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Édouard Manet. Seascape Calm Weather. 1864-65

Calm is an adjective meaning peaceful, quiet; particularly used of the weather, free from wind or storm, or of the sea, as opposed to rough. The word appears in French calme, through which it came into English, in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian calma. Most authorities follow Diez (Etym. Wörterbuch der romanischen Sprachen) in tracing the origin to the Low Latin cauma, an adaptation of Greek καῦμα, burning heat, καίειν, to burn. The Portuguese calma has this meaning as well as that of quiet. The connection would be heat of the day, rest during that period, so quiet, rest, peacefulness. The insertion of the L, which in English pronunciation disappears, is probably due to the Latin calor, heat, with which the word was associated.

The most common meaning for the word "calm", as described above, is dealing with the weather and wind. There are many things that are absent when the weather is calm. For example, when a sailboat is at rest on the ocean that usually means there's no wind, waves, or current, to push it along. Many times a warm front will bring in a large mass of warm air which helps to move the sailboat along.

Another example would be how there's a long sloped zone in the troposphere, where changes of temperature and wind velocity are large compared to changes outside the zone. Therefore, the passage of a front at a fixed location is marked by sudden changes in temperature and wind and also by rapid variations in other weather elements such as moisture and sky condition. These elements aren't present either when there is a calm. Storms need warm, moist air as fuel, and they typically draw that air in from the surrounding environment. Storms can draw in that air from all directions -- even from the direction in which the storm is traveling.

As the warm, moist air is pulled into a storm system, it leaves a low-pressure vacuum in its wake. The air travels up through the storm cloud and helps to fuel it. The updrafts in the storm, however, quickly carry the air upward, and when it reaches the top of the cloud mass, this warm moist air gets spit out at the top. This air is sent rolling out over the big, anvil-shaped head of the thunderclouds or the roiling arms of hurricanes. From there, the air descends -- drawn back toward lower altitudes by the very vacuum its departure created in the first place. This descending air becomes warmer and drier after its trip through the cloud, which involves cooling and condensation. Warm, dry air is relatively stable, and once it blankets a region, it stabilizes that air in turn. This causes the calm before a storm.

There are many other elements and factors such as cloud cover, plate tectonics, even the earth's rotation, amongst many other things that cause wind or currents that would help to move a sailboat or any other object that may be in the ocean. All of these are non-factors when an object at sea or elsewhere is at rest or calm though.


Wikisource-logo.svg "Calm". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.   This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Calm article)

From Wikisource

The Calm
by John Donne

OUR storm is past, and that storm's tyrannous rage

A stupid calm, but nothing it, doth 'suage.

The fable is inverted, and far more

A block afflicts, now, than a stork before.

Storms chafe, and soon wear out themselves, or us ;

In calms, Heaven laughs to see us languish thus.

As steady as I could wish my thoughts were,

Smooth as thy mistress' glass, or what shines there,

The sea is now, and, as these isles which we

Seek, when we can move, our ships rooted be.

As water did in storms, now pitch runs out ;

As lead, when a fired church becomes one spout.

And all our beauty and our trim decays,

Like courts removing, or like ended plays.

The fighting-place now seamen's rags supply ;

And all the tackling is a frippery.

No use of lanthorns ; and in one place lay

Feathers and dust, to-day and yesterday.

Earth's hollownesses, which the world's lungs are,

Have no more wind than th' upper vault of air.

We can nor lost friends nor sought foes recover,

But meteor-like, save that we move not, hover.

Only the calenture together draws

Dear friends, which meet dead in great fishes' maws ;

And on the hatches, as on altars, lies

Each one, his own priest and own sacrifice.

Who live, that miracle do multiply,

Where walkers in hot ovens do not die.

If in despite of these we swim, that hath

No more refreshing than a brimstone bath ;

But from the sea into the ship we turn,

Like parboil'd wretches, on the coals to burn.

Like Bajazet encaged, the shepherds' scoff,

Or like slack-sinew'd Samson, his hair off,

Languish our ships. Now as a myriad

Of ants durst th' emperor's loved snake invade,

The crawling gallies, sea-gulls, finny chips,

Might brave our pinnaces, now bed-rid ships.

Whether a rotten state, and hope of gain,

Or to disuse me from the queasy pain

Of being beloved and loving, or the thirst

Of honour or fair death, out-push'd me first,

I lose my end ; for here, as well as I,

A desperate may live, and coward die.

Stag, dog, and all which from or towards flies,

Is paid with life or prey, or doing dies.

Fate grudges us all, and doth subtly lay

A scourge, 'gainst which we all forget to pray.

He that at sea prays for more wind, as well

Under the poles may beg cold, heat in hell.

What are we then ? How little more, alas,

Is man now, than, before he was, he was ?

Nothing for us, we are for nothing fit ;

Chance, or ourselves, still disproportion it.

We have no power, no will, no sense ; I lie,

I should not then thus feel this misery.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Database error article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

File:Seascape Calm Weather .jpg
Édouard Manet. Seascape Calm Weather. 1864-65

Calm is an adjective meaning peaceful, quiet; particularly used of the weather, free from wind or storm, or of the sea, opposed to rough. The word appears in French calme, through which it came into English, in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian calma.


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