Saturday, November 14, 2009

Scientists 'poking into' reasons for slower wind speeds; climate change eyed

One of those strange, unexpected impacts....Mike Lyons in the Palm Beach Daily News: Tropical Storm Ida's landfall near Pensacola last week was easily the most documented tropical weather event of the year. That's because Ida was the only tropical weather event of the year.

…The TV folks had to be a bit disappointed, however, since none of the dozens of cameras stationed along the Gulf Coast captured that quintessential hurricane picture: the palm tree bending in the wind. And, based on a new study from Iowa State University, palm trees may not be bending much in the future. The study found that surface wind speeds, especially in the Midwest and the Northeast, have decreased by an average of 0.5 percent to 1 percent each year since 1973.

"We see this trend toward slower wind speeds and our unanswered question is whether this is part of global warming or something else," said Bill Gutowski, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and one of the four Iowa State scientists working on the study.

…The scientists looked at surface wind data around the country from 1973 to 2005 using wind-speed measurements from anemometers and computerized climate models to reach their conclusion. While a reduction in wind speed may mean fewer bad hair days, the group points out that less wind could lead to problems in agriculture, increased air pollution and the growing wind power industry….

…"There are some good theoretical reasons to think that global warming will cause lighter winds in regions between the tropics and the Arctic," he said. "But, we would like to confirm our theory with data, and (so far) our results think the theory is on track."...

The West Wind, Winslow Homer, 1891

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