Climate change effect on U.S. wind speeds to be minimal, says study

Wind speeds over the vast bulk of the United States, including all of the windy Great Plains, will be largely unaffected by global climate change over the next 30-50 years, according to a new study from researchers at Indiana University.

The report appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, and is described by Science Daily as “the first analysis of long-term stability of wind over the U.S.”  Previously, a number of studies have predicted that climate change will cause global winds to diminish, but those studies have not been supported by actual observations over time of wind speeds at wind turbine hub heights (see “Wind speeds: maybe lower, but not at turbine height,” December 7, 2010; “Diminishing winds? Not yet,” November 10, 2010).

“The greatest consistencies in wind density we found were over the Great Plains, which are already being used to harness wind, and over the Great Lakes, which the U.S. and Canada are looking at right now,” said Provost's Professor of Atmospheric Science Sara Pryor, the project's principal investigator. “Areas where the model predicts decreases in wind density are quite limited, and many of the areas where wind density is predicted to decrease are off limits for wind farms anyway.”

Rebecca Barthelmie, also a professor of atmospheric science and coauthor of the study, commented, “We decided it was time someone did a thorough analysis of long term-patterns in wind density. There are a lot of myths out there about the stability of wind patterns, and industry and government also want more information before making decisions to expand it.”

Stay informed

Take Action

Subscribe to the American Clean Power blog and receive the latest renewable energy news, policy updates, and opportunities to get involved.