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produces any burning of the skin, while in the tropics at almost any hour of the day, and when the sun has an elevation of only 40° or 50°, exposure to it for a few minutes will scorch a European so that the skin turns red, becomes painful, and often blisters or peels off. Almost every visitor to the tropics suffers from incautious exposure of the neck, the leg, or some other part of the body to the sun's rays, which there possess a power as new as it is at first sight inexplicable, for it is not accompanied by any extraordinary increase in the temperature of the air.
These very different effects, produced by the same amount of sun-heat poured upon the earth in different latitudes, is due to a combination of causes. The most important of these are, probably,—the constant high temperature of the soil and of the surface-waters of the ocean,—the great amount of aqueous vapour in the atmosphere, the great extent of the intertropical regions which cause the winds that reach the equatorial zone to be always warm,—and the latent heat given out during the formation of rain and dew. We will briefly consider the manner in which each of these causes contributes to the high degree and great uniformity of the equatorial temperature.
Influence of the Heat of the Soil It is well known that at a very moderate depth the soil maintains a uniform temperature during the twenty-four hours, while at a greater depth even the annual inequalities disappear, and a uniform temperature, which is almost exactly the mean temperature of the air in the same locality, is constantly maintained throughout the year. The depth at which this uniform temperature is reached is greater as the annual range of temperature is greater, so that it is least near the equator, and greatest in localities near the arctic circle, where the greatest difference between summer and winter temperature prevails. In the vicinity of the equator, where the annual range of the thermometer is so small as we have seen it to be at Batavia, the mean temperature of about 80° Fahr. is reached at a depth of four or five feet. The surplus heat received during the day is therefore conducted downwards very slowly, the surface soil becomes greatly super-heated, and a large portion of this heat is given out at night and thus keeps up the high temperature of the air when the sun has ceased to warm the earth. In the temperate zones, on the other hand, the stratum of uniform earth-temperature lies very deep. At Geneva it is not less than from thirty to forty feet, and with us it is probably fifty or sixty feet, and the temperature found there is nearly forty degrees lower than at the equator. This great body of cool earth absorbs a large portion of the surface heat during the summer, and conducts it downwards with comparative rapidity, and it is only late in the year (in July and August), when the upper layers of the soil have accumulated a surplus store of solar heat, that a sufficient quantity is radiated at night to keep up a rather high temperature in the absence of the sun. At the equator, on the other hand, this radiation is always going on, and earth-heat is one of the most important of the agencies which tend to equalise the equatorial climate.
Influence of the Aqueous Vapour of the Atmosphere The aqueous vapour which is always present in considerable quantities in the atmosphere, exhibits a singular and very important relation to solar and terrestrial heat. The rays of the sun pass through it unobstructed to the earth; but the warmth given off by the heated earth is very largely absorbed by it, thus raising the temperature of the air; and as it is the lower strata of air which contain most vapour, these act as a blanket to the earth, preventing it from losing heat at night by radiation into space. During a large part of the year the air in the equatorial zone is nearly saturated with vapour, so that, notwithstanding the heat, salt and sugar become liquid, and all articles of iron get thickly coated with rust. Complete saturation being represented by 100, the
daily average of greatest humidity at Batavia reaches 96 in January and 92 in December. In January, which is the dampest month, the range of humidity is small (77 to 96), and at this time the range of temperature is also least; while in September, with a greater daily range of humidity (62 to 92) the range of temperature is the greatest, and the lowest temperatures are recorded in this and the preceding month. It is a curious fact that in many parts of England the degree of humidity, as measured by the comparative saturation of the air, is as great as that of Batavia or even greater. A register kept at Clifton during the years 1853-1862 shows a mean humidity in January of 90, while the highest monthly mean for the four years at Batavia was 88; and while the lowest of the monthly means at Clifton was 79.1, the lowest at Batavia was 78.9. These figures, however, represent an immense difference in the quantity of vapour in every cubic foot of air. In January at Clifton, with a temperature of 35° to 40° Fahr., there would be only about 4 to 41 grains of vapour per cubic foot of air, while at Batavia, with a temperature from 80° to 90° Fahr., there would be about 20 grains in the same quantity of air. The most important fact, however, is, that the capacity of air for holding vapour in suspension increases more rapidly than temperature increases, so that a fall of ten degrees at 50° Fahr. will lead to the condensation of about 11 grain of vapour per cubic foot, while a similar fall at 90° Fahr. will set free 64 grains. We can thus understand how it is that the very moderate fall of the thermometer during a tropical night causes heavier dews and a greater amount of sensible moisture than are ever experienced during much greater variations of temperature in the temperate zone. It is this large quantity of vapour in the equatorial atmosphere that keeps up a genial warmth throughout the night by preventing the radiation into space of the heat absorbed by the surface soil during the day. That this is really the case is strikingly proved by what occurs in the plains of Northern India, where the daily maximum of heat is far beyond anything experienced near the equator, yet, owing to the extreme dryness of the atmosphere, the clear nights are very cold, radiation being sometimes so rapid that water placed in shallow pans becomes frozen over.
As the heated earth, and everything upon its surface, does not cool so fast when surrounded by moist as by dry air, it follows that even if the quantity and intensity of the solar rays falling upon two given portions of the earth's surface are exactly equal, yet the sensible and effective heat produced in the two localities may be very different according as the atmosphere contains much or little vapour. In the one case the heat is absorbed more rapidly than it can escape by radiation; in the other case it radiates away into space, and is lost, more rapidly than it is being absorbed. In both cases an equilibrium will be arrived at, but in the one case the resulting mean temperature will be much higher than in the other. Thus we can understand the burning effects of the sun's rays in the tropics, since it results from the inability of the skin to part with the heat, either by radiation, evaporation, or absorption, as fast as it is received, and thus a temperature is quickly reached which disorganises the delicate structures of the epidermis.
Influence of Winds on the Temperature of the Equator The distance from the northern to the southern tropics being considerably more than three thousand miles, and the area of the intertropical zone more than one-third the whole area of the globe, it becomes hardly possible for any currents of air to reach the equatorial belt without being previously warmed by contact with the earth or ocean, or by mixture with the heated surface-air which is found in all intertropical and sub-tropical lands. This warming of the air is rendered more certain and more effective by the circumstance that all currents of air coming from the north or south have their direction changed owing to the increasing rapidity of the earth's rotational velocity, so that they reach the equator as easterly winds, and thus pass obliquely over a great extent of the heated surface of the globe. The causes that produce the westerly monsoons act in a similar manner, so that on the equator direct north or south winds, except as local land and sea-breezes, are almost unknown. The Batavia observations show that for ten months in the year
direction of the wind varies only between 5° and 30° from due east or west, and these are also the strongest winds. In the two months—March and October—when the winds are northerly, they are very light, and are probably in great part local sea - breezes, which, from the position of Batavia, must come from the north over about two thousand miles of warm land and sea.
As a rule, therefore, every current of air at or near the equator has passed obliquely over an immense extent of tropical surface and is thus necessarily a warm wind.
In the north temperate zone, on the other hand, the winds are always cool, and often of very low temperature even in the height of summer, due probably to their coming from colder northern regions as easterly winds, or from the upper parts of the atmosphere as westerly winds; and this constant supply of cool air, combined with quick radiation through a dryer atmosphere, carries off the solar heat so rapidly that an equilibrium is only reached at a comparatively low temperature. In the equatorial zone, on the contrary, the heat accumulates, on account of the absence of any medium of sufficiently low temperature to carry it off rapidly, and it thus soon reaches a point high enough to produce those scorching effects which are so puzzling when the altitude of the sun or the indications of the thermometer are alone considered. Whenever, as is sometimes the case, exceptional cold occurs near the equator, it can almost always be traced to the influence of currents of air of unusually low temperature. Thus in July near the Aru islands, the writer experienced a strong south-east wind which almost neutralised the usual effects of tropical heat, although the weather was bright and sunny. But the wind, coming direct from the southern ocean during its winter without acquiring heat by passing over land, was necessarily of a low temperature. Again, Mr. Bates informs us that in the Upper Amazon in the month of May there is a regularly recurring south wind which produces a remarkable lowering of the usual equatorial temperature. But owing to the increased velocity of the earth's surface at the equator a south wind there must have been a south-west wind at its origin, and this would bring it directly from the high chain of the Peruvian Andes during the winter of the southern hemisphere. It is therefore probably a cold mountain wind, and blowing as it does over a continuous forest, it has been unable to acquire the usual tropical warmth.
The cause of the striking contrast between the climates of equatorial and temperate lands at times when both are receiving an approximately equal amount of solar heat may perhaps be made clearer by an illustration. Let us suppose there to be two reservoirs of water, each supplied by a pipe which pours into it a thousand gallons a day, but which runs only during the daytime, being cut off at night. The reser