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Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature

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Abstract

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 future1,2,3. 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 atmosphere4,5,6. 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 located7. Our results show 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. We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms as its spatial pattern and magnitude couples very well with the geographic distribution of wind turbines.

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Figure 1: Interannual variations of regional mean MODIS and ERA LST anomalies in DJF and JJA averaged over the study region for the period of 2003–2011.
Figure 2: MODIS JJA night-time LST and daytime shortwave-albedo differences for the period of 2003–2011.
Figure 3: Interannual variations in areal mean differences between WFM and NNWF pixels in DJF and JJA from MODIS for the period of 2003–2011.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the startup financial support provided by the University at Albany, State University of New York and by the National Science Foundation (NSF IPA no. 0824354). The ECMWF interim reanalysis data is obtained from the ECMWF data server. The NARR reanalysis data is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Centers for Environmental Prediction/Environmental Modeling Center.

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L.Z. and Y.T. contributed the central idea, carried out data analyses, prepared the data and figures and wrote the initial draft of the paper. The remaining authors contributed to refining the ideas and to writing this paper.

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Correspondence to Liming Zhou.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Zhou, L., Tian, Y., Baidya Roy, S. et al. Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature. Nature Clim Change 2, 539–543 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1505

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