Friday, June 12, 2009

Fickle breezes: study says climate change means lower wind speeds

Chalk up another casualty of climate change: Wind speeds in many parts of the U.S. seem to be decreasing, which could make life tougher for the wind industry.

A study to be published later this summer says that climate change has led to lower average wind speeds in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S., AP reports.

If true—and the study goes against what most computer models predict will happen—it seems to be because rising temperatures at the poles change pressure patterns around the globe, which leads to less wind. From AP’s story:

“It’s a very large effect,” said study co-author Eugene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. In some places in the Midwest, the trend shows a 10 percent drop or more over a decade. That adds up when the average wind speed in the region is about 10 to 12 miles per hour. There’s been a jump in the number of low or no wind days in the Midwest, said the study’s lead author, Sara Pryor, an atmospheric scientist at Indiana University. Wind measurements plotted out on U.S. maps by Pryor show wind speeds falling mostly along and east of the Mississippi River. Some areas that are banking on wind power, such as west Texas and parts of the Northern Plains, do not show winds slowing nearly as much. Yet, states such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, northern Maine and western Montana show some of the biggest drop in wind speeds."

(If true this would have profound impacts, including a drastic implication on turbines as a source of alternative energy. For the AP article and a thoughtful blog in the Wall Street Journal click here).

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