8 Entropy Production of Atmospheric Heat Transport

  • Takamitsu Ito
  • Axel Kleidon
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


We examine the rate of entropy produced by the atmospheric general circulation and the hypothesis that it adjusts itself towards a macroscopic state of maximum entropy production. First, we briefly review thermodynamics of a zonally-averaged, dry atmosphere. We examine the entropy balance of a dry atmosphere, and identify the key processes that lead to entropy production. Frictional dissipation and diabatic eddy transfer are the major sources of entropy production, and both processes are dominated by baroclinic eddies in the middle latitudes. Secondly, we derive a simple solution for the upper bound of entropy production from the energy balance constraint, which can be compared to the simulated temperature distribution simulated by an idealized GCM. These temperatures agree well with the MEP solution in the mid-latitude troposphere. However, there are significant differences in tropics where the Hadley circulation controls the large-scale temperature distribution. Finally, we show that the simulated entropy production is sensitive to model resolution and the intensity of boundary layer friction, and explore the significance of dynamical constraints. We close with a discussion of the implications of the MEP state for global climatology.


Boundary Layer Turbulence Entropy Production Atmospheric General Circulation Model Diabatic Heating Hadley Circulation 
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Authors and Affiliations

  • Takamitsu Ito
    • 1
  • Axel Kleidon
    • 2
  1. 1.Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139USA
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, 2181 Lefrak Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742USA.

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