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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (May 22, 1910)
The Omaha Sunday Bee.
KOR ALL THE NEWS THE
UtST IN THE VTE3T
Mtti on to tovb.
VOL. XXXIX-NO. 49.
OMAHA, SUNDAY MORNING, MAY
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
BALLOONING FOR WEATHER AT FORT OMAHA
Interesting Experiments Intended to Afford Data for Determining Conditions That Prevail in the Upper Strata of the Atmosphere
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C.2.WO0D5 Al INSTKUMENT W.K .GREGG -U0TINO
vOR CENTUR1KS men htv been unraveling the mysteries
. of the beavena above and probing the secrets o( earth
beneath, but the air we breathe and winds that bring the
changus that have come to be called weather are only
now yielding to the efforts of the Investigators. Earth
' Is wrapped with a covering of atmosphere which can only be com
pared to an ocean. It has it currents, Us tides and waves in fan
tastic variety. The craft by which man can sail this gaseous aea
cannot navigate beyond a very few miles from port, so there has
through all the centuries remained a great undiscovered realm of
the upper air. Science has found a way to penetrate into this azure
wilderness of space for a few miles more and now they are writing
the stories of the skyland on the pages of the book of human
The United States weather bureau has deviaed an apparatus to
be carried far into the upper air to automatically record the condi
tions met there and return to earth again with the record of Us
travels. Small Bpherical balloons with a lifting power of scarce
half a dozen pounds carry enough intricate Instruments into the dis
tances of the sky to ascertain the temperature, the height and the
barometric pressure at every point in the Journey as accurately as
though the observations were being made on the laboratory work
The extent of this ocean of air in which the earth is submerged
Is yet unknown. Estimates, largely conjectured, have placed the
depth of the aea of air at perhaps 150 mlleB, and long this has been
an accepted figure. The "sounding balloon," as the experts of the
Mount Weather, Va., station, the headquarters of the explorers of
the upper air, call their device, has shown that there is probably
little atmosphere worthy of the name above fifty miles from the sur
face of the earth. The range of investigation is limited to the jour
neys of the sounding balloons, which have thus far not penetrated
beyond eighteen miles. In that distance, however, a fair Idea of
the nature of the whole body of air has been gained. Investigations
now lead the scientists to believe that the conditions that prevail Jn
the upper air are but little changed in the space included in the dis
tance beginning at six miles from the earth to the outmost limits of
the gaseous envelope. Up there they say It U Just a vast expanse
of attenuated gas, thin almost to nothingness, cold as the space be
tween the stars and dazzlingly bright with the uninterrupted rays of
the sun. There can be no live thing there in that void of chill.
Into this forbidden bourne the weather balloon can penetrate for
one glimpse around and then the long, swift plunge back to the
warm living world below.
Port Omaha, cbOBeo because pf its position in the "storm track,"
is the center of the series of experiments which the weather bureau
is conducting in exploring the upper air. C S. Woods and W. R.
Gregg, research observers from the Mount Weather station, are here
daily turning loose balloons to sound the depths of the sky. Similar
Investigations were conducted by them here last year.
These men have been detailed to make an effort to pry into the
secrets of the comet, too. When Halley's comet tame swinging by
on May 18 balloons were liberated to make their way up into the
region beyond the clouds. It may be that the recording instruments
will have a tale to tell when they come back, but there is nothing
certain about it. If the passage of the earth through the tail of the
comet effects the temprature, th barometric pressure or the hu
midity of the upper air the instruments will tell. To other Influ
ences they are Insensate.
Omaha has proven, perhaps, the best location in the country for
the investigation of the upper air. Out here in the broad basin of
the Missouri river country the vast sea of the air is little Influenced
by mountains and the great bodies of water. It is across this terri
tory that th storm sweeps with the roost frequency, and here the
. . most often are the Investigators sbls to send their Inquiring ap-
paratus up to the centers of the atmospheric disturbances which
they are studying. The operation of the weather bureau's sounding
, balloons, too, requires a well populated country that the instruments
s'may be recovered again when they come down from the skyward
journey. The search for the little basket of Instruments In a
great wild stretch of country would be a hopeless task, while in the
fields of Nebraska and Iowa tbey are certain to be found by someone
, in the course of a few weeks, or months at most, and then returned
to Mount Weather.
The Investigations made with the sounding balloons have given
the weather observers an array of facts which, pieced together, havs
caused them to arrive at the conclusion that the air is divided Into
three layers. The Bret of these, that which lies next to the earth,
known as the storm region, lies about two miles deep over the face
-dof the world, The second layer, called the Intermediate region,
vtirptfrom two to al miles In thickness, while from above this on
through space the third as far as the exploration has extended, and
probably as far beyond aa the air extends. This third region Is,
technical,- called the "permanent inversion," because so far investi
gations show that tha temperature tends to increase with altitude,
which is the reverse of conditions in the lower two etratas of the
In the first strata the phenomena which constitutes the weather
of the earth occur. However, the other atrata are believed to have
an influence, but one which is far from completely understood. In
this layer, as every casual observer of the weather knows, changes
In temperature are frequent and irregular, while the air is much dis
turbed by shifting currents. In the second layer of air, above two
miles, the air is of a more uniform temperature, diminishing rather
regularly with altitude. The "permanent inversion," or third layer,
has sometimes been called the "isothermal layer;" in that tempera
ture changes are relatively small.
"In the investigations made at Omaha last year five of the sound
ing balloons reached the third layer," said Mr. Wood of the weathei
service. "The lowest altitude at which it was reached waa five and
a ba'f miles and the highest nine and a half. This makes the aver
age of the base of this region for the five days on which the sound
ings were made seven and a half miles. The average temperature
at this point was 70 degrees, Fahrenheit, below zero. The Increase
of temperature with altitude is shown in the comparison of some of
the records taken at that time. On October 12 of last year the tem
perature of 17 degrees below zero was registered at an altitude of
fifteen miles, 61 degrees below at eleven miles on October 11 and 58
degrees below at ten and a half miles on September 28."
While ascensions were being made last year at Omaha other rep
resentatives of the Mount Weather observatory were engaged in
similar operations at Indianapolis. While the maximum height
reached there was twelve miles, the Omaha record was fifteen miles.
One of the Omaha balloons traveled the unusual distance of 400
miles, landing with its records safely at last at Palmyra, Mo. The
lowest temperature reached by the Omaha balloons was 92 degrees
below zero at an altitude of ten miles on October 6. Those same
experiments are being repeated this month on a large scale. With
kites the Mount Weather station is constantly In touch with condi
tions in the air at distances up to two miles, and on rare occasions
Is able to put kites up to a distance of four miles. Kites have never
reached the permanent inversion.
From the time that the sounding ballcon is cast adrift in the sky
until it Is far out of sight of the unaided eye it is kept under observa
tion by the investigators through the use of a theodolite. For sev
enty miles this little six-foot sphere can be followed on its travels in
a clear sky. Readings from the theodolite showing the direction of
the belloon with reference to both the horizontal and vertical planes
of motion are taken at intervals of one minute so long as it remains
visible. By the record of the theodolite and of the barometer on the
balloon its travels cau be traced accurately on the map. The prob
lem becomes a comparatively simple process of trlangulation.
Even before the balloon lands with its records calculations of its
travels are possible through the knowledge of the angles which it
has followed, and the average rate of rise which these Instruments
attain, an upward velocity of about eight feet a second.
The return of the balloons depends on the chance that they will
be found, and that the intelligent finder will read a card which the
basket of instruments carries, offering Z for its return by express
to the Mount Weather observatory.
I' .-f i
Of the thirteen sent up at Omaha last season all save one were
returned, while of the seven sent out from Indianapolis six were sent
to Mount Weather in good shape.
"1 found your thing all right, but 1 had to clean off part of the
thlug-a-maybob, it was all smudged up," was the note one farmer
wrote in returning the basket of Instruments he found in his field.
He had obliterated the valuable record on the smoked cylinder.
parallel to that which takes place in a bit of woolen dipped In watei,
There is no sentiment In the mind of the scientist when he gravely
declares that the hair of the blonde is the most desirable that Is,
for the construction of hydrometers. j
The movements of the minute instruments which the ballpen
carries are to be measured directly In but thousandths of an Inch.
Hence each of the recording devices are so constructed that the
movement of the stylus on the record Is equivalent to that of Ihe
instrument multiplied by several figures. -i
This ia accomplished by a wonderfully simple arrangement, j'be
ends of the thermometer strips and the hydrometer filament are at
tached to the short end of the lever which operates the stylus. The
Blight movement on the short end results In a very much longer
movement on the end of the long arm which makes the wave line on
the sooted surface. Not the slightest motion of the instruments
escapes the record of the delicate tracery of the aluminum cylinder.
The record taken from the cylinder after the balloon has returned
to earth is written In the three wave lines scratched through Jhe
layer of soot which covers the cylinder. These curves are measured
inotrn mn , thm hrna hflnlr i fiaith tha fltnrv nf thA trflVpld
. .. . .. . ,, . , . . ... . . from a base line cut about the lower part of the record by a fourth
of the balloon tells the tale In a cypher of three characters, denoting . ,wu '"fu'
temperature, pressure and humidity. Each is written in tiny
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scratches on the cylinder. From the thermometer, the barometer
and the hydrometer the readings are recorded on the slowly revolv
ing cylinder by sharp stylus points at the end of arms which respond
to the slightest movement of the instrument with which U is con
nected. While the sounding balloon rlsrs the three instruments are con
stantly responding to the changes of temperature, pressure and hu
midity, and Just as constantly is the record being inscribed on the
soot-covered surface of the cylinder. This cylinder la kept in rota
tion at a low rate of Bpeed for a period of two hours and a half by a
clockwork motor wound just before the balloon is released. This
motor thus feels a fresh portion of the cylinder surface under the
recording touch of the stylus arms.
curved lines, every point in which have a meaning to be expressed
in figures after a series of calculations made by the observers after
the return of the balloon.
The thermometer which the balloon instrument curries Is but a
pair of strips of metal sensitive alike to rise and fall of temperature
by their expansion and contraction. These strips are directly con
nected with an arm of the recording device. Hy their expansion
and contraction in response to changes in temperature the line In
scribed on the cylinder is changed In direction, producing an ascend
ing or descending curve as the conditions may chance to be.
The hydrometer depends for its vital action on the stretching and
shrinking of a strand of human hair from which all trace of oil has
been removed by chemical process. With Increase of the amount of
moisture in the surrounding air the bair shrinking in length pulls
arm of the recording instrument. They tell the observer the height
of the balloon at any point in its travels, the temperature and the
humidity at that point. The curves by being continuously Inscribed
about the cylinder during the two hours and a half of automatic ob
servation permit Inquiry into the behavior of the air at any point
from the start with a close degree of accuracy.
The determination of the helghth is reached through the reading
of the line which records the action of a barometer, giving the air
pressure along the path of the balloon.
Iti the readings taken in the experiments at Fort Omaha the
records of the Omaha office of the weather bureau are relied upon
as a basis of comparison. As the barometric pressure means In gen
eral terms the weight of the air above, differences in the pressure aa
The record is written In three denoted by tbe curve lndkate differences in elevation or the depth
uj me air cuiuiun tuuv toe oauoon. . ,.
The elevation which the balloon reached is readily computed by
comparison with the pressures recorded during the filgat of the bal
loon by a barometer at the starting point.
The failure of any of the three recording instruments to perform
their functions would not mar the record of the remainder. The
recording stylus of the defective instrument would instead of re
sponding to the changes in the conditions which come within Its
functions would trace a string line around tbe cylinder. This
straight line would mean, If taken literally, no change in the condi
tion which the instrument was sent out to record. This Is a well
near impossible state of affairs, and hence the failure of the recorder
to function would at once betray itself to the observer. However,
with the barometer out of commission the record of the hydrometer
j, ui u i . .i. ... ., . and that of the thermometer would be of little value, as onlv throne-h
on the recording lever, which In turn cuts the line on the cylinder ... . .. . , . ' ' oul' tnrougn
me Dnuuieicr ins luminni vi iu oauooti at toe time or the taking
of the other components of the record obtainable. Thus the air
stratum In which tbe balloon was sallinn at the time of anv rivn
J1C0W) Xba VT AQJAL MACHINE
record in a trifle different direction. Should the air become dryer
the hair yields up the moisture which shortened its fiber and becomes
longer, allowing the lever to respond to the action of the tension
spring, which tends to restore the stylus point to Us old position.
By this tension spring the hair filament is kept at a constant degree
of tautness regardless of changes in its length with reference to the
changes In humidity. Tbe spring is identical in its construction
with that of the balance wheel of a watch.
Many fibers bavo been used In the construction of hydrometers,
but none have been found to equal Jn sensitiveness the human hair
subjected to chemical treatment. Tbe hair strand is soaked In an
alkaline solution and washed again and again to remove the oils
which lubricate the hair in Its natural condition. With tbe fatty
substances removed the hair Is made subject to changes of moisture
through the ready absorption into Us structure. The process Is
lemperaiure ana aegree or numiaity would he lea entirely a matter
of conjecture without tbe aid of the barometric record.
For the sake of the good name of the delicate tangle of mechan
ism, however. It should be known that it has not yet failed to keep
a continuous and accurate record.
The entire machine is constructed of aluminum, giving tbe max
imum of strength, with a minimum of weight. The whole is en
closed In a wicker basket, to which it is attached in such a manner
that the recording parts are protected from vibration and Jars from
sudden changea In the air currents.
The three measuring devices are subjected to an exacting aerlea
(Continued on Page Four.)
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