Is the U.S. getting less windy? That’s what scientists from Indiana and Iowa State Universities are speculating, based on data collected across the nation since 1973 that show average and peak wind speeds. Some parts of the Midwest show a 10 percent drop in wind speed, with winds slowing the most near the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.
So why the wind loss in the Great Lakes? It might be because less ice on the now-warmer lakes means winds travel across them more slowly, hypothesizes the study’s lead author.
And why does this matter? Well, less wind could mean a share of the power we expect to reap from turbines is, well, gone with the wind.
Some experts say the decreased wind speeds could be linked to global warming. For example, the warming of the earth’s poles decreases the difference in air pressure between the poles and the equator, and this difference is a factor in creating strong winds, according to one co-author of the study.
Still, even the study’s authors say there is no definitive proof linking global warming to slowing winds, and they concede that some of the data is too ambiguous to even be sure that wind speed is decreasing. Experts remain divided, so it looks like we’ll have to wait to see whether this all blows over.
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Image: flickr / Team Awesome