Texas wind farms warming the ground

April 30, 2012 at 5:42 PM

ALBANY, N.Y., April 30 (UPI) -- Four large energy wind farms in west-central Texas have caused the area to warm at a faster rate than surrounding areas without wind farms, researchers say.

Scientists say they believe the 1.3-degree Fahrenheit rise each decade during the study period is a result of local meteorological effects of the turbines as turbulence in their wakes acts as fans to pull warmer air to the surface.

Researchers analyzed data from NASA satellites for the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Data from instruments on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites observed the warming trend mostly at night, NASA said.

In west-central Texas the land surface temperature after sunset normally cools faster than the air temperature, but as the wind turbines continued to turn the movement brought warmer air to the surface creating a warming effect compared to non-wind farm regions, researchers said.

The warming is considered a local effect, not one that would contribute to a larger global trend, researchers at the State University of New York said.

"This is a first step in exploring the potential of satellite data to quantify the possible impacts of big wind farms on weather and climate," Chris Thorncroft, head of the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences department, said. "We are now expanding this approach to other wind farms and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmospheric boundary layer near the surface."

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