Research Press Release

Reduction in Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude wind energy resource with global warming

Nature Geoscience

December 12, 2017

The amount of wind available for converting into electricity - key to reducing carbon emissions - is projected to decrease in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes as the climate warms. The study, published online this week in Nature Geoscience, finds that this will particularly affect the central United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the northern Middle East, and central, northern and far eastern Asia. However, it finds robust increases in the wind available to convert into energy for tropical and Southern Hemisphere regions under high-emissions scenarios.

The capacity to generate power from wind farms is growing rapidly around the globe, as a strategy to reduce the dependence on energy from fossil fuels. However, regional studies have shown that the wind energy resource - the amount of wind available for converting into energy using turbines - can be subject to change in a changing climate.

Kristopher Karnauskas and colleagues combine global climate model simulations with an industry wind power turbine curve to derive the impact of projected changes in climate on future wind power capacity. They find that wind power averaged over the central US, for example, is projected to decrease by 8-10% by 2050 and 14-18% by 2100, depending on the emissions scenario. This decline in wind power can be explained by the rapid warming in the Arctic, which reduces the temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics that ultimately drives the intensity of storms.


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