Available Potential Energy and the Maintenance of the General Circulation

Article English OPEN
Lorenz, Edward N. (2011)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: Tellus A (issn: 1600-0870, eissn: 0280-6495)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/tellusa.v7i2.8796
  • Subject:
    arxiv: Physics::Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics

The available potential energy of the atmosphere may be defined as the difference between the total potential energy and the minimum total potential energy which could result from any adiabatic redistribution of mass. It vanishes if the density stratification is horizontal and statically stable everywhere, and is positive otherwise. It is measured approximately by a weighted vertical average of the horizontal variance of temperature. In magnitude it is generally about ten times the total kinetic energy, but less than one per cent of the total potential energy. Under adiabatic flow the sum of the available potential energy and the kinetic energy is conserved, but large increases in available potential energy are usually accompanied by increases in kinetic energy, and therefore involve nonadiabatic effects. Available potential energy may be partitioned into zonal and eddy energy by an analysis of variance of the temperature field. The zonal form may be converted into the eddy form by an eddy-transport of sensible heat toward colder latitudes, while each form may be converted into the corresponding form of kinetic energy. The general circulation is characterized by a conversion of zonal available potential energy, which is generated by low-latitude heating and high-latitude cooling, to eddy available potential energy, to eddy kinetic energy, to zonal kinetic energy.DOI: 10.1111/j.2153-3490.1955.tb01148.x
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