Zhou, LM; Tian, YH; Roy, SB; Thorncroft, C; Bosart, LF; Hu, YL (2012). Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature. NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, 2(7), 539-543.
The wind industry in the United States has experienced a remarkably rapid expansion of capacity in recent years and this fast growth is expected to continue in the future(1-3). While converting wind's kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface-atmosphere exchanges and the transfer of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the atmosphere(4-6). These changes, if spatially large enough, may have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate. Here we present observational evidence for such impacts based on analyses of satellite data for the period of 2003-2011 over a region in west-central Texas, where four of the world's largest wind farms are located(7). Our results show a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 degrees C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions. We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms as its spatial pattern and magnitude couples very well with the geographic distribution of wind turbines.