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U.S. scientists find night-warming effect over large wind farms

(Xinhua)

14:27, May 02, 2012

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Large wind farms in certain areas in the United States appear to affect local land surface temperatures, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study, led by Liming Zhou, an atmospheric scientist at the State University of New York, provides insights about the possible effects of wind farms. The results could be important for developing efficient adaptation and management strategies to ensure long-term sustainability of wind power.

Considerable research has linked the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels with rising global temperatures. Consequently, many nations are moving toward cleaner sources of renewable energy such as wind turbines. Generating wind power creates no emissions, uses no water and is likely "green." There have been a growing number of studies of wind farm effects on weather and climate, primarily using numerical models due to the lack of observations over wind farms.

To understand the potential impact of wind farms on local weather and climate, Zhou's team analyzed satellite-derived land surface temperatures from regions around large wind farms in Texas for the period 2003-2011. They found a night-time warming effect over wind farms of up to 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade over the nine-year-period in which data were collected.

Because the spatial pattern of warming mirrors the geographic distribution of wind turbines, the scientists attribute the warming primarily to wind farms.

"This warming effect is most likely caused by the turbulence in turbine wakes acting like fans to pull down warmer near-surface air from higher altitudes at night," said Somnath Baidya Roy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a coauthor of the paper.

While the warming effect reported is local and small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature variation, the authors believe that this work draws attention to an important scientific issue that requires further investigation.

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