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"Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature":

There is a new paper by Liming Zhou et al. in the journal Nature Climate Change that you may have seen causing a stir in the media and blogosphere. The paper attempts to quantify the effect of wind farms on the surface temperature in the area of the wind farms. Analyzing satellite observations of west-central Texas (where there are four large wind farms), the authors find that the areas with wind farms show warming relative to adjacent areas without wind farms.

It is interesting to see how the paper has so quickly been used to question the cause of observed global warming. None of the results in the paper suggest anything of the sort. Quite to the contrary, while global warming has been observed over more than a century at the global scale, this paper focuses on temperature changes over the last decade over a small part of the world. (It is important to note that the authors do not promote the work as having any implications for the cause of observed global warming.)

The paper is certainly an interesting study of the effects of the land surface on the local and regional climate, and is important in helping to quantify trade-offs between global-scale greenhouse gas concentrations and local- and regional-scale climate. And it builds on a substantial body of work that has come to very similar conclusions about the local-scale effects of land use change.

Here is the abstract available from the journal website:

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Liming Zhou et al., Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature, Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1505


The wind industry in the United States has experienced a remarkably rapid expansion of capacity in recent years and this fast growth is expected to continue in the future. While converting wind’s kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface–atmosphere exchanges and the transfer of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the atmosphere. These changes, if spatially large enough, may have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate. Here we present observational evidence for such impacts based on analyses of satellite data for the period of 2003–2011 over a region in west-central Texas, where four of the world’s largest wind farms are located. Our results show a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 °C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions. We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms as its spatial pattern and magnitude couples very well with the geographic distribution of wind turbines.
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#climatechange #globalwarming #environment #energy
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Jessica B's profile photoCédric Lombion's profile photoNoah Diffenbaugh's profile photoJames Salsman's profile photo
15 comments
 
It would be funny if it weren't for the inevitable onslaught of claims wind power contributes to warming any moment now.
 
I think it's going to help the sale of more wind turbines and solar panels... I don't thing we should view this as a bad thing. 
 
I understood about 25% of that PDF file. However, I learned a new word! Albedo: "I think I'll reflect on the topic of light before that asteroid hits Earth."
 
It's fair to counter with something like, "if you take the energy out of a breeze, it will cool the surface less."
 
+Noah Diffenbaugh by the way, did I tell you about the PARC work on improving the Navy's process for extracting the carbonic acid from seawater? pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2012/EE/c2ee03393c I've been corresponding with the lead author Dr. Eisaman, who is now back at Brookhaven, and we've come to the conclusion that either the Navy is simply making things up (e.g. the bottom line on page 28 of ceramics.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/mcare12-rath.pdf) or they have been synthesizing kerosene from seawater carbon in secret long enough to build plants with substantial waste heat recycling. The figures aren't efficient enough to assume maximum waste heat recycling, but they are about as efficient as you would expect from a decade-old design with ongoing refinements.

I'm sad about how the secrecy classification, which seems almost certain now, will affect the commercialization. Deniers will call conspiracy theory, everyone who knows can't say anything, the scientists have to be kept segregated, grant-making organizations will hate the funny smell, and the people who would normally be in charge of technology transfer have to work at least somewhat against it to cover their asses. I'm thinking of putting up a Kickstarter to try to hire Eisaman and/or his colleagues to set up a small demonstration unit to show the proof of concept to the media while highlighting Navy figures on what they say they can do.
 
The Navy would never lie!

"Join the Navy, see the world!"

From the ship, that is. Never Again Volunteer Yourself.
 
+Gina Sloane there are three NRL tech reports on the subject which showed up in DTIC a few years after they were nominally published, and then there's the series of solicitations in conference proceedings from each year since 2000 which have all claimed that they just started the project in the past year and they need some particular expertise which changes with each solicitation. And none of their recent work ever refers to anything more than a few years old, like www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location%20=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA299090
 
I don't think that in France, or Europe for what I know, one would make so boldly some outright false statements about the climate change issue. But the question stays: how to deal with misinformation without going for propaganda?

As the national network of research labs is quite loose and mostly privatized in USA, I'd think that it would be difficult to coordinate a communication strategy on a national level. Correct me if I'm wrong, maybe some institutions have a national impact, I'm no specialist.

But, in France, the National research institute (mostly public-funded) decided to go against the false claims on the issue, ranging from outright lies based on false allegations (like Claude Allegre did) or misinterpretations. They're playing a crucial role here. But, is publishing press releases enough?

I'm thinking that a series of educational videos would be a good start. Not on random subjects, but precisely on the topics that create controversies.

I would imagine that, after some time, people would be quick to link to the videos whenever someone on the web is making a false claim.
It would be like the counter-argument groups that are very active during political campaigns, but applied to energy, environnement and climate change issues.
 
+Cédric Lombion Yes, how to communicate clearly and accurately without propaganda is a key challenge. The various research institutes (which are mostly public either entirely or through public grant funding) have communications offices. The emphasis of those offices is on communicating the research results in a way that is both accurate and accessible to the public.

You may be interested in Climate Central, which is an organization that was set up to improve communication of climate science:

http://www.climatecentral.org/
 
Thanks for the clarification +Noah Diffenbaugh. I though that the research institutes in USA were either following the Harvard model, with a lot of private funding, and that they generally were funded by private pockets. Who decides for the public grants?

Harvard's annual budget is greater than the combined budget of all French public universities.
 
+Cédric Lombion The President and Congress decide on a budget for the federal government, including funding for research. The funding agencies then solicit funding proposals, both from the national labs and from independent research institutions such as universities (both public and private). The public universities also receive some funding for research from the state government, and the private universities also use some endowment money to support research (as you note). But the private research universities also receive substantial federal funding for research.
 
+Jared A.J. Chiddix photovoltaic solar will be less expensive than coal by 2020 -- www.greenbizcafe.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sachs_law.jpg -- but ordinary wind is already less expensive than coal. High altitude turbines like +Makani Power's will produce twice as much power per land area for half the cost of a turbine (1/4th cost) and will be much easier to install in deep sea locations.

+Noah Diffenbaugh Makani is trying to raise money, but SEC regulations won't let them say much about it until next year. Interested potential investors should email +Andrea Dunlap.
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