* Confine with folds of air. l. 174. The air, like all other bad conductors of electricity, is known to be a bad conductor of heat; and thence prevents the heat acquired from the sun's rays by the earth's surface from being so soon dissipated, in the same manner as a blanket, which may be considered as a sponge filled with air, prevents the escape of heat from the person wrapped in it. This seems to be one cause of the great degree of cold on the tops of mountains, where the rarity of the air is greater, and it therefore be∣comes a better conductor both of heat and electricity. See note on Barometz, Vol. II. of this work.
There is however another cause to which the great coldness of mountains and of the higher regions of the atmosphere is more immediately to be ascribed, explained by Dr. Darwin in the Philos. Trans. Vol. LXXVIII. who has there proved by experiments with the air-gun and air-pump, that when any portion of the atmosphere becomes mechanically expanded, it absorbs heat from the bodies in its vicinity. And as the air which creeps along the plains, expands itself by a part of the pressure being taken off when it ascends the sides of mountains; it at the same time attracts heat from the summits of those mountains, or other bodies which happen to be immersed in it, and thus produces cold. Hence he concludes that the hot air at the bottom of the Andes becomes temperate by its own rarefaction when it ascents to the city of Quito; and by its further rarefaction becomes cooled to the freezing point when it ascends to the snowy regions on the sum∣mits of those mountains. To this also he attributes the great degree of cold experienced by the aeronauts in their balloons; and which produces hail in summer at the height of only two or three miles in the atmosphere.
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