V. THE NEW SCIENCE OF METEOROLOGY

"The original cause of motion in the atmosphere is the influence of the sun heating the surface of the earth exposed to that luminary. We have not supposed that surface to have been of one uniform shape and similar substance; from whence it has followed that the annual propers of the sun, perhaps also the diurnal propers, would produce a regular condensation of rain in certain regions, and the evaporation of humidity in others; and this would have a regular progress in certain determined seasons, and would not vary. But nothing can be more distant from this supposition, that is the natural constitution of the earth; for the globe is composed of sea and land, in no regular shape or mixture, while the surface of the land is also irregular with respect to its elevations and depressions, and various with regard to the humidity and dryness of that part which is exposed to heat as the cause of evaporation. Hence a source of the most valuable motions in the fluid atmosphere with aqueous vapor, more or less, so far as other natural operations will admit; and hence a source of the most irregular commixture of the several parts of this elastic fluid, whether saturated or not with aqueous vapor.

"According to the theory, nothing is required for the production of rain besides the mixture of portions of the atmosphere with humidity, and of mixing the parts that are in different degrees of heat. But we have seen the causes of saturating every portion of the atmosphere with humidity and of mixing the parts which are in different degrees of heat. Consequently, over all the surface of the globe there should happen occasionally rain and evaporation, more or less; and also, in every place, those vicissitudes should be observed to take place with some tendency to regularity, which, however, may be so disturbed as to be hardly distinguishable upon many occasions. Variable winds and variable rains should be found in proportion as each place is situated in an irregular mixture of land and water; whereas regular winds should be found in proportion to the uniformity of the surface; and regular rains in proportion to the regular changes of those winds by which the mixture of the atmosphere necessary to the rain may be produced. But as it will be acknowledged that this is the case in almost all this earth where rain appears according to the conditions here specified, the theory is found to be thus in conformity with nature, and natural appearances are thus explained by the theory."[1]

The next ambitious attempt to explain the phenomena of aqueous meteors was made by Luke Howard, in his remarkable paper on clouds, published in the Philosophical Magazine in 1803—the paper in which the names cirrus, cumulus, stratus, etc., afterwards so universally adopted, were first proposed. In this paper Howard acknowledges his indebtedness to Dalton for the theory of evaporation; yet he still clings to the idea that the vapor, though independent of the air, is combined with particles of caloric. He holds that clouds are composed of vapor that has previously risen from the earth, combating the opinions of those who believe that they are formed by the union of hydrogen and oxygen existing independently in the air; though he agrees with these theorists that electricity has entered largely into the modus operandi of cloud formation. He opposes the opinion of Deluc and De Saussure that clouds are composed of particles of water in the form of hollow vesicles (miniature balloons, in short, perhaps filled with hydrogen), which untenable opinion was a revival of the theory as to the formation of all vapor which Dr. Halley had advocated early in the eighteenth century.

Of particular interest are Howard's views as to the formation of dew, which he explains as caused by the particles of caloric forsaking the vapor to enter the cool body, leaving the water on the surface. This comes as near the truth, perhaps, as could be expected while the old idea as to the materiality of heat held sway. Howard believed, however, that dew is usually formed in the air at some height, and that it settles to the surface, opposing the opinion, which had gained vogue in France and in America (where Noah Webster prominently advocated it), that dew ascends from the earth.

The complete solution of the problem of dew formation— which really involved also the entire question of precipitation of watery vapor in any form—was made by Dr. W. C. Wells, a man of American birth, whose life, however, after boyhood, was spent in Scotland (where as a young man he enjoyed the friendship of David Hume) and in London. Inspired, no doubt, by the researches of Mack, Hutton, and their confreres of that Edinburgh school, Wells made observations on evaporation and precipitation as early as 1784, but other things claimed his attention; and though he asserts that the subject was often in his mind, he did not take it up again in earnest until about 1812.

Meantime the observations on heat of Rumford and Davy and Leslie had cleared the way for a proper interpretation of the facts—about the facts themselves there had long been practical unanimity of opinion. Dr. Black, with his latent-heat observations, had really given the clew to all subsequent discussions of the subject of precipitation of vapor; and from this time on it had been known that heat is taken up when water evaporates, and given out again when it condenses. Dr. Darwin had shown in 1788, in a paper before the Royal Society, that air gives off heat on contracting and takes it up on expanding; and Dalton, in his essay of 1793, had explained this phenomenon as due to the condensation and vaporization of the water contained in the air.