S. H. Schneider Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, New York, NY: Oxford University Press · 1996


Atmospheric energetics, the study of the distribution and transformation of energy in the atmosphere, has long been a subject of fascination for meteorologists. Nonetheless, it may be argued that energetics serves more as an after-the-fact bookkeeping check than as a practical tool for developing a predictive understanding of weather and climate. A brief discussion of the ambiguous role of energetics in atmospheric science serves as our introduction to the topic. The remainder of this article is structured in three parts. First, definitions of potential, kinetic, and available potential energy are presented, along with a more advanced and mathematical discussion of how these are linked to internal energy, enthalpy, and entropy. We then examine transformations between various forms of energy, considering the atmosphere as a thermodynamic heat-engine. Finally, we consider the observed energy transports, focusing on meridional transport in the atmosphere and ocean.

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