Atmospheric Science

Wind, Rain, and Aerosols

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Science  16 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5814, pp. 914-915
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5814.914d

Theory suggests that a rising concentration of aerosols should reduce wind speeds below, due mainly to the increase in atmospheric stability that such loading would cause. Consequences range from decreased evaporation and rainfall to a multitude of secondary impacts, such as reduced availability of wind energy for the generation of electricity and decreased hydroelectric potential. Jacobson and Kaufman use a three-dimensional computer model and satellite data to examine the potential effects of aerosol particles on the distribution of wind speeds and the resulting feedbacks to precipitation, water supply, and wind energy across California. They find that pollution by aerosols may be decreasing local winds by up to ∼ 8% and, together with the second indirect aerosol effect, may be reducing precipitation by 2 to 5%. These effects have obvious and unwelcome practical consequences, but they also raise the hopeful possibility that by limiting or reducing aerosol pollution, California can lessen future strains on its water supply and wind/hydroelectric power-generation systems. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L24814 (2006).

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