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Specific Heat Of Water

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For complex thermodynamic systems with several interacting parts and state variables, or for measurement condiditions that are neither constant pressure nor constant volume, or for situations where the temperature is significantly non-uniform, the simple definitions of heat capacity above are not useful or even meaningful. The heat energy that is supplied may end up as kinetic energy (energy of motion) and potential energy (energy stored in force fields), both at macroscopic and atomic scales. Then the change in temperature will depends on the particular path that the system followed through its phase space between the initial and final states. Namely, one must somehow specify how the positions, velocities, pressures, volumes, etc. changed between the initial and final states; and use the general tools of thermodynamics to predict the system's reaction to a small energy input. The "constant volume" and "constant pressure" heating modes are just two among infinitely many paths that a simple homogeneous system can follow.

Water has a high heat capacity—it absorbs a lot of heat before it begins to get hot. You may not know how that affects you, but the heat capacity of water has a huge role to play in the Earth's climate and helps determine the habitability of many places around the globe.


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