A unified theory of available potential energy
Shepherd, T. G. (1993) A unified theory of available potential energy. Atmosphere-Ocean, 31 (1). pp. 1-26. ISSN 1480-9214
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/07055900.1993.9649460
Traditional derivations of available potential energy, in a variety of contexts, involve combining some form of mass conservation together with energy conservation. This raises the questions of why such constructions are required in the first place, and whether there is some general method of deriving the available potential energy for an arbitrary fluid system. By appealing to the underlying Hamiltonian structure of geophysical fluid dynamics, it becomes clear why energy conservation is not enough, and why other conservation laws such as mass conservation need to be incorporated in order to construct an invariant, known as the pseudoenergy, that is a positive‐definite functional of disturbance quantities. The available potential energy is just the non‐kinetic part of the pseudoenergy, the construction of which follows a well defined algorithm. Two notable features of the available potential energy defined thereby are first, that it is a locally defined quantity, and second, that it is inherently definable at finite amplitude (though one may of course always take the small‐amplitude limit if this is appropriate). The general theory is made concrete by systematic derivations of available potential energy in a number of different contexts. All the well known expressions are recovered, and some new expressions are obtained. The possibility of generalizing the concept of available potential energy to dynamically stable basic flows (as opposed to statically stable basic states) is also discussed.