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Meteorological Pioneering, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

           ABSTRACT

The below study is designed to create a new scope for examining the Lewis and Clark expedition to find the Northwest Passage between 1804 and 1806. While the expedition has been studied from different perspectives; based on sociological aspects, biodiversity and diet, today the authors would like to focus on the pioneering climate study pioneering work the group of 38 men embarking on the journey more than two hundred years ago, west of Meridian 100.

INTRODUCTION

According to Knapp,[1] “whether there was ever a discussion between Lewis and Jefferson about how different a climatic regime the expedition would encounter is uncertain. While Jefferson had a wide knowledge about meteorology, he had no experience regarding the conditions west to the river Mississippi. One of the expedition’s main tasks was to record temperatures, climate during the journey. While the records are still available in the journals, it is an aspect of the expedition that has not been covered by authors in the past in detail as much as other aspects. According to Solomon and Daniel[2], the explorers were pioneers in meteorological observation. Therefore, the authors would like to examine the impact of recording temperatures and climate changes in the light of how it affected the development of meteorology in general.

LIMITED KNOWLEDGE OF CLIMATE

While the knowledge of how climate works in the beginning of the 19th Century was limited, even among well educated people. However, Jefferson was aware of the importance of climate when setting up trade routes across America. In his letter to the expedition, he asked for         “climate, as characterized by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy, cloudy, and  clear days, by lightning, hail, snow, ice, by the access& recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different seasons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flower, or leaf, times of appearance of particular birds, reptiles, or insects.”[3]

Solomon and Daniel [4]also conclude that as Jefferson had existing passion and knowledge regarding meteorology, he might have trained Lewis to be able to use the thermometer and create usable data in his reports. The expedition did not use barometers and hygrometers, even though they were invented by the time, only thermometers. Preston[5] describes that the Lewis and Clark kept a separate weather diary from day one, however, their narrative journals of observation also provide some insight into the climate and how temperatures changed as they advanced on their journey.

RECORDINGS

The expedition did not only record temperatures measured using the thermometers, but also wind, river levels, sunrise and observation of weather conditions.[6] However, there are gaps in the diary between May 14 1804 and September 19 1804. Temperature records were kept during the journey down to Ohio[7] while Clark took over recording from Lewis in 1804. Unfortunately, the last thermometer got damaged in 1805. However, other weather observations continued, such as using the compass to determine the direction of the wind, making marks on the river bank to measure level changes. The weather diary of 1805 is published in a summarized form by Preston.[8] Temperatures are recorded at sunrise and at 4 PM. Wind and general weather conditions are also observed and recorded at the same times. Some remarks are also added to the diary, such as on the 6th of May 1805, they write: “rain very inconsiderable as usual”. [9]

SIGNIFICANCE

While it is not easy to compare the measurements and observations recorded by Lewis and Clark with current meteorology, and the methods were not sophisticated, often affected by the location of the measurements[10] they have a great significance in the development of meteorology. As thermometers were often placed on trees in the shade, this could have affected the measurements. Likewise, the location of taking wind directions changed and mountain ranges could have affected the records, too. While Jefferson’s main goal was to ensure that the area was habitable and the route was suitable for setting up trade journeys, he was also interested in the scientific side of the matters. As he was a keen meteorologist pioneer himself, trying to use the latest technology to gain knowledge about the environment, climate and cultures, he might have considered recording climate as an experiment that would make agriculture, industries and trade simpler in the future. Planning was one of the strengths of the era of the Great Exploration, and Jefferson was certainly committed to research.

HOW CLIMATE RESEARCH AFFECTED THE EXPEDITION

The commitment level of Lewis and Clark was extremely high; as Solomon and Daniel report: they “had fully committed themselves to being the first to record as much data as they could as the expedition moved into territory that would later become the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho”[11]. Further, they provided the public and future researchers with the first whole year documentation of weather in the High Plains. While there is a gap in the recordings and towards the end of the expedition both of the thermometers were damaged, the explorers felt personally responsible for providing as much detail as possible. On Tuesday, 9th of September, Clark writes:

“ the Climate is every day preceptably wormer and air more Sultery than I have experienced for a long time. The nights are now So worm that I sleep Comfortable under   a thin blanket, a few days past 2 was not more than Sufficient”[12]. They kept on recording their observations about the night, morning and day temperatures, which has provided information for future expeditions and scientists alike. The task of recording temperatures, wind and rainfall took only a few minutes a day, however, focusing on mentally recording every detail and noting it down in a diary is a remarkable achievement and required commitment and effort.

TOWARDS MODERN METEOROLOGY: THE IMPACT OF PIONEERS ON TODAY’S WEATHER RESEARCH

The recording of cold nights, extremely strong wind, early arrival of the snow in autumn were among the most significant findings of the explorers.[13] The first formal recording of winter temperatures in the Dakotas is also provided by them. The recording of droughts and its effects on population, livestock is also a finding that opened the eyes of many researchers.  Today, the weather network consists of more than 10.000 stations[14]. The comparison of daily sunrise data, morning, day and night temperatures through volunteers in every corner of the country would never have been possible without Lewis and Clark setting an example for measurements and showing how accurately trends in weathers and seasons can be determined using simple recording methods.

CONCLUSION

Lewis and Clark did not only provide extremely valuable information for Jefferson’s project, but the generations coming, too. Apart from their observations recorded in the diaries regarding people living in the area, coping with weather and geological conditions, cultural research, they were also pioneers in recording consequent data of weather and experimenting the use of the 19th Century’s modern technology. Without the commitment, the determination, leadership and decision-making skills of Lewis and Clark, the droughts, strong winters and their impacts on land quality, the development of meteorology would have taken a different route in the past two centuries. The explorers truly achieved success in showing how to use technology and measurements to predict conditions in a particular geological area, determine its characteristics and draw consequences.

References

Knapp. P. (2004) “Window of opportunity. The climatic conditions of the Lewis and Clark  Expedition of 1804-1806” American Meteorological Society September 2004 Web.

Solomon, S., Daniel, J. (2004)” Lewis and Clark. Pioneering meteorological observers in the American West” American Meteorological Society September 2004

Preston, V. (2008) “Lewis and Clark – weather and climate data from the expedition journals” (1803-1806) Web.

Jackson, D. (1978) Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783-  1854, 2 Vols., University of Illinois Press, 806 pp. Web.

“The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” September 9, 1806. Web. In: Moulton, G. (ed.)1986-2001: The Journals of Lewis and Clark Expedition, 13 Vols. University of Nebraska Press. <http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu>

[1]             Knapp,  2004, p. 1289

[2]             Solomon, S., Daniel, J. (2004) pp. 1273

[3]             Jackson, D., 1962, pp. 728.

[4]             Solomon, S., Daniel, J. (2004) pp. 1275

[5]             Preston, V. 1976.

[6]             Idem.

[7]             Idem.

[8]             Preston, V. 1976.

[9]             Lewis and Clark Journals; in:Moulton, 1987

[10]          Solomon, S., Daniel, J. (2004) pp. 1277

[11]          Idem.  pp. 1277.

[12]          The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online September 9, 1806

[13]          Solomon, S., Daniel, J. (2004) pp. 1278

[14]          Idem. pp. 1278.

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