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In the physical sciences, atmospheric thermodynamics is the study of heat and energy transformations in the earth’s atmospheric system. Following the fundamental laws of classical thermodynamics, atmospheric thermodynamics studies such phenomenon as properties of moist air, formation of clouds, atmospheric convection, boundary layer meteorology, and vertical stabilities in the atmosphere. Atmospheric thermodynamic diagrams are used as tools in the forecasting of storm development. Atmospheric thermodynamics forms a basis for cloud microphysics and convection parameterizations in numerical weather models, and is used in many climate considerations, including convective-equilibrium climate models.
Additional recommended knowledge
Atmospheric thermodynamics focuses on water and its transformations. Areas of study include the law of energy conservation, the ideal gas law, specific heat capacities, adiabatic processes (in which entropy is conserved), and moist adiabatic processes. Most of tropospheric gases are treated as ideal gases and water vapor is considered as one of the most important trace components of air.
Advanced topics are phase transitions of water, homogeneous and inhomogeneous nucleation, effect of dissolved substances on cloud condensation, role of supersaturation on formation of ice crystals and cloud droplets. Considerations of moist air and cloud theories typically involve various temperatures, such as equivalent potential temperature, wet-bulb and virtual temperatures. Connected areas are energy, momentum, and mass transfer, turbulence interaction between air particles in clouds, convection, dynamics of tropical cyclones, and large scale dynamics of the atmosphere.
The major role of atmospheric thermodynamics is expressed in terms of adiabatic and diabatic forces acting on air parcels included in primitive equations of air motion either as grid resolved or subgrid parameterizations. These equations form a basis for the numerical weather and climate predictions.
In the early 1800s thermodynamicists such as Sadi Carnot, Rudolf Clausius, and Emile Clapeyron worked to developed and to build mathematical models on the dynamics of bodies fluids and vapors related to the combustion and pressure cycles of atmospheric steam engines; one example is the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. In 1873, thermodynamicist Willard Gibbs published "Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids."
These sorts of foundations naturally began to be applied towards the development of theoretical models of atmospheric thermodynamics which drew the attention of the best minds. Papers on atmospheric thermodynamics appeared in the 1860s that treated such topics as dry and moist adiabatic processes. In 1884 Heinrich Hertz devised first atmospheric thermodynamic diagram (emagram) . Pseudo-adiabatic process was coined by von Bezold describing air as it is lifted, expands, cools, and eventually precipitates its water vapor; in 1888 he published voluminous work entitled "On the thermodynamics of the atmosphere"  .
In 1911 von Alfred Wegener published a book "Thermodynamik der Atmosphäre", Leipzig, J. A. Barth. From here the development of atmospheric thermodynamics as a branch of science began to take root. The term "atmospheric thermodynamics", itself, can be traced to Frank W. Verys 1919 publication: “The radiant properties of the earth from the standpoint of atmospheric thermodynamics” (Occasional scientific papers of the Westwood Astrophysical Observatory). By the late 1970s various textbooks on the subject began to appear. Today, atmospheric thermodynamics is an integral part of weather forecasting.
Tropical cyclone Carnot cycle
The thermodynamic structure of the hurricane can be modelled as a heat engine  running between sea temperature of about 300K and tropopause which has temperature of about 200K. Parcels of air traveling close to the surface take up moisture and warm, ascending air expands and cools releasing moisture (rain) during the condensation. The release of latent heat energy during the condensation provides mechanical energy for the hurricane. Both a decreasing temperature in the upper troposphere or an increasing temperature of the atmosphere close to the surface will increase the maximum winds observed in hurricanes. When applied to hurricane dynamics it defines Carnot heat engine cycle and predicts maximum hurricane intensity.
The Clausius-Clapeyron and global climate change
The Clausius Clapeyron equation governs the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, which increases by about 7% per degree Celsius increase in temperature. Saturation water vapor pressure is given by
where es(T) is in hPa, and T is in Celsius. Neglecting weak dependence of the denominator on temperature one notices that saturation water vapor pressure changes approximately exponentially with T. Therefore, when temperature increases in the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases the absolute humidity should go up. This results is one of the most celebrated statements in the debate about global climate change. However, this purely thermodynamic argument is subject of considerable debate because convective processes might cause extensive drying due to increased areas of subsidence, efficiency of precipitation could be influenced by the intensity of convection, and because cloud formation is related to relative humidity.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Atmospheric_thermodynamics". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|