Thermodynamics and energy exchanges in the climate system

Valerio Lembo

The climate system can be seen as a highly complex thermal engine, in which numerous processes continuously interact to transform heat into work and vice-versa. In this seminar, I will try to examine a few fundamental facts about the general circulation of the atmosphere, from the point of view of the basic laws of thermodynamics. I will review the concepts of available potential energy, lay down the connection between heat transports and enthalpy fluxes, discuss how energy conversions in mid-latitudes can be addressed in terms of a very intuitive conceptual framework, the Lorenz Energy Cycle. I will then focus on new results about the role of eddies in the meridional transport of heat across NH mid-latitudes, emphasizing the role of extreme events and the emergence of preferred weather regime patterns. In general, I will try to convey the message that extreme transports tend to follow recurrent paths of mid-latitudinal eddy atmospheric circulation, opening new possibilities on the detection and predictability of severe weather events and their impacts.


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