can be numerically divided, and so there can be no such thing as an average hot-wet, much less an average hot-wet-sunshine-pressure-wind-etc. The expression "average weather," then, does not make sense, at least not the kind that leads to numerical evaluations, and therefore classification, of the thing itself, weather. If, however, we should agree that "average weather" shall mean average temperature (over a specified period), average humidity, average pressure, etc., we then would be no better off, for there could be no satisfactory measure of the departure of the weather from this average as a result of a given departure of any one of the elements from its average.

Another definition of the climate of a place is: "The average run of its weather." This definition is better than the first in that it specifies that the average is to be a continuous one, however variable, just as the ever-changing weather goes on and on without beginning and without end. But for statistical purposes this definition, too, is out of the question, for it implies doing the impossible--adding together the weathers of many consecutive New Year's days and finding their mean value, and similarly for all the other days of the year. Of course a shorter or a longer unit period than the day might be used, but whatever the period the same two impossible opera-

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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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