It is well known that when a receiver filled with ordinary undried air is exhausted, a cloudiness, due to.the precipitation of aqueous vapor diffused in the air, is produced by the first few strokes of the pump. It is, as might be expected, possible to produce clouds in this way with the vapors of other liquids than water. In the course of some experiments on the chemical action of light, I had frequent occasion to observe the precipitation of such clouds in the experimental tubes employed. The clouds were generated in two ways. One mode consisted in opening the passage between the filled experimental tube and the air pump, and then simply dilating the air by working the pump. In the other, the experimental tube was connected with a vessel of suitable size, while the passage between the vessel and tube could be closed by a stopcock. The vessel was first exhausted. Turning on the cock the air rushed from the experimental tube into the vessel, the precipitation of a cloud within the tube being a consequence of the transfer. The clouds thus precipitated differed from each other in luminous energy, which is, of course, to be referred to the different reflective energies of the particles of the clouds, which were produced by substances of very different refractive indices. Different clouds, moreover, possess very different degrees of stability. Some melt away rapidly, while others linger for minutes in the experimental tube, resting upon its bottom as they dissolve like a heap of snow. The clouds exhibit a difference in texture. A certain expansion is necessary to bring down the cloud. The moment before precipitation, the mass of cooling air and vapor may be regarded as divided into a number of polyhedra, the particles along the bounding surfaces of which move in opposite directions when precipitation actually sets in. Every cloud particle has consumed a polyhedron of vapor in its formation; and it is manifest that the size of the particle must depend, not only on the size of the vapor polyhedron, but also on the relation of the density of the vapor to that of its liquid. If the vapor were light and the liquid heavy, other things being equal, the cloud particle would be smaller than if the vapor were heavy and the liquid light. The case of toluol may be taken as representative of a great number of others. The specific gravity of this liquid is 0*85; water being 1/0, the specific gravity of its vapor is 3*26, that of aqu3ous vapor being 06. Now, as the size of the cloud particle is directly proportional to the specific gravity of the vapor, and inversely proportional to the specific gravity of the liquid, an easy calculation proves that, assuming the size of the vapor polyhedra in both cases to be the same, the Size of the particle of toluol cloud must be more than six times that of the particle of aqueous cloud. Aqueous vapor is Without irai;al1el n tfcepa ipartictilawkH to not only tho U flattest, of all vapors, but also the lightest of all gases, except hydrogen and ammonia. To this circumstance the soft and tender beauty of the clouds of an atmosphere is mainly to be ascribed. The sphericity of the cloud particles may be inferred from their deportment under the luminous beams. The light which they shed when spherical is continuous, but clouds may also be precipitated in solid flakes, and then the incessant sparkling of the cloud shows that its particles are plates, and not spheres. Some portions of the same cloud may be composed of spherical particles, others of flakes, the difference being at once manifested through the calmness of one portion of the cloud and the uneasiness of the other.
This article was originally published with the title "Formation and Phenomena of Clouds" in Scientific American 20, 21, 323 (May 1869)