With mitigating the effects of climate change and global warming, there is always a catch.
Wind energy is likely to be one of the great salvations of our planet. Wind is plentiful, everywhere, and with the right tools we can harness it and go a long way to weaning our population off the need to dig coal and pump oil.
The problem, however, is that rising temperatures decrease wind speeds.
It’s moments like these that really make you wonder what the aliens think of our planet and its tiny inhabitants running around, apparently intent on destroying themselves.
The research comes from climate researcher Diandong Ren, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, who published his research in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. Ren notes that prevailing winds in the “free” atmosphere are controlled by the temperature gradient that decreases the closer you go towards one of the poles.
“For example, Wichita, Kansas is cooler, in general, than Austin, Texas,” Ren says. “The stronger the temperature contrast, the stronger the wind.”
However, considering that climate change impacts the regions surrounding the poles faster than it does elsewhere, the temperature differential between the poles will decrease, meaning that so too will the winds.
Wind turbines are powered by winds at lower altitudes — about 100 meters above the ground — where, Ren says, “frictional effects from local topography and landscapes further influence wind speed and direction. In my study, I assume that these effects are constant — like a constant filter — so wind speed changes in the free atmosphere are representative of that in the frictional layer.”
Ren’s study calculated that a 2-4 degree Celsius increase in temperature throughout Earth’s mid to high-latitudes would see a decrease of between 4-12 percent in wind speeds in certain high northern latitudes.
What does this mean? “Everything else being the same, we need to invest in more wind turbines to gain the same amount of energy. Wind energy will still be plentiful and wind energy still profitable, but we need to tap the energy source earlier.”
Source: American Institute of Physics
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