Warming does indeed reduce wind energy

Awhile back we put up a blog post citing studies that a warming climate would likely diminish wind speeds and, thus, the energy available to be harvested by wind turbines. At the time, we took a lot of flack about the item from people who somehow did not believe that temperature differences in the atmosphere caused wind:

http://blog.machinedesign.com/Machine_Design_Blogs/2009/06/22/trouble-in-wind-land-wind-speeds-are-diminishing/

Now comes a paper by climate researcher Diandong Ren at the University of Texas at Austin in a paper appear in the American Institute of Physics Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy that basically says rising temperatures decrease wind speeds, and thus, the amount of energy available for harvesting.

As Ren explains, the prevailing winds in the "free" atmosphere about 1,000 m above the ground are maintained by a temperature gradient that decreases toward the poles. "For example, Wichita, Kansas is cooler, in general, than Austin, Texas," Ren says. "The stronger the temperature contrast, the stronger the wind." But as global temperatures rise, the temperature contrast between the lower latitudes and the poles drops slightly, because polar regions tend to warm up faster. And as that temperature contrast becomes weaker, so too do the winds.

Ren calculates that a 2-4-degree-Celsius increase in temperatures in Earth's mid to high-latitudes would result in a 4-12% drop in wind speeds in certain high northern latitudes.

The full journal article is here:

http://jrse.aip.org/resource/1/jrsebh/v2/i5/p052301_s1

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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