Bad news for wind power: globally, winds are slowing

Of course, global warming, the universal boogey man, gets the blame

Near-surface wind speeds over landmasses across the planet have dropped by as much as 25% since the 1970s, and climate scientists are taking note. Michael Lucy reports.

The wind isn’t what it used to be. Scientists say surface wind speeds across the planet have fallen by as much as 25% since the 1970s. The eerie phenomenon – dubbed ‘stilling’ – is believed to be a consequence of global warming, and may impact everything from agriculture to the liveability of our cities. It has taken more than a decade for scientists to get a handle on stilling, a term coined by Australian National University ecohydrologist Michael Roderick in 2007.

Roderick had spent years studying a 50-year decline across Europe and North America of a climate metric called pan evaporation. It measures the rate at which water evaporates from a dish left outside. With his colleague biophysicist Graham Farquhar, he found the cause: the sunlight had dimmed due to air pollution. Less light equals slower evaporation.

In 2002, after publishing the explanation in the journal Science, Roderick received a query from Roger Beale, the head of Australia’s federal department for the environment. Was pan evaporation also declining in Australia? “To my embarrassment,” Roderick recalls, “I had to say I didn’t know, because I’d never looked.”

Two years later, he had an answer: the pan evaporation rate was also falling in Australia. It was puzzling, however, as air pollution levels on the continent were lower than those of Europe or North America.

Roderick went back to basics. The rate of evaporation depends on four factors: air temperature, humidity, the amount of solar radiation and wind speed. After another three years of combing through meteorological records, he had pinned down the culprit: “To my absolute surprise, we found the main reason for the drop in Australia was less wind – and by a lot.”

Roderick unearthed other local studies from around the world with similar findings, but till then no one had joined the dots.

He teamed up with Tim McVicar, a hydrologist at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, who was looking for global wind patterns and their effects on evaporation. In 2012 this team – led by McVicar – compiled results from almost 150 regional studies to show stilling was taking place across much of the world.

In Australia in the 1970s, average wind speed a couple of metres above the ground was 2.2 metres per second: in 2017 it was 1.6 metres per second.

Over landmasses from as far north as Svalbard, 1,050 km from the North Pole, to as far south as the coast of Antarctica, “observations show that wind is stilling”, McVicar says.

Roderick takes a more telescopic view: air movements are powered by differences in temperature at different places. The bigger the difference between warm and cold air, the stronger the wind. One effect of global warming is to flatten those differences. The poles are warming faster than the equator, winters are warming faster than summers, and nights warming faster than days. “Everything becomes more uniform,” Roderick says.

Full report at

h/t to Clyde Spencer

119 thoughts on “Bad news for wind power: globally, winds are slowing

  1. As epiphenomena go, this is interesting. However, it might also be the case that the PANS used are ageing, and thus their albedo is turning from absorbing more sunlight to less. As salt-evaporation ponds work.

    • What about the fact that the pans used to be open to wildlife and now have a grid over them? That seems like a significant factor, fewer animals drinking the free water supply? Not that it gets hot or dry in the outback I guess.

      • No wonder the wind is slowing with all that CO2 in the atmosphere stimulating growth of trees that disrupts the wind path. Furthermore, all those mighty windmills going up, surely does not help the issue either!

      • Shouldn’t you be sanitizing your twitter Steven, or off somewhere pretending to be a scientist?

    • Oh for sure cos the temperature has to be just just right. I mean, there are some occasional gusts in Antarctica after all.
      The uniform temperature of the entire world has to be a uniform 23.5719274536327 degrees of Celsius. If we just get the policy right then we can do this.

    • It depends. If the hotter areas were cooling so that the difference between them and the cold areas like he Arctic then yes. If the cold areas were cooling more than the hot areas, then no.
      Assuming the theory/claim is correct.

    • I have the solution! … more high rise buildings! More square sided high rise buildings … lots of em. Cover the planet with em. Create the Venturi-wind tunnel effect across the entire landscape. Then suspend NEW (Federally $ subsidized, of course) wind turbines between the buildings. Problem solved.

    • No action without a reaction. Somebody’s making big $ on it, so the hype of “Climate Change.” Although I wouldn’t rule out Planet X.

    • Just goes to show how clueless these alarmist are. First they perpetrate a massive just to line their pockets, then it goes and ruins their bird-choppers. haha.

  2. Tim Ball and other have for decades explained that poles are warming faster than Equator, and that it is the temperature differences that causes the wind speed.

    • Exactly.
      “is believed to be a consequence of global warming”
      As long as that means NOTHING MORE THAN “the temperature is on average, a little higher,” and NOT “because of human activity” (which is BS), it makes perfect sense. Just as Tim Ball and others have explained. The poles warm more than the equator, the temperature differentials decrease, and you get less turbulent weather (i.e., WIND).

      • The poles warm more than the equator, the temperature differentials decrease, and you get less turbulent weather (i.e., WIND).
        Well the South pole and antarctic circe haven’t warmed at all, getting slightly colder in fact, while Australia got warmer, and this article is discussing from southern hemisphere wind obs, Australia in particular, so I’d say the ‘expectations’ were wrong, as other factors dominated the wind speed, instead.

  3. “One effect of global warming is to flatten those differences. The poles are warming faster than the equator, winters are warming faster than summers, and nights warming faster than days. “Everything becomes more uniform,” Roderick says.”
    And that’s bad……..Right?

    • And this is supposed to coincide with more frequent and more severe hurricanes? Did I miss something?

      • Exactly right. By making everything more uniform, we get more variability with greater probabilities of both droughts and floods, heat waves and cold waves. More dogs AND more cats. Chaos reigns. All because of that damned uniformity.

    • Not if you own the computer that is doing the calculating. I believe some of them charge by the hour.

    • Talking specifically about the nights warming faster–yes, that is bad. Many people where I live don’t have air conditioning. If the nights don’t cool down the way they should, then the houses don’t cool down, either. That makes life difficult and annoying.

      • Difficult and annoying, perhaps, but certainly not catastrophic as alarmists would have us believe.
        Besides, it seems the effect is more pronounced in the further north/south one goes in the respective latitudes. So the closer one is to the equator, the less the nights warm.

  4. I am not sure there explanation makes sense. Averages maybe changing, but wind speeds are not driven by averages, they are driven by local variation at any given moment. It’s impossible to find an area of the globe (even the Arctic) that is simply “warmer” all the time. Much of the time, much of the globe actually seems to be well within the variation that was seen in the 1970s – the UK’s hottest summer was way back in 1976 for example, and the hottest before that was 1959. 2003 had very hot days, but it was not sustained, unlike 1976 or 1959
    This sounds to me like an expert in one area making false assumptions about what another area is actually saying is happening.

  5. The good winds, which turn wind turbines, are slowing. But the bad winds, like tornadoes and hurricanes, are getting faster. That global warming is a malevolent SOB. /sarc

    • Huh!? And I would have thought that all the deforestation … esp. equatorial rain forests … would have increased winds? Or at least exposure to them?

  6. A colder world is a windier, stormier world, as during ice ages.
    The colder a planet, in general the windier it is.

    • The strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at about 246 miles per hour (396 kilometers per hour). Due to low gravity and thin air, wind speeds on Mars top out around only 60 mph. While slower than Earth’s, the fastest winds on hot Venus are still less than on our planet. Winds there are speeding up rather than slowing down:
      “When the Venus Express spacecraft arrived at the planet in 2006, average cloud-top wind speeds between latitudes 50° on either side of the equator were clocked at roughly 186 mph (300 km/h).”
      Winds in Jupiter’s Little Red Spot have been clocked at 385 miles per hour (620 kilometers per hour). Winds in Saturn’s upper atmosphere can reach speeds of 1118 mph (1800 kph) near its equator. Neptune’s winds can reach supersonic speeds, up to 1500 mph (2400 kph), the fastest planetary winds detected yet in the solar system.
      Winds on Uranus can blow clouds up to 560 mph (900 kph), thus slower than on Saturn and Neptune. This is despite Uranus’ having the coldest atmosphere of any of the planets in the solar system, even though it is not the most distant. The anomaly might owe to Uranus’ equator’s facing away from the sun.
      So the correlation isn’t perfect, but suggestive. Wind speeds of planets ranked by coldness:
      Uranus: 560 mph
      Neptune: 1500 mph
      Saturn: 1118 mph
      Jupiter: 385 mph
      Mars: 60 mph
      Earth: 246 mph
      Venus: 186 mph.
      Mercury’s atmosphere is too thin for wind.

      • Are wind speeds on Venus really rising and is it measurable? If that is the case then without doubt the earth will have significant changes in climate due to out of earth impacts.
        So the attribution of any climatic change to the AGW process is still just a hypothesis.
        Not wrong but undefined.

      • Actually, the AGW hypothesis has been repeatedly shown false. Unfortunately, since, as its first advocates such as Arrhenius and Callendar rightly felt, warmer is better.
        Despite steadily rising CO2 after WWII, Earth cooled dramatically for 32 years, until the PDO flip of 1977. This fact alone falsifies the AGW conjecture.
        During the period of observation, wind speeds appear to have increased on Venus. Could just be weather.

  7. It’s good to see the topic being addressed. Only the other day I was wondering about why we hear so little about what wind speeds are doing, and what they might be predicted to do, and whether this was another topic that global warming catastrophists had decided to ignore if it wasn’t playing ball.

    • I’m quite sure they will have a looong list of contingencies to run to and dust off when the current one runs out of (greenhouse gas) steam.

  8. So far I found that ERoEI of solar in temperate regions is below 1, but estimates for wind are suspiciously close by, and not consistent at all.

  9. As the expression goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Claiming that there is less wind than there used to be is a rather extraordinary claim. A claim like that would require a lot of careful data to back it up. Most likely what he is reporting is just a random variation at a few test sites. Probably just more junk science.
    There was a real nice song that kind of summed it up. “The wayward wind is a restless wind…a restless wind that yearns to wander…” The singer compared her lover, who was a drifter, to the uncertainty in the wind.

    • Gogi Grant – Wikipedia
      Myrtle Audrey Arinsberg (September 20, 1924 – March 10, 2016), known professionally as Gogi Grant, was an American pop singer. She is best known for her No. 1 hit in 1956, “The Wayward Wind

      • I have a recording of it. Unfortunately the recording is full of clicks and hisses from the original vinyl. To my knowledge the song was recorded twice over the years by different artists and both times was a modest hit. I only have a recording of the Gogi Grant version.

  10. Has anyone plotted average wind speed over time versus number of windmills deployed? I know correlation isn’t causation, but…

    • Here’s the causation you were looking for …
      Loss of $$government$$ subsidies. The inevitable and shocking TRUE COST of wind power is going to hit ratepayers right where it hurts $$$. So … the wind industry needs to claim “victimhood” status. You see … un-subsidized wind power WOULD have worked … if not for the reduction in earth’s winds … which is due to the ratepayers sinful activities … like driving their minivans to little Janie’s soccer practices.
      The HIGH cost of wind power … is YOUR FAULT !! You KILLED Gaia!! YOU killed wind power!! Unless, of course, you carrrrre about the planet. Those people are without guilt or sin. They are vegans, they recycle, eat pesticide-free foods, non-gmo foods. They purchased a Nissan Leaf. They wear hemp shirts. They voted for Dr. Jill Stein

  11. Its all the newly grown poison ivy that is slowing down the wind. CO2 makes only bad plants grow faster and their leaves block the wind. Poison Ivy are bad plants.
    An alternative theory suggests its all the birds and bats being knocked out of the skies by wind farms… Their wing power somehow causes a series of positive feed backs to kick in the increase overall wind speed more than expected. This works, because everyone knows that the reason for more wind turbines to sprout, and grow taller and larger is a direct cause of rising CO2 levels. Apparently wind turbines are like bad plants.
    (Just not going to get serious on this subject – next someone will suggest there is a natural global wind speed that we must maintain by driving slower or giving up traveling altogether. I can see it now, thousands of Wind-Change experts flying all over the world to attend conferences that insist telling us to give up all traveling or we are doomed)

    • Robert of Texas: “Poison Ivy are bad plants”
      I agree! And if any plant should be declared illegal, we need to start with poison ivy!

    • Over land increasing CO2 will increase foliage and slow down winds. That would also have an effect on temperature measurements, probably making temperatures measured over land, away from urban heat and sea breeze, higher than before. But how much?

      • Actually photosynthesis is endothermic so it would probably lower temps if there was more green stuff out there (15MJ per kg glucose produced.)

  12. We simply have no such data.
    ‘In 2012 this team – led by McVicar – compiled results from almost 150 regional studies to show stilling was taking place across much of the world.’
    Not data. The earth is big; weather stations are few. 196,900,000 square miles. 10,000 weather stations would leave each representing 20,000 square miles.
    150 regional studies leaves each study representing over a million square miles.

    • If it is proposed that wind speeds are decreasing, woiuldn’t it make sense to demonstrate with some FACTS that the wind hasn’t simply moved somewhere else – somewhere where it is not currently being measured?

  13. Wait – We were definitely told that there were more hurricanes because of, well us, but now these sceptics are daring to question the party line and claim it isn’t getting worse! Defund these liars and frauds immediately for their outrageous attempt to say it isn’t all settled. Whatever next…

    • That’s the normal double speak. The AGW causes some extreme weather, including extreme wind and extreme stillness. There is only one extreme it does not cause, that’s extreme moderateness – wait, actually the AGW causes extremely moderate rain somewhere, disrupting ground water table fill.
      I think we can safely say, according to some scientists and activists, the AGW causes every possible calamity – but does not cause anything good, and even claiming an existing upside shows you’re bought by the oil companies. They’re rich and giving me a lot of bucks.

      • Exactly at the point.
        No one ever claims AGW to give the good days, even if they are more common that the bad days.

  14. So, when the winds aren’t strong enough, we just need some really big solar powered fans to keep the wind turbines going.
    At night, put lights on the wind turbines to keep the solar powered fans going.
    Problem solved.

      • Email me at[pruned] I also live in Ottawa.
        [The mods strongly urge NOT publicly releasing email addresses on an open forum.
        We can, under unusual circumstances, relay an email address to another writer here, but DO recommend using an alternative open web site for secondary (private) correspondence. .mod]

  15. I like flat water, so I’ve recently posited here if I can expect more extreme calm weather. I hadn’t realized there’s a scientific term: ‘stilling’.
    Extreme stilling. Do we also need to fear Extreme Climate Stasis?

      • Gamecock
        Hang on one minute. What about for very large values of Still? Very large values of 1 are almost 2.
        Very large values of Stillest are lower than even modest values of Stiller. And so on.

  16. Sounds like a bunch of hot air to me. Aw c’mon you knew someone was going to say it)

  17. Who really cares about wind speed when there is a land rush on for wind tax credits. The same mentality pervaded during the sod buster rush to what became the Dust Bowl lands. They were not exactly interested in yields when land costs were low and commodity prices high.

  18. Better leave the sun out of the argument because it’s been marginalized don’t ya know.

    • Good point, I see the cover argument, “Wind power is less than expected due to stilling”

      • Global stilling, a Scot’s favourite. Goes along with all their windmills. They must be drunk because they certainly ain’t daft.

      • That 4 km/hr is urban heat island effect increasing the strength of the updraft out of the centre of the city. Perfectly logical: the velocity is measured near the lakefront – horizontally.

    • Wim, i’m glad that you weighed in here. (i was about to dig up one of your old posts) i believe that i recall you saying that a warmer world is a windier world. Recent data seems to confirm that, but the not so recent data (a century or more ago) appears to contradict. How do you explain that?

      • Hi Afonzarelli, thanks for the question. In short: extra wind over the oceans (where we find the bulk of ‘wind’) causes mixing of the upper layers and causes also deep oceanic upwelling. Normally lower surface layers are (much) colder than the top layers and 90% of the ocean water (the deepest part) is only 0-3 degrees Celsius. Below the surface there is a HUGE cooling potential, that is activated by wind.
        Less wind means less mixing and less deep upwelling. As a consequence, the warm surface layer is cooled less. As a result, the ocean surface warms if compared with the high wind situation before – and so the average surface temperature over the Earth goes upward.
        In short: mixing of the oceans (by wind) means cooling, less wind means a warmer surface and higher average temperatures. Less wind simply might be the cause of warming…..
        Extra wind over the oceans (in red in your above graphic) resulted in lower sea surface temperatures, as shown in blue below.
        More about the role of wind in the cooling of the oceans (and so average temperatures) in the posts:
        Warming by [less] Upwelling of Cold Ocean Water
        ‘Warming’ and ‘The Pause’ Explained By Wind, Upwelling And Mixing

      • Wim, looking at your 1860 – 1990 graph one might come to the overly simplistic conclusion of:
        Cooler temperatures increase wind from the poles to the equator. As the earth warms, those north – south winds diminish. On the other hand, easterly winds over the ocean increase with warming. A century ago the change in north/south winds was greater than the change in east/west winds, the net result being a less windy world with warming. Recently, east/west winds have outpaced north/south winds due to an ocean which is much more out of (temperature) equilibrium than it was a century ago. Hence, the result is a windier world on the whole than a century ago.
        Do you think that there is any merit to this simplistic conclusion?

      • Afonzarelli,
        COADS data (the graphic above) uses observations at the oceans. A warming Arctic diminishes the equator – pole gradient. Logically, meridional winds (N-S) should diminish. A warming tropic will result in more evaporation and so in more convection, hence in more E-W winds.
        But cause and effect is more complicated. Wind causes cooling over the oceans, but, according to the COADS graphic above, all that is happening in a chain of reactions is resulting in a long term cyclic trend in wind strength over the oceans. Which is both an effect and a cause in that chain of reactions.

  19. If the wind stops our children just won’t know what tornadoes are. No hurricanes of blizzards either. Derechos will be a thing of the past.
    Reverse the windmills NOW before it gets worse than it is! Renewable wind is the answer! Oscillating windmills to save the wind! Do it for the children and their children and even the buzzards!

  20. I think it is due to UWL (Urban Wind Loss). Probably due to placing the anenometer on your back deck.
    My personal weather station rarely records wind speeds above 4-5 knots even during a durecho.

  21. Back in the seventies when Climate Science was still a science H H Lamb showed that storms were stronger and more frequent during the LIA gthan in recent times.

  22. The Modtran computer code, which calculates energy deposition for different parts of the planet from greenhouse gases, does, indeed, show that colder regions and colder times (winter vs summer) shows this effect.

  23. Winds, both speed and direction, are determined by atmospheric pressure differences. Look at the wind predictions issued by weather reporting, they show the pressure variables then the predicted wind speed and direction. Heating up or cooling down would have to be changing at different rates to change wind speeds. It’s the pressure!

  24. 1. Combined winter wind speeds (at all altitudes) in the northern hemisphere (where it counts) are decidedly stronger than in summer, as detected even in earth rotation (LOD). Low elevation winds are dominant (see Fig. 9 and Table 5: ).
    2. USI (Urban Still Effect–just made it up) must be taken into account, along with increased forestation (and wind turbines, of course). Trees and skyscrapers are growing.
    3. A claimed global increase in humidity must be taken into account.
    4. Land temperatures are supposed to increase much faster than sea temperature, which should increase wind speeds.
    5. We are being asked to accept a 25% decrease in random (non-directional) wind speeds which integrated have no effect on average atmospheric rotation (zonal — pro grade), when seasonal differences are easily detected.
    Some peer review. –AGF

    • The metric of wind speed depends on what you call wind speed, by what equipment and with what inertial lag to move and integrated over what time scale and what time of day. “Wind speed” is itself, slang. So the slang thing is slowing. Got it.

  25. Less wind would warm the Earth up.
    The lighter the wind in the daytime the warmer it is?.
    Well, that’s how it works where I live.

  26. globally, winds are slowing
    Of course, global warming, the universal boogey man, gets the blame

    And rightly so, probably, in this case.


    Early Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued several tornado and severe thunderstorm watches that covered more than 36 million people between Pennsylvania and southern Vermont. While tornadoes are possible, especially in storms that pop up ahead of the squall line, the biggest threat from this line of storms is destructive wind.
    Between Pennsylvania and western New England, the Storm Prediction Center forecasters said that “scattered severe wind gusts appear likely which may yield a derecho, and thus damaging wind coverage probabilities have been increased,” meaning there’s even more likelihood that this line of storms will be destructive.

    Clearly this is all Exxon’s fault. They must make restitution.

  28. It’s all those bird blenders extracting energy from the wind that’s causing the slow-down 🙂

  29. Perhaps the “stilling” is a cause in the warming. Less cold waters coming up from the depths, more surface waters warming and a strengthening of the thermocline.

  30. “Everything becomes more uniform,” Roderick says.
    But they can[t have it both ways, If smaller differences between hot and cold results in less winds, they must also result in less intense storms as it’s this same difference in pooled energy that drives storm systems.

  31. I have this crazy theory to explain it. Every wind turbine extracts energy from the atmosphere, and the wind on the lee side of a turbine is slower because of the energy taken out. Over the last 2 decades, hundreds of thousands of wind turbines have been erected, and they have been increasing in size too. Between them they must have a slowing effect on wind speeds around the world. On the face of it that would not seem to make much difference, but could there be a multiplier effect? After all that is no more crazy than the idea that a trace gas could make a significant difference to GMT, because of a multiplier effect.

  32. Granting that winds are produced by temperature differences, then it is true that that GHGs reduce average wind speed. It is a well established fact that greenhouse gases deposit more heat to cool areas than to warm areas. I have checked that out with the Modtran computer code for both temporal (summer vs winter) and latitudinal (tropics vs temperature zones). However, it has its limits. We can never get a windless world. GHGs are not the only source of heat to the atmosphere, and surely not the dominant one. If I gain sufficient curiosity and ambition, I will try to estimate what the limiting effect on wind speed is from GJGs

  33. Bad news for wind power: globally, winds are slowing
    With the current state of the QBO, what did you expect?
    The world’s winds, like all weather features, are in a state of flux. They’ll NEVER settle into an utterly stable pattern — get used to it!

  34. An insurmountable problem for wind and solar converters is that they cannot be reasonably isolated from the environment, and are therefore only suitable for mission uncritical applications. Unless, of course, they are supplemented with electric storage technology, but how long will China absorb the “green” waste?

  35. Very interesting. Lindzen said that weather is driven by the equatorial-polar temperature gradient. Perhaps this stilling of the wind is due to arctic warming.

  36. From the post:

    Roderick takes a more telescopic view: air movements are powered by differences in temperature at different places. The bigger the difference between warm and cold air, the stronger the wind. One effect of global warming is to flatten those differences. The poles are warming faster than the equator, winters are warming faster than summers, and nights warming faster than days. “Everything becomes more uniform,” Roderick says.

    Which is a point Richard Lindzen has been making for years: in a warming world the temperature in the tropics remains fairly constant and the poles warm. Reduce the differential between poles and equator and winds and extreme weather reduce – less water evaporated for rainfall, slower wind speeds. Common sense doesn’t seem a strong suit with environmentalists.
    For a further gem from Lindzen, note that the effect of Milankovich cycles at the poles is around 100 W/m^2, dwarfing the supposed CO2 effect which is a paltry 3 – 4 W/m^2, even including the fantasy water vapour multiplier.)
    So now the environmentalists try to have their cake and eat it. Contradictory claims, at most one could be true (both, of course, could be false).

  37. Yet another BS hyped story.
    A 25% loss in speed is 45% loss of energy of the wind (coming as square of speed), and 58% of the energy collected by wind turbine (coming as cube of speed), which is huge, and would have been discovered long ago.
    Reading the linked paper ( ) , you don’t find “wind speeds across the planet have fallen by as much as 25% since the 1970s”, you find that, quote:
    “We analysed 148 studies reporting terrestrial u trends from across the globe (with uneven and incomplete spatial distribution and differing periods of measurement) and found that the average trend was −0.014 m s−1 a−1 for studies with more than 30 sites observing data for more than 30 years, which confirmed that stilling was widespread. Assuming a linear trend this constitutes a −0.7 m s−1 change in u over 50 years. ”
    So basically, some place may have experience a 25% drop in wind speed, indeed. But most place experienced a much lower stilling, and some place surely experienced increased wind, as must be expected from a random variation.
    Captain Obvious reminds me that UHI will also have have a wind friend, let’s call it UWI, and suspects that the whole “stilling” only exist in urbanized place

  38. Intuition would say a coolng water/gas planet would have less purturbance than a warming water/gas planet.
    Less evaporation and slower rising gas columns.
    But what else are the dramagreens gonna scream.

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