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Heat Transport In The Atmosphere


Most people who I am friends to are aware that one of my interests is the subject of meteorology and as such I would like to present a series of weather related posts. I would like to start with various ways that heat can be transported within the atmosphere. Since the atmosphere tends to influence everything associated with our life it stands to reason that it represents a valuable life-giving aspect of Meteorology as well. Within its realm we witness the sunsets which we so admire, everyday sounds and the clouds above. Without an adequate atmosphere we would experience unbelievable periods during the nighttime while the temperatures would sour during the day. With such wonders at our disposal we must in turn question how heat is transported within the atmospheric environment. This becomes our first of several posts concerning the principles of weather.

This discussion of the nature of energy transportation and how it interacts with the Earth is not only elaborate in content but interesting as well. These different forms of energy transfers provide researchers with vital bits of data concerning how energy moves within our atmospheric system. There are essentially five forms of energy for which we are concerned, chemical, kinetic, potential, radiant and thermal.

Chemical energy is representative of that energy stored within chemical compounds. This energy is frequently released into either thermal or kinetic energy as the substance starts to break down. We are reminded from our basic physics classes that Kinetic energy is that energy which is in motion. Its potential is generated by the movement of molecules as they arrive at earth from our sun. There continual motion is transferred to heat energy when contacting the matter on earth.

Potential energy is that energy released from an object according to its position above the ground surface. The higher it is in reference to the ground than the greater is its potential energy. Of course this type of energy can readily be converted into kinetic energy or heat when it finally moves.

Radiant energy is generally thought of as that energy which is associated with electromagnetic wave propagation in open space. This is an important element of transferring solar energy to the Earth. In short radiant energy is that energy which is sent to the earth from the sun. Examples of its use are solar projects which utilize its heat content. Radiant energy can be either reflected or absorbed.

Thermal energy is usually associated with the temperature and is created when radiant energy is being absorbed by something.

These different forms of energy interaction producing various forms of energy especially heat. As we speak of heat we are reminded that there are several types which are especially vital to the earthly environment, sensible and latent heat. Sensible heat is where the warm air is exchange in a downward temperature gradient. By day it goes from the earths surface to the atmosphere while at night is moves from the air to the ground. Latent heat is that energy released as a substance changes its physical state such as from vapor to liquid to gas or the other way around. An example would be water to water vapor to condensation. As we consider the various modes of heat transportation we should keep in mind that it is these changes in heat that produces our weather and its formations.

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