In the first study of its kind, two reserachers from the midwest are reporting that they are noticing a slowing of wind speeds in the US, particularly along and east of the Mississippi River, reports the Associated Press.
With all of the hype around renewable energy, this isn’t good news, especially since the culprit may be that nasty climate change again.
Eugene Takle (Iowa State) and Sara Pryor (Indiana University), the two co-authors are reporting a 10% drop in wind speeds along the east coast over a decade, which if you think about it is quite a bit since average wind speeds are typically 10-12 mph.
In addition, the midwest is noticing an increase in low or no wind days. The states particularly affected are “Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, northern Maine and western Montana.”
Fig 1 – Broken Wind Turbines in Hawaii
Why Are Wind Speeds Slowing?
While it’s still way too early to know if this is a long-term, permanent change, in theory it makes sense. Since the Earth’s poles warm faster than the equator, especially now thanks global warming, it means the differences in temp between the two locales would decrease.
A more uniform temp across the globe means less air pressure (the stronger the barometric pressure, the stronger winds that are produced). “Lower pressure means less winds.”
On the other hand, there are several reasons why research stations may falsely report slower winds, for example, as trees grow they may suddenly block monitoring stations causing false reads on wind speeds.
Also, there is still much that scientists don’t understand about wind and weather patterns. While the monitoring stations may be reporting slower wind speeds, the researchers admit that computer simulation programs are not noting this. Although, scientists in Australia and Europe are also noticing similar speed reductions, which gives more credibility to the US study.
Whether this will have any effect on power production is also up in the “air.” There are NASA scientists saying it shouldn’t make much of a difference, while there are researchers saying a 10% or greater reduction would have a huge impact on the ability to produce energy.
For now it seems there are believers on both sides of the aisle and it will just take more data and more research to determine whether what we are seeing is real. Until that time, wind turbines can just pray for good wind.