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Wind farms create local warming

Turbines stir things up

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Wind farms heat up their local environment, creating an effect similar to the urban heat islands generated by cities’ intensive energy use.

That’s the finding of a new paper, Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature from Nature Climate Change, that reports on air temperature measurements across a region of Texas inhabited by several large wind farms. The study found “a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 °C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions.”

The measurements were gathered using satellite observations taken between 2003 and 2011 and reported that the whole region experienced a temperature rise, but that the rise was more pronounced near wind turbines.

Explanations for the rise seem to rest on some basic physics, namely the fact that hot air rises and cold air falls. Because wind turbines stir up the air around them cold and warm air are more likely to mingle. The result is a net increase in average temperatures for air around wind turbines.

The UK Daily Telegraph quotes Professor Steven Sherwood, co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, as saying the theory seems sound. Sherwood says some farmers deliberately fly helicopters over cold-sensitive crops to stir up the air and provide a warmer environment. ®

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