Wind speeds have slowed since the sixties
God is playing a joke on wind investors:
Known as ‘stilling’, it has only been discovered in the last decade. And while it may sound deceptively calm, it could be a vital, missing piece of the climate change puzzle and a serious threat to our societies.
While 0.5 kilometre per hour might barely seem enough to ruffle any feathers, he warns that prolonged stilling will have serious impacts.
‘There are serious implications of wind changes in areas like agriculture and hydrology, basically because of the influence of wind on evaporation,’ said Dr Azorin-Molina. ‘A declining trend in wind speed can impact long-term power generation, and weaker winds can also mean less dispersion of pollutants in big cities, exacerbating air quality problems and therefore impacting human health.’
Here’s a rare concept in science these days: Dr Azorin-Molina isn’t sure if this is natural or man-made. No doubt, climate modelers will coming up with the answer they didn’t predict, post hoc, any day now…
In idyll speculation, researchers wondered if perhaps humans built too many obstacles (which seems hard to believe — for every skyscraper that blocks the flow we must have flattened a million trees to pave the way for easier breezing). But we have built 340,000 wind towers. Wickedly, commenter barrashee jokes that we could run nukes to power the turbines in reverse and restore the wind. 😉
Take it all with a bucket of salt– in 2011 National Geographic ran a headline The World is Getting Mysterious Winder. That same year at the meeting of the UK Parliamentary science committee they wrote a report “Warmer, Wetter, Windier, Will the UK’s Infrastructure Cope.“But despite “windier” being in the headline the sole reference to wind strength was to say that the models will get better at predicting it one day, and to note the alliterative possibility that there were unknown effects of Wetter, Warmer, Windier on the World Wide Web.
Maybe it’s clouds? Maybe it isn’t. Maybe no one has any idea:
We know that one of the best forecasts in Europe, that of the ECMWF, predicts winds close to the earth’s surface which are slightly different than those observed,’ said Dr Nuijens. ‘The question is, “What causes that?” One idea is that it is related to convective mixing coming from these cumulus clouds.’
I’d be amazed if global average wind speed was identical now to what it was in 1960.
But despite no one knowing whether things will get windier or calmer, plane flights will be more turbulent, thanks to CO2, indeed, “three times bumpier“. Well, that was last week.