Supreme irony: wind farms can cause atmospheric warming, finds a new study?

What is it about GW that brings out such levels of stupidity in so many people?

Lets start with the easy bit. There’s a paper Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature by Zhou et al.. It isn’t very exciting, but it made into Nature Climate Change, probably because of the inevitable stupidity it would arouse. What it says is 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. This isn’t ironic or even particularly surprising: the effect is due to mixing down of warmer air on nights with an inversion. At least, that’s what I expect, not having read the paper, and its what Black of the Beeb wrote, having talked to Zhou: At night, air above ground level tends to be warmer than the ground. Dr Zhou and his colleagues believe the turbine blades are simply stirring up the air, mixing warm and cold, and bringing some of the warmth down to ground level.

But if you’re silly, like the Torygraph, you find yourself obliged to headline your story Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study. The actual article itself isn’t too bad – it correctly notes this is a local effect, largely night-time only, and it permits itself a little speculation that if done on a large enough scale this might just be noticeable regionally. And, being generous, you could call this “climate change” – though to most people, “climate change” will mean global climate change, which this isn’t.

However, you then get people who really should know better repeating Windmills cause climate change! Timmy manages the oh-how-I-wish-it-was unusual feat of having nothing useful to say, whilst quoting the worst bits of the article and suppressing the useful bits. This is global cooling come again – people just can’t resist the “counter intuitive” stuff. He has another go at Forbes but gets it even wronger there – now its explicitly become Wind Farms Cause Global Warming!

But the funny thing is to look at the comments. Like:

I had a good laugh about that, it’s fairly obvious really you convert kinetic energy into electricity and get heat as a bi product. Silly eco mentalists


Think it through & you’ll realise there’s no climate warming effect whatsoever. The energy is in the wind. The bird shredders remove some of the energy as electricity but the process of doing so isn’t 100% efficient so it also creates heat

These are wrong – they are fairly typical of the “I know nothing about climatology, but rather than trying to find something out I’ll just speculate and call it truth” sort of commentator. But they have absolutely no excuse for being wrong, because even the Torygraph got it right, in the first few paragraphs of its article: “Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools. But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.”

Since its Timmy’s blog, and he is often rude to people, I get to call him and his commentators idiots. Which he (in this instance) and they (oh so often) richly deserve. Which brings me neatly on to…

WUWT, which is where I stole my headline from. That too reports the same study, and in the same sensationalist terms. What is, again, funny is that the commentators there completely miss the point and run off down the same inefficient-conversion-leads-to-heat rabbit-hole (and they even find some new ones), even though Watts has half-said it in the very top paragraph. I tell them the truth, but they aren’t grateful. In fact Watts is very ungrateful indeed – but that is after the inevitable degeneration of the dicussion into a pointless demonstration of their lack of knowledge of wikipedia.


* Potential Climatic Impacts and Reliability of Very Large Scale Wind Farms – Chien Wang and Ronald Prinn