Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 130 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891.

The ice-made isthmus uniting South America to the antarctic continent would on account of its location be the last body of ice to melt from the southern hemisphere, it being situated to windward of the tropical currents and also in a region where the fall of snow is great; yet it would eventually melt away, and the independent circulation of the Southern Ocean again be established.  But it would require a long time for ice sheets to again form on southern lands, because of the lack of icebergs to cool the southern waters.  Still, their temperature would gradually lower with the exclusion of the tropical waters, and consequently ice would slowly gather on the antarctic lands.

The above theory thus briefly presented to account for the climatic changes of the high southern latitudes is in full accord with the simple workings of nature as carried on to-day; and it is probable that the formation of continents and oceans, as well as the earth’s motions in its path around the sun, have met with little change since the cold era iced the lands of the high latitudes.

At an early age, previous to the appearance of frigid periods, the ocean waters of the high latitudes probably did not possess an independent circulation sufficient to lower the temperature so that glaciers could form.  This may have been owing to the shallow sea bottom south of Cape Horn having been above the surface of the water, the channel having since been formed by a comparatively small change in the ocean’s level.  For, while considering this subject, it is well to keep in mind that whenever the western continent extended to the antarctic circle it prevented the independent circulation of the Southern Ocean waters, consequently during such times ice periods could not have occurred in the southern hemisphere.

It will be noticed that according to the views given above, the several theories which have been published to account for great climatic changes neglect to set forth the only efficacious methods through which nature works for conveying and withdrawing tropical heat sufficient to cause temperate and frigid periods in the high latitudes.  While lack of space forbids an explanation of the causes which would perfect an ice period in the northern hemisphere, I will say that it could be mainly brought about through the independent circulation of the arctic waters, which now largely prevent the tropical waters of the North Atlantic from entering the arctic seas, thus causing the accumulation of ice sheets on Greenland.  But before a northern ice period can be perfected, it seems that it will need to co-operate with a cold period in the southern hemisphere; and in order to have the ice of a northern frigid period melt away, it would require the assistance of a mild climate in the high southern latitudes.—­Science.

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Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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