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vast storage tanks and will serve to fertilise a great extent of country ; whereas tanks without regular rainfall or permanent springs to supply them are worthless. In the colder parts of the temperate zones, the absence of forests is not so much felt, because the bills and uplands are naturally clothed with a thick coating of turf which absorbs moisture and does not become overheated by the sun's rays, and the rains are seldom violent enough to strip this protective covering from the surface. In tropical and even in south-temperate countries, on the other hand, the rains are periodical and often of excessive violence for a short period; and when the forests are cleared away the torrents of rain soon strip off the vegetable soil, and thus destroy in a few years the fertility which has been the growth of many centuries. The bare subsoil becoming heated by the sun, every particle of moisture which does not flow off is cvaporated, and this again reacts on the climate, producing long-continued droughts only relieved by sudden and violent storms, which add to the destruction and render all attempts at cultivation unavailing. Wide tracts of fertile land in the south of Europe have been devastated in this manner, and have become absolutely uninhabitable. Knowingly to produce such disastrous results would be a far more serious offence than any destruction of property which human labour has produced and can replace ; yet we ignorantly allow such extensive clearings for coffee cultivation in India and Ceylon, is to cause the destruction of much fertile soil which generations cannot replice, and which will surely, if not checked in time,
lead to the deterioration of the climate and the permanent impoverishment of the country."
Short Twilight of the Equatorial Zone.-One of the phenomena which markedly distinguish the equatorial from the temperate and polar zones, is the shortness of the twilight and consequent rapid transition from day to night and from night to day. As this depends only on the fact of the sun descending vertically instead of obliquely below the horizon, the difference is most marked when we compare our midsummer twilight with that of the tropies. Even with us the duration of twilight is very much shorter at the time of the equinoxes, and it is probably not much more than a third shorter than this at the equator. Travellers usually exaggerate the shortness of the tropical twilight, it being sometimes said that if we turn a page of the book we are reading when the sun disappears, by the time we turn over the next page it will be too dark to see to read. With an average book and an average reader this is certainiy not true, and it will be well to describe as correctly as we can what really happens.
In fine weather the air appears to be somewhat more transparent near the equator than with us, and the intensity of sunlight is usually very great up to the moment when the solar orb touches the horizon. As soon as it has disappeared the apparent gloom is proportionally great, but this hardly increases perceptibly during the first ten minutes. During the next ten minutes however it becomes rapidly darker, and at the end of
For a terrible picture of the irreparable devastation caused by the reckless clearing of forests see the third chapter of Mr. Marsh's work The Ear!h as Jodified by Human Action.
about twenty-five minutes from sunset the complete darkness of night is almost reached. In the morning the changes are perhaps even more striking. Up to about a quarter past five o'clock the darkness is complete; but about that time a few cries of birds begin to break the silence of night, perhaps indicating that signs of dawn arc perceptible in the eastern horizon. A little later the melancholy voices of the goatsuckers are heard, varied croakings of frogs, the plaintive whistle of mouutain thrushes, and strange cries of birds or mammals peculiar to each locality. About half-past five the first glimmer of light becomes perceptible; it slowly becomes lighter, and then increases so rapially that at about a quarter to six it seems full daylight. For the next quarter of an hour this changes very little in character ; when, suddenly, the sun's rim appears above the horizon, decking the dew-laden foliage with glittering gems, sending gleams of golden light far into the woods, and waking up all nature to life and activity. Birds chip and flutter about, parrots scream, monkeys chatter, bees hum among the flowers, and gorgeous butterflies flutter lazily along or sit with fully expanded wings exposed to the warm and invigorating rays. The first hour of morning in the equatorial regions possesses a charm and a beauty that can never be forgotten. All nature seems refreshed and strengthened by the coolness and moisture of the past night; new leaves and buds unfold almost before the eye, and fresh shoots may often be observed to have grown many inches since the preceding day. The temperature is the most delicious conceivable. The slight chill of early dawn, which was itself agrecable, is succeeded by an invigorating warmth ; and the intense
sunshine lights up the glorious vegetation of the tropics, and realises all that the magic art of the painter or the glowing words of the poet, have pictured as their ideals of terrestrial beauty.
The aspect of the Equatorial Ileavens. Within the limits of the equatorial zone the noonday sun is truly vertical twice every year, and for several months it passes so near the zenith that the difference can hardly be detected without careful observation of the very short shadows of vertical objects. The absence of distinct horizontal shadows at noon which thus characterises a considerable part of the year, is itself a striking phenomenon to an inhabitant of the temperate zones ; and cqually striking is the changed aspect of the starry heavens. The grand constellation Orion, passes vertically overhead, while the Great Bear is only to be seen low down in the northern heavens, and the Pole star either appears close to the horizon or has altogether disappeared according as we are north or south of the equator. Towards the south the Southern Cross, the Magellanic clouds, and the jet-black “ coal sacks” are the most conspicuous objects invisible in our northern latitudes. The same cause that brings the sun overhead in its daily march equally affects the planets, which appear high up towards the zenith far more frequently than with us, thus affording splendid opportunities for telescopic observation.
Intensity of Meteorological Phenomena at the Equator. - The excessive violence of meteorological phenomena generally supposed to be characteristic of the tropics is not by any means remarkable in the equatorial zone. Electrical disturbances are much more frequent, but not generally more violent than in the temperate regions. The wind-storms are rarely of excessive violence, as might in fact be inferred from the extreme steadiness of the barometer, whose daily range at Batavia rarely exceeds one-eighth of an inch, while the extreme range oluring three years was less than one-third of an inch! The amount of the rainfall is very great, seventy or eighty inches in a year being a probable average ; and as the larger part of this occurs during three or four months, individual rainfalls are often exceedingly heavy. The greatest fall recorded at Batavia during three years was three inches and eight-tenthis in one hour,' but this was quite exceptional, and even half this quantity is very unusual. The greatest rainfall recorded in twentyfour hours is seven inches and a quarter ; but more than four inches in one day occurs only on two or three occasions in a year. The blue colour of the sky is probably not so intense as in many parts of the temperate zone, while the brilliancy of the moon and stars is not perceptibly greater than that of our clearest frosty nights, and is undoubtedly much inferior to what is witnessed in many desert regions, and even in Southern Europe.
On the whole, then, we must decide, that uniformity and abundance, rather than any excessive manifestations, are the prevailing characteristic of all the climatal phenomena of the equatorial zone.
Concluding Remarks.—We cannot better conclude our account of the equatorial climate than by quoting the following vivid description of the physical phenomena which occur during the early part of the dry. season at Para. It is taken from Jr. Bates' futuralist
i On January 10th, 1867, from 1 to 2 A.M.