Topography and General Character of Nebraska|
Climatology of Nebraska
Climatology of Nebraska (cont.)|
Waters of Nebraska|
Drainage of Nebraska and the Character of its Water
General Flora of Nebraska | Forest Trees and Shrubs|
Wild Fruits | Natural Fauna | Mammals | Birds | Reptiles
Fishes | Insect Life
The Locusts | Mollusks | Healthfulness of Nebraska|
NEBRASKA occupies a position near the center of the Republic. The parallel of 40° is its southern, and the Missouri River its eastern and northern, boundary, until the 43° parallel is reached. Until the west line of the State, on the meridian of 105° west of Greenwich, is reached, this parallel constitutes the northern boundary. The west line continues on this meridian down to latitude 41°. Below this point, a line a few miles west of the 102° meridian constitutes the western boundary of the State. This notch takes out of the state 7,300 square miles. Were it not for this offset, the State would approximate the shape of a parallelogram. The southern line of the State, reaching the Missouri, brings the most easterly point to the meridian of 95° 25'. The extreme width of the State from north to south is 208.5 miles, and its length from east to west is within a fraction of 413 miles. In area the State approximated closely to 75,995 square miles previous to 1882. In that year, its northern boundary was straightened by act of Congress, which added approximately 900 square miles to its territory, giving a present area of 76,895 square miles, or 49,212,000 acres. It is almost twice the size of Ohio, and 14,259 square miles larger than all New England combined. It contains 21,900 square miles more than Iowa. England and Wales combined have less area by 16,800 square miles. In extent of territory, Nebraska is an empire, and yet, as we shall hereafter see, few States have really so little waste land. It lies in the line of the great States of the Union, and is receiving their overflow of population.
Surface of the State.--The surface of the State is exceedingly varied. There are, indeed, no elevations that can be dignified with the name of mountains, but in the northern and western parts of the State there are lofty hills of very varied character. Generally the ascent is gentle, though occasionally it is precipitous. Unlike the ridges of the East, which are so generally the result of elevations and subsidences of the earth's crust, modified by subsequent aqueous agencies, the hills and rolling lands of Nebraska are mostly caused by erosion. In the east, the body of hills is mainly made up of massive rocks; here it is partly composed of loosely compacted drift materials, but mainly of loess. In fact, Nebraska emerged so recently geologically from the waters of the Loess age that it still exhibits, as a whole, many of the phenomena of a recently drained lake bed. The gently rolling lands of three-fourths of the State appear very much like the suddenly petrified waves and billows of the ocean. Sometimes extensive stretches of surface are met with that appear to be level, but closer observation shows even these to be gently undulating. From these last-mentioned forms to the few isolated sections of limited extent, broken by cañons with precipitous sides, the transition is gradual. Every shade of form and surface connects the two varieties of relief.
Bottom Lands.--These are the special modifying features of the landscape of the State. In crossing the State at right angles to the direction of the streams, the bottom lands are met with every few miles. They are huge, generally shallow troughs, in breadth proportionate, commonly, to the size of the streams. They range in width from a quarter of a mile on the smaller streams to twenty-three miles on the Platte and the Missouri. They are frequently terraced, and the terraces, like broad steps, gradually lead to the bordering bluffs, which in turn are very varied in height and form. Frequently the low terraces on the bottoms have had their edges so worn away that their character is concealed. What was once a terrace has become a gentle slope.
A good example of this character are the slopes on the bottoms between Crete and Beatrice, and Ashland and Lincoln. The bottoms, with their bordering line or bluffs, wind and vary in every direction, as much as the serpentine movements of the streams themselves. The innumerable tributaries that creep quietly and unexpectedly into the main bottoms complicate still further these forms of landscape. The traveler with poetry and art in his composition is often tempted to ascend a bluff adjoining a valley, which, lying at his feet, enables him to trace it as far as the eye can reach. The upland plain on the other side, whose inequalities are wavelike, gives a sharply outlined background to the picture of the valley. He is at a loss to which to assign the palm of greatest beauty. The effect is intensified when upland and valley are dotted with homesteads and cultivated grounds. The quiet beauty that comes from human industry then blends with the sublimity of nature.
The dominant geometrical form observed in the forms of the surface is the curve. The observer never gets outside of the curves. They intrude themselves everywhere. They are not uniform, monotonous curves, but curves infinitely varied. Rarely is a straight line needed to relieve from sameness, but when it is needed it is there. The streams, the terraces, the bluffs, the valleys themselves, all follow curves. There are short curves and long curves; regular and irregular curves; infinitely varied, seemingly in confusion, but all full of profound expression--the expression of matchless beauty. "The curve is the line of beauty." Here nature has put forth her best efforts to exemplify this law. No artist has yet successfully painted Nebraska scenery. It still awaits the master mind who can catch with his artist's eye these superb forms of quiet beauty and place them on canvas. A remarkable feature is the commonness of beautiful landscapes. Almost every mile along the river valleys affords them. The bottoms along the bluffs at every turn are sculptured with beautiful coves, which, sheltered from wind and storm, afford favorite building-spots for many people.
Elevation of Nebraska.--The greater part of Nebraska is a plateau. It is estimated that the eastern half of the State along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad has an average elevation of 1,700 feet; the western half, of 3,525 feet. The average elevation of' the whole line would be 2,612 feet. Along the south line of the State, the elevation of the eastern half averages 1,200 feet; the western half, 2,672 feet. Along the north line of the State, the eastern half, beginning at Ponca, is 1,353 feet above the sea level. The western half averages about the same as that of the Union Pacific Railroad. These data, obtained principally by reduction of railroad surveys, give an average elevation of 2,312 feet for the whole State. This is a much smaller elevation than formerly given for the State, but is more accurate because based on levelings along three lines east and west, and the same number north and south.
West from Omaha the ascent is at the rate of five and a half feet to the mile for 100 miles. The second hundred miles increases the ascent to seven feet; the third hundred, seven and a half feet; and the fourth hundred to ten and a half feet to the mile. The ascent on the last fifty miles at the west end of the State is eighteen feet to the mile. These figures are simply approximations to exactness. A similar gradual ascent characterizes the south and the north line of the State. The southeastern corner, where the elevation is 878 feet, is the lowest part of the State. Comparing this point with Omaha, where the elevation is 1,002 feet, we have a difference of 124 feet, or an ascent of only one and a fourth feet to the mile. The fall going northward to Dakota City is even less than this. In Western Nebraska, the difference in elevation between the Union Pacific Railroad and the Republican Valley on the south side of the State is approximately 352 feet. Going northward from the Union Pacific on the west line, the elevation increases until Scott's Bluffs is reached, whose elevation is 6,051 feet, the highest point in the State. From here there is a gradual descent to the valley of the Niobrara toward the north line. These elevations along the north line of the State I took with a barometer. As the elevation at Pine Bluffs, on the extreme western line of the State, on the Union Pacific, is 5,061 feet, the ascent from this point northward is 635 feet, against a corresponding difference of less than 200 feet on the east line of the State. Take the State, therefore, as a whole, and it will be seen that it slopes mainly toward the east, and in a minor degree toward the south. As would be expected from such relief forms, the great majority of the tributaries of the main streams, except those of the Niobrara, flow toward the southeast.
How to Gain a Conception of Nebraska Topography.--To gain a clear conception, then, of Nebraska topography, one must cross the valleys and divides nearly at right angles. In doing this, it will be observed that the most rolling lands generally border the valleys or bottoms. Advancing, the rolling and sometimes broken character gradually disappears when the divide is reached which separates the last from the next drainage system. Here the land swells out into a gently undulating plain that varies extremely in extent. The extent of such a divide may be limited to a half-mile, or may extend for thirty or more miles. These swells or long tongues of undulating lands are found on the divides between nearly all the rivers of the State. Occasionally, between the lesser streams, a single low bluff, a few hundred feet wide, and only slightly raised above the general level, marks the divide. Among the most conspicuous of these divides are the beautiful uplands between the Republican and the Platte, between the Platte and the Blue Rivers, and between the forks of the Blue Rivers. Between the Blues and the Nemahas, and between the forks of the latter, similar divides exist. North of the Platte, conspicuous for their beauty, are the divides between the forks of the Elkhorn and at the head-waters and between the forks of the Logan, and between the Elkhorn and the the Loups. In fact, they are met with between most of the streams of the State. Some of these high uplands have great numbers of shallow, basin-shaped depressions, whose soil and grasses closely resemble those of the bottom lands. They are evidently the remains of lakes that until recently occupied their sites. Indeed, some of them still retain this character, being filled with water the whole year round, varying from one to ten feet in depth. Between these last and swamps and bogs, every kind of transition form is found. Fillmore, Clay, York, Hamilton, Franklin, Phillips and Wayne Counties have a notable number of these old lake beds.
Number of Nebraska Valleys.--Nothing is more surprising than the amazing number of valley or bottom lands. They must be numbered by the thousand. Take the region of the Republican as an example. On an average, a tributary valley comes into the bottom from the north side every two miles. Now, as this river flows for 200 miles through the State, it would give 100 for this section alone. Counting, however, the streams that come in from the south side, and those flowing into its larger tributaries, this number should be multiplied by at least four, giving 400 valleys, great and small, for this region alone. Now, add to these valleys those that are tributary to the Platte, the Blues, the Nemahas, the Elkhorns, the Logan, the Bows, the Missouri between its larger tributaries, the Niobrara and the Loups, and it will increase the number to thousands. It is true that many of them are narrow; ranging from one-fourth to a mile in width, but still they are valleys, with living or extinct stream beds in the middle or toward one side of them, and having all the physical features of the larger river bottoms. Be already intimated, there are a few minor valleys among the smaller tributaries of the Upper Elkhorns, Bazile, Loups, Niobrara and Republican, in the stream beds of which the water no longer flows, but, as will be shown further on, many of them are regaining--and all of them will in time--their former supply of water. Thus can be seen why, over the larger part of Nebraska, the settler can have his choice between bottom and upland. The great body of these bottom lands, though composed of the richest mold and modified alluvium and loess materials, are perfectly dry. It is true that swamps are occasionally met with, but they occur at long intervals and are the exception.
No one can gain any idea of the number of these bottom lands by looking at a map. Neither can they be found on the plats of the Government surveys, though in the latter they are more fully given than in the former. In fact, counting in the small tributaries with their narrow bottoms, not less than 25 per cent of the entire surface of the State is made up of bottom lands. This is a higher estimate than I formerly made, but I have come to it by increased study of the physical features of the State.
Exceptional Features of the Niobrara River Region.--This region is least known of all the drainage systems of the State.
For the first ninety miles from its mouth, the Niobrara is not greatly different from other Nebraska rivers, save in the exceptional rapidity of its current, its sandy flats and numerous islands. Its bottom is also narrower in proportion to the size of the river than other streams of the State.
In going up the valley, at about longitude 99° 20', the bluffs contract and become lofty, and the river begins to flow through a deep cañon. It retains this general character for the next 180 miles, or to about longitude 102°. The sides of the cañon range from 200 to 300, and, in rare cases, 400, feet high. The walls are composed of whitish, yellowish, silicious and calcareous rocks. They are often capped by a hard grit, which preserves their vertical character and sometimes causes them to be undermined and assume an umbrella form. Here it is difficult to follow the immediate banks of the river, owing to the numerous isolated buttes and walls that rise perpendicularly from near the water's edge, making lofty walls across the line of travel. No indication of the river's existence is here given in approaching it from either side, except by trees that sometimes rear their tops about the cañon. The sides are worn into innumerable labyrinths by the numberless springs that have been, like the main river, chiseling the rocks for ages. These lateral cañons are mazy in their windings. Clear, cool, sparkling springs abound here. Vegetation in places is here prolific, and cedars and pines abound. Near the east end of the cañon region, the oak, ash, cottonwood and elm, and occasionally box elder, are intermingled with pines--which sometimes, however, are entirely wanting. Grass, too, is abundant. Here formerly was the paradise for elk, deer and antelope, wolves and foxes. Food and shelter, the agencies must important to preserve brute life, were specially abundant. No wonder that the Indian tenaciously clung to this region. Here the chase always supplied him with abundance of food. To him it was also consecrated ground. Here, in the labyrinthine cañons among the trees, druid-like, with the light of the sun shut out, he communed with the shades of his ancestors. Here he heard as he did nowhere else the voice of the Great Spirit in the rustle of the leaves and the sighing of the winds.
Where the river enters the cañon it is about eighty-two yards wide. It narrows toward its source, and before the west line of the State is reached, it is reduced in breadth to ten or fifteen feet. The water, however, is remarkably clear and cool. Above the cañon, the valley is well covered with grass and a great abundance of rushes. Wood, however, in this part of its course is rare.
A large part of the middle portion of the Niobrara River, as first observed by Gen. Warren, flows lengthwise of an anticlinal ridge. The rocks dip away from the river, where I had an opportunity to measure them at an angle of from ten to fifteen degrees.
The tributaries of the Niobrara from the north and south are short. The larger ones invariably flow parallel, or nearly so, to the main river. The Keya Paha and Snake River are the most conspicuous instances. Owing to the flow of the Niobrara on an anticlinal ridge, some of the head-waters of the Loup originate close to it.
The Sand Hills, south of the Niobrara, and the Bad Lands, north, on the west line of the State, are discussed under the head of the Geology of the State.
Climatology.--The factors that enter into the determination of climate are temperature, forms of relief, condition of the atmosphere, geographical position and rainfall. Before giving the characteristics of the climate of Nebraska, it is important to look at the most important facts that produce them.
Temperature.--There has been much misapprehension about the temperature of Nebraska. Sometimes it has been represented as possessing a semi-arctic climate; and again, that its summers are of a torrid character. Neither statement is correct. From the tables of the Signal Service, taken at Omaha and North Platte, and earlier by the Smithsonian observers (army officers) at Fort Kearney, the following facts have been ascertained:
The mean temperature of the summer months--that is, of June, July and August--in Eastern Nebraska is between 72° and 74°, or, more accurately, close to 73° Fahrenheit. At North Platte it averages slightly higher. The summer isotherm of 72° starts about one-third of the distance north of the south line of New Jersey, runs northwest till it strikes the Appalachians in Pennsylvania, then goes south and west, appearing again a little south of the east edge of Ohio, and from there keeps a westerly direction till it strikes the Missouri River at Sioux City. From there it follows the Missouri around its big bend in Northeastern Nebraska and into Dakota Territory, until it reaches almost the 46th parallel. From this point it again moves a .little south of west, passing through a small corner of Northwestern Nebraska, and thence on to Fort Laramie, and thence southward, mainly near to or along the foot-hills, until the loftier regions of Mexico are reached.
The summer isotherm of 76° is almost parallel with the last, passing through Northern Kansas, but not reaching the State line. Included between those two isotherms is a large part of Southern New Jersey, Southern Pennsylvania. the southern half of Ohio, the greater part of Indiana, Illinois, the southern half of Iowa, and the whole of Nebraska, except a very small patch in the northwestern part of the State. Nebraska, therefore, has a mean summer temperature considerably higher than States in the East in the same latitudes. There are some advantages in this high summer temperature. For example, some of the finest grapes only mature where the summer temperature is from 68° to 72°. Our fine soils and natural drainage, therefore, would be without avail were it not that these conditions are complemented by a high mean summer temperature.
During the winter months, embracing December, January and February, the mean isocheimal, or line of mean equal temperature, includes the south half of the State, and the northeastern portion as far as 100 miles west of the Missouri. This line enters the State near its northwest corner, and then passing southeast, and then in an easterly direction near to the parallel of 42° 30', until it reaches to within 100 miles of the Missouri. It then turns to the northwest until it strikes the mouth of the White Earth River. Thence it extends eastward, crossing Northern Iowa, Northwestern Illinois, thence northeast to Green Bay, and thence to the coast by way of the Straits of Mackinaw. From this it appears that all of Nebraska, except the small part north and west of the line just described, has an average temperature like Northern Illinois and Ohio. The portion north and west of the line described has a slightly lower mean winter temperature, if the Smithsonian data can be trusted. The number of observations, however, on which this isocheimal line was based through Northern Nebraska were notoriously few and imperfect. My conviction is that more perfect data will assign the whole of Northern Nebraska to at least the isocheimal line of 20°.
Mean Temperature of Spring.--For the last ten years, the mean temperature of the spring months, March, April and May, was 47.8°. This determination is made from the tables of Dr. Childs, of Plattsmouth, who has for over twenty years been taking observations for the Smithsonian and for the Signal Service. The Nebraska Weather Service, now conducted by Prof. S. R. Thompson, has confirmed this determination. The highest temperature during these months reaches 90°, and the lowest in March, 21°.
Autumns.--Nothing in Nebraska climatology is more remarkable than the long, mild, dry autumns. The average annual temperature for ten years for the entire three months was 49 5/6°. Excessive rains seldom fall during these months, and the autumns are therefore exceedingly mild and long. Occasionally there is a short rough spell in October, but almost universally it is followed by mild weather which is prolonged into December, and has been known to last till January. These long "Indian summers" are here, even more than elsewhere, characterized by a curious haze which mellows the light of the sun. It has the curious effect on "high-strung" natures of rousing the poetic sensibilities and giving the weird, shadowy experiences of dreamland. It is a most favorable season for mental and physical toil. Existence now to a healthy body is a pleasure, and toil a delight.
Mean Temperature of the Whole Year.--Notwithstanding the extreme cold of a few days in winter, the mean temperature is very high. The mean yearly isotherm of 55° which passes through Washington, D. C., Cincinnati and Southern Iowa, strikes the Missouri River a little south of Nebraska City, and then, moving a little north of west, crosses the Platte near Columbus, and thence in a northwesterly direction across the State. This mean annual isotherm, therefore, embraces over one-half of the State. The mean yearly isotherm of 52½°, which passes through Pittsburgh, Penn., crosses the center of Iowa diagonally, strikes Sioux City on the Missouri, thence, following the Missouri some distance, takes in the whole of Nebraska not included in the yearly isotherm of 55°. The yearly isotherm of 57½° passes south of Nebraska. A portion of Southern and Southwestern Nebraska is therefore included between the yearly isotherms of 57½° and 55°, and the balance between 55° and 52½°.
Extremes of Temperature.--In Dr. Childs' record of nineteen years, the mercury rose to 100° and upward twenty-nine times, or an average to a little more than a day and a half a year. The hottest year was that of 1874, when the thermometer in July and August rose to 100° and upward on twelve different days. On July 13, it rose to 113°, it being the hottest day, according to Dr. Childs' record, in nineteen years.
Occasionally the thermometer falls quite low. In North Nebraska, the thermometer has been, on a few occasions, known to descend to at least 35° below zero. South of the Platte, Dr. Childs' lowest record for nineteen years is for December 11, 1869, when the mercury fell to 30° below zero. Almost every winter, the mercury goes below zero for a few days. The extremes of temperature are therefore great, while the mean is high. And yet no acute sufferings or other ill consequences flow from it. The heat of summer is modified, as we shall presently see, by the breezes that fan the land. The severe cold of the extremes of winter is made endurable by the dryness of the atmosphere. The dryness is so great that the cold is not felt here more when the thermometer marks 20° below zero than it is in Pennsylvania when only at zero. It is moisture that intensifies the sensation of chilliness. It is the moisture in the atmosphere of the East that makes the sensation of cold so much severer there than here. For the same reason, the fruit buds survive a cold here which would be fatal to them in the East.
The Winds of Nebraska.--The atmosphere is rarely quiescent in Nebraska. While hurricanes are very rare, storms are more frequent in winter, and gentle zephyrs and winds are almost constant. These greatly modify the heat of summer and the cold of winter. When the thermometer is up among the nineties, even a south or southwest wind makes the weather endurable. At this high temperature, the atmosphere is almost certain to be in perceptible motion from some direction. The prevailing winds in winter are from the north and northwest.
With the coming of spring, there is a great change in this respect. The winds veer around, and a strong current sets in from the south, blowing from the Gulf of Mexico, but, entering the interior, is deflected by the earth's motion and becomes a southwest wind. This remains the prevailing wind during the whole of summer, and often until late in autumn. It sometimes happens that this southwest wind commences to blow during the coldest days of winter, when the curious phenomenon is observed of snow melting when the thermometer is at, a little above, or even below, zero. This of course is caused by the temperature of the coming current of air being much higher than that of the place. This character of north and northwest winds in winter, and south and southwest winds in summer, with some local exceptions, is the dominant character of the atmospheric movements between the Mississippi and the mountains, and the gulf to an unknown distance north.
The Storms of Winter.--From no cause has Nebraska, in company with Iowa and Kansas, suffered more in popular estimation than from the reputed severity and frequency of its storms. And yet they occur at comparatively long intervals. During one-half the years, none are experienced of any severity, and when they do come the laws that govern their occurrence are so well understood by at least the older citizens of the State that little damage is suffered from them, One of the laws of their occurrence is their periodicity. When the first one of the season comes, whether it is in November, December or January, a similar one is almost sure to occur within a few days of a month from the first. Those whose necessities, therefore, or business, calls them out during the winter season need only note the date of the first to know when to guard against the next. It is rare, however, that more than one of these periodical storms is of great severity.
When the storms commence, they are rarely heralded by anything except areas of low barometer. Even this warning is sometimes absent. The wind generally blows gently at first from the north, northeast or northwest. It is often preceded and accompanied by a fall of fine snow. Sometimes the storm of wind does not commence till the snowfall has ceased. The wind gradually increases in intensity, accompanied by a falling thermometer. Its violence increases until the snow is blown into huge drifts, and sometimes all that fell during several days seems mingled with the atmosphere, so that it is impossible to recognize roads, or oven the points of the compass. Progression becomes impossible except in the same direction with the wind. This is an extreme case, but a truthful one, and fortunately of rare occurrence. Such storms last from one to three days, and a few instances are on record where they have lasted five days. When the wind ceases to blow, the thermometer reaches its lowest point, and the intensest cold that occurs in these latitudes is experienced, In a few days, the thermometer rises, the weather becomes moderate and pleasant, and all about the storm is apt to be forgotten. So mild does the weather often become in December and January between these storms that men work in the open air in their shirt sleeves. This is what often deceives the unwary, and especially new-comers. I have known men, starting off in new settlements for loads of wood, going in their shirt sleeves, with a single coat in reserve in the wagon, to be caught in such storms, and, losing their way, to perish. Proper observation and care, as we have seen, would avoid such suffering and disaster, Notwithstanding, however, these storms of winter, there are many more days here during winter when men can work comfortably in the open air than in the East.
Clearness and Purity of the Atmosphere.--A number of circumstances combine to make the atmosphere of Nebraska exceptionally pure and clear. Its mean elevation of 2,312 feet above the sea, its general slope toward the east and south, its distance from the sea, the constant motion of its atmosphere, the general character of its finely silicious soil and perfect natural drainage, and its general freedom from swamps, bogs and sloughs, all combine to give the State the purest possible atmosphere. Its constant breezes sweep away or mingle with the general current of the atmosphere such impurities as may have been generated from any cause. Only during the Indian summer of autumn is there a haze that obscures distant objects. Fogs seldom occur. It is remarkable at how great a distance objects can usually be seen. Often when a bluff is ascended the larger limbs of a tree can be counted from eight to twelve miles distant. Objects universally appear to be much nearer than they really are to strangers coming from the East. In fact, judging from the European meteorological reports, the atmosphere of Nebraska is as clear, and much purer, than the far-famed skies of Italy and Greece.
Owing to this pureness of the atmosphere, clouds, when formed, are exceptionally clearly outlined. They stand out as most conspicuous objects in the sky. Nothing can surpass their evening or morning splendors. The sunsets are remarkable for the brightness and variety of their coloring. I have seen many magnificent sunsets in the mountains, but never anything to compare for extent, coloring, form and grandeur, with those that so often occur on the rolling prairies of Nebraska.
Moisture and Rainfall.--Eastern Nebraska has an abundance of moisture. This may appear like an exaggeration to those who were educated to believe that Nebraska was an arid region. And yet there is nothing in the natural history of the State better established than that there is here an abundance of rainfall.
When the snows of winter disappear, the ground is in good condition to be worked. Sufficient showers come during early spring to excite the crops of cereal grains, grasses and corn to an active growth. Sometimes it is comparatively dry between the spring showers and the June rains. These come sometimes earlier than June, in the last of May, and sometimes not till the last of June, and constitute the rainy season for the State. It begins whenever the "big rise" of' the Missouri and the Platte occur. This rainy season lasts from four to eight weeks. In seventeen years I have not known it to fail. During its continuance, it does not, indeed, rain every day, except occasionally for a short period. Generally, during this period, it rains from two to three times a week. It is more apt to rain every night than every day. In fact, during the whole of this season, three fourths of the rain falls at night. It is not an unusual occurrence for rain to fall every night for weeks, followed by cloudless days This rainy season of June occurs at a period when crops most need rain, and, owing to the regularity of its occurrence, droughts sufficiently severe to destroy the crops in Eastern Nebraska, where there is a proper cultivation, have not yet been known. Even in 1874, when the drought in some parts of the State was damaging, there were some fields of corn that produced good crops where the majority were failures. The successful fields were the ones that were well and deeply cultivated. After the wet season of June, which sometimes extends into July, is over, there are rains and showers at longer intervals until and during autumn. During winter, it rarely rains. Snow falls in winter, but seldom to a great depth. The snows generally range in depth from one to ten inches, and, in a few extreme cases to fifteen inches. During the majority of winters, no snows fall over eight inches in depth.
West of the 100th Meridian, the amount of rainfall gradually decreases from the yearly average of thirty inches, at or near Kearney Junction, to twenty inches at North Platte.
If exceptional years were taken into the account, the rainfall should be estimated at thirty inches almost to the west line of the State. The average of the last ten years would, however, by no means place it near so high. North of the Platte, in the Loup Valleys, abundant rainfall has existed very much farther to the west.
Even the relative amount of moisture in the atmosphere is high. This is evident from the reports of the Signal Service at Omaha and North Platte. It reports as much vapor on an average in the atmosphere at Omaha as exists in the States in the Mississippi Valley. At North Platte, which represents Western Nebraska, the atmosphere contains a comparatively large amount of vapor. The following table, taken from the report of the Signal Office for the year ending June 30, 1878, gives the vapor in the atmosphere for each month:
MONTHLY AND ANNUAL MEAN RELATIVE HUMIDITY FROM OBSER- VATIONS TAKEN AT 7 A. M., 2 and 9 P. M., ETC. North Omaha. Platte July, 1877 . . . . . . . . . . . . 47.2 62.4 August, 1877 . . . . . . . . . . . 57.5 a67.4 September, 1877. . . . . . . . . . 52.9 69.0 October, 1877 . . . . . . . . . . 64.8 73.6 November, 1877 . . . . . . . . . . 64.3 73.7 December, 1877 . . . . . . . . . . 68.4 77.8 January, 1878. . . . . . . . . . . 68.4 78.6 February, 1878 . . . . . . . . . . 66.3 73.1 March, 1878 . . . . . . . . . . . 61.4 64.8 April, 1878. . . . . . . . . . . . 54.5 59.8 May, 1878 . . . . . . . . . . . . 64.4 63.6 June, 1878 . . . . . . . . . . . . 69.7 71.1 Annual Means . . . . . . . . . . . 61.6 69.6
The amount of rainfall during the year ending November 30, 1877, at Plattsmouth, Neb., was 40.62 inches; for the year ending November 30, 1878, it was 53.87 inches. The average for ten years was 42.86 inches.