The Difference Between Energy, Work and Power – and Why it Matters to Climate Prediction

Watts Up With That?

storm-cloud

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

How often have you heard claims that a warmer [climate] will be more energetic – that we shall all experience more violent storms, more rainfall, more storm damage, because the atmosphere is “absorbing more energy”?

Such claims are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of energy.

Consider an electric flashlight battery. An electric battery contains energy, but that energy doesn’t do anything – the battery can sit on a shelf for months, ready to be plugged into your flashlight. But plug the battery into your flashlight, and leave it on, within hours the battery will be dead – all its available electrical energy has been used up.

Similarly, a battery plugged into a motor also uses up its stored energy.

Motor powered by a battery. Motor powered by a battery.

Plugging the battery into your flashlight or a motor, and switching it on, puts that energy to work…

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