Declining wind speeds in parts of the United States could impact more than the wind power industry, say Iowa State University climate researchers.
Three Iowa State researchers contributed their expertise in modeling North America’s climate to a study to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres. The study – led by Sara C. Pryor, a professor of atmospheric science at Indiana University Bloomington – found that wind speeds across the country have decreased by an average of .5 percent to 1 percent per year since 1973.
“The study found that across the country wind speeds were decreasing – more in the East than in the West, and more in the Northeast and the Great Lakes,” said Gene Takle, an Iowa State professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and agronomy.
In Iowa, a state that ranks second in the country for installed wind power capacity, Takle said the study found annual wind speed declines that matched the average for the rest of the country.
The study’s findings made headlines across the country. Most of those stories focused on the potential implications for the wind power industry.
But Iowa State’s team of climate researchers – Takle; Ray Arritt, a professor of agronomy; and Bill Gutowski, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences – say the study raised other issues and questions, too.
The study looked at eight sets of wind data going back to 1973 and up to 2005: actual wind speed measurements from anemometers; a hybrid of measurements and computerized climate models; and two different regional climate models. Iowa State researchers contributed a regional model of North America’s climate they’ve worked with since the early 1990s. It’s a community model that researchers across the globe share and use. The Iowa State researchers have used the model to run long-term climate simulations.
Takle said there wasn’t a lot of agreement between the measurements and the various models. The model that most closely matched the measurements was the one used by the Iowa State researchers.
Gutowski said the differences aren’t surprising because the study was an initial examination of surface wind trends. He also said those differences tell climate researchers they have more work to do.
“We see this trend toward slower wind speeds and our unanswered question is whether this is part of global warming or something else,” Gutowski said. “What we’re poking into here is not something that’s commonly explored. Most studies look at temperature and precipitation, not surface winds.”
But the researchers said slower surface winds can have significant impacts beyond the wind power industry.
Crops, for example, depend on the wind for ventilation and cooling. Slower winds could mean higher field temperatures and less productive crops.
Slower winds could also mean more dew covering crops for longer periods, Takle said. That could mean problems with fungus and plant disease. That could also lead to lower yields at harvest time.
In cities, slower winds can mean more pollution and heat, the Iowa State researchers said.
“Air pollution episodes in major cities happen when there’s high pressure and stagnant air,” Takle said. “Less wind means less ventilation and less sweeping away of pollutants.”
Slower winds can also be a problem when heat waves hit a city, he said. The winds wouldn’t dissipate as much heat, allowing heat to linger and build.
All of those potential impacts need further study, the researchers said. And so does the cause of the apparent decline in the country’s wind speeds.
Takle suggested three possibilities for the trend: changes in instrumentation produced flawed measurements (though Takle said researchers made corrections to account for the changes); the study didn’t account for land-use changes such as development and tree planting that slowed winds near instruments; or the climate is changing and one consequence is slower winds.
Arritt said the study appears to support theories that climate change could affect surface winds.
“There are some good theoretical reasons to think that global warming will cause lighter winds in regions between the tropics and the Arctic,” Arritt said. “But we like to confirm our theory with data, and our results make us think the theory is on track.”Contacts:
Ray Arritt, Agronomy, (515) 294-9870, email@example.com
Mike Krapfl | Newswise Science News
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy