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A reversal in global terrestrial stilling and its implications for wind energy production

Journal article
Authors Z. Z. Zeng
A. D. Ziegler
T. Searchinger
L. Yang
A. P. Chen
K. L. Ju
S. L. Piao
L. Z. X. Li
P. Ciais
Deliang Chen
J. G. Liu
Cesar Azorin-Molina
A. Chappell
D. Medvigy
E. F. Wood
Published in Nature Climate Change
Volume 9
Issue 12
Pages 979-985
ISSN 1758-678X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 979-985
Language en
Keywords northern-hemisphere, speed trends, variability, atlantic, china, earth, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


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 similar to 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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