The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 53




_On the North-East Storms in North America._

_May 12, 1760._


Agreeable to your request, I send you my reasons for thinking that
our north-east storms in North America begin first, in point of
time, in the south-west parts: that is to say, the air in Georgia,
the farthest of our colonies to the south-west, begins to move
south-westerly before the air of Carolina, which is the next colony
north-eastward; the air of Carolina has the same motion before the
air of Virginia, which lies still more north-eastward; and so on
north-easterly through Pensylvania, New-York, New-England, &c. quite
to Newfoundland.

These north-east storms are generally very violent, continue
sometimes two or three days, and often do considerable damage in the
harbours along the coast. They are attended with thick clouds and

What first gave me this idea, was the following circumstance. About
twenty years ago, a few more or less, I cannot from my memory be
certain, we were to have an eclipse of the moon at Philadelphia, on
a Friday evening, about nine o'clock. I intended to observe it, but
was prevented by a north-east storm, which came on about seven, with
thick clouds as usual, that quite obscured the whole hemisphere. Yet
when the post brought us the Boston news-paper, giving an account of
the effects of the same storm in those parts, I found the beginning
of the eclipse had been well observed there, though Boston lies N. E.
of Philadelphia about four hundred miles. This puzzled me, because
the storm began with us so soon as to prevent any observation, and
being a north-east storm, I imagined it must have begun rather sooner
in places farther to the north-east-ward than it did at Philadelphia.
I therefore mentioned it in a letter to my brother, who lived at
Boston; and he informed me the storm did not begin with them till
near eleven o'clock, so that they had a good observation of the
eclipse: and upon comparing all the other accounts I received from
the several colonies, of the time of beginning of the same storm, and
since that of other storms of the same kind, I found the beginning to
be always later the farther north-eastward. I have not my notes with
me here in England, and cannot, from memory, say the proportion of
time to distance, but I think it is about an hour to every hundred

From thence I formed an idea of the cause of these storms, which I
would explain by a familiar instance or two.--Suppose

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