Wind power, a rapidly growing alternative energy source, has been threatened by reductions in global average surface wind speed, which have been occurring over land since the 1980s, a phenomenon known as global terrestrial stilling. Here, we use wind data from in situ stations worldwide to show that the stilling reversed around 2010 and that global wind speeds over land have recovered. We illustrate that decadal-scale variations of near-surface wind are probably determined by internal decadal ocean–atmosphere oscillations, rather than by vegetation growth and/or urbanization as hypothesized previously. The strengthening has increased potential wind energy by 17 ± 2% for 2010 to 2017, boosting the US wind power capacity factor by ~2.5% and explains half the increase in the US wind capacity factor since 2010. In the longer term, the use of ocean–atmosphere oscillations to anticipate future wind speeds could allow optimization of turbines for expected speeds during their productive life spans.
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This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Programme of Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. XDA20060402), the start-up fund provided by Southern University of Science and Technology (no. 29/Y01296122) and Lamsam–Thailand Sustain Development (no. B0891). L.Z.X.L. was partially supported by the National Key Research and Development Programme of China (grant no. 2018YFC1507704). J.L. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41625001). P.C. acknowledges support from the European Research Council Synergy project (SyG-2013-610028 IMBALANCE-P) and the ANR CLAND Convergence Institute. C.A.M. was supported by grants no. VR-2017-03780 and RTI2018-095749-A-I00 (MCIU/AEI/FEDER, UE). We thank Della Research Computing in Princeton University for providing computing resources. We thank the US National Climatic Data Center and the UK Met Office Hadley Centre for providing surface wind speed measurements. We also thank the Programme for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison and the IPSL Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory for providing surface wind speed simulations.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Sonia Jerez and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Supplementary Figs. 1–25 and Tables 1–3.
Continuous wind records from the GSOD database, including station information, wind speeds and the code for processing the original GSOD database.
Continuous wind records from the HadISD database, including station information, wind speeds and the code for processing the original HadISD database.
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Zeng, Z., Ziegler, A.D., Searchinger, T. et al. A reversal in global terrestrial stilling and its implications for wind energy production. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 979–985 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0622-6
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