Chances are you didn’t notice but winds are getting slower and slower in what is called by scientists as the “stilling” phenomenon. Yes, you’ve read that right: wind speeds are decreasing and we don’t know exactly why this is happening.
Even though this phenomenon does not affect the whole Earth evenly, according to data analyzed by Nature Geoscience since the 1960s, on average, wind speed near the surface of the land is decreased by 0.3 miles (0.5km) per hour every decade.
And even though this difference in speed may not sound significant, a prolonged stilling will definitely have serious impacts on the environment. As explained by Dr. Azorin Molina: (the article continues after the ad)
“There are serious implications of wind changes in areas like agriculture and hydrology, basically because of the influence of wind on evaporation. A declining trend in wind speed can impact long-term power generation, and weaker winds can also mean less dispersion of pollutants in big cities, exacerbating air quality problems and therefore impacting human health.”
So, what’s the cause of this phenomenon?
Well, scientists have not given their final answer yet, but there are two dominant theories as to why this is happening. First of all, it’s the changing patterns of atmospheric circulation that occurs at high altitudes – as air temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, it eventually shifts with the gradually heating Earth. But that, according to scholars, only explains 10-50% of the change.
The other suggested factor that contributes to the “stilling” phenomenon is the thriving vegetation. Taller plants in great quantities increase the “roughness” at the surface of the ground and absorb some of the wind’s energy, thus slowing it down. This could account for 25-60% of the observed findings.
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Sources: Why winds are slowing | The stilling: global wind speeds slowing since 1960