Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NY Times: study says U.S. winds are slowing

A June 15th, 2009 article in the New York Times (click here for the link) highlights a recent study that suggests wind speeds in the U.S. have been decreasing over the last 30 years.

A copy of the paper can be found here: S.C. Pryor et al., 2009 (Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres)

Although there are issues pertaining to the data sets themselves, and the conditions of data collection (which are discussed in the paper), it does pose an interesting problem for U.S. Government mandates to harness more energy from wind to replace non-renewable sources. One of the authors did point out that most wind speed measurements are collected at airports, ~30 feet above the ground surface, which may differ from the wind speeds experienced by wind turbines at higher elevations.

The more interesting comment, however, was that a possible cause for the "slowing" winds might be the level of reforestation occurring in the U.S., the fourth fastest rate in the world between 2000 and 2005. Increasing forest cover my provide some much needed wind protection for many low rise structures that are currently reside in open exposures.

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