Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Volume 51; DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0205.1


Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society


The trends in wind speed at a typical wind turbine hub height (80 m) are analyzed using the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset for 1979–2009. A method, assuming the wind profile in the lower boundary layer as power-law functions of altitude, is developed to invert the power exponent (in the power-law equation) from the NARR data and to compute the following variables at 80 m that are needed for the estimation and interpretation of the trend in wind speed: air density, zonal wind u, meridional wind v, and wind speed. Statistically significant and positive annual trends are found to be predominant over the contiguous United States, with spring and winter being the two largest contributing seasons. Positive trends in surface wind speed are generally smaller than those at 80 m, with less spatial coverage, reflecting stronger increases in wind speed at altitudes above the 80-m level. Large and positive trends in winds over the southeastern region and high-mountain region are primarily due to the increasing trend in southerly wind, while the trends over the northern states (near the Canadian border) are primarily due to the increasing trend in westerly wind. Trends in the 90th percentile of the annual wind speed, a better indicator for the trend in wind power recourses, are 40%–50% larger than but geographically similar to the trends in the annual mean wind speed. The probable climatic drivers for change in wind speed and direction are discussed, and further studies are needed to evaluate the fidelity of wind speed and direction in the NARR.