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Reappraising the appropriate calculation of a common meteorological quantity: potential temperature

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Weigel,  Ralf
Particle Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Baumgartner, M., Weigel, R., Harvey, A. H., Plöger, F., Achatz, U., & Spichtinger, P. (2020). Reappraising the appropriate calculation of a common meteorological quantity: potential temperature. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20(24), 15585-15616. doi:10.5194/acp-20-15585-2020.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-970E-0
Abstract
The potential temperature is a widely used quan- tity in atmospheric science since it is conserved for dry air’s adiabatic changes of state. Its definition involves the specific heat capacity of dry air, which is traditionally assumed as constant. However, the literature provides different values of this allegedly constant parameter, which are reviewed and discussed in this study. Furthermore, we derive the poten- tial temperature for a temperature-dependent parameterisa- tion of the specific heat capacity of dry air, thus providing a new reference potential temperature with a more rigorous basis. This new reference shows different values and vertical gradients, in particular in the stratosphere and above, com- pared to the potential temperature that assumes constant heat capacity. The application of the new reference potential tem- perature is discussed for computations of the Brunt–Väisälä frequency, Ertel’s potential vorticity, diabatic heating rates, and for the vertical sorting of observational data.