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Keywords:

  • Climate system;
  • Entropy production;
  • Extremum principle;
  • Turbulent transfer

Abstract

A mechanism is proposed by which the energy flow through a turbulent medium might be constrained to maximize its dissipation or (equivalently) its thermodynamic efficiency. The mechanism may provide a physical basis for the various findings over the years that the earth-atmosphere system has adopted a format which maximizes its overall rate of entropy production. The qualitative picture is of a system which, because of the asymmetry of its turbulent fluctuations about the locus of possible steady states determined by energy balance, moves to a preferred steady state and therefore to a preferred turbulent transfer coefficient.