Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-29
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-29

  28 Apr 2021

28 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Wind speed stilling and its recovery due to internal climate variability

Jan Wohland1, Doris Folini2,, and Bryn Pickering1, Jan Wohland et al.
  • 1Climate Policy Group, Institute for Environmental Decisions, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Near-surface winds affect many processes on planet Earth, ranging from fundamental biological mechanisms such as pollination to man-made infrastructure that is designed to resist or harness wind. The observed systematic wind speed decline up to around 2010 (stilling) and its subsequent recovery have therefore attracted much attention. While this sequence of downward and upwards trends and good connections to well established modes of climate variability suggest that stilling could be a manifestation of multidecadal climate variability, a systematic investigation is currently lacking. Here, we use the Max Planck Institute Grand Ensemble (MPI-GE) to decompose internal variability from forced changes in wind speeds. We report that wind speed changes resembling observed stilling and its recovery are well in line with internal climate variability, both under current and future climate conditions. Moreover, internal climate variability outweighs forced changes in wind speeds on 20 year timescales by one order of magnitude. Albeit smaller, forced changes become relevant in the long run as they represent alterations of mean states. In this regard, we reveal that land use change plays a pivotal role in explaining MPI-GE ensemble mean wind changes in the representative concentration pathways 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5. Our results demonstrate that multidecadal wind speed variability is of greater relevance than forced changes over the 21st century, in particular for wind related infrastructure like wind energy.

Jan Wohland et al.

Status: open (until 17 Jun 2021)

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Jan Wohland et al.

Jan Wohland et al.

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Short summary
Surface winds fluctuate. From around 1980 to 2010, surface onshore winds generally became weaker and they have gained in strength since then. While these fluctuations are well known, we currently do not fully understand why they happen. To investigate the reasons, we use a large set of climate simulations with one model, a so called large ensemble. We find that the observed long-term wind fluctuations occur naturally under current and future conditions and do not require a specific trigger.
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