05 November 2010

When The Wind Blows

Wind, as defined by Wikipedia, is "the flow of air or other gases that compose an atmosphere." It plays a very important part in our existence. Without it, we'd all fry from the heat of the sun as it makes up the bulk of movement of the air. Adversely, too much wind is equally dangerous with surging tides engulfing whole towns and cities. Weather vanes show the direction of the wind. The word "vane" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "fane" meaning "flag". In my post of 7/2/09, I raised the question of whether wind turbines are slowing down or not as there has been an increase in the number of low or no wind days in the Midwest and wind measurements show wind speeds falling along parts of the Northern Plains.

Is climate change affecting wind, a source of power? Wind energy seems to be dying down across the United States. and the cause may be global warming. Sandra Pryor, an atmospheric scientist at Indiana University asserts that there's been a jump in the number of low or no wind days in the Midwest and wind measurements show wind speeds falling along/east of the Mississippi River. Texas and parts of the Northern Plains don' t show as much slowing. Northern Maine, western Montana, Michigan and Georgia show some of the biggest drops in wind speed. One of the things Pryor said that can slow wind speeds are changing conditions such as growing trees or buildings being erected near the wind gauges. These can skew data. Several other experts agree that there are signs of decreasing wind speeds and that global warming is probably the cause.

People have watched and tested wind changes for centuries as it is important to know for both work and play. Occasionally, you'll see a person stick their wet finger in the air as a cost effect weather vane. My grandfather used to do that. I remember going to visit my grandparents on their farm. It was a typical one with the red paint chipping off the barn, the pig pen (they were really prickly to touch), the cows and other animals. I loved to watch their weather vane turn. I don't remember if it had a design, but knowing them, it was probably more utilitarian than decorative.