TOEFL Reading: ETS-TOEFL阅读机经 - 3DDC5J53B7WV5712M$

Gliding is gravity-powered flight where the movement of the glider has a downward tilt. But many birds are capable of ascending without flapping their wings, and this is called soaring. Birds usually soar by finding air that is rising as fast as or faster than the gliding bird's sinking speed. For example, a turkey vulture might glide with a sinking speed of about 0.8 meters per second. If the vulture can find a place where the air is rising at 0.8 meters per second, it will be able to maintain a constant altitude. If it finds air rising faster than that, it will be able to climb. Two common processes produce updrafts, or rising air. When heated air rises, it is called a thermal, and when wind blows up a hill or over a large obstacle, it is called ridge lift or slope lift. Thermals occur when the Sun heats some parts of the ground more than others. For example, a freshly plowed field may heat up faster than an adjacent meadow. The warm ground heats the air above it, and the air starts to rise. As the warm air rises, it is replaced by cool air from the surrounding terrain, and this new air is heated until it rises. Thermals may be continuous chimneys of rising air, or a series of discrete, dough – nut-shaped bubbles (ring thermals) formed at intervals by the warmed ground. If they could be made visible, ring thermals would look like giant, rising smoke rings. Some airplane pilots and biologists disagree about the exact form of continuous thermal chimneys. Pilots have traditionally interpreted thermals as large, tall columns of rising air, usually with a cumulus (white, fluffy) cloud marking the top of the column. In contrast, observers of animal flight find only small, localized thermal chimneys, which usually take the form of dust devils, which are small columnar thermals with intense rotation. Colin Pennycuick, a prolific researcher on bird flight, discounts thermal chimneys and recognizes only ring thermals as sources of large-scale, long-lasting updrafts. In any case, thermals can rise 2 or 3 kilometers above the ground. Also, they tend to increase in size and intensity as they rise, sometimes reaching over 1,000 meters in diameter. Thermals are usually capped by a cloud, because the upper limit of a thermal is set by the altitude where the temperature is low enough to condense water vapor in the thermal, which cools the air and forms a cloud. As long as the upward speed of the thermal is greater than the sinking speed of a glider, the glider will ascend in the thermal. Of course, the glider will quickly fly out of the thermal if it flies in a straight line, so it must circle to stay in the rising air. (A glider should stay on the inside of the ring, because the air on the outer edge of the ring is actually rolling downward.) Imagine a vulture ascending to 1,500 meters above the ground by circling in a ring thermal. From this height, it will be able to fly out of the thermal and glide for about 30 minutes (traveling over 23 kilometers) before it runs out of altitude and needs to either start flapping, find another thermal, or land. Many soaring birds use just this pattern: climbing up in a thermal, gliding a long distance, then finding another thermal in which to soar. This type of flight is an efficient way to cover long distances at a low energy cost, making it a handy way to migrate or search for food. Slope soaring is useful when wind blows upward along a slope. The speed of the wind's upward motion can be calculated in the same manner that the sinking speed of a glider is calculated. If the upward speed of this wind is greater than or equal to the sinking speed of a glider, the glider will be able to maintain altitude. Such ridge lift has a characteristic that is both an advantage and a disadvantage: ridge lift is usually predictably tied to a particular slope, so it is easy to find. But it is usable only in that fixed, local area.