Diminishing winds? Not yet …

It’s a science story that has been around since 1990 or so: global warming, by reducing the temperature difference between Earth’s poles and its equator, will lead to lower wind speeds. It made the rounds again this week, following a new report from a researcher at the University of Texas-Austin on the same (now 20-year-old) issue.

And it may indeed happen at some point, though global climate predictions are full of uncertainties. In fact, just a few days ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an “Arctic Report Card,” which warned that the severe ice melting the Arctic Ocean has experienced in recent years may be affecting weather patterns over the U.S. and elsewhere. A Washington Post Web site article on the NOAA report said in part: “The ensuing warming raises the height of atmospheric pressure surfaces (known to meteorologists as ‘geopotential heights’) over the North Pole. In fact, the report notes that the winter of 2009-2010 featured ‘one of the three largest Arctic high-pressure events since 1850.’ The higher pressure surfaces are thought to change large-scale wind patterns and can lead to bouts of severe winter weather in the eastern United States and East Asia.” (emphasis added)

But I digress. Here is the latest word on this phenomenon of potentially diminishing winds, from AWS Truepower, a company that makes its living in part by measuring wind speeds for the siting of wind farms:

“AWS Truepower, LLC released a statement today calling into question media reports of declining wind speeds across the Northern Hemisphere. Such a decline, if true, could have serious consequences for the development of wind energy projects, which depend on a stable wind climate. Based on its own review and analysis of available data and studies, however, AWS Truepower believes that no significant decline has been definitively observed.

“’As far as we can determine,’ says Dr. Michael Brower, a physicist and Chief Technical Officer of AWS Truepower, ‘average wind speeds in locations and at heights of interest for wind energy have been neither decreasing nor increasing in a statistically significant way in most parts of the world.’”

“… In summary,  AWS Truepower concludes that the available data do not support the finding that there is a significant global or hemispheric trend in wind speeds that may be of concern for the wind energy industry.”

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