The Philosophy of the Weather 2

This work from the mid 19th century by Thomas Belden Butler, contains some still valid arguments despite the lack of knowledge generally at the time.
My version of it follows the original is reproduced here, a thread or so earlier.

I need to work on what is part original and what I have totally replaced. Ideal the whole book wants republishing with the comments from me explaining every paragraph like an introduction.

This is just a short version. …

This section would make a good slide show presentation with a picture or chart for every paragraph. It would be good if the group would help fill in the gaps and also pass comment of the translation into a more readable script. I have no objection to anyone adding their own version of the original and of course an accurate translation of what they can understand of the subject into the reader's own language or languages should also be attempted.



Heat and moisture are indispensable to the fertility of the earth; Arrangements exist for their diffusion and distribution and all the phenomena of the weather result from their operation; Heat furnished or produced mainly by the direct action of the sun’s rays; Manner in which it is diffused over the earth; Other causes operate besides the sun’s rays; The earth intensely heated in its interior; Heat derived from the great Oceanic currents and the aerial currents which flow from the tropics to the poles and from magnetism and electricity; Water distributed by an atmospheric machinery as extensive as the globe; Evidences of this; Its distribution over the continents of North America; Explanation of it; Source from whence our supply of water is derived and from which our rivers return.

The planet Earth is a perfect design for ALL the life on it.


We can understand it all from the study of the way heat is conducted or convected around the world.


Consider the problems if Earth was in captured rotation to the sun. So we have day and night and the promise that such a system is ceaseless.


Everything about earth's orbit has been perfectly designed to a nicety that beggars belief.


From the following chart it is obvious that the heat exchange is breathlessly above anything any man or group of men could ever come up with:


January 1851, (Latitude about 74°, Longitude about 70°).
Date. Wind. Force. Ther. Bar. Sky and Weather.

Jan. 3 …… calm -26.1 29.62 blue sky, m.
"4 W. gent breeze -21.3 29.53 blue sky, detached clouds, m.
"5 W. by N. gent breeze -3.9 29.59 blue sky, m., clouded over.
"6 W. by S. light breeze -0.8 29.67 clouded over, m., snow.
"7 W. gent breeze -14.4 29.96 blue sky, detached clouds, m.
"8 W.S.W. light air -21.2 30.14 blue sky, m.
"29 W.N.W. light air -18.9 30.19 blue sky.
"30 NW. by W. light air -13.5 30.17 clouded over, m.
"31 NW. by W. gent breeze -4.4 29.35 clouded over, snow.
Feb. 1 W. light breeze -11.7 29.27 cloudy, blue sky, m.
"2 W. light air -25.1 29.62 blue sky, detached clouds, m.

On the 3 January, with no sun it was calm, but 26° below zero with blue sky, somewhat misty or hazy. The next day temperatures rose and pressure fell. On the 5th it clouded over and the thermometer >>rose rapidly<< and on the 6th it had risen more than 25° and snow fell. On the 7th it cleared, temperatures fell and pressure rose. On the 8th the thermometer had fallen to 21° below zero and the barometer had risen to 30.14.
A similar event occurred later in the month, just like those which occur with us everywhere. That is: in the polar regions, sun or not, by night and day, the changes from warm to cold and from cold to warm are sudden, great and connected with rain and snow; that >>everywhere in winter it >moderates< to storm.<<


There are innumerable anomalies like that. Variations in the seasons etc are put down to little known phenomena such as Ice formation and sunspots etcetera.


Anomalies exist at every latitude many charts are available to show the apparent discrepancies of heat and pressure distribution and the greatest dicrepancy is how weather lines do or don't match the way the planet is divided into a grid of latitudes and longitudes.


Consider how the snowline varies. Then look at the other temperture lines. The autor was particularly interested in the way they match the magnetic fields.


It is clear that whatever causes weather it isn't the calendar. Even the way that oceans and shorelines interact with mountains and valleys etcetera are not enough to explain things.


Oddly there is a place where heat quotients are stable and evenly distributed. Temperatures rise about one degree F for every fifty-five feet depth into the core of the planet.
[5 x 1760 x 3 / 55 gets you the temperature in rocks at the bottom of the deepest trench in the sea. 480 degrees F? I would have thought it was more biut it is enough to melt rock under pressure. I wonder what the pressure would work out as.]


Little was know in his day how the tropical oceans were heated. Ocean Gyres were known about but their courses and temperatures still needed to be charted. A process constantly under observation even today.


The other way that heat is transferred is from the tropics to the poles by the air.
The author contends that his peers in the mid 19th Century didn't know as much about the way this worked as they might have with his help.


He hoped to explain the method by means of a future better understanding of the way that electricity occurs in the sky. He points out that the temperature gradients suroun the magnetic pole(s) and that the core of the magnetic poles are the coldest parts of the sky.


Still taught today is a simplification of how rain forms by the interaction of warm and cold air.

It isn't that simple
Certain weather conditions are kept apart by physics.
You seldom see Low pressure regions mixing with High ones. This is because “similar” fluids at different temperatures have totally different densities and are thus immiscible if not contained in the same reservoir >and Given Time To Settle And Mix.<


Take North America for example from the Isthmus of Darien to the Arctic regions and from the 65 to 160 West. It has an example of every climate in the world. Divided into five sections:
Central America and Southern Mexico, south of 28°;
Northern Mexico and Southern New Mexico, California, etc., from 28° and 32° North;
Northern California, Utah, Southern Oregon and Western New Mexico, north of the parallel of 32°;
Everything else on the continent north of 42° west of the 100° West;
And the fifth:
Eastern United States, east of the 100° meridian.


The above is self evident and doesn't need translation. The behaviour of the non desert tropic areas is what we today know as the Inter-Tropical Conversion Zone (ITCZ.)


Can't do much about quotes can you?
I would change the sentence structure with more time. But with an appropraite climate chart there would be no need.


What the author has pointed out with the seasons of the places so far covered is that rainfall and sunshine are nicely balanced. Precipitation does not immediately follow evaporation and: Evaporation does not instantly provide needed rainfall in these areas


Texas and Iowa are anomalous situations with regard to how and when they get their rainfall. It is exceptionally inexplicable -or was in 1856. I have no idea what the modern explanation is.



Southern Mexico has a rainy season furnished by the belt of inter-tropical rains, which travels up over it from the south in summer.
California has a rainy season, which is furnished by the extra-tropical belt of rains, which travels down from the north and covers it in winter.
Northern Mexico and the adjoining regions west of the 100th meridian are between the limits of the two and neither travels far enough to reach them, except for brief and uncertain periods; they are comparatively rainless; while the eastern portion of the continent, in all latitudes, unlike the others, is without a distinctly marked dry season, or a rainless region and with the exception of occasional droughts, is abundantly supplied with rain at all seasons of the year.

What is the explanation of all this?

What produces the extra-tropical belt of regular rains surrounding the earth, north of the parallel of 30° N. in some places and 35° N. in others, extending to the pole, with its southern edge travelling up ten or more degrees in summer, leaving large portions of the earth subject to a dry season; and back again in the winter to give them a rainy one?

What produces the narrow belt of inter-tropical rains, encircling the earth; travelling up and down every year over an average of 35° of latitude, supplying every portion of it alternately with rain?

And what connects the two together over the eastern portion of North America, so as to leave no distinctly marked wet and dry season and no rainless and sterile portion there?

Are all these the result of simple evaporation, ascent to a colder region, condensation and descent again?

All valid questions. I wish the idiom of that century hadn't been so stuck on overlong sentences.

What on earth causes the rivers to take all the rainfall away from these regions and allows it all to return again time and time again to refresh the planet?


I could write essays on all of these paragraphs but the thrust of this book is to get at the 19th century argument, not to ammend it to modern days. None the less that would be an interesting project.

Chapter two requires cloud catalogues the one above requires five regional climate charts for North America. (I presume things haven't changed all that much, apart from the dead rivers and loss of wildlife and a few counties destroyed in open cast mines.)




Our rivers return in the form of clouds and in storms and showers; Definition and character of storms; Differences in the character of the clouds which constitute them; Nomenclature of Howard; Its imperfections; New order of description; Low fog; High fog; Storm fog; Storm scud; N. W. scud; Cumulus; Stratus; Cirrus; Compounds of the two latter; recapitulation in tabular form.

There is always moisture in the air it is rated as humidity which can be low to high at 100% humidity the rate of exchange of water in the air is one for one and rainfal equals evaporation.


Storms come in all shapes and sizes.


There are online these days, plenty of examples of the different types of couds and a variety of all the different patterns they make in all the regions of the planet. It is worth learning the different cloud names and types but I have never bothered to do so myself.
You just know which ones are which once you get caught out in themenough times. You don't need a book to tell you what your feelings are already screaming at you if you just listen.


But for the purpose of practical illustration hereafter and greater precision, I shall follow a somewhat different order in describing them and introduce two forms of scud quite as important, practically, as any other.

First, then, commencing at the earth, we have what may be properly termed fog, or low fog. This forms, in still clear weather, in the valleys and over the surface of the rivers and other bodies of water, during the night and most frequently the latter part of it and is at its acmé at sunrise, or soon after, limiting vision horizontally and perpendicularly and dissolving away during the forenoon.

It is rarely more than from two to four hundred feet in height at its upper surface and often much less and is composed of vesicular condensed vapour, sometimes sufficiently dense to fall in mist and is doubtless in composition substantially what the clouds are in the other strata of the atmosphere, as observed by us, or passed through by aeronauts.

I have never seen it carried up to any considerable height into the other strata by any of the supposed ascending currents, to form permanent clouds and shall have occasion to allude to the fact in another connection. It disappears usually before mid-day and has, when thus formed, no connection with any clouds which furnish rain.

To this Dr. Howard originally gave the name of stratus and so it is represented upon the cut; but the latter term may be with greater propriety applied to the smooth uniform cloud in the superior strata from which the rain or snow is known to fall and I shall retain and so apply it.

The next in order, ascending, is high fog. This is usually from one to two thousand feet in height at its lower surface. It forms, like low fog, during the night and in still weather; and is rarely, if ever, connected with clouds which furnish rain. It breaks away and disappears between ten and twelve in the forenoon, usually passing off to the eastward.

This fog is most commonly seen in summer and autumn, particularly the latter and unless distinguished from cloud will deceive the weather-watcher. It is readily distinguishable. Although often very dense, obscuring the light of the sun as perfectly as the clouds of a north-east storm, it differs from them.

It forms in still clear weather, is present only in the morning, is perfectly uniform, and, before its dissolution commences, without breaks, or light and shade, or apparent motion and unaccompanied by scud or surface wind. The storm clouds are never entirely uniform, or without spots of light and shade, by which their nature can be discerned and rarely, when as dense as high fog, without scud running under them and surface winds.

There is another fog still, connected with rain storms but it does not often precede them; occurring at all seasons but most commonly in connection with the warm S. E. thaws and rains of winter and spring; and which usually comes on after the rain has commenced and continued for awhile and the easterly wind has abated; occupying probably the entire space from the earth to the inferior surface of the rain clouds or stratus.

Practically this does not require any further notice. It is an incident of the storm. When formed it remains while the storm clouds remain and passes off with them. It is sometimes exceedingly dense in February and March, when it accompanies a thaw and if there is a considerable depth of snow, it has the credit of aiding essentially in its dissolution.

Mingled with the smoke of London, it produced there the memorable dark day of the 24th of February, 1832 and at various other times has produced others of like character. (See Howard’s Climate of London, vol. iii. pp. 36, 207, 303.) These fogs have been so dense there that every kind of locomotion was dangerous, even with lanterns, at mid-day.

The next in order, ascending, are the storm scud, which float in the north-east or easterly, south-east or southerly wind, before and during storms.

These, as the reader will hereafter see, are, practically, very important forms of cloud condensation; although they have found no place in any practical or scientific description given of the clouds and are not upon the cuts. They are patches of foggy seeming clouds of all sizes, more or less connected together by thin portions of similar condensation, often passing to the westward, south-westward, north-westward, or northward with great rapidity.

Their average height is about half a mile but they often run much lower. They are usually of an “ashy grey” colour. The annexed cut shows one phase of them, from among many taken by daguerreotype. The arrows pointing to the west show the scud distinguished from the smooth partially formed stratus above. This view was taken a few hours prior to the setting in of a heavy S. E. rain storm. It is a northerly view.

At about the same height but in a different state of the atmosphere, float the peculiar fair-weather clouds of the N. W. wind. They usually form in a clear sky and pass with considerable rapidity to the S. E. Sometimes they are quite large, approaching the cumulus in form and white, with dark under surfaces and at others, in the month of November particularly, are entirely dark and assume the character of squalls and drop flurries of snow; and then resemble the nimbus of Howard. They assume at different times and in different seasons, different shapes like those of the scud, the cumulus, or the stratus.

They form and float in the peculiar N. W. current which is usually a fair-weather wind and are never connected with storms. In mild weather they are usually white and in cold weather sometimes very black and at all times differ in colour from the ashy grey scud of the storm. This variety is not represented upon the general cuts. The annexed diagram shows one phase of them but they are readily observable at all seasons of the year, when the N. W. wind is prevailing; differing in appearance according to the season.

Let these, as well as the storm scud, be carefully observed and studied by the reader and let no opportunity to familiarize himself with their appearance be lost. A brief glance at each recurrence of easterly or north-westerly wind will suffice.

The cumuli appear in isolated clouds of every size, or in vast clouds composed of aggregated masses, as the peculiar cloud of the thunder shower. They form as low down as the scud or fair-weather cloud of the N. W. wind, which, for convenience, I will call N. W. scud; and often in violent showers and particularly in hail storms, extend up as far as the density of the atmosphere will permit them to form. Professor Espy thinks he has measured their tops at an altitude of ten miles.

Others have estimated their height, when most largely developed, at twelve miles; but it is very doubtful whether the atmosphere can contain the moisture necessary to form so dense a cloud at that elevation. It is their immense height, however, whether it be six, or eight, or ten miles, together with the sudden and violent electric action, condensing suddenly all the moisture contained in the atmosphere within the space occupied by the cloud, which produces such sudden and heavy falls of rain or hail.

As the rain drops or hail, when formed at such an elevation, in falling through the partially condensed vapour of the cloud must necessarily enlarge by accretion from the particles with which they come in contact and probably also by attraction, their size when they reach the earth, though frequently very considerable, is not a matter of astonishment. The cumulus is represented in the general plate with sufficient accuracy to show its peculiar character.

In summer, when the air is calm, the weather warm and no storm is approaching, there is always, in the day time, a tendency to the formation of cumuli. This tendency exhibits itself about ten o’clock in the forenoon and they gradually form and enlarge until about two in the afternoon; and after that, if they do not continue to enlarge and form showers, they melt away and disappear before nightfall.

Sometimes in July and August the atmosphere will be studded with them at mid-day, floating about three-quarters of a mile from the earth (in a level country), gently and slowly away to the eastward. At times it may seem as if they must coalesce and form showers, yet they frequently do not but gradually melt away, as before stated.

The cumulus is the principal cloud of the tropics and is not often seen with us except in summer, or when our weather is tropical in character.

The engraving on the preceding page, shows a phase of these fair-weather summer cumuli.

The last in order occupying (with their compounds) the higher portions of the atmosphere, are the cirrus and stratus. The cirrus is often the skeleton of the other and precedes it in formation.

These are the proper clouds of the storm, in our sense of the term. While, however, the cirrus remains a cirrus, it furnishes no rain. When it extends and expands and its threads widen and coalesce into cirro-stratus and stratus, or it induces a layer of stratus below it, the rain forms.

The following is Dr. Howard’s description of cirrus: “Parallel, flexuous or diverging fibres, extensible by increase in any or in all directions. Clouds in this modification appear to have the least density, the greatest elevation and the greatest variety of extent and direction. They are the earliest appearance after serene weather.

They are first indicated by a few threads pencilled, as it were, on the sky. These increase in length and new ones are in the mean time added to them. Often the first-formed threads serve as stems to support numerous branches, which in their turn, give rise to others.”

The illustrations in the general cut are imperfect and do not represent the delicate fibres of the cloud, for it is a difficult cloud to daguerreotype or engrave but the representation is sufficiently accurate to give the reader a general idea of the different varieties and enable him to discover them readily by observation. They are the most elevated forms, always of a light colour and often illuminated about sunset by the rays of the sun shining upon their inferior surface; the sun, however, often illuminates, in like manner, the dense forms of cirro-stratus and the latter, from their greater density, are susceptible of a brighter and more vivid illumination.

The stratus is a smooth, uniform cloud; the true rain cloud of the storm; often forming without much cirrus above, or connected with it. It may be seen in its partially formed state in the bank in the west, at nightfall, or in the circle around the moon in the night. When it becomes sufficiently condensed, rain always falls from it but in moderation. If there be large masses of scud running beneath it for its drops to fall through (especially as is sometimes the case, in two or more currents), the rain may be very heavy. But more of this hereafter.

The annexed cut shows the forming stratus, light and thin, passing to the east, as indicated by the short arrows just before a storm, while the scud beneath is running to the west.

It was copied from a daguerreotype view, facing northward.

Intermediate between the fibrous, tufted, cirrus and the smooth uniform stratus, there is a variety of forms partaking more or less of the character of one or the other and termed cirro-stratus. No single correct representation of cirro-stratus as a distinct cloud, can be given; but several varieties will be hereafter alluded to, under the head of prognostics. Several modifications are represented with tolerable accuracy upon the cuts.

The cirro-cumulus is a collection in patches of very small distinct heaps of white clouds; they are called fleecy clouds, from their resemblance to a collection of fleeces of wool and are imperfectly represented on the general cut. They do not appear often and are usually fair-weather clouds.

This form has none of the characteristics of the cumulus and does not appear in the same stratum. It was probably called cumulus because its small masses are distinct, as are those of the ordinary cumulus. It occurs in the same stratum as cirro-stratus and properly belongs to that modification. I retain the name inasmuch as the cloud is of some practical importance.

The cumulo-stratus is seldom seen in our climate, as it is represented in the cut. Stratus condensation above and in connection with cumulus condensation, is not uncommon but that precise form is rare.

This, too, is practically of no consequence and I shall take no further notice of it.

Recapitulating, I give (in a tabular form) the three principal strata and their modifications, located with sufficient accuracy for illustration. The clouds which are found in an upper or lower portion of a stratum are so represented by the location of their names; those which appear at all heights in the stratum, with the names across. The elevation is the average one; although there is no limit to the cirrus above, except the absence of sufficient moisture. It was seen by Guy Lussac and has been by other aeronauts, at an elevation of five miles, or more, when too delicate to be visible below.

With the assistance of this table of elevations and a careful observation, the reader can soon become familiar with the forms of clouds and their relative situations.
Well that was an easy chapter to bring up to date.
All we need now are the photos. Insert them in the final section of this chapter that I have left more or less in tact.
(Still on the easy stuff so beware.)


Chapter 2


Our rivers do not return from the North Atlantic; All storms and showers move from the westward to the eastward; Seeming clouds seen moving from the eastward to the westward are scud; They are incidents of the storm and not a necessary part of it; The storm clouds are above them, moving to the eastward; Occasions when this may be seen; Admitted facts prove it; Investigations prove it; May be known from analogy; From the fact that there is an aerial current pursuing the same course in which the storms originate; Character of this current; Its influence upon our country; Importance of a knowledge of its origin, cause and the reciprocal action between it and the earth; To this end necessary to go down “to the chambers of the South”.


Having thus taken a brief view of the different clouds, let us return to the inquiry, from what ocean and by what machinery, our “rivers return.”
I found this bit a stuggle and as boring as hell.



Most storms that cross the USA come from the west coast


I believe the author was at great pains to prove that there is no such thing as rotation in storms. However in attempting to prove that weather from the east in the Alleghenies, he oversteps credibility: “…but what you see and call clouds, are not the clouds which furnish the rain…” and: “This east wind and the scud are not the storm, or essential parts of it.”


In “a section of the storm… the rain cloud above, moving to the east and the scud beneath running to the west”.


Storm clouds moving at twelve to twenty mph, from W.S.W. to E.N.E., may have scud running under in a different direction at twenty to ninety mph, a day or two days before the storm coming from the S.W. Sometimes the storm cloud passed southward as “a dry north-easter.”


Condensation, dense enough, can influence and attract the surface atmosphere and create an easterly wind. If the scud isn't dense enough for rain we have a dry north-easter containing stratus. Thus torms all move from a west to east.
(You can tell yourself monstrous lies if it helps you get what you want.)


Thunder storms come from the west apparently against an east wind. They pass to the east, never to the west. Thunder is always heard first in the west and last in the east.
(I don't know if this is always so in certain parts of the USA but you can see the main thrust of tornadoes uns west to east over several days even though sometimes an outbreak in the south east occasionally precedes on in the northwest.
In Britain a plume of warm air coming from Iberia to Britain- “Spanish Plume”, brings thunder to SE England.)


Storms that pass to the east from the west don't come back.


North of 30 degrees N. All storms examined move west to east.
(I have seen charts showing Pacific pressure systems cross southern Mexico to Florida and work their way up the east coast. Pity I can't remember what they did then. Heavy rain I seem to recall. The USA has an immense stache of archives showing weather charts online or easily obtainable to prove or disprove any and all of the above.)


There is a current in the atmosphere, all over the continent north of the N. E. trades but in great volume over the United States, east of the meridian of 105° W. from Greenwich; varying in different seasons and upon different parallels and flowing near the earth, when no surface wind interposes between them. In the vicinity of New York, the usual course of this current is from about W. S. W. to E. N. E. In the western and south-western portion of the United States, it is, doubtless, more southerly; varying somewhat according to the season; and in other sections varies in obedience to the general law of its origin and progress.

I have observed its course in many places, between the parallels of 38° and 44° N. This current comes from the South Atlantic Ocean. It is our portion of the aerial current, which flows everywhere from the tropics toward the poles, to which I have already alluded in connection with the distribution of heat. It brings to us the twenty inches of rain which we lose by the rivers and by the westerly winds, which carry off a portion of the local moisture of evaporation and its action precipitates the remaining portion of that moisture. It spreads out over the face of our country, with considerable but not entire uniformity. All our great storms originate in it and all our showers originate in or are induced and controlled by it.

From the varied action, inherent or induced, of this current, most of our meteorological phenomena, whether of wet or dry, or cold or warm weather, result; and a thorough knowledge of its origin, cause and the reciprocal action between it and the earth, is essential to a knowledge of the “Philosophy of the Weather.”

Let us then go down to the “chambers of the south,” to the inter-tropical regions, of which we have said something in connection with a notice of Southern Mexico and see where and how this great aerial current originates.



One thought on “The Philosophy of the Weather 2

  1. I am giving up on the original and starting work on the thing all over again.I am going to put his words in mine. There is no other way to do it realistically. Nobody can expect a person in this age to read that style. Plus he is so old fashioned in his science…Here is Chapter 6:

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