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W. Radcliffe Birt


A digest of the principal facts of revolving storms for the use of commanders in her majesty's navy and the mercantile marine.



George Philip and Son 1853

Chapter V Meteorological Phenomena and Hurricane Seasons
Calm and sultry state of atmosphere preceding storms. 126. One of the most striking meteorological indications preceding a storm, is an unusual calmness, accompanied by an oppressive sultry state of the atmosphere, the sky having a lurid threatening aspect, varying in colour from a deep angry-looking red, usually regarded as a prognostic of a gale wind, to a peculiar, heavy, olive-green appearance, which has characterised some of the most destructive cyclones on record. A remarkable haze is also very apparent, and generally in the direction in which the great body of the hurricane is raging; and in connexion with this a most unmistakable feature, viz., a banking of the clouds in the same direction; the gyrations within the cyclone, and their sucking in fresh cylindrical shells of air, producing, with the progressive motion, a sort of spiral movement, which aids very materially in the condensation of acquious vapour, so that cloud after cloud is formed, and as the ship approaches the vast and agitated area of the storm, the clouds, like some thing of life, draw upon and inclose her as if with an impenetrable wall; and so solid do these clouds appear, so unlike the airy structures generally witnessed and wafted by a gentle breeze through the atmosphere, and so close to the vessel do they seem, that commanders may almost fancy they can stretch forth their hands and touch the dark, appalling, and threatening wall before them. The ship comes nearer, the wind freshens, the clouds which a short time previous appeared so dense, and dark, and dismal, are torn into shreds, detached portions fly with great rapidity across the now wild and agitated sky; born on the wings of the wind, or rather driven by its impetuosity, they mark out the course of the gyrating and circling current in which the ship is labouring, and announce that it is no ordinary atmospheric stream with which she has to contend.
Cloud banks.
Their solid appearance and apparent proximity.
Detached portions torn into shreds, and driven with impetuosity.
Rain and lightning within the storm.

She has now fairly entered into the vortex; torrents of rain descend on all sides, vivid flashes of lightning, accompanied, it may be, with thunder, illumine with fitful glare the awful darkness that reigns around; but here the poetical idea of "Darkness and silence, solemn sisters twins," is not realised. The whistling and howling and roaring of the winds drownevery other sound. Men are unable to hear themselves or each other shout; even the reverberating peals of thunder, that usually strike greater terror into the already terrified spectator of the far-flashing and life-destroying lightning in ordinary storms, here have no power of arresting the ear; the wind, the wind in its fury, silences every other sound, however magnificent and powerful; and the electric explosion, always grand, fearful, and terrific, affects the sight alone. When the ship passes through the centre of the storm, an obscure circle of imperfect light, generally in the zenith, and subtending an angle of 35 or 40 degrees, is very frequently seen.*

Wind, it's excessive howling and roaring so as to drown the pealing of the thunder.
The circle of imperfect light in the centre of the storm, or the storm's eye.
  *This circle of imperfect light is generally supposed to arise from the thinness of the cyclone disk near its centre. On many occasions the disc has been seen through, the clouds have separated, and the blue colour of the atmosphere has appeared. At night, the stars have been shining brilliantly when the cyclone has been at its greatest height.


Richard Shepherd, 2004

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