Potential energy

From Glossary of Meteorology



potential energy

The energy a system has by virtue of its position; the negative of the work done in taking a system from a reference configuration, where the potential energy is assigned the value zero, to a given configuration, with no change in kinetic energy of the system.

An example of potential energy is the gravitational potential energy of a point mass m at a distance r from the center of a spherically symmetric body with mass M (e.g., a planet):
ams2001glos-Pe33
where G is the universal gravitational constant and the reference potential energy is taken as zero at infinity. At distances z above the surface of the body that are small compared with its radius, the potential energy is approximately
ams2001glos-Pe34
where g is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface and the zero of potential energy is taken at the surface (z = 0). Molecular potential energies, arising from short-range forces much stronger than gravitation, are involved in all chemical reactions, are responsible for the cohesiveness of liquids and solids, and influence a host of processes such as evaporation and condensation.


Copyright 2022 American Meteorological Society (AMS). For permission to reuse any portion of this work, please contact permissions@ametsoc.org. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 U.S. Code § 107) or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S.Copyright Act (17 USC § 108) does not require AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, require written permission or a license from AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement.