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to inquire, how such vicissitudes can be reconciled with the existing order of nature. The cosmogonist has availed himself of this, as of every obscure problem in geology, to confirm his views concerning a period when the laws of the animate and inanimate world differed essentially from those now established; and he has in this, as in many other cases, succeeded so far, as to divert attention from that class of facts, which, if fully understood, might probably lead to an explanation of the phenomena. At first it was imagined that the earth's axis had been for ages perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, so that there was a perpetual equinox, and uniformity of seasons throughout the year;-that the planet enjoyed this ‘paradisiacal' state until the era of the great flood; but in that catastrophe, whether by the shock of a comet, or some other convulsion, it lost its equal poise, and hence the obliquity of its axis, and with that the varied seasons of the temperate zone, and the long nights and days of the polar circles. When the progress of astronomical science had exploded this theory, it was assumed, that the earth at its creation was in a state of fluidity, and red hot, and that ever since that era it had been cooling down, contracting its dimensions, and acquiring a solid crust,-an hypothesis hardly less arbitrary, but more calculated for lasting popularity, because, by referring the mind directly to the beginning of things, it requires no support from observation, nor from any ulterior hypothesis. They who are satisfied with this solution are relieved from all necessity of inquiry into the present laws which regulate the diffusion of heat over the surface ; for, however well these may be ascertained, they cannot possibly afford a full and exact elucidation of the internal changes of an embryo world. But if, instead of forming vague conjectures as to what might have been the state of the planet at the era of its creation, we fix our thoughts on the connexion at present existing between climate and the distribution of land and sea; and then consider what influence former fluctuations in the physical geography of the earth must have had on superficial temperature, we may perhaps approximate to a true theory. If doubts and obscurities still remain, they should be ascribed to our limited acquaintance with the laws of Nature, not to revolutions in her economy;—they should stimulate us to further research, not tempt us to indulge our fancies in framing imaginary systems for the government of infant worlds. Diffusion of heat over the globe.—In considering the laws which regulate the diffusion of heat over the globe, we must be careful, as Humboldt well remarks, not to regard the climate of Europe as a type of the temperature which all countries placed under the same latitude enjoy. The physical sciences, observes this philosopher, always bear the impress of the places where they began to be cultivated ; and as, in geology, an attempt was at first made to refer all the volcanic phenomena to those of the volcanos in Italy, so, in meteorology, a small part of the old world, the Vol. I.-P
centre of the primitive civilization of Europe, was for a long time considered a type to which the climate of all corresponding latitudes might be reserred. But this region, constituting only one seventh of the whole globe, proved eventually to be the exception to the general rule. For the same reason, we may warn the geologist to be on his guard, and not hastily to assume that the temperature of the earth in the present era is a type of that which most usually obtains, since he contemplates far mightier alterations in the position of land and sea, at different epochs, than those which now cause the climate of Europe to differ from that of other countries in the same parallels. It is now well ascertained that zones of equal warmth, both in the atmosphere and in the waters of the ocean, are neither parallel to the equator nor to each other.” It is also known that the mean annual temperature may be the same in two places which enjoy very different climates, for the seasons may be neary uniform, or violently contrasted, so that the lines of equal winter temperature do not coincide with those of equal annual heat, or isothermal lines. The deviations of all these lines from the same parallel of latitude are determined by a multitude of circumstances, among the principal of which are the position, direction, and elevation of the continents and islands, the position and depths of the sea, and the direction of currents and of winds. On comparing the two continents of Europe and America, it is found that places in the same latitudes have sometimes a mean difference of temperature amounting to 11°, or even in a few cases to 17°Fahr.; and some places on the two continents, which have the same mean temperature, differ from 7° to 13° in latitude.f The principal cause of greater intensity of cold in corresponding latitudes of North America and Europe, is the connexion of North America with the polar circle, by a large tract of land, some of which is from 3000 to 5000 feet in height, and, on the other hand, the separation of Europe from the arctic circle by an ocean. The ocean has a tendency to preserve every where a mean temperature, which it communicates to the contiguous land, so that it tempers the climate, moderating alike an excess of heat or cold. The elevated land, on the other hand, rising to the colder regions of the atmosphere, becomes a great reservoir of ice and snow, arrests, condenses, and congeals vapour, and communicates its cold to the adjoining country. For this reason, Greenland, forming part of a continent which stretches northward to the 82d degree of latitude, experiences under the 60th parallela more rigorous climate than Lapland under the 72d parallel. But is land be situated between the 40th parallel and the equator, it produces, unless it be of extreme height, exactly the opposite effect; for it then warms the tracts of land or sea that intervene between it and the polar circle. For the surface being in this case exposed to the vertical, or nearly vertical rays of the sun, absorbs a large quantity of heat, which it diffuses by radiation into the atmosphere. For this reason, the western parts of the old continent derive warmth from Africa, which, like an immense surnace, distributes its heat to Arabia, to Turkey in Asia, and to Europe.” On the contrary, the north-eastern extremity of Asia experiences in the same latitude extreme cold ; for it has lands on the north between the 60th and 70th parallel, while to the south it is separated from the equator by the Indian Ocean. In consequence of the more equal temperature of the waters of the ocean, the climate of islands and of coasts differs essentially from that of the interior of continents, the more maritime climates being characterised by mild winters and more temperate summers; for the sea breezes moderate the cold of winter, as well as the heat of summer. When, theresore, we trace round the globe those belts in which the mean annual temperature is the same, we often find great differences in climate ; for there are insular climates in which the seasons are nearly equalized, and earcessive climates, as they have been termed, where the temperature of winter and summer is strongly contrasted. "The whole of Europe, compared with the eastern parts of America and Asia, has an insular climate. The northern part of China, and the Atlantic region of the United States, exhibit “excessive climates.” We find at New York, says Humboldt, the summer of Rome and the winter of Copenhagen ; at Quebec, the summer of Paris and the winter of Petersburg. At Pekin, in China, where the mean temperature of the year is that of the coasts of Brittany, the scorching heats of summer are greater than at Cairo, and the winters as rigorous as at Upsala.t If lines be drawn round the globe through all those places which have the same winter temperature, they are found to deviate from the terrestrial parallels much farther than the lines of equal mean annual heat. The lines of equal winter in Europe, for example, are often curved so as to reach parallels of latitude 9° or 10° distant from each other, whereas the isothermal lines, or those passing through places having the same mean annual temperature, differ only from 4° to 5°. Influence of currents and drift ice on temperature.—Among other influential causes, both of remarkable diversity in the mean annual heat, and of unequal division of heat in the different seasons, are the direction of currents and the accumulation and drifting of ice in high latitudes. The temperature of the Lagullas current is 10° or 12° Fahr. above that of the sea at the Cape of Good Hope; for the greater part of its waters flow through the Mozambique channel, down the south-east coast of Africa, and are derived from regions in the Indian Ocean much nearer the line, and much hotter than the Cape.” An opposite effect is produced by the “equatorial” current, which crosses the Atlantic from Africa to Brazil, having a breadth varying from 160 to 450 nautical miles. Its waters are cooler by 3° or 4°Fahr. than those of the ocean under the line, so that it moderates the heat of the tropics.t But the effects of the Gulf stream on the climate of the North Atlantic Ocean are far more remarkable. This most powerful of known currents has its source in the Gulf or Sea of Mexico, which, like the Mediterranean and other close seas in temperate or low latitudes, is warmer than the open ocean in the same parallels. The temperature of the Mexican sea in summer is, according to Rennel, 86°Fahr. or at least 7° above that of the Atlantic in the same latitude. From this great reservoir or caldron of warm water, a constant current pours forth through the straits of Bahama at the rate of three or four miles an hour; it crosses the ocean in a north-easterly direction, skirting the great bank of Newfoundland, where it still retains a temperature of 8° above that of the surrounding sea. It reaches the Azores in about seventy-eight days, after flowing nearly 3000 geographical miles, and from thence it sometimes extends its course a thousand miles further, so as to reach the Bay of Biscay, still retaining an excess of 5° above the mean temperature of the sea. As it has been known to arrive there in the months of November and January, it may tend greatly to moderate the cold of winter in countries on the west of Europe. There is a large tract in the centre of the North Atlantic, between the parallels of 33° and 35° N. lat. which Rennell calls the “recipient of the gulf water.” A great part of it is covered by the weed called sargasso, which the current floats in abundance from the Gulf of Mexico. This mass of water is nearly stagnant, is warmer by 7° or 10° than the waters of the Atlantic, and may be compared to the fresh water of a river overflowing the heavier salt water of the sea. Rennell estimates the area of the “recipient,” together with that covered by the main current, as being 2000 miles in length from E. to W., and 350 in breadth from N. to S., which, he remarks, is a larger area than that of the Mediterranean. The heat of this great body of water is kept up by the incessant and quick arrival of fresh supplies of warm water from the south, and there can be no doubt that the general climate of parts of Europe and America are materially affected by this cause. It is considered probable by Scoresby, that the influence of the gulf stream extends even to the sea near Spitzbergen, where its waters may pass under those of melted ice ; for it has been found that, in the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen, the water is warmer by 6° or 7° at the depth of one hundred and two hundred fathoms than at the surface. This might arise from the known law that fresh water passes the point of greatest density when cooled down below 40°, and between that and the freezing point expands again. The water of melted ice might be lighter, both as being fresh (having lost its salt in the decomposing process of freezing), and because its temperature is nearer the freezing point than the inserior water of the gulf stream.” The great glaciers generated in the valleys of Spitzbergen, in the 79° of north latitude, are almost all cut off at the beach, being melted by the feeble remnant of heat still retained by the gulf stream. In Baffin's Bay, on the contrary, on the west coast of Old Greenland, where the temperature of the sea is not mitigated by the same cause, and where there is no warmer under-current, the glaciers stretch out from the shore, and furnish repeated crops of mountainous masses of ice which float off into the ocean.f The number and dimensions of these bergs is prodigious. Captain Ross saw several of them together in Baffin's Bay aground, in water 1500 feet deep ! Many of them are driven down into Hudson's Bay, and accumulating there, diffuse excessive cold over the neighbouring continent; so that Captain Franklin reports, that at the mouth of Hayes river, which lies in the same latitude as the north of Prussia or the south of Scotland, ice is sound every where in digging wells, in summer, at the depth of four feet! Other bergs have been occasionally met with, at midsummer, in a state of rapid thaw, as far south as lat. 40°, and longitude about 60° West, where they cool the water sensibly to the distance of forty or fifty miles around, the thermometer sinking sometimes 17°, or even 18°, Fahrenheit, in their neighbourhood. It is a well-known fact that every four or five years a large number of icebergs, floating from
* We are indebted to Baron Alex. Humboldt for collecting together, in a beautiful essay, the scattered data on which he founded an approximation to a true theory of the distribution of heat over the globe. Many of these data are derived from the author's own observations, and many from the works of M. Pierre Prevost, of Geneva, on the radiation of heat, and other writers.-See Humboldt on Isothermal Lines, Memoires d’Arcueil, tom. iii. translated in the Edin. Phil. Journ. vol. iii. July, 1820.
! Humboldt's tables, Essay on Isothermal Lines, &c.
* When Scoresby wrote in 1820 (Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 210), he doubted whether salt water expanded like fresh water when freezing. Since that time Erman (Poggendorf's Annalen, 1828, vol. xii. p. 483) has proved by experiment that sea-water does not follow the same law as fresh water, as De Luc, Rumford, and Marcet had supposed. On the contrary, it appears that salt water of sp. gr. 1.027 (which according to Berzelius is the mean density of sea water) has no maximum of density so long as it remains fluid; and even when ice begins to form in it, the remaining fluid part always increases in density in proportion to the degree of refrigeration.
+ Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 208–Dr. Latta's Observations on the Glaciers of Spitzbergen, &c. Edin. New Phil. Journ. vol. iii. p. 97.
: Rennell on Currents, p. 95.