The science of meteorology seems to make slower progress, and to have, at present, fewer practical applications than any of the other sciences. A few prominent facts have been discovered, such as the direction of storms, the average velocity with which they progress, the formation of clouds, the effect upon climate of felling large forests,etc; but such facts scarcely constitute a science. The simple knowledge that certain phenomena of electrical or atmospherical character occur, without the knowledge of the manner of their occurrence, or their physical causes, is practically of small benefit. The causes assigned for most of these phenomena are yet chiefly based on hypothesis. It is true we are aware that winds are caused by heat, and rain is produced by the cooling of moist air ; that lightning is a form of electricity, and so forth ; but as yet, all researches have failed to detect invariable laws of succession, or relations of cause and effect. The utmost that can be said by the most skillful meterolo-gist, is, that when certain atmospheric conditions are indicated by his instruments, dry or wet weather is more likely to supervene than when the converse is indicated. He is still obliged to confess that " all signs fail in dry weather," with him as well as with the unlearned. Our readers are aware that a series of observations are made from different stations in the United States under the direction of the Smithsonian Institute. These observations are confined, we believe, to barometric and thermometric observations, with some meager remarks as to the state of the atmosphere ; whether cloudy or otherwise, wet or dry; and if high winds are prevailing, the fact is also recorded, with the direction from which they blow. These observations are, we believe, generally performed in a very imperfect manner, and really amount to almost nothing. In fact, we believe the money invested in instruments and the time expended are nearly o r quite thrown away. The reports are, to our knowledge, in some cases, made complete by interpolation to cover neglect in the observer, and as there is no check upon their accuracy their tendency would be to mislead rather than otherwise. The Institute is not to blame for these deficiencies, which attend any system of general meteorological observation requiring personal attention of a largenumber of assistants,who have no reputation to lose by neglect and nothing to gain by accuracy. It requires considerable inducement to make a man confine himself to hours in a gratuitous service. Science needs improved self-registering meteorological instruments acting automatically, and recording results; requiring attention at wide intervals only. The possibility of constructing such in struments has already been fully demonstrated. It remains only to simplify and cheapen their construction. The telegraph is an important adjunct to meteorological researches, and its aid should be called in as often as possible. In case the proposed postal telegraph is put into successful operation, central reports at Washington f meteorological conditions at quite frequent intervals, both at day and night, might easily be made from prominent points of the country. These reports, transferred by symbols to a general map,would be the most complete record of the kind ever attempted, and would he likely to throw light upon the subject, if, indeed, anything is to be expected from such observations. It is quite doubtful if any periodical law or laws exist which control atmospheric conditions. We are inclined to look upon them as results of a multiplicity of causes, in their nature variable, and, therefore, indeterminate. However, neither their determinatencss, or the contrary, can ever fee demonstrated except by more constant and systematic observation than has ever yet been attempted. The Smithsonian observers make only three observations per day : viz; at 7 A. M., 2 P. M., and 9 P. M., and even these meager observations are not entirely reliable. Observations ought to be made at least hourly, and at once transmitted to headquarters. The postal telegraph will, upon its establishment, afford facilities for this observation, and with a system of symbols specially adapted to the purpose, it might apparently be done with little trouble.
This article was originally published with the title "Meteorological Science"