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Winds of change

Filed under: — group @ 11 June 2009

Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann

There was an interesting AP story this week about possible changes in wind speed over the continental US. The study (by Pryor et al (sub.)), put together a lot of observational data, reanalyses (from the weather forecasting models) and regional models, and concluded that there was some evidence for a decrease in wind speeds, particularly in the Eastern US. However, although this trend appeared in the observational data, it isn’t seen in all the reanalyses or regional models, leaving open a possibility that the trend is an artifact of some sort (instrumental changes, urbanization etc.). If the effect is real though, one would want to see whether it could be tied to anything else (such as forcing from greenhouse gas or aerosol increases), and indeed, whether it had any implications for wind-generated electricity, water evaporation etc.

Amusingly, both of us were quoted in the story as having ostensibly conflicting views. Mike was quoted as finding the evidence for a trend reasonably convincing, while Gavin was quoted as being unconvinced of the evidence for an anthropogenic climate change signal (note that the two statements are not in fact mutually inconsistent). As one should expect in any news story, these single lines don’t really do justice to the longlonger interviews both of us gave the reporter Seth Borenstein. So what is the bigger context?

First some background. It’s important to note that ‘windiness’ is not a globally uniform field, and that changes will occur in different regions for very different reasons. Also, note that mean wind speed is not the same as storminess*.

Winds in the mid-latitudes are a function of the jet stream and of the ‘baroclinic instability’ that we see as low-pressure systems. In the tropics, winds locally depend strongly on convective activity and on a larger scale, the Hadley circulation. In monsoonal regions (West Africa, India etc.), winds are a function of the temperature contrasts over land and sea during the warm seasons. Winds can be affected by the ozone hole in the Southern Ocean, a change in the orbit of the Earth in the tropics, or by the presence or absence of an ice sheet. So the concept of winds changing in a general sense is not unusual or unexpected. However, because of the many distinct influences you wouldn’t expect all winds to increase or decrease together.

In the free atmosphere off the equator, wind is essentially ‘geostrophic’ which means that it’s driven by the (predominantly north-south) gradients in air pressure, and follows contours of constant pressure (’isobars’). Near the surface, friction slows the winds, and causes them to cross the isobars from high to low pressure (hence we get ‘convergence’ in the center of surface low pressure regions). Nonetheless, changes in surface winds will follow approximately from the associated change in the surface pressure field.

The business-as-usual projections show a general poleward shift of the current subtropical surface high pressure belt into the mid-latitudes, especially during summer (a poleward shift of the descending branch of the so-called “Hadley Cell”). The high pressure belt is a region of low pressure gradient, and hence low wind. A northward shift displaces the region of maximum westerly surface winds poleward, from the U.S. into, say, southern Canada. A decrease in the mean strength of the surface westerlies over the U.S. would therefore appear to be consistent with projected changes in large-scale circulation. However, it’s not that simple. The average wind speed at these latitudes depends as much on the day-to-day variance (driven primarily by mid-latitude storms) as it does on the mean strength of the climatological westerly surface winds. The gradient in temperature between subtropics and pole tends to decrease with global warming (due to the ‘polar amplification’ of warming) and this, in turn, diminishes the “baroclinicity” of the atmosphere, and thus, the degree of storminess. So both a decrease in baroclinicity and a poleward shift in the extratropical band of westerly surface winds would therefore seem to work in the direction of decreasing wind in mid-latitudes.

But even this reasoning is somewhat questionable, as wind anomalies over a region as small as the U.S. are unlikely to be representative of the trend for the entire latitude band on the whole. Factors such as El Nino, and the “Northern Annular Mode” have an important role on wind patterns over the U.S., and changes in the behavior of these phenomena could easily overwhelm the average trend for the mid-latitude band. So in short, the observations of decreasing wind speeds over the U.S. are in a rough sense consistent with these ideas, but given the uncertainties in factors that are important in determining wind patterns over the scale of the U.S. continent, it’s hard to say precisely what would be expected.

Figure 1. The trends in the station winds and in the N. American reanalysis (from fig.4 in Pryor et al.)

In the specific case of the GISS-ER model, we can easily see what the model suggests. The picture below gives the annual mean wind speed change for a business-as-usual scenario out to 2100 (we picked this just because the changes are large, but a picture for simulated trends over the last 50 years is similar).

The first thing to note is that the expected changes are complex. There is a clear increase in the Southern Oceans (related to changing temperature trends in the lower stratosphere associated with both the ozone hole and greenhouse gas increases). There is also a change near the equator associated with increases in convective activity and a shift in the Hadley Cell. Note also that changes over land are very small, and in particular, over the US no significant changes are seen. The situation might be different in different models (or different seasons, or in the day-to-day variance), and so one wouldn’t want to read to much into this single figure, but it makes clear that a change in US windiness is not a strong ‘a priori’ expectation from global warming. This doesn’t of course shed any light on whether the observed trends are real, but it does speak to the attribution part of the discussion.

Indeed, you would need a careful detection/attribution analysis to see if the observed changes in wind speeds are consistent with the multi-model climate change projections. This has been done for surface temperature, precipitation, and sea level pressure changes, and there is no obvious reason it can’t be done for wind speeds if the data holds up.

Regardless of the cause of the indicated decline, is this likely to have a direct impact on wind power generation? There is a study by Archer and Jacobson that explores the potential for wind power over the US, and the results can be seen in this graph:

Wind speed class 3 (usable for power generation) and above (dark blue, green, yellow, red and black dots) are not that widespread, and are concentrated over the plains and offshore. Comparison to the trend map in the Pryor et al study (figure 1 above) shows only a limited overlap, so even if all these sites were being used, it’s not clear the trends would hamper wind-power generation much. However, this is highly speculative and will need to be looked at much more carefully in future.

Whether the wind of change is truly blowing through this continent remains to be seen…

Note that an apparent quote from David Deming that the possibility of decreased wind speed over the Eastern US is somehow in contradiction with the possibility of increased tropical storm intensity in the tropical Atlantic is embarrassing in the inappropriateness of the comparison.

180 Responses to “Winds of change”

  1. 51
    guthrie says:

    Checking that thread (On which you will note myself asking a question or two that cyclonebuster never answered) makes me reccomend banning for Cyclonebuster on the grounds that they will only screw this thread up with their offtopic proposition.

  2. 52

    (Off-topic, aplogies in advance)

    Interesting op-ed in the Washington Post today titled “Can We Engineer a Cooler Planet”. The piece takes climate change as a given (“Warming seems inevitable; the only questions are its timing, distribution and severity”) and talks about some geoengineering ideas, but what’s interesting to me is the author: Samuel Thernstrom of the American Enterprise Institute. Yes, that American Enterprise Institute.

    Did I miss something? When did they stop offering cash prizes to scientists for dismantling IPCC reports and start publishing statements like “Warming seems inevitable”? What’s going on here?

  3. 53
    Wili says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Adam and Bob.

    The most recent readings from the Alaska stations show clear spikes in atmospheric methane levels. These look to be a continuation or acceleration of increases of about .6% in methane levels for each of the past two years. Taken together with evidence of widespread thawing of the tundra and increased methane in Arctic Ocean waters, this looks pretty darn troubling to me. I was under the impression that most of this was pretty well understood. I can look around for the supporting links, if they’re needed. Methane Clathrates, as I understand it, occur under shallow as well as deep waters.

    I was also under the impression that the satellite problem had been cleared up by now, but I’ll check again.

    In any case, given the well documented loss of most of the thick multi-year ice, even ice coverage above 07 levels probably represents total ice mass levels that are at historic lows for this time of year.

  4. 54
    Save Gaia says:

    Cyclonbusters idea i think is not scaleable.

    Wouldnt there be a substance which helps seal/prevent thawing permafrost?
    Maybe white tiny stones dropped by airplanes on the permafrost could contribute.

    Here is an image of venus atmosphere the poles have much larger windspeeds, so maybe the poleward shift is the start somekind of an self regulating system

    To me the weather seem to start fluctuating …

  5. 55
  6. 56
    Carrick says:

    I’m not sure if the wind-map published in the above figure is accurate.

    For the American central plains and South-East however you end up with a low-altitude nocturnal jet that dramatically boosts low-altitude (e.g., 80-120 m elevation) winds.

    See for example this from one of my own data sets.

  7. 57
    Carrick says:

    Sorry I meant to include this comment which as a follow up on Ike Solem’s comment (#35). If they are using the widely available 10-m data and extrapolating up to 80-m, they are likely to not get the correct wind speed at 80-m for much of the central plains and the US south east, due to the presence of this low-level nocturnal jet.

    Anyway, Here’s a comprehensive study which gives a pretty reasonable discussion of the phenomenon.

  8. 58
    J. Bob says:

    Go to NANSEN

    looks like this year we are within 1 STD of the normal Arctic 1979-2007 average.

  9. 59
    John H. says:

    Why not ask Jane.

    New head of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco says climate models are “robust” enough to know “what wind patterns will be for the next hundred years”.

    She’s pushing for the creation of a National Climate Service to “provide services to the country.”
    “NOAA is the best agency in the government to synthesize the scientific data on climate change and create products and services that can be used by the public to guide important decisions such as where to build a road or wind turbines,” she said then. “This idea has been studied by the agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and by members of this committee. It is an idea whose time has come, and I would like to make it happen.”

    Please imagine the absurdity in this idea.

    Wind farms are not going to be built any where but where wind is strong today. Certainly not where some reckless theory projects it will be.

    Honestly the climate arena has simply run crazy with baseless presumtions.

  10. 60
    dhogaza says:

    Wili, there have been issues with the NSISDC data and the readings on this site are suspect.

    It’s been fixed, and the NSIDC are only suspect among the usual suspects.

    It shows sea ice data as about the same extent as 2004 and higher than 2007. I think we really need to wait for the September minimum to make a real assessment.

    As does NSIDC at the moment. And, yes, it’s really the summer minimum that’s of interest, not the meandering path that leads there.

    Interesting, the SH sea ice extent is well above the average. Total cryosphere today is actually looking rather healthy. Cherry picked – of course !

    Given the different predictions made by climate scientists for the NH and SH, you’re not only cherry-picking, you’re suggesting that successful predictions prove the science underlying the predictions suspect.

    Sort of like citing the Wright Brothers’ first flight as support for a claim that man-made flight’s impossible.

    In any case, given the well documented loss of most of the thick multi-year ice, even ice coverage above 07 levels probably represents total ice mass levels that are at historic lows for this time of year.

    The denialsphere is strangely silent on this point.

  11. 61
    RichardC says:

    59 John H says, “Wind farms are not going to be built any where but where wind is strong today. Certainly not where some reckless theory projects it will be.”

    Please explain why you used “reckless” where no hint of recklessness has been seen. Taking your first statement and ADDING the theory, and we get the UNRECKLESS statement that, ” Wind farms are going to be built in places where wind is strong today and predicted to remain strong for the forseeable future.”

  12. 62
    dhogaza says:

    looks like this year we are within 1 STD of the normal Arctic 1979-2007 average.

    The big melt years of 2007 and 2008 didn’t separate from the pack until later in summer, so it’s meaningless one way or the other now. As NSIDC said about May the spring extent is a poor predictor of the summer minimum.

    Of course, you WUWT people like the 1979-2007 average better than the 1979-2000 average used by NSIDC because it includes the recent low-extent years, thus lowering the average, thus making it “harder” for a current year to drop significantly below that average. I’m surprised you guys haven’t made up your plots using 2007-2008 (oh darn, shouldn’t give these people ideas).

    Whatever, J Bob, it is clear that there’s a long-term downward trend in the summer minimum extent.

  13. 63
    dhogaza says:

    Please imagine the absurdity in this idea.

    Yes, recommendations by NOAA, the NAS, and a blue-ribbon committee appointed to study the problem are absurd, because John H says so.

  14. 64
    bobberger says:

    dhogaza #60
    > “And, yes, it’s really the summer minimum that’s of interest, not the meandering path that leads there.”

    Could you elaborate on that? I’d have thought, that any phase of melt and freeze in the arctic is of interest. If I recall corretly, in 2007 the September rate of sea-ice loss was rather normal and the really strange thing was the rate leading up to it in June and July. I’d also think, that the earlier phase (summer) is more important in terms of albedo.

  15. 65
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 52 – wow, I thought that was the Competitive Enterprise Institute. So I guess AEI ~= CEI.

    Re 54 – just to be clear, the risk of turning the Earth into Venus, climate-wise, is essentially zero for at least the next many millions of years. Eventually warming from a brightening sun (over geologic time, 100s of millions of years) will make photosynthesis problematic by requiring very low CO2 to maintain habitability, and will also cause specific humiditity to go so high that, for geologic time, H2O vapor abundance in the upper atmosphere (above the tropopause) will be high enough to allow significant H escape to space. Then over many millions of years (how many, I’m not sure), the oceans will evaporate. If the temperature gets high enough before this is completed, there could be a runaway water vapor feedback and the oceans would boil into the atmosphere. Anyway, the CO2 sink of carbonate mineral formation would essentially stop and geologic emissions of CO2 would then accumulate in the atmosphere (geologic death occurs later – unless the sun vaporizes the Earth first – as the inner core grows, the magnetic field will at some point weaken and die (except for a tiny remnant) – except for modern technology, I think the immediate effects of that would be more minor than some think (?) (organisms that use magnetic fields for directions would have plenty of time to adapt) – Venus still has a hefty atmosphere, after all – although cosmic rays are not stopped by the ozone layer – well, this is all a long time out. I hope civilization will have advanced by that point that we have a sunshade (or collection of mass-produced mirrors) near one of the Lagrange points, perhaps or putting giant white (TiO2 ?) tarps over portions of the Earth, and maybe we can keep the outer core going by burying some long-lived radioactive dense siderophile isotopes (from fusion/fission/antimatter energy plants) in subduction zones or beaming microwaves into the Earth (if any frequencies penetrate that far) or heating the interior with solar-powered seismic wave generators ?? (a constant weak vibration undetectable by human descendants) or just dispersing a network of permanent magnets around the surface or in a system of satellites, etc…

  16. 66
    Patrick 027 says:

    Actually, though, as the oceans would evaporate, its possible that this would disrupt physical-chemical balances in such a way as to cause greater net H2O loss from the mantle (article by James F. Kasting on processes at mid-ocean ridges, forgot the title), so it might a couple or a few or several times longer to evaporate the oceans than otherwise…

    But getting halfway back to the original topic:

    What does the expanding Hadley cell mean for the ITCZ? Does the ITCZ expand (in a time-average sense for any given month or season) (which might be considered ‘good’ for some purposes)? Does the ITCZ migrate over a larger range over the annual cycle? Does the internal variability in the position of the ITCZ increase (potentially a bad thing), or would the ITCZ get more easily stuck in some anomalous position for extended periods of time (also potentially bad)? If tropical cumulus convection were less concentrated near the equator, would that slow the QBO?

  17. 67
    Patrick 027 says:

    “although cosmic rays are not stopped by the ozone layer”

    – well, maybe never mind that…

    lower energy UV is absorbed by ozone; higher energy UV is absorbed by molecular oxygen (which then produces ozone); the highest energy photons are absorbed higher in the atmosphere. Charged particles are deflected by the magnetic field (and trapped by it), but I would think that without a magnetic field, most charged particles would be intercepted above the stratosphere.

  18. 68

    #64, Sea ice extent is largely shrunk by direct sun exposure, weighed plainly by recent satellite data, its a bad year for direct sun ice exposure so far, a good thing for avoiding a greater melt. Yet extent competes well with 2008, simply put, the ice is thinner and wont stand a chance to any prolongued period of high in the sky sunshine. Historically, ice data extent was mapped for years by the US Navy prior to 1979, I have their 1954 atlas complete with tides, ice extent per season, all around the circumpolar North all the way to the Pole, In those days people were reporting Ice extent, even in the USSR. There is ample solid evidence prior to 1979, I’d say that data gets sparse before WW II, However, as usual, many forget the people of the Arctic who have been there for 5000 years. Archeology dictates no special period when sod houses where at other locations than where the open water is now a days., no coastal habitation locations where the ice dominates today, Arctic Archeologists dig mainly always near present day open summer time sea water. I have never heard of a sod house by the Arctic Ocean NW Arctic archipelago icy coast. If it was much warmer, there would have been settlements, many times during past thousands of years of human Arctic settlements, Especially if these locations had open water favoring a new migration paths of whales and other marine life for a significantly long time to establish a new migratory route. In brief, there was lots and lots of ice for the longest time during Arctic Archeological history, so this idea that there
    was periods similar to now, is simply a speculation not backed by solid facts. Its up to those who speculate to come up with data to prove their idea.

  19. 69
    Richard Steckis says:

    Dhogaza says:

    ” Please imagine the absurdity in this idea.

    Yes, recommendations by NOAA, the NAS, and a blue-ribbon committee appointed to study the problem are absurd, because John H says so.”

    They are plainly absurd. Predicting weather more than seven days ahead is risky at best. Given that, how do you expect climate models to be able to predict wind patterns (weather, not climate) for the next 100 years? The models can predict temperature anomalies with some skill but are very poor at predicting actual temperature, so predicting wind patterns would be completely out of their capabilities at this stage.

  20. 70
    Save Gaia says:

    I didn’t mean its becoming this extend in a short period of time. I wanted to show the mechanism of the faster pole windspeeds.

    What i belive is, that we will get very mean weather from global climate changes. And in particular odd wind behavior, fueld by more energy in the climate system.

    You can already experience odd weather behaviours.
    And the uptake in seismic activity is also noteable. Either from digging in the ground and/or from natural forces. And than read about the russian venus project:”For example, after analyzing the radar images returned from Venera 15 and 16, it was concluded that the ridges and grooves on the surface of Venus were the result of tectonic deformations.”

    And why its becoming severe so quick is from thawing permafrost and the methane release.

    “Lawrence’s newest global climate simulations predict that warming associated with spells of particularly rapid loss of sea ice could lead directly to faster permafrost thaw. During such episodes, which would last five or 10 years, autumn temperatures might increase by as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit along Arctic shorelines, and the heat penetrating inland would more than triple the average warming rates previously assumed.”

  21. 71
    Richard Steckis says:

    Of course I am talking of local and regional scale wind patterns. It is these that would be provided as a service to the country (as Dr. Lubchenco put it).

    [Response: Lubchenco is actually talking about the everything the NCS is supposed to do, the idea that an NCS would only produce regional climate projections for winds is completely wrong. It is not quite clear what the previous poster thought was absurc – bringing together federal agencies to produce a NCS or the production of regional forecasts – the former is very sensible, the latter still a research goal (but not, a priori, absurd). – gavin]

  22. 72
    Ike Solem says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same:

    “Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced on Friday plans to restart the country’s first clean coal power project, scrapped by the previous Bush administration as too expensive.”

    Too expensive or technically non-feasible?

    Under an agreement with the non-profit FutureGen Alliance, the Energy Department will take the first steps toward developing the first U.S. commercial scale-carbon capture and storage project, to be located in Mattoon, Illinois.

    Yes, Battelle Memorial Institute bills itself as a non-profit corporation, even though the FutureGen Alliance is made up of coal and mining corporations – BMI owns the secret proprietary technology involved, or at least pretends to – not too many patents linked to FutureGen, are there?

    [Response: You can’t have it both ways. Either there is a secret technology that works or there isn’t. – gavin]

    “Not only does this research have the potential to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., but it also could eventually result in lower emissions around the world,” Chu said.

    That’s either gross ignorance or deliberate deception, as there are no scientific assessments that back that statement, whatsoever. You are looking at a political decision to pursue a project that has no chance of succeeding.

    [Response: BS. Chu’s statement is a discussion of the potential and it is completely mainstream. And of course it is a political decision. – gavin]

    Anyone who calls this a science-based climate and energy policy is deluding themselves. It is a slightly better policy than the previous administration’s, but not very different overall. Mountaintop removal coal mining is still on the agenda, and FutureGen is a bad joke.

    Obviously, the federal government is quite firmly in the grip of fossil fuel interests and will continue to act as a major impediment to the development of renewable energy (and to action on climate change) by states and other nations, primarily by giving large subsidies to fossil fuel efforts like FutureGen but not to any programs designed to reduced U.S. dependence on coal or imported oil.

    [Response: W/M contains multiple programs to improve the development of renewables, as did the Energy Bill last year. FutureGen is not the only thing on the drawing board – gavin]

    [edit – please stop ranting]

    Getting back to real science, see this on monsoons:

    Seasonal monsoons could shift southwards, (June 2009) (oxygen isotope records and vegetation growth)

    Weakened Monsoon Season Predicted For South Asia, Due To Rising Temperatures (Mar 2009) (climate modeling)

    “Our findings show it is not just a question of whether monsoon circulation is stronger or weaker. Even with a strong monsoon system, if circulation changes enough to change where and when rain is delivered, then that could have an impact that has not been captured in the large-scale evaluations.”

  23. 73
    Patrick AKA Cyclonebuster says:

    Wind power is good but there is alot of Ke energy in the Gulfstream too. I think water is over 600 times more dense than air. It is a no brainer that we should tap that energy source. The Tunnels can actually speed the 6 mph Gulfstream up through the venturi section of the tunnel thus extracting more Ke energy from it when the turbine blade is centered within this more narrow section. All we need to do is install a archimedes screw like impeller in that narrow section.

    This would allow more torque to be placed on the generator.

  24. 74
    Save Gaia says:

    Changes In Winds Could Have Been Cause Of Abrupt Glacial Climatic Change
    This study, carried out by researchers Marisa Montoya and Anders Levermann, concluded that there is a precise point from which a small variation in the speed of sea winds corresponds to a dramatic change in the Atlantic circulation intensity. According to Marisa Montoya, “If the glacial climate had been in the vicinity of that point, small wind changes could have caused sudden and significant climatic changes during that period”

    The study was based on climatic simulations called Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (the period of maximum extension of the perpetual ice sheets that took place over 21.000 years ago). These simulations have demonstrated the existence of a threshold after which a small change in wind speed causes disproportionately large changes in the sea current speed. The results indicate that these changes in wind speed could have had a particularly important role in the abrupt climatic change of the last ice age.

  25. 75
    L. David Cooke says:

    Hey All,

    My apologies for rehashing this idea; however, it appears to relate to the subject at hand. For a given observation I can look at the Northern Hemisphere Analysis at 250mb Isotach Station for a given time frame and can suggest if there are the opportunity for either increased global warmth or the general pattern of the Northern Jet Stream. Taken from:

    Over the past 10 years it has been very apparent that the Northern Jet Stream has had significant deviations with broad scale deviations dropping as low as 20 Deg. South and 75 Deg. North during warming periods. Associated with these deviations are large regional areas of near stagnant surface winds which combine with cut of high pressure or anti-cyclonic ridges resulting in increased surface insolation.

    In that sense it is likely that the regional data may support the basis of the article related to the paper. However, globally in order for the greater deviation of the Jet Stream the rate seems to demonstrate a slight increase no decrease. If we go a little further to look at the Walker circulation it is quite evident that when there are higher surface temperatures whether it be Land based or Sea Surface Temperatures the general East to West Walker circulation appears to move northward and southward in association with the Jet Stream. So for a given region the Walker circulation is actually going faster; however, it is having to cover more ground area. The problem with this is if you attempt to read the data via remote sensing the greater latitude deviations may not be apparent under cloud cover. If we look at individual TAO/Triton Ocean Buoy Time Series Plots and the average Wind Rose along with the average wind speeds for regions between 10 Deg. N/S and 120 to 180 Deg, W we see clearly deviations when the Jet swings to extremes in latitude, nearly 30 percent of the time.

    Taken From:

    The point being, is that with many things it may be possible to look at data in a constrained (subset) manner which may not reflect a larger bounded pattern. This appears to be possible with many scientific observations and are partial building blocks. If the questionable work were to incorporate measures elsewhere it should demonstrate regions of much greater then normal winds associated with the Global Warming time-frame, as to cause and effect, the science does not seem to have advanced far enough yet to establish this as a conclusion. However, there appears enough circumstantial large scale measures to relate the observations to the AGW theory. The question remains for some as to whether the driver of the Jet deviations are the difference in atmospheric energy content distributed via latitude or that the Jet deviations are driving the entrapment of atmospheric energy content. To further our knowledge we might want to look to the Jovian planet for insights.

    Dave Cooke

  26. 76
    Johnno says:

    It is a double whammy for renewable energy if both wind speeds slow and dimming reduces solar energy. I was surprised some oceanographers on TV said that extra wave motion in the Southern Ocean was releasing CO2. Around here at Lat 43-45 S the oceans have seemed calmer than usual. This last summer my solar panels didn’t get the electrical output I wanted due to relentless cloud cover. I hope overcast and still is not the new normal.

  27. 77
    dhogaza says:

    They are plainly absurd. Predicting weather more than seven days ahead is risky at best. Given that, how do you expect climate models to be able to predict wind patterns (weather, not climate) for the next 100 years?

    Regional wind patterns aren’t weather, you don’t need to know how strong the winds will be on july 4th 2010 in order to decide whether or not it’s reasonable to site a wind farm at a location. You need to know the average wind characteristics over time.

    Sailors couldn’t predict exactly where or when they’d pick up the trade winds back in the Age of Sail. But they knew that the prevailing pattern of winds at those latitudes in the Atlantic were such that it made sense to plan to exploit them. Their observation-based “model” of these patterns at various times of the year was primitive yet had sufficient “skill” to guide their decisions with a great deal of success.

  28. 78
    Ike Solem says:

    “[Response: You can’t have it both ways. Either there is a secret technology that works or there isn’t. – gavin]”

    How am I having it “both ways”? All I am saying is that the prototypes (i.e. the performance data from such prototypes) should be made available for public discussion – just as with cold fusion.

    Imagine if the DOE had got behind cold fusion, said it was a possible solution to global warming, and had invested several billion dollars in it over a ten year period – all while refusing to allow any independent scientists to verify whether or not it worked, because it was ‘proprietary’ and we didn’t want to give secrets away, because that would destroy the competitive edge we’d developed in cold fusion?

    What I AM saying is that if the proprietary shields were dropped, there wouldn’t be anything there – just a propaganda effort – and the secrecy and proprietary restrictions are simply there in order to allow the DOE and the coal lobby to say that they do have a technological solution “waiting in the wings” that will allow coal combustion to continue as usual.

    There is no substitute for an independent review of “coal carbon capture” prospects by an outside agency that does not suffer from massive conflicts-of-interest. I’d think you (gavin) would support this, as you agree that the FutureGen decision was a political decision unsupported by any scientific studies, right?

    It’s worse than that, of course, because the private entity, Battelle, who has been behind this project from the beginning, is itself providing the “science” to the DOE for them to base their contracts on – this isn’t peer review [edit]

    All I’m asking for is a simple public scientific and technical review, including existing perfomance figures – isn’t that a good step to take before committing billions of dollars up front

    [edit – enough! Your crusade against Battelle/DOE/Chu is off-topic and not welcome on these threads. Your contributions on science and understanding have been great, and I would wish them to continue, but these kinds of unsupported accusations are not what we want. Please stick to demonstrable facts related to the science. – gavin]

  29. 79
    Patrick AKA Cyclonebuster says:

    Another advantage the Gulfstream has over wind is it flows 24/7/365 the wind doesn’t.

  30. 80
    Ike Solem says:

    “Please stick to demonstrable facts related to the science” – yes, that’s what I’m asking realclimate to do on the coal carbon capture issue. Considering the kind of comments that do get through, I’m pretty astonished that several of my posts on Chu’s decisions have been blocked – far worse language is typically let through, such as RodB’s “anal itchiness” comments.

    Quite frankly, the scientific support for coal carbon capture is non-existent – so why on Earth is realclimate defending it? That’s what I can’t figure out.

    Personally, I don’t like being called a “crusader” – do you like being referred to as a “climate crusader”? The only thing I’m after is accurate scientific information from media and government institutions, period – you can be insulting and call it a “crusade” if you like, but facts are facts, and there is such a thing as “independent scientific review” – and “conflict of interest”.

    It really is no different than cold fusion, or the “iron will allow algae to capture carbon” notions – scientifically unsupported gibberish.

    [Response: Accusations of fraud, misconduct and corruption are not acceptable here when discussing the science, nor is it acceptable in discussing CCS. I have no particular opinion on FutureGen or other CCS efforts (of which there are many on the table), but to dismiss Chu’s mention of the potential as being dishonest is out of order. Stick to the science – with cites and discussions of the technology – but this is not the place to discuss your opinions about the integrity of anyone involved. – gavin]

  31. 81
    Rod B says:

    Ike, accusing one of having an itch is not as bad as fraud, misconduct or corruption.

  32. 82
    Mark says:

    further to RodB in #81, you also need proof for that sort of accusation, since it can be criminal.

    Being itchy isn’t a criminal matter no matter WHERE you itch.

    And STILL accusation of malpractice or even bias isn’t proof that the proposition is false. That really IS a non-sequitor: X is corrupt therefore Y must be wrong.

    Unless you can join the dots between the two halves, part 2 does not follow from part 1.

    And that non-sequitor is WHY the ad hominem attack is wrong. There’s no connection between the accusation against the person and the assertion you’re making from it.

    So your rant, Ike is bad for (among other reasons):

    a) It is insulting
    b) It doesn’t prove anything
    c) It’s a possibly criminal accusation and not for this site but the authorities

    Oh, and

    d) Wrong

    though the last is in my opinion. Then again, someone is innocent unless proven guilty, so should be the default position, yes?

  33. 83
    sidd says:

    From the GISS projection for BAU, I see that there is little change in the South Asian monsoon region. Is there some intuitive argument as to why that is the case ?

    I do wish that comments would retain some relevancy to the topic under discussion, namely future changes in wind patterns.

  34. 84
    David B. Benson says:

    Here is one way to do CCS:
    I recommend reading Bocco’s comments.

    {I think rerCAPTCHA agrees: “difference clerk”.]

  35. 85

    Why not consider clean coal technology?

    During the America’s Power Factuality Tour, we’ve been traveling around the country talking to the people who are behind the production of cleaner electricity from coal.

    That’s why we stopped by Mattoon, Ill., the proposed site of FutureGen, a public-private partnership to build the world’s first near-zero emissions coal-based power plant. Citizens and legislators are continuing to work towards the original plan – and town residents are excited, too. They understand what a great boost the plant will be to the local economy – and how much the technology will mean to the rest of the world.

  36. 86
  37. 87
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 84

    Hey David,

    Actually, I kind of liked the intent for CCS expressed by former GreenFuel. Sadly to say the current economic downturn and the Oil Industry downward price spike, crushed potential competitors forcing potential future resources out of business ( )

    Funny though even Universities were getting interested in this technology. Here is a reference for Ohio University getting involved with it’s bio-reactor technology:

    The benefit of these technologies, if coupled with Fluidized Bed Coal or Bio-Mass gasification plants, the output from both could be fed into a bio-reactor. The resultant algae could then be flushed from the bio-reactor, dried in a biomass gasification anoxic chamber, with the balance of the carbon contained in the cellulose being captured for pumping into former oil wells via pipelines.

    As most of the oil pipelines remain, it would be a simple matter to reverse the flow and use them to feed a slurry of concentrated algae refuse to be pumped under ground via large solar PV powered pumps (and temporary storage tanks to handle the lack of constant reliable energy). The return of carbon to the underground storage would both pressurized and heat the algae, which in the presence of chromium cupric alloys would breakdown into simple hydrocarbon chains hence returning to the ground carbon pumped from the ground, making fossil fuel oil a renewable resource…

    Add this capability to Coal Fired plants, you could compress the dried algae into pellets and you could return the excess atmospheric carbon to the former fossil fuel mines. Hence, the opportunity to undo the damage would be a possibility, to a point. If later the fossil fuel power plant were mothballed or converted to a peaking only electricity resource the bio-reactors could continue to remove atmospheric CO2.

    Yes, likely pie in the sky ideas; however the possibility for an economical resource exists, if we were willing to apply a portion of the economic stimulus resources. The issue is justifying the returning of these carbon resources to the ground rather then recycling it yet again. There in lies the the issue of determining the most beneficial amount of desired atmospheric Carbon content and the economic break even point.

    Dave Cooke

  38. 88
    Richard Steckis says:

    Gavin Says:

    “Response: Lubchenco is actually talking about the everything the NCS is supposed to do, the idea that an NCS would only produce regional climate projections for winds is completely wrong. It is not quite clear what the previous poster thought was absurd – bringing together federal agencies to produce a NCS or the production of regional forecasts – the former is very sensible, the latter still a research goal (but not, a priori, absurd). – gavin”

    I agree that regional forecasting of wind products is a needed research goal. However I am not so sure that a National Climate Service is needed. It seems to me just another layer of Bureaucracy whose role could be fully provided by the current NOAA structure. In Australia (where I live) the role of both Meteorology and Climate is done by our Bureau of Meteorology with some input from CSIRO and Universities.

    I do not see the point in providing wind products that are global and not regional in scale. If a utility has five potential wind farm sites they will want to know the likely wind patterns at each of those sites so that they can choose the most appropriate site for the life of the farm. That is a regional product. A global product is of no use to them.

    To answer Dhogaza. Wind is weather not climate. Perhaps the trade winds and the other global scale wind patterns are of longer term stability but they are of little use to the farmer in Nebraska or the wind farm operator in Colorado. Weather is not just daily, it is also annual and multi-annual.

  39. 89
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 86

    Hey Nigel,

    Just real quick. Look to this image of the Arctic Ocean currents and compare them to the image you referenced. Notice that the warming appears to have little to do with warm ocean currents.

    Looking for possible reasons for the thinning crescent at best, in May we had a High pressure over the top of the pole; however, that should have created a con-cave arc and not a convex arc passing through the Pole. Looking at the ocean currents the arc of thinning ice runs perpendicular to the predominate Arctic Ocean currents. So if the thinning of the ice is not due to ocean currents or warm winds from the south what could be the cause of the polar melt arc?

    Dave Cooke

    You would almost suspect that polar ice melt has more to do with Russian Ice Breakers…

    Dave Cooke

  40. 90
    Patrick 027 says:

    Okay, what about my wind comments (midlatitudes, ITCZ)?

  41. 91
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    China is moving, apparently.

    Hope this is real. It might be, keeping in mind the Chinese way of government.

    Despite major (and sincere) efforts to introduce “government by law” over the past 20 years, much practical action is still driven by the ages old process of “government by Emperor’s slogans”.

    In some ways that model is efficient and makes possible quick turn-arounds that take ages in our “government by bureaucratic democracy” model.

    Seems to me that business is business and market shares are being won and lost. They may accept more IOU’s in payment for a while.

  42. 92
    dhogaza says:

    To answer Dhogaza. Wind is weather not climate. Perhaps the trade winds and the other global scale wind patterns are of longer term stability but they are of little use to the farmer in Nebraska or the wind farm operator in Colorado. Weather is not just daily, it is also annual and multi-annual.

    I tried to answer this in an intelligent manner, but the spam eater ate it.

    Rather than try to recast my words in a way acceptable to it, I’ll just say:

    “ha ha ha ha”

    The smart people here will understand.

    reCPTCHA tells me that Steckis is “in beta”. Weird. I’d sworn he’s not even reached alpha denialbot criteria.

  43. 93

    With so many variables, it doesn’t look like this report is a good indicator.

  44. 94

    89 David. Thanks. When you run the animation what stands out is the incredibly dynamic state of the entire Arctic ice pack. There is none of the cohesiveness of past years.

    This year, this early in the season, it is amazing how often patches of 80% emerge and close again practically anywhere from the Pole south.

    I suspect that this is due to the thinness of the ice, mostly first year. And so it doesn’t take much to reveal open sea between the thin flows. But the configuration of the Polar Arc is I suspect a random but fascinating event.

    Based on a story we have unwittingly written, Climate has developed the plot and set the stage for the season. For the next few months the weather will be the actor, and we the audience. Bought the ticket, take the ride.

  45. 95
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Richard Steckis says, “Weather is not just daily, it is also annual and multi-annual.”

    Very good, Steckis. Maybe your learning curve does have a positive slope. We’ll find out if you quit arguing for the cessation of climate change based on 8 years of data.

  46. 96
    Wili says:

    Thanks for that image, Nigel. Intriguing melt pattern.

    On that topic, someone asked me a question on another site that I had not heard before:

    Do greenhouse gases in water and ice have the same or similar warming effects as they do in the atmosphere?

    My guess was that the very different chemistry of these mediums would significantly alter their behavior, but that’s just my very amateur guess.

    [Response: You are correct. In practice, the transmission of light in water is very different from that in air. The trace elements that make most impact are things like chlorophyll or particulates, rather than any carbon species. Most IR is absorbed very close to the surface, and as you know, blue light penetrates much further in depth than reds or yellows. – gavin]

  47. 97
    Save Gaia says:

    “Why not consider clean coal technology?”

    Because creating charcoal and putting this in the land is so much more efficient, for thousand of years.
    If the coal power plant is considering this process it would be much better, for all of us.

    Wiki on the process
    An ancient technology

    James Lovelock on Biochar: let the Earth remove CO2 for us

  48. 98
    bird says:

    Will efficiency of the wind turbines not make a huge difference in output? They take a bit more wind to start up due to weight than a smaller turbine might. Will this not be a key factor as we improve the product?

  49. 99
    David B. Benson says:

    “Is The Sky The Limit For Wind Power? High-flying Kites Could Light Up New York”:

    Generate from the jet stream.

  50. 100
    L. David Cooke says:

    Re: 98

    Hey Bird,

    Generally doubling the size of a Wind Turbine results in a square of it’s power. Larger masses would have a higher starting inertia; however, the energy extraction area increase usually overcomes this issue. At worst they may have a requirement for a higher starting wind speed; however, most of these larger units are being sited where there are higher average wind speeds. The squares rule appears to apply for both vertical axis (VAWT) and horizontal axis (HAWT).

    (Just as a note, because some VAWT units, such as gyromills, have a varying impact lift blade angle to the wind, they do not seem to suffer much from startup wind speed issues. (Except for the Darrieus models: ( )).)

    Dave Cooke