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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Do We Care if Wind Farms Warm the Ground?

Author: Guest Writer/Monday, April 30, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

Poor wind farms. 

For years, they've suffered more abuse than LiLo's liver: 

They kill birds, say birdwatchers. 

They ruin views, say viewlovers

They're ugly, says an extremely ugly man:


Much of the criticism is overblown.

They do kill birds, but domestic house cats kill about 5,000 times more birds than wind farms, and that silent killer -- windows -- kill 2,500 times more (while also proving that birds, miracles of natures that they are, aren't all that bright). 

They do change views, but they're rarely constructed in places where views are the number one draw. Usually, when I see wind farms, they're on landscapes where the other visual attraction is corn. Plus, anyone who likes to look at nature because they find it beautiful had better be prepared to make some sacrifices to keep nature around, or else the nature they love so much is gonna be singed and burned like zucchini on a grill. 

And, really, having The Donald call you ugly is like having Verne Troyer call you small, John Boehner call you orange, or Kobe Bryant call you arrogant.

This week comes a new charge, and the headlines are frightening: 

"Wind Farms Might Have Warming Effect," says Scientific American

A baffling headline, like reading "Donuts Don't Make You Fat" or "Flying Cars Aren't Actually All That Cool." The whole reason we build wind farms is to keep the Earth cool. 

But it seems like this worry, too, might be hot air. Or, not that much hot air. I mean, not a big deal.

The finding, published in Nature Climate Change, says that the areas around four giant Texas wind farms showed a warming trend of .72 degrees Celsuis over the last decade, compared to nearby regions that did not have wind farms. The world has warmed .2 degrees per decade since 1979, says SciAm

Their theory as to why the wind farms warm the local area is as follows: 

"Daytime temperatures do not appear to be affected," Steven Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told Reuters. "This makes sense, since at night the ground becomes much cooler than the air just a few hundred meters above the surface. The wind farms generate gentle turbulence near the ground that causes these to mix together, thus the ground doesn't get quite as cool."

That does make sense. But why doesn't the reverse happen during the day? Why isn't the scorching air just above the ground circulated more, cooling it? 

And, a larger question: how much could changing the temperature around wind farms affect the larger climate? Wind farms aren't that big, and never will be. 

Researchers said there needed to be more study.

But I bet all this will blow over. In 40 years, I predict, wind farms will be beloved parts of the local landscape, just like the windmills of Holland, or like a lot of other big metal objects people loathed at first: The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Mecha-Streisand. 

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