IPCC Model-Based Wind Energy Projections Speculative at Best

A direct quantifiable relationship between carbon dioxide levels and atmospheric wind velocity and direction does not exist. But the warming effect from carbon dioxide could indeed exacerbate atmospheric temperature differentials which directly influence wind. But other atmospheric factors provide a cooling effect. There are underlying assumptions behind this study which make these projections speculative at best. Nevertheless, this effort represents a lot of work by very talented scientists which could contribute to the discussion of wind energy resources on a macro-level.

Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Julie K. Lundquist, Lei Zhang. Southward shift of the global wind energy resource under high carbon dioxide emissions. Nature Geoscience 2017 doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0029-9

The use of wind energy resource is an integral part of many nations’ strategies towards realizing the carbon emissions reduction targets set forth in the Paris Agreement, and global installed wind power cumulative capacity has grown on average by 22% per year since 2006. However, assessments of wind energy resource are usually based on today’s climate, rather than taking into account that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue to modify the global atmospheric circulation. Here, we apply an industry wind turbine power curve to simulations of high and low future emissions scenarios in an ensemble of ten fully coupled global climate models to investigate large-scale changes in wind power across the globe. Our calculations reveal decreases in wind power across the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes and increases across the tropics and Southern Hemisphere, with substantial regional variations. The changes across the northern mid-latitudes are robust responses over time in both emissions scenarios, whereas the Southern Hemisphere changes appear critically sensitive to each individual emissions scenario. In addition, we find that established features of climate change can explain these patterns: polar amplification is implicated in the northern mid-latitude decrease in wind power, and enhanced land–sea thermal gradients account for the tropical and southern subtropical increases.

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