wind turbines and weather patterns



(UPDATE! Wind farms warming Texas! <Read more...>

(UPDATE! The best article to date that addresses the possibility that large scale wind farms can impact rainfall. Click here for article at

Are Wind Turbines Impacting Weather Patterns in South Texas?
by Carl Caton

(Update: I have begun to get calls from people in various locations near this wind turbine array. Each caller expresses similar thoughts and experiences. Read more...)

The drought has been miserable, hasn’t it? For many native Texans, like me, we understand that droughts come and go. We suffer through these periods of extreme weather because we know that the rains will return and south Texas will be beautiful again.

But what if the rains didn’t return? Before you classify me a fool, let me ask you a serious question. What if this period of dry weather was but a permanent new reality in south Texas? Sound like science fiction? Or a horror film? What if something new, something man-made, something different this time, was creating permanent change in weather patterns in our region?

A grand “experiment” is underway in west Texas in the development of the world’s largest array of wind turbines. We’re in the early stages of trial and error as we look for “alternative” energy sources. For the most part, the main thrust of engineering and innovation is focused on making wind turbines productive, to make them efficient, to make them cost effective. But with all our focus on efficiency, maybe we’ve failed to consider some bigger realities such as how the extraction of huge amounts of kinetic energy from wind could affect regional weather patterns.

I’m not a meteorologist but I pay attention to weather. I guess that’s a by-product of being raised in farm country. And as I’ve floated my amateurish theories about turbines affecting weather, I’ve found few people who consider this a credible possibility. But it's a whole different world as I do research on the internet; I find quite a different picture of concern. Tell me if you are not concerned as you read the findings of some of these researchers:

"So far, a number of energy companies, especially in the United States and Europe, have made the choice [of using wind turbines] without knowing much about small-scale and large-scale climate impacts."

"Unaddressed, the severity of the local weather impact induced by large wind farms would fall somewhere between the environmental costs of deforestation and global warming, Baidya Roy said."

"Now researchers are looking at another potential “unintended consequence” – the likelihood that collectively, groups of large wind farms in one region could alter weather patterns downwind of the turbines in another region."
Christian Science Monitor

"Wind farms may have an impact on local weather patterns. As environmental engineers have discovered, wind farm propellers create a lot of turbulence in their wake, mixing air up and down with effects that can be detected for miles." 
Science Daily

"With a new power source comes an impact to our environment. Roy says, "Large wind farms can significantly affect local meteorology." He studied these massive machines and believes wind farms can actually impact our weather because wind turns the blades of the turbine around a rotor, which helps generate electricity the blades create a lot of turbulence in the wake." 
Science Dail

"Large groups of power-generating windmills could have a small influence on a region's climate. All large wind turbines disrupt natural airflow to extract energy from wind." Science Daily

"Results from climate modeling studies by myself and others suggest that large-scale use of wind power can alter local and global climate."
David Keith
University of Calgary

"Researchers are investigating the potential for large wind farms in one region to alter weather patterns in another region downwind."
Washington Post

“as the technology ramps up, so hopefully we don’t get into really surprising consequences before we have a chance to realize what they might be.” Daniel Kirk-Davidoff

"But a team of researchers from the University of Maryland have found that large-scale use of wind turbines as a power source may have an impact on our environment directly opposite that which they purport to minimize: Climate change." 
Meteorology News

"Slowing wind speeds by 5 or 6 miles per hour – while it sounds negligible, could have significant impacts on the large-scale atmospheric flow and yield consequences we do not yet understand." 
Meteorology News

"Researchers are investigating the potential for large wind farms in one region to alter weather patterns in another region downwind. Specifically, the turning of the windmill propellers creates considerable turbulence, which mixes air up and down." 
China Economic Review

"A forecast for a hotter, drier Earth could result if we build too many wind power generating plants throughout the world." 
Energy Saving Research

"But important questions remain: Could large wind farms, whipping up the air with massive whirling blades, alter local weather conditions?" 
Energy Daily

"Extracting energy from wind changes regional air currents, which can in turn affect how the nearby ocean circulates, according to Goran Brostrom of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo." 
Discovery News MSNBC

"Meneveau pointed out that dense clusters of wind turbines also could affect nearby temperatures and humidity levels, and cumulatively, perhaps, alter local weather conditions." 
Science Centric

"That being so, it’s logical to assume a massive windmill deployment could at least alter regional weather patterns.

Prinn emphasizes he’s not against wind power or any other renewable energy technology. He simply thinks it’s essential to explore how any of the proposed technologies might affect us."
MIT Spectrum

"Atmospheric scientist Daniel Kirk-Davidoff and his colleague Daniel Barrie calculated the effect of covering the Midwest with a grid of wind farms containing thousands of wind turbines. The result? Wind speeds lowered 5.5-5.7 miles per hour directly downwind. That's not too scary by itself, but the turbines also caused massive disruptions in air currents, leading to changes in the strength, motion and timing of storms over the entire North Atlantic."

" does mean that studies about wind turbine weather impact should be fleshed out before embarking on major turbine initiatives."

Fast Company (Online)
Ariel Schwartz Wed Jul 15, 2009

"Mega wind farms of the future could have a major impact on weather, clearing up cloudy skies and even steering storm systems, according to new research."

"The total disturbance caused by turbines could be enough to steer storms."

Discovery Channel News November 25, 2008

"How might the good people of San Antonio be impacted by a PERMANENT reduction in annual rainfall?"
Carl Caton (Someone Who Knows Little About Weather)

Let me be clear: none of the above articles address south Texas in particular. There IS NO research on this topic. Most of the tiny pool of research that these quotes emerge from are addressing other specific weather abnormalities. But I'll summarize my thoughts from reading all these articles in the following:

Very little research has been done on the cause and effect relationship between wind turbines and their effect on regional weather patterns. This research is in its infancy. We have only just begun to understand how wind turbines effect weather. I'm greatly disturbed to think how little we know about all this as we march forward in the great experiment we call wind generation. 

I only rely on anecdotal evidence, but it seems like we’re getting less and less rainfall from frontal precipitation, our bread and butter source of moisture that predominantly falls in May and September. When you consider that the world’s largest “experiment” with wind energy lies directly in the path of the weather pattern that brings frontal precipitation to our area, it makes you wonder. Could this enormous windmill deployment be slowing the progression of some of those cold fronts? Isn’t it ironic that the area of severe drought lies just beyond the area where these wind turbines are deployed? See my pitiful little map.

The most important question is: should we know more about how wind turbines affect nearby, regional weather? Should we study this before we later discover that we’ve permanently changed rainfall patterns in south Texas? Although I assign a very low probability to this outcome, what if we have already changed weather patterns? What if our current drought is not a temporary event? What if south Texas has already been changed to a much drier climate, an extension of the “Great American Desert” to our west, an area that only expects about ten inches of rain a year? While I don’t think these scenarios are highly probable, wouldn’t it be prudent to understand the cause and effect of widespread deployment of wind extraction equipment?

Are wind farms changing weather patterns in south Texas? We don't know. Is there a high probability all this is happening? Maybe not. My point is this: maybe weather isn't impacted by wind turbines. But on the slim, outside chance it is, the result could be catastrophic for San Antonio.

I believe we need to be asking some serious questions. Will thousands of windmills in west Texas reduce our annual rainfall totals? And if so, how would it then translate into lower lake levels, underground water, and river flows in an area that is already at the "breaking point" with water constraints? Will it have any effect on the lives of people living in the seventh largest city in the U.S.? Will it be a "tipping point" in having adequate water supplies in San Antonio? Too many environmentalists are knee deep in "the cause". For them, it's become more religion than science. Too many academics are busying themselves creating formulas. Too many scientists won't be bothered with our little problems in south Texas. For me, I'm thinking about my eighty year old neighbor who is walking across her yard carrying water in a bucket in order to be in compliance with city watering restrictions.

I think it would be wise to know more before we continue our great “experiment” with alternative energy. Don’t you wish we had been forward thinking enough to consider the realities of burning fossil fuels, and especially, before we built our entire energy complex around that source of energy?

Maybe we should be more forward thinking this time.

Carl Caton
San Antonio, Texas

September 4, 2009

YouTube Video on west Texas Wind Farm





"Very little research has been done on the cause and effect relationship between wind turbines and their effect on regional weather patterns. This research is in its infancy. We have only just begun to understand how wind turbines effect weather. I'm greatly disturbed to think how little we know about all this as we march forward in the great experiment we call wind generation."

wind turbines and weather patterns

(c) 2009 Caton Family

wind turbines and weather patterns