The web is buzzing today over a new research study that looks at the effect that large Texas wind farms have on surface temperatures in their immediate surroundings. “New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming,” says one FOX headline; “Wind Farms are causing global warming, researchers say,” says another. Unsurprisingly, it’s all just hot air. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, does find that wind farms are causing a slight increase in local temperatures, which is very different from global warming. Come, we’ll explain.
From 2003 until 2011, University of Albany scientist Liming Zhou used satellite data to observe surface temperatures in the immediate vicinity of large wind farms in West-Central Texas. Zhou and his team found that the presence of wind turbines did have a heating effect on the surrounding area — by an average of 0.72 degrees Celsius — particularly at night, when the turbines pull warmer air down towards the ground. When the sun sets, the ground tends to cool down faster than the air above it, leaving a layer of cool air just above the ground. Turbulence from wind turbines appears to disrupt that blanket of cool air. Zhou’s research basically proves that wind turbines are moving warm air around near the surface of the earth. As Brad Plumer of the Washington Post notes, it’s sort of similar to orange growers in Florida using giant fans to protect their fruit trees from frost.
Global warming is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a direct result of burning fossil fuels — not from moving surface-level air around. If that were the case, we’d probably have a much bigger problem on our hands.
This new study does not, as FOX Nation would have us believe, “[cast] a shadow over the long-term sustainability of wind power.” Nor does it “make climate change WORSE,” as the fear-mongering headline writers at the Daily Mail put it. On the contrary, wind power is one of our best weapons to prevent further global warming. “Wind power is going to be a part of the solution to the climate change, air pollution and energy security problem,” Zhou told The Guardian. “But understanding the impacts of wind farms is critical for developing management strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of wind power.” Somehow quotes like those didn’t make it into misleading news reports that are eager to paint wind farms as the “latest global warming culprit.”
Via Washington Post