A thermodynamically general theory for convective vortices



    Corresponding author
    1. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PU, UK and Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
      *Correspondence. e-mail: renno@alum.mit.edu
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*Correspondence. e-mail: renno@alum.mit.edu


Convective vortices are common features of atmospheres that absorb lower-entropy-energy at higher temperatures than they reject higher-entropy-energy to space. These vortices range from small to large-scale and play an important role in the vertical transport of heat, momentum, and tracer species. Thus, the development of theoretical models for convective vortices is important to our understanding of some of the basic features of planetary atmospheres.

The heat engine framework is a useful tool for studying convective vortices. However, current theories assume that convective vortices are reversible heat engines. Since there are questions about how reversible real atmospheric heat engines are, their usefulness for studying real atmospheric vortices is somewhat controversial. In order to reduce this problem, a theory for convective vortices that includes irreversible processes is proposed.

The paper's main result is that the proposed theory provides an expression for the pressure drop along streamlines that includes the effects of irreversible processes. It is shown that a simplified version of this expression is a generalization of Bernoulli's equation to convective circulations. It is speculated that the proposed theory not only explains the intensity, but also sheds light on other basic features of convective vortices such as their physical appearance.