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Joakim Kjellsson
Kristofer Döös
Frédéric B. Laliberté
, and
Jan D. Zika


The zonal and meridional components of the atmospheric general circulation are used to define a global thermodynamic streamfunction in dry static energy versus latent heat coordinates. Diabatic motions in the tropical circulations and fluxes driven by midlatitude eddies are found to form a single, global thermodynamic cycle. Calculations based on the Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset indicate that the cycle has a peak transport of 428 Sv (Sv ≡ 109 kg s−1). The thermodynamic cycle encapsulates a globally interconnected heat and water cycle comprising ascent of moist air where latent heat is converted into dry static energy, radiative cooling where dry air loses dry static energy, and a moistening branch where air is warmed and moistened. It approximately follows a tropical moist adiabat and is bounded by the Clausius–Clapeyron relationship for near-surface air. The variability of the atmospheric general circulation is related to ENSO events using reanalysis data from recent years (1979–2009) and historical simulations from the EC-Earth Consortium (EC-Earth) coupled climate model (1850–2005). The thermodynamic cycle in both EC-Earth and ERA-Interim widens and weakens with positive ENSO phases and narrows and strengthens during negative ENSO phases with a high correlation coefficient. Weakening in amplitude suggests a weakening of the large-scale circulation, while widening suggests an increase in mean tropical near-surface moist static energy.

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