Global wind speeds slowing since 1960, but nobody knows why 

Posted: October 7, 2017 by oldbrew in Natural Variation, Uncertainty, weather, wind
Tags: ,

Windy enough today?


One possibility is that ‘it could be due to ageing wind speed instruments producing inaccurate results’, says the GWPF. If not – bad news for wind turbine operators.

Wind speeds around the world seem to be decreasing in a phenomenon known as ‘stilling’ and European scientists are hoping to find out why.

Few people have probably noticed, but the world’s winds are getting slower. It is something that cannot be picked up by watching the billowing of dust or listening to the rustle of leaves on nearby trees.

Instead, it is a phenomenon occurring on a different scale, as the average global wind speed close to the surface of the land decreases.


And while it is not affecting the whole earth evenly, the average terrestrial wind speed has decreased by 0.5 kilometres per hour (0.3 miles per hour) every decade, according to data starting in the 1960s.

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.

Dr Cesar Azorin-Molina, a climatologist at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg and lead researcher of the EU-funded STILLING project, believes there is an urgent need to determine the causes of stilling in a changing climate.

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.’

Continued here.

Comments
  1. oldbrew says:

    How about: the poles-equator temperature gradient has reduced?

    http://climate.ncsu.edu/edu/k12/.tempgradient

  2. Phoenix44 says:

    I struggle to believe that the global average wind speed can be measured to anything like that sort of accuracy over the period in question. If it is concentrated in a few areas, then it’s probably local changes such as land use, deforestation, buildings, etc.

  3. Phoenix44 says:

    PS Turning something into a global average doesn’t make it a global problem.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Since 1999 there’s NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite:

    ‘Although designed for measurements over the ocean, SeaWinds can also collect data over land and ice. In a continuous 1,800-kilometer-wide band, Sea Winds makes approximately 400,000 measurements covering 90% of Earth’s surface every day.’

    http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/physical-ocean/winds

    From the GWPF report:
    ‘The project’s worldwide hunt for historical weather records has unearthed Portuguese weather books from the Azores Islands, starting from 1907. It also has observations from the Blue Hill Observatory, in Milton, Massachusetts, USA, which date back to 1885.’

  5. oldmanK says:

    So. Wind-turbines slow the wind. 🙂

  6. richard verney says:

    This is not a new discovery. There have been papers on this going back several years, which I have from time to time posted.

    This fact, if more than short term natural variation, does not bode well for windfarms.

    Whilst our current penetration is small, if wind is ever to make serious inroads, into energy production (especially if EVs are to become the norm), there will be a need for vast acreages of land to be carpeted with these wind farms.

    It is inevitably the case that if we extract energy from wind, then wind speed must decrease. The wind must be less in the shadow of a windfarm. Presently, we only have low penetration of windfrms, but as this penetration increases (as those promoting wind would wish to see), future windfarms will have ever decreasing returns.

    Whether this will turn out to be significant, who knows, but much will depend by how much we carpet over the UK and Europe with these windfarms.

  7. ivan says:

    Two things.
    1) All of this data is being digitised and then homogenised through comparison to reference data series The moment I see mention of homogenised data in anything remotely associated with global warming/climate change I start looking for the scam and wondering if this is to be the next ‘we want your money’ scare.

    2) There is a total lack of information as to exactly where they are seeing this slow down and I can’t help wondering why. If it is around wind farms then they should have very accurate data, after all there should be the wind speed/direction data from the data loggers that were setup to find the best place for the wind farm long before the farm was built. Then each of the units has its own wind speed/direction logging unit so there is the before and after data comparison for that area already digitised.

    Reading the full article it would appear that all the wind data from the wind farms has gone ‘missing’ because if it hadn’t the operators would be able to forecast their output at least a few days ahead but one of the aims of this study is to help the subsidy farmers forecast output a few days ahead.

  8. Richard111 says:

    If you like keeping an eye on the wind, especially low pressure areas that can become storms and hurricanes, you might like this site…

    https://earth.nullschool.net

    Rotate the globe in any direction with the mouse and click on ‘earth’ for extensive menu.

  9. The error in measurement and averaging is likely orders of magnitude larger than the change. Weather station numbers have been reduced, locations have changed development around weather stations have changed. This is more unknown than known.

    And while it is not affecting the whole earth evenly, the average terrestrial wind speed has decreased by 0.5 kilometres per hour (0.3 miles per hour) every decade, according to data starting in the 1960s.

  10. Once the pole to equator temperature gradient increases which it will with global cooling so will the wind speeds

  11. A C Osborn says:

    I just love this “One possibility is that ‘it could be due to ageing wind speed instruments producing inaccurate results’”
    As if they can’t test these Ageing Instruments against new validated ones.
    And this passes a s Science?

  12. Mjw says:

    The wind is slowing because of the increased resistance caused by wind turbines.

    What else could it be.

    The last sentence closes all future arguments as it has in the past.

  13. tom0mason says:

    Like most things these days we are all in the doldrums, economically, politically, and climatically. Or maybe it’s the calm before the storm.

    Could this have happened before, like towards the end of the medieval or Roman climate optimums, or before the last LIA?

  14. J Martin says:

    A reduced wind speed would result in less cooling and more warming. I wonder if a decrease of nearly 3kph would be a measurable component of global warming over the last 60 years.

  15. Derek Colman says:

    I know why. The average wind speed comes from the data collected from weather stations, the vast majority of which are positioned in the inhabited parts of the world. Wind farms are also positioned in inhabited parts of the world. Wind turbines extract energy from the wind, thus slowing the wind down. I think we now have a real problem for wind farms in the UK. Despite several new wind farms coming on line in 2016, wind power received was no higher than in 2015. We could be in a situation where new turbines slow the wind more, reducing the output from existing turbines to the point that adding new turbines becomes self defeating.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Slowing wind speeds don’t fit the climate alarm model.

  17. DB says:

    Here’s an article from 2009:
    http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/New-study-in-U-S-suggests-wind-is-noticeably-1724394.php
    The wind, a favorite power source of the green energy movement, seems to be dying down across the United States. And the cause, ironically, may be global warming — the very problem wind power seeks to address. The idea that winds may be slowing is still a speculative one, and scientists disagree whether that is happening….

    “It’s a very large effect,” said study co-author Eugene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. In some places in the Midwest, the trend shows a 10 percent drop or more over a decade….

    The ambiguity of the results is due to changes in wind-measuring instruments over the years, according to Pryor. And while actual measurements found diminished winds, some climate computer models — which are not direct observations — did not, she said….

    It also makes sense based on how weather and climate work, Takle said. In global warming, the poles warm more and faster than the rest of the globe, and temperature records, especially in the Arctic, show this. That means the temperature difference between the poles and the equator shrinks and with it the difference in air pressure in the two regions. Differences in barometric pressure are a main driver in strong winds. Lower pressure difference means less wind….

    One of the problems Pryor acknowledges with her study is that over many years, changing conditions near wind-measuring devices can skew data. If trees grow or buildings are erected near wind gauges, that could reduce speed measurements….

    The new study “demonstrates, rather conclusively in my mind, that average and peak wind speeds have decreased over the U.S. in recent decades,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. A naysayer is Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climate scientist in New York who said the results conflict with climate models that show no effect from global warming….

    But another expert, Jonathan Miles, of James Madison University, said a 10 percent reduction in wind speeds over a decade “would have an enormous effect on power production.” Pryor said a 10 percent change in peak winds would translate into a 30 percent change in how much energy is reaped.

  18. DB says:

    Of course, Matthew England found that increased winds was a cause of the pause/hiatus.

    Atlantic origin of recent Pacific trade wind, sea level and temperature trends
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-08/uoh-aoo073114.php
    Climate models predict that the equatorial Pacific trades should weaken with increasing greenhouse gases. Yet, since the early 1990s, satellites and climate stations reveal a rapid and unprecedented strengthening of the Pacific trade winds, accelerating sea level rise in the western Pacific and impacting both Pacific and global climate….

  19. oldbrew says:

    Mid-air turbulence set to triple due to climate change, scientists warn

    Commercial airliners will be buffeted by up to three times more turbulence in future decades, according to a new report.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/10/04/mid-air-turbulence-set-triple-due-climate-change-scientists/

    As usual, the future will be worse whatever happens – if you believe the stories 🤣

  20. stpaulchuck says:

    bean burritos are no longer the “in” food??

  21. oldbrew says:

    Pre-flight safety chat should point out where the sick bag is 😉

  22. pochas94 says:

    Slowing wind speeds will mean wind turbines spend more idle time, potentially causing massive power failures.

  23. Here is reason why the wind speeds may have decreased since the 1960’s:

    Which can be found at:

    https://astroclimateconnection.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/world-wind-speeds-have-slowed-down-over.html

    [mod] includes another graphic re La Nina

  24. Ian Wilson says:

    1. In the lower graph, increased trade wind strength in the Cariaco Basin of Venezuela produces a greater concentration of G.Bulloides in the basin sediments i.e. increased trade wind strength is up in this diagram.

    2. The strength of the trade winds in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean is inversely correlated with the trade wind strength in the central and western Pacific Oceans – because of the Walker circulation.

    3. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-08/uoh-aoo073114.php

    reports that a warming of the equatorial Atlantic Ocean since 1990’s has led to drop in atmospheric pressure over the equatorial Atlantic. This pumps air [via the Walker cell between the equatorial Atlantic and the eastern Pacific Ocean] into the eastern Pacific, leading to a strengthening of the trade winds across the equatorial Pacific. The stronger trade winds lead to greater upwelling of cold water in the eastern equatorial Pacific, which reinforces the atmospheric pressure (and seas surface temperature) difference between the equatorial parts of two oceans.

    4. The intensified Walker cell bridging the two oceans produces increasing pressure over the eastern Pacific which attenuates the trade winds that are blowing towards the west off the coast of Venezuela. This means that the trade wind strength in the Cariaco Basin of Venezuela vary 180 degrees out of phase with the strength of the trade winds in the central and western equatorial Pacific oceans.

    You can see this in the lower graph in the above post. From the late 1980’s onward, there is a rapid drop in the trade wind strength in the Cariaco Basin which is matched by a rapid increase in the trade wind strength in the western equatorial Pacific.

  25. oldbrew says:

    From Ian Wilson’s link (Eurekalert):

    “It turns out that the current generation of climate models underestimates the extent of the Atlantic-Pacific coupling, which means that they cannot properly capture the observed eastern Pacific cooling, which has contributed significantly to the leveling off, or the hiatus, in global warming.”

    They also claim the Atlantic warming was/is ‘induced partly by greenhouse gasses’, without offering any evidence of that, so it looks like another one of these ‘must have’ assertions that get inserted into climate-related studies 😦

  26. Brett Keane says:

    From IW and OB’s last, to Bob Tisdale’s many observations of the cooler East Pacific over the period in question: no carbon effect, just ocean and solar cycles. Normal AMO cooling cycle and Quiet Sun meridionality rule for now. It will be interesting, if discomfortingly wild!

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