Monday, September 9, 2013

Science Clock Series: Part XII

This little series is finally drawing to a close with today's number, which comes from meteorology, and is given by:

\[\text{hurricane (Beaufort scale)}\] This is another straightforward number from the realm of atmospheric science. The Beaufort scale (officially the "Beaufort wind force scale") is a system devised by a certain Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805 as a way to standardize the reporting of wind speeds by ships and weather centers.

Wind speed can be fairly subjective – one person's "stiff breeze" might be another's "light wind," for instance – and it was long recognized that a standardized system for measuring wind speed would be a good thing. Beaufort wasn't the first to work on such a scale, but his position in the British Royal Navy in the 1830s allowed him to get his officially adopted.

The Beaufort scale has twelve categories, going from 1 (completely calm) to 12 (hurricane force winds). The categories were originally defined by the effects they produced (on the ocean, on ships' sails, or on various terrestrial objects), due to the difficulty in measuring the wind speed directly. Once practical, reliable anemometers (wind-speed measuring devices) became widespread, the different categories became defined by specific wind speeds as well.

Beaufort originally defined the scale to go up to 12, but in 1946 an extended scale was proposed going all the way up to 16. The wind speeds in this range are pretty much only encountered in tropical cyclones, and the extension only ever caught on in Taiwan and China, both of which deal with tropical cyclones on a frequent basis.

I'd reproduce the Beaufort scale table in this post, but unlike the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, it's pretty long and involved. If you're interested, I suggest perusing it on Wikipedia at the link just above.

And with that, this series is officially over. It was an interesting experience; I learned some things myself, both about the subjects in question and in running a series of posts. I apologize for the tardiness with which I've been updating lately; I sometimes found that having a set subject to post about next left me undermotivated.

Anyway, it's over now, and I have a couple of new post ideas in mind. What will come next? You'll just have to wait and see. A hui hou!

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