The Earth’s systems are all interlinked and their proper functioning depends on all of them. Diandong Ren, a climate researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, has recently formulated a theory according to which wind power could drop by up to 12 percent if the global temperature will rise 2 to 4 degrees.
The researchers talks about winds that activate in the “free” atmosphere, a zone at an altitude of about 1,000 meters. The wind speeds at that altitude are maintained by the temperature gradient. As temperatures at the poles rise, this gradient is lower, and thus wind speeds lower.
“For example, Wichita, Kansas is cooler, in general, than Austin, Texas,” Ren says. “The stronger the temperature contrast, the stronger the wind.”
The high altitude winds influence low altitude ones (the frictional layer), and their temperatures. Since wind turbines are placed 100 meters above the ground, they lie in the frictional layer. “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,” says Ren.
A 2-4 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s mid to high-latitudes will produce a 4 to 12 percent decrease in wind speeds at certain high northern latitudes. That translates in us trying to harvest as much wind power, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and passing to a greener technology before we will also lack wind power. Although I doubt at the time we’ll lack winds we’ll be needing any power… at all.