Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin; Written by Himself. [Vol. 2 of 2] With his Most Interesting Essays, Letters, and Miscellaneous Writings; Familiar, Moral, Political, Economical, and Philosophical, Selected with Care from All His Published Productions, and Comprising Whatever Is Most Entertaining and Valuable to the General Reader

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 202

by adhering to air. * * *

A particle of air loaded with adhering water or any other matter, is
heavier than before, and would descend.

The atmosphere supposed at rest, a loaded descending particle must act
with a force on the particles it passes between or meets with sufficient
to overcome, in some degree, their mutual repellancy, and push them
nearer to each other. * * *

Every particle of air, therefore, will bear any load inferior to the
force of these repulsions.

Hence the support of fogs, mists, clouds.

Very warm air, clear, though supporting a very great quantity of
moisture, will grow turbid and cloudy on the mixture of colder air, as
foggy, turbid air will grow clear by warming.

Thus the sun, shining on a morning fog, dissipates it; clouds are seen
to waste in a sunshiny day.

But cold condenses and renders visible the vapour: a tankard or decanter
filled with cold water will condense the moisture of warm, clear air on
its outside, where it becomes visible as dew, coalesces into drops,
descends in little streams.

The sun heats the air of our atmosphere most near the surface of the
earth; for there, besides the direct rays, there are many reflections.
Moreover, the earth itself, being heated, communicates of its heat to
the neighbouring air.

The higher regions, having only the direct rays of the sun passing
through them, are comparatively very cold. Hence the cold air on the
tops of mountains, and snow on some of them all the year, even in the
torrid zone. Hence hail in summer.

If the atmosphere were, all of it (both above and below), always of the
same temper as to cold or heat, then the upper air would always be
_rarer_ than the lower, because the pressure on it is less; consequently
lighter, and, therefore, would keep its place.

But the upper air may be more condensed by cold than the lower air by
pressure; the lower more expanded by heat than the upper for want of
pressure. In such case the upper air will become the heavier, the lower
the lighter.

The lower region of air being heated and expanded, heaves up and
supports for some time the colder, heavier air above, and will continue
to support it while the equilibrium is kept. Thus water is supported in
an inverted open glass, while the equilibrium is maintained by the equal
pressure upward of the air below; but the equilibrium by any means
breaking, the water descends on the heavier side, and the air rises into
its place.

The lifted heavy cold air over a heated country becoming

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_, 164-5.