In moist convection, atmospheric motions transport water vapor from the earth's surface to the regions where condensation occurs. This transport is associated with three other aspects of convection: the latent heat transport, the expansion work performed by water vapor, and the irreversible entropy production due to diffusion of water vapor and phase changes. An analysis of the thermodynamic transformations of atmospheric water yields what is referred to as the entropy budget of the water substance, providing a quantitative relationship between these three aspects of moist convection. The water vapor transport can be viewed as an imperfect heat engine that produces less mechanical work than the corresponding Carnot cycle because of diffusion of water vapor and irreversible phase changes. The entropy budget of the water substance provides an alternative method of determining the irreversible entropy production due to phase changes and diffusion of water vapor. This method has the advantage that it does not require explicit knowledge of the relative humidity or of the molecular flux of water vapor for the estimation of the entropy production. Scaling arguments show that the expansion work of water vapor accounts for a small fraction of the work that would be produced in the absence of irreversible moist processes. It is also shown that diffusion of water vapor and irreversible phase changes can be interpreted as the irreversible counterpart to the continuous dehumidification resulting from condensation and precipitation. This leads to a description of moist convection where it acts more as an atmospheric dehumidifier than as a heat engine.
|Number of pages
|Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
|Published - 2002
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science